Less than half of Duterte govt's priority bills passed by 17th Congress

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — Only 11 of the 28 priority bills identified as priority by a council of legislative and executive officials headed by President Rodrigo Duterte hurled the 17th Congress, which held its last session on Tuesday.

Of the measures passed, nine have been signed into law, including the Universal Health Care Act, Free Higher Education Act, the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, and the law creating a national ID system.

The other two that await the President's signature are the so-called "Murang Kuryente" bill that seeks to reduce electricity rates by tapping the Malampaya fund to pay the National Power Corporation's debts passed on to consumers, and the Security of Tenure Bill which will end illegal forms of contractualization or "endo."

The priority bills are identified by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council -- a 20-member consultative body tasked to advise the President on policies and programs needed to achieve the administration's goals. It it is chaired by the President and has as members the vice president, the heads of the Senate and the House of Representatives, seven Cabinet members, six other lawmakers and one representative each from the local government, youth, and private sectors.

More laws passed

The 17th Congress, dominated by the President's allies, has produced 120 laws in total. That is slightly higher compared to the 111 laws approved in the 16th Congress, but much lower than the 174 measures passed by the 15th Congress.

Included in the 120 new laws is the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao. It was signed into law two days after Duterte called for its passage in his 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Congress also passed laws extending the validity of passports and driver's licenses, a year after Duterte mentioned them in his first SONA.

Lawmakers also made sure the President fulfilled his promise in 2016 to make internet available to everyone by passing the law providing for free internet access in all public places nationwide.

Congress also approved bills banning hazing and expanding the maternity leave for new mothers to 105 days. Both, which were not among the President's priorities, are now laws.

While Congress worked hard to pass many of the administration's priority measures, some remained stuck in the legislative mill.

The Senate failed to pass the bill making the Reserved Officers Training Corps program mandatory for senior high school students despite Duterte certifying it as urgent.

The higher chamber also sat on bills on federalism and reviving the death penalty even after they have been approved by the House.

With administration allies again set to dominate the Senate and House in the incoming 18th Congress, it remains to be seen if the controversial bills being pushed by the President will be passed into law in the last three years of his term.