Senate approves 4 more bills

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Senate has approved four bills after ratifying the P1.126- trillion national budget for 2007, keeping true to the pledge of Senate President Manuel Villar to speed up the lawmaking process in the upper chamber.

The ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the budget and the approval of the four bills brought to 67 the number of legislative measures the Senate has approved since Villar assumed the Senate presidency in July last year. “This is why the senators have decided to defer any announcements on their re-election in order to concentrate on the more urgent matters at hand.”

Apart from the 2007 budget, the Senate has approved Senate Bill 2249, meant to strengthen the Office of the Solicitor General; House Bill 5373, an act amending the franchise of Ormoc City Telephone Co. Inc.; HB 4220, an act granting the Free Air Broadcasting Network Corp. a franchise to establish, operate and maintain radio and television stations nationwide; and HB 5328, an act converting the municipality of San Juan into a city.

Despite the election fever now beginning to grip the nation, Villar noted that the Senate kept its focus on legislative work. When the Senate resumed session last Jan. 22, it managed to pass 18 bills in one day.

Villar said the Senate would give priority to legislation in the areas of education, health and housing, agriculture, the plight of Filipino workers overseas, the environment, cheap energy, investments, electoral reforms and the fight against global terrorism.

In an interview, Villar said that the Anti-Terrorism Bill, sponsored by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, is one of the measures the Senate would try to pass before it adjourns on Feb. 9 to give way for the election period.

But the Senate’s minority bloc is opposing the anti-terror bill, describing the proposal as the most terrifying piece of legislation ever submitted for the consideration of Senate.

Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the bill can be used as a tool for state terrorism against the people, in the absence of safeguards against human rights abuses.

Pimentel urged his colleagues to defer action on the bill.

He said all the criminal offenses enumerated in the proposal, such as arson, kidnapping, hijacking and murder are already punishable under the revised penal code. Enacting another law would be a redundancy, Pimentel said.

Pimentel has proposed 88 amendments to the bill. Enrile accepted 70 of these proposed changes, but not without throwing brickbats at the opposition senator for blocking the anti-terror bill.