Hontiveros: Health And Women Won Big In 17th Congress

“The cause of public health and women won big in the 17th Congress.”

This was how Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros hailed the historic gains made for public health and women’s rights in the Senate as it concludes today the legislature’s 17th Congress.

“I am very happy and honored to have been the principal sponsor and author of many of these landmark measures. I thank my fellow Senators, advocates and partners for helping me work on the successful passage of long-awaited laws like the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Mental Health Act of 2016, and the Safe Spaces Act, even as we continue to serve as fiscalizers of government and resist efforts to undermine democracy, human rights and the country’s sovereignty,” Hontiveros said.

According to Hontiveros’s office, the Senator was able to secure the passage of at least 13 landmark laws, and served as principal sponsor for eight (8) of these measures at the Senate. Six (6) bills of which she was the principal sponsor or author were also already in advanced stages of legislation, and 39 more bills which she authored were sent to their appropriate Senate committees for deliberation.

Health Reforms

Hontiveros, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said she was particularly elated with the passage of the Mental Health Act of 2016 or Republic Act (RA) 11036, which will expand the availability of mental health services, and the Expanded Maternity Leave Law or RA 11210, which now grants paid maternity leave for working mothers up to 120 days. These new measures, she noted, had been previously stuck in the legislative mill for years.

She added that equally important laws like the new Universal Health Care Act (RA 11223), which seeks to provide all Filipino with accessible and affordable healthcare, and the strengthened Anti-Hospital Deposit Act (RA 10932), which now prohibits hospitals from demanding the payment of deposits before treating patients, will go a long way in improving the public health sector.

Other new landmark laws which Hontiveros supported include the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act (RA 11148), the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act (RA 11166), the act on mandatory Philhealth coverage for persons with disabilities (RA 11228) and the Speech Language Pathology Act (RA 11249).

Safe Streets

Another historic measure for women sponsored by Hontiveros in the 17tH Congress was the Safe Spaces Act, which lapsed into law last April.

According to Hontiveros, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, the law imposes strict penalties for acts of harassment like catcalling, indecent gestures, and stalking, to prevent cases of gender-based abuse and harassment, which usually occur in public places like open streets.

Peace, Child Rights

Hontiveros also pushed for the passage of importants laws on peace and development, as well as laws that will better protect the rights and needs of children.

Among the laws Hontiveros worked on include the Bangsamoro Basic Law (RA 11054) which seeks to ensure lasting peace and progress in Mindanao, and the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act (RA 11188), which aims to better promote the rights of children and prevent their use and recruitment in armed conflict.

She also backed the Simulated Birth Rectification Act (RA 11222), to better protect the rights of adopted children, and to make the adoption process more convenient for children and parents alike.

To ensure genuine development in all parts of the country, Hontiveros similarly lent her support to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act (RA 11310), which has institutionalized the grant of financial assistance to impoverished but hard-working families.

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