The frenzy has begun. Election season is here. Yesterday, 11 October marked the start of the period for filing of certificates of candidacy (CoC) for those intending to run in the 2019 mid-term elections. We can expect a lot of drama at the Palacio del Gobernador, until the last day of filing of CoC on 17 October. The period of filing of CoC was strategically scheduled on the day immediately after the last day of session in Congress which will be on recess until resumption of session on 12 November.
Naturally, legislation shall take a backseat for the time being, but this does not mean that Congress left nothing on the plate. As discussed in this writer’s last column, Federalism is still very much alive in view of the recent discussions to revise the 1987 Constitution. Another huge development took place on the last day of session — the House version of the Constitution, in Resolution of Both House (RBH) 15, was referred back to the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments upon the instance of the Liberal Party’s Rep. Raul del Mar.
The purpose is to bring back the Vice President as the second person in the line of succession in case the President dies, becomes permanently disabled, is removed from office or resigns. This amendment to RBH 15 was not objected by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, therefore putting to rest all questions that the House is employing a power grab by removing any possibility for Vice President Leni Robredo to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in case the aforesaid events take place.
What happens next? With the recommitment of RBH 15, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments will meet when Congress resumes session in November and come up with an updated draft constitution. Will other provisions be touched upon as well? It is possible, provided a House member introduces an amendment at the next committee hearing.
While a new constitution may be considered to be quite early in the legislative mill, other bills that were previously signed into law were ceremoniously signed and presented by the President last 9 October, particularly the following: (i) Republic Act (RA) 11057, Personal Property Security Act; (ii) RA 11058 or an Act Strengthening Compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof and (iii) RA 11079 or an Act Mandating the Integration of the Maasin City College into the Southern Leyte State University.
The Personal Property Security Act was enacted to aid micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in gaining more credit as it allows them to have access to funding by allowing movable properties to be collaterals. This important piece of legislation was handed to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. It is common to see MSME in the form of local sari-sari stores, barber shops, beauty parlors and neighborhood bakeries. Now, with additional credit that is more accessible, these have the chance to build on their businesses and compete with the bigger brands.
The Workers’ Safety Law, on the other hand, recognizes that employees have been exposed to dangerous and inhumane working conditions despite the existence of a multitude of Labor Laws and Department of Labor and Employment Rules and Regulations. While the intent of this law is noble and worthwhile, what is more anticipated would be the Implementing Rules and Regulations that would spell out with certainty how this law will be carried out. Labor groups, perhaps, are all too familiar with how employers have skirted laws and are wary that the same may happen again.
During the ceremony held in Malacañang, the President stated some words that are fitting to restate herein as they leave a good mark now that we embark on another election circus. The President said, “The passage of these law speaks well of a new brand of leadership steering both Houses of Congress. It is only by working together can we, as elected representatives of our people, fully promote their welfare and serve public interest.”
True enough, the new leadership in Congress proves that each Senate President and House Speaker brings a different style of management and set of legislative priorities. Yet what remains is the common purpose of enacting laws that would be of most benefit to the Filipino people. Although political noise can be sometimes deafening, this remains as mere noise that is better off shunned away.