Senate Bill No. 669: Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund Act

For more than forty years, the coconut farmers have long been fighting for their rights – not just to have access to the Coco Levy – but their right to have the opportunity to develop their industry, and provide better lives for their families and communities as well.

The immense potential of the coconut industry to be a great contributor to the Philippines is largely untapped. With the advancement of farming technology and intercropping, there is a huge possibility to harness the coconut industry to address increasing demands and offer coco fiber, water, and oil, among others to new markets.

It is high time to change its narrative from one of the poorest sector in the country to a great economic driver and source of pride of the Filipino people.

This bill proposes to build the Coconut Levy Trust Fund for the growth of the industry and ultimately, for the benefit of the small coconut farmers and workers all over the country.

The proposal includes the financing of programs for the increased productivity of coconut farms, capacity building of farmers, research and development of coconut-based enterprises, and implementation of poverty-alleviation programs.

The goal is to rehabilitate and revitalize the industry to stimulate production and attract investments that will make it again a viable, profitable and sustainable endeavor. The proposal seeks to modernize the farmers and stakeholders to make coconut production globally competitive and become a vital source of economic income for the country.

The challenge of inclusive growth is that as the Philippines grows, every Filipino should grow as well. This means that every family, every sector, and even the poor and marginalized should be able to experience this growth.

It is thus urgent and important to provide coconut farmers the enabling environment and proper opportunity to thrive and flourish and be able to participate in building this nation.

In view of the foregoing, immediate passage of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 668: Philippine Islamic Financing Act

The lack of effective access to responsive financing is one of the main challenges to the growth and development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippines. This obstacle is doubly experienced by our Filipino Muslim entrepreneurs in the ARMM/Bangsamoro region and in different parts of the country with the absence of banking and financial services that are compliant with the principles of Shari’ah or Islamic law.

Islamic banking and finance involves the conduct of banking and finance operations consistent with the principles of Shari’ah or Islamic law. In compliance with the Shari’ah, this kind of banking and financing operations is characterized by risk-sharing and equitable distribution of wealth. Undertaking or financing of anti-social and unethical businesses, and the setting of interest or a fixed pre-determined rate of return are prohibited.

Islamic banking and finance in the Philippines is limited by three major challenges:

1) Lack of a clear and regulatory framework for Islamic banking and finance, where our existing laws do not provide for the policy infrastructure needed to enable Islamic banks to thrive and current tax laws also subject Islamic financing products to more taxes;

2) Lack or scarcity of experts on Islamic banking and finance; and

3) Lack or very low investor awareness and acceptance of Islamic banking and finance.

According to the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Islamic banking is the fastest growing component of the financial services industry worldwide. It continues to grow by 21% despite the challenging global context.

Currently, there are more than 600 Islamic financial institutions operating in more than 75 countries and almost all major multinational banks offer Islamic financial services.

However, there is only one Islamic bank in the country – the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines, established in 1973.

Thus, it is high time to provide an environment where more of our Muslim entrepreneurs can thrive and prosper, and tap their full potential to help develop the ARMM/Bangsamoro region and the whole country as well.

The Philippine Islamic Financing Act of 2016 seeks to help in addressing these challenges and enhancing the legal and policy environment for the development of Islamic financing in the country. 

The bill amends the charter of the Al-Amanah Bank, providing for the organization and regulation of an expanded Islamic banking system in the Philippines.

It seeks to strengthen the Al-Amanah Bank to service a broader market, while promoting both the establishment of other Islamic banks and engagement in Islamic banking arrangements by conventional banks under the supervision and regulation of BSP.

The proposed measure further mandates government to provide programs for increased consumer awareness and capacity building required by the expanded Islamic banking system. 

Accompanied by other critical inclusive finance reforms and innovations, this bill seeks to ensure the development of MSMEs not only in our major urban centers but also in the poorest and hardest to reach areas.

It also seeks to ensure that every Filipino regardless of status, identity, or religion has access to critical services that enable our countrymen and women to seize economic opportunities and be part of the country’s progress.

Our diversity makes us unique. Our openness and support for each and every “kababayan” is what should distinguish us and make us succeed as Filipinos.

In view of the foregoing, immediate passage of this bill is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 667: Anti-Harassment of Tourists Act

The Philippine islands are emerging to be among the most sought after – and most fun – travel destinations in the world. Our very own island paradise of Palawan has been voted as the most beautiful island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler readers two years in a row. And even local tourism has started to pick up with Filipinos’ desire to see more of the country from Batanes to Siargao.

From January to April of this year, we have already welcomed over 2 million visitors to our shores, and it is a challenge to us Filipinos to ensure that they truly have more fun in the Philippines.

We Filipinos take pride in our hospitality and ability to make guests feel like they’re exactly where they should be with our warm smiles, delicious food, and caring nature. But with many of our countrymen living in dire straits, many attempt to take advantage of unknowing tourists out of desperation.

This bill seeks to ensure the safety of our guests by discouraging aggressive solicitation from tourists and imposing fines for repeat offenders. Through this measure, tourism help desks will be established in identified tourist havens and regular patrols should be conducted to safeguard the proper implementation of the law.

To foster a tourist-friendly culture among Philippine communities residing in tourist havens, the Department of Tourism, in coordination with the barangay officials, shall promote responsible marketing and conduct regular seminars for the local vendors and residents.

Let us assure visitors of our beautiful islands of a pleasant Philippine adventure.

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought. 


Senate Bill No. 666: Declaring August 9 as National Indigenous Peoples Day

Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines are an integral part of our nation. Their rich cultural heritage and tradition is something that we continue to protect and promote through the efforts of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Unfortunately, the long history of Indigenous Peoples’ contribution to the democracy we now enjoy is little known to the general public. Indigenous Peoples are often only recognized through media coverage that highlights the challenges they are now facing as a minority sector in our country. From the Igorots of the Cordillera to the Lumads in Mindanao, Indigenous groups have long been on the battleground to defend our land and protect our independence.

This bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10689 by declaring August 9th of every year as a special non-working holiday, known as National Indigenous Peoples Day, to honor Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines. A special non-working holiday dedicated to Indigenous Peoples will serve to elevate the importance that is given to them and will serve as a yearly opportunity to celebrate their past and continued participation in society.

We must recognize Indigenous Peoples’ valuable role and importance, and uphold their dignity to continue our journey toward building an inclusive society. Let’s take a day each year to celebrate the rich history and culture of our Indigenous Peoples!

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 683: Anti-Discrimination Act

The Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution guarantees equal protection for every Filipino, and prohibits discrimination of persons based on ethnicity, race, religion or belief, political inclinations, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, medical condition, or any other status in the enjoyment of rights. The fundamental law also declares that the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights (Section 11, Article II, 1987 Constitution). It also imposes on the State the duty to ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men (Sec. 14, Id.).

In addition, the Philippines is a signatory to numerous international agreements that seek to ensure respect for the human rights of all persons regardless of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, medical condition, or any other status. These international human rights instruments have consistently been interpreted by international institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Unfortunately, reality has yet to catch up with the noble intentions of these numerous laws and international agreements. In schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, public service, police and the military, prejudicial practices and policies based on sexual orientation and gender and cultural identity limit the exercise and enjoyment of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We still see, for instance, employment practices that prioritize single over married job applicants; or other cultural practices that suppress an individual’s right to practice his or her religion, faith, or cultural belief. Many Filipinos in indigenous communities have yet to be fully integrated into the workforce; ignorance about their cultural practices often leads to stigma and marginalization.

Moreover, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) community continues to be oppressed by the iniquitous treatment of society at large, primarily because of misconceptions and ignorance. LGBT students, for instance, are refused admission or expelled from schools due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Companies block the promotion of LGBT employees due to the deeply embedded notion that homosexuality is an indication of weakness. Laws such as the anti-vagrancy law are also abused by law enforcement agencies to harass gay men.

In a democratic society that claims to give equal access and opportunity to each of its citizens, many Filipinos are still treated as “second-class citizens” when they try to exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled.  

There is, therefore, an urgent need to define and penalize practices that unjustly discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, medical condition, or any other status. In view of the foregoing, and of the need to correct the long-standing discrimination against marginalized communities in Philippine society, the early passage of this bill is earnestly urged.


Senate Bill No. 682: Comprehensive and Continuing Urban Development and Housing Program

One of the key issues hounding the urban poor is that of housing and relocation. According to the Philippine Development Plan for 2010 to 2016, the country’s total housing need, including “backlog” and “housing for new households,” is estimated to reach around 5.9 million units by 2016. Informal settlements have increased by more than 22% (or 1.2 million) between 2003 and 2009. Meanwhile, other data show that the Philippines’ annual expenditure for housing accounts for less than 0.1 of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)—the lowest figure in Asia.

Clearly, much more needs to be done for the country’s urban poor. To provide security of shelter is an urgent first step.

No less than the Philippine Constitution provides for the protection of the marginalized, the powerless, and the oppressed citizens of this country against any violent eviction and/or demolition. It likewise mandates the provision of decent public housing at affordable costs, coupled with basic services and livelihood opportunities. Section 10, Article XIII of the Constitution states that “urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

To carry out this constitutional mandate. Republic Act (RA) No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act was enacted to, among others, “uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas” and “provide for an equitable land tenure system that shall guarantee security of tenure to Program beneficiaries.” However, recent incidences of violent evictions and demolitions show the gaps of the current law, requiring the review and amendment of the law.

This bill, therefore, strengthens the Urban Development and Housing Act by further securing the urban poor from violent and unjust evictions and demolition of their homes. It also seeks to ensure that, in the case of relocation, housing beneficiaries be relocated near their homes where they have access not only to basic services but also, and just as important, to jobs and livelihood that will give them the means to raise themselves and their families out of poverty. 

 The bill further provides that consultation must be effectively done with the active participation of affected communities, particularly in the identification and approval of relocation sites. This also expands the mandate of the law by requiring developers to develop an area for socialized housing equivalent to at least twenty percent (20%) of the total area or project cost—at the option of the developer—not only on proposed subdivision projects but all other land development projects. 

This bill also broadens the penalties on violations of the Urban Development and Housing Act.

The country’s inclusive growth imperative demands that no sector of society be left behind in progress and development. We firmly believe that it is the duty of the State to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. As the great late President Ramon Magsaysay had once said, “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

 In view of the foregoing, the immediate passage of this measure is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 681: National Commission on Disability Affairs Act

About 1.5% of our population is reported as persons with disabilities. Although 1.5% appears to be a small number, our fast growing population of over 100 million means that over 1.5 million Filipinos are living with disabilities or conditions that require special assistance or accommodation.

Our fellow citizens with disabilities are currently represented by the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), which was created in 1981 and tasked with overseeing the implementation of policies related to Persons with Disability (PWD). NCDA operates under the Office of the President, following an Executive Order by the President in 2008.

This bill seeks to reorganize the National Council on Disability Affairs to a National Commission on Disability Affairs. The leap from council to commission will institutionalize the mandate of the government agency to address the concerns and needs of persons with disabilities. With Commissioners from DOH, DSWD, DepEd, CHED and TESDA, as well as Regional Directors for each region in the country, a National Commission on Disability Affairs will have a larger capacity and more support to collect data, identify needs and formulate policies relating to PWDs. Through this Commission, the policies formulated and recommended would be more holistic through consultations with all stakeholders and would better serve the needs of our PWDs throughout different stages of integration into society.

PWDs benefit greatly from having a stable institution that looks after their well-being and holistic integration in society at all stages of life. Our nation can certainly benefit from harnessing the talents that PWDs have to offer, if only they are properly supported and given the assistance they need to be productive citizens.

In view of the foregoing the passing of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 680: Decriminalizing Libel

The Filipino nation was built on our forefathers’ fight for freedom of expression and democracy. In the age of foreign colonizers, Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and Graciano Lopez Jaena’s La Solidaridad, helped to ignite the spark that galvanized a fragmented people and lit up a revolution.

Decades later, in the midst of Martial Law, Filipinos once against used the power of words and ideas to fight against tyranny and oppression. Although many of the country’s top journalists were jailed for exposing the truths behind an unjust dictatorship, they inspired an entire nation to rise up and wage a bloodless revolution for democracy.

This spirit lives on in the Information Age. Around the world, citizens are using the power of ideas and words-transmitted over a globally connected network- to expose corruption, challenge unjust regimes, pursue the common good, and ensure good governance.

In the words of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, “Freedom of expression-in particular, freedom of the press-guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.”

In the Philippines, freedom of speech has given rise to a robust civil society. No less than the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution protects this fundamental human right, saying; “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a state party, protects these same rights while recognizing citizens’ responsibility in exercising these freedoms. Article 19 states:


  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
  1. For the respect of the rights or reputations of others;
  2. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.


In light of all of these, this representation seeks to decriminalize all forms of libel (i.e., in broadcast media or online) to encourage free and responsible discourse without necessarily compromising the State’s ability to hold persons accountable for irresponsible behavior.


No less than the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) called Philippine libel laws “excessive” and incompatible with Article XIX, paragraph 3 of the ICCPR. It said: “States parties should consider the decriminalization of defamation 113 and, in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty. It is impermissible for a State party to indict a person for criminal defamation but then not to proceed to trial expeditiously-such a practice has a chilling effect that may unduly restrict the exercise of freedom of expression of the person concerned and others.”
In view of the foregoing, the approval of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 679: Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other S & T Personnel in the Philippines

We find science and technology embedded in every branch of modern life, driving progress and innovation. It is in the best interest of the country and its people to foster our local talent in the field of Science and Technology (S&T) to drive development in the Philippines and improve the lives of millions of Filipinos.

In 2010, only 2.3% of our 31’million workforce were classified under S&T professionals1. In the two-decade assessment of science and technology human resources in our country, a two fold increase in the number of S&T professionals from 1990 to 2010 was coupled with an almost three fold increase in S&T professionals that work overseas2.

In government, the reports2 on the exodus of S&T professionals from agencies like PAGASA, PHILVOLCS, and ASTI has attracted public interest in the past years and motives for their migration were revealed, including uncompetitive local compensation and protracted processing of hazard pay.

In line with these findings, this measure aims to:

1. Remove set limits on additional salary of honoraria for S&T professionals; and
2. Foster ease in accessing benefits for S&T personnel in departments and agencies other than DOST.

It is high time we deliberately retain and empower our Filipino scientists, engineers, researchers, and other science and technology practitioners so we may harness the benefits of S&T to further our national agenda.

Regulations inimical to this interest must be addressed immediately.

In view of the foregoing, the passage of this measure is earnestly sought.


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