Drilon: Senate remains strong amid ‘pork’ scandal

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Thursday, June 12, 2014


SENATE President Franklin Drilon said the political turmoil caused by the pork barrel scandal during the first regular session of the 16th Congress cast a long dark shadow over the institution of the Senate.

Three of its members, which include Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. were charged with plunder and graft and are facing imminent arrest anytime.

Drilon admitted that despite the controversies and political intrigues that incessantly plague the institution, "we have persevered and continue to discharge our duties to the Republic and to the people."

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"Amid these breaking spirit challenges, I am certain each one of us only has the nation and institution's best interest
at heart. We might be going through turbulent times right now, but I am confident that in time, we will be able to restore the people's respect and trust in the Senate," he said.

Drilon said that in his 16 years of staying in the Senate, "never before have I witnessed this kind of turmoil."

At the adjournment of Congress' first regular session on June 11, the Senate Chief said under his leadership, members of the chamber filed 2,278 bills since session opened July 22 last year.

Of these, 806 measures, or 35 percent of the total, underwent hearings.

Another 145 resolutions were also heard, including 53 committee reports covering 85 bills, four Senate resolutions and three joint resolutions.

In his speech, Drilon said the first regular session of the 16th Congress has proven the stability of the institution in the face of adversity.

"I would like to thank the members of this august chamber for remaining composed and focused on our mandate despite the barrage of harsh and relentless criticisms directed at our beloved institution when the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) controversy surfaced last year." Said.

"The openness in which we have allowed media to report on this matter and the trust we have for our legal processes show how strong we have built our democratic foundations to withstand political turmoil," he added even as he acknowledged that the scandal "has cast a long, dark shadow over the institution. And we completely understand the people’s outrage."

Drilon also credited the Senate for seeking "ways to address the issue."

"We abolished the PDAF even before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. We conducted our own investigation on the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds," he said.

These, he said, signaled "our people that the Senate is listening to their pleas and clamors for reforms. We are sending a clear and strong message that their Senate is sensitive to their grievances and concerns."

"Despite the controversies and political intrigues that incessantly plague the institution, we have persevered and continue to discharge our duties to the Republic and to the people," he added.

"As we continue to brave through the unforgiving blizzard of scandals and controversies, our commitments and vows to the people serve as our guiding light on the road to recovery and redemption," he said.

At the same time, Drilon said the Senate has also worked on legislation meant to address the "fight for survival as natural disasters hitting the nation in recent years are evolving with terrifying intensity and frequency," such as super typhoon Yolanda last year.

Among these measures is Republic Act 10633, which established the P2.265-trillion 2013 national budget, which was enacted in record time and which allocated 37.2 percent, or P841.8 billion, to social services.

The law also introduced the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, which apportioned P20 billion to empower the victims of Yolanda and other typhoons, the 7.2 magnitude Central Visayas earthquake and the Zamboanga City siege.

It also provided for a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund of P13 billion, and Quick Response Fund of P4.8 billion, to bolster the government's capacity to address and the people's readiness to face disasters. Another P80 billion was allotted for reconstruction and rehabilitation programs.

Aside from the six enacted measures, Drilon said the nine bills awaiting Aquino's signature reflect "our unwavering commitment to focus on delivering pieces of legislation that will improve the quality of life for every Filipino."

These are:

1. The bill requiring telecommunications service providers to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters
2. The proposed Graphic Health Warning Law
3. The proposed Act Liberalizing the Scope and Entry of Operations of Foreign Banks, which allows full foreign ownership of domestic banks
4. The bill extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways
5. The bill promoting the reduction of poverty through the development of micro, small and medium enterprises
6. The bill strengthening consumer protection in the purchase of new motor vehicles
7. The bill strengthening the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act
8. The bill granting Cotabato Light and Power Company a franchise
9. The bill declaring 27 July 2014 a special nonworking holiday to commemorate the founding anniversary of the Iglesia Ni Cristo

Drilon also said the Senate has approved on third and final reading landmark measures on good governance and public accountability, among these the Freedom of Information bill and the measure strengthening the structural capability of the Sandiganbayan.

Drilon ended the session by commending his colleagues and the people working in the Senate for standing behind the institution, for the senators dedication to fulfill their sworn duty despite the issues hounding the institution. (Camille p. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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