Get to know the priorities of senators in the 18th Congress

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Teachers’ pay, water and barangays (villages) are at the top of the minds of senators coming into the 18th Congress, with many of them including these issues in the first bills that they filed.

Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, Christopher “Bong” Go, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Ramon Bong Revilla and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri are all batting for a pay hike for teachers, with one of their proposals seeking to increase their salaries to almost ₱37,000.

Angara wants to upgrade the salary grade (SG) of teachers from SG 11 to SG 19, representing a ₱15,655 increase to ₱36,409 from their current pay of ₱20,754.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian is pushing for a more modest pay increase of ₱4,478 to ₱5,299 for educators holding the positions of Teacher I, Teacher II and Teacher III teaching grade school and high school by upgrading their SGs to SG 13, 14 and 15 from SG 11, 12 and 13, respectively.

Binay, on the other hand, wants to increase the monthly minimum wage of public school teachers to ₱28,000, while Drilon wants it up to ₱30,000. Binay also wants to boost non-teaching staff’s pay to ₱16,000.

Go and Senator Ralph Recto have filed bills seeking to amend the Salary Standardization Law and increase the pay of all government workers.

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed last year to double the salaries of public school teachers, after he doubled the base pay for uniformed personnel. However, Duterte backed out of this promise just months after, admitting that this is not possible.

The government has been repeatedly saying it is working on getting funding for teachers’ pay hike, but has not specified by how much it would increase the pay of educators.

READ: Malacañang to teachers: Be patient as we look for pay hike funding

Centralized water regulator

Senators Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto and Francis Tolentino have also heeded the call of the Duterte administration for the creation of a new government body that would be the sole agency that handles water concerns.

READ: Too many water agencies led to the water crisis — Pernia

Tolentino even takes it a step further, proposing to commission a research on drinking water in the face of climate change.

Pangilinan, meanwhile, wants to require all landowners, commercial, industrial and residential developers, and residential multi-dwelling units with an area of more than 1,000 square meters to catch rainwater and use it for irrigation, firefighting and flushing of toilets, among others.

For his part, Zubiri aims to provide potable water to every barangay.

Benefits for barangay officials

Barangay officials and workers have not escaped the radar of senators, with at least seven of them filing bills seeking to increase the benefits they receive.

Senators Leila de Lima, Hontiveros and Zubiri are batting for better benefits for village health workers.

Zubiri, along with Revilla, also want benefits for other barangay officials, including peacekeepers, lupon ng tagapamayapa and barangay daycare workers.

Binay is also pushing for the regularization of top barangay officials, including the Sangguniang Kabataan chairman, and the barangay secretary and treasurer.

Angara and Tolentino also filed similar bills.

Meanwhile, Senators Imee Marcos and Go want to extend the terms of barangay officials by postponing the May 2020 village polls.

Duterte’s priorities

Many senators, including those from the minority, also took the cudgels of pushing for Duterte’s priority bills.

This includes the establishment of a new department for risk reduction management, which Go, Pacquiao, Pangilinan, Poe and Tolentino filed.

Duterte’s call for the revival of the death penalty — a promise he made on the campaign trail in 2016 — still rings to this day, with Senators Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Go and Pacquiao pushing for such measure.

The President’s push for the return of mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is also being spearheaded in the Senate by Dela Rosa, Gatchalian, Pacquiao and Tolentino..

Related: Duterte certifies as urgent bill on mandatory ROTC

His administration’s bid to amend the Human Security Act to better crack down on suspected terrorists is also back in the legislative mill through the bills filed by Senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Lacson.

Lowering the minimum age of criminal liability from 15, which Duterte also favors, is still being pushed by Sotto and Gordon.

READ: Duterte 'comfortable' with minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12

Tolentino is the only senator who included in the first 10 bills they filed a measure granting Duterte emergency powers to solve traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

READ: Duterte: Let EDSA stay as it is

All these measures, except the amendments to the Human Security Act, were passed by the House but gathered dust in the Senate. The reverse happened with the bill granting Duterte emergency powers, which was passed by the Senate but died in the House with the closing of Congress.

Death penalty remains an uphill battle in the Senate, Sotto admitted, unless it is limited to drug-related offenses. This was echoed by Dela Rosa, who wants to convince Go to drop plunder from the list of offenses he wants punished by death.

This, including the revival of mandatory ROTC and the lowering of the age of criminal liability also face stiff opposition from minority senators.

Not a single senator included a proposal for charter change among the first 10 bills that they filed, despite Duterte's push for it.

Other bills

Political reforms are also on the table in the Senate at the start of the 18th Congress, with Drilon and Lacson filing a bill to finally define and prohibit political dynasties, as mandated by the Constitution.

Drilon is also pushing to strengthen the political party system and discourage political turncoatism.

Meanwhile, Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Cynthia Villar and Go have filed bills creating a new department for overseas Filipinos.

Go has also filed a resolution seeking a new Senate committee on overseas employment, migrant workers and the welfare and protection of overseas Filipino communities.

Angara, meanwhile, refiled his proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers, which seeks to guarantee fundamental rights, benefits and comprehensive protection of sea-based Filipino workers worldwide.

Senator Joel Villanueva filed a bill seeking insurance coverage for overseas Filipino workers, while Pimentel refiled his Expanded Balikbayan Program bill.

Poe and Recto are pushing for the regulation of motorcycles-for-hire, amid the rise of services like Angkas.

Senators Risa Hontiveros, Angara and Poe are batting for an increase in the monthly pension for senior citizens. Lapid, meanwhile, is pushing for the automatic adjustment of Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System pensions.

Go, Gordon and Hontiveros are also pushing for better benefits of single parents by amending the Solo Parents Welfare Act.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian, Lacson and Zubiri are renewing the push for the registration of SIM cards.

Angara and Hontiveros have also continued the battle for an anti-discrimination bill that protects members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) sector.

READ: A law to protect the Filipino LGBTQ+ community against discrimination remains elusive

Binay and Pangilinan, for their part, are seeking to regulate the use of plastics in the country.

READ: Southeast Asian countries commit to combat sea trash

Here is a list of the first 10 bills filed by each senator in the 18th Congress: