Pia’s first ten bills seek sustainability, education, future-proofing PH

Ensuring the sustainability of vital government programs, raising the level of education of the youth to become globally competitive, and future-proofing the Philippines for domestic and external shocks were the overarching themes of the first ten bills filed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in the 19th Congress.

Cayetano, who chaired the Senate’s very first committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking in the previous 18th Congress, bared the list of her top ten measures for the new Congress, which officially opens session on July 25, as follows:

  1. Education Roadmap Act
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Act
  3. Sustainability-Based Budgeting Act
  4. Sports Excellence Roadmap Act
  5. Increasing the Minimum Age of Access to Tobacco at 21 Years Old Act
  6. Water Sustainability Act
  7. Philippine Nursing Act amendments
  8. Sustainable Cities and Communities Act
  9. Safe Pathways Network Act
  10. Sustainable Transportation Act

“These bills are forward-looking and aim to prepare our nation better for the challenges ahead, while never losing sight of our sustainable development goals,” Cayetano explained, as she noted how the country faces the confluence of global public health and socio-economic crises.

“The health measures were drawn from our hard-earned lessons in the last two years in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to further strengthen our healthcare system to provide services for our people,” she added.

She said that the proposed Education Roadmap Act aims to produce Filipino graduates who are well-rounded and competitive, amid the rapidly changing demands of industries and the knowledge-based global economy.

“Aside from acquiring the so-called ‘four Cs’ of 21st Century skills – namely, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity – this bill is primarily aimed to help our students regain our edge in English proficiency, which we are fast losing,” she emphasized.

“English proficiency is a vital skill that has made Filipino workers and professionals in demand abroad, and has prompted multinational companies to invest heavily in the country’s IT-Business Process Management industry (IT-BPM),” she noted.

For the health sector, Cayetano emphasized legislation on two fronts: strengthening our healthcare structure, and sustaining support for our medical frontliners, particularly our nurses, who comprise the backbone of our health system.

It is for these reasons that Cayetano filed the bill establishing the country’s own Center for Disease Control and Prevention or PH CDC, and proposed amendments to the Philippine Nursing Act.

To recall, it was Cayetano who principally sponsored RA 9711, the 2009 law that established the Philippines’ own Food and Drug Administration, or PH FDA – which currently plays a key role in the government’s pandemic response.

Similarly, she is pushing for the establishment of the PH CDC as the Department of Health’s lead agency for the early detection of emerging diseases, and to formulate response measures for public health emergencies.

Recognizing the need to support the needs and development of the country’s nursing professionals, Cayetano filed a bill amending the Philippine Nursing Act to provide nurses with opportunities for continuing education and professional growth, as well as recognition and commensurate compensation for their specialized areas of work.

In addition, the senator has filed a measure pegging at 21 years old the minimum age of access to cigarettes and tobacco products.

“This will protect the health and wellbeing of the youth, and will make our policy consistent with the current minimum age of access to vapes and e-cigarettes at 21 under the Sin Tax Law of 2020, or RA 11467,” the senator noted.

Senator Cayetano wants sustainability to be the guiding framework in the budget programs of both the national government and local government units (LGUs), in the planning, development, and integration of cities and communities, in reorienting vital services like mass transportation and infrastructure, and in efficiently managing the country’s water resources.

To this end, Cayetano filed the following related measures: the Sustainability-Based Budgeting Act; Water Sustainability Act; Sustainable Cities and Communities Act; Sustainable Transportation Act; and lastly, the Safe Pathways Act – which seeks to develop a national network of bicycle lanes and ‘slow streets’ to promote and ensure the safety of cycling, walking, and the use of alternative modes of mobility.

Finally, Senator Pia, together with her brother, returning Senator Alan Cayetano, have jointly authored a measure that applies the same principles of sustainability and futures thinking in the development of Philippine Sports.

The Cayetanos’ co-authored bill, the Sports Excellence Roadmap Act, aims to lay down a 20-year road map to produce elite world-class athletes, which will be anchored on a solid grassroots program, as well as sustained training, exposure, and support for our national athletes and chosen focus sports. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Ensuring the sustainability of vital government programs, raising the level of education of the youth, and future-proofing the Philippines for domestic and external shocks were the overarching themes of the first ten bills filed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in the 19th Congress.

Stronger law, institutions needed to defeat human trafficking

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal author, Republic Act 11862
Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act

I laud the signing of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 (RA 11862). This amends and reinforces our previous law vs. human trafficking (RA 9208) which was crafted in 2003.

As its principal author, I pushed for this measure to bring our 2003 law up to speed by making liable internet and financial intermediaries who knowingly, or through gross negligence, allow themselves to be used for the purpose of promoting and committing trafficking in persons.

The complexity of ever-evolving digital technologies stresses the need to update our policies and equip our law enforcers with the necessary powers to go after perpetrators of human trafficking, and those who aid them.

By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.

Human trafficking persists not just because of greed, but also poverty, which drives victims to extreme measures for money. And so aside from strengthening enforcement, we must support the recovery and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors, and their reintegration to society.

This law is the product of the collective efforts of advocates committed to win the battle against human trafficking. I thank former justice undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar for working with us on these amendments and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored this measure.#

Senator Pia Cayetano in plenary
“By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.”

Pia at mga doktor, umaasa sa Vape Bill veto

Senadora Pia Cayetano at grupo ng mga doktor, naniniwalang ibe-veto ni Pangulong Duterte ang Vape Bill bilang kanyang ‘final act’ at ‘legacy’ para sa kalusugan

Patuloy na nananalig sina Senadora Pia Cayetano at isang grupo ng mga doktor na ibe-veto ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang kontrobersyal na Vape Bill bago ito opisyal na bumaba sa kanyang pwesto bukas, Hunyo 30.

Ayon kay Cayetano, matagal na n’yang kilala si outgoing President Duterte bilang isang health at anti-tobacco advocate. Kung kaya’t umaasa ang senadora na poposisyon ito para protektahan ang kalusugan ng bayan sa pamamagitan ng pag-veto sa Vape Bill.

Sa panayam naman ng RMN, sinabi ni Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo na bagama’t sa huling saglit isinumite ng Kamara sa Malacanang ang enrolled copy ng Vape Bill, ay naniniwala pa rin s’yang maaksyunan ito ng outgoing Chief Executive.

“Sa ating Pangulong Duterte, nananawagan po kami na i-veto po itong Vape Bill na naihain po ng Kongreso sa kanyang opisina na may dalawang araw na lang na natitira sa kanyang pagiging Pangulo. Ito po sana ang kanyang maging ‘last act’ at ‘legacy’ para sa kalusugan ng bayan,” panawagan ni Dr. Dorotheo, na miyembro ng committee on legislation ng Philippine Medical Association (PMA).

Sinabi naman sa isang panayam sa RMN ni Dra. Rizalina Gonzalez, maituturing si Pangulong Duterte bilang No.1 anti-smoking advocate. Aniya, naging modelo ang Davao City dahil sa mahigpit na ‘no smoking’ ordinance nito, na ginawa namang EO 26 nang maupo sa Malacanang ang long-time mayor ng Davao City.

Dagdag ni Dra. Gonzalez, nilagdaan din ni Pangulong Duterte ang Sin Tax Law of 2020, habang maraming beses din itong nagpahayag ng pagtutol sa vapes at e-cigarettes – lalo na sa pagkahumaling dito ng mga kabataan.

“Last day, last 24 hours. Meron pa pong panahon para gawin ang pinaka-importanteng dapat sa ating mga kabataan: i-veto po ang Vape Bill,” ayon Dra. Gonzalez, na syang chairperson ng Tobacco Control Group ng Philippine Pediatrics Society.

“Ako po ay naniniwala sa iyong magandang hangarin na sa huling araw n’yo ay may magagawa pa kayong mabuti para sa lahat ng ating kabataan sa Pilipinas,” pagtatapos ng doktora. #

Senator Pia Cayetano with public health advocates
Health advocates hand to Senator Pia Cayetano a giant prescription enumerating their urgent calls to protect people’s health, including the President’s veto of the controversial Vape Bill.

Pia calls on President Duterte: Veto the Vape Bill

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

I have received reliable information that the enrolled copy of the Vape Bill was officially transmitted to Malacañang by the House just this Friday, June 24, with barely three working days left before the term of outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends.

Five months have passed since the Senate and House approved the bicameral version of the Vape Bill on January 26. And so clearly, the transmittal of the bill at this late hour is a devious attempt to evade scrutiny by the outgoing administration, and to get the bill passed on to the next administration.

Despite the shortness of time, the President and his team can act on this before noon of June 30, when President Duterte’s term ends. Relevant agencies – including the Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and even the Department of Education (DepEd) have expressed their position to VETO the Vape Bill!

I reiterate my call and echo the appeal of medical associations and health groups, including DOH, FDA, and DepEd, for the President to veto the Vape Bill as one of his final acts of service to Filipinos. I know our President as a staunch health and anti-smoking advocate.

If passed, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will promote vaping and overturn the protective measures we fought for under the Sin Tax Law, namely: (1) regulation is transferred from FDA to DTI; (2) minimum age of access to vapes is lowered from 21 to 18; and (3) more flavors allowed, instead of just plain tobacco and menthol.

Senator Pia Cayetano with public health advocates
“I reiterate my call and echo the appeal of medical associations and health groups, including DOH, FDA, and DepEd, for the President to veto the Vape Bill as one of his final acts of service to Filipinos. I know our President as a staunch health and anti-smoking advocate.”

It’s shocking, to say the least, if we consider how differently the US is addressing this vape pandemic. The US FDA recently banned Juul, and yet, here in the Philippines, we will loosen the restrictions by making the Vape Bill a law?

Ang Presidente ay Pangulo ng Pilipinas hanggang 11:59 ng Hunyo 30. Hanggang sa huling saglit ay umaasa ako na ipaglalaban nya ang kalusugan ng Pilipino. And this the President can do by vetoing the Vape Bill. Mahal na Pangulo wag n’yo pong pabayaan ang Pilipino. Veto the Vape Bill. #

Senator Pia Cayetano with doctors
“It’s shocking, to say the least, if we consider how differently the US is addressing this vape pandemic. The US FDA recently banned Juul, and yet, here in the Philippines, we will loosen the restrictions by making the Vape Bill a law?”

Pia shares role, plans for the 19th Congress

Highlights of Q&A with the Senate Media
24 June 2022, Philippine Senate

Q: What will be your role in the next Congress? Majority or minority?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): Every time there is a new Congress, I always think about what my role will be and how I will serve the Filipino people best. I started as a new senator in 2004, it was the 13th Congress, I was 38 years old, and I became very nostalgic in the last few weeks, remembering my first few years in the Senate. The SP at that time was the Minority Floor Leader now, Sen. Drilon, and among the members of the Senate are all, sadly, the late senators Joker Arroyo, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Juan Flavier, and Miriiam Defensor-Santiago.

So many of you who have been in the news industry would know that they are all legal luminaries, seasoned legislators, and these were the people I learned from. Sa una, nakakatakot. I had my training as a lawyer, and I continue to use that skill to listen before I open my mouth. These are the kinds of people I learned from.

Joker Arroyo, Nene Pimentel, and Juan Flavier were actually my seatmates in different times, so all of them were lawyers, except for Sen. Flavier, who was my mentor because I chaired the Committee on Health in my very first year in the Senate. So, can you imagine sitting beside these people who, when we look back, have not just crafted various laws, but we really look up to as statesmen and stateswomen?

I am always conscious of where I am now compared to where I was then, and I am cognizant of the lessons I learned from them. One time, Joker Arroyo pulled me aside and said to me, “Pia, makinig ka din sa mga debate na boring kasi bakit dinedebate ni ganto si ganyan?” Sabi ko, “Oo nga eh magme-merienda nga sana ako kasi medyo hindi ko gets kung bakit nila pinagdedebatehan.” It was such a simple bill. Sabi niya, “Alam mo kung bakit? May history kasi si ganto kay ganyan, galit kay ganyan. Walang kinalaman sa bill yan, nag-aaway lang sila kasi may iba silang tampuhan.”

So you have to know those things so that you can understand and be a better senator.

I mentioned this because I am the second most senior senator now in the Senate. I come from the 13th Congress, Sen. Loren Legarda started in the 11th Congress. Nag-umpisa siya 1998 with my father. Yung ‘seniority’ is because of the number of years we’ve been senators. I am the second most senior senator, so I have on my shoulders a very important role to play, because every time there are new senators, or junior senators, I feel that ‘wow, the baton has passed.’ I am holding that baton now.

So to answer your question, kung saan ko ilalagay ang sarili ko? I think my most important role is to be a role model in the Senate, to ensure that we pass meaningful laws, to always fight the good fight, to not get tired to discuss issues kahit bugbog na… sa talo… to continue to find inspiration and strength to keep on fighting these good fights because that is what I was elected for, and that is my role.

So how I will do that? I think it’s quite simple to just look at my track record. I was in the minority, from what I recall, it was just one Congress, and I think it wasn’t even a whole Congress kasi nagkaroon ng parang coup at that time. I cannot even distinguish the role I played whether majority ako or minority because I was grounded on a very simple principle: I do my best, I fight for the Filipino people.

So significantly enough, as minority, one of the landmark laws I passed was the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (RA 9994). So it didn’t really matter na pinasa ko yun as a minority because it was a good law to support. And as you can see, I was in the majority [in the 18th Congress], but I was the sole defender of the Sin Tax Law on its anti-vape provisions. In the final round of voting, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan joined me. Isang majority, isang minority.  So, it didn’t really matter. So that’s the role I intend to play.

The reason I gave you a lengthy explanation [is because] what matters to me is that I guide the new senators, fight the good fight, and continue to uplift the Senate and ensure that it performs the way it’s meant to perform.

Q: Preference of committee chairmanship?

SPSC: I’ve always been interested in a number of committees, which again, you’ll see by my record. I chaired Education, Health, Environment, and in the last Congress, SDGs and Futures Thinking, and Ways and Means. I also chaired the Committee on Women, Children, and Family Relations.

So, from my experience in the last Congress, kahit hindi ako nag-chair ng education and health, andami ko namang bills na tinulungan ipaganda at siguruhin na it’s a stronger bill because of my experience chairing those committees. I didn’t have to be the chairman to improve those bills. Same goes with the two adoption bills that the Senate passed. I was not the Chair of the Committee on Women and Children, but I supported the work that had to be done.

So I am in a situation where I think I have the opportunity to either go back to a committee that I formerly chaired, or take on a committee that is new to me that I would also like to explore and improve my knowledge on. So I believe at this point, those options are all available naman to me.

Basically, what I am saying is, I am in a position where, kung sa akin lang, kasi I always look at my capabilities and what are my strengths. And yun nga, sa level ng seniority ko, I may not have chaired some committees, pero may understanding na rin ako doon, pwede naman ako mag-chair nun. So basically, I think there are different committees that I can consider and I am studying what (bills) are in those committees.

Q: Have you discussed any possible committee chairmanships with Sen. Zubiri?

SPSC: Siguro bago siya mag-assign sa akin, alamin ko muna ang basis na ma-assign-an ako ng committee. Kasi like I said, I am a senior senator and have lots to contribute to the Senate, so I don’t want to just be assigned a committee. I want to also have the time to mentor other senators who care to be mentored and I also want to have time to review various bills because this is a very important time. Every new administration is important, and yun nga, I feel na pilay kami in a way that we lost so many senior, experienced senators. So parang the burden is on me and not just me, but others to step up.

So, I don’t just look at it maybe as a new senator na it’s just about the committee you’ll chair, these are not feathers in my cap. It’s really saan ako makaka-contribute?

Q: Have you discussed with Sen. Alan on whether you will be part of the majority or minority?

SPSC: I remember about a week ago, he was interviewed and asked about that, and he mentioned that I was currently abroad, which I was, to attend UNITE, which is an organization of members of parliament to fight infectious diseases and threats to global health. So hindi kami nag-usap. We have not really sat down in more detail since then kasi ang thinking namin is medyo matagal pa naman, and people deserve a break naman, nagpahinga din yung ibang senators.

So, I use my time really to prepare, to look at the bills I will be refiling, and so on and so forth.

Q: Sen Pimentel plans to build a dream minority…

SPSC: Yes, I want to talk to him also, kung matatapos tayo baka makausap ko na siya. [laughs] Balita ko andito daw siya, so kung makakausap ko siya, why not?

I think you guys know me well enough that I really don’t like politics. I just like to do my work well. So I go into this as friends, mag-uusap lang kami as friends. Ganun lang. So wala akong prepared answer, wala akong agenda.

Q: Sen. Zubiri?

SPSC: I haven’t heard from him since I left. Pero just to clarify, nag-usap sila ni Alan, and I think some people feel like kapag nakausap naman nila, I am sure kinamusta niya ako through Alan…

Q: Did it occur to you that you can run as one of the leaders of the Senate?

SPSC: Syempre naman karapatan ko naman yun, and again in all humility, may K naman ako para gawin yun.

Q: Do you have plans?

SPSC: Nakita niyo naman na-consume ang utak ko sa vape na yan, di ba? So doon ako naka-focus tapos during the break, bawi naman ako sa kids ko, although work from home allowed me to see them more, pero syempre I was working the whole time.

So you know I don’t really plan my destiny in that sense. God has taken care of me every step of the way. Kahit hindi ko pinangarap maging senador, naging senador ako. So yung mga na-accomplish ko is simply driven by the fact that God gave me brains, in-allow niya maging abogado ako, so it is my duty as a Christian to use my talents that the Lord has given me and to serve my country well, and to also honor my father in that process. I’ll just go with that and if the opportunities come about, why not? If I feel the time is right for it.

Q: Were there no offers?

SPSC: I personally didn’t really express anything, kasi nga it wasn’t really on the top of my mind really at that time.

Q: Will you refile the Absolute Divorce Bill?

SPSC: Ire-refile ko yun [divorce bill]. With all due respect to the religious community, I think they understand that there are circumstances where women in particular, but it could happen to men, of course, [that] their lives are endangered, both their mental and physical wellbeing are jeopardized. So naniniwala ako na there’s got to be more ways to save lives in that sense through more options of dissolution of marriage.

Senator Pia Cayetano
“What matters to me is that I guide the new senators…and continue to uplift the Senate and ensure that it performs the way it’s meant to perform.”

APPEAL TO COLLEAGUES: GIVE CREDIT TO ORIGINAL AUTHORS

SPSC: Yung role ko as a senior member of the Senate, I want to start with one particular aspect of lawmaking, which starts with law filing.

I would hear time and again in the last decade or so, that so and so filed 100, 300, 1,000 bills. But ang akin ganito lang, sabi nga nila it’s the height of flattery if somebody copies your work. So in terms of legislation, I believe that it is the intellectual property din naman of the one who [first] drafted it. So when I draft a bill, and I have had this experience, I know ako nag-draft nun, wala pang ibang bill na ganun, and then the following Congress, may 3, 4, 6 na. So it is the height of flattery, thank you. ‘Di ba we’re all honored when somebody says, “Can I be a co-author of your bill?” Tama lang, we appreciate it.

Pero ang sa akin lang, kung ipapa-file niyo lang din sa staff niyo ang bill na na-file na ng ibang tao, i-recognize niyo naman ang original na nagsulat nun, yung staff na naghirap doon. Most of the bills that I’ve worked on, I prepared on my own with my staff or with advocacy groups. When I do adopt a bill that has already been filed, I give credit to the member of Congress who filed that bill. And sometimes, hindi mo alam and therefore sabihin mo na lang, “I am re-filing this bill because I’m a big supporter.” Kasi for me let’s just give credit where credit is due. Nakakaloko sa tao na sabihin mo 1,000 finile mo pero 999 doon, iba naman ang naghirap. Sabihin mo lang na magaganda ang na-file so sinusupport mo, no problem.

Let’s have intellectual honesty naman. And I brought this up how many Congresses ago, nag-agree naman ang colleagues ko. But it’s a reminder to all na let’s follow it, lead by example. It’s a great way to practice honesty.

Example ko ito, the Anti-Prostitution [Bill] of 2010, obviously 2010 pa ito, at bill pa siya hanggang ngayon. In the explanatory note, I recognized that this was based on the bill first introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that failed to go into third reading.

Wala naman akong problema sa kopyahan, let’s correct that, [but] acknowledge kung kanino ka ‘kumopya.’ In the Senate, it is okay to support another person’s bill and the way you do that is you either file a similar bill, or express your support verbally. Pero kapag nag-file ka ng same na same lang at hindi ka nagsasabi, hindi ba parang medyo devious? So yun.

In fairness, it’s not one two or three, it’s a practice. Kaya reminder ko rin sa staff, I don’t think may malisya, in fairness, I don’t think anyone does it maliciously, it’s a reminder lang. I become very sentimental kapag nalaman ko na yung original author namatay na siya, so parang pinaghirapan niya yan noong buhay siya. Kunyari kapag pumasa ‘to, ako, bakit ako lang eh ang totoong nag-umpisa ng fight na yan is another senator?

Naalala ko rin nung nag-retire si Sen. Nene [Pimentel]. Meron talaga siyang bills na hindi natapos, so bakit ba porke retired ka lang, kalimutan na ang work na ginawa mo doon? As reporters, wouldn’t you want to know that? Usually maririnig mo lang yan kapag nag-abala ang staff na nag-research doon sa sponsorship speech ng chairman, o kaya magbuhat ng bangko ang isang senador. Pero kapag walang ganun, sayang naman diba? We’re all a product of our history, so let’s just acknowledge it. Yun lang. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
“I am the second most senior senator, so I have on my shoulders a very important role to play [in the 19th Congress].”

Public health wins in SC decision upholding FDA’s authority

Opening statement of Senator Pia Cayetano
News conference with health advocates
24 June 2022, Philippine Senate

I am delighted to talk about this landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision that is very science-based and upholds the right of Filipinos to health.

And this decision is the case (GR 2200431) where the SC ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power and the authority to regulate cigarettes.

This decision of the SC is so relevant because when I worked on the FDA law (RA 9711) – that was 2009 in the 14th Congress, and I was just on my fifth year as a senator – I was already fighting that the FDA should regulate all products that affect health, kasi yun ang definition sa FDA Law. ‘Health product’ refers to any product that may have an effect on health. In 2009, pinaglalaban ko na yun.

Fast-forward to this Congress, in the last six months prior to the campaign period, pinaglaban ko na naman, because of this new product called the e-cigs and the vapes. In-explain ko na ang health products, as defined by law, is anything that affects health. And the example I gave, sabi ko shampoo, conditioner, insect repellant, lotion, cosmetics, food products – lahat yun nire-regulate ng FDA. So, dapat ang vapes and e-cigs, i-regulate din.

And now, the SC has upheld basically that principle – that if it is a product that affects your health, the FDA should regulate. So talagang nagpapasalamat ako na after all these years, this law can now be implemented.

And on that note, I’ll pass on the floor to our vanguards of health, the doctors, as I said, many of whom have worked on this FDA law, on tobacco control, and even now on these related products called vapes and e-cigs:

Dr. Maricar Limpin
Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP)

Dr. Maricar Limpin
“Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill.”

Bilang isang doktor, napakahalaga sa amin na mabigyan ng proteksyon ang kalusugan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino; Kami ay lubos na nagagalak at buong pusong sumusuporta sa landmark decision ng SC kung saan na-reaffirm ang constitutional mandate ng FDA over any product na pwedeng mag-cause ng injury or harm sa kalusugan.

Every hour, 13 Filipinos die from tobacco use, according to the Global Burden of Disease report published in 2017.

Kailangan ng ahensya na may mandatong proteksyunan ang kalusugan ng mamamayang Pilipino, walang iba kundi ang FDA

Unfortunately, napasa ang Vape Bill in Congress. Sana with this SC decision, mabuksan ang kaisipan ng mamamayan pati leaders ng bansa. Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill

Definitely, the DTI cannot do the job of protecting health; only the FDA has power to do that with the leadership of DOH

Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo
Executive Director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Dr. Yul Dorotheo
“SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco.”

In all other ASEAN countries, it is the ministry of health regulating tobacco products.

It is very unusual na dito sa Pilipinas, nilagay ang DTI as the head of the interagency committee on tobacco.

In the US, the US FDA is considering lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes and banning menthol in tobacco products. They also regulate e-cigs.

Before the US surgeon general came out with the first report on smoking and health in 1964, cigarettes were considered as consumer products for 60 years. Since 1964, governments across the world have been regulating tobacco products as health products. Humahabol lang po tayo sa kasaysayan.

More than 8 million people are killed every year due to tobacco – more than 120,000 Filipinos a year. It is not just a regular consumer product. Cigarettes are now more harmful than before.

SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco

Dahil dito, tumatawag kami sa pangulo to veto the Vape Bill pending in his office bago bumaba sa pagka-pangulo, para sa kalusugan ng lahat ng Pilipino.

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
Former Director-General, FDA

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
“After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.”

After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.

Our tobacco regulation framework should cover 5 Ps:
•Producers: should be obligated to disclose limits of capacity;
•Process: what processes are involved in making the products;
•Product: what hazardous chemicals are present in the products;
•Place: where are they advertised, etc.; and
•People/public: the role of regulation is to help public decide what is safe and unsafe

At the end of the day, consumers should be able to make the right choices.

Dr. Rizalina Racquel Gonzalez
Chairperson, Philippine Pediatric Society Tobacco Control Advocacy Group

Dr. Riz Gonzalez
“The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.”

Senator Pia is our hero noon pa man, pinaglalaban niya ang kalusugan ng kabataan.

Hindi namin malilimutan ang mandatory hepa b vaccination (RA 10152). Napakarami na pong success stories ng mga batang naalis sa panganib. It’s a very good public health measure.

Tuwang-tuwa kami that the SC upheld the FDA as a regulatory body for tobacco and related products.

Marami ang nagtatanong sa amin: ano po ba ginagawa ng government para ma-protect ang mga bata?

Ngayon, masasagot na namin nang malinaw: that the government is working for the protection of children’s right to health.

Now, there’s a very controversial bill na malaki ang epekto sa kabataan.

The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.

Ang FDA bilang regulatory body ay may ngipin para protektahan ang kabataan.

Sana ang Vape Bill na nakabinbin, i-veto. Kabataan ang maaapektuhan nito. Sana FDA ang maging regulatory body, at ma-implement ang flavor restrictions na attractive sa mga bata.

Atty. Benedict Nisperos
Legal consultant, Health Justice Philippines

Atty. Ben Nisperos, Health Justice
“Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.”

We stand with the landmark decision of SC. It reinforces our continuing advocacy to protect the people’s right to health.

[Tobacco products] is a public health concern that must be regulated by the FDA. Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.

We express our gratitude to Senator Pia for leading the cause to implement the FDA’s mandate to regulate these products. It’s a victory for the people

We want to highlight other victories:
•The upholding of tobacco as ‘health products’;
•The upholding of FDA’s mandate to regulate; and
•Recognition of WHO FCTC as part of the law of the land.

We see the following action points to safeguard this decision:
•Strengthen FDA by investing resources in them;
•Invest more on health promotion; and
•Encourage everyone to stay vigilant against machinations of the industry to advocate their interests. Case in point is the Vape Bill.

This will not be the last time we will see the tobacco industry influencing public policy. But as long as we help each other for the right to health, we will succeed.

Senator Pia Cayetano’s closing statement:

Each of the speakers today spoke about the different aspects of how this landmark decision can really turn around the health of Filipinos. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of illness. And I am not a doctor, I always make that disclaimer, but having listened to a lot of health experts and studied on my own, [smoking] aggravates a lot of other health conditions.

So like I said, it is timely because in the last six months prior to the campaign, we debated this issue involving vapes and e-cigs.

Nakakatawa kasi kinukwento ko kay doktora dito na on my way here, sinabi ko sa anak ko na 12 years old, papunta ako sa meeting kung saan pag-uusapan namin ang dangers ng vape. Tapos sabi ng anak ko, “didn’t you ban that already?” Kasi naaalala niya na sinabi ni Presidente na iba-ban. Tapos sabi ko, “kung ako tatanungin, gusto ko i-ban, pero may ibang issues involved diyan so the final decision in the Senate, at least, and Congress, in general, was that we will regulate.”

Kaya nga meron tayong Sin Tax Law (RA 11467), wherein it was very clear in my mind that instead of banning – and I remember Sen. Tolentino was one of the proponents of banning – we will highly regulate.

That’s why in the Sin Tax Law pa lang, andoon ang tatlong major provisions, one of which is FDA will regulate, because yun na yung talagang number one protective measure natin. And to give an example, months later nung Vape Bill na ang pinagdi-diskusyunan, sabi ko, in the US, 55,000 flavors were banned by the US FDA, tapos dito, ayaw niyo ibigay sa FDA? Sino ngayon ang magre-regulate ng flavors na yun?

My late father (Senator Rene L. Cayetano), it’s his death anniversary tomorrow (June 24). And ang aking desire to serve the Filipino people was also brought about of course by his serving the Filipino people. So when you [Dr. Gonzalez] mentioned hepatitis, sabi ko timely nga because doon ako nag-umpisa, yung interest ko on healthcare.

Back to my story, I mentioned [my father] because it was his belief na kailangan magpaliwanag ka sa tao na parang hindi ka abogado. Magpaliwanag ka, sa paraan na maiintindihan niya. And that’s why in-explain ko ito in a way na maiintindihan ng anak ko na 12 years old.

So balik ako sa kwento, sabi niya, “Oh so you didn’t ban?” Sabi ko kasi nagkaroon kami ng debate kaso natalo ako. Nilagay namin ang regulations, pero nagkaroon ng another bill na tinanggal pa sa FDA – sinabi ko pa yun, the government agency that tells you if the ingredients are not good. So sabi niya, “Oh, so that’s democracy.”

And I said, “that is democracy.” I lost, natalo ako sa botohan. Sometimes, I am not happy about the outcome of democracy, but that is democracy. We represent the Filipino people and my colleagues voted na tanggalin yan sa FDA. Nakakalungkot but that is democracy. But this is also democracy: that we can still talk about it, we can go to the SC, which we did.

Democracy included that the FDA law 12 years ago, na sinabi [ng tobacco industry] na hindi kasama ang cigarette. Bakit special ba kayo? VIP kayo? Bakit hindi kayo kasama? Well now, the SC has said, “Hindi, kasama kayo.”

And I love the clarification that Dr. Ken gave na teka, baka akala niyo kung sinabing kasama sa ‘health products’ ang cigarettes is may benefit yun? All he was saying, which I think is worth repeating is, sabi ng batas, anything that affects the health, in that sense, is a health product, na dapat i-regulate. Hindi ibig sabihin healthy siya. In the case of cigarettes, walang healthy doon.

I bring it back to the present day na we are rejoicing that the SC made this decision, and the decision is clearly that the FDA must regulate all products that affect health. So this to me would clearly include vapes and e-cigs. On that note, it makes it simpler if the President would veto the bill. A lot of us are quite confident because naiintindihan niya ang science. We are hoping talaga that he would veto.

But from what I know, wala pa sa Malacanang ang bill [Vape Bill] na medyo nagtataka ako, kasi January pa pumasa yan at wala pa sa Malacanang. So as far as I am concerned, pagdating ng June 30 and wala pa yan kay Presidente… because that is his responsibility, we pray that he will do the right thing and veto it. But if hindi pa pinadala sa Malacanang yan before June 30, tapos na yan. Because it was not sent to the President on time. And my prayer is that the new President and his administration would uphold healthcare. I know the President comes from a tobacco-growing [province], but I also know that the President will do what he needs to do to protect the health of the Filipino people.

So whatever challenges we have in the days to come, lahat tayo Pilipino, sabi nga ng anak ko, this is democracy, we will use the legal system to ensure that we can protect the health of the Filipinos, and we look forward to this administration doing the same, kasi nasa kanila naman yun. That is in the hands of the administration to take the lead and to lead by example. #

 

SC landmark ruling a victory for Filipinos, youth

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • Principal sponsor, RA 7911
  • Intervenor, GR 200431 (DOF and FDA as petitioners, Cayetano and Drilon as petitioners-intervenors vs. Philippine Tobacco Institute, Inc. as respondent)

The Supreme Court just affirmed the right of every Filipino to good health by upholding the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cigarettes and tobacco products. This is a major victory for our people and advocates for tobacco control and public health.

Thirteen years ago, I sponsored and defended what became the FDA Act of 2009. RA 9711 mandated the FDA to regulate all products affecting health, including cigarettes and tobacco. The tobacco industry rejected FDA’s authority, and went to court to prevent the FDA from regulating them.

The health hazards of tobacco cannot be denied, and are backed by strong medical evidence. It is common sense that these products be subjected to strict regulation by a competent health authority.

After a long judicial process, the SC has ruled in our favor by affirming FDA’s jurisdiction over cigarettes and tobacco products. As principal sponsor of RA 9711 and later, as an intervenor in this case along with Sen. Franklin Drilon, I laud our SC for this landmark decision.

This win is for the Filipino people and will benefit future generations. It may have taken 13 years, but it’s these victories that remind me to keep fighting the good fight. It’s what makes my job worthwhile.

This triumph wouldn’t have happened without the guidance and support of my fellow health advocates, including the late health secretary, Dr. Alberto ‘Quasi’ Romualdez.

It is my hope that the incoming administration will continue to strengthen our health systems, and ensure that all harmful and potentially harmful products that should fall under the ambit of FDA’s authority are duly regulated to safeguard public health. #

“Sabon nga FDA-regulated. Ang yosi, bakit hindi?” Senator Pia S. Cayetano went to the Supreme Court to file her motion to intervene in the DOH and FDA case against the Philippine Tobacco Institute to uphold the FDA Law of 2009. (File photo: April 11, 2013)
“This triumph wouldn’t have happened without the guidance and support of my fellow health advocates, including the late health secretary, Dr. Alberto ‘Quasi’ Romualdez.” – Senator Pia Cayetano (File photo: November 19, 2012)

NOTES:

Senator Pia Cayetano’s reaction to a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court (GR 200431), which upholds the validity of the rules and regulations implementing RA 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009, and recognizes the continued regulatory authority of DOH and FDA over cigarettes and tobacco products.

Senator Pia is the principal sponsor in the Senate of RA 9711. She was also an intervenor in the Supreme Court (SC) case, along with Sen. Franklin Drilon. Their motion for intervention was filed on April 11, 2013.

The SC decision was issued on July 21, 2021 and promulgated on June 7, 2022. A copy of the ruling was received by the Cayetano Sebastian Ata Dado & Cruz Law Office on June 9, 2022. 

Exempting poll duty pay from income tax

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chair, Committee on Ways and Means

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, today, I rise to sponsor and seek your support for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2520, under Committee Report No. 641, which seeks to exempt from income tax the election honoraria and allowances of persons rendering services during an election period.

Aside from performing the noble task of educating the youth, teachers also have an additional role during elections. They are called to man the polling precincts in order to protect the sanctity of every ballot and facilitate the conduct of peaceful and clean elections.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 10756 also known as the Election Service Reform Act, the said task is not only limited to our teachers, as the COMELEC may also appoint other persons to serve during elections, including DepEd non-teaching personnel.

Based on DepEd’s records, about 647,812 of its personnel rendered service in the recently held 2022 national and local elections. An estimated 319,317 public school teachers sat as Electoral Board members and a number of DepEd personnel served as supervisory election officials.

Per the Election Service Reform Act, they are entitled to honoria, travel allowance, and such other benefits that may be granted by the COMELEC.

For this year, based on COMELEC Resolution No. 10727 (s. 2021), the persons who manned our polling precincts will receive the following:

  • Honorarium;
  • Travel Allowance;
  • Anti COVID-19 Allowance; and
  • Communication Allowance

According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Chairpersons of the Electoral Boards and Poll Clerks also received an additional P1,000 to P2,000 travel allowance for training, which was already released to them.

Per ACT, election workers, depending on their position (Chairperson, Electoral Board Members, Technical Support Staff, etc.) should receive a gross compensation of P4,500 to P12,000.

However, with the imposition of the 20% withholding tax, they will only receive around P3,600 to P9,600 for the services they rendered during the 2022 elections.

Historically, election honoraria and allowances were not taxed.

But the BIR had ruled that such were compensation that should be subjected to tax and, consequently, to withholding tax.

And so, in the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Election and in the succeeding 2019 Midterm Election, these were subjected to 5% professional fee withholding tax.

Now, in the 2022 election, the BIR issued another ruling that since election duties are not a practice of a teacher’s profession, the previous 5% professional fee withholding tax would no longer be applicable, thus, subjecting election honoraria and allowances to 20% withholding tax on compensation.

Ang hiling ng ating mga guro at ng iba pang nagbibigay ng serbisyo tuwing eleksyon, huwag na silang buwisan dahil napakabigat na ng trabahong kanilang ginagampanan.

This measure is a small show of support to our teachers and non-teaching personnel for the services they render, considering that elections are special circumstances that do not happen annually.

On that note, Mr. President, I submit this bill to the wisdom of the Senate.

Thank you, Mr. President. #

“Ang hiling ng ating mga guro at ng iba pang nagbibigay ng serbisyo tuwing eleksyon, huwag na silang buwisan dahil napakabigat na ng trabahong kanilang ginagampanan.”

Preparing PH for the futures of education

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chair, Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking

I rise today to report on and sponsor the findings and recommendations of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation and Futures Thinking, jointly with the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, under Committee Report No. 643, on the Futures of Education.

This Committee Report examines the country’s current situation, problems, aspirations, and gathers the recommendations of experts and stakeholders during the Committee’s hearings and further study, in order to secure the best possible future for education. Interestingly, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to invite foreign experts who attended our hearings online.

Mr. President, we have filed a lengthy committee report, and also prepared a detailed sponsorship speech, but in the interest of time, I will just be quoting certain highlights of the Committee Report.

Like many countries around the world, we remain stuck in the factory model of education, a one-size-fits-all model that merely gauges the worth of students according to their test scores. The ideal future of education must instead value, recognize, and hone the individuality of each learner.

According to Dr. Peter Bishop, Founder and Executive Director of Teach the Future in Houston, Texas, “most educators and the society at large believe that the mission of education is to transmit knowledge and experience” to the next generations.

However, he noted that this view means that… “knowledge and experience is useful only to the extent that [what] the students [will] have in the future is the same as the world of the past” but in fact, “much of what schools teach their learners might actually be irrelevant if the world of the future is not the same as the past.”

The World Economic Forum (2020) states that in 10 years, automation technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to change 50% of jobs, while eliminating 5% of them. Due to this, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills. 65% of students entering primary school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist.

The Committee makes use of futures thinking as a tool that provides a way of envisioning the different futures of education, and how to achieve the best one.

The Asian Development Bank explains the importance of futures thinking, I won’t read this into the record now, but they are part of this report.

Also in the report, we traced the history of education in the Philippines. We noted that the Philippines mirrored the factory model of education, which was prevalent in the West at the time of the industrial revolution. So, now we ask ourselves using Futures Thinking tools: “what does education look like in 10, 15, 20 or 30 years from now, based on the decisions we make today? What are the new skills and competencies that future generations are going to need? How are we preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist? And what kind of learning environments will be needed?”

Surprisingly, cartoons like “Betty in High School 2021 A.D.” – this is part of the Archie Series – published in 1997, and I show this on the screen, they were able to predict in 1997 that home-based education with the use of technology would become a thing. So if you look at the screen, it shows Betty studying in front of the computer.

In the ideal future of Philippine education, students are not only learning in the classroom, since blended learning and technology allow them to study and learn in different environments.

During the pandemic the lack of interaction between students became evident. Again, this was predicted in the 1997 cartoon series of Betty in High School, wherein Betty and her friends, Archie and Veronica and the like, visited their parents’ school and marveled at the canteen where the students could mix and mingle, and talk about their projects, they marveled at the classroom setting where all the students were sitting together. Something that they were not experiencing anymore, and something that our young students have now been experiencing for the past two years because of the pandemic.

In the ideal future, curricula and courses are redesigned to address the needs of the future economies and technologies.

Teachers are more focused on teaching students 21st century skills and the 4 Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. Learning is also more personalized to the capabilities of students.

Education is refocused away from learning one field to developing multiple abilities and skills for a variety of fields, keeping future workers adaptable to shifting work environments.

SDG 4 includes the attainment of education for all. Without a clear vision of our desired future of education, students will remain bound to classroom-based learning with little flexibility. Learners in remote areas without the ability to take advantage of technology, may find it very difficult to expand their learning environments and creativity, and learners will lack the skill set to thrive in a more competitive and connected work environment.

It should be emphasized that achieving SDG 4 on Quality Education will help us realize all the other SDGs – such as good health, sustainable cities and communities, decent work and economic growth, among others – and will empower Filipinos with the skills needed to build a successful, dignified life, contributing to not just on the national but on the global stage as well.

But still a lot of work needs to be done to achieve our preferred future. To this end, Dr. Alex Brillantes of the National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines, emphasized the importance of cooperation, competition, and thinking globally and acting locally.

By employing futures thinking at the policy level, we can have a systematic assessment of education and its direction in light of the potentials of the future.

On this note, the Department of Education has been one of the first agencies to have created a futures office. According to Secretary Briones, this is the DepEd’s “response to the need for futures thinking in education, for readiness to confront the rapid changes, the challenges, and opportunities of the future.”

We also recognize our colleagues who have also been supportive of institutionalizing and mainstreaming futures thinking in the education sector, particularly:

Senator Gatchalian, the Chairman of [the Basic Education Committee], who has sponsored a number of education reform measures and agrees on the importance of assessing where we are, to come up with solutions to the problems we find, and to look at the future;

Senator Villanueva, the Chairman of Higher Education and TESDA, who has emphasized the need to integrate futures perspectives in higher education; and

Senator Angara, who has adopted our recommendation of funding various futures thinking initiatives in the last three years.

We have various recommendations, which are in our Committee Report. But let me just emphasize:

  • Institutionalizing and providing an enabling environment for Futures Thinking in education and relevant agencies is very important;
  • Focusing on the whole child and supporting their holistic well-being;
  • Prioritizing the knowledge, skills, and mindsets in order to develop 21st Century competencies;
  • Ensuring that our local workforce is prepared to join the global workforce through training in English proficiency and digital literacy;
  • Improving the teaching profession;
  • Taking advantage of and investing in technology and innovation to enhance education; and
  • Crafting and implementing the relevant legislation and policies, and providing the necessary budgetary support.
  • In conclusion, with the world changing and advancing so rapidly, we are faced with the choice of either adapting or being left behind.

In cultivating a better environment for education and learning, we must devote more time and resources into research, planning, and investments to take us steps closer into our preferred future of education.

While this Committee Report is far from exhaustive, the Committee hopes that it is a small step towards bettering our education system for the long-term, and challenging our current views so that we can empower Filipinos with the skills needed to build a successful, dignified life, contributing again not only to the country, but also on a global stage.

Thank you, Mr. President.#

Senator Pia Cayetano: schools should focus on teaching students 21st century skills, including the 4 Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

EJ-PATAFA settlement hailed

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
On the settlement reached between EJ Obiena and PATAFA

It’s over!

This long running ordeal between world no.5 Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and his national sports association, PATAFA, has come to an end.

The Philippine Sports Commission has announced that EJ has been endorsed to play in the Southeast Asian Games and the World Outdoor Athletics championship.  All details regarding the mediation are confidential.

I look forward to seeing EJ jump again for the honor and glory of our country! #

EJ Obiena and Sen Pia Cayetano
The Philippine Sports Commission has announced that EJ has been endorsed to play in the Southeast Asian Games and the World Outdoor Athletics championship.