At least 16 measures pushed by Duterte could pass Senate – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2019   •   1218

MANILA, Philippines – At least 16 measures pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Monday)could be passed in the upper chamber of Congress, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.

Sotto said that majority of the proposals that Duterte mentioned in his speech could easily hurdle the Senate. These include the implementation of Magna Carta for Barangays, the National Academy for Sports for High School, the establishment of Department of Disaster Resilience, Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Water Resources, Salary Standardization Law for Teachers and other government personnel, the Coco Levy Bill, the National Land Use Act, Mandatory ROTC Bill for Grades 11 & 12, the postponement of Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay Elections, the Expansion of Malasakit Center, Fire Protection Modernization Bill and Death Penalty for Drug Traffickers & Plunder.

“Marami doon sa mga binanggit niya kakayanin talaga namin. As a matter of fact, nakikita ko, at least 16 sa mga sinabi niya malaki ang pag-asang mapasa lahat,” Sotto said in a radio interview.

The Senate President further said that although he supports Duterte’s call for the creation of new departments, he said it would be better to pass a law right-sizing the government to streamline government systems and services.

“Ayusin muna natin yung right-sizing. Kasi kung hindi tayo magra-right-sizing, blinow-up lang natin yung bureaucracy lalo. So, kung magra-right-sizing tayo, mababawasan yung mga departamento, na mga iba-t-ibang napakaraming departamento ng gobyerno ng maraming empleyado,” Sotto said.

(Let’s first work on rightsizing the government. Because if we don’t rightsize first, we will just blow up bureaucracy more. If we right-size, we would reduce the number of redundant departments, various agencies with too many employees.)

Among the measures mentioned in Duterte’s SONA, Sotto said the reimposition of death penalty for drug traffickers and plunder would face the strong opposition and lengthy debates.

“Tinitingnan ko yung listahan, pinakikinggan ko kahapon, puro talagang kayang-kaya at talagang dapat. Kailangang-kailangan. Yung lang reimposition ng death penalty siguro ang mahaba ang debate,” he said.

(I will look into the list. When I was listening to the speech yesterday, the bills he mentioned could easily pass in the Senate. The reimposition of death penalty may go through lengthy discussions.)

“If its confined to high level (drug) trafficking it stands a good chance to be as quicker or it can be passed in the Senate ngayon because of the mention of plunder, hindi maganda sa amin sa mga senador at sa mga congressman na hindi pumayag na hindi isama, kailangang isama, otherwise takot kami sa plunder,” he added.

(Senators and congressmen won’t look good if we exclude plunder. We need to include it, otherwise it would seem we are afraid of plunder.)

Former special assistant to the president and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, for his part, believes that passing heavier penalty for plunder would deter government officials from engaging in corrupt practices.  

“Kung pumasa ito, maaaring ikatakot ng mga magnanakaw sa gobyerno,” Go said.

(If this gets approved, it may deter corrupt government officials from committing plunder.)

For Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, the hardest among the challenges laid out by Duterte in his SONA is the liberation of six million Filipinos from poverty.

“This is the Six Million Challenge that confronts us all. It is the overarching Priority No. 1. It is the most demanding because it means 2 million of our countrymen must graduate from dehumanizing existence every year, if the objective is to uplift them within the next three years,” he said in a statement.

Recto added that even if the government would succeed in the Six-Million Challenge, there will still be about 15 million poor waiting to be liberated at the end of 2022.

“If there is one goal that should energize us, and consume our every waking hour, this is the one. This is a tall order that calls for a combination of solutions and the cooperation of all,” he said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, on the other hand, said he is inclined to look into Duterte’s proposal to include teachers in the next salary standardization law.

“Teachers play a critical role in shaping the hearts and minds of our youth. We need to make their efforts more rewarding so that they are kept motivated to fulfill their duties,” he said in a statement.

Villanueva also vowed to work with the President in his goal to provide comfortable lives for Filipinos at the end of his term.

Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, lauded Duterte for his speech that focused on matters of progress, peace and prosperity.

Angara added that he will not belabor the president for omitting other issues as it is impossible to cram all of the country’s problems in one speech.

“Hindi naman isang linggong pabasa ang SONA. What is important is that he talked about the things many of our people want to hear from him. It is a well-curated address,” he said in a statement.

He also said that after Duterte’s annual report to the nation, lawmakers and concerned agencies should “react with deeds.”

“It should be back to work for all of us,” he said.

Senate panel to begin probe on alleged ‘red-tagging’ activities of military officials

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 30, 2020

The Senate panel will begin its inquiry next week (November 3) on the alleged ‘red-tagging’ activities of military officials.

Senator Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Resolution No. 559 and will summon Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.

Parlade drew the ire of netizens after he warned actress Liza Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, against associating with the Gabriela Women’s Party-list, which he accused of having links with the New People’s Army.

Lacson said the resolution aims to resolve issues as well as draft guidelines to avoid misunderstandings between the military and the public.

The Senator will be inviting other officials from the Department of National Defense and the AFP.  

He added that the Gabriela Women’s Party-list and other militant groups will also be invited to the inquiry.

“We will also invite Gabriela and other militant groups para maliwanagan natin saan ba nag-uugat iyong misunderstanding at saka iyong conflict pagdating sa red-tagging, red-baiting, (to shed light on the root of the misunderstanding and the conflict when it comes to red-tagging, red-baiting)” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado).

Roque to ask Duterte on possibility of voluntarily disclosing SALN

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said he will ask President Rodrigo Duterte if he is willing to voluntarily release his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) following the strict rules imposed by the Ombudsman on the access to the wealth declaration of officials.

Roque said the president’s office is just following the guidelines issued by the Ombudsman.

“Mag-uusap po kami ng ating president at para matapos na po itong issue na ito, ay tatanungin ko po baka naman po magbigay ng permiso ang president para isapubliko ang kaniyang SALN,” he said.

The Ombudsman recently issued a memorandum circular restricting access to the SALN of public officials.

The circular states that a copy of a public official’s SALN may only be released if the requestor is an authorized representative of the declarant or the person who filed the document; if there is a court order in relation to a pending case, and if the request is made by the Ombudsman’s field investigation units.

Prior to the issuance of the circular, Roque said Duterte had released his SALN yearly.

“Wala pong itinatago ang ating president, bago po maglabas ng ganitong guidelines ang Ombdusman, taon-taon naman po inilalabas ng president ang kaniyang SALN,” he said.

The question of whether Duterte will voluntarily publicize his own net worth resurfaced after the 2019 SALN of 24 senators were released by the Senate on Thursday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)



Proposed order for price cap on COVID-19 tests awaiting Duterte decision – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A proposed executive order that will impose a price cap on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests is now awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Department of Health’s (DOH) Technical Working Group (TWG) submitted the proposal after completing its review on the recommended price cap.

Roque refused to divulge the recommended price ceiling on coronavirus testing in private hospitals and laboratories but he expressed optimism that the president will approve the proposal.

“Hintayin po muna natin ang desisyon ng president. Why is that? Kasi yung iba naman, napakataas ng sinisingil, alam naman natin, pwedeng mas mura yang testing na yan,” he said in a televised briefing.

Roque said the proposal seeks to make COVID-19 testing affordable and could help boost the government’s contact tracing and mass testing efforts.

“Para mas maging affordable ang testing sa ating mga kababayan ng sa gayong paraan ay mas maraming matetesting,” he said.

The DOH earlier recommended the placing of a price ceiling after observing differences in the COVID-19 testing cost in various laboratories and hospitals in the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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