Press Release
December 15, 2011

Speech of Senate President Juan Ponce
Enrile during the Adjournment of Session

My distinguished colleagues,

Time indeed moves fast. A season of gift-giving is again upon us. And a new year is about to unfold, giving us either thoughts of hope for a better life, a better Philippines or feelings of doubt, of fear of what lies ahead before us, as individuals, as a people and as a nation.

This leads me to seriously think, as the Senate adjourns today, about what best gifts that we, as a chamber, would be giving to our people this Christmas. And what best sentiments would we be leaving them as we wrap-up our legislative duties this year.

The 2012 Budget

My distinguished colleagues, when we commenced the Second Regular Session last July, I challenged this Chamber to enact legislation that would improve the nation's fiscal and economic capabilities.

One of the priorities was the early passage of the General Appropriations Act for 2012, and this was precisely what we did. After the Chairman of the Finance Committee sponsored on November 15 what he described as a "results-focused budget that is decidedly biased for the poor," we undertook a four-day period of interpellations from November 15 to November 18. Further debates and periods of committee and individual amendments were held. On November 22, the proposed national budget was approved by the Senate on second and third readings, and on November 29, we ratified the conference committee report on the proposed P1.816-trillion budget.

Our passage of the proposed GAA for 2012 last month is even earlier than our last year's approval of the budget, and, I was informed that the President will already sign the budget bill tomorrow.

We all know that the government budget is a vital tool for national development. Thus, according to Sen. Drilon, the proposed GAA for 2012 contains the following highlights:

  • The outlay supports a rapid, inclusive and sustained economic growth by increasing allocations for infrastructure services such as irrigation systems and farm-to-market roads;

  • The government is providing for a larger infrastructure program next year, which is P182.2 billion more, or 25.7 percent higher, than this year's program, which includes funding for public-private partnerships amounting to P22.1 billion; and,

  • Critical investments were also placed for activities that would secure peace and order, attain environment sustainability, enable growth and better opportunities in conflict-torn areas, promote disaster preparedness and preserve our natural resources.

Further economic growth can be attained if every public-private business transaction would be honest and transparent. So much government money has gone to waste due to graft and corruption. Thus, the Senate, through its various committees, has initiated investigations on malfeasance and misfeasance in government, some of which are still ongoing. The investigations on the questionable purchase of helicopters by the Philippine National Police, on the alleged behest loans granted to certain individuals by the Development Bank of the Philippines, and on electoral fraud stand as dire warning to those who are bent on defrauding the government and the people that it is no longer "business as usual." The Blue Ribbon Committee alone has already conducted 13 public hearings and one executive session since we opened our regular session on July 25, 2011.

Legislative Summit

On September 29 this year, the House of Representatives and the Senate held the first Legislative Summit. The event was initiated by the House, with the concurrence of the Senate, to form a common legislative agenda of both Houses, as well as arrive at a workable timeframe within which these bills will be considered and approved. This mechanism is intended to be a continuing coordination between the two chambers and will actually complement the legislative priorities presented during the prior meetings of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Incidentally, it was also in that summit where preliminary discussions on the possibility of amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution were initiated. I personally believe that we cannot proceed into really developing this country unless we relax the restrictions on some industries and sectors under the Constitution. We need more investments. No country in the world has prospered without investments. Even if the government adopts a policy to "manage" our population, contract it perhaps to the barest minimum, we will still not prosper unless we have massive investment in the country. China, for instance, adopted a one-child policy long before but that did not make her prosper. It was when her leaders decided to open up their country to investments that China started to achieve and has since sustained remarkable economic growth. It's about time that we take a serious look into this issue.

Performance of the Senate from July 2011 to December 14, 2011

Indeed, lawmaking is a painstaking task. For we, as legislators, do not aim to pass laws that will affect or influence not only this present generation but the coming generations as well. There is a saying that whatever we sow, we reap. Mindful of this, we strive to craft pieces of legislation that will bring and help maintain order in society, address our people's socio-economic needs, meet their desire for financial security and their dream of healthy and well-educated children.

Let me then briefly walk you through what we have accomplished so far.

Bills which are now pending for approval by the President include:

1. H. No. 5023 Appropriating Funds for the Operation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines from January One to December Thirty-One, Two Thousand Twelve 2. S. No. 2869 Prescribing Fixed Terms for the Chief of Staff of the Major Service Commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 3. S. No. 2946 Conferring Upon Members of the Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlungsod, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the Appropriate Civil Service Eligibility Under Certain Circumstances

Another bill pending in the conference committee is

1. S. No. 2802 Recognizing the Early Years from Zero (0) to Six (6) as the First Cycle of Educational Development and for this Purpose Strengthening the Early Childhood Care and Development Council, Renaming the Day Care Center as Child Development Center

Proposed laws that we have approved on third reading which are now pending in the House of Representatives are the following:

1. S. No. 2486 An Act to Strengthen and Propagate Foster Care for Abused, Abandoned, Neglected and Other Children With Special Needs 2. S. No. 2811 Establishing the People's Survival Fund

I laud the passage of this bill, the proposed People's Survival Fund, on third reading. Every year, the lack of funding seems to be the main deterrent to effectively confront the ill-effects of climate change to our country and our people. This bill, should it become a law, would allow local governments and communities to put in place climate-mitigation practices to lessen the destructive impact of natural disasters.

I am pleased to note that our own Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Sen. Loren Legarda, who is also the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Champion for Asia Pacific, is encouraging developed nations to create a People's Survival Fund through the Green Climate Fund or GCF. As she reported two days ago, and if I understand it correctly, there was a 17th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa. As she has previously expressed, Senator Legarda is hoping that the Durban talks would result in the creation and financing of the GCF where, the Philippines, being one of the most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change, could tap into this fund to augment our own funding needs for climate-mitigation programs.

To continue, other bills we have passed on third reading are:

3. S. No. 2814 Prohibiting Profiling As Well As Discrimination Against Persons on Account of Ethnic or Racial Origin and/or Religious Affiliation or Belief 4. S. No. 2817 Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance 5. S. No. 2875 Providing for Security of Tenure For All Casual and Contractual Employees of the Government Who Have Rendered At Least Five (5) Years of Continuous Service in the Case of National Government Agencies and Ten (10) Years of Continuous Service in the Case of Local Government Units and for Other Related Purposes 6. S. No. 2941 Regulating the Practice of Geology in the Philippines 7. H. No. 3826 Institutionalizing the Kindergarten Education Into the Basic Education System

There are more Senate and House bills in stages of interpellations and amendments, one of which is what the Majority Leader has been referring to as the "walang kamatayang" Reproductive Health Bill. Let me just include them in a more comprehensive report which I will submit for the record. But I am very sure we can pass them on second and third reading when we resume sessions next year.

Also, we concurred in the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in August this year.

Additional Committees

In order to address specific concerns of our people and make committee work more efficient, we amended our Rules and created a Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, and divided into two separate standing committees the Committee on Games, Amusement and Sports into the Committee on Games and Amusement, and the Committee on Amateur Sports Competitiveness.

That, in a nutshell, my distinguished colleagues, is what we have achieved by the end of the year.

Impeachment hearings

However, more serious and challenging work lies ahead when we welcome the new year. As you all know, we received yesterday the verified complaint for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Senate will then have to be convened as an impeachment court, pursuant to our mandate under Article XI of the Constitution, to act on the said complaint transmitted to us. We will be more than ready to do so when we convene in January next year.

Final Thoughts

Looking back, I can proudly say that our hard work for the past six months, especially the Senate's very early passage of the national budget for 2012, is our best gift to our people.

As this is the season for wishes and hopes, this is now my wish list for all of you and for our people: I wish that the coming year will be a season of joy and anticipation. I wish you peace in your families and communities, peace in your hearts, and peace for our country. I wish you good health, strength and fortitude to endure the storms that may come your way and to withstand the challenges, stresses and pressures of your daily lives. I wish you all renewed faith in God and our country, and a greater sense of hope for the future.

Maligayang Pasko at masaganang bagong taon sa inyong lahat!

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