Lacson, Sotto to Duterte: Don’t resign, just apply anti-graft laws to both friends, foes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020   •   760

MANILA, Phillippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte should just implement the anti-graft laws to all violators instead of resigning if he wants to end corruption in the government.

READ: Duterte admits offering to resign over endless corruption in government

“Instead of resigning, the President only needs to be consistent in applying the anti-graft and corruption laws to both friends and foes,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte said he has offered to step down from office out of frustration over the rampant corruption in the country.

“Ewan ko kung sabihin ko ito sa inyo. I offered to resign as president. Pinatawag ko yung lahat, sabi ko, ‘Kasi nagsasawa na ako. In my years of government […] talagang wala na katapusan itong korupsyon. Mahirap talaga pigilin,” Duterte said during his public address late Monday night.

The president’s remarks follows on the heels of fresh allegations of irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Duterte earlier promised to fire officials over just “a whiff” of corruption.

“Strong words and warnings may work, but only when backed by political will and followed by concrete actions. There is no better way,” Lacson said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said that it is the corrupt officials who should be resigning and not Duterte.

“Dapat ‘yung mga corrupt sa gobyerno makaisip noon, hindi siya. He was elected by the country, he cannot turn his back on the specified task by the Filipinos! I don’t think he means it,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.

As for Duterte’s offer to appear before a Congressional hearing to tackle corruption, Lacson said it may not be necessary.

“In fact, the Senate is already proposing in a bill to give him Bayanihan-like powers to address red tape in government,” he said.

Lacson was referring to Senate Bill 1844 which seeks to authorize the president to expedite the issuance of national and local permits and licenses in times of national emergency to address corruption and red tape in the government. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte wants more mobile police to deter street crimes

Marje Pelayo   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants to improve the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) mobile capacity to enhance their capability to fight criminality, specifically street crimes. 

In his public address on Wednesday (October 14), the President expressed concern over the increasing rate of street crimes with the reopening of the country’s economy even amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Chief Executive expressed the need to further train cops, procure more motorbikes and improve police visibility to deter motorcycle-riding suspects.

“We have seen an upsurge of hold ups, street crimes because of the liberality offered by the opening of the economy and of course, people are now allowed to go freely and travel,” he said.

“The only way to counter anonymity of the criminals is also to fight the criminal on the ground,” he added.

READ: PH crime rate dropped by 47% during community quarantine period — JTF COVID Shield

In September, the PNP reported that crime rate or incidents of eight focused crimes in the country dropped by 47 percent during the six months of community quarantine from March 16 to September 15, 2020.

However, the PNP still recognize the need to continuously maintain police visibility, beat patrol and coordination among barangay officials to back the existing peace and order measures amid the current pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Senate OKs bill granting President special powers vs red-tape

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant the President the authority to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications during national emergency.

Voting 23-0 on Wednesday, senators approved Senate Bill 1844 which grants power to the president to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses, and certifications, and to streamline and speed up the process for the issuance of such documents.

The measure was passed shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

The bill covers all agencies of the executive branch, including departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils; government instrumentalities, government owned and controlled corporations and local government units.

Under the measure, the President shall have the authority to accelerate and streamline regulatory processes and procedures for new and pending applications and renewals of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations, including fixing or shortening the periods provided for under existing laws, regulations, issuances and ordinances.

It also authorizes the President to suspend or waive the requirements in securing such permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations.

In consultation with or upon recommendation of affected government agencies, the President may also prescribe to be permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, and the suspension or waiver of the requirements in securing permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications or authorizations.

The proposal likewise reiterates the power of the chief executive given by the Constitution to remove or suspend any government official or employee as provided under the measure.

The bill, however, provides that the authority to be granted to the President “shall not be used to undermine the existing procedures and processes, under applicable laws, rules, and regulations, meant to protect the environment, especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally critical areas.”

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who sponsored the bill, said the measure was made under the same principle as that of the Bayanihan 2 provisions to extend the President’s authority beyond the current pandemic and any national emergency that the country might face in the future.

He said the measure could ease the already heavy burden of the businesses that were heavily hit and continuously being beaten by the gargantuan effects of the pandemic.

“This is a good accompanying measure to the ease of doing business. I think a lot of good will come out of this and I believe that with this, the President will be emboldened to remove more people for their ineptitude and incompetence,” he said in a statement.

The bill was authored by Zubiri, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

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