MANILA, Philippines - Leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate will meet this weekend to agree on a list of pending bills to be prioritized for approval during the remaining nine session days before the 15th Congress goes on a break for the campaign period.
In separate statements, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the House leadership will send text messages to remind lawmakers to attend the sessions to ensure quorum so the pending bills would be passed.
Belmonte said he remains optimistic the House would have a quorum when session resumes on Monday.
“I’m meeting Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to try to agree what bills – whether passed by the House and pending with the Senate, or vice versa – can be acted on soonest, and what bills, still under consideration by either chamber, can be fast-tracked,” he said in a text message.
A majority of House members are seeking reelection and itching to start campaigning in their respective districts.
The two houses of Congress will adjourn on Feb. 9 until June 2 for the campaign.
Gonzales said the meeting will be held on Saturday with Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Gregorio Honasan, among others.
He would do his best to muster a quorum, he added.
The two leaders said the House aims to pass, among others, the Anti-Trust bill and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, by March.
The FOI bill was already approved by the House committee on public information chaired by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
It has yet to be sponsored on the floor for plenary debates, after which the bill will be voted upon on second reading.
The bill is touted to be a major government transparency measure that would allow citizens greater access to official records with certain exemptions, such as national security.
The Anti-Trust bill, strongly backed by local business groups and the Joint Foreign Chambers, seeks to establish a genuine level playing field for businesses to reduce risks, transaction costs and corruption.
The bill was passed on second reading last August but its approval was retracted the same month after some House members claimed they were not able to fully debate on the bill and wanted to make some amendments to it.
Earlier, Belmonte told reporters he sees no reason why Congress should not approve the Anti-Trust bill.