By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon paid tribute to his colleagues in the Senate minority bloc, saying their legislative scorecard paints a vivid picture of how productive they had been in the 17th Congress.
Among the landmark laws the six-member opposition bloc was able to pass into law include Drilon’s Revised Corporation Code, Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV’s Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Free College Act), Sen. Risa Hontivero’s Mental Health Act, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s Sagip Saka Act, Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV Magna Carta of the Poor, and Sen. Leila de Lima’s bill institutionalizing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.
“The 17thCongress has not been easy for the opposition. It is hard to be in the opposing side these days. We saw our colleague Sen. De Lima detained. All of us in the minority were subjected to criticisms and attacks,” Drilon pointed out during his privilege speech at the Senate session hall Tuesday night.
“Despite all these, we soldiered on and remained focused on one goal: to get things done for the people,” Drilon stressed.
In particular, Drilon commended Aquino and Trillanes for their zeal and passion for getting things done even in the midst of hostility.
Aquino, who failed in his reelection bid in the May 2019 midterm elections, 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, the youngest senator 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, Drilon noted.
The Free College Law, which Aquino labored hard to be passed as erstwhile education committee chair, now benefits millions of students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) all over the country and will continue to benefit generations of Filipinos to come.
Trillanes, an outgoing senator, on the other hand, 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.
If it were not for Trillanes, Drilon pointed out 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 also he who sponsored the measure on behalf of De Lima, who chairs the committee on social justice, welfare and rural development.
Meanwhile, Drilon authored three major laws: Amendments to the Revised Penal Code, the Philippine Identification System Act, and the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines. He is also the author of the New Central Bank Act, and is one of the authors of the Department of Housing Law.
It was also Drilon who worked hard to ensure that the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) would be constitutionally compliant. It was also the minority leader who helped propose the solution to the budget deadlock, preventing a reenacted budget.
Hontiveros, meanwhile, shepherded the passage of the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act (also known as the Bawal Bastos bill), which seeks to protect everyone, especially women and LGBT from sexual harassment in the streets, schools and workplaces.
Hontiveros was also instrumental in the passage of the landmark Anti-Hospital Deposit Law and the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act. She also actively participated in the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Pangilinan, another veteran lawmaker and Liberal Party president, and former chair of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, pursued the passage of the recently signed Sagip Saka Act which would increase farmers’ income by empowering them and connecting them to the market.
Pangilinan is also principal author of the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act and also filed bills like the anti-political dynasty measure as well as the coco levy fund bill.
Drilon commended Pangilinan for working hard for the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill and the strengthening of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)—twin measures which would have advanced the interest of the coconut farmers had they not been vetoed by the President.
Pangilinan also led the hearings on the controversial Charter change proposal as chair of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.
Despite her unjust detention for about two years, Drilon said de Lima was remarkably able to craft a number of proposed legislation, including the institutionalization of the 4Ps program and the Magna Carta of the Poor.
De Lima, the minority chief noted, continues to file resolutions calling for investigations of alleged corrupt practices and irregularities, particularly on the Duterte administration’s brutal drug war.
“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 pointed out.
Drilon said what the minority was able to accomplish is a testament to their desire to serve and prove their 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.
In the 18th Congress, only Drilon, Pangilinan, Hontiveros, and De Lima will remain in the minority bloc. De Lima, however, is still detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center and fighting drug charges.