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)
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)
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In his SONA 2019 speech, President Duterte pitched to Congress the creation of this department to enact reforms in water management in the country.
In the previous 17th Congress, one Senate bill and 6 House bills were filed, but none progressed beyond the committee level.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.