MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives are planning to hold an inquiry on the technical glitches and other issues that marred the 2019 midterm elections.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said on Wednesday that the joint congressional committee on the automated election system agreed to conduct the hearing on June 4.
Several officials from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be summoned to explain the problems encountered on election day.
He said Comelec should reexamine the diagnostic tests they used to clear vote-counting machines (VCM) after some of the units encountered glitches during the May 13 polls.
The Comelec earlier said that more than 900 of the 85,000 VCMs were pulled out from several voting precincts nationwide after encountering hiccups on election day.
The poll body blamed this on faulty secure digital (SD) cards provided by their supplier. Around 1,665 of the 85,769 SD cards used in the midterm polls were defective.
The said figures are higher than the 120 SD cards and 801 VCMs replaced in 2016 polls.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon earlier said that she will propose to the Comelec en banc to withhold the payment for the SD card supplier.
MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday appealed to her colleagues in Congress not to repeal the Republic Act 10592 or the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law which recently came under heavy scrutiny due to the questionable release of some convicts.
In a statement, De Lima urged her fellow lawmakers to “dredge, foremost, into our collective consciousness, the merits of the GCTA law (both the original and amendatory provisions) as rooted in the restorative philosophy or principles that underlie our modern criminal justice and correctional systems.”
“Let not the legitimacy and the well-settled wisdom of the law be clouded or demolished by its misapplication, abuses in enforcement or wrongdoings on the part of the designated implementors of the law,” De Lima said.
She called on legislators to instead improve the law or its implementing rules and regulations, if necessary.
“But, please, let’s not abrogate it. To junk this law is to retrogress from hard-won triumphs in the legal universe. To paraphrase a line from a movie which tackles, in part, the fluid majesty of Law, ‘We ought not to be affected by the weather of the day, but should be by the climate of the era,'” she said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon earlier filed a bill seeking to repeal the GCTA law, particularly the amendments in Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code as contained under RA 10592.
The bill was filed after a public uproar into the questionable application of the law following the aborted release of convicted murderer-rapist, former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez.
The senators said the purpose of the measure is laudable in decongesting the overpopulated prison cells in the country.
“However, when it was enacted into law, it caused an absurd interpretation and its very provisions needed harmonization,” they said in a statement, adding that it has been subject to abuse by the persons allowed by law to grant time allowances.
Amid the Senate inquiry into the application of the GCTA law, some senators have moved to amend the law and called for the revision of its implementing rules by the Department of Justice and other concerned government agencies to avoid abuse and misinterpretation.
The law was passed and signed during the time of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino in 2013. Last June 2019, the SC ruled that the law could be applied retroactively.
De Lima was the Justice Secretary when the IRR of the law was crafted.
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill which seeks to increase taxes on alcohol and vape products.
Based on House Bill No. 1026 “distilled spirits shall have an excise tax of 22% of the retail price, as well as an additional specific tax of P35 per proof liter in 2020, P40 in 2021 and P45 in 2022. The specific tax shall be increased by seven percent every year afterwards.”
The Committee on Ways and Means chairman Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda assures the excise tax on tobacco products, as stated in the bill, is only for vape products.
“So if you are so afraid of the tobacco taxes, there are no new tobacco taxes (in the bill) except for vape which is not a tobacco product. It is essentially a vape, non-combustion,” he said.
Salcedo added that vape products will have an increase of P30 in excise tax from the current P10.
The bill states that selling heated tobacco products and vapor products at prices lower than the combined excise and value-added tax rates required by the law shall be prohibited.
There will also be a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee which will be referred to as the Oversight Committee on Illicit Trade on Excisable Products.
The said committee will (a) evaluate the programs and performance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in addressing illicit trade on excisable products and recommend remedial legislation; (b) require concerned agencies to submit reports and data that can aid in resolving illicit trade of excisable products; (c) hold public hearings; and (d) deputize the BIR, the BOC, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and other enforcement government agencies as may be needed, among others.
Meanwhile, DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua told reporters last Thursday (Aug 15) that they are not satisfied with the House version of the bill.
“We are not satisfied with the House version, but it’s a starting point. We hope to convince senators to go for higher rates for the universal health care program,” he said.—AAC
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has submitted the proposed 2020 national budget to the House of Representatives on Tuesday (Aug 20).
Majority of the proposed budget will go to the Department of Education (Deped), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Meanwhile, over P622 billion budget will be allotted to the anti-insurgency program.
The DBM said the proposed budget is 12% higher compared to the 2019 national budget. The 2020 national budget is also the highest budget in the country’s history.
According to DBM acting Secretary Wendel Avisado, the proposed budget will prioritize the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program and the smooth transition of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“This budget will sustain and continue our journey to a more peaceful and progressive Philippines,” he said.
The House Committee on Appropriations will begin deliberating on the proposed national budget on Thursday (Aug 22). They also target to approve its passage before the first session break on October 4.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano assured there will be no ‘pork barrel’ inserted in the proposed budget.
“The budget of the president is equitable and remember hihimayin pa natin ito (We will still deliberate on this),” he said.—AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)
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