Legislation, representation, constituency

This past week has been hectic, but fulfilling. As I filed more bills, participated in several Senate committee hearings, and delivered aid to struggling Filipinos across the country, I was constantly reminded of the heavy burden of responsibilities of a senator, which involve not only legislation, but also representation and constituency.

As a lawmaker, I proposed more measures that will advance the welfare of Filipinos and address some of the gaps in our policies, especially in delivering efficient, effective and equitable public service in all parts of the country.

Particularly, I reintroduced Senate Bill 1180 to establish a Medical Reserve Corps composed of medical and health-related professionals who will help the government meet health care needs during public health emergencies.

I have mentioned during last week’s organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, which I presided over as its reelected chairperson, that the Covid-19 pandemic must be a learning experience for all of us. At the height of the pandemic, both our private and public hospitals were overwhelmed and their personnel severely strained by the number of Covid-19 patients. This is why we should strengthen our medical workforce in order to combat existing and emerging health threats, such as monkeypox.

As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself mentioned the creation of the Corps among the priority bills in his administration during his first State of the Nation Address, I am hopeful that we will soon have an MRC that we can call upon and mobilize in times of national emergencies and other contingencies to address the public’s health concerns.

I am also once again pushing for the amendment of the National Building Code of the Philippines, which was promulgated over 40 years ago. Our laws must not lag behind the times. It must meet our present needs, and what our country needs now are more effective regulations to promote building resilience against natural and man-made calamities.

As what I have underscored in my opening statement during the Senate Committee on Public Works hearing, to which I am a member, resilient public infrastructure is also a representation of a resilient government. By updating building standards to make infrastructures safer and more resilient, we are a step closer to our vision of a resilient government and, literally, a stronger nation.

Amendments must also be made to Republic Act 7610. Despite the clear intent of the law to provide for stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, the penalty for violation of Section 5(b) of said law when the victim is under 12 years old is lower compared to the penalty when the victim is 12 years old and below 18. Thus, a corrective legislation is the proper remedy to address the noted incongruent penalties for acts of lasciviousness committed against a child.

Likewise, I pushed for the amendment of Section 272 of the Local Government Code of 1991, which specifically enumerated the scope and application by which the Special Education Fund can be allocated, thereby unduly limiting its application and use. The education sector has been badly battered by the pandemic, and it is clear that our current law does not respond to the present challenges that we encounter. My proposed measure thus seeks to institutionalize the expansion of the application of SEF to other education-related items, such as the payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel.

Meanwhile, to protect our media and entertainment workers, I also introduced SB 1183. As a member of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, I have stressed during the committee hearing last Monday last week that the media plays a pivotal role in nation-building, and in closing the gap between the government and its people.

Our media workers trudge day and night, amid various threats, just to provide the public with timely, accurate and relevant information that can improve their lives. Their dedication for public service is truly undeniable. In recognition of their invaluable contribution, it is right and proper to compensate their hard work with just emoluments and added labor protection under our laws.

Some of the bills I passed also seek to protect the rights and welfare of our distressed enterprises, delivery riders, and seafarers. My other proposed measures include the modernization of the Bureau of Immigration, creation of additional divisions of the Court of Appeals and the National Labor Relations Commission, and provision of mandatory environmental insurance coverage.

As a senator, I reiterate my commitment to continue fighting for the rights and advancing the welfare of our people not only inside, but also outside the hallowed halls of the Senate. Thus, aside from legislating measures and representing the voice of the people in various Senate proceedings, I have also continued my constituency services by assisting the needy, the hopeless and the helpless.

On 14 August, I personally led a relief operation for 137 families whose houses were damaged by a recent fire incident in Bacoor City, Cavite.

My office also extended aid to 46 fire victims in Buenavista, Quezon; 24 in Iloilo City and Maasin, Iloilo; and 51 families in Cebu City. Meanwhile, 30 landslide victims in Talaingod, Davao del Norte likewise received our assistance.

We also provided immediate help to 104 victims of a diarrhea outbreak in Barangay Toril Proper, Davao City.

A series of relief operations were likewise mounted in several pandemic-hit communities nationwide. We helped 1,667 indigent residents in Angeles City, and 350 in Mexico, Pampanga; 1,053 in Taytay, Rizal; and 1,000 in Dasmariñas City, Cavite. In Iloilo province, we also provided aid to 600 residents in Dumangas, 302 in Sara, 68 in Pavia, 63 in Leon, and 100 micro-entrepreneurs in Alimodian.

Further, we have distributed same aid to 2,088 earthquake victims from different towns in Ilocos Sur; 1,000 indigents in Talavera, Nueva Ecija; 1,442 in Loboc, Danao and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; 1,600 in San Andres, Gumaca and Calauag in Quezon; and 1,000 in Camiling, Tarlac.

Lastly, over the weekend, I accompanied former president Rodrigo Duterte, my mentor in public service, and fellow Senator Bato de la Rosa, in going around our beloved hometown, Davao City, as we celebrated the 37th Kadayawan Festival. While enjoying his retirement, I know that his heart is still in public service.

As I continue my duties as a senator and a public servant, I will always be guided by the best interest of the public. The work ahead will surely be challenging, but having the privilege to provide solutions and uplift the lives of our Filipino people is more than worth the painstaking efforts.

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