MANILA – The Senate adjourned sine die on Monday, passing a total of 238 news laws throughout the 16th Congress despite a pork barrel scam that rocked the institution three years ago.
“I can say with conviction that this Senate did more than enough,” Senate President Franklin Drilon in his closing speech entitled “Our President For the Future.”
Before ending the session, the Senate approved two House bills on final reading which sought to grant Filipino citizenship to Hans-Peter Smit and renew the franchise of an electric company in Batangas for another 25 years.
Smit had lived in the Philippines since the age of six and dedicated his life in teaching sports to the Filipino students.
Smit represented the Philippines in numerous international football events as coach and representative to various coaching seminars in and around Asia, the House Bill No. 5560 said.
On the other hand, HB No. 5570 seeks to renew a 25 year franchise to Ibaan Electric Corporation, formerly Ibaan Electric and Engineering Corporation, hoping to generate additional jobs, create career opportunities and continue to provide the people with information to help them in their daily lives.
Among the most important laws passed by the Senate in the 16th Congress are landmark economic reforms like the Philippine Competition Act (RA 10667), the Amendments to the Cabotage Law (RA 10668), the amendments to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (RA 10846), the Right of Way Act (RA 10752), and the Tax Incentives Transparency and Management Act (RA 10708), along with political reforms like the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act (RA 10742), anti-corruption laws like the Sandiganbayan Reform Act (RA 10660), and health reforms like the Graphic Health Warning Act (RA 10643).
Other crucial laws passed by the Senate include pro-education legislation such as the Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648) and the United Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (RA 10687), along with laws improving the country’s social services like the Mandatory Philhealth Coverage for All Senior Citizens (RA 10645), and the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability (RA 10754), along with pro-labor laws like the P82,000 tax exemption cap for 13th Month Pay and other benefits (RA 10653), the MARINA Act (RA 10635), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Act (RA 10801).
The Senate also worked to pass new laws for better public services for Filipinos, like the act that established the new Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT Act of 2015 (RA 10844), the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (RA 10863), the amendments to the Fisheries Code (RA 10654), the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration Modernization Act (RA 10692), and the Philippine Lemon Law, which strengthens consumer protection in the purchase of brand new vehicles (RA 10642).
During the 16th Congress, the Senate also introduced major institutional reforms such as the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” funds for lawmakers.
The alleged embezzlement of some Php10 billion worth of pork barrel funds by some lawmakers with the help of the businesswoman Janet Napoles have triggered the abolition of the PDAF, which was later declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Drilon described the alleged Php10 billion pork barrel scam as “darkest period” in the 100 years of existence of the Senate.
“The naysayers had written us off, and doubted if we could ever regain the trust of our people. It was difficult and challenging. But we listened. We persevered. We worked hard. We made difficult decisions. We implemented reforms. We stood as one,” Drilon said.
Three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. have been charged with plunder for allegedly misusing their respective PDAF.
Estrada and Revilla were still in detention while Enrile’s petition for bail has been granted by the Supreme Court.
Despite the biggest controversy to rock the Senate, Drilon said the upper chamber had triumphed over adversity and passed important bills including number of measures that have been languishing in the legislative mill for decades.
“With strong political will, this Senate cleared the hurdle of passing difficult but landmark measures that previously languished in the legislative mill for decades. Thus, we need not be afraid to face the verdict of our people and history. We have fared well,” Drilon, who topped the senatorial election last May 9, said.
As the Senate closed the 16th Congress, Minority Leader Enrile, along with Senators Estrada, Revilla, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Sergio “Serge” R. Osmeña III, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago also said goodbye to their colleagues.
Actually, Osmena and Guingona failed in their re-election bid while Marcos opted to run for vice president but narrowly lost to Camarines Sur congresswoman Leni Robredo.
Joining the Senate of the 17th Congress are newly-elected and first-time Senators Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Sherwin Gatchalian, Leila de Lima, and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, along with re-electionists Drilon, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Tito Sotto III, and former Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri.
The newly-elected and re-elected senators will take their oaths during the opening of the first regular session of the 17th Congress on July 25, 2016.