House set for SONA, opening of 2nd regular session

MANILA-- The House of Representatives is prepared for its full schedule on Monday, which will start with the opening of the second regular session in the morning, then its hosting of the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte in the afternoon.

House Secretary-General and Task Force SONA 2017 chairman Atty. Cesar Strait Pareja had earlier assured the House is fully prepared for Monday's activities and events as it has addressed all matters pertaining to internal and external security and safety, protocol arrangements, reception, media coverage, parking and other necessary engineering needs among others, to ensure a safe, secure and orderly holding of the SONA and the opening of the second regular session this year.

For the morning session, Pareja said: There is nothing much different from the ordinary opening of a regular session.

The morning session will open at 10 a.m. which will be followed by the singing of the national anthem then by the invocation. Thereafter, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is expected to deliver his opening remarks to welcome back the House members and state the accomplishments of the chamber during the first regular session and its legislative priorities for the second regular session.

Deputy-Secretary General for Legislative Operations Atty. Artemio Adasa, Jr. said while the session opening is open to the public, everyone will be required to leave the plenary hall once the session is adjourned because the Presidential Security Group (PSG) will inspect the area for security purposes in preparation for the SONA in the afternoon.

Adasa said another highlight of the morning session is the oath-taking of Francisco Datol, Jr. and Milagros Aquino Magsaysay of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens, as new members of the House of Representatives.

The Speaker will probably officiate the oath-taking, said Adasa.

The House members, just like in the previous opening of sessions in past Congresses, are also expected to adopt several resolutions during the morning session, among them informing President Rodrigo Duterte and the Senate that a quorum being present, the House has entered upon the exercise of its functions. It is also expected to adopt a concurrent resolution creating a Joint Committee of the Senate and the House to notify the President that Congress, now convened for its Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress, is ready to hear his SONA in a joint session of both houses.

The session will then be adjourned until 4 p.m. for the President's SONA.

Pareja said the SONA is always significant because it bares the thrusts of the President, what he wants to be done during his term or even during the year. And the SONA also is where the House or maybe even the Senate takes its cue on what will be the legislative priorities our lawmakers can enact in order to support the policies and plans of the President, said Pareja.

Pareja said he hopes to hear from the President that peace and order have improved in the country during his administration. I just wish to hear that that there is more peace and order in the country, mabawasan na yung gulo, if not totally eradicate it, said Pareja.

Adasa said the SONA is expected to be a little longer than last year considering that the President has so many issues that he has to include in his speech.

Definitely, it will be focused on more or less three topics: prosperity for all. He will focus more on the economic successes during his term; law and order, which will delve on crime reduction and the success of the anti-illegal drug campaign; and peace, with reference to the ongoing negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the submission of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for his consideration, which is the end product of his negotiations by the peace panel, said Adasa.

As to the legislative priorities that may be outlined on Monday, Adasa said these may include the priority bills previously listed by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for the Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress.

Some of the bills in the LEDAC list were already been approved by the House. The LEDA list includes: Amendments to Republic Act 8178 or Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996; Amendments to the Anti-Cybercrime Act; Amendments to the National Irrigation Administration Charter; Amendments to the Public Services Act; Budget Reform Act; Ease of Doing Business Act/Fast Business Permit Act; Amendments to Government Procurement Reform Act; National Land Use Act; National Transport Act; Rightsizing of the National Government; Unified National Identification System Act; and Utilization of the Coconut Levy Fund.

Source: Philippine News Agency