On the Roundtable Dialogue with Parliamentarians:
UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies
Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman
15 February 2018
Good afternoon to everyone. I am grateful for this opportunity to share the perspectives and initiatives of my office relevant to our topic today – “Affordable, Quality and Accessible Public Services for All.”
The quality of life of Filipino communities cannot be delinked from the political climate of the country and the priorities of the present Administration. The Duterte government’s efforts in the past year have been directed on its war on drugs, with the poor as the major target, and on persecuting and vilifying its critics, including international bodies such as the United Nations and European Union. It is no secret that Duterte rejected help from European Union when the latter raised concerns about the human rights situation in the country.
The President’s and his supermajority’s actuations show that their main agenda is to consolidate and stay in power. And they will do this through charter change, using the “federalism narrative” as a bait to gather support from the people. With this as top priority, everything takes a backseat, including his election promises to uplift the lives of the marginalized, and address social, economic and political inequalities.
Duterte and his cohorts continue to fail the people. Just recently, the Chief Executive admitted that he cannot end the widely-practiced contractualization of workers. Meanwhile, the newly enacted Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law has caused a spike in the price of goods and services, impacting on the poorest segment of the population. Our workers are not protected on the one hand, and on the other hand continue to bear the brunt of government revenue generating measures like the tax reform. Concerned with the tax reform’s impact on ordinary Filipinos’ lives, I have filed Senate Resolution 407 calling for an inquiry to ensure uniform and equitable tax mechanism.
Meanwhile, the government big ticket investments like the “Build, Build, Build” would be financed by loans mostly from China and Japan which could very much plunge us to another debt crisis. This prompted my office to propose Senate Bill 1675, or the Comprehensive Government Debt Management Reform Act, seeking to strictly manage and monitor government debts to avoid corruption and ensure that these debts are aligned with our development priorities.
In all of these, the marginalized sectors are sidelined and neglected that’s why I am taking steps to champion their issues. I have filed bills on free tertiary agricultural education and on autism care. I also filed resolutions calling for inquiries on: a) the rise of unemployment rate; b) the alarming rise of HIV and AIDS among Filipino youth; c) the humanitarian crisis in Marawi; d) the status of the implementation of the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons; and e) the living conditions and amortization problems of informal settlers relocated due to the Northrail and Southrail projects of the government.
I have also co-authored bills on: a) the mandatory Philhealth coverage for all persons with disability (PWDs); b) free irrigation service to small farmers; c) full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges; d) strengthening policies and programs on HIV and AIDS; and e) ensuring the nutrition of mothers and infants.
However, so much more has to be done to ensure that public service is enjoyed by everyone as basic rights. The 1987 Constitution mandates that the State shall “protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.” But this has become extremely difficult and challenging under a megalomaniac regime bent on obliterating human rights and democracy and has arrogated upon itself the power to decide what is good for the nation. The last time this happened in our history, it produced Marcos the dictator and his cronies that fed on the suffering of our people.
Thank you for your time.