IN THE PEOPLES' TRUST
Speech delivered by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
To my countrymen, distinguished colleagues in the Senate, ladies and gentlemen. Today, I have the honor and the distinct pleasure of addressing a nation that is energized by the spirit of unity, democracy and heightened political responsibility.
In behalf of the Senate and in compliance with our duty to report to the people, I have the honor of summarizing the Senate’s main legislative accomplishments during the Second Regular Session of the 15th Congress.
As you know in the past months, our nation braved the turbulence of an impeachment trial.
We in the Senate, together with our people, had to confront the disruptive task of putting a man’s fate in the balance and, in so doing, test the institutions that comprise our government and the system of checks and balances that characterize our democracy.
The conflict we needed to resolve was far from simple. The complaint was directed against the head of a co-equal branch of government. It was imperative that we presented the Senate as an impeachment court devoted not only to seeking the truth, but to upholding the highest form of civility.
In the exercise of our Constitutional obligation to try and decide the impeachment case against the Chief Justice, we kept our resolve to give due respect to individuals, observing processes that adhered to our Bill of Rights. We maintained the delicate balance of the separation of powers and staved off the spectre of a Constitutional crisis.
Subsequently, the peoples’ acceptance of the Senate’s verdict affirmed to all that the will of the people found its voice in the Senate. For this, our nation marks a day in history where we—once again—spoke as one.
But even as we have risen to the challenge of the impeachment trial, it has not left us unscathed. The primacy of the constitutional process may have invigorated our sense of nationhood, but the bitter fissures in the trial’s aftermath threaten the work that lies ahead.
We take comfort in the thought that, as a nation, we have overcome greater obstacles in the past. Through legislative and fiscal policy, our government has guided us out of regional and global economic challenges in the past. And to their credit, our people have been a stabilizing force in the country’s political tribulations.
The recent impeachment trial has brought us to another level of political maturity. One that has not been felt for a long time. It is hoped that its long-term repercussions will redound to the common good.
Let us trust that time will heal the fracture in our society. Working together, we can clear the rubble, rebuild and renew the vision we have of a dynamic democracy. With full trust and undying faith, let us allow the Almighty to lead our nation to move forward in peace.
To end our report about the impeachment hearings, we would like to acknowledge the commendable work of the men and women in the Senate Secretariat and the Senate Proper who helped the Impeachment Court and rendered extended hours of service throughout the trial.
I would also like to commend the professionalism of the Senate press corps in their sober and unbiased coverage of the hearings. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat!
It is also with pride that I wish to report that despite the very taxing impeachment hearings, the Senate, through its various committees and in Plenary, continued to work on its legislative duties.
Prior to the commencement of the Impeachment Trial, the Congress has already enacted several pertinent laws addressing different major reforms the administration has committed to, namely: RA No. 10154, or the Early Release of Retirement Pay Act; RA No. 10155 or the General Appropriations Act for 2012; RA No. 10156; Conferment of Civil Service Eligibility to Members of Sangguniang Bayan, Panglungsod and Panlalawigan; RA No. 10157, An Act Institutionalizing the Kindergarten Education into Basic Education System; and lastly RA No. 10158, An Act Decriminilizing Vagrancy.
While all of these laws have their own significance and relevance, the Senate once again takes pride in the fact that we passed the National Budget once again in record time. RA No. 10155 provided for a total amount of P1.816 trillion for public expenditure programs thus giving priority to the Department of Education, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of National Defense. Also, the Congress passed Joint Resolution No. 2, increasing the Corporate Operating Budget of the NAPOCOR.
Four measures converting the municipalities of Bacoor, Imus, Cabuyao and Mabalacat into component cities were likewise enacted into law. Hopefully, these will serve as an impetus for sustained economic and socio-political growth in these localities as well as the provinces and regions where these new cities are located in.
Another bill of local application was also signed into law and this is RA No. 10162 which created two (2) additional Regional Trial Court Branches in Sta. Rosa City, in the province of Laguna.
As of today, four (4) measures are pending approval of the President and these are:
1) S. No. 2486 - The Foster Care Act
In anticipation of the elections in May 2013, Congress passed Joint Resolution No. 17, which annuls the Book of Voters in the ARMM. More importantly, the Joint Resolution directed the COMELEC to immediately conduct a new general registration of voters in the region, which was last done in 2003.
This resolution by Congress was arrived at after Congressional hearings revealed that, due to unscrupulous activities, the current Book of Voters in the ARMM has been heavily padded with false, fake or illegal registrants. As in fact, data presented to Congress reveals that the current number of registered voters exceeded the population in the area.
With this Joint Resolution, your Senate hopes that the purging of the Book of Voters will reflect the real voice of the region and ensure the credibility of the coming elections. Finally, we note that this Joint Resolution is a timely support for Republic Act No. 10153, which provides for the synchronization of the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao with the national and local elections.
We are likewise submitting for approval of the President SB No. 3009, which amends the Anti-Money Laundering Law by making the application for inquiry into deposits and investments ex parte – thereby effectively giving more teeth to the law, curtailing the infusion of illegal money into the mainstream economy. This measure was certified urgent to avoid possible sanctions and inclusion in the blacklist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
We are also sending for the concurrence of the House of Representatives SB No. 3127, or The Act Defining the Crime of Financing of Terrorism, which criminalizes the financing of terrorist activities and penalizes any person who deals with property or funds from terrorist organizations.
Mindful of the climate change happening globally, we have already enacted in the previous Congress major pieces of legislation –the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. This time, we aim to have a more intensive and aggressive fight addressing the country’s ability to lessen if not totally eradicate the catastrophe of climate change by passing the People’s Survival Fund that will provide long term finance streams to enable the government to effectively respond to the problems of climate change.
In line also with the fast changing modern world of technology and wider reach of the internet, the Senate has committed itself to craft more responsive and up-to-date measures that will further deepen the protection of every Filipino against any harm and transgression arising from cybercrimes and other related offenses, thus it prioritized the passage of the Act Defining Cybercrime and the Data Privacy Act which will soon be submitted for approval of the President. On the other hand, the bill creating the Department of Information and Communication Technology is pending in the Conference Committee.
In addition to all these, the various Committees of the Senate worked for and shepherded the consideration of other bills which have been approved and are now pending in the House of Representatives for concurrence:
1. S. No. 1537 - Protecting The Confidentiality of Victim’s and Witness’ Address and Telephone Number During Trial or Hearing Related To A Criminal Prosecution
We have also concurred in the ratification of the following treaties:
1. International Criminal Court
In sum, the Senate from the beginning of the 15th Congress has passed 17 Laws, 32 Senate Bills and 18 House Bills on 3rd Reading, 3 Joint Resolutions, concurred in the ratification of 8 Treaties and adopted 81 simple Resolutions as well as 8 Concurrent Resolutions.
In closing, permit me to make a confession. With candor, I will admit that this Second Regular Session has been the most challenging that I have had to lead, and mostly in part because of the impeachment.
Nevertheless, I am happy that this task was shared meaningfully and with great dedication by the great minds of my colleagues. I am forever thankful to the Almighty for having been given the chance to lead a group of Senators steadfast and unified in keeping the honor of the Senate. We did our very best to keep the embers of trust reposed in us by our people glowing as we march as a nation towards progress.
I extend my hand in appreciation and admiration for the work we have accomplished and the future endeavors that we shall share.
Mabuhay ang Senado!
Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino!