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House acts on ‘special powers’ bill

The House of Representatives has committed to pass today a bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to expedite the issuance of government permits and licenses amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the Senate passed its version last Wednesday.

TEAM WORK. House Majority Leader and Lakas-CMD Party President Martin Romualdez (right) thanks House Speaker Lord Alan Velasco after a successful meeting with Lakas-CMD Party members at the Majority office in the House of Representatives. Romualdez said that he and Velasco are in full support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders for Congress to go all out in helping curb red tape and corruption in all level of governance. Ver Noveno
This came after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez led the filing Wednesday night of House Bill 7884, or the proposed “Act Authorizing the President to Expedite the Processing and Issuance of National and Local Permits, Licenses, and Certifications.”

The House leadership aims to pass the measure before it adjourns its special session.

HB 7884 proposes to fast-track the country’s socioeconomic recovery and ensure effective government response to the ongoing health crisis.

Duterte has certified the measure as urgent. The House was expected to receive the letter of certification from Malacañang Thursday.

The chamber can approve the bill on second and third reading on the same day given the certification of urgency from the President.

Romualdez, in a statement, stressed that “upon the directive of the President and the instruction of Speaker Velasco, the House of Representatives will work on the passage of the anti-red tape measure before we adjourn the special session.”

“Under the leadership of Speaker Velasco, we are in full support of the marching orders from President Duterte for Congress to go all out in helping curb red tape and corruption in all levels of governance.

We have to help the President in his campaign to put a stop to deep-rooted, systemic and systematic corruption in government,” Romualdez added.

Section 2 of the bill grants the President the authority to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses and certifications, as well as to streamline and expedite the process of issuance.

The bill also provides the chief executive the power to fix or shorten the periods for the processing and release of these documents.

It covers all agencies under the executive branch, including departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils, government instrumentalities, and government owned and controlled corporations.

The bill -- in consultation with or upon recommendation of the affected government agencies, may prescribe the permanent streamlining of regulatory processes and procedures, as well as the suspension or waiver of the requirements in securing the documents.

The same section, however, warned that the proposed law should not be used to “undermine the existing procedures and processes, under applicable laws, rules and regulations, meant to protect the environment, especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally critical areas.”

Section 3 of HB 7884 provides “the President can suspend or remove any government official or employee performing acts contrary to the proposed law consistent with Article VII Sections 1 and 17 of the Constitution, the Revised Administrative Code, other related laws.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zuburi said the proposed measure granting President Duterte the “anti-red tape powers” would get rid of fixers.

In an online interview, Zubiri said it would hasten the issuance of government permits and licenses or suspend the requirements for them.

“If they do not act on the application of a person for a government certificate, permit or license within the time given by the President, that’s deemed approved,” said Zubiri.

Zuburi believes “there will be no more kickbacks, no more grease money because if they don’t act, the application would be approved in the end.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III considered the measure as a “victory” for all, while Sen. Christopher Go said these senators might be on different sides of the fence about certain issues, but on this important legislation, they were all united in the fight against red tape.

He expressed hope the fight against corruption would be continuing as this was the start of real change in how officials delivered public services.

He said: “I now encourage our fellow Filipinos to report to us when you see wrongdoings or inefficiency in government processes. Know your rights and demand the best public service.”

Topics: Lord Allan Velasco , House of Representatives , Martin Romualdez , Emergency powers , Rodrigo Duterte
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