Pimentel: Despite controversies, ‘We delivered’ Duterte promises
President Rodrigo Duterte’s second year in office continued to be filled with controversy, but it also saw the approval of key legislation to fulfill some of his campaign promises, according to former Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
Pimentel, who headed the Senate during the first two years of the Duterte administration, said among the major measures passed during the period were the free college tuition law, the law to raise the base pay of uniformed personnel and the first package of tax reforms, which, however, has been blamed for rising prices.
“We delivered,” Pimentel said. “If we audit the campaign promises, I think the President and the Senate and the House of Representatives were able to meet these because of the support of the other legislators.”
But Pimentel also acknowledged that there were promises that had not been met.
‘Endo’ yet to end
A law to put an end to “endo”—hiring workers only for short periods to avoid making them regular employees with full benefits—has not been passed, although Pimentel said there had been executive orders intended to curb this practice.
When labor groups pressed the President to make good on his vow to end contractualization, Malacañang pointed to Congress instead, saying that realizing that promise would actually require revising the Labor Code.
Federalism work in progress
Regarding the administration’s peace agenda, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is crucial to peace in Mindanao and a linchpin in combating Islamic extremism, has not been signed.
The President has often underscored the importance of the BBL, saying there would be trouble in Mindanao if the measure were not approved.
Federalism is another administration goal that is still a work in progress, but it was not expected to have been achieved in the past two years anyway, Pimentel said.
A consultative committee has submitted its draft federal Constitution to the President, the Senate and the House, but it is not expected to be taken up by Congress any time soon.
Of the legislation approved during the President’s second year in office, Pimentel said among the most significant was the law providing free tuition in state universities and colleges and technical-vocational schools.
Rolling out TRAIN
Another key legislation was the controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act. Pimentel said the TRAIN law was a significant reform measure because it adjusted the income tax rates, which gave a bigger take-home pay to many workers.
But the TRAIN law, signed in December, has also been criticized after the excise taxes it imposed on fuel and sweetened beverages were blamed for the increase in the prices of basic goods.
Pimentel and the government’s economic managers said the rising prices were due to the increase in world old prices, which is beyond the administration’s control.
Ease of doing business
The other promises kept, Pimentel said, were the ease of doing business act, and the extension of the validity of passports and drivers’ licenses, especially convenient for Filipinos who work abroad.
Also approved were laws establishing free internet access in public places, providing mental healthcare down to the grassroots and increasingpenalties for hospitals who refuse patients who don’t pay deposits.
Another key legislation put casinos under the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
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