Press Release
June 6, 2016

Drilon: 16th Congress lays groundwork for future

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon highlighted the sterling accomplishments of the Senate over the past three years, expressing confidence that its legacy paved the way for a better Philippines and laid the groundwork for the next administration.

In a speech delivered during the Senate's sine die adjournment today, Drilon presented to the public what he called the Senate's "present to the future," in the form of laws that benefit the Filipino people.

The four-time Senate President, who delivered the Senate's concluding message for the ninth time, said that hard work enabled the Senate to achieve so much in terms of passing crucial and much-needed legislation within a span of three years since the 16tH Congress opened in July 22, 2013.

"With strong political will, this Senate cleared the hurdle of passing difficult but landmark measures that previously languished in the legislative mill for decades," Drilon stressed.

"Thus, we need not be afraid to face the verdict of our people and history. We have fared well," he added.

However, the Senate chief called on the public to guard the gains that were made possible under the 16th Congress: "The challenge that we must face head on is to protect our gains, and ensure the continuity of reforms, so that their fruits will be enjoyed not only by this generation, but also by the generations yet unborn."

"Now, more than ever, we need to safeguard the reforms we have painstakingly put in place, so that neither force, nor personalities, can reverse these," he emphasized.

Landmark economic reforms

Drilon said that an inventory of the Senate's legislative achievements in the present Congress would reveal its focus on laying the foundation of a healthy economy.

Leading the economic reforms passed by the Senate are the Philippine Competition Act, the country's first principal anti-trust law that had been stalled in Congress for more than 20 years, the amended 50-year old Cabotage law to foster greater competition and lower the cost of domestic shipping, and the Tax Incentives Monitoring and Transparency Act (TIMTA) to promote fiscal accountability in tax incentives granted by the state.

It also allowed the full entry of foreign banks and liberalized the ownership of lending, adjustment and financing companies to boost investments in the country.

Drilon said that alongside economic reforms are structural reforms to government agencies that directly affect the nation's economy, such as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the amended Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) charter.

Helping workers, improving agriculture

Drilon said that another hallmark of the 16th Congress is the many laws passed by the Senate on job security, social benefits, fair pay and higher income for Filipino workers, such as the act raising the tax exemption cap for 13th month pay and other benefits from P30,000 to P82,000. The Senate also passed laws intended to help the country's overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) such as the new charter of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which ensures that OFW contributions will now go exclusively to pro-OFW programs, and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Law, which prevented a European Union blacklist that would have displaced more than 80,000 Filipino seafarers.

The Senate similarly made inroads in pushing laws to develop the agricultural sector through the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, the extension of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) and the Amendments to the Fisheries Code.

Better health, education services

Drilon said that the Senate demonstrated strong political will to pass landmark health measures such as the Reproductive Health Act and Sin Tax Reform Law, which has resulted in an incremental excise tax revenues of approximately P150 billion from 2013 to 2015, which was used to enroll the indigent Filipino families and senior citizens to Philhealth.

It also passed the Graphic Health Warning Act to compel cigarette companies to graphically demonstrate in cigarette packs the deadly effects of smoking.

Drilon highlighted that the Senate also passed a number of laws to make public education more accessible to the youth, regardless of distance, age, or financial capacity, such as the Iskolar ng Bayan Act, the Unified Student Financial Assistance System Act (UNIFAST), Ladderized Education Act, the Open Learning and Distance Education Act, and the Open High School System Act.

Improved Justice System

Given the 16th Congress' reform-oriented agenda, Drilon said that the Senate worked hard to pass reforms in the justice sector, such as the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Act to speed up the delivery of justice. It also lengthened the prescriptive period for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act from 15 years to 20 years and passed the NBI Modernization Act to capacitate the bureau in fighting crimes.

16th Congress' legacy

The Senate President recalled that the 16th Congress opened under a climate of distrust due to the controversies that confronted the chamber.

"Three years ago, shortly after we convened the 16th Congress, the Senate went through what may have been its darkest period in its 100 years of existence," Drilon recalled.

However, through hard work Drilon said the Senate was able to regain the public trust, as reflected in the opinion polls where a clear majority expressed satisfaction with the Senate's performance.

But according to Drilon, there is no better gauge in measuring public trust and satisfaction that that of facing the judgment of the people in an election: "I sought a new mandate knowing full well that my reelection would rise or fall on the strength or weakness of my leadership of the Senate."

Drilon, who topped the 2016 senatorial elections, said: "if he did well in the last election, it was because of our accomplishments in the Senate."

"We have done the right things. We have done things right," he added.

The Senate President said that having presided over all of the 284 sessions of the 16th Congress, the Senate dutifully performed its mandate to the nation.

"Hard work is the bridge between the goals we set when the 16th Congress opened and the accomplishments that we are proudly claiming now," Drilon said.

He however acknowledged that the 16th Congress "may have been far from perfect," and that there remained areas that will require fixing by future Congresses.

"Yes, we failed to tick all the items in our government's bucket list, but we managed to cross out those that truly count," Drilon said.

He then thanked his colleagues and the Senate secretariat for their hard work and support: "I can say with conviction that this Senate did more than enough. To my colleagues, let me therefore put on record my profound gratitude for the perseverance, hard work and unselfish support you have shown in the 16th Congress," Drilon said.

"To my esteemed colleagues, I am humbled, honored and deeply grateful for your trust and support," he concluded.

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