Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Drilon rallies youth: Keep faith in our democracy

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon on Independence Day appealed to the people to keep their faith in their democratic institutions such as the Senate amid the pork barrel scam controversies, and to separate the institution from the controversies involving some of its members.

“During these trying times in our nation’s life, I call on our people to separate the institution from the controversies involving some of its members,” said Drilon during his speech at the 116th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence held today in Pinaglabanan Shrine at San Juan City.

“Let us be more discerning. Let us not allow some quarters to dishonor our institutions, because the lack of respect for our democratic institutions only dishonor the memory of the brave and selfless Filipinos who valiantly fought the foreign colonizers to liberate our country, thus giving birth to Asia’s first democracy,” he emphasized.

"I believe that the relentless search for the truth and justice is a cleansing process that will strengthen this institution as a part of our government,” Drilon stressed.

Drilon noted that challenges to Philippine democracy have been present since the earliest days of the Philippine government: “Since we declared our independence 116 years ago, our country has been through political upheavals and economic debacles. Countless times our democratic institutions passed through deep waters of political intrigues and controversies, but as a nation we have always shown peerless courage to defend the national interest and protect our institutions.”

The Senate leader thus invited the public, particularly the nation’s youth, to take a more active role in “preserving our democratic values and traditions, and protecting our democratic institutions,” acknowledging that public vigilance will be a key component of “restoring honor and rebuilding respect to both houses of Congress.”

Drilon said that Filipinos, especially the younger generation, must take to heart their responsibility of guarding national freedom, especially when concerning realities in government. 

“I call on our people to renew our commitment to democracy. Let us revitalize our sense of nationhood with all of us thinking and acting as Filipinos, for Filipinos,” he said.

Senate adjourns session on high note

MANILA-Having approved more than 19 bills and 41 resolutions, the Senate adjourns sine die today, marking the end of the first regular session of the 16th Congress. Senate sessions will resume on June 27.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said senators of this Congress registered “a strong legislative performance, which continues to improve even amid issues."
“Throughout the past months, we have made exhaustive efforts to successfully legislate several challenging measures that are of paramount interest and importance to our people, especially in terms of improving the quality of Filipino life, and reforming public service,” Drilon said.

“Despite the many concerns and challenges that the Senate as an institution had to face – such as the pork barrel scam – I believe the details of our work show that legislation remains the Chamber’s main focus, and that we are able to effectively deliver on our commitment to our citizenry and our nation,” he added.

Drilon cited the works and achievements of the senators, who from July 22, 2013 to June 11, 2014, passed five bills which were signed into law, including passing in record time of the 2014 General Appropriations Act. Ten more bills are presently waiting for the signature of the President. In the same period, the Senate approved eight bills on second and third reading and adopted 41 resolutions.

Drilon said that in several aspects, the legislative performance of the current senators had outpaced that of previous Congresses. “We approved fifteen bills on final reading when senators in the 15th Congress approved only nine bills within the same period of time,” he said.

It also concurred in the ratification of three international treaties with Spain, the United Kingdom and India.

Drilon said senators focused on passing landmark bills on health, economy and government reforms such as the historic Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) or (Senate Bill Number 1733) and the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law (SBN 2138).

He said the disclosure of government actions under the FOI bill would be a “crucial and effective deterrent against possible malfeasance and corrupt practices by those in power.”

Once enacted into law, Drilon said the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law will address the increasing backlog of cases in court.

The Senate had also approved measures to boost the national economy and consumer welfare such as SBN 2046 or the Go Negosyo Act sponsored by Sen. Bam Aquino IV, which seeks to reduce poverty by developing micro, small and medium enterprises, and SBN 2159 or the “liberalization of entry of foreign banks in the Philippines.” 

Drilon also noted the passage of House Bill No. 353, which would require telecommunication companies to provide free alerts for mobile phone users in time of disasters, SBN 2043 or the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) bill which seeks to consolidate the training and certification of Filipino seafarers under a single maritime administration, and SBN 1831 which aims to extend the service and corporate life of the Philippine National Railways for another 50 years.

Drilon said the Senate also approved landmark bills for the protection of public health such as the SBN 27 or the Graphic Health Warning Act and SBN 2273, or the amendments to strengthen the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.    

He said other priority measures remain in the legislative agenda, and they “look forward to discussing and passing these proposed legislation.” At the moment, 19 committee reports on bills that are under plenary debate or period of amendments are pending. 

"When we resume session, we will also work to increase the tax exemption ceiling of the 13th month pay, Christmas bonuses and other benefits from P30, 000 to P75, 000, so our humble workers can go home during the holidays without having to worry about decreases in their bonuses," Drilon said.

"We also have in our sights other fiscal and financial pieces of legislation such as the Anti-Trust Bill, amendments to the Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Act, and reforms to the Cabotage Law. Similarly, we are going to study the possibility of creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and a fair competition act.

As agreed upon with the leadership of the House of Representatives, Drilon said they will "soon discuss the possibility of economic provisions to the Constitution to improve the country's ability to invite foreign direct investment.  Drilon said the Senate will promptly act on legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is integral to the peace process in Mindanao.

Other measures in the Senate’s priority list will be bills on education, mainly the Iskolar ng Bayan Act, and the ladderized and distant learning programs for higher education.

Legarda: Let Us Make Our Independence More Meaningful to Every Filipino

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today said that Philippine independence should be more meaningful to every Filipino citizen through socio-economic development and cultural integrity.

Legarda made the statement as the nation celebrates the 116th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence.

“As we look back at the bravery of our leaders who have brought forth this independence, let us use their stories as inspiration to liberate our people and our country from circumstances that keep us from moving forward as a truly free and progressive nation,” she said.

“We have to address unemployment and promote equitable, sustainable and resilient development. We have to be free from the cycle of disaster vulnerability and poverty. We have to protect our environment and ecosystems. We have to put a stop to trafficking and senseless killings. We have to foster gender equality. We have to preserve and promote our cultural heritage,” she stressed.

The Senator explained that economic growth should be felt by everyone through more job opportunities, stable employment, equitable access to quality education, health services and other social services.

She also said that natural hazards turbocharged by climate change have been taking a toll on the country’s development and are detrimental to the Filipino people’s safety, thus the need to build resilience.

Further, since ecosystem decline is among the underlying drivers of disaster risks and poverty, in the context of climate change, green policies, especially the protection of the environment, should be included in the country’s development strategies.

“Every citizen must demand from their leaders a concrete set of actions to protect the environment and build disaster-resilient communities. Every citizen must be engaged in developing community-based disaster preparedness plans, rehabilitating the environment, responding to early disaster warnings and in promoting sustainable livelihood,” said Legarda.

Meanwhile, Legarda said that human trafficking and other crimes, such as media killings, should be addressed through strengthened information campaign and faithful implementation of laws.

“We must free our people from the threat of being victimized by trafficking syndicates by implementing our laws such as the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Heightened vigilance, strict enforcement of the law and close coordination with local agencies and international organizations are needed to combat trafficking,” she said.

“We also need to protect our citizens from senseless killings and members of media who are killed due to their job because this is a deliberate attack on the freedom of the press,” Legarda added.

Legarda also said that the country should continue to build on the gains of its success in promoting gender equality, stressing that “we must let go of the stereotypical, gender-based roles and regard every citizen as capable of making valuable contribution to society, regardless of gender.”

Finally, she underscored the importance of preserving cultural heritage and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, who strive to faithfully live by the standards and traditions of our forefathers and seek to pass on our culture to more generations of Filipinos.

“We have to look back at our history and be aware of our cultural roots, which will give us better understanding of our identity as a nation and help unite Filipinos. If Filipinos of the past were able to unite to achieve Philippine independence, we too can work together to give greater meaning to the freedom we achieved 116 years ago,” Legarda concluded.


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