Privilege speech

I delivered my first privilege speech last Monday. I discussed the worsening drop-out rates in Philippine schools. I mentioned the government’s failure to guarantee a complete basic education for the Filipino youth.

I cited the latest assessment report on the Philippine compliance to the Millennium Development Goals. The report presented grim statistics on the declining participation of students in schools.

Aside from poverty and inadequate funding for public schools, I also blamed the rising cost of education in the country. I criticized some private schools which charge exorbitant and unnecessary fees.

I urged the Arroyo administration to increase the funding for the education sector, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. I also asked education officials to implement tuition regulation measures.

The drafting of the speech was a collective effort. Our member groups contributed the latest tuition data. We also used a few quotes from my previous blog articles. We brainstormed the outline of the speech. I am happy that I have competent, hardworking, and intelligent staff members.

No Chacha?

I don’t feel the mood for a Charter Change in the Lower House. There is really no time to dance the ChaCha since Congress will take a recess on June 3. Besides, it’s already election season. Many House members recognize the futility (and stupidity) of trying to postpone the 2010 elections. Some of them are proposing a Constitutional Convention mode in amending the Constitution after the 2010 elections.

The House leadership claims there is time to pass the Chacha proposal on or before June 3. This is correct. The Majority, through the powerful Committee on Rules, decides the Order of Business. They can always move for the inclusion of the Chacha proposal for plenary discussion, debate, and voting.

However, the House of Representatives is too focused on other matters. The Lower House is currently deliberating the controversial Joint Resolution No. 36 which proposes to increase the compensation of government employees. This is a Malacañang priority measure. The period for interpellation has not yet ended. (This issue deserves a separate blogpost.)

The House leadership has also expressed its willingness to tackle these measures on or before June 3: Agrarian Reform Extension, Reproductive Health, and Right of Reply. These are all (very, very) controversial bills. The proponents and opponents of these measures are expected to mount aggressive campaigns inside and outside of plenary for the passage or rejection of these measures. By the way I am a co-author of the Reproductive Health bill.

We only have seven remaining sessions before we take a break. Paano nila ngayon isisingit ang Chacha?

Committee hearings

A senior lawmaker told me that attending committee hearings is equally important to our attendance in the plenary. Through these committee meetings, lawmakers can directly propose amendments to pending bills and resolutions. Members can also block the passage of certain measures at the committee level. We can also listen to the views of invited resource speakers about our proposed legislation.

Last week I attended two committee hearings sponsored by the Committee on Dangerous Drugs and the Committee on Housing and Urban Development. Last Monday I attended a Technical Working Group meeting on the proposed Magna Carta of Students. Yesterday morning I attended a joint executive meeting of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education and Committee on Basic Education. In the afternoon I joined a forum about the P125 wage hike bill sponsored by the Committee on Labor and Employment.

I was surprised by the revelation made by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency about the problems encountered by their office. They don’t have patrol boats, high-grade firearms, and recruitment funds in their fight against big time drug syndicates. I was also surprised to learn that aside from PDEA, there are various government agencies which are also running after druglords – Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, NBI, and PNP. Yet, the drug menace still persists. At nakakatakas pa ang mga druglord. During the public hearing I asked the concerned agencies to coordinate their efforts and to rationalize their operations. Instead of spreading their meager resources throughout the country, why not identify priority areas where they can focus their operations? Huwag magsiksikan sa Subic.

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