YOUNG AND DETERMINED

“Whatever happened to helping old people cross the street?”

That was my initial reaction when I was told Chip wanted to file a bill for a “good deed” project at school. Chip’s father is a long-time friend of mine and a fellow alternative lawyer. He said his kid wanted to ban schools from selling softdrinks, so he made a bill prohibiting it. I was told Chip was a Grade One pupil. I said, “Okay. No prob. I’ll file it.” But all the while I was thinking, I was in Grade One too, at that time I also wanted to change the world like Chip, so I made paper machès, stick-figure drawings and paperdolls. For a good deed project, as I’ve said, I’d help an old person cross the street or I’d just probably wash the dishes at home.

Chip came to my office after his class, still in his uniform, ready to make schools a healthier place for kids. Right then and there, he explained to me the health effects of soda and other drinks with high-sugar content and caffeine. He cited studies and Word Health Organization reports. He knew his facts. He knew his arguments. I was amazed. He was seven years old and already, an articulate lobbyist.

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So we printed copies of the bill and went to see my fellow Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, for his signature as our co-author. Then we went to the Bills and Index and got our house bill number, HB 4268 or the “Healthy Beverage Options Act of 2011”. But we simply called it the “Chip’s Bill”.

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Then Chip toured the House of Representatives. He went to see the Speaker and discussed his bill with Speaker Belmonte himself.

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As we walked back to my office, I was wondering what age will Chip be when his bill would finally be passed into law. Take the RH Bill’s ten years (and still counting) for instance, and Chip will already be a high school senior before Chip’s Bill becomes Chip’s Law. Provided he will not be accelerated!

After that, we went back to our office where Chip began playing with the miniature boxing belt which Rep. Manny Pacquiao gave all members of Congress last Christmas. I thought of the committee hearings, the technical working groups, the lobbying of the rich multinational soda companies, the plenary debates, the bicam conference, the caucuses, the presscons, all ahead of this little kid and his progressive little piece of legislation. He just smiled at me and began playing with the small Ifugao hut on my table. He wants to be a scientist, he said, as he continued putting the toy Ifugao man inside his hut.

Chip thanked all of us and said he’ll be back for the deliberations. I thanked him too for the honor of becoming his ‘co-author’. He left our office with smiles on our faces. It felt like that feel-good-story, those of us, cynical civil servants needed for a long while.

A few days ago, I was told that Chip’s good deed project now has a Senate counterpart and a proposed Quezon City Ordinance. He is eight years old and already doing his media campaign. There is really no stopping little Chip!

Meanwhile, House Bill No. 4268 is still lodged in the House Committee on Welfare of Children. Last year, I wrote the committee to consider the bill for preliminary deliberation. It was put in the calendar but its hearing was postponed due to conflicts in schedules.

As I watch Chip on TV, I notice how much taller he is now. I can’t help but say, “Hey Chip, don’t grow up too soon, but when you do, please do us a favor and stay young”

PASS CHIP’S BILL NOW!

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