Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday welcomed the approval on third and final reading of Senate Bill No. 2332, which seeks to amend the Anti-Rape Law to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from the current 12 years old to 16.
“This amendment is long overdue. It’s high time we strengthen the law to end child rape,” said the senator, who is a co-sponsor of the measure.
At the same time, Cayetano lauded the inclusion of the so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘close-in-age’ clause in the approved bill, which will protect the rights of young people who get involved in consensual and non-abusive sexual relations.
“The Romeo and Juliet clause is integral to the bill.” Quoting a statement from the Child Rights Network, the senator explained that the Romeo and Juliet clause “ensures that the law on statutory rape does not criminalize consensual and non-abusive sex between people close in age. This protects young people from being labeled as sex offenders” if they do have consensual sex with their peers. This position is also supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and backed by various civil society groups. #
I’d like to join the coaches and other stakeholders in expressing my serious concerns on the resumption of training for college and university student-athletes during this time of COVID-19.
Let’s start with the law, Republic Act 10676 also known as the Student-Athletes Protection Act, which I principally authored and sponsored. Section 2 of the law provides that student-athletes are first & foremost students. It further states that the obligation of schools & athletic associations to ensure that they attain quality education should remain a priority.
So before we even start talking about the resumption of training, let me ask, how is their schooling? Are they getting the support they need for their education? I know many of them have returned to their homes in the provinces where access to WiFi might be weak or even non-existent. Many of them are also scholars and are in need of financial assistance. How about tutorials? In pre-COVID times, many athletes would spend at least 12 hours a week training, hours that other students spend studying. Some had access to tutorials then. What about now, when both online and modular education are faced with even more challenges?
As a former student-athlete and member of the PH Women’s Volleyball Team, and also as a mother of two student-athletes, I have always believed in prioritizing studies over training. It’s all about finding balance. Has that changed now because of COVID-19? Because all this talk about training without any mention of the educational needs of the student-athletes seems to be a distortion of our priorities.
I also happen to chair the Senate Finance l Subcommittee that oversees the proposed budget for higher education. I’m very cognizant of the concerns of colleges & universities in ensuring the safety and protection of students, teachers, and employees against the COVID-19 virus. Thus, as early as the budget hearings I held in September, I have already expressed my concern about this issue when I first heard about the possible resumption of student-athletes’ training.
Professional sports associations such as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Philippine Football League (PFL) already started training and conducting games. And despite the safety and security measures that they implemented, a PBA player and 9 PFL players were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 in their pro league bubbles. Are the schools prepared to spend for the bubbles, the isolated quarters, and the regular testing, in addition to the usual training expenses? From my own experience as a soccer mom, many schools cannot even ensure a sufficient budget for the medical expenses incurred by their student-athletes. How will they take on the full responsibility of securing the welfare of student-athletes, many of whom are below 21 years old, if they get mass infected by the virus?
These incidents reveal that while we still do not have a vaccine for COVID-19, the risks of transmission & infection are high, even in sports leagues & training bubbles administered by professional leagues, where strict health & safety protocols are being observed and spent for.
The move to resume training was justified by the need for student-athletes to be “mentally and physically fit.” But why are we limiting it to student-athletes? Don’t all students have the right to be mentally and physically fit?
I’m all for being fit & recognizing exercise as a vital component of mental health, especially during this time of COVID-19. This should be a program for all students that can be integrated in their study schedules from home. Breathing exercises, yoga stretches, cardio and strength training that do not require much space and equipment can easily be designed by fitness experts. But to resume student-athletes’ training in an unsecured environment is an entirely different matter. I’m glad many coaches also aired their concerns. Like many, I’m an avid UAAP fan who looks forward to weekends of watching games but this would have to wait.#
Statement welcoming the signing of the National Academy of Sports Act
By Senator Pia S. Cayetano Principal author and co-sponsor, RA 11470
Ten years after I first filed the Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) bill, it is now a law! Republic Act No. 11470, renamed as the National Academy of Sports, was signed into law by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte today.
I thank our President and all my colleagues in the Senate and House who made significant contributions to this law and for making this a reality.
I have always believed that sports can transform lives and uplift communities. As a former student-athlete and national team player for volleyball, this measure is close to my heart, and has been part of my advocacy for a decade. I remember filing my first version of this proposal back in 2010, based on an idea shared by Fr. Carmelo “Tito” Caluag. Then a member of the House of Representatives, Senator Sonny Angara also filed a similar bill in the Bigger House.
Over the years, I have visited national training centers and high schools for sports in other countries. These centers have allowed their young student-athletes to pursue their passion in sports, get the training they need, and still stay in school. We have so much talent all over the country, but for many student-athletes, it has always been a choice – to study or to train. Now they can have both!
With the enactment of this law, we are a step closer towards building a better future for millions of young Filipinos who have the potential to excel both in sports and in life. They can now receive world-class training while pursuing their academic education. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed much of the way we live, but it will just be a matter of time that our athletes will be back training in full force.
This law will certainly open more doors for our youth, including opportunities for college scholarships and the chance to represent our country. But beyond this is the opportunity to build their character and teach them values like hard work and discipline through sports, which will prepare them for a brighter future ahead. These young athletes will bring honor to their families and hometowns, and will become our next generation of homegrown heroes!
The National Academy of Sports will be instrumental in cultivating national pride. Training with the best in the country will elevate our young athletes’ level of performance in regional and international sports competitions. This will enable us to build on our recent victory in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. The foundation has been laid; the time has come to build a nation of winners. And we will continue to win as one! #
Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing to synchronize the country’s different adoption laws to hasten the process of finding a ‘second home’ for abandoned and neglected children across the country.
Cayetano delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday (February 26) to urge her fellow senators to support her bill, the Alternative Child Care Act (SBN 61). Her speech also coincided with the commemoration of February as Adoption Consciousness Month.
Citing a report from the United Nations’ Children’s Right and Emergency Relief Organization (UNICEF), Cayetano said about 1.8 million Filipino children remain abandoned or neglected for various reasons, including extreme poverty, domestic problems, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and other issues.
Meanwhile, the senator cited data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) showing that only around 2,191 children in the country have been placed for domestic adoption between 2010 and 2018.
“In eight years, [that’s] less than 300 children we are placing for adoption [yearly],” she pointed out.
“It is my personal conviction that we consider the state of each of these [abandoned and neglected] children,” added Cayetano, herself a foster parent and eventual adoptive mother to her 8-year-old son, Rene Lucas.
SBN 61 seeks to codify the country’s different laws on alternative child care and further improve the country’s foster care programs, such that out-of-home care provided by residential facilities shall only be a last resort for abandoned and neglected children.
The bill also makes domestic adoption administrative in nature in order to streamline its procedures and make formal adoption more accessible to families who are willing and qualified to adopt a child.
“The Constitution states that, ‘the State shall defend the right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development,’” Cayetano cited in her privilege speech.
“I leave all of you with that visual of 1.8 million Filipino children without families who will care for and love them – not a mother or father to read them a bedtime story, to tuck them in, to even ensure that they come home when the sun goes down,” she added
“This is the objective of improving our law, so that we can expedite our [adoption and foster care] procedures, and we can place these children [under foster or adoptive families] faster so that they can have the home that they deserve,” the senator concluded. #
Following the passage of the Sin Tax Law that substantially raises taxes on electronic cigarettes, Senator Pia S. Cayetano appealed to fellow parents to safeguard and educate their children from the dangers of picking up “these new dangerous vices” that seem to be targeting the youth.
“This is my call to all Filipino parents, please (discourage your children from) using these heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vapes. These devices are harmful to their health,” said the senator, who sponsored the sin tax measure in the Senate as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
The senator had initially pushed for higher tax rates on HTPs and vapes, citing evidence from health experts that such products could not be considered as effective cessation devices, and that they could cause harm to non-smokers and the youth.
“I based my position on [scientific evidence and] the recommendations of health advocates, no less than the World Health Organization (WHO), that we treat these e-cigarettes and HTPs equally as if they are cigarettes,” she stressed during a press conference with sin tax advocates on Tuesday (January 28).
“It is my job to veer on the side of safety. That ‘s why the position I’ve always taken is, unless there is convincing evidence that these are truly cessation products, and that these companies are willing to register them as such, then we should treat them as harmful products,” Cayetano added.
On this note, the senator reiterated her call for young Filipinos and non-smokers to avoid using e-cigarettes, HTPs, and vapes, as these could cause serious damage to their health.
“I call on all our young people. I will never get tired of reminding you that these products – HTPs, ENDS/ENNDS (Electronic Nicotine/Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems), and vapes – can be dangerous to your bodies. We don’t want you to take on these brand new vices,” Cayetano stressed.
Meanwhile, the senator expressed commitment to work with fellow legislators, other government agencies, and advocacy groups in assessing and strengthening the country’s smoking- and drinking-cessation programs. #
To fulfill the vision of a sustainable future for all Filipinos, the government should work on ensuring quality and accessible eye care services for citizens that will help them achieve brighter and healthier lives.
Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano in light of the celebration of World Sight Day (October 10). Held every second Thursday of October, the event seeks to draw global attention to blindness and vision impairment with the goal of preventing them.
A known health advocate, Cayetano stressed the need to protect the eyesight of all Filipinos – from young children to senior citizens. She added that poor vision and avoidable blindness remain an underreported public health issue in the country.
Data from the Department of Health (DOH) in 2017 showed that more than two million people nationwide were blind or suffering from poor vision, with an estimated 332,150 Filipinos bilaterally blind, and 2.179 million with bilateral low vision.
The senator, for her part, stressed that the passage of a new law establishing a national vision screening program for kindergarten pupils could help turn the situation around.
It was Cayetano who authored and sponsored Republic Act 11358, or the ‘National Vision Screening Act,’ which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year.
The new law seeks to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) for young pupils under the Department of Education (DepEd).
The senator said early detection of eye problems is crucial in ensuring immediate intervention and proper treatment for children suffering from early vision impairments.
“Ensuring the full well-being of our children is the first step to enable them to reach their full potential and grow up as our partners in attaining sustainable growth and development,” she said.
Moreover, the law also paves the way for the fulfillment of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), added Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.
Goal 3 of the United Nations’ SDGs calls on nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. This includes the provision of essential services based on tracer interventions like vision screening.
In 2016, Cayetano partnered with the Taguig city government and the University of the Philippines-Manila Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) to spearhead a pilot vision screening test for kindergarten pupils in the city.
150 pupils aged five to six underwent a simple vision-screening test, about 15 of whom were found to have vision problems, and in turn, given immediate and proper treatment. #
Senator Pia S. Cayetano has vowed to increase from P1.5 billion to P15 billion the funding allocation for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Last Mile Schools (LMS) Program in next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national government budget.
Cayetano, the Senate Finance Committee vice chair, said the tenfold increase will benefit 830 Last Mile Schools located in far-flung and hinterland communities across the country.
“I have personally visited some of these schools whenever I would hike or bike to upland communities, particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region,” she shared.
A mountain biker and hiking enthusiast, Cayetano regularly visits upland schools in the north to bring learning materials and conduct fitness and football clinics for students.
She said that LMS usually have multi-grade level classrooms due to the limited number of classrooms accommodating the communities’ entire student population from different grade levels.
“Multi-grade level classrooms are actually an acceptable education model. My children grew up in this kind of setting. What is important is that the teachers are well-trained to handle multi-grade level classrooms and that the class sizes remain small,” Cayetano explained.
She said the core of DepEd’s LMS Program is ensuring that the schools’ classrooms are made of sturdy material and equipped with the proper learning facilities, including computers that have access to programs complementing the classroom teaching, and electricity.
The DepEd had originally asked for a P21.52 billion budget for its LMS program for next year, but only P1.5 billion was approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program.
A memorandum issued by the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration last August, however, directed the DBM to include and prioritize the “Last Mile Schools Fund” as a new line item under DepEd’s budget in the 2020 NEP.
“We should not forget about the Filipino families in far-flung areas who also want the best future for their children,” she stressed. “This is one of my ways to ensure that in our shared goal of fostering growth through education, no Filipino child will get left behind.”
“I also hope more senators would be willing to go the extra mile to help our last mile schools, and by actively supporting tax reforms, whose proceeds will help fund social services and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” added Cayetano, who also chairs the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.
As of September 1, there are about 9,225 schools identified as LMS, with CAR (1,223), Western Visayas (824) and Eastern Visayas (1,076) having the most number – excluding the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
According to DepEd, most LMS are more than an hour away from the town center, in places with problems in peace and order, and which private contractors, suppliers and service providers find difficult to access.
LMS have multi-grade level classes, with less than five teachers, and a student population of less than 100, more than 75% of which are usually indigenous people. They have very limited facilities, which had never been repaired in the last four years. #
Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said raising the compensation of teachers is the best affirmation of government’s high regard for the country’s educators and their contributions to nation-building.
The senator issued the statement in time for National Teachers’ Day, which is being observed on October 5 (Saturday).
A staunch education advocate, Cayetano authored Senate Bill No. 70, or the ‘Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act.’
The measure proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd).
The salary hike shall be granted over three years in three tranches, starting with a P4,000 monthly pay hike on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 per month on the third year.
The bill is currently being deliberated with similar measures by a technical working group under the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation.
“Raising the compensation of teachers affirms the dignity of the teaching profession. This will not only improve their lives, but also inspire them to further improve,” she explained.
“We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support. Also, we can still do better to make the teaching profession more attractive to the best and brightest,” she stressed.
“I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children – that they can go to any school in the Philippines, and get the best education possible because they will be mentored by intelligent and dedicated teachers,” she added.
Cayetano pointed out that empowering teachers to successfully fulfill their role in society is part of the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Goal 4 of the SDGs particularly states that by 2030, the supply of qualified teachers in the country should have substantially increased.
Apart from the salary adjustment, Cayetano’s bill seeks to grant public school teachers the following benefits: Medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and additional compensation from local school board funds.
The former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has championed the passage of landmark laws that enhanced public education in the country, including the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647).#
Co-sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Senate Bill No. 1086, establishing a Philippine High School for Sports
This is a happy day for me because I drafted and filed this bill 9 years ago. I was so much younger then and ran so much faster. But so did the presiding officer.
It is no secret that I am a believer in sports, and I believe that sports can change lives. I am proud to be a member of a Senate where majority of the members include sports in their lives:
Needless to say, Sen. Manny Pacquaio is considered as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.
The Senate President, Philippine National Team in bowling, garnered gold several times, and currently is a golf enthusiast who still continues to win tournaments.
Our Majority Floor Leader, Migz, National Champion and 1989 World Champion. I saw the video and I wish we could play it. But please interpellate me later on so I can play that World Championship… the winning moves. I think a few kilos lighter.
And then we have our “never say die” basketball players. Sen. Joel Villanueva, a UST Growling Tigers UAAP champion 1994-1995 and Philippine national team.
And then Senator Sonny Angara, who is part of the Senate Defenders – that is the official name of our basketball team.
Sen. Bong Go, who brings serious professionalism to the games that he plays with the likes of my brother. He was part of the roster of the Muntinlupa Cagers in the Maharlika Basketball League, a pro league started by Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, my batch mate in UP, we were both UP volleyball Maroons. And he was also a track and field runner – a track runner.
Next is Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, I approached him to ask for a picture. That is actually not his main sport but that is his current sport. Correct? Am I correct? But his sport as a young athlete included soccer, swimming, and taekwondo.
So again, please interpellate me so that I can put the pictures – the appropriate pictures of Sen. Recto while I am defending this bill.
And then our main sponsor, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. That was the… I actually failed to get the full description, but the picture speaks for itself.
And yours truly, a UP Maroon and National Team Player for Volleyball as well.
Anyway, so now that I have put you all in a better mood, the sad reality we face. Mr. President, is that many of our young athletes who show talent are usually forced to choose between an education and sports. That window where they can shine as an athlete is not open for a long time. They must take advantage of that moment in time. And if they miss it, the moment is gone.
Because of that, some choose to give up schooling, others give up their sports. Those who give up schooling take a huge risk. Betting on sports alone for your future is a shot in the dark. Not everyone gets to be a Manny Pacquiao. After their moment in the lime light, without an education, they have little to fall back on.
I’d like to share another story, which is the story of many athletes today. One of my lawyers, Joei Gana-Teves – she made it to the Philippine volleyball youth team. But her teacher did not believe in sports and considered her absent every time she attended practices and threatened to fail her when she had to leave for one week to participate in the Asian youth games.
She then made a choice to go to the games and was very much impressed but at the same time saddened that other countries like Singapore and Malaysia, had a national sports high school where they were able to study and do the sport they love at the same time.
But this need not happen, Mr. President.
In countries that take sports seriously, they start at a young age. Those who show talent are given the chance to train with the best coaches and with equally talented and driven athletes. They are able to do that because they have sports centers all over the country and they have sports schools – high schools and universities. National sports schools and universities.
I had the privilege of visiting some of these sports high schools in Germany and Spain. The young athletes were able to focus on their sport but at the same time continue their studies.
Fast forward, and obviously, Senator Bong Go and I have the same source. We both have visited New Clark City. This was very early in 2018, when we did some groundbreaking. This is the initial stages of the construction.
Fast forward, not even two years later. This is the New Clark City today….
This aerial photo was actually taken from Gretchen Ho. I borrowed that from her. If you look at the main circle, that is the stadium, and the track in the middle is the main track. You will wonder, why is there another track on the upper right side. Well that is the practice track, the warm up track. That is required to have that Class 1 certification.
And, if you look at the next picture I am about to show, so this is the picture of the actual track and stadium, the next picture. Okay, the one on the right is an actual requirement also to get that Class 1 certification. It is an 80-meter indoor track where you warm up just before your event is called. So you have those two warm up tracks in addition to the main track. That is air-conditioned by the way.
I happened to visit a few weeks ago, and those are national track athletes that I was running with.
This is the swimming pool. Take note, that is an 8-lane, 50-meter pool. But that is just the warm up pool. The main pool is 10 lanes and has a bigger capacity. And then on the right side is the diving pool. So together, this is also a world-class certified aqua center, the only one in the country.
This is the dormitories, the same photo that Sen. Go showed you. We actually have the national triathlon team and the national track and field team living in these quarters now. And pretty soon, this will be the home of the Southeast Asian Games athletes who will come here to participate in December.
New Clark City is a sustainable city that will house our athletes for the SEA Games. And this is also where this sports school will be built.
It is envisioned that the students will have access to vocational, sports, and academic tracks so that each of them can still fulfill their own dreams.
Mr. President, Senate Bill 506, which I filed, is considered in this Committee Report. However, my version, Mr. President, specifically has a provision that says that the track will not be limited to sports. Because there are athletes who dream to be other things, to be more than athletes. They can be an athlete and they can have other professions as well.
Just because I am only familiar with the UP graduates, I use them as an example. Mr. President, UP has produced, among others, two summa cum laude graduates, one with a BS in Math, summa cum laude, and another one with a BS in Sports Science who went on and is currently in her third year in med school with PGH UP College of Manila. They did this while being in the varsity of UP. The BS Math major was a Judo player, and the other one was a volleyball player.
Assuming that there was a high school for sports when they were younger, it would have been really sad if we limited them to a sports program, because clearly, they had the ability and the desire to do something else as well.
And that is why we are also pushing for programs beyond sports to be offered for Senior High here. Mr. President, I call on your support dear colleagues. Let us help make these individual dreams come true and at the same time build a nation of winners.
The Senate Finance Committee has approved on Thursday the proposed P551.72-billion budget for the basic education sector for 2020, following the hearing of Subcommittee ‘D’ led by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, the panel’s vice chairperson.
The budget for the Department of Education (DepEd) and its attached agencies, which increased by 3.79% from 2019’s P531.57-billion budget, will now move to the plenary for deliberations.
The attached agencies of DepEd include the Philippine High School for the Arts, National Council for Children’s Television, National Book Development Board, National Museum, and Early Childhood Care and Development Council.
“We are happy to support your budget. I also thank DepEd for acknowledging my observation to create an office on innovation and futures thinking for education,” said Cayetano, who also chairs the newly created Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking.
During the budget hearing, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones showed support for the proposal to create a separate committee on innovation and futures thinking in order to confront new trends in the sector.
Cayetano for her part expressed hope that, after receiving the lion’s share of the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, the agency would be able to address concerns involving the country’s public education system.
Among which is the need to improve the teacher-to-student ratio in public schools in the country, by hiring more teachers and adopting learning innovations to oversee the development of students.
“To address the issue of classroom sizes and the lack of learning resources, I want to start the discussion on blended learning,” the senator said, referring to the education style where students are taught through traditional face-to-face teaching, as well as via electronic and online media.
“I am a proponent of multilevel classrooms. I am also a proponent of personalized education… I have yet to go to a public school where the materials available are overflowing,” she added.
The senator then encouraged DepEd to ensure the full delivery of services under its DepEd Computerization Program (DCP), which gives both public school teachers and students access to multimedia tools and technologies to promote digital literacy.
“There are many ways to teach a child. We can make it more exciting,” Cayetano said, adding that technology-based blended learning could enable teachers to attend to the needs of each child in their class.
Meanwhile, the senator also urged the agency to step up in improving the quality of the country’s public educators.
She cited Finland as a model for education reforms, noting that all Finnish teachers have master’s degrees.
“We should be looking at similar targets. We could [allot] a fund and divide it geographically to provide Filipino teachers with scholarships,” Cayetano suggested.
“What I recommend is to have in-house training, as well as scholarships for international training. So that in the coming years, we will have more quality teachers,” she added.
Finally, the senator pushed anew for the improvement of Filipino youths’ English proficiency to make them more job-ready and globally competitive.
“I want to make sure we have a strategic program on [English proficiency] because [this is] our edge among other countries. English competence should not be set aside just because we are teaching [children] in the mother tongue,” Cayetano stressed. #