Laws aplenty


In my previous column, I harped on how President Duterte made history by his signing of two bills into law and partially vetoing another before he left for Hong Kong last weekend.

“The Social Security Act of 2018 updates the charter of the Social Security System and expands its coverage to retirees, those involuntary left without jobs and OFW.

Apparently, it was merely the appetizer to the main course, since several new laws were signed by the President in the afternoon of the same day. If I am not mistaken, this is probably the most laws enacted so far by this administration within a one-week period.

This is a mark of an efficient Congress led by former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Tito Sotto. With the exception of a vetoed law (Coco Levy) and another partially vetoed one (Tax Amnesty), the national laws that made the cut are of such importance that it is imperative that these are implemented properly since these entail costs amounting to billions of taxpayers’ money. Let’s go through some of these.

The Universal Health Care Act is our trimmed version of the Americans’ Obamacare, as it grants access to basic medical needs of every Filipino. A pet bill of reelectionist Sen. JV Ejercito, we hope this brings him so much joy (and votes) that he would forget losing two of his cars at the fire that recently engulfed an auto shop along EDSA. This bill will be very expensive — P257 billion, to be exact — and a lot will be expected from PhilHealth, considered as the most burdened government office as it will be saddled with more queries and requests from the beneficiaries of this law. Given the number of much publicized leadership and managerial issues of PhilHealth in 2018, we hope the President (and Senator Ejercito) would be able to pick someone with an extensive finance background and strong political will to lead this Government-Owned and — Controlled Corporations.

The Revised Corporation Code was likewise signed to the delight of former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairperson Teresita Herbosa, my former boss in ACCRALAW, and one of those who worked so hard on this law. This allows the formation of a one-person corporation, removes the 50-year corporate term, requires companies to have a compliance officer, increases minimum capital stock and allows the holding of board meetings via video conferencing. These developments mean a lot of changes in corporate submissions to the SEC, now under chairman Emil Aquino, and new provisions to memorize for law students and corporate law practitioners. Overall, this is an excellent update to our Corporation Code, enacted in 1980 and untouched ever since. Kudos to the President!

The Social Security Act of 2018 updates the charter of the Social Security System (SSS) and expands its coverage to retirees, those involuntary left without jobs and OFW. SSS contributions may also be increased to 15 percent in the near future, which can be considered as forced savings for those in the private sector. This is another welcome development for government offices tasked with handling the finances of our Filipinos, similar to how the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Charter that was updated last week.

The Philippine Sports Training Center Act mandates the construction of a Philippine Sports Training Center worth P3.5 billion in Pangasinan, effectively raising land prices therein — congratulations to Rosales, Pangasinan, which is very accessible via SMC’s Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. This center will be a sports destination and we hope this can lead us to finally winning a gold medal in the Olympics one day. Another consequence of this law is the eventual sale or development of two government properties in key areas within the metro — Rizal Memorial Stadium and the PhilSports Complex in Ortigas. I’m sure the huge realty developers have done their initial lobbying already.

The President also created the new Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, a combination of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Housing and Land Use Regulatory Body. Just like the recently created Department of Information and Communications Technology, we have a hodgepodge of different government offices, cultures and personalities, forced to work together under a new modern building, still being constructed beside Quezon City Hall. This will not be an easy task for the incoming secretary, who I expect to be HUDCC chair Eduardo del Rosario, a former military general who enjoys the trust of our President.

I am absolutely certain the President is not yet done signing new laws. In fact, the main dish of the main course — the Angus steak, so to speak — has not yet been signed. The General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2019 has not been penned by our President and we have to see if it will be updated to reflect the budget requirements of these new pieces of legislation. Aside from the GAA, there are still a few much-anticipated bills pending on his desk, particularly the Road Board abolition. Let us wait and see!