• Senate bill proposes emergency powers


    A bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the country’s alarming traffic crisis is one of the more than 200 proposed measures that were filed during the first round filling of bills and resolutions in the Senate.

    It was outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon who filed Senate Bill No. 11, or the “Transportation Crisis Act of 2016,” which seeks to authorize the President to adopt alternative methods of procurement for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of transportation projects aimed at the reduction of traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

    “The emergency power is already a ‘necessity’ given the magnitude of the transportation crisis that not only impedes the mobility of people, goods and services, but also threatens the livability of our cities,” he stressed.

    According to Drilon poor traffic management woes are caused mainly by the poor enforcement of traffic rules and the overlapping functions of government institutions like the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies, the Land Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and local government units (LGUs).

    To address this, Drilon said the MMDA and the Department of Transportation should be the sole urban traffic management authority in Metro Manila and other urban areas. This means the two agencies will be absorbing some functions currently being performed by the LTFRB, LTO and LGUs.

    Senators Vicente Sotto 3rd and Panfilo Lacson meanwhile filed their respective proposals for the reimposition of the death penalty in the country but only on drug related cases, which is one of President Duterte’s top priorities.

    Sotto also filed other bills that would help the government’s campaign against illegal drugs such as the anti-drug penal institution; the establishment of a dangerous drugs court; drug rehabilitation treatment for Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) beneficiaries; and the creation of the Presidential Anti-Drug Authority (PRADA).

    Lacson on the other hand filed a bill amending the Bank Secrecy Law and amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

    He said that the privacy of bank records of all public servants, whether appointive or elective, and from the President down to the lowest-ranking employee should be waived. This also includes all members of the police and the military.

    Sens. Grace Poe and Francis Escudero re-filed their respective Freedom of Information (FOI) bills, which is also a priority of Duterte.

    Escudero also filed bills decriminalizing libel and another measure providing protection, security and benefits to whistleblowers.

    Proposed measures seeking to provide free education in all state colleges and universities were also filed separately by Sens. Ralph Recto and Paolo Benigo Aquino 4th.

    Recto also wants free irrigation service to qualified farmers, which is similar to the bill filed by Sen. Cythia Villar.

    Recto also filed a measure that would increase the pension of Social Security System members, a bill that was approved by the 16th Congress but was vetoed by former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    Other measures that were filled include those seeking to adjust the levels of net taxable income and nominal income tax rates, strengthening of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, extending the maternity leave from 60 days to 120 days, mandating local government units to allocate a percentage of their development fund to agriculture, and requiring employers to pay 14th month pay, among others.

    Of the 3227 bills filed in the Senate of the 16th Congress, Aquino only signed around 71 proposed measures into law.


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