They may be in the minority but the six-member opposition bloc led by veteran Senator Franklin M. Drilon got a lot of things done in the Senate and shepherded into passage a number of landmark measures.
Drilon said the minority senators’ legislative scorecard paints a vivid picture of how productive they had been in the 17thCongress, which made possible the enactment of legislation that are now benefiting the nation and the Filipino people.
These landmark laws include, among others, Drilon’s Revised Corporation Code, Sen. Bam Aquino’s Free Tuition Act, Sen. Risa Hontivero’s Mental Health Act, Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s Sagip Saka Act, Sen. Sonny Trillanes’s Magna Carta of the Poor, and Sen. Leila De Lima’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Institutionalization.
“The 17th Congress has not been easy for the opposition. It is hard to be in the opposing side these days,” Drilon admitted.
“We saw our colleague Sen. De Lima detained. All of us in the minority were subjected to criticisms and attacks,” he added.
“Despite all these, we soldiered on and remained focused on one goal: to get things done for the people,” Drilon stressed.
In the 17th Congress, Drilon authored three major laws: Amendments to the Revised Penal Code, the Philippine Identification System Act and the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines.
Drilon is also the author of the New Central Bank Act, and is one of the authors of the Department of Housing law.
Drilon also worked hard to ensure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be constitutionally compliant.
It was also Drilon who helped propose the solution to the budget deadlock, preventing a reenacted budget.
Aquino, Assistant Minority Leader and erstwhile chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, labored hard as the principal sponsor of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Free College Act), which now benefits millions of students in state universities and colleges all over the country and will continue to benefit generations of Filipinos to come.
One of the youngest senators, Aquino put premium on the welfare of the children and the youth through laws such as the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act and Balik Scientist Act, which seek to nurture children and support aspiring scientists, respectively.
On the economic front, Aquino wrote and sponsored measures such as the Personal Property Security Act that allows personal properties, and not just land titles, as collateral for bank loans.
Despite being a neophyte senator, Akbayan Senator Hontiveros proved to be a prolific legislator, Drilon said.
The vice-chair of the Committee on Health and Demography and a known women and children’s rights advocate has crafted and defended a number of landmark pieces of legislation like the Universal Health Care Act, 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law, and Mental Health Act.
As chair of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, Hontiveros shepherded the passage of the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act which seeks to protect everyone, especially women and LGBT, from sexual harassment in the streets, schools, and workplaces, as well as the landmark Anti-Hospital Deposit Law and the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act.
Hontiveros also actively participated in the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
A veteran senator, Liberal Party president Sen. Pangilinan, who was formerly chair of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture, is principal author and principal sponsor of recently enacted RA 11321 or the Sagip Saka Act which would increase farmers’ income by empowering them and connecting them to the market. He is also the principal author of the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act and also filed other bills like the anti-political dynasty measure as well as the coco levy fund measure, among others.
Pangilinan also worked hard for the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill and the strengthening of the Philippine Coconut Authority bill, twin measures which would have advanced the interest of the coconut farmers had they not been vetoed by the President.
Pangilinan also led the hearing on the proposed Charter change as chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.
As chair of the Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation, outgoing Senator Trillanes shepherded into law the Speech Language Pathology Act, Philippine Occupational Therapy Law of 2018, Philippine Criminology Profession Act of 2018, Philippine Food Technology Act, among others. He is also co-author of the enacted Philippine Identification System Act.
If it were not for Trillanes, Drilon said there would be no Magna Carta of the Poor that protects and upholds the rights of the poor to adequate food, decent work, education housing and health. It was Trillanes who sponsored the measure on behalf of Sen. De Lima, chairperson of the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
He also co-authored the amendments to the Ombudsman Act and the amendments to the police recruitment and training system law.
Despite her unjust detention for about two years now, Sen. De Lima has been able to craft a number of proposed legislation, including the Institutionalization of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act and the Magna Carta of the Poor.
As former secretary of justice, De Lima has been very active in filing resolutions calling for investigations of alleged corrupt practices and irregularities, particularly in the drug war, according to Drilon.
“We are proud of what we have done. We can look people in the eye, critics or otherwise, because we know that we did not fail them,” Drilon said.
“It proves that the opposition has not been a hindrance in the passage of meaningful legislation and policy formulation,” he added.
“What the minority has accomplished is a testament to our desire to serve and prove our worth to the people. At the same time, I would like to think that it is also a manifestation of a healthy working environment in the Senate, which we hope to see in the next Congress,’” Drilon stressed.
The minority leader also gave tribute to Senators Trillanes and Aquino, whose terms of office end this June.
“We would bid goodbye to two of our most productive members, Senators Trillanes and Aquino,” he said.
“We thank them for their immense contribution to lawmaking and, as part of the minority bloc, for being true fiscalizers and vanguards of democracy,” he added.
Drilon said Trillanes’s 12-year stint set the bar higher for professionals, advanced the welfare of both the public and private workforce and increased the base pay and benefits of government workers and uniformed personnel.
Aquino, said Drilon, helped a lot in the advancement of the country’s educational system and in the improvement of the Philippines’ business climate.
“We will miss them in the Senate,” Drilon said.