Duterte signs 13 nat'l laws in 2017

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — The past year has been productive for legislators as they approved thirteen new national bills, including four priority measures of the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act (RA) No. 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill  on December 19, which guarantees lower personal income tax to offset the impact of higher taxes on sugar sweetened beverage, automobile, coal, fuel, and tobacco.

The Tax Reform Law will take effect this year.

The three other priority measures that became laws in 2017 were the RA 10929, RA 10928, and RA 10930, or the free internet access in public areas, the extension of the Philippine passport validity to ten from five years, and the driver's license to five from three years, respectively.

The president also  signed RA 10965, or the General Appropriations Act, allotting a P3.7-trillion national budget for 2018, which is 12 percent higher than the 2017 budget.

A number of bills that provide social services also became law.

Among these was the grant of  free tuition and other fees in state universities and colleges, or RA 10931. The law also provides subsidies or stipend for poor students and establishes a student loan program. 

RA 10932, meanwhile, strengthens the provision of emergency health care service to patients by prohibiting medical practitioners from demanding advance payments from patients needing immediate care.

December 8 was declared a national special non-working holiday through RA 10966, in celebration of the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Concepcion.

RA 10927 amended the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 by extending its coverage to include casinos.

People spreading false news may be penalized by  imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to P200,000 through RA 10951, which amends the 87-year-old Revised Penal Code.

RA 10952 postponed barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from  October 23 to the second Monday of May 2018.

Duterte also signed RA 10925 and RA 10926 into law, which respectively extended the franchise of GMA Network and Smart Communications, Inc.

Some laws railroaded?

While the majority of Congress was expected to back administration measures, opposition congressman Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said some bills did not undergo the proper procedures.

"The problem is before it is passed, there must be sufficient deliberation and debate so that the bill or measure is perfected. Pass it in its good form...This never happened," Lagman said.

Lagman claimed the tax reform law and the second extension of the martial law in Mindanao until the end of December 2018 are examples of what he calls railroaded measures.

He added the public should take an active role in calling for sufficient debate and consideration of bills to avoid undue haste in approving priority measures.

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas earlier said those questioning House proceedings could either raise the concern at the plenary or contest them in courts.

He also insisted bills approved in Congress went through the proper process.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.