The House of Representatives is not only an amalgam of zealous individuals working toward a more productive 17th Congress. The working house is also a caring house. This shows in various measures supporting the practice of corporate social responsibility in the country.
It also shows in the push from Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the urgent rehabilitation of Marawi City and for a renewed focus on the plight of the urban poor, which she has championed throughout her career.
CSR is how companies manage their business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. It is the commitment of business to contribute to sustainable economic development, working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve quality of life, in ways that are both good for business and good for development.
As a corporate body, the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Arroyo, believes in CSR and puts a premium on serving the people with purpose.
In fact, the House has approved a bill institutionalizing corporate social responsibility. The measure, known as the Corporate Social Responsibility Act of 2011, provides that all local government units shall extend whatever assistance is necessary for business establishments in the exercise of CSR in their areas of jurisdiction. This bill was co-authored by Speaker Arroyo.
In 2016, the Speaker then introduced House Bill 698 to ratify the call to institutionalize CSR. As principal author, Mrs. Arroyo pushed for the act encouraging corporate social responsibility, providing incentives for it, and for other purposes. This updated version was to be called the “Corporate Social Responsibility Act of 2016.”
The bill seeks to foster economic and environmental development and protection, among other things, by institutionalizing corporate social responsibility in corporations, whether domestic or foreign, partnership and other establishments performing business in the country.
They are mandated to take into consideration the interest of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and environment.
The House Committee on Trade and Industry is currently tackling the measure for plenary approval.
Arroyo took the opportunity during the very first meeting of the House Committee on Disaster Management – which she had formed in one of her first acts as Speaker -- to highlight the urgency of the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
“At this point in time in our congressional calendar, it’s time for us to start focusing on our oversight functions. And maybe, the No. 1 oversight function that we need to undertake in this committee is the oversight of Marawi rehabilitation,” she said.
The Speaker added: “Everywhere I go, I keep hearing, abroad and here, I keep hearing comments about they haven’t seen anything on the rehabilitation of Marawi. Let’s find out what its stage is now.”
The additional oversight function of the legislature, she said, “will be useful not only in regulating, as has been expressed in the opening remarks of [committee chairman and Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman], but even more so in encouraging our implementers from the executive branch so that they can remain focused on strive for maximum results in the shortest possible time.”
Marawi City was reduced to rubble after government forces launched an intense five-month war starting May last year against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups that laid siege on the predominantly Islamic city in a bid to establish a local base for the Islamic State.
While rehabilitation for the areas outside the main battle area are ongoing, it took until Oct. 30 this year for the government to officially kick off the rebuilding of Marawi’s most affected area, made up of 24 barangays across 250 hectares, due to the military’s clearing operations and the process of awarding the rehabilitation project contract.
Arroyo has committed to President Rodrigo Duterte to draft a resolution that will extend the validity of the P19.6-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund for Marawi until December 2019 in a recent meeting in Malacanang.
Caring for urban poor
In hindsight, it is not hard to imagine why the Speaker has rallied for programs that benefit the masses.
When Mrs. Arroyo was still President, she enacted an Executive Order 105 on May 16, 2002 that directly benefitted the urban poor and the differently-abled.
EO 105 paved the way for approving and directing the “provision of group home/foster home for neglected, abandoned, abused, detached and poor older persons and persons with disabilities.”
Shortly after, Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 131 declared open to disposition for socialized housing purposes certain government-owned lands defined under Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 to qualified beneficiaries. It also designated the National Housing Authority as the lead agency in the disposition program.
As President, she signed more than 100 Proclamations that enabled thousands of urban poor families all over the country to be awarded their own land giving them housing security.
In Congress, Arroyo continued her advocacy for housing security when she filed House Bill No. 1518 in 2016 that pushed to consolidate the functions and powers of the NHA, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation, Home Guarantee Corporation, Home Development Mutual Fund, and Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board into a Department of Housing and Urban Development that would address the country’s 5.7-million housing backlog.
From 2001 until recently, a total of 118 Presidential Proclamation have been signed, declaring the identified government sites as suitable for socialized housing. This translates to about 26,367.14 hectares of land, benefitting about 195,475 beneficiaries.
The House tackles a lot of other measures that directly and indirectly affect the urban poor -- and under the baton of Speaker Arroyo, the country’s lawmakers are encouraged to apply compassion and wisdom to the laws that will benefit not just the poor, but all Filipinos as well.