The Aquino administration has come out with 12 priority bills which it presented before the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). There is supposed to be 11 bills more in the process.
According to a report from the GMA7 news on the matter, the following bills are:
“I. Human Development
1. An Act creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD), defining the mandates, powers and functions, providing funds therefore, and for other purposes
2. An Act rationalizing the night work prohibition on women workers, thereby amending Articles 130 and 131 of Presidential Decree # 442 as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines
3. An Act enhancing the curriculum and increasing the number of years for basic education, appropriating funds therefore and for other purposes
4. An Act providing a definite targeting strategy in identifying the poor, amending republic act no. 7875, otherwise known as The National Health Insurance Act of 1995 as amended, and for other purposes
II. Infrastructure Development
5. An Act further amending certain sections of republic act no. 6957, as amended by Republic Act No. 7718, Entitled “An Act authorizing the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects by the private sector, and for other purposes,” appropriating Funds for the said purpose, and for other purposes
III. Economic Development
6. An Act rationalizing the grant and administration of fiscal incentives for the promotion of investments and growth, and for other purposes
IV. Sovereignty, Security and Rule of Law
7. An Act to establish the archipelagic sea lanes in the philippine archipelagic waters, prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign ships and aircrafts exercising the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage through the established archipelagic sea lanes and providing for the associated protective measures therein
8. An Act to define the maritime zones of the Republic of the Philippines
9. An Act to strengthen the modernization of the Armed Forces of The Philippines, extending the implementation of the modernization program of the AFP, instituting necessary reforms in the AFP, amending for the purpose certain provisions of Republic Act No. 7898, otherwise known as the AFP modernization act and for other purposes
10. An Act resetting the date of the regular elections for elective officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Synchronizing the ARMM Elections with the synchronized national and local elections 2013, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 9333, Entitled “An Act Affixing the Date for Regular Elections for Elective Officials of the ARMM Pursuant to RA 9054″ Entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the ARMM, amending for the purpose RA 6734, Entitled An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the ARMM, as Amended,” and for other purposes
V. Good Governance
11. An Act instituting reforms in land administration
12. An Act to promote financial viability and fiscal discipline in Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations and to strengthen the role of the state in its governance and management to make them more responsive to the needs of public interest and for other purposes.”
A cursory examination of the bills showed that there is nothing fundamental or even major reform in terms of their content and direction. They are, more or less, consistent with the stated thrusts of the new president against corruption and poverty . They are also consistent with the strategy for public-private partnership (PPP) enunciated in his inauguration and state of the nation address last year.
These bills are suspect until the new administration spells out its entire governance framework. Even the publication of the forthcoming 2011-2015 Philippine Development Plan will not be enough. The Plan is a secondary document as far as all administrations before it are concerned. The present Aquino administration has so far indicated it will not treat it differently–merely a recommendation to its own plan–whatever it will be.
What is troubling is that the bills may turn out to be either 1) political accommodations; 2) a sell-out of natural and public resources and the regulatory capture by the wealthiest local business elites and big foreign and international business interests; and 3) only an empty sop to the long-suffering poor. I hope not, but the choices of priority bills are troubling.
The list of reform bills not in the list are glaring. Among these are 1) the political party reform bill–important for setting new rules for political contestation, sans the politics of guns, goons, and gold; 2) the freedom of information bill–important for transparency and accountability in government; 3) the reproductive health bill–important for responsible family planning; 4) Marcos human rights victim compensation bill–important for giving long-delayed justice for Marcos victims; and 5) bills on small and medium enterprise development, particularly in rural areas and regions outside Metro Manila–important for job creation.
As it is, there is no evident political will in the priority bills for democratic political and asset reforms. If this trend continues, the Aquino administration is in danger of slipping towards a regime of slick, high-profile populism with neither substantive impact on poverty and people empowerment nor concrete reforms that strengthens democracy.
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