SunStar – Veteran senators take first crack at filing bills

By Virgil Lopez | SunStar

SENATORS Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. were among the early birds to file their bills for the 16th Congress, whose first regular session will open on July 22.

The order of filing was done through lottery on Monday with Sotto getting the first slot, according to Senate Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes.

Sotto introduced bills seeking to create courts that will hear drug cases, an amendment to the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002, and provide affordable drug rehabilitation treatment for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) beneficiaries, among others.

Legarda’s first bills focused on education, poverty alleviation, natural resources management, disaster preparedness, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation while Marcos wanted changes to the controversial anti-cybercrime law, acceleration of national irrigation development program and increase pensions under the Social Security System.

Newcomer Senator Cynthia Villar, who was the eighth to file her bills, sought for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, investments and Incentives code, and an assistance program for distressed overseas Filipino workers.

Establishing child care facilities in private and government offices, creating programs for imprisoned parents and their children, mandating gender sensitivity training in the workplace, providing free medical and dental assistance to indigent children, protecting schools from sex offenders, and criminalizing digital forms of violence against women and children are among the 15 bills filed by Senator Nancy Binay.

“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 in order to reach the needed consensus on pressing issues,” said Binay, who was criticized in social media for her lack of leadership experience when she ran for the post last May 13.

Poll topnotcher Grace Poe, for her part, filed a bill that aims to make the Philippines a film shooting destination. Her father, Fernando Poe Jr., was a screen legend who nearly won the presidency in 2004.

Poe also filed two resolutions calling for the re-examination of the government’s policies and programs for OFWs, and the plight of coconut farmers.

Her political mentor Francis Escudero, meanwhile, filed anew a bill requiring government officials and those seeking public office to make disclose their financial records through the signing of waivers on the secrecy of bank deposits to accompany the submission of asset statements.

“When I went around the country during the campaign I promised our people I will continue pursuing measures to fight graft and corruption, I am only making good my pledge by re-filing this bill, my first legislative agenda in the 16th Congress” said Escudero.

Other senators also filed their bills except for Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who was in Dipolog City on a series of consultations and to celebrate the city’s charter day.

“We want to make sure that the bills we will file have sound policy and the requisite quality. As such, we are finalizing our bills with policy experts, socio-civic groups, and stakeholders,” he said.

Aquino is expected to focus on bills that will support entrepreneurs, create more jobs, and end poverty.

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