Alvarez expects ‘passionate’ debates on controversial House bills

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez braced legislators for a tough road ahead as they are set to tackle controversial measures after Congress reopened session on Monday, January 16.

“In the coming days and weeks, there will be a lot of debate as we tackle legislative measures that are both important and controversial,” said Alvarez in his New Year’s message delivered before congressmen. 

In his speech, the Davao del Norte 1st district representative cited the following priority bills of President Rodrigo Duterte:

“I have no doubt that the exchange of ideas will be plenty and passionate. We welcome this as part and parcel of a vibrant and healthy democracy. It is through deliberations that we secure as best as we can what is the paramount interest of the Filipino people whom we have sworn to serve,” said Alvarez. 

“Let the session begin,” he added. 

The priority measures have been met with strong criticism. Pro-life and pro-children’s rights groups have been opposing the return of the capital punishment as well as the lowering of the age of criminal liability. (READ: Alvarez on Church opposition to death penalty: 'Why protect evil?’)

Several lawmakers have also opposed the Department of Finance’s tax reform proposal, calling the package as “anti-poor.” Others have proposed alternatives to the DOF’s proposal, including imposing an excise tax on cosmetic products. (READ: Lawmaker blinks, to withdraw vanity tax bill

Shifting to federalism remains bleak in 2017 as well, with both congressmen and senators considering a number of issues before agreeing to amend the 1987 Constitution.  

‘Battle do not stay won’

In his speech on Monday, Alvarez also praised his colleagues for their accomplishments last year, including the passage of the 2017 General Appropriations Act and the law postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay elections.

“We also conducted investigations in aid of legislation to ferret out the truth behind the proliferation of illegal drugs which have destroyed and continuously destroys the social fabric of our nation,” said Alvarez, referring to the justice panel probe into the narcotics trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

The Speaker said he expects congressmen to show the same commitment as they move to pursue Duterte’s legislative agenda in 2017.

“Yes, we have done much. But let us remember that battles do not stay won. The commitment to the struggle in the service of our people is a relentless and continuous pursuit,” said Alvarez.

“Indeed, let us continue what we have done. But let us do more.” – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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