Senate OKs 3 landmark bills including historic Mental Health Act of 2017

MANILA-- The Senate on Tuesday approved three measures on third and final reading including a historic bill which seeks to provide wider access to mental health care for all Filipinos.

With 19 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and no abstentions, Senate Bill No. 1354 or the Mental Health Act of 2017 was passed. It seeks to establish a national mental health policy to enhance the delivery of integrated mental health services.

It is also meant to promote and protect persons utilizing psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial health services, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes

The bill was authored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Juan Egardo Angara, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Loren Legarda and Joel Villanueva.

In a speech, Hontiveros described the passage of the measure as a historic day for all of Filipinos as it has remained one of the few countries without a mental health policy.

We are now closer to realizing a national mental health law to comprehensively address the Filipinos' mental health needs and ensure that our rights as persons with mental health concerns are protected and secured," Hontiveros said.

Also passed was a bill which seeks to update the amounts prescribed under the 87-year old Revised Penal Code, to prevent the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment.

Senate Bill No. 14 is meant to address the "outdated" penalties for certain crimes, which were based on the economic standards since the Revised Penal Code first took effect in 1930. It was approved with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and no abstentions.

It also seeks to "update the value of the damages used in determining the extent of liability and imprisonment; and adjust the amount of fines," using a formula adopted from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The bill was authored and sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, co-authored by Sen. Leila de Lima and co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Gordon.

The only remedy is to call for the much-needed overhaul of an archaic law that was promulgated decades ago when the political, socio-economic, and cultural settings were very much different from today's conditions," Drilon said.

"The application of the DOJ formula yields adjusted rates that are more appropriate for the objectives of the law -- one, to avoid the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment, and two, to make imposable fines an effective deterrent to crimes," he added.

Another bill passed was Senate Bill No. 1355 or the Philippine Innovation Act, which sets the stage for the formulation of an ambitious innovation policy framework that will drive the country's economic development and inclusive growth over the next few decades. There were 22 affirmative votes, 0 negative votes and no abstentions.

The Innovation Act is meant to establish the National Innovation Council (NIC), an inter-agency body, chaired by the President of the Philippines and composed of 16 cabinet secretaries from key line agencies, as well as seven executive members from the business sector, the academe, and the scientific community.

The Council will be tasked to facilitate the adoption of a clear and inspiring long-term view of the country's innovation vision, improve the governance framework for innovation, and mandate key reform areas toward building a thriving and inclusive national innovation ecosystem.

The bill was sponsored by neophyte Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. It was co-sponsored by Senators Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Cynthia Villar, Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon. The initial version of the Innovation Act originally referred to the Economic Affairs committee, Senate Bill No. 38, was one of the priority measures filed by Legarda at the start of the 17th Congress.

"There is no better timing for the passage of this Act than now. The recent economic and development agenda on national, regional and international contexts all have parallel focus on innovation," Gatchalian said.

"The vision that has inspired the passage of this Act is to finally see our country putting innovation at the center of our national development policies, and making innovation a major driver of economic development that will build the foundation of a more inclusive future. This should compel us to finally develop a culture of innovation in all levels and all areas of national development, he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency