ROSES AND THORNS
It has been two years since the pandemic, and it seems that we are slowly seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. The word “tough” cannot fully describe the hardships that our countrymen have gone through. A number of businesses closed, people lost their livelihood and the staggering death toll among friends and families tested our spirits and our mental health.
Admittedly, there have been, and still are, a lot of gaps in the government’s general COVID-19 response. However, there are a few things that we can be thankful for, and principal among them are enlightened laws that were already in place when the pandemic first hit, thus reinforcing our capacity to withstand much of its socio-economic impact.
Closest to my heart, of course, is the education sector. Both teachers and students were immensely affected by the pandemic, with the so-called new normal forcing them to go online for lessons or, even worse, have printed modules claimed from a central location or sent to their respective homes. One of the laws that have served as a foundation to help students and teachers during the pandemic is Republic Act 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
With this RA in place, authored by former three-term senator and current Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, training and support for teachers during the transition to online classes was provided for by the government. That training definitely helped a lot of our good teachers cope with the new challenges of online learning, and pass that coping wisdom to their students as well.
Incidentally – and perhaps not generally known by many – it was also Deputy Speaker Legarda who filed the“One Tablet, One Student Act of 2021,” which seeks to give a digital tablet and internet allowance to each student enrolled in public schools, colleges and universities.
The pandemic also greatly affected businesses, especially micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs). Through RA 9501, known as the Magna Carta for MSMEs, government support for small businesses is mandated. Through this law, entrepreneurs are provided with skills training, fund options and institutional safeguards for the protection of their businesses, especially in times of crises. This was definitely a much-needed support beam for countless business owners who struggled in the past 24 months.
Of course, as the COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis, the law that was definitely at the forefront is RA 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act. It was this landmark legislation that all but guaranteed that Filipinos would have had access to affordable health care. Needless to say, in the midst of a global pandemic, this was nothing short of a game-changer.
Again, Legarda was one of the proponents of the Magna Carta for MSMEs and, as Senate finance chair, saw to it that the Universal Health Care Act was sufficiently funded during its first year of implementation.
This tells us a few things. Apart from Legarda being a visionary lawmaker, it shows us how important the role of legislators (our congressmen and our senators) are. They are not there to give dole outs. They are there to make sensible laws that mandate and enable the government’s executive branch to help the sectors and people who are in need. We experienced this first hand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accordingly, it is crucial for us to keep this in mind this coming May 9. We need to choose lawmakers that will craft and pass RA2RA – Republic Acts to Recover and Advance. As in Deputy Speaker Legarda’s example, these are laws that make sense; laws that will serve as a foundation for proper government service and, more urgently, help us get back on our feet after suffering through periods of adversity.
When we cast our ballots, let us think of candidates who have a forward-looking legislative agenda. You’ll be doing everyone a service by taking time to look at each candidate’s performance record and their passion for REAL public service as a legislator. — Pia Roces Morato
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