THE PROPOSED Medical Scholarship Act and measures supporting the war against illegal drugs, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and requiring employers to provide 14th-month pay were among the first bills filed in the Senate Monday.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III filed proposed legislation to provide medical scholarships at state universities and colleges, in order to increase the number of doctors working in the public sector.

“There is lack of physicians in the country caused by most doctors preferring to practice in the urban areas than in the rural,” Senator Sotto said in a statement Monday.

“The granting of scholarship to deserving medical students would aid in the increase of the number of physicians in the country.”

Senator Sotto filed a similar bill in the 17th Congress, which failed to make it out of the committee. Under the measure, medical scholars will be required to work in the country for five years after graduating, two years of which must be rendered in a government hospital or office.

The 18th Congress has yet to conduct its first session, but legislators elected to the 17th Congress ended their terms on June 30.

The proposed scholarships will cover tuition fees, laboratory and miscellaneous fees, textbooks, school supplies and equipment, clothing and uniform allowances, travel expenses, board and lodging as well as subsistence and living allowances.

The Senator also filed bills that will improve the system for detaining and penalizing those involved in drug-related crimes. Senate Bill Nos. 2, 3 and 4 proposed to establish a detention program and facility for high-level drug offenders; amend the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, creating the Presidential Drug Enforcement Authority; and creating a special court to try and hear cases relating to the illegal drug trade.

Mr. Sotto also re-filed bills that will lower the age of criminal liability to 12 years, from the current 15, under SB 5; and the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007, by expanding the definition of terrorism and imposing additional sanctions, under SB 6.

He also filed SB 7, in which he proposed the conduct of a hybrid electoral system for national and local elections, through manual voting and counting and automated transmission and canvassing.

Under SBs 8 and 9, Mr. Sotto sought to increase the penalty for perjury, and penalize the publication and proliferation of false content on the Internet.

Mr. Sotto also proposed in SB 10, to require employers in the private sector to provide 14th-month pay, in addition to the mandatory 13th-month salary.

The filings come three weeks ahead of the opening of the first regular session of the 18th Congress on July 22, the same day President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address. — Charmaine A. Tadalan