This is the first instalment to 6-Years of Noynoy Series.
Just like that, the six-year term of President Benigno S. Aquino III is coming to an end.
In this transition period, it is fitting to take a moment and take a look back on those six years of the Aquino administration, focusing first on the laws that were passed that will leave a lasting impact on the lives of the Filipinos for the years to come.
The Aquino administration saw the passing of groundbreaking and historical bills and laws. For six years, the Office of the President vowed “to ensure that every Filipino’s rights are recognized and protected, that opportunities for future gains are more attainable, and that the reforms established will be the foundations for sustained equitable progress.” However, it is fair to point out that some important bills also didn’t quite make it, or are simply ignored.
Remember in 2013 when the prices of cigarettes and liquor went up? It’s because the Sin Tax Reform Act was approved. The added revenue from this reform went to the administration’s expansion of the PhilHealth and to support the tobacco farmers nationwide, all while promoting a healthy lifestyle free from common vices. On the same year, the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 was passed, which provided easier access to health care services for its members, indigents, senior citizens, and retirees, among others.
Aquino’s first State of the Nation Address highlighted his plans to reform the education system, similar to that adopted by most countries, which will come to be known as the Enhanced Basic Education Act or what we commonly know as K-12, a law which added two years of senior high, required children to start their schooling for Kindergarten level at five years old, and developed teaching strategies in order to prepare students for immediate employment. Though it was barraged with many criticisms, the Aquino administration and the Department of Education was not disturbed, and this year, we saw the first batch of senior high school students.
But before the controversial K-12, there was RH Bill. The Reproductive Health and Responsive Parenthood Act was passed just in time for the closing of the Congress’ session of that year, at the personal request of President Aquino. The RH Bill drew the ire of many groups and experts, especially the Catholic bishops. Before finally enacted as a law, the Supreme Court declared some of its parts unconstitutional, such as the possibility of divorce and abortion. Thus, the use of contraceptives, raising awareness about family planning, and developments in childbirth assistance were parts of the finalized law.
Being the child of martial law activist Ninoy, the president also pushed for the justice of human rights violation victims, mainly those acts of violence committed during the Marcos regime. Also in 2013, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act was passed, seeking to recognize the heroic martyrdom of countless Filipinos who uphold their rights during the darkest years of martial law. In the same vein, the Anti-Enforce or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 was enacted, the first of its kind in Asia, which empowers the safety of every Filipino and the institution of preventive measures against unlawful arrests of civilians. Furthermore, the definition of trafficking is elaborated in the lawful sense and the confidentiality of protection previously extended to the accused is removed through the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.
Aquino also gave priorities to the kasambahays through the Domestic Workers Act, the improvement of the military as fulfilled by the AFP Modernization Act, and the additional funds for national electrical source by the National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013.
Bills that did not make the cut
With all these promising laws left to us by the Aquino administration, many experts, activist groups, and legislators still believe that the outgoing administration should have worked an extra mile, for some bills are left hanging at the end of the strand, waiting to be finalized.
Many of you will remember that one of Aquino’s central advocates during his campaign was the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill. Sadly, the Philippines will be transitioning to a new administration with that promise unfulfilled.
Anti-Dynasty Bill still has no progress, and unfortunately, may forever be so. With political dynasties plaguing the whole country, this bill many never see its way out of Congress… or hopefully, only time will tell.
But what put Aquino under fire is his vetoing of laws that were only waiting for his final signature. Recently, he vetoed the pension hike for senior citizen members of the SSS, and the wage hike of nurses. Another remarkable one is when he vetoed the Magna Carta for the Poor in 2013.
As President-elect Rodrigo Duterte assumes the presidency officially on Thursday, we can only hope that when he pursues brand new laws and acts in accordance with his ideals, the laws passed under Aquino administration and all before him shall never go to waste, and may the failures and shortcomings of the previous administrations serve as his guidance for the next six years. (Luke Godoy)