House priorities: Federalism, BBL, reorganization, civil union

MANILA-- Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday laid out the legislative priorities of the House of Representatives for the second regular session of the 17th Congress.

In his opening remarks during the opening of the second regular session, Alvarez said the lower chamber will concentrate its efforts in passing two pieces of legislation that hold the key to lasting peace and prosperity for our country.

BBL, FEDERALISM

Alvarez said the House is already awaiting the draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has already been submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte last week.

"This (BBL) will be the basis for creating a homeland for our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters," Alvarez said.

The lower chamber will also push forward with the systemic shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.

Alvarez said federalism will address the structural defects that have hampered the national strategy in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and progress.

Alvarez said the House will also set its focus on addressing concerns that involve the basic fundamental unit of society -- the family.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGES, CIVIL UNION BILL

Alvarez said a bill for the dissolution of marriages will also be pushed in the lower chamber to free couples from an unhappy marriage. He clarified in a separate interview that this bill is different from divorce and annulment.

Alvarez said the proposal aims to change the present system which practically coerces married persons to remain with each other even if the relationship is irreparable and has caused harm not only between the couple but also the children involved.

"Married persons can mutually agree to end their marriage subject to the approval of the Court. One of the conditions, which must be complied with, is an agreed upon and executable framework to provide for the care and support of their children," he said.

"Moreover, previously married persons can remain friends and better parents, despite their differences, since they no longer have to sling mud at each other in front of a judge just to convince the magistrate that their marriage should be declared void or voided," he added.

The Speaker will also file a measure that seeks to legalize civil union not just for same-sex couples but also for heterosexual couples.

"Our citizens should not be excluded from society just because of the person they love. They must also be treated with equality before the law," he said.

Furthermore, Alvarez said he is also looking at equalizing the treatment of illegitimate children.

"It is time to end the unequal treatment of legitimate and illegitimate children. We can start the process by equalizing the legitimes that children receive regardless of whether or not they were born within or outside wedlock. This is an issue of justice and fairness," he said.

REORGANIZING THE BUREACRACY

The Speaker cited the need to provide a major overhaul of the government bureaucracy, noting that the regulatory framework is chaotic, full of overlaps, conflicts of interests and without any clear central regulatory body.

He cited the case of how land transportation, railways, airports, and seaports are organized and regulated.

"Often, a review of said areas of public interest would show how chaotic their regulatory frameworks are," he said.

Alvarez proposed to merge the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) into one entity called the Land Transportation Authority.

Furthermore, he also wants the creation of new bodies such as the Philippine Railways Authority to regulate the country's railways, and the Philippine Railways Authority for the airports.

As an additional safeguard to protect the public's interest, Alvarez said a bill must be passed to require all casino operators, public transportation, and mining companies to secure a legislative franchise from Congress prior to their operations.

"This will make certain that their applications are scrutinized deeply. Only the deserving will be allowed to operate. I have met with Rep. Franz Alvarez regarding this matter and I have full confidence in his ability to shepherd these bills through the legislative process," Alvarez added.

Source: Philippines News Agency