THE Senate passed five bills on Monday, March 13, ahead of its upcoming Holy Week recess this week.
Senate Bill Number (SNB) 4637, which seeks to renew for another 25 years the franchises of Smart Communications Inc., was approved with 16 affirmative votes, two negative votes by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Panfilo Lacson, and no abstention.
Hontiveros and Lacson both voted against the passage of the bill, noting that Smart has failed to the terms of its franchise.
SBN 4361, which seeks to grant Global Media Arts (GMA) Network Inc. a franchise to operate radio and television broadcasting stations nationwide, was also passed with 17 affirmative votes, no negative vote and zero abstention.
These two measures were sponsored by Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Service.
SBN 209, which seeks to declare August 25 of every year as National Tech-Voc Day, was also passed with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstention.
This bill was authored by Senator Joel Villanueva, who was former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chair.
SBN 1304, which seeks to provide free tuition to state universities and colleges (SUCs), was also passed with 18 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstention.
This measure was sponsored and co-authored by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture.
Aquino said he was thankful that the measure was passed in just eight months despite his ouster as committee on Education chair.
He also expressed confidence that the institutionalization of free tuition in SUCs will lead to more college graduates and a brighter future for underprivileged students.
SBN 1277, which seeks to provide free Internet in public places, was also passed with 18 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstention.
This bill was also sponsored by Aquino to complement the government’s approved national broadband plan and help improve Internet access across the country.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, one of the original proponents and now the co-sponsor of the measure, stressed that "the benchmark in gauging effectivity is not just the number of Wi-Fi spots but also internet speed."
It was Recto who moved that the Senate increase the budget allocated for the Free Public Wi-Fi Project of the Department of Transport and Communications' Information and Communications Technology Office, the precursor of the Department of Information and Communications Technology in 2014. (PNA)