LEGISLATIVE AGENDA. Days before SONA, President Duterte hosts a dinner for lawmakers in Malacañang. Malacañang Photo
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – During the times President Rodrigo Duterte read from his prepared State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24, he managed to ask Congress to pass 6 priority measures, ranging from environmental preservation to tax reform.
Presidents typically use the SONA to put pressure on the legislative branch to hasten the passage of laws they believe will benefit the country.
Here are the bills Duterte wants Congress to pass right away, based on his second SONA:
1. National Land Use Act
“I am appealing to all our legislators to immediately pass the National Land Use Act or NLUA [applause] to ensure the rational and sustainable use of our land and our physical resources, given the competing needs of food security, housing, businesses and environmental conservation.”
The NLUA has been languishing in Congress for two decades. It was also certified as urgent by former president Benigno Aquino III, yet it remains a bill. If passed, it will create a national land use authority that will draft and oversee a national land use plan that will classify land according to use: protection (for conservation), production (for agriculture and fisheries), settlements development (for residential purposes), and infrastructure development (for transportation, communication, water resources, social infrastructure).
2. Creation of a disaster response and management department
“I am calling [on] both houses of Congress to expeditiously craft a law establishing a new authority or department that is responsive to the prevailing 21st century conditions and empowered to best deliver [an] enhanced disaster resiliency and quick disaster response.”
The Duterte administration wants the amendment of the Republic Act No 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010 to create a new department to be named the Civil Defense Authority (CDA).
The CDA will be in charge of protecting the population from man-made and natural calamities, but as an independent agency with both policy and implementing powers. The CDA will have under it the Civil Defense Council which will take the place of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
3. Reimposition of death penalty
“I therefore ask Congress to act on all pending legislations to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes – especially on the trafficking of illegal drugs.”
Duterte wants death penalty imposed on drug traffickers and those who commit heinous crimes like murder and rape with murder.
4. Rightsize government
“We will right size the national government. Let us trim the excess fat and add more muscle through the expeditious passage of ‘The Act Rightsizing the National Government to Improve Public Service Delivery and for other Purposes.’ I therefore urge Congress to pass this at the soonest.”
The bill seeks to eliminate redundancies and overlapping functions in departments, bureaus, offices, councils, and government-owned and -controlled corporations in the Executive Branch that have led to inefficient processes and added cost to government. Through the bill, government will embark on a Rightsizing Program to simplify systems and processes, take out redundant agencies or offices, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory requirements.
5. Review procurement laws
“I urge Congress to thoroughly review the existing procurement laws, and come up with legislation that will ensure prompt delivery of goods and services to the people – especially medicines and hospital equipments.”
One of Duterte’s biggest pet peeves is delays in government procurement. He wants Congress to review Republic Act No 9184 or the the Government Procurement Reform Act, and find ways to speed up the procurement process, especially for urgently-needed goods and services.
A week before the SONA, the President made his own contribution to this target by signing an executive order that makes it easier for agencies to resort to alternative methods of procurement or methods that skip public bidding which tends to take a long time.
6. Tax reform
“I call on the Senate to support my tax reform in full and to pass it without haste.”
Duterte reminded the Senate that the fate of his administration’s tax reform package is in their hands, since the House of the Representatives already passed the first package of the tax reform program on May 31.
The President had certified the proposed measure as urgent in a letter to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in May.
The proposed tax reform will reduce income tax for a majority of working Filipinos while imposing more tax on fuel, vehicles, and sugary products. The added tax revenue will be used to fund infrastructure, health, and education programs.
In its July 13 meeting, the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council Executive Committee (LEDAC-ExCom) had agreed to endorse 13 bills to the LEDAC for approval and certification of the President as urgent or measures that need to be passed within 5 months of certification.
These bills include 3 measures mentioned by Duterte in his second SONA: Rightsizing of the National Government, the NLUA, and amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act Amendments.
While he did mention the Bangsamoro Basic Law in his two-hour speech, the President did not not explicitly deem it as urgent legislation, though he had said he would do so.
He only mentioned that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission which drafted the bill is more inclusive and that the Bangsamoro government laid out in the bill “truly reflects the aspirations of our Muslim brothers and sisters as well as our indigenous brethren.”
Duterte also stopped short of asking Congress, again, to grant him emergency powers over traffic. But he called the attention of Senator Grace Poe, who presided over Senate hearings on the matter as chairperson of the committee on public services, to tell her that no emergency powers means EDSA will remain a “road to perdition.”
“Eh ayaw naman ninyong ibigay, di hanggang ngayon, ‘andiyan pa iyong EDSA (You don’t want to give it so until now, EDSA is still there)…We will not make it all smooth in the Philippines, we leave a little alley known as EDSA as the road to perdition. – Rappler.com