Critical Legislative Measures for the 18th Congress

Citizens participation and activism are critical components of the law-making process. Several lawmakers have already filed their priority bills they need to champion three weeks before the opening of the 18th Congress. 

Three weeks prior to the opening of the 18th Congress, several lawmakers have already started to prepare and source feedback on priority bills they intend to champion. 

On 1 July 2019, several lawmakers have already filed the following measures:

• Amendments to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act to lower the age of criminal responsibility to above 9 years old
• Absolute Divorce Bill
• Human Rights Defenders Bill
• Actors Occupational Safety and Health Standard Bill
• Medical Cannabis Bill

While the bills cited above are critical to national development, the progression of the following bills would undoubtedly pique the interest of the general public at the resumption of the 18th Congress:

1. Freedom Information Bill

Sen. Grace Poe and Cebu Rep. Raul Del Mar have refiled the Freedom of Information Bill. The FOI Bill 'seeks to provide citizens access to official records, documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, and government research data used as basis for policy development.'

Despite strong civil society and support by Presidents Aquino and Duterte to this initiative, the FOI Bill was not passed in the 15th, 16th and 17th Congresses.

It is interesting to note that there are over 80 countries around the world that have comprehensive laws to facilitate access to state records.

2. Reimposition of Death Penalty 

A number of pro-administration lawmakers are pushing for the reimposition of death penalty for drug-related offenses and plunder. Under the proposed measure filed by Sen. Bong Go, death penalty would be imposed through lethal injection.

However, below are interesting facts on death penalty based on studies by Amnesty International:

• There are 106 countries where use of the death penalty is not allowed by law.
• There are 7 countries which permit the death penalty only for serious crimes in exceptional circumstances, such as those committed during times of war.
• There are 29 countries which have death penalty laws but haven't executed anyone for at least 10 years.

While the above may be the case, President Duterte has been a strong advocate of this measure to support his campaign against illegal drugs and corruption in government.

3. Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform

The second tranche of the Duterte administration’s tax reform program, also called as the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) Bill, seeks to gradually lower corporate income tax rates from 30 percent to 20 percent in ten years by reducing 2 percent annually starting 2021. It also seeks to modernize the incentives given to big businesses like tax holidays in order to attract more foreign investors. 

Considered as the 2nd tranche of the TRAIN Package, the measure did not pass the 17th Congress as the 1st tranche of the TRAIN Package was cited as one of the major reasons for the sudden rise in the country’s inflation rate to 6.7% in 2018.

Citizens participation and activism are critical components of the law-making process. We encourage everyone to take a stand on these bills, as their passage/non-passage will definitely impact our families, schools and communities.

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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