By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, deemed 2021 a landmark year of demanding accountability and shielding the welfare of Filipino women and children as the country reeled from the effects of the pandemic.
“Makasaysayan ang taong ito para sa Senado na double-time na nagtrabaho maipasa lang ang mga batas na tutulong sa muling pagbangon ng ating bansa mula sa pandemya. Ginulat man tayo ng Delta variant, hindi naman tayo nagpatinag sa ating hangarin na ‘healthy buhay at hanapbuhay’ para sa lahat,” she said.
This year, Hontiveros did a series of revealing interventions in committee hearings at the Senate, demanding accountability from government officials who were involved in money-making schemes and anomalous transactions with companies that were seemingly favored by the administration.
“Ang pagsugpo sa korapsyon, pag-demand ng accountability at transparency sa mga transaksyong pinapasukan ng gobyerno ay pagsisiguradong napupunta sa tamang mga programa at serbisyo ang pera ng taumbayan,” the senator stated.
Hontiveros unveiled the questionable transaction of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation. During the Senate probe on the Commission on Audit findings on the utilization of the Department of Health budget, Hontiveros highlighted the fugitive status of the company’s officials, the alleged connections of its executive officers with the President, and their undeclared incomes.
“People who are maliciously taking advantage of the situation for their personal gain at the expense of the Filipino people will be held accountable. Nauna na rito ang pagkakaaresto sa magkapatid na Dargani,” she said.
Earlier this year, Hontiveros also uncovered another racket of corrupt immigration officers, this time victimizing Filipino women being sold off in Syria as virtual servant labor or prostituted women. The hearing of the Committee prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs to swiftly repatriate trafficked Filipinas.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa DFA sa kanilang agarang aksyon na tulungan kaming mapauwi ang mga kababaihang biktima ng trafficking. We are hoping that other agencies will do the same, para sa ating mga kabataan at kababaihan,” she said.
Moreover, Hontiveros is also elated that the crucial measures improving the lives of women and their children were given utmost priority in the Senate.
Hontiveros primarily pushed for the expansion of the coverage and benefits of solo parents, including monthly cash subsidy of P1,000 for indigent solo parents, automatic Philhealth coverage and apprenticeship programs in TESDA for eligible solo parents and their children.
Other legislative accomplishments of the senator this year tackled the prohibition and declaration of child marriage as illegal; raised the age to determine statutory rape to below 16 years old; and the Domestic Administration Adoption Act.
“Our national leaders are united by a common goal of ensuring a brighter future for our children and that parents are sufficiently supported. The Senate has clearly said no to child rape and child marriage and said yes to more economic support for solo parents. It is a victory for all of us,” she explained.
The senator then expressed her hope that the Senate would be able to push more laws that would elevate the quality of life of Filipinos.
“Hopefully, more laws for a ‘healthy buhay and hanapbuhay’ would also be passed in 2022. There is always so much to be done,” she concluded.