Press Release
June 7, 2007

Sine Die Adjournment Speech
by Senate President Manny Villar

Distinguished Senators, ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathered here today to close our Third Regular Session and end the 13th Congress of the Philippines.

To the Filipino people to whom the Senate of the Philippines is ultimately accountable, we are pleased to report that the Chamber has remained faithful to its solemn mandate and to its covenant with the nation.

To my distinguished colleagues, allow me to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your President during the Third Regular Session. It is an honor to lead illustrious men and women who have great passion for the national interest. You gave me your trust and confidence as Senate President almost a year ago. And in that span of time, I hope that I successfully lived up to your expectations.

No doubt, this Congress has been the most trying for the Senate, yet also the most rewarding.

I recall how our independence as a co-equal branch of government was tested time and again. Much was done to prevent us from carrying out our oversight functions and even abolish the Senate. We were an endangered institution on the verge of singing our swan song. On both occasions, the Supreme Court served as the forum for our vindication.

So here we are, standing together to end another chapter and begin a new one when we open in July. That the nation stood with us and by us during those trying times is highly gratifying. That the people rallied behind us is very reassuring. And that they elected a new set of senators in the just concluded elections is an undeniable testimony of the high esteem our people hold for this august chamber.

As a legislative body, the Senate has been faithful to its primary mission of making laws to address many of our country’s most vital concerns. Many of these were among the agenda set forth when we opened session in July last year. These include government funding, socioeconomic programs and the need to address nagging problems in our educational, agricultural, environmental and health sectors, law and order, and electoral reform.

I am proud to say that much has been accomplished by the Senate in this 3rd Regular Session of the 13th Congress. We passed a record number of legislative measures on 3rd reading numbering 169 to be exact; 51 measures of national application and 118 measures of local application.

Allow me to mention some of our legislative milestones. I would however, like to request the Secretariat to insert into the records a more detailed report accompanying this speech.

In the area of economic and fiscal reforms, the Senate passed the General Appropriations Act of 2007; the 70% Input Vat cap; one-time amnesty of certain tax, duties and liabilities for certain enterprises in free ports and special economic zones; amnesty on all unpaid national internal revenue taxes for 2005 and prior years; and the bill making tourism a primary engine of investment, employment, growth and development.

In the related areas of human rights and public order, we passed the Human Security Act of 2007 and a bill granting compensation to victims of human rights violations.

Environment and energy concerns were addressed by the Biofuels Act of 2006 and the law prescribing civil liabilities for oil pollution damage.

In agriculture and fisheries, we defined handline fishing and provided effective regulations therein and extended the utilization period of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

In the field of labor and employment, we came out with legislation to strengthen the regulatory function of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, to provide additional benefits and protection to house helpers and to strengthen the workers constitutional right to self organization.

A number of timely and necessary measures have been passed towards the protection and promotion of public health. These are the bills amending the laws on patents to make it feasible to lower the prices of medicine; requiring mandatory basic immunization services against Hepatitis-B for infants; providing for the control and elimination of rabies; promoting breastfeeding; and prohibiting the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of non-payment of hospital bills or medical expenses.

We prepared the groundwork to strengthen the University of the Philippines as a national center of excellence with its tradition of leadership in education.

A magna carta for public social workers was legislated to empower them to become better social service providers by giving them recognition, protection and tangible encouragement, as well as the amendment to the Magna Carta for disabled persons to give them additional privileges and incentives.

Good governance has been central to the vision of the Senate. We legislated the Automated Election System Act of 2006; strengthened the Public Attorneys’ Office as well as the Office of the Solicitor General. Likewise, the Senate concurred with the country’s ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. To improve the delivery of public services, we passed the bill reducing red tape and preventing graft and corruption in the entire government bureaucracy.

Given the growing demand for shelter to the homeless, the Senate passed a law providing for the “no bidding” sale of any piece of land owned by the national government intended for socialized housing.

The range of urgent concerns addressed by the Senate encompasses a wide spectrum of national priorities. Indeed, much has been attained in the Senate’s exercise of its institutional function.

In recognition of the same, a survey showed that the Senate was adjudged the government institution with the highest public satisfaction rating of 51% as of February 2007.

My highest praise and kudos to you all, my fellow Senators and your staff, the Senate committees, and the Secretariat. The Senate could not have achieved so much without the keen sense of duty and patriotism of all its members, some of whom shall soon be returning to private life.

To our esteemed colleagues who will not be joining us for the next roll call, we wish you the best in your future endeavors and may God be with you always. Thank you so much for your friendship, your time and your dedication.

I pay homage and honor to former Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Flavier, Senators Jun Magsaysay, Serge Osmeña, Loi Estrada, Fred Lim, and Ralph Recto.

Senator Drilon, we thank you for your exemplary leadership when you led the Senate through some of its more tough and trying times.

Senator Flavier, you were indispensable to the Senate President during long drawn-out plenary sessions with your patience and wit. Your advocacy for health for all Filipinos is etched in the health laws and bills that you either authored or co-sponsored during your term.

Senator Magsaysay, ever soft spoken and approachable, you were always at the forefront of advancing the causes for agriculture, science and technology. Your investigation into the “fertilizer scam” will enshrine your name in one of the Senate’s landmark investigations.

Senator Osmeña, the Senate will never be the same without you. None can match the time, effort, and painstaking research you put into each major bill presented to the floor for deliberation. The legislature is richer for all your hard work.

Senator Loi Estrada, your legislative advocacy in behalf of women, family, children and the marginalized sectors of our society would always be a role model for future legislators.

Senator Lim, your passion for law and order, transparency and accountability, especially in local and grassroots governance, will be remembered. It will serve you well as you assume another important post in public service.

Senator Recto, your knowledge and expertise in government management, public finance, economics and taxation, among others, helped forge innumerable pieces of quality legislation. You have continued the noble tradition of your illustrious ancestors and have done them proud.

Moving on, much remains to be done. The road ahead is not as well paved as we wish it to be. There are stumbling blocks posed by widespread poverty, social injustice, the tentacles of corruption and a wasteful bureaucracy, among others.

What we need are new stepping stones, the sharing of a national vision to move us irreversibly forward, fresh hope in our collective capacity to carve a better future for all, and a reaffirmation of real pride in what is true and good in the Filipino.

May God bless our country, our people, our government and the Senate. Maraming salamat po.

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