Press Release
June 8, 2011

Sine Die Adjournment of the First Regular Session of the Fifteenth Congress

My distinguished colleagues,

Today, Congress adjourns sine die its First Regular Session and allow me then to report to our people what their Senate has accomplished.

Last Monday, President Benigno C. Aquino III signed into law the GOCC Governance Act of 2011, now Republic Act No. 10149, which will reform the operations of state-owned enterprises and curb the abuses with regard in particular to excessive bonuses and allowances.

Recall that extensive public hearings were held by the Senate last year after we opened sessions in July 2010 to look into the excessive and scandalous allowances that board members of government-owned or -controlled corporations and government financial institutions have arrogated unto themselves using public funds. As an offshoot of this legislative inquiry, what is now Republic Act No. 10149 is the first major reform law that this Fifteenth Congress has approved, and is in line with the new administration's reform agenda and anti-corruption campaign.

Last Monday evening also, after almost six hours of debate, the Senate passed House Bill No. 4146 synchronizing the elections in the ARMM with the national and local elections. This will hopefully pave the way for the much-needed political, social and economic reforms in the region.

On March 14, 2011, we concurred in the ratification of the Agreement on Technical Cooperation between our government and the government of Japan by approving Senate Resolution No. 36. The agreement provides technical training to Philippine nationals in Japan; dispatches Japanese volunteers with a wide range of technical skills and abundant experience to the Philippines; and, provides our government with needed equipment, machinery and materials.

Of course, last year, this chamber passed in record time the General Appropriations Act of 2011, now R.A. No. 10147.

Bills Passed on Third Reading The demands of the changing times and modernity have served as a magnifying glass that compelled most of us to take a second look at existing statutes. Thus, along the way, we have introduced, deliberated in committee and in plenary, and then approved on third reading amendatory bills that seek to either strengthen or further improve existing laws on labor, health, the environment, family relations, civil service and justice. These include, among others, the following:

1) S. No. 78 - Providing For Additional Benefits and Protection to the Househelpers;

2) S. No. 138 - Requiring Mandatory Basic Immunization Services Against Hepatitis-B for Infants;

3) S. No. 480 - Amending Article III of The Family Code of the Philippines;

4) S. No. 1052 - Amending Article 26 of The Family Code of the Philippines;

5) S. No. 2671 - Strengthening the Career Executive System;

6) S. No. 2726 - Decriminalizing Vagrancy;

7) S. No. 2808 - Amending Article 39 of the Revised Penal Code; and,

8) S. No. 2701 - Expanding the Exceptions from the Night Work Prohibition of Women Employees, Amending Articles 130 and 131 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, As Amended; and,

9)S. No. 2748 - A bill to ensure the release of the retirement pay, pensions, gratuities and other benefits of retiring government employees within a period of thirty (30) days after his or her actual date of retirement.

We have also approved S. No. 2846 which extends the implementation of the Lifeline Rate and thus continue to benefit the poor who consumes 100 kilowatts or less of electricity.

To institutionalize a national system for early childhood care and development, we also passed on third reading S. No. 2802, or the proposed Early Years Act. The bill recognizes the early years from zero (0) to six (6) as the first cycle of educational development and for this purpose the bill aims to strengthen the Early Childhood Care and Development Council, and rename the Day Care Center as Child Development Center. The system should also cater to children with special needs.

Bills on Second Reading

Let me assure our people that the Senate continues to pore over and study a range of general and specific problems and issues facing the nation.

Certain bills under consideration on second reading, therefore, are products of a national trauma experienced, for instance, from climate change-related disasters such as the heavy loss of lives and properties from the flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy and other landslides and calamities around the country from other strong typhoons. The execution in China of so-called Filipino "drug mules" prompted a second look at existing legislation.

Other bills stem from the need to address serious problems in education, human rights, child welfare and high cost of energy.

These bills include, among others, the establishment of the People's Survival Fund (S. No. 2811) for local governments and communities. The PSF can be used by localities threatened by persistent flooding, by coastal communities facing rising sea levels as source of fund for them to initiate local climate change adaptation plans and vulnerability assessments. Local government units can also tap the fund to promote agriculture programs resilient to extreme temperatures and changing rainfalls. The bottomline is that the PSF can protect our people from the worst impacts of climate change.

On a personal note, I laud the administration for creating a Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change recently. It shows its seriousness and responsive leadership in dealing with this issue.

Other bills pending second reading approval are contained in a more comprehensive report which I will submit and request that it be inserted into the Record.

Committee Work

May I also commend the diligence and hard work performed by the various Senate committees. Our primary committees, sub-committees and joint congressional oversight committees have conducted 155 public hearings since we opened the First Regular Session last year without which this list of outstanding approved laws and proposed measures I enumerated earlier could not have been possible.

Of special mention is our Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, or the Blue Ribbon Committee, which held 14 hearings on the controversial plea bargain agreement between former AFP Gen. Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman. The investigations not only made our people understand the truth about the agreement. The series of hearings also eventually unearthed multi-million peso graft cases and corrupt practices in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Let me now thank each of you, my colleagues in this chamber, for your devotion to the mandate and trust that the people has bestowed upon all of us.

My gratitude also for the continued support and understanding you, your staff members, together with the officers and members of the Senate Secretariat, have provided the Senate leadership.

My distinguished colleagues, as your elected leader, I am personally supportive of the legislative priorities that you have set and defined for yourselves early on this year.

Let us work on them collectively in the coming regular sessions. We have only just begun. Let us pursue our legislative tasks as a collegial body until these priorities bear fruit of economic security for our people, a robust economy for the nation, health and education for all, a national police able to secure peace and order, an armed forces able to protect our sovereignty, and a government that is always transparent and accountable to its people.

We can achieve what we, in this Chamber, have set out to do. As an old adage goes, "where there's a will, there's a way." But in doing so, let us be guided by a passage in the book of Proverbs where it says, "let us not only be wise unto our own eyes, but in all our ways, let us also acknowledge God, and He will direct our paths."

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay ang sambayanang Filipino!

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