MANILA, Philippines – After more than two years and intense scrutiny, the Senate finally approved the first pet bill of neophyte senator Manny Pacquiao.
Just a few months before the 17th Congress adjourns, the world boxing champion-turned-senator succeeded on Monday, September 10, in convincing his colleagues to approve Senate Bill 1306, seeking the creation of a Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission.
The bill got a unanimous vote, 20-0.
The Senate’s Legislative Bills and Index Service told Rappler on Monday that it was the first bill solely sponsored by Pacquiao that was approved.
Pacquiao’s longest fight: It was an uphill battle for the world-renowned fighter: He may be an expert boxer but clearly not yet on the Senate floor.
Pacquiao filed the bill on June 30, 2016, the first day of the 17th Congress. It was then referred to his committee on sports. Six months after, in January 2017, Pacquiao submitted and then sponsored a committee report.
It got stuck there for over a year, as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon deeply scrutinized Pacquiao’s bill and, at times, even lectured the neophyte senator on the basics of legislation. There were even times the neophyte senator could not answer the questions. (READ: Drilon schools Pacquiao on 'very basic' principles)
According to the bill’s legislative history, Drilon started his interpellation on March 14, 2017. It went on until end of May 2017. (WATCH: Pacquiao, Drilon 'spar' in the Senate)
The discussions on the bill resumed on August 1, 2018 – more than two years after he filed it – with Drilon finally agreeing to close the period of interpellations.
What the bill is about: It seeks to create a 5-member commission, attached to the Office of the President, that would formulate and implement a national policy on the development, safety, and welfare of Filipino professional boxers and combatants.
Drilon practically changed and improved Pacquiao’s original bill during the period of individual amendments held from August to September this year.
Drilon had initially opposed the creation of the new commission under the OP because he said the existing Games and Amusements Board (GAB) could instead be strengthened.
The final version of the bill, however, still proposes that the new commission be placed under the OP.
Upon Drilon’s questioning and proposal, the bill expanded coverage to provide support for other professionals engaged in other “combat sports” aside from boxing.
Under the bill, professional boxers and combatants will be enrolled with the Social Security System (SSS), National Health Insurance Program-Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig).
The bill would also require physical and medical examinations, as well as emergency services, in all professional boxing and combat sports matches.
“We are aware that some have met their untimely death due to the lack, if not absence, of safety and emergency medical services while others face retirement without any kind of financial assistance or access to medical care,” Pacquiao said. – Rappler.com