House reports its legislative work amid pandemic hurdles

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Despite the challenges presented by the unprecedented events in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives has submitted its proof that the legislative mandate it was given is being accomplished.

A series of unstable circumstances including the coronavirus pandemic, the battle for speakership, and multiple disasters that rocked the entire archipelago were faced by the House during 2020.

An average of 35 measures per day were reportedly processed by the lower chamber for the year 2020.

From July 22, 2019 to Dec. 16, 2020, the House processed a total of 2,598 measures during 74 session days, 40 of which were enacted into law, 16 transmitted to the President, and 453 approved on third and final reading.

Legislations turned laws and other COVID-19 measures were prioritized per instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte—this in turn enabled the government to address the ripples of destruction brought about by the pandemic.

To accommodate the changing landscape of work due to the threat of coronavirus, the lower chamber, for the first time in its history, held “virtual” sessions to make sure priority bills are discussed and approved as needed. This includes the body’s heaviest task to poke and prod the budget proposals of several government agencies for 2021—all done through a combination of physical sessions and videoconferencing participation of representatives and stakeholders.

Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco were also caught in a tug-of-war for the chamber’s speakership in the middle of budget debates for the 2021 national spending plan.

According to the term-sharing deal brokered by Duterte, Cayetano would serve as House Speaker for the first 15 months, or until October 2020, while Velasco would take over and assume the highest position at the House of Representatives for the remaining 21 months or until the 18th Congress ends in 2022.

Cayetano, however, fought against the agreement and expressed his wish to stay in the top seat of the House.

In the end, Velasco was installed as the new Speaker of the House through the unprecedented remote plenary session where 186 lawmakers rallied behind his bid to lead the chamber.

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