Speech of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III

June 4, 2020

My dear colleagues in the Senate, hardworking civil servants of the Senate and other government agencies, my fellow citizens:

Today, on the part of the Senate, we hold the last plenary of the First Regular Session of the 18th Congress of the Philippines.

First, I raise up to God our thanks for the gift of life in these trying times, when the spectre of mortality hovers above the world like a dark cloud and eternity threatens to visit like a thief in the night. It is a time -- where social interaction is the disruption point, when news may be real or fake; when everyone is a broadcaster in three seconds by pressing a "send" button; when fine dining food is brought home by motorcycles. You can say that we are going through an episode of turbulence. And hope that it will be soon over.

Many thanks too to our people who honored us with a chance to serve in the Legislative Department. My heartfelt thanks to my esteemed colleagues Senator “never absent” Tolentino during the ECQ and of course the physically present Sen. Ping Lacson who led Senators Gatchalian, Villanueva, Lapid, Zubiri, Dela Rosa, Binay Pimentel, Angara, Hontiveros, Revilla, and Poe for being physically present here in the session hall despite of all the health hazards and risk during the ECQ period, and of course, allow me to also convey my appreciation to my colleagues who have been actively participating through the WEBEX teleconferencing and they were never absent Ralph Recto, Frank Drilon, Pia Cayetano, Bong Go, Richard Gordon, Imee Marcos, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Cynthia Villar. Thank you to all of you.

And on a personal note, my deep gratitude to my esteemed colleagues, for a year of trust and confidence to be at the helm of this revered democratic institution.

In this regard, I stand with the Senate in the creation of a legislative agenda that is committed to saving lives; maintaining growth in the economy; and—for as long as the Corona virus poses a threat to the world—by unifying government policy in anticipation for living in a new world.

With the people’s interest in mind, your Senate deemed it appropriate to respond to this pandemic within our mandate and in the best and most efficient way possible.

Even before the lockdown was over, your Senate conducted a number of hearings; convened for a special session, and resumed in regular sessions. These resulted in, among others, the signing by the President of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, authorizing the President limited powers and only for a period of time, to exercise powers necessary to carry out a declared national policy to deal with the national emergency and address the urgent needs of the nation arising from the pandemic.

Your Senate received the weekly reports relative to the implementation of the law. And as part of our oversight functions, your Senators have submitted a number of reports to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee by way of improving the implementation of Republic Act No. 11469.

On 11 May 2020, the Senate convened into a Committee of the Whole, where in a series of hearings, your Senators met with economic managers, key members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and other stakeholders. This is to keep us abreast of the current situation and to give our comments and suggestions on how the national government can best respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The whole nation also tuned in as we live stream these hearings to be informed of the actual state of our country during its battle against COVID-19.

Before the lockdown, your Senate worked hard on other legislative measures. It is my duty, as it is also my pride, to report on the accomplishments of your Senate in the First Regular Session of the Eighteenth Congress, as follows:

• Eight (8) bills have been signed into law

• Two (2) bills are pending approval of the President

• One (1) Senate Joint Resolution

• Ten (10) Senate Bills and Eleven (11) Bills originating from the lower house or a total of twenty-one (21) bills have been passed on Third Reading

• Ten (10) bills have been approved on Second Reading

• Twenty-six (26) bills are pending discussion on Second Reading

• Fifty-two (52) Resolutions have been adopted, of which fifty (50) were simple Resolutions

• Five (5) Concurrent resolutions have been passed

The bills that have been signed into law are the Act Postponing the May 2020 Barangay And Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, the Act Establishing Malasakit Centers In All Department Of Health (DOH) Hospitals In The Country, the Act Extending Availability Of the 2019 Appropriations To December 31, 2020, the Act Appropriating Funds for the Operation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines From January 1- December 31, 2020, the Act Modifying The Salary Schedule For Civilian Government Personnel And Authorizing The Grant Of Additional Benefits, the Act Increasing Excise Taxes on Alcohol and E-cigarettes, the Act Designating The Third Sunday Of November Every Year As The National Day Of Remembrance For Road Crash Victims, Survivors, And Their Families and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

I am grateful for the cooperation of my colleagues in shepherding and shaping the legislative outputs that I have mentioned.

On home ground, I would like to commend the Senate Secretary for leading the team of the officers and staff of the Senate Secretariat that has ensured the Senate’s continued service to the people. Thank you to the Medical and Dental Bureau especially to Dr. Cristeta Cocjin and Dr. Renato Sison for being on the frontline in implementing sound health protocols for our employees. Thank you, also, to the officers and staff of the Administration and Finance, headed by Deputy Secretary Arnel Bañas, for ensuring that the employees are well taken care of during the height of the pandemic and to make certain that the Senate premises is at par with best practices in minimizing COVID-19 infection. I also would like to commend the EDP-MIS Bureau for easing us into digital transition. They are the people we should thank for arranging our meetings, hearings and sessions via the internet. To them and to all other Senate services, to the OSAA and all other people who are giving services to the Senate, thank you for coming up with our protocols for survival and continued service.

In closing, I would like to express, in behalf of the Senate, this nation’s appreciation to our frontliners in so many fields of endeavor---from health to sanitation; from social welfare to public transport; from local governments to police personnel. Your nation salutes you. "text-align: justify; width: 780px;" class="style2"> Let me assure the Filipino people that the Senate is here to ensure that government continues to serve the public’s interest. But let me also say that as dutiful citizens, the Filipino, must likewise, contribute to this endeavor.

There is no challenge greater than this—to wean away from our old and familiar ways and see the old world wither behind us. With the Filipino nation, I am ready to face the challenge of being reborn in a new world with you—as new men and women invigorated with the mission of working together for a better and safer future.

Maraming salamat po.

Mabuhay tayong lahat.