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Senators to start filing bills on Monday

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senators to start filing bills on Monday
This file photo shows the Senate building in Pasay City.
Official Gazette, file

MANILA, Philippines — Senators will start filing their respective bills and resolutions on Monday, ahead of the opening of the 19th Congress on July 25.

Based on guidelines, the first to be given the opportunity to file bills is the most senior senator or the one who has served in the Senate the longest. In this case, it would be Sen. Loren Legarda, who has been a member of the chamber for 18 years.

Next expected to file their respective measures are Senators Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla Jr. They will be followed by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada.

Last in line are first-time Senators Robin Padilla, Raffy Tulfo and Mark Villar.

The guidelines also require three rounds of filing of bills and resolutions where only 10 measures can be filed in each round. After the three rounds, the filing would be on a first come, first served basis.

The guidelines were based on the system implemented by former Senate president Vicente Sotto III to scrap the practice of senators’ staff waiting in line for several hours, sometimes overnight, at the Bills and Index Department of the chamber just so their principals would have the distinction of being the first to file a particular measure.

Meanwhile, Sen. Alan Cayetano said yesterday that he will immediately file his “10K Ayuda Bill” as well his other priority bills in the Senate in order to get the ball rolling on their approval and eventual implementation.

Speaking at the oath-taking ceremony of Taguig City officials led by his wife Mayor Lani Cayetano, the former House speaker said contrary to what some of his online bashers are saying, the distribution of P10,000 in direct cash aid to every Filipino family is “a legislative proposal” that needs action from the Senate, the House of Representatives and Malacañang.

It is different from the privately funded Sampung Libong Pag-asa program which distributed P10,000 to select beneficiaries from May 1, 2021 until it was paused in February 2022 in keeping with Commission on Elections guidelines for the conduct of the May elections.

Cayetano asked newly sworn-in Taguig-Pateros Rep. Ricardo Cruz Jr. and Taguig Second District Rep. Maria Amparo Zamora to also file the counterpart bill of his 10K Ayuda measure in the House.

The bill seeks the creation of a financial aid program that will distribute P10,000 to every Filipino family, or P1,500 per family member, whichever amount is higher.?

Cha-cha

Meanwhile, another bid for Charter change (Cha-cha) – this time, seeking a five-year term and one reelection for the president – has been filed by a Pampanga congressman ahead of the start of the 19th Congress.

Under Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, filed by Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. yesterday, a president can have a maximum term of 10 years and after which he/she will “be prohibited to be a candidate to any elective post.”?Gonzales’ resolution states, “No president shall serve for more than two consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of the service for the full term which he was elected, thereafter, the president shall be ineligible to be a candidate to any elective post.”

He also proposes the same five-year term of office for the vice president, with one reelection or a maximum of “two consecutive five-year terms.”

At present, the Constitution sets the term of office of the president at six years without reelection, while the vice president can be reelected to a second and final term.

Gonzales also suggested tandem voting, under which a vote for the president would be a vote for the vice president belonging to the same political party.

For the members of the House of Representatives and local officials, the lawmaker recommended a term of five years with one reelection, instead of the present three years with two reelections.

In filing the resolution, Gonzales invoked the “overwhelming electoral mandate” of President Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte in the May 9 polls.

Records showed that Marcos bagged 31,629,783 votes representing 58.77 percent of total votes cast, while Duterte got 32,208,417 votes, or 61.53 percent of total ballots cast.

“This clear majority mandate of our new President and Vice President would be the green light from our citizenry to proceed to the discussion on Charter change,” Gonzales said.

The lawmaker noted that the start of a new administration is an “opportune time” for the people, through their elected representatives, to revisit the 1987 Constitution.

“It has been 35 years, 12 Congresses, seven presidencies and 12 local elections since the Charter was ratified,” he pointed out.

In proposing an extended tenure of 10 years for the president, Gonzales underscored that a single term of six years “appears to be insufficient” for the implementation of long-term programs and policies.

“We are now on the road to recovery, having more than P12 trillion in national debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently the high prices of fuel due to the Russia-Ukraine war. A long-term solution is wanting; hence, longer term policy on good and competent leadership should be put in place,” he said.

He added that the same is true for House members, governors, mayors and other local officials.

Gonzales is proposing that Cha-cha be effected by Congress as a constituent assembly, which he said is the most expeditious and inexpensive way of proposing amendments to the Constitution.

His resolution restates a provision in the Constitution, banning the incumbent president and previous presidents from seeking the highest office again after their continuous maximum terms had been served.

However, it would expand such ban to include any other elective office.

Gonzales filed the same resolution in the last Congress, which failed to act on it.

In the Senate, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who has been reelected to his second six-year term, had introduced a resolution proposing tandem voting for the president and vice president.    –Sheila Crisostomo

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