Hospital chief: 5,200 inmates die in Bilibid every year

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 3, 2019   •   739

Inmates listen during a peace accord event to stop violence amongst gangs inside the New ‘Bilibid’ Prison’s maximum security compound in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 December 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

Around 5,200 inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) die every year due to overcrowding, according to NBP Hospital Director Ernesto Tamayo on Thursday (October 3).

During the Senate hearing on the irregularity in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Tamayo said that it constitutes 20% of the total population at the NBP.

He added that pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) is the most common health issue among inmates.

“Because of the overcrowding sir minsan, hindi natin ma-contain iyong PTB (Sometimes we cannot contain the PTB),” he said.

According to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde, there are also other facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that are overcrowded.

“Dahil overcrowded ito since the war on drugs noon. Doon sa NCRPO talagang massive. Instead of 60 iyong dapat sa loob umaabot po ng 200 kaya marami po ang namamatay (It has been overcrowded since the launch of the war on drugs. The [crowd] is really massive at the NCRPO. Instead of around 60 inmates, it is accommodating 200 inmates, that is why a lot are dying),” according to Albayalde.

A Bilibid inmate, Godfrey Gamboa, has revealed in the Senate that some inmates have died due to eating spoiled food.

“Marami po, puro panis ang pagkain (Most of the food are already spoiled),” Gamboa said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros recommended to the Senate Committee the revocation of NBP Medical Officer Dr. Ursicio Cenas’ license due to his alleged involvement in the ‘hospital pass for sale’ anomaly.—AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Senate OKs bill seeking stiffer penalties for perjury

Robie de Guzman   •   May 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, May 18 approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to impose longer prison sentences and larger fines for individuals, especially public officials, who will commit perjury.

Voting 20-0, senators passed the Senate Bill No. 1354, which proposes to amend Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code and increase the current penalty on perjury from a range of the minimum period to medium period, or from six years and one day to 10 years of imprisonment.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and sponsor of the bill, said the proposed higher penalties were meant to deter people from committing perjury as they testify under oath in proceedings, such as legislative hearings, and to create a culture of truth-telling in government.

“In other words, you lie, you pay… Do not trifle with the truth,” he said in a statement.

Perjury, he explained, is committed by a person when he “knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the crimes of false testimony under judicial proceedings, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.”

Under the existing law, persons guilty of perjury are only sentenced from four months and one day to two years and four months of imprisonment.

For public offcials or employees who would commit perjury, the penalty of imprisonment will be imposed in its maximum period, along with a fine of P1 million, as well as perpetual disqualification from holding any appointive or elective position in government, Gordon said.

Gordon believes that the bill would help address the issue of low conviction rates for people charged with perjury.

“As we uncovered during our committee hearing, a factor for the low cases is the low penalty imposed on the crime of perjury. The current penalty for perjury is subject to probation and the bail imposed is also low, roughly Php6,000 only. Given the high costs involved in prosecuting a crime, there is no motivation to prosecute the crime of perjury,” he said.

The bill was co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Leila de Lima.

Its counterpart bill at the House of Representatives remains pending at the committee level.

Senate to honor ex-Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

The Philippine flag flies at half-mast in front of the Philippine Senate building Friday to mourn the passing of former Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta. (Philippine Senate)

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Friday said it will give honors to the late Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta, who passed away on May 14.

Aquino-Oreta was a member of the Senate during the 11th and 12th Congress.

Senate Majority Juan Miguel Zubiri said a resolution will be passed on Monday, May 18 paying tribute to the former senator.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier expressed his sadness over the passing of Aquino-Oreta, whom he worked with at the Senate and considers as his friend.

“My family and I are so saddened by her demise.  She was very close to me and Sec Greg,” Sotto said, referring to former senator and now Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan.

Sotto also said that his wife, Helen, was also “devastated” by Aquino-Oreta’s demise.

“Helen, being a relative of theirs is devastated by her passing away. She has not stopped crying since we were told the news last night,” he said.

Other senators have also expressed condolences to the family of the former lawmaker.

Malacañang also expressed sympathy over the demise of Aquino-Oreta.

“Our sincerest condolences to the family, relatives, friends and colleagues of former Senator Maria Teresa “Tessie” Aquino-Oreta who passed away yesterday, May 14 at the age of 75,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Senator Oreta had a distinguished career in public service. She served the country as a senator during the 11th and 12th Congress and as Representative of 8th, 9th, and 10th Congress,” he added.

Aquino-Oreta was the youngest sister of slain Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the aunt of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Her son, Malabon City Mayor Antolin “Lenlen” Oreta, announced her passing on Friday but did not disclose the cause. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Senate adopts resolution urging NTC to reconsider shutdown order vs ABS-CBN

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to reconsider the cease and desist order it issued against the ABS-CBN Corporation.

The upper chamber approved Senate Resolution No. 395 after 12 senators voted in favor of it, while nine abstained.

Among those who abstained from voting on the resolution are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Pia Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Tolentino, Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos, Ronald Dela Rosa, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, and Bong Revilla.

The senators who abstained from voting argued that the issue has already been filed before the Supreme Court and that the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN should emanate from the House of Representatives.

Cayetano, who initially signed the resolution, said she withdrew her signature as she would like to refrain from expressing her views while the issue remains pending at the High Court.

The resolution reiterated the Senate’s stand that the ABS-CBN, its subsidiaries and affiliates, should be allowed to continue operations pending the disposition of its franchise renewal.

The NTC issued a shutdown order against ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4.

The media network went off air in compliance with the order but it filed a petition before the Supreme Court, claiming that the NTC gravely abused its discretion when it issued the order instead of deferring to Congress, which has the plenary power to grant and renew legislative franchises.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said the petition has been raffled to a magistrate while the House committee on legislative franchises issued a show cause order, asking the NTC to explains its action.

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