By Mia M. Gonzalez | Business Mirror
SENATORS on Monday started filing their pet bills for the 16th Congress including first-timers who took the first step in the long journey of fulfilling their campaign pledges.
Sen. Grace Poe filed a bill seeking to ease hunger and malnutrition among children by institutionalizing a Free Nutri-Meals Program or Sustansiya sa Batang Pilipino Program for students in public elementary and high schools, especially where severe malnutrition persisted.
Poe also filed two Senate resolutions—one seeking an inquiry on government programs for overseas Filipino workers to further improve their protection against abuse, harassment and criminal syndicates; and the other on how to help coconut farmers reeling from the outbreak of pests and weather changes.
Sen. Nancy Binay was to file 15 measures on her first day in office, centered on the protection of women and children such as the proposed Employers Child Care Centers Act of 2013; the Parents in Jail Act of 2013; the Special Education Act of 2013 and the Women’s and Children’s Resource Development and Crisis Assistance Act of 2013.
Among Binay’s other proposed measures are the Indigent Children Free Medical and Dental Service Act; Firecracker Safety Law; the Women and Gender Education Act; Rest Period for Women Employees; Sex Offenders School Access Prohibition Act; Anti-Corporal Punishment Act of 2013; and the E-Vaw Law of 2013.
“I want to make sure that the bills we will be crafting are realistic, doable and would benefit every Filipino family, especially women and children. I am aware that it would take a lot of skill to manage and defend to get the bills passed, but I’m ready to discuss and negotiate with my colleagues in the Senate,” Binay said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, another Senate newbie, filed his first five bills—all on improving access to and quality of education, as he had promised during the campaign.
Angara filed the proposed Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education Act to prioritize students in families under the Conditional Cash-Transfer Program.
He also filed the proposed Bill of Rights for New Graduates, discounts to underprivileged post-secondary and tertiary students on basic services and educational expenses; the upgrade of the minimum salary grade level of teachers from Salary Grade 11 to 19; and the Free College Entrance Exam Act.
“In a society with persistent poverty, education can be the great equalizer. Surely, not all are created equal but we must provide equal opportunities for all, especially the disadvantaged, the poor and the marginalized,” Angara said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar readied 30 bills for filing on her first day in the Senate, among them the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers Act; Anti-No Permit, No Exam Policy Act; Accelerated Irrigation Act; Investments and Incentives Code; and the Act providing an assistance program for overseas Filipino workers in distress.
Villar’s other proposed measures include the amendment of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998; Ladderized Education Act; Revised Consumer Act of the Philippines; No Filipino Child Left Behind Act; the Lemon Law; the creation and accreditation of microenterprise development institutions; and the Magna Carta of Students.
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV did not file any bill on Monday but said in a statement that he was in still finalizing his proposed measures “with policy experts, socio-civic groups and stakeholders” to ensure that “the bills we will file have sound policy and the requisite quality” and would be centered on job creation and poverty alleviation.
In line with his campaign promise, re-elected Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero filed a measure requiring government officials and those seeking public office to reveal their financial records by signing of waivers on the secrecy of bank deposits to accompany the submission of their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth.
Sen. Loren Legarda filed the Pantawid Tuition Program seeking to fund one college scholar per poor family; the Magna Carta for School Teachers; the National Land Use bill; the creation of the Philippine River Basin System Administration; and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration modernization.
Among the measures filed by Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III were the proposed creation of Dangerous Drugs Courts in the country to deal with illegal drug-related cases; the amendment of the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 and the Local Government Code of 1991; and the prohibition of children 12 years and below to ride at the back of a motorcycle plying public and private roads.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. filed bills seeking to remove the stiffer penalty for cyber libel in the cybercrime law; imposing a three-year moratorium on the creation or conversion of state universities and colleges; mandating the National Irrigation Administration to accelerate the national irrigation development program; and a bill increasing pensions under the Social Security System.
Sotto, Legarda, Marcos, Escudero and Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada were the first group to file their bills that day, as the order of filing was raffled off by Senate Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes.
Binay and Poe personally filed their bills.