Good and bad news from Congress
First the good news: After decades in the 1987 Constitution without an enabling law being passed by Congress—which is populated by many members of political dynasties—the Senate will finally pass antipolitical dynasty bill.
According to principal sponsor Sen. Koko Pimentel, if signed into law, the bill will prohibit close relatives from seeking public office at the same time in their spheres of influence. That would free voters in many localities, including Makati, Pasig and Mandaluyong in Metro Manila, from the yoke of political dynasties.
More good news: Senate President Franklin Drilon (he and Pimentel were the guests of the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday) enumerated some of the most important bills passed by the last Senate, such as:
- The Philippine Competition Act, which will prohibit uncompetitive market practices and abuse of dominant positions.
Examples: The flour milling cartel (which prevents the entry of cheaper flour from other countries), the cement cartel (foreign cement companies has bought out almost all of its Philippine competitors and is now preventing the entry of cheaper imported cement), and the pharmaceutical industry, which is dominated by foreign companies and only one distributor.
It will penalize companies guilty of unfair business practices with fines of up to P250 million, with amounts adjusted for inflation every five years. Offenders may also face up to seven years in prison.
- The Cabotage Law, which will bring down the transportation costs of shipping lines within the country.
Do you know that it is cheaper to ship products from Manila to Thailand than to ship agricultural products from Davao to Manila? That is because foreign ships are forbidden to unload their cargo in provincial ports. They have to dock first in major ports like Manila and Batangas, and transfer their cargo to domestic ships for provincial destinations. This increases the costs of transportation that translate to higher prices of the products.
- The Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act, which will harmonize the tax incentives being offered by the Philippines to private institutions or individuals to plug fiscal leakages and attract investors at the same time.
- A bill raising the tax exemption ceiling on the 13th-month pay from P30,000 to P82,000.
- A bill expanding Philhealth coverage to automatically include ALL senior citizens in health benefits and service.
- Five new bills expanding educational services to students.
These include the Open Distance Learning Act, the Ladderized Education Act, and the Open High School System Act which will provide more accessible educational systems to young Filipinos by bringing our education systems to their homes and by making formal education just a click away.
The Senate also passed the Iskolar ng Bayan Act and the UniFAST Act, both of which will expand state scholarship programs for deserving students.
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On the antipolitical dynasty bill, Pimentel explained that mistresses and their offspring are included in the prohibition on running for positions in the same cities, towns, districts and provinces. They can, however, run in different localities where they have no influence. But if a relative is a national official, a politician cannot be a candidate in any local position.
Examples: Joseph Estrada can run for mayor of Manila and his one-time partner Guia Gomez can run for mayor of San Juan. But since their son, JV Ejercito, is a senator, can they still both run?
Kris Aquino cannot run for mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac (thank God), because her brother is still president of the country.
In the case of Vice President Jejomar Binay, all the members of his family cannot run for positions in Makati (senator, congresswoman, mayor, or even barangay captain).
One bright spot for the Binay family members: If their father loses in the presidential election next year (every sensible Filipino is said to be praying for it), one of them can seek any position in Makati.
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Now for the bad news: The House of Representatives, where there are many members of political dynasties, is dilly-dallying on its version of the antipolitical dynasty bill. I was told that the House’s version would allow two members of one family (father and mother, father/mother and son/daughter, brother/sister) to run at the same time in the same locality.
One final piece of good news: Sen. Bongbong Marcos will submit his substitute bill to the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law on July 27.
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