The Universal Health Care Act or the JV Ejercito Law – Sen. Panfilo Lacson

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Senator Panfilo Lacson, among the veterans in the chamber, posted a tweet on February 19, crediting re-electionist Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito for the universal health care (UHC) law that President Rodrigo Duterte signed.

“Sen JV is one of the most hard-working senators I’ve seen in all my 18 years in the Senate. We might as well refer to the Universal Health Care Act as the JV Ejercito Law,” Lacson wrote on Twiiter.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11223, which grants health coverage for all Filipinos, on Wednesday, February 20.

Universal Health Care Tweet

Ejercito, however, is not the only one who should be credited for this landmark legislation that passed in the 17th Congress.

Owing to the bicameral nature of Congress, legislation is a combination of lawmakers’ efforts at the House and the Senate, with the principal author and principal sponsor primarily steering the measure.

There were also other government agencies, like the Department of Health, that helped formulate the bill.

Senate

Ejercito is the chairperson of the Senate health committee. As panel chair, he was tasked to sponsor and defend the bill in plenary.

There were others who filed UHC bills, however. They were Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and senators Leila de Lima, Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, and Risa Hontiveros.

Of the 7, it was Recto who had pushed for the UHC bill since the 15th Congress.

It was also Recto who first filed the measure in the 17th Congress. Under Senate rules, the first one to file the measure would be named principal author.

Recto also pushed for amendments, which were eventually adopted into the final version of the law. These include the provisions on:

Corresponding increase in benefits for every increase in contribution
Reconstitution of the PhilHealth Board
Lesser compliance for the private sector in developing and maintaining a Health Information System
Ejercito was the principal sponsor and among the co-authors of the bill.

Other co-authors were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon; and senators Binay, De Lima, Villar, Angara, Hontiveros, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Manny Pacquiao.

Ejercito sponsored the committee report on July 31, 2018. After less than 3 months, Senate Bill 1896, which was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, was unanimously approved on third and final reading.

House of Representatives

At the House, there were over 100 authors of the measure. The bill was sponsored and defended by Quezon 4th District Representative Angelina Tan and then-Kabayan representative Harry Roque, who was later appointed as Duterte’s spokesperson.

The House was first to approve the measure. On September 6, 2017, 222 lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill 5784, while 7 from the Makabayan bloc voted against it.

After both chambers passed the measure, a bicameral conference committee was convened to thresh out differences between the two versions.

On November 27, 2018, the panel approved the final version of the bill.

Nearly two months after, on January 23, 2019, enrolled copies of SB 1896 and HB 5784 were sent to the Office of the President for signing. President Duterte signed the bill almost a month before the bill lapsed into law – Rappler, Senator Panfilo Lacson, PNA