MANILA, Philippines – In his 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the 18th Congress to pass various laws within the last 3 years of his term.
These are a mix of new proposals and laws he had sought for a long time. (FULL TEXT: President Duterte’s 2019 State of the Nation Address)
Reinstate death penalty for heinous crimes related to illegal drugs and plunder
When he started his term as President, Duterte wanted to bring back the death penalty “especially for drug traffickers.” He reiterated this plea in his 2017 SONA. Two years later, in his 2019 SONA, Duterte included plunder among the crimes punishable by death.
Plunder was included in a death penalty House bill in the 17th Congress, but was later removed in early 2017, along with rape and treason. The House passed that bill in March 2017, but it has languished there since.
In the current 18th Congress, Senators Bong Go and Manny Pacquiao had already filed bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty for illegal drugs. In Go’s bill, plunder was included as a capital offense. (READ: Sotto expects ‘heavy debate’ over death penalty for plunder convicts)
Postpone barangay, SK elections to October 2022
Under Duterte’s term so far, the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections have been postponed twice: from October 2016, it was moved to October 2017, then to May 2018. By then, the barangay officials had served for almost 5 years, while SK posts had been vacant for the same length of time.
The barangay officials elected in May 2018, however, will serve for only two years, until May 2020.
In his SONA 2019 speech, Duterte asked Congress to postpone the next village and youth council polls to October 2022 “to rectify the truncated terms of sitting barangay officials.”
Enact a Magna Carta for Barangays
A Magna Carta for Barangays aims to declare barangay officials as regular government officials, and further empower barangays to improve their delivery of government services.
Two Senate bills – including the measure by Senator Koko Pimentel – and 4 House bills were filed in the 17th Congress for this magna carta.
Establish a Department of Overseas Filipinos
A Cabinet department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was among Duterte’s campaign promises when he ran for President in 2016.
The President had even told the Filipino community in Bahrain in April 2017 that such department was about to come “in a few months.” However, bills in the 17th Congress did not prosper.
Pass TRAIN 2 or Trabaho bill, as well as 3 remaining tax reform packages
The second of 5 tax reform packages by the Duterte administration, the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities (Trabaho) bill aims to reduce the corporate income tax rate to 20%, broaden the tax base, and rationalize tax incentives to businesses.
In his SONA 2018 speech, Duterte hoped to have TRAIN 2 signed by the end of that year. In the 17th Congress, the House approved the Trabaho bill in September 2018. However, similar versions of the bill at the Senate remained pending at the ways and means committee when session ended.
The 3 remaining packages seek to raise the excise tax on both alcohol and tobacco, reform the real property valuation system, and revise the taxes on capital income and financial services.
Pass new Salary Standardization Law with pay raise for teachers, nurses
Duterte said in his SONA 2019 speech that the compensation adjustment under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) will end this year. In his plea to pass a new SSL, Duterte also wanted to include a pay raise for public school teachers and nurses.
In the 17th Congress, at least 12 bills were filed in the House and two in the Senate to upgrade the salary grades of public school teachers, who are currently at Salary Grade (SG) 11. The measures want to raise this salary grade to at least SG 15, or as high as SG 18, 19, or 20. Some proposals also seek an across-the-board increase of either P10,000 or P12,000, or set the basic salary to P30,000.
All of these measures, however, remained pending at the committee level in the 17th Congress.
Review and pass government rightsizing bill
Duterte had sought a government rightsizing bill in his 2017 SONA. Two years later, he called yet again for the bill’s passage “to reconfigure the existing Metro Manila-centric bureaucracy and streamline government systems in order to deliver services without delay and within a short timeline.”
In the 17th Congress, the House passed HB 5707 in July 2017, but it remained pending in the Senate.
Establish a Department of Disaster Resilience
Duterte had called for the creation of a Department of Disaster Management in his 2018 SONA.
In the 17th Congress, the House passed House Bill 8165 in October 2018, seeking the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience. However, the bill remained pending in the Senate until their terms ended.
Similar bills were filed in the 16th Congress (before Duterte’s presidency), but remained pending at the committee level.
Establish a Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission
In his SONA 2019 speech, President Duterte pitched to Congress the creation of this department to enact reforms in water management in the country.
This Cabinet department has been proposed or supported by administration senators Francis Tolentino and Bato dela Rosa. In March 2019, NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia also suggested its creation, following a water crisis in Metro Manila, but Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo disagreed.
In the previous 17th Congress, one Senate bill and 6 House bills were filed, but none progressed beyond the committee level.
Pass Fire Protection Modernization program
Bills in the 17th Congress for this legislation aimed to put up fire stations and emergency medical services in every local government unit, upgrade existing equipment and services, and train personnel and volunteers using state-of-the-art tools to prevent and suppress fires.
Enact National Land Use Act within 2019
The proposed law will regulate the use and management of the country’s land and water resources, and classify land according to its use.
In the 17th Congress, the House passed HB 5240 in May 2017, but it remained pending along with 5 similar Senate bills in the Senate environment and natural resources committee.
Urgent utilization of coconut levy fund for farmers
Duterte said in his 2019 SONA, “I also have not forgotten my commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers.”
In February 2019, Duterte vetoed a bill concerning the coco levy fund and the Philippine Coconut Authority, saying the version passed by the House would likely put the fund in the hands of private individuals and would compromise executive branch actions.
He also hit Landbank for not focusing on helping farmers, and being instead “mired in so many commercial transactions.” The President gave Landbank until end-July to come up with a plan to help farmers more. “Or else, I will ask Congress to reconfigure you, whatnot.”
Pass National Defense Act, Uniformed Personnel Separation Retirement Pension Bill
These legislative initiatives are “aimed at strengthening defense-related systems,” said Duterte in his 2019 SONA.
The National Defense Act, for instance, seeks to update national defense policies, include the defense secretary in the chain of command, and exempt the purchase of special defense equipment from the government procurement law, among other proposals.
Meanwhile, Duterte in February 2019 certified as urgent a bill that seeks to reform the pension system for military and uniformed personnel.
Mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12
As early as April 2015, Duterte had pushed for the revival of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). When Duterte became president, he again threw support behind the measure to “instill discipline and patriotism among young Filipinos.” It was also in the list of priority bills of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) in 2017.
He mentioned it again in his 2019 SONA.
The House moved accordingly, passing HB 8961 in May 2019, requiring ROTC for Grades 11 and 12. Duterte then certified the bill as urgent the following month. However, the Senate education, arts and culture committee did not take up the House bill until the end of the 17th Congress.
The same Senate committee approved its own version (also for Grades 11 and 12), Senate Bill 2232, but it didn’t reach second reading. – Rappler.com