House prioritizes BBL, bills on same-sex civil unions, gov’t reorganization

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants the House of Representatives to prioritize this year the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and bills on civil unions and government reorganization.

The Davao del Norte 1st District representative outlined the House’s legislative agenda as he opened 17th Congress’ 2nd regular session at the lower chamber on Monday, July 24. (READ: House priorities: Bills on same-sex civil unions, charter change

Alvarez asked for lawmakers’ support to finally pass into law the new draft of the BBL, which was transmitted to Malacañang by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission last week. The BBL’s passage was stalled following the botched Mamasapano operation. 

The Speaker also wants to create the Philippine Railways Authority and the Philippine Airports Authority to manage the operations of all rail systems and airports, respectively. He is proposing the Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board be merged under a new Land Transportation Authority.

He also asked Congress to pass bills that would require operators of casinos, public transportation, and mining companies to get congressional franchises first before being allowed to run their business. 

In his speech, the Speaker thanked several lawmakers who had helped the House pass 210 bills on 3rd and final reading during its first regular session, including the controversial death penalty bill and the first batch of tax reforms.

He also administered the oath-taking of Francisco Datol and Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay as the new representatives of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens party list. 

Marriage bills, federalism

On Monday, Alvarez finally put on the House agenda his proposed bill institutionalizing civil unions for heterosexual and same-sex couples. 

“Let us not only aim for landmark legislation, grand in scope, but also seeks to address concerns that involve the basic fundamental unit of society – the family,” said Alvarez.

“Admittedly, there is a sad reality in marriages. We don’t get it right the 1st time around. The present system coerces married persons to stay with each other even if it causes the well-being of the husband, the wife, and the children involved. We have to change this,” he added. 

He then proposed a bill that would dissolve marriage "without the need for an extensively adversarial system."

"Married persons can mutually agree to end their marriage subject to the approval of the Court. One of the conditions, which must be complied with, is an agreed upon and executable framework to provide for the care and support of their children,"he said.

"Moreover, previously married persons can remain friends and better parents, despite their differences, since they no longer have to sling mud at each other in front of a judge just to convince the magistrate that their marriage should be declared void or voided," he added. 

Alvarez wants a measure that seeks to remove the stigma on illegitimate children. 

"It is time to end the unequal treatment of legitimate and illegitimate children. We can start the process by equalizing the legitimes that children receive regardless of whether or not they were born within or outside wedlock. This is an issue of justice and fairness," he said. 

Alvarez told his colleagues to “exert more effort” in paving the way for a federal government in the Philippines. The House constitutional amendments panel already approved the resolution for the 17th Congress to form itself into a Constituent Assembly to amend the charter. The resolution is now up for 2nd reading. 

Both Duterte and Alvarez are champions of federalism, wherein the nation will be divided into autonomous states in charge of their own laws, finances, infrastructure, education, development, and culture. 

In his speech, Alvarez said lawmakers should keep future generations in mind as they work on priority bills. “As we embark upon our 2nd session, let us remember for whom we legislate for. And this is for the generations that will come after us,” he added. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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