Press Release
December 30, 2015

Senate Report Card
Drilon says 16th Congress marked by landmark laws,
vows election fever won't distract Senate work

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon attributed the gains made in the 16th Congress to a strong and vibrant working link between the executive and legislative branches that resulted in the passage of many landmark legislation which were previously stymied under past administrations.

"I am proud to report that within the thirty months of the 16th Congress, we have made possible the passage of various long-sought measures that languished in the legislative mill for years," Drilon said.

"The achievement of this Congress is best measured not only in terms of the number of laws passed, but on the magnitude of the positive effects and benefits these laws could give to the people and the nation in terms of uplifting their lives and the economy," he emphasized.

He said that some of the laws passed under the Aquino administration were stalled under previous administrations such as the Philippine Competition Act, the amendments to the Cabotage Law, as well as the Graphic Health Warning Act and the amendments to the Sandiganbayan law.

"These are laws that we thought would never see the light of day. But thanks to the close coordination between the leaderships of the Senate and House of Representatives, we were able to steer the passage of several landmark measures, and some of them were part of the common legislative agenda that was defined at the start of this administration," Drilon said.

He said they are among the "biggest accomplishments of this Congress under the Aquino administration."

According to Drilon, these landmark laws are among the 88 measures which were enacted into law since the 16th Congress opened in July 2013 up to December 2015. Of which, 67 were enacted in 2015, 17 in 2014, and four in 2013.

Landmark economic measures

Pointing to the Philippine Competition Act and the amendments to the Cabotage Law, Drilon said, "These economic laws are among the milestones of the 16th Congress. The public waited for so long and it is only now in the 16th Congress and with the reform-driven leadership of President Aquino that we have finally enacted these laws."

The Philippine Competition Act (RA 10667) prohibits monopolies and unfair and anti-competitive/anti-consumer business practices. Meanwhile, the amended Cabotage Law (RA 10668), allows foreign-flagged ships to call at multiple ports within the country, to bring down costs of products.

Drilon said that the Congress also passed this year the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (RA 10708) to make transparent the fiscal incentives being issued by the government to the private sector, and the Strategic Trade Management Act (RA 10697) to impose stricter controls on the transfer of dual-use goods and technologies which may be used for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Congress also enacted RA 10564 to strengthen the campaign against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the country and ensure its compliance with international obligations and standards; as well as the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (RA 10659).

"As everyone can see, the Senate has been hard at work realizing our agenda of inclusive economic growth, through these measures which will improve business climate, boost investment and ensure the nation's macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability," Drilon said.

He then pointed out that economic reform and consumer protection bills have been consistently prioritized throughout the present administration, with the passage of the Act Allowing the Full Entry of Banks (RA 10641), the Philippine Lemon Law (RA 10642), the Go Negosyo Act (RA 10644), and the Amendments to the Fisheries Code (RA 10654) during the 1st and 2nd regular sessions of the current Congress.

Inroads in widening education

Drilon said that the Congress has also addressed the most-pressing concerns regarding the country's educational system. He said the Congress passed six major laws - three were passed in 2015 - to widen access to education and help poor but deserving students earn a degree. These include the Open High School System Act (RA 10665), the UNIFAST Act (RA 10687), and the National Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act (RA 10699).

"Through the enactment of these laws, we will remove the traditional barriers to the effective access to public education, such as poverty, distance and age requirements," Drilon stressed.

In 2014, Drilon noted that the Congress passed the landmark "Iskolar ng Bayan Act" (RA 10648) to give automatic admission and provision of scholarship grants by all state colleges and universities to public high school students who belong to the top ten places of their graduating classes, as well as the Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647) and the Open Learning and Distance Education Act (RA 10650).

Better social services

The Senate chief also said that Congress has devoted much time and resources in increasing social services and other programs which will help ordinary Filipinos in their daily lives, such as the P82,000 tax exemption cap for 13th Month Pay and other benefits (RA 10653) and Joint Resolution No. 5 that increases the daily subsistence allowance of all enlisted and uniformed personnel.

"We have passed laws to duly advance the state of social services in the country, particularly to those who need our care the most, like the elderly and the sick," said Drilon.

Drilon said that last year, the Congress passed the Mandatory Philhealth Coverage for All Senior Citizens (RA 10645), which entitles all senior citizens to avail of Philhealth benefits for their medical expenses; and the law (RA 10649) that doubles the burial assistance for military veterans from P10,000 to P20,000.

He also noted that the Congress has passed HB 5842, or the P2,000 across the board increase to the monthly pension received by retirees under the Social Security System and which now awaits the President's approval and signing into law. The Salary Standardization Law IV, which will increase the salaries of about 1.6 million government employees, is likewise set to be approved by the Senate next year.

Improving justice system

In line with the administration's judicial reform agenda, Drilon said that Congress also passed the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Act (RA 10660) to further strengthen its functional and structural organization, and the amendments to the Probation Law (RA 10707), which expands the benefits of probation.

It has also given its nod this year to 15 news laws creating municipal and regional trial courts to help improve judicial efficiency, he added.

Not yet done

In addition, the Senate leader said that 32 more proposed legislation are awaiting the approval and signing into law by President Benigno Aquino III, including the proposed acquisition of road right of way for government infrastructure projects, the SK Reform Act, the Credit Surety Cooperative Fund Act of 2015, the bill expanding the benefits and privileges of persons with disability, and the bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Also, Drilon said there are 44 measures that were already approved on third reading by the Senate, including the amendments to the AFP Modernization Law, the bill that will grant education assistance and benefits to dependents of all military and uniformed personnel, and the measure that seeks to provide retirement benefits to barangay officials, tanods, barangay health workers and other employees of barangay units.

With the 16th Congress ending in July 2016, Drilon said that the Senate will maximize their remaining months in session to focus on important legislation remaining on the priority agenda list.

"We will continue to work and fulfill our mandate by legislating relevant, important and much-needed laws for our people. Even if the 2016 elections are fast approaching, we are not done yet and the public can expect more laws to be passed for their benefits and to address their most pressing needs," the Senate chief stressed.

"We will not allow election fever to paralyze us, Drilon assured.

Upon the resumption of Senate session on January 18, 2016, Drilon said that they will soon approve 35 bills on third and final reading, such as the Customs and Tariff Modernization Act (CTMA), and that they will resume work on 67 other legislation pending on second reading, such as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and Public-Private Partnership Act.

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