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House Speakership hit for ‘railroading’ Cha-Cha; Senate closes doors due to lack of time

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – After only three session days, the Lower House of Congress passed on 2nd reading the proposed charter change on Tuesday, (December 4).

Makabayan congressmen hit the House leadership for ‘railroading’ the measure as they were not given time to speak and debate on the provisions of the bill.

This edifies the thought, according to the ACT Teachers Party list Rep. Antonio Tinio, that the measure is for the good of no less than House Speaker Gloria Arroyo.

“Ang tunay na laman at layunin ito ay (unlimited) political dynasties, unli-term para sa mga politiko, unli-matrial law kasi binabaan na nila ang criteria para makapagdeklara ng martial law. At unli-foreign plunder dahil binubuksan ang ekonomiya at lupain at public utility sa 100% foreign ownership,” Tinio argued.

“Magdahan-dahan tayo. There’s absolutely no reason to rush this very important measure that will impact all of us,” said Senior Minority Leader and Buhay Party list Rep. Lito Atienza adding that the bill still needs a ‘very thorough’ study  and that such a crucial measure is ‘impossible to discuss in just a few sessions.”

But Arroyo was quick to deny the allegations.

“You know that I did not participate in the debate because I have always said that my only contribution there is the mechanism for setting up the federal state. The others are all contribution of other congressmen. They should answer themselves,” she countered.

Among the controversial provisions of the bill include the removal of term limit among congressmen and anti-political dynasty. It also pushes for the adoption of the two-party system in the country.

Likewise, the bill will give the President the privilege to choose his own vice president. Both officials will be given a four-year term each and the opportunity for reelection. A college degree will also be required of all candidates prior to election.

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chairperson, Vicente Veloso said the Lower House is set to pass on third and final reading the charter change measure.

The Lower House version requires a separate voting for the amended constitution. To approve the measure, the Senate needs a total of 18 votes while the House of Representatives will require at least 219 votes to proceed with the plebiscite.

However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is highly impossible for the senators to deliberate on charter change due to lack of time.

“Wala kaming time para itake-up. Sana inapura nila ang budget para pwede namin itake-up iyan,” Sotto said.

Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed with Sotto and said the measure is already “dead on arrival” in Senate.

But Veloso is not buying their reasons for holding off deliberations.

“Kung ayaw ninyo, sabihin ninyo kung ano ang ayaw ninyo. Hindi iyong sasabihin ninyo agad ‘dead on arrival.’ Bakit sino ba kayo? You are only one half of Congress,” he said referring to the senators. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

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Attention space geeks: Senate OKs bill creating the Philippine Space Agency

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Courtesy : Pexels

The senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish a Philippine Space Agency.

On Monday (May 20), the Senate voted 18-0 in favor of Senate Bill No. 1983 or an Act Establishing the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and Creating the Philippine Space Agency.

The bill was introduced by Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, and Sonny Angara.

According to Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the bill aims to improve disaster management as well as enhance production and profitability of agribusinesses.

“Satellites can improve disaster management from providing accurate information that allows early warnings and predicting of disasters to reliable and quick communication during relief and recovery operations,” Aquino said in his sponsorship speech.

Once the law is passed, the new agency will have an initial funding of P1 billion for the space program from the current fiscal year’s appropriation of the Office of the President.

“An additional P10 billion will come from the gross income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for five years after the effectivity of the act, with P2 billion to be released to PhilSA yearly,” the statement said.

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Senate okays shorter workweek bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Voting 17-0, the Senate approved on Monday (May 20) a bill allowing Filipino employees to render services with shorter workweek arrangement.

Filed by Senator Joel Villanueva, the proposed measure on compressed workweek arrangement allows employees to opt out of the regular eight-hours-five-days-per-week schedule.

Instead, employees may choose to enter into an agreement with the employers as long as it is a “mutually agreed voluntary work arrangement”.

Specifically, employees may prefer to work for a fewer number of days in a week but with longer hours as long as they meet the required workweek load of 40 hours, although the law upholds the 48-hour work limit per week.

Even with the a mutually agreed work schedule, employees will still be entitled to the existing company benefits.

With Senate approving the bill, it is now for submission to the Office of the President for signing to be enacted into law. – Marje Pelayo

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Congress resumes sessions, to tackle priority bills

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Courtesy : HOR Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives are set resume their sessions today in a bid to pass several priority bills before the 17th Congress formally adjourns in three weeks.

The sessions will resume on Monday at three in the afternoon.

But before the plenary session begins in the Senate, majority of senators will first meet for a caucus called by Senate President Vicente Sotto III to finalize the legislative agenda of the upper chamber.

Sotto said that among the priorities that the Senate is looking to approve before the 17th congress adjourns on June 7 is the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act.

Sotto is referring to the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019, which seeks to amend the Republic Act No. 9372 by redefining the acts of terrorism that are punishable by law and strengthening its provisions to deter terror groups.

The Senate will also try to finish tackling the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act. The bill seeks to amend Commonwealth Act No. 146 to address the confusion in the definition of a public utility and public services in order to provide Filipino consumers with more choices, better services and lower prices on utility services.

The measure is pending on second reading.

Sotto also expressed hope that the Medical Scholarship Act, which he authored, would be given equal priority before the sessions adjourn.

The bill seeks to address the issues of scarcity and unequal distribution of physicians in the country through the granting of scholarships to deserving medical students, provided that they would serve the country for five years.

The proposed measure is currently pending in the Senate committee on health and demography chaired by Senator JV Ejercito.

Other measures that the Senate is expected to discuss are the Budget Reform Act, Foreign Investment Act and the proposed granting of emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to address transportation woes in the country.

The lower House, for its part, is looking to approve more pro-people bills in the tight three-week schedule.

House Majority Leader Rep. Fredenil Castro said that among the bills they will tackle are the proposed Strengthening Drug Prevention and Control Act and the creation of Overseas Filipino Workers Sovereign Fund.

The Congress has nine session days before the sine die adjournment of 17th Congress. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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