MANILA - Six bills authored by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as representative of Pampanga's 2nd district became laws even when she was in detention.
Arroyo is going back to work in Congress as the 17th Congress opens Monday. She became a congresswoman after she left the presidency in 2010.
"I had seven bills that became six laws," she said. Two bills were collaborations with her youngest son, then-Camarines Sur Rep Dato Arroyo.
"The first bill that Dato and I filed that became a law was the Household Helpers’ Rights (Kasambahay Bill). We filed HB1140 on August 2, 2010 and then it became law on January 18, 2013. And then again Dato and I filed a bill, Aquaculture and Fisheries Mechanization. We filed it on the same day as the House Helper's Rights and then it became a law on June 5, 2013," Arroyo said.
Arroyo explained how collaboration with Dato helped in these two bills.
"The first one, the bill on household helpers, actually that's Dato’s baby. The Center for Human Rights helped him to craft that, (Author's note: Arroyo’s youngest son, former Congressman Dato Arroyo, later on clarifies it’s the Ateneo Human Rights Center that helped him) so it was he and his staff who attended to it. The second bill, on aquaculture, the same thing, that's also Dato’s. Dato and his staff took care of that," she added.
There was one bill that did get affected by her detention, which is why it did not come out the way she wanted it.
"On November 11, 2010, I, after having some discussions with overseas Filipinos and we were discussing about overseas voters' rights, they wanted a bill that would give them more rights, more political rights, so therefore I filed a bill on absentee voting."
"The absentee voting that was mine and maybe that's why it was not passed exactly the way I wanted to because I wanted to allow overseas Filipinos who had become dual citizenship and coming back to be able to enter public office. I wanted that to be the amendment. But because I was in detention, I couldn't exactly say what my purpose was when it went through the legislative mill. What came out was really having more registration centers. In other words, increasing the participation of overseas Filipinos in the voting exercise so it was not exactly the way I had wanted to do it had I been outside. At least, I'm glad, as a result, the voting participation also increased because it's easier for them," Arroyo added.
Arroyo also authored the Anti-Drunk Driving Act.
"RA 3001 on November 11, 2010 that became law May 27, 2013. My fourth bill, which you guys I think wrote about, on drunk driving. I filed it on March 7, 2011, that was the first bill that got a lot of publicity, I think because I attended the committee hearing and you interviewed me about it. That was drunk driving, it was filed March 7, 2011 and it became law May 27, 2013. And so after that, I got detained but there were still some other bills I was able to file," she explained.
According to Arroyo, the Anti-Drunk Driving Act got help from one of her allies, even if she was no longer in the same political bloc as he was.
"The drunk driving, which you're very aware of them, the chairman of the Committee on Transportation was Oging Mercado and he was already in the majority at that time. He’d been my ally for the longest time even before I became president so I would follow it up with him when I was not yet detained and that's why he heard it and he gave it priority. And I guess, knowing that it was an important bill for me when my staff used to follow it up after it went through and maybe it might have been the first one that became law. It might have been the first one that became law among my bills. Ah no, it was the Kasambahay Bill and then my 2 bills on the Fisheries Code, the trade in sharks and the trade in corals and other bills," she said.
Two other bills also benefited from a very productive legislative mill.
"I had the chairmen in charge, who were [Rep.] 'Lalo' Matugas of Natural Resources and [Rep.] Marlyn Agabas of Revision of Laws, and I would say because they were very productive in their committees, so my bills were able to benefit from the productivity of their work, especially about the portion about the sharks because even my own allies were jokingly telling me, 'GMA, that one we cannot support because we eat sharks fin soup'," Arroyo said.
Overall, Arroyo said she filed over 250 bills, majority of which she filed while in detention.
"Actually, I filed over 250 bills, 204 of them were filed during my detention, so when I was already under detention because the drunk driving was the one just a few weeks before detention. After I became detained, I filed an amendment to the Fisheries Code to prohibit trade in corals, that was filed July 23, 2013 and then on the next day, we filed a bill to prevent trade in sharks. Actually, I have already done an executive order for that so it was meant to institutionalize it. And then finally, I had a local bill, the sharks bill and the coral bill were incorporated into one bill, an amendment to the Fisheries Code to prevent the environmental concerns. And then finally, I had a local bill that I filed on December 18, 2013 which became a law this year. Seven bills became laws and of course. I was very gratified I was able to do something even if was inside detention," she explained.
As to what's next for Arroyo in Congress, she said it's all up to God.
"Well, you know, as I told you, I'm a very devout Catholic and all my life, I always just ask the Lord to give me the discernment to do what He wants me to do, and so every day, I pray for discernment, I get it in my prayer time. I see it in the events that unfold about me. That's where it's all up to God."