In the last three years, the Philippines has witnessed the full effect of political will used for the common good. In the first half of his term, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law several measures—the most historic among them likewise the most divisive—that embody not only transformational leadership, but that also fulfill the people’s mandate: To ensure that every Filipino’s rights are recognized and protected, that opportunities for future gains are more attainable, and that the reforms established will be the foundations for sustained equitable progress.
The Sin Tax Reform Act, certified as urgent by the President, restructures the excise tax on “sin” products such as alcohol and tobacco. The added revenue will help fulfill the administration’s Universal Health Care agenda—by funding the expansion of PhilHealth and the provision of more medical assistance and health enhancement facilities across the country. It will likewise support the livelihood of the country’s tobacco farmers. The law represents the only tax on alcohol and tobacco products that would benefit both the government and the people in making vice more expensive and at the same time raising more money for health services.
The passage of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 places the country’s basic education curriculum on par with international standards. The law, which introduces two additional years of basic education and makes Kindergarten mandatory among five-year olds, decongests the education cycle—thus providing students sufficient time for mastery, and preparing graduates for tertiary education, mid-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship. K to 12 is a fulfillment of President Aquino’s long-standing agenda to make education the central strategy for investing in the country’s most important resource: the Filipino people.
After languishing in the legislative mill for more than a decade, Congress—spurred by the marching orders of President Aquino—made history in enacting the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, a measure that provides Filipinos with the reproductive health information, services, and care necessary to planning and raising families in a responsible and safe manner. President Aquino has always maintained that he is “in favor of giving couples the right to choose how best to manage their families so that in the end, their welfare and that of their children are best served.”
President Aquino has likewise signed into law measures that will ensure multi-sectoral reforms—from three laws enacted to strengthen the country’s fight against transnational criminality, money laundering, and terrorism, and another to curb excesses in government sectors that were once rife with corruption—to those that improved the state’s provision of comprehensive health care services, and the cushioning of the people’s spending on basic utilities like electricity. These measures expedite the Philippines’ transformation into a corruption-free society, and strengthen the state’s mechanisms for delivering services due its people. Under the Aquino administration, the following laws were passed:
The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, the first of its kind in Asia, which ensures the preservation and protection of every Filipino’s civil liberties by criminalizing enforced disappearances and the unlawful arrest of civilians; by instituting preventive measures; and by providing a mechanism for reparation and redress.
The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which recognizes the heroism and sacrifice of Filipinos who were victims of human rights violations committed during the Marcos regime. The law likewise enjoins the state to fulfill its moral and legal obligation to provide reparation for them and their families.
The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which increased the government’s capacity to combat human trafficking. The law now expands the definition of trafficking in persons, criminalizes cases of attempted trafficking, and removes the confidentiality protection previously extended to the accused.
The Domestic Workers Act or Batas Kasambahay, which sets the minimum wage for domestic workers in various locales and promotes their right to humane treatment, access to education, and medical assistance.
The AFP Modernization Act, which extends the military modernization program for another 15 years and will boost the AFP’s capability upgrade program as it shifts from internal to external defense capability. The program has been provided a five-year initial funding of at least PHP75 billion.
The National Health Insurance Act of 2013, which makes health care services more accessible to citizens in need and mandates the enrollment of all Filipino citizens to health care.
The National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013, which strengthened the National Electrification Administration by increasing its capital stock to P25 billion and stronger powers.