Just in time for Christmas, a quick look at the government (wish)list

It's been a rough sailing for the Sin Tax bill, but it has finally become a law before Christmas. photo source: Department of Health (doh.gov.ph)
The road has been long and rough for the passage of the Sin Tax Bill, but it  finally became a law just before Christmas. Photo source: Department of Health (doh.gov.ph)

by Beata Carolino

The nights are longer and colder than usual. Traffic jams are expected even on the most obscure roads. Puto bungbong and bibingka sellers line up outside churches. Food production seems to have tripled, and likewise people’s appetites also multiplied.

It is undeniably Christmastime.

Setting aside the rather formulaic essence of the holiday season, this Christmas is considered different on a national level because of the many “wishes granted”– that is, public policies implemented– as compared to “wishes denied” or “wishes ignored” that unfolded right before the eyes of the public.

Here is a quick look at that list – whether wishes granted, denied or ignored – by and to the government in time for the holiday season.

1.      War is over – in the Congress, at least

The main proponents of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in Congress, Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano, can finally sit back and enjoy the festivities after what has been a lengthy and arduous fight for the passage of a law, that will mandate universal access to birth control methods. Both the lower and upper House have approved their respective versions of the bill before the holidays despite the staunch opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in the country.

The bill is just waiting for President Benigno Aquino III’s signature before it officially becomes a law.

2.      Count your blessings instead of sin

Although the road was not as rough for the Sin Tax bill as it is with other measures pending in the Congress, many groups rejoiced its signage by President Noynoy Aquino a few days ago. Called the “Bawas Bisyo Bill” by its supporters, it is believed to help improve the health system in our country and result to an increase in the generated tax.

Still, many people protest its passage, particularly workers from manufacturing companies who believe that their jobs will be compromised by the said law.

3.      Pasko na, sinta ko; hinahanap-hanap (pa rin) kita

The signage of the Desaparacidos Act of 2012 came as a surprise for many, as it was not as talked about as the other issues. The law makes enforced disappearances a separate criminal offense, as well as requires public officials to let the public know about the people who are under their custody.

While the Philippines is the first Asian country to criminalize enforced disappearances, the law, however, does not guarantee the speedy searching for those who are already lost. Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, among many other names, continue to be missed by their families for several Christmases, and still unheard about even under the current administration.

Still on the wishlist: Passage of FOI law and SC’s final word on the legitimacy of the Cybercime law 

The Freedom of Information bill has been considered “dead” by many in the House of Representatives, as its progress slowed down more than ever during the recent months. However, a few weeks ago, the Senate finally approved it on its third and final hearing – a huge, huge step that spells hope for its supporters and advocates, most especially journalists and media practitioners. The lower house, however has yet to decide on the FOI bill.

Meanwhile, the temporary restraining order (TRO) for the Cybercrime Prevention Act will be lifted in January 2013. Members of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity from UP Manila protested in advance earlier this month against the act during their annual Oblation Run. However, certain web issues that surfaced over the past few months can fuel up the intent of the law, such as the “Amalayer” incident (as it is much known).

As the Cybercrime Prevention Act threatens freedom and privacy on the Internet, it was fought against by netizens, who blackened their websites and profile pictures on social networking sites in protest of the act. As the TRO will be lifted by next month, the Internet as a democratic sphere is once again threatened to be clammed up by the said law, thereby making this Christmas perhaps the last merry one for Filipino netizens.

On the naughty list

If certain figures got their wishes granted even before Christmas itself, there also are a few who have gone over the peoples’ bad side.

Senator Tito Sotto, in particular, has garnered a lot of criticisms this year for plagiarizing from various speeches and websites. Several congressmen also got their minutes of shame as their “ludicrous” arguments against the highly-debated RH bill continue to spread like wildfire, especially on the Internet.

Indeed, this year, many were chastised on the Internet for being “naughty” and the events even gave birth to new, and rather unflattering, vocabulary such as “Sottocopy.” With these judgments on hand, it looks like these people won’t be getting a visit from the big red man in the Christmas suit this holiday season.

And finally, it’s beginning to look a lot like…elections

It can be hypothesized that as compared to the past two Christmases, this one would have less hungry families for Noche Buena.

Early electioneering is no secret doing by aspiring (or extending) politicians. “Public service announcements” are already on television, with politicians greeting or reminding people of their rights and benefits, and very subtly (or so they like to think) letting their presence known to the electorate.

On that note, the Anti-Epal bill came as good news for political critics, but sometime during the middle of this year, it became relatively quieter – leaving the public to continue gazing at huge tarpaulins with holiday greetings from their local politician, beaming a huge “trapo” smile.

With 2013 just hanging around the corner, the public is yet to see how this list will turn out, especially for laws that are to be implemented, or those still pending. While both houses are still at recess and the officials on the respective holiday breaks, may the Christmas spirit not let them forget the responsibilities that are on their shoulders, as they get back to their offices and to the real world, as soon as the year starts anew. With a report from Jhesset Thrina Enano

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.