A MAGNITUDE 7 earthquake jolted Congress to urge the new leadership to certify as urgent the refiled bill seeking to create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) which failed to pass in the last 18th Congress. 

The president thus certified the bill as a priority bill which needs to be placed in the agenda of the present congress. A new department is necessary to prepare, train, acquire and create evacuation centers on a year-round basis, considering that the Philippines is within the “Ring of Fire” and thus prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, as well as, strong and violent storms, the proponents of the new bill, explained.

           While we have the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC), this body does not operate year-round because it is actually an ad-hoc center, whereby about 44 government agencies are called upon to meet and coordinate their response to an already happening natural calamity or when there is an imminent threat of a volcanic eruption or an approaching typhoon. What about an earthquake which is unpredictable?

           As a department, the DDR is envisioned to be primarily responsible for overseeing, coordinating, monitoring and in evaluating disaster and climate change resilience plans and programs. As also explained, the DDR “aims to streamline the government’s response in times of disasters, a process which involves multiple agencies at the moment.”

           Let us hope that the new bill is acted upon soonest so that the DDR shall be put in place and operational before any devastating natural calamity follows this magnitude 7 earthquake. The “BIG ONE” that has been predicted by many manghuhula to happen in Metro-Manila sometime soon. Let us pray their predictions are wrong. We recall that there was a report on the Metro-Manila Earthquake Vulnerability Assessment that pictured a very harrowing scene of thousands of people dead and injured, collapsed homes and buildings including hospitals, school buildings, fire stations, police stations, etc. and rendering millions of people homeless, and with electricity, transportation and communications disrupted. 

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It appears that the new administration, along with its soldiers in Congress, are pushing for the amendment of the Constitution in order to change the government system from a presidential to a parliamentary form. This was the observation by one political pundit who commented that the naming of Sen. Robin Padilla as chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, signaled this intent by the administration. He observed that Padilla is a close ally of the vice president whose father had been pushing for the amendment during his term as president. 

Padilla campaigned actively with the Uniteam and has been espousing for a federal government in his campaign speeches. In fact, he had earlier filed a proposed senate resolution for the committee, which he now chairs, to study the country’s shift to the federal system. He further seeks to propose changes on the economic provisions to allow “direct foreign investment”. Padilla is confident that with the present membership in Congress, the federal system proposal has a better chance of passing.

It will certainly be an achievement for an inexperienced legislator and non-lawyer to head the passage of a bill changing our form of government. Don’t you think so?

Then should a shift to a parliamentary form be realized, there is the possibility of an extension of the term of the incumbent president and maybe even accommodate past president GMA as a prime minister? By the way, Padilla was quoted as saying that PP GMA was a factor in his huge win in the last elections… Just saying.