Press Release
February 4, 2016

Drilon: Landmark laws cement 16th Congress legacy

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today said that the Senate of the 16th Congress left as its legacy a record of landmark measures that would pave the way for a more vibrant economy and improved delivery of basic services to the Filipino people. "The Senate rose above all challenges and I am absolutely proud to report that we passed around 284 bills on third reading, 116 of which are now enacted as new laws of the land. 59 measures are for the approval of the President, four more measures with bicameral reports are pending House ratification, while seven another bills are pending in the bicameral conference committee," Drilon said.

"But more than that, the Senate of the 16th Congress passed the most number of landmark laws than any Congress in recent history," Drilon stressed.

Landmark economic reforms Describing the Senate of the 16th Congress a "witness to many historic firsts," Drilon said that landmark laws that they have passed were languishing in the legislative mill for years, particularly those on improving the national economy and uplifting the livelihood of Filipinos. The Senate leader said that the 16th Congress is particularly proud of the passage of the Philippine Competition Act (RA 10667) which took more than 20 years to pass. "The law outlaws and penalizes anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and will help put an end to the stranglehold of monopolies to our local markets," he explained.

Drilon also said that the Senate secured the passage into law of the amendments to the Cabotage Law (RA 10668), which would liberalize coastwise trading to open the market to competition and bring down cost of transportation by sea, the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (10708) which would enhance transparency on tax breaks granted to the private sector, and the RA 10641 which allows foreign banks to acquire and invest up to 100% of the voting stock of a domestic bank.

In addition, Drilon said that the Senate was able to push the Revised Insurance Code (RA 10607), which imposes more stringent capitalization requirements to strengthen the insurance industry, the Go Negosyo Act (10644) which promotes job generation through the development of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and the Philippine Lemon Law (RA 10642) which strengthens consumer protection in the purchase of brand new motor vehicles.

Better working conditions, public services

Drilon said that the Senate has also been consistent promoting worker rights and better public services, as reflected by the passage of the law which raises tax exemption ceiling on the 13th Month Pay from P30,000 to P82,000 (RA 10653), the MARINA Law (RA 10635) which introduces major structural changes to the country's maritime regulatory system, and the law which protects seafarers against "ambulance chasers" during emergencies (RA 10706).

"Still, we also passed the PAGASA Modernization Act (RA 10692) which modernizes the state weather bureau to help provide the nation with better meteorological forecasts, in tandem with the Free Mobile Alerts Act (10639), which mandates the broadcast of free mobile alerts to all mobile users during times of calamities," he also said.

Improved education, health sectors

Drilon then stressed that the Senate also succeeded in passing laws seeking to improve the country's educational services: "Our Filipino youth are huge winners with the package of education laws that we have worked on, such as the Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647), Open High School System (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning in Tertiary Education Act (RA 10650) and the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (RA 10687). These would provide wider access to quality education by removing barriers such as poverty, physical distance or social factors."

"We also enacted a measure which provides all senior citizens with automatic Philhealth coverage (RA 10645), to help our elderly with their increasing medical expenses, and the Graphic Health Warning Act (RA 10643) which seeks to raise awareness on the ill-effects of the use of tobacco products, through graphic warnings in packages of tobacco products," Drilon added.

Political, judicial reforms

Drilon then said that the 16th Congress made true on its reform-oriented goals with the passage numerous political and judicial reform laws: "We were successful in passing the Sandiganbayan Reform Law (RA 10660), which would speed up the resolution of anti-graft and corruption cases in the said court, and the amendments to the Probation Law (RA 10707) which expands the benefit of probation for more eligible convicts and push for their rehabilitation."

"We have also made a breakthrough with our country's first law with an anti-political dynasty provision with the passage of the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law (RA 10742), which prohibits relatives of local elected and appointed officials up to second level of consanguinity and relatives of national and appointed officials from sitting as SK officials.," he said.

Public approval, trust restored

Drilon acknowledged that the past years have not been easy for the Senate as a public institution: "The 16th Congress was hit by one of the fiercest political storms in recent history. It was the first Congress which saw three of its members were jailed for charges of corruption due to the pork barrel scam - two of them are still in jail, while the other is out on bail."

"This chamber became the battleground of many political battles, and it saw witness to so many investigations and probes such as pork barrel issue, corruption charges against the Vice President and the Mamasapano incident," he added.

However, Drilon said, "the Senate did not break or implode. Rather, it emerged from the crisis with a stronger resolve to give the best service possible to the nation and the Filipino people."

He noted how the Senate's public ratings have bounced back. "In fact, in the last quarter of 2015, the Senate as an institution received the highest approval rating of 47% in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia," he said.

"Indeed, public trust and approval to the Senate has been restored. Indeed, the only way to win the hearts and minds of our people is to work hard and fulfil our mandates, which we did," Drilon then concluded.

The Senate plenary sessions are adjourned up until May 23, 2016, when Congress reconvenes as the National Board of Canvassers tasked with canvassing the votes and determining the winners for the 2016 national elections.

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