Lacson blasts UN official for calling on Duterte not to sign Anti-Terror bill

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020   •   1108

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has criticized a United Nations official for urging President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill.

In a statement, Lacson expressed doubt that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet actually read the provisions of the measure which seeks to strengthen the country’s campaign against terrorism.

Bachelet, in a speech during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, asked Duterte not to sign the bill, warning that its passage heightens concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism. She also warned of the measure’s potential “chilling effect” on humanitarian and human rights work.

Lacson questioned Bachelet’s statement since the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was crafted based on the guidelines and standards set by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1373.

“It was the UN that prodded the Philippines to strengthen its laws against terrorism. So, is this the United Nations going up against the United Nations?” the senator asked.

“The problem with the critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill like the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the others is that they criticize without even reading the bill itself,” he added.

Lacson said that Bachelet and others opposing the measure are only “jumping into the wagon of criticisms” and have let themselves be influenced by the “avalanche of misinformation” about the bill.

“There are people, learned as they are, merely jumped into the wagon of criticisms without thoroughly reading and understanding the provisions under the proposed measure,” he said.

“All the misinterpretations and misconceptions triggered by an avalanche of misinformation and disinformation that dominated the mainstream and social media platforms have unduly influenced their thinking,” he added.

Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill despite oppositions from various groups.

Some people have been campaigning for the junking of the bill, which they claim can be used to silence the critics of the Duterte government.

Lacson, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has repeatedly stressed that the bill seeks to stop terrorism and protect people from terrorists.

He also underscored that there is a difference between the “designation” of terrorist individuals, groups, organizations/associations, and “proscription” of terrorist organizations.

“Designation as defined under the bill is a purely administrative process intended to trigger the issuance of a “freeze order” by the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said.

“Proscription, on the other hand, needs court intervention that requires due notice and hearing by the Court of Appeals,” he added.

Lacson also reiterated that the bill is a good measure, constitutional, and one that is swift and effective in fighting terrorism.

The senator previously said that he would join protests should authorities commit abuses in implementing measure.

Malacañang earlier said that the bill is now under final review before the president decides if he will veto or sign it into law.

Lacson urges gov’t to revisit use of PITC as procurement arm

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has called on the government to look into its practice of using the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) as a procurement arm.

Lacson said utilizing the PITC for procurement requirements of several national government agencies may have to be “revisited and stopped” to “save on unnecessary expenses amounting to billions of pesos in delays and commissions or service fees.”

The senator also questioned the PITC’s existence, saying that the agency may have “outlived its purpose.”

“Since the creation of the Government Procurement Service under the Department of Budget and Management, the PITC may have outlived its purpose,” Lacson said in a statement on Monday.

“Initially, it was only used to circumvent the procurement of medicines, especially for emergency needs. But later, it has expanded into the procurement of other items like rice,” he added.

Some senators earlier pointed that that the practice of using PITC to procure items only allowed departments to make it appear that their budgets had been obligated.

It was recently tapped to be the state’s procurement arm for COVID-19 vaccines tentatively pegged to amount to over P70 billion through loans.

Lacson said that it would be prudent that the government at least “take a long hard look” at the involvement of the PITC in the procurement of vaccines.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier said he would push for a Senate inquiry into the books of the PITC after voicing out suspicion that billions of government funds were “parked” at the PITC.

He said government agencies usually use the services of PITC when they are supposed to purchase products, and “pass on the budget there so that they will say that these are already obligated when in fact they are just deposited.”

Lacson urges Cayetano to resume House plenary session to pass 2021 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday called on House leaders to resume plenary sessions and approve the proposed 2021 national budget this month to avoid having a re-enacted spending plan next year.

Lacson said the House of Representatives is supposed to transmit the General Appropriations Bill to the Senate between Oct. 12 to 14 but House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suspended the sessions this week amid the chamber’s speakership row.

The senator said he has already reached out to Cayetano to suggest the resumption of sessions to pass the budget bill on third and final reading.

“I have just suggested to the Speaker if it’s possible for him to resume their session, which is merely suspended and not adjourned, before All Saints’ Day just to approve on third and final reading the House version of the budget measure and thereafter transmit the same to us,” Lacson said.

The budget proposal was approved on second reading prior to the suspension of sessions.

Cayetano insisted that the abrupt suspension would only delay the transmission of the budget bill to the Senate for a day which was disputed by senators.

“Between Oct. 12 and 14 when the Senate is originally scheduled to receive the transmittal of the General Appropriations Bill from the House of Representatives, and Nov. 17 when the Speaker said they will be able to transmit the same to us, is definitely not a one-day difference as claimed by Speaker Cayetano,” Lacson said.

“I also told him the senators, especially the finance committee vice chairpersons, need at least one week to study the House version and submit to the mother committee our reports. Another week will be needed for the finance committee to consolidate everything and file its committee report,” he added.

Lacson said that in doing so, the Senate will be able to start floor debates immediate when it resumes session on Nov. 16.

Under the law, the House must first approve on final reading the budget bill before the Senate can tackle the measure.

Congress needs to pass the bill and transmit it for the president’s signature before the current government spending expires on Dec. 31.

“That is the only way we can ensure the timely passage of the budget measure. We cannot afford an impasse involving the most important piece of legislation that Congress has to pass: the national budget,”

If no new appropriations plan will be passed, the government will be forced to operate on a re-enacted budget that does not provide for COVID-19 response projects.

Lacson believes Task Force PhilHealth found enough evidence to indict Duque

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Task Force PhilHealth has found enough evidence to indict Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement, Lacson said Duque and former PhilHealth Senior Vice President Rodolfo del Rosario may still face charges amid the alleged mass corruption in the said agency.

The senator said they based it on inside information that Senate President Vicente Sotto III received from a trusted source.

“Ayoko pangunahan ang task force pero ito na-share ni Senate President na nai-share sa kaniya ng isang mapagkatiwalaang source niya sa task force na sinabi nila aabutin ng ebidensya si Secretary Duque, pati si Senior Vice President del Rosario, (I don’t want to preempt the task force but this is what the Senate President shared which he received from a trusted source in the task force. They said the evidence could drag Secretary Duque and Senior Vice President del Rosario into the case),” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, the Task Fore PhilHealth said it is prepared to discuss the evidence that the senators have as the investigation continues. Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will still look into the previous corruption issues in PhilHealth.

“Patuloy po itong gagawin at marami pa pong mga pangalan siguro ang mga lilitaw sa mga susunod na araw (We will continue this and there are still names that will surface in the coming days),” he said.

Guevarra said the DOJ they will still submit more complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman this week.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Secretary Duque is prepared to face the allegations.

“Mas makikita natin talaga ang totoo kapag ginawa ito. Wala po tayong tinututulan diyan at tayo po ay makikipagtulungan (We would be able to clearly see the truth if we do [the investigation]. We are not stopping anyone and we are willing to cooperate). The Secretary of Health maintains his innocence on this,” she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed malversation and graft charges against former PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales and eight other PhilHealth officials due to alleged irregularities in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM). AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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