Press Release
July 24, 2023

Opening Address for the Second Regular Session
24 July 2023

To our guests, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Senate.

To my colleagues, I share your enthusiasm as we assemble again in this great arena of democracy where ideas that propel the nation forward are made.

To all of us here, let me make this clear: We are not resuming work because, in the first place, we never took a break from it.

Rather we are revving up work because much remains to be done.

Hindi po ito ang muling pagbubukas ng Senado, dahil hindi naman po tayo tumigil sa ating trabaho. Ang huminto lang ay ang aksyon sa plenaryo, pero tuloy tuloy ang serbisyo.

Nagdinig tayo ng magagandang bills. Nag-imbestiga ng mga masasamang gawain. Nagbigay tulong sa mga may pangangailangan.

To cite a few:

Senator Bato dela Rosa has clinically exposed the lies of police officers involved in the P6.7 billion drug bust, their tales so unbelievable that one gets the impression that they've probably gotten high on their own supply.

Senator Grace Poe's harping on the endless woes of the NAIA--the Ninoy Aquino "Inconvenience" Airport--and the Metropolitan "Waterless" Service System is oversight vigilance at its sharpest.

?Senator Francis Tolentino has looked under the hood of the LTO to untangle its manifold problems. On this, let me echo our people's frustration: at a time when the world is rolling out driverless cars, we are stuck in a state of licenseless drivers.

Senator Nancy Binay has picked up the cudgels for air travellers waiting in airports for days, for flights that will just take an hour.

Smugglers may run rings around Customs people, but they cannot run past the solid wall of research and tough questioning of Senators Cynthia Villar and Imee Marcos.

Senator Raffy Tulfo has probed deep into the cause of the power outages in many places, and the mental blackouts of those who caused them, as well as protecting the rights of our overseas and migrant workers.

Senator Alan Cayetano also called hearings on e-governance and why our internet remains slow and spotty.

While our investigations make for great TV, we launch them not for show, but for solutions.

When we exercise our oversight powers, we do so to primarily correct laws. If, however, in the process it sends culprits to the correctional, then it is a welcome bonus.

The bulk of committee work done here, however, may not be sensational, but nonetheless substantive.

The fact is, most important pieces of legislation do not trend, nor scream headlines, but at the end of the day these proposals are what the country needs.

Like what the EDCOM 2 of Senator Win Gatchalian is doing, which is diagnosing what ails our schools, so that when it comes to teaching our young, they will not be the last, the least, and the lost.

His counterpart for higher education, Senator Chiz Escudero, has also brought to plenary a raft of bills that will raise the competency of our graduates in a highly competitive world.

Senator Bong Revilla has been championing teachers' causes. The House should act on his Teaching Supplies Allowance bill.

Senator Sonny Angara has the energy of a startup tech in finding ways to ignite the full potential of our nation's creative industries.

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda's tapestry of art and cultural initiatives which, together with her quilt of environmental initiatives, should comfort us in this climate of constant change.

?Oo nga't tapos na ang COVID public health emergency. Pero patuloy ang trabaho nila Senator Bong Go at Senator Pia Cayetano na pagandahin ang public health system.

And Senator Pia, in her work as chair of Sustainable Development and Futures Thinking, fits the description of a statesperson, of one who thinks of the next generation, and not of the next election.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada is busy on two defense fronts: Military and labor. The first to protect our sovereignty against threats, and the second to guard our workingman's rights from being eroded.

?Another "good one" of a lawmaker, Senator JV, is likewise juggling three major concerns adeptly: empowerment of local governments, housing for the people, and on the economic front, the Public-Private Partnership bill.

Patuloy naman ang pagsisikap ni Senator Robin Padilla upang ang karapatan ng mamamayan sa malayang impormasyon, at ng mga kapatid nating Muslim at indigenous peoples sa kaunlaran ay matugunan natin.

Ang ganung sipag ay naipakata din ni Senador Lito Lapid sa maraming usapin pero lalu na sa masalimuot na mga isyu na sakop ng kanyang Committee on Games and Amusement.

Senator Mark Villar has brought to this chamber the nobility of his work ethic--cool, calm, collected--which we saw when he was defending the Maharlika Investment Fund.

A Senate without fiscalizers loses its potency and forfeits its credentials as a democratic body.

In our Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros we find a vigilant opposition who do not obstruct but critique constructively, their inputs resulting in better laws.

And the person, the floor umpire and consensus builder, who traffics these bills and resolutions in one seamless assembly line, shepherding them from committee to plenary, is our Majority Leader Joel Villanueva.

Today, we open the regular session the way it has been set by tradition and by the Constitution: By listening to the President assess the nation, and account himself.

This reckoning should give us bearings on where we are now, and where we should be heading; of work done, and promises yet to be redeemed.

His take on things may differ with us. His can be rosy. Ours can be restrained.

Or in certain issues, we may be upbeat as he will be subdued.

But we do agree on the most important point: That the Senate has a major role to play in conquering the challenges before us.

As expected, the President will use the pulpit this afternoon to dare us to act on his wish list. And like the men and women who sat in this chamber before us, let us respond in true Senate fashion:

We will improve the bills before we approve them.

We will purge the bad provisions and replace them with the good.

But the Senate is a not mere processor of policies originating from the other branch.

We also nurture our own, whether bills with far-reaching effects that overhaul systems to help people burdened by rules that are too old or too many, or bills that bring fast-acting relief to those who are in distress - victims of disasters, for example - the number of which is growing.

In tackling bills, let us bear in mind that these are not the President's request, but the people's. Some of these may not be what we want, but they are what the country needs.

To a people scarred by the recent pandemic, never must we be caught flatfooted again. Let us pass the bills creating the Center for Disease Control, Virology Institute of the Philippines, and the Medical Reserve Corps.

To farmers who feed other people but cannot feed their own, let us pass a stronger anti-agricultural smuggling law, so that the flood of imports will not drown the crops they grow.

To taxpayers burdened by tax rules too complicated, inflicted by men who can change them at will, let us pass the Ease of Paying Taxes Bill.

To a land suffocated by garbage, let us pass the Waste-to-Energy Bill, so trash can power the very homes where it came from.

To seafarers battling the elements, loneliness, unsafe working conditions, let us pass a Magna Carta that will serve like a safe harbor that will protect them.

To people looking for jobs, let the National Employment Action Plan be the guide towards gainful employment in which fair work is rewarded with fair pay.

To those who toil in starvation wages, let us put ourselves in their shoes, provide relief to their families, and pass the long-awaited Across-the-Board Legislative Wage Hike.

To a citizenry to which the internet is a boon, let us end the bane of bureaucratic red tape. Like an app, E-Governance Act is in need of an update.

To consumers who source goods online, let us firewall them against scams which the Internet Transactions Act will put up. Let us debug this commerce platform of its budol virus.

To a country whose sovereignty has been disrespected, we will pass a bill that will modernize our defenses.

Marami pang batas na kailangan pandayin. Sample lang po ang ating binanggit. We have our plate full, and our calendar filled.

On top of these is the 2024 national budget, which we will scrutinize minutely, from morning to midnight as it has been in the past, which we can because we senators are champion multi-taskers.

Every measure bound for the President's desk will pass through our quality control. Not a single bill will be enrolled unless it is fundable, and shovel- or rollout-ready.

Every bill carries a price tag which should not be hidden, as they are either paid by the taxes we pay today, or left to our children to settle, whose future has been mortgaged.

We will keep the faith in an independent Senate--but with independence comes the grit to make hard decisions.

We will sail against the wind, so to speak, even meeting headlong the gust of public opinion and to stay the course for as long as we know that we are right.

So those unpopular but correct, we will defend. The plenary's mood should not be dictated by any political weather vane.

We will respect the collegial nature of our institution. We will seek consensus and compromise, whenever possible, or divide the house, if needed.

We will debate, because a legislature which no longer does, ceases to be the country's highest deliberative body.

The Senate will remain a safe civic space where anyone can come to market his or her views.

And how do we measure the value of our labors, and the common good of our policies that we have created?

We will measure growth not in terms of gross value of wealth created, but in terms of houses built and energized; of meals on tables; of students with diplomas; of employees with decent jobs and livable wages; of crime rates reduced; of the bounty of farm harvests; of faster internet speed; of reasonable market prices of goods; or of shorter commuting time.

Hindi ito Senado na lunod sa numerong walang saysay, o lutang sa katotohanan.

Sa halip, lubog tayo sa taumbayan na siyang nagbibigay lakas sa institusyong ito.

Suklian natin ang kanilang tiwala ng tunay na serbisyo, ng tapat na panunungkulan, ng totoong pagpapaliwanag ng mga bagay, ng tapang sa pagwawasto ng mali.

Sa tulong ng Diyos at bayan, magtatagumpay tayo.

Mabuhay ang Senado! Mabuhay ang Sambayanang Pilipino!

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