Gordon on money laundering issue: ‘Mr. President, you are being misled by your people’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 10, 2020   •   791

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, Senator Richard Gordon believes that President Rodrigo Duterte is being “misled by his own people” regarding the alleged money laundering in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Corporation (POGO).

“Mr. President, you are being misled by your people. You better check. You’re a lawyer as well, most respectfully,” he said.

On Monday evening (March 9), Duterte said he was not convinced with the money laundering allegations against POGO operations in the country.

“I wish the President wouldn’t make remarks like that especially since a co-equal branch of government is investigating a very, very serious situation where hundreds of millions of dollars are coming into our country,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon, the President should listen to the Senate because of the clear evidence collected from their investigations.

During the Senate hearing last week, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) revealed that P14 billion out of the P54 billion worth of POGO transactions from 2017 to 2019 were linked to “suspicious activities.” —AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Gordon urges SSS to review 2021 contribution hike

Robie de Guzman   •   January 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon called on the Social Security System (SSS) to submit proposals to the Senate on how to suspend the implementation of the 2021 contribution increase without shortening the fund life of the agency.

While the law mandates an increase in SSS contributions in 2021, Gordon pointed out that this is untimely, especially when businesses are down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Bagama’t kailangan at nakasaad sa batas na magkaroon ng dagdag na kontribusyon ang SSS sa 2021, nakikita natin na hindi ito napapanahon lalo na’t lugmok ang ating mga negosyo,” Gordon said in a statement Thursday.

“Noong ginawa ang RA 11199, wala pa sa hinagap ng mga mambabatas na magkakaroon ng pandemya at magiging malala ang epekto nito sa ekonomiya,” he added.

Gordon cited data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) which shows that SSS’ loss sales reached P5.2 trillion in the first quarter of the year alone.

He noted that only halfway of the year, it is already higher than the 2021 national budget of P4.5 trillion.

“Kailangan nating balansehen ang interes ng mamayan na nahihirapan sa pandemya pati rin ang interes na mapangalagaan ang pondo ng SSS,” he added.

Gordon, however, acknowledged that stopping the 2021 contribution increase is not easy.

He said a new law may be needed as the increase is specifically mandated in Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 and there is no provision in the said law that empowers the SSS to stop it.

“Pag-uusapan namin ito sa komite at kung kinakailangan ay maglalabas kami ng bagong batas para maging magaan para sa ating mga kabababayan ang makaahon sa pandemyang ito habang patuloy na nagbabayad ng kanilang kontribusyon sa SSS,” he said.

RA 1199 was enacted on February 7, 2019 to protect the fund life of the SSS which was shortened by ten years from 2042 to 2032 on account of the approved Php 1,000 additional benefit given by President Rodrigo Duterte under the memorandum from the Executive Secretary dated February 22, 2017.

Lawmakers deny links to DPWH corruption

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 29, 2020

The eight current and former lawmakers named by President Rodrigo Duterte to have been involved in the corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have denied the said allegation.

Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato, in a statement, said her inclusion in the list is to out malign her credibility especially with the upcoming elections.

“The report made by Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica which impinges on my credentials as a public servant is clearly calculated to sow intrigues and disruption in the local politics of Occidental Mindoro,” she said.

Sato said Belgica is a known ally of her possible opponent in the 2022 elections.

Former Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said he is currently not facing any investigations involving corruption.

Baguilat reiterated that he will not go through the lengths of promoting Cordillera products had he been accepting kickbacks from the DPWH projects.

Misamis Occidental Representative Henry Oaminal also released a statement welcoming the investigations to be conducted on the issue to prove his innocence.

Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman also expressed her willingness to cooperate in any investigation to clear her name.

“I am open to any investigation to establish the truth on this matter and I am sure that my honor will be vindicated. My conscience is clear,” she said in a statement.

Quezon City 5th District Representative Alfred Vargas, meanwhile, has insisted that his 12 years in public service has been unblemished.

“I am ready to submit myself to an investigation by the proper authority. Mere allegations are not proof,” he said.

Quezon Province Representative Angelina Helen Tan, meanwhile, challenge the PACC to visit the project in Gumaca and not base their allegations on anonymous tips and reports.

Northern Samar Representative Paul Daza said there might be former DPWH contractors who might have put his name on the list especially after his office exposed alleged anomalies in the department’s projects.

“Records and history will show that it was my office who exposed former elected officials and contractors for abandoning projects. Because of my call for an investigation, I believe no less than six (6) of them have already been blacklisted by the DPWH recently,” he said.

ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Eric Yap reiterated he was not involved in any DPWH bidding in Benguet. He is also willing to resign if proven guilty of the allegations against him.

Once the session resumes at the House of Representatives, Yap said he will file a motion to investigate Belgica regarding alleged anomalies in the Duty-Free Philippines. -AAC (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

OFWs exempted from travel ban on countries with new COVID-19 strain cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in countries with a travel ban from the government are exempted and will be allowed to enter the Philippines, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In a press conference on Tuesday (December 29), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said President Rodrigo Duterte wants OFWs to be able to return to their families.

Bello said returning OFWs would need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Some 60,000 to 100,000 OFWs are expected to return in the next two weeks, he added.

Duterte, on Monday (December 28), approved the imposition of travel ban on countries with confirmed reports of the new strain of COVID-19. The travel ban will take effect on December 30 at 12:01 a.m. until January 15. AAC

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