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MANILA — Senator Franklin Drilon, who was re-elected as the Senate President last July 22 during the opening of the 16th Congress, has laid out his legislative agenda as the new head of the Senate, vowing to win back people’s trust in the embattled institution.

After being elected with a 17-6 vote and defeating Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Drilon admitted that the allegations hounding the legislators have affected the image of the Upper Chamber.

“We recognize that the events in the past months have affected the perception by the people of the Senate. The institution has been adversely affected,” he said before his fellow senators.

Drilon, who first held the Senate presidency in 2000, and 2001 to 2006, said it is the senators’ individual and collective obligation to bring back the confidence of the people to this vital institution of democracy.”

Recently, 28 lawmakers — 23 representatives and five senators, including Enrile — were linked into a P10-billion pork barrel fund scam.

According to reports, the solons allegedly made their Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, available to dummy non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were set up with the intention of ‘siphoning’ public funds to ghost projects for 10 years.

The Senate, under the leadership of Enrile, has also been criticized about allegedly uneven and excessive distribution of Senate funds.

“The only way to do this is to work harder and to show to our people that we deserve their mandate and trust,” Drilon said.

He also said he was saddened by the public’s perception that the Senate is only a ‘debating club,’ and only serves the wealthy and not addressing the welfare of the poor.

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“Let us make it clear that we debate because it is only through a vibrant exchange of ideas that we can craft the best laws for economic development and social protection that would spur massive job creation.”

Among the plans that he will push in the senate are the Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives; the Rationalization of the Mining Fiscal Regime; Amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law; the Tax Incentives Monitoring and Transparency Act (TIMTA); and the Removal of Investment Restrictions in Specific Laws cited in the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL).

A faster disposition of cases in the lower and high courts is a key to “restoring people’s confidence in our justice system,” said Drilon, who was secretary of justice during the Cory Aquino administration.

“It will also underscore our seriousness in pursuing the path of good governance. Amending the Ombudsman Act and the Sandiganbayan Law to ensure the speedy resolution of 2,600 cases currently pending with the anti-graft court will be a good start,” he said. (Manila Bulletin)