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Andaya hits Sotto’s ‘strong reservations’ in signing of proposed 2019 budget

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2019

(L-R) House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rolando Andaya, Jr. and Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rolando Andaya, Jr. on Thursday slammed Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s “strong reservations” in the signing of the enrolled copy of the proposed 2019 national budget.

Sotto had expressed “strong reservations” when he signed the bill for the 2019 national budget on March 26, maintaining that the P75-billion worth of projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
local infrastructure program funded through the “internal realignments” were “unconstitutional.” He also expressed hope that President Rodrigo Duterte will consider his request to veto the questionable provisions in the bill, specifically the alleged pork barrel insertions.

In a statement accompanying the letter he sent to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and acting Budget Chief Janet Abuel, Andaya asked Malacañang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to assail Sotto’s conditional signing of the bill.

Andaya said Sotto’s “unwarranted” move was ill-advised by his lawyer and that there is no such thing as “conditional signing of an enrolled bill.”

“The Senate cannot clothe his signature to the 2019 General Appropriations Bills with ambivalence or dissent,” he said

“The letter he sent to the President expressing his “strong reservations” as annotation in the 2016 National Budget enrolled bill has no legal basis. It is just a personal request, which the President may or may not take heed,” he said.

Andaya also stressed that signing an enrolled copy of the national budget is a legal act so “the imprimatur of the Senate President on the enrolled bill cannot be diminished by his ‘strong reservations,’ which are completely unwarranted.”

Andaya also insisted that the realignments were not made post-ratification as these had been authorized by the bicameral conference committee report. He also emphasized that the realignments “did not exceed” the approved expenditure ceilings of respective departments and agencies.

“For one, the realignments he cited were adjustments authorized by no less than the Bicameral Conference Committee, which was approved and signed by the conferees from both chamber,” Andaya said.

The lawmaker also noted that “the generic term ‘adjustments’ subsumes realignments and allied modifications.”

Andaya also pointed out that the Omnibus Motion had been included in the previous bicameral reports for institutionalized realignments pursuant to the ratified bicameral report.

“We also maintain that the realignments which the Senate also made, are fully constitutional as part of the budgetary process, and there is no constitutional provision which has been violated, as none was cited by the Senate President,” he said.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has a different interpretation on the issue, stressing that inserting realignments after the budget has been ratified is a different matter.

“It can’t be interpreted that suddenly you insert and realign items in the budget, no,” Drilon said.

He also supports Sotto’s move to express reservations on the 2019 budget bill due to questionable provisions.

“The President has no choice but to veto, because the Senate President said that portion of the bill was not validly passed,” he said.

Sotto, meanwhile, said the budget approval is now up to President Duterte.

“At the end of the day, the Senate exercised its power to scrutinize and challenge what is spurious in the budget. It also proves that the Senate is still and will remain independent. The Senate will let the President decide on the submitted budget,” Sotto said in a statement on Wednesday.

READ: SGMA confident Duterte will sign 2019 budget soon

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for her part, expressed confidence that the 2019 budget will be signed soon when Duterte has completed the line-item vetoes.

Malacañang earlier assured that they will thoroughly review the bill prior to Duterte’s signing. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Duterte still most trusted PH government official — Pulse Asia

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

An undated handout photo made available by the Presidential Photographers Division (PPD) shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (center) is greeted by supporters during his meeting with the Filipino community in Seoul, South Korea (issued on 16 July 2019).

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is still the most trusted government official in the country based on the latest survey of the Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated released on Wednesday (July 17).

Pulse Asia reported that Duterte got an 85 percent approval and trust rating in the survey conducted from June 24 to 30.

The figure was two points below the 87 percent that Duterte received in March.

Only three percent of the 1,200 survey respondents said they disapprove of Duterte’s performance as chief executive, 4 percent claimed to have small or no trust in him while 11 percent were undecided.

Earlier this month, Duterte also got a new personal record-high satisfaction rating of 80 percent despite the ramming incident near Recto Bank in June, according to the survey of Social Weather Stations.

READ: Record-high rating: Duterte’s ‘political will’ makes him unique – Analyst

Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo, meanwhile, obtained a 55 percent approval rating and 52 percent trust rating; 26 percent claimed they have small or no trust in her while 24 percent disapproved of her performance as vice president.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also enjoyed high ratings in the latest survey, garnering 77 percent approval rating and 73 percent trust rating.

Pulse Asia noted that approval is the predominant opinion as regards the work of President Duterte and Senate President Sotto across geographic areas. Vice-President Robredo enjoys majority approval in most geographic areas and socio-economic groupings, with only Metro Manilans and those in Class ABC withholding majority scores from her.

On the other hand, former House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got 26 percent approval rating and 22 percent trust rating while Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin obtained 41 percent approval rating and 35 percent trust rating.

Among the key issues that dominated headlines during the survey period were the reported ramming of a Filipino fishing vessel in Recto Bank; the explosion in Indanan, Sulu; the public school teachers’ plea for pay hike; fraud allegations in the May 2019 polls; the call made by 11 United Nations experts for the conduct of a probe on the human rights situation in the Philippines; deportation from Hong Kong of former DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario and Philhealth “ghost” dialysis claims.

Pulse Asia said it has 95 percent confidence level in the survey results with an error margin of +/-2.8 percent.

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Sotto pushes for longer jail term for perjury

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has filed a bill seeking for a longer jail term for persons who commit perjury.

Under Senate Bill No. 8, Sotto is looking to amend the Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code which imposes six months to two years imprisonment for persons who make false testimonies under oath.

The senate president said that with a short jail term, suspects tend to “change the narrative in the middle of their testimonies.”

In his bill, Sotto is proposing to increase the jail time for perjury of up to ten years to serve as deterrent to suspects who retract testimonies to get off sticky situations.

“Every now and then, we hear stories of people being charged with the crime of perjury – it could be in the news or just in the neighborhood. It is an act which undermines the solemnity of the oath that one has undertook to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’,” Sotto said in a statement.

“A lot of people – prominent or otherwise – would subsequently and without batting an eyelash change their stories made under oath like it was not a big deal. This may be partly due to the imposable penalty that goes with the crime of perjury,” he noted.

The Senate President said the Philippines can take the cue from the state of California in the United States, which considers perjury as a capital offense, or from Queensland in Australia, where making false testimonies are punishable by up to life imprisonment.

“We must not allow anyone to play games with our laws. We must ensure that our laws are respected at all times,” Sotto stressed.

The lawmaker can be recalled pushing for stiffer penalties for perjury following the flip-flopping statements of Peter Joemel Advincula, who claimed to be the hooded man “Bikoy” in online video series, accusing President Rodrigo Duterte’s family members of involvement in the narcotics trade.

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Employers group says 14th month pay bill to burden small businesses

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) on Wednesday warned against the possible effects of the bill requiring the private sector to grant its workers 14th-month pay.

ECOP President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. said institutionalizing the grant of 14th-month pay could break the operations of small, micro and medium businesses, cause inflation to spike and the Philippines to lose its competitiveness against its Southeast Asian peers.

Ortiz-Luis made the statement after Senator Vicente Sotto III refiled a measure seeking to require private companies to grant 14th-month pay.

On Monday (July 1), Sotto said he is pushing for the bill anew to increase the wage benefits of private employees amid continued increase in prices of basic goods.

The Senate bill no. 10 covers all non-government rank-and-file employees regardless of status, designation and method by which their wages are paid, provided that they have worked at least a month during the calendar year.

The bill proposes that the minimum amount of the 14th month pay shall not be less than 1/12 of the total basic salary earned by the employee within the calendar year.

It also seeks the 13th month pay to be paid not later than June 14, and the 14th month pay be provided not later than December 24 of every year.

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) has expressed support for the measure, saying it is high time for Filipino workers to receive higher wage benefits.

“Pababa ng pababa ‘yung kanilang purchasing power ng kanilang sahod. Pero ‘yung ating ekonomiya, ‘yung mga negosyo, at ‘yung kaban ng gobyerno, yumayaman,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson for ALU-TUCP.

But the employers’ group said the bill fails to understand the dynamics of the Philippine labor market as this would only leave small and micro establishments with two options to shoulder higher labor cost: increase their product prices or reduce their work force.

“So kapag mataas ang increases, ang choice lang naman nung mga ‘yan eh, either itataas nila ‘yung presyo nila, kung kaya mong bilhin ang bagong presyo, at kung hindi naman, nagbabawas ng tao ‘yan,” he told UNTV News and Rescue in a phone interview.

“Ganyan ang nangyayari taon-taon, kaya palaki nang palaki ‘yung mga underemployed at saka unemployed,” he added.

Ortiz-Luis noted that nearly 90 percent of the establishments in the country belong to the micro, eight percent belong to the small establishments while two percent belong to medium and large enterprises.

As such, adding a 14th month pay requirement to workers would push employers to increase the prices of their products and services, which would then result to higher inflation rate in the country.

The Department of Labor and Employment, for its part, said it is open to hear the merits of the measure and is currently studying its feasibility. (with details from Harlene Delgado)

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