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Alvarez urges Congress to get to work, bares legislative agenda

/ 02:54 PM July 25, 2016

Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez on Monday laid down the legislative agenda he would push for as the newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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Alvarez was elected in a landslide vote of 251 lawmakers during the speakership race was held after the opening of the 17th Congress.

READ: Alvarez elected next Speaker in 17th Congress

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In his speech, Alvarez urged his colleagues to help President Rodrigo Duterte pass the pertinent legislation the latter would need to fulfill his campaign promise of enacting change.

“We must give the President the necessary legislation which will be his tools to effect meaningful and genuine change,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez reiterated the need to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes as well as lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to nine.

READ: First bill in Congress seeks reinstatement of death penalty

“As the President said, it is a simple universal law of karma… if you take a human life, especially if you do it deliberately, you must pay with your life,” Alvarez said.

He also said minors are being used by syndicates to evade criminal liability.

Alvarez denied that his proposal to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act to lower the age of criminality is not a “throwback to a barbarian age.”

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READ: Alvarez files bill lowering age of criminal liability

“We must teach the youth that there are consequences to everything we say and do… We must not breed a culture of immunity but a culture of responsibility at an early age,” Alvarez said

Alvarez said there is also a need to amend the 1987 Constitution to change the system of government from a unitary to a federal system.

READ: Alvarez files federalism bill on first day of Duterte presidency

He said the current unitary form of government was instituted by the colonial powers of Spain and the United States to control the Philippines during the colonial period.

“The most holy grail of all is the revision of the 1987 Constitution and transformation of our system of government from unitary presidential form to a federal parliamentary one. The unitary and highly centralized form of government (was) imposed on us by the colonizing power of Spain and United States and for one reason—total control over the country,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the powers of “Imperial Manila” must be decentralized to the local government units (LGUs).

“The power of Imperial Manila over the rest of the nation has to end. Our LGUs need to be allowed to stand on their own feet and to develop and grow as they see fit,” he said.

Alvarez urged his colleagues to grant Duterte the emergency powers to address the worsening crisis of traffic in Metro Manila.

“P2.4 billion pesos a day is lost to traffic alone. The situation is in most certain terms a true crisis which needs emergency powers to enable the President to act,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said there is a need to amend the Government Procurement Act to address the provisions that hinder the private sector from investing in government.

“Unlike a free size shirt the procurement law should not be the one-size-fits-all kind of law. We should put enough flexibility to address all foreseeable possibilities that may arise in the course of government procurement,” Alvarez said.

Now that Duterte has signed the executive order on freedom of information (FOI) as far as the executive department is concerned, Alvarez urged Congress to pass the proposed FOI law, which has long been languishing in the chamber, to implement an FOI policy in all branches of government.

“The greatest crimes are committed in dark secrecy. The FOI law will (lead) the light of truth and transparency in government transactions,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also wanted the income taxation to be a simplified progressive taxation in order to avoid corrupt revenue officials extorting money from taxpayers.

“A simplified law on taxation will encourage people to pay taxes,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said mining companies should be required to secure legislative franchises before being allowed to operate so that their operations may be revoked in case of lapses.

He also called on Congress to ensure that the companies instead of exporting the mining cores should process these in the country to generate employment.

“This is one way to give jobs to our Filipinos instead of enriching only the stockholders of mining companies,” Alvarez said.

Labor laws should also be amended to impose penalties if the minimum pay is not allowed.

“We should increase penalties for no payment of minimum wage… The Department of Labor and Employment should have an arm that would make sure the violators are prosecuted,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also said the practice of contractualization should be stopped and for violators to be made criminally liable.

Alvarez said there is a need to increase the contribution for the fund increase of pension benefits for senior citizens.

Alvarez assured his colleagues not to be afraid of Duterte’s promise of change and extended his hand to join him in this direction.

He said instead of remaining static, Congress should instead make action and join Duterte’s bandwagon for change.

“The only thing we should fear is the fear of change itself… Let us embrace change. Let us be instruments of change and apply the other side of the law of inertia, the body on the move tends to move indefinitely,” Alvarez said.

“Starting today, let us roll up our sleeves and get to work,” he said. RAM/rga

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TAGS: 17th Congress, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, House of Representatives, legislative agenda, Rodrigo Duterte, speaker
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