• Neophytes lead filing of bills

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    TRUE to her word, neophyte lawmaker Maria Leonor “Lenny” Robredo of Camarines Sur province filed a measure that will institutionalize the full disclosure of all state budget and transactions that is similar in nature to the controversial freedom of information (FOI) bill.

    The widow of the late Interior secretary Jesse Robredo filed her pet measure, House Bill 21, on Monday, the first day for filing bills to be taken up in the 16th Congress.

    The bill mandates government agencies to reveal their budget spending as well as their financial transactions even without a request from the public, an initiative taken from her husband’s DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010-83 ordering all local government units and DILG regional offices to report their finances as well as biddings and public offerings.

    “This will allow our people to access the data at any time without the burden of technicalities and bureaucracy. Financial disclosure will augment our people’s efforts in creating a more transparent and accountable government,” Robredo, a lawyer, pointed out.

    “Government funds are hard-earned money of the people that should be spent judiciously and for the common good,” she added.

    Also on Monday, the Magna Carta for the Poor and the Centenarians bills, which have been vetoed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, were refiled at the House.

    The Magna Carta, which mandates the state to provide the basic needs of the poor such as food, employment, livelihood, education shelter, medicines, among others, was the 29th measure to be filed. It was authored by Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu who succeeded his daughter, Rachel Marguerite.

    The centenarians bill, on the other hand, was fittingly the 100th measure to be filed by Rep. Edcel “Grex” Lagman of Albay province, the son of former rep. Edcel Lagman. It seeks to grant Filipino 100-year-olds a P100,000 cash gift and a 50 percent discount on goods and services from all establishments.

    President Aquino refused to sign the previous versions of the two bills into law because he deemed it too much of a burden for the national budget to shoulder.

    The younger Lagman, however, is confident that the centenarians bill will not be rejected this time because his version does not contain the objectionable provisions cited by the President.

    “I’d like to assure the would-be centenarians or the centenarians at present that there’s a really good chance that this bill will pass. This is a very significant piece of proposed legislation because at present there are more than 7,000 centenarians and it’s only fitting that we acknowledge their longevity, that it is something that we should emulate,” Lagman pointed out.

    Newcomers
    At the Senate, newly-elected Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Jose Victor Ejercito Estrada, Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Cynthia Villar marked their first day as senators by filing their respective priority bills in line with the promises they made during the campaign period.

    Angara filed five measures, all focused on broadening the access to and improving the quality of Philippine education.

    These include Senate Bill 58 or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education (Unifast) Act which seeks to strengthen, harmonize and refocus the existing student financial assistance programs to make them more targeted to the poor.

    The senator also filed SB 59 or the Bill of Rights for New Graduates which would assist each new graduate with employment and business opportunities.

    Binay, for her part, has lined up 15 bills that set out her legislative priorities in the 16th Congress, most of which are focused on the welfare of children and parents.

    Among her bills are the Employers Child Care Centers Act of 2013; Parents in Jail Act of 2013; Special Education Act of 2013; Women’s and Children’s Resource Development and Crisis Assistance Act of 2013; The Indigent Children Free Medical and Dental Service Act; Firecracker Safety Law and the Women and Gender Education Act.

    She also filed the Anti-Corporate Punishment Act of 2013; The E-Vaw Law of 2013, Rest Period for Women Employees; Sex Offenders School Access Prohibition Act; Philippine Arbitration Commission Act of 2013; Petroleum Exploration and Development Act; Sugar Cane Industry Development Act of 2013 and the Food Fortification Act.

    Ejercito Estrada, meanwhile, filed 15 bills but the details were not made available to the media.

    But basing on his campaign promises, Ejercito Estarda’s bills are expected to focus more on students’ welfare, education and job creation and security.

    Poe, who topped the 2013 senatorial race, filed her priority legislation centered on issues on poverty, the plight of coconut farmers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the film industry.

    Among Poe’s priority measure include the institutionalization of a free Nutri-Meals program for school children in all public elementary and high schools, to be called the “Sustansiya sa Batang Pilipino” program.

    Poe also proposed the promotion and marketing worldwide of a Film Tourism in the Philippines, pointing out that “Philippine tourism could get a bigger boost through Film Tourism.”

    The neophyte senator also filed a resolution seeking a review of the government’s policies and programs on Overseas Filipino Workers, especially in the light of recent events that have adversely affected the conditions of our Filipino workers abroad.

    Villar also introduced the first five bills she authored, including the bill pushing for the creation of Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (Senate Bill No. 31), a bill which was first filed by her husband, former sen. Manny Villar.

    As for education, Villar filed a bill seeking to stop the policy of “No Permit, No Exam” by some public and private higher education institutions and technical-vocational schools (SB 33).

    To hasten the development of irrigation systems, Villar is also proposing a six-year accelerated irrigation program where areas will be assessed according to priority of need and the construction of irrigation shall be exempted from the election ban (SB 34).

    Aquino, cousin of President Benigno Aquino 3rd is the only neophyte senator who did not file any bills.

    Veteran senators Vicente Sotto 3rd, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Francis Escudero and Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada also filed measures at the Legislative Bills and Index (LBIS) of the senate.

    Early birds
    Meanwhile, re-elected lawmakers, including a former convict, were the early birds in Monday’s filing of congressional measures.

    Comebacking Reps. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, Alfrancis Bichara of Albay and Ronald Singson of Ilocos Sur were the early birds who filed their respective bills in the House of Representatives.

    Biazon filed the first five bills of 16th Congress, namely: National Defense and Security Act, Amendment to the Administrative Code Prescribing an Additional Qualification for the Secretary of the National Defense, Articles of Military Justice, National Transportation Safety Board Act and Customs Modernization Act of 2013.

    He was followed by Umali, who filed the Customs Modernization And Tariff Act of 2013, Strengthening the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel by upgrading employee benefits, An Act granting amnesty to importers and surtees with unliquidated and/or unsettled amount of obligation/s with the Bureau of Customs, An Act designating the municipality of Pinamalayan Oriental Mindoro as the Regional Center of Region IVB and An Act Increasing the Bed Capacity of the Roxas district hospital from 50 to 100.

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