Outgoing senators reveal plans after Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   May 22, 2019   •   12009

Upper row: (L-R ) Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Bam Aquino, Francis Escudero Lower row: (L-R) Senators Gringo Honasan, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Loren Legarda

MANILA, Philippines – Six senators of the 17th Congress are soon to leave the Senate.

Senators Francis Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Loren Legarda and Antonio Trillanes IV have until June 30 to serve their last term.

Senators Bam Aquino and Joseph Victor Ejercito, meanwhile, needed to leave following their defeat in the 2019 midterm polls.

Escudero may be leaving the Senate but he remains in public office after winning as governor of Sorsogon.

Legarda, likewise, is shifting to local governance after being proclaimed as the new representative of Antique.

For his part, Honasan said he is still hoping for President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of him as head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“It’s up in the air. That will be decided after June 30 by the appointing authority,” Honasan said.

Meanwhile, Senators Aquino and Ejercito said that their next plan to enjoy their private lives with their respective families.

“Ngayon ang ating destiny ay maiba hindi man magpatuloy dito. I guess na mahalaga right now just to take steps back. Spend more time with your kids and try to determine how to help the country in other ways,” Aquino said.

“Maraming paraan para tumulong sa ating bayan,” he added.

“Tulungan ko muna ang wife ko sa mga businesses naming,” Ejercito said when asked about his plans following his exit from Senate.

He admitted, however, that he regretted the outcome of running against his brother Jinggoy Estrada.

“Ang regrets ko…ang pinakamabigat kong problema yung dalawa kaming magkapatid na tumakbo,” Ejercito said.

“Sana kinausap ko na lang. Nag-usap kami ng father ko, ng pamilya na nasabi ko na sana ang aking concern. Ilang beses ko sinabi na ito ang mangyayari na pwede kaming mahila lahat pababa. Exactly ito  na nga ang nangyari,” he added.

Trillanes, meanwhile, said he is thinking of going back to school.

The controversial senator earlier said he will remain critical of the Duterte administration even outside of Senate. — Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Senate on total closure from January 10 to 16 – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2022

MANILA, Philippines ­– The Senate will be closed for a week amid rising COVID-19 infections among its employees, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Citing a report from the Senate Medical Team, Sotto said there are now 46 active COVID positive cases in the upper chamber while 175 employees are under quarantine due to exposure and manifestation of symptoms.

Sotto said these employees are awaiting the result of their COVID-19 swab test.

He also mentioned that five staff of the Medical Bureau are under quarantine, which depleted their workforce and find it hard to attend to the needs of the infected employees.

“Medical has sent a Memo recommending 7 days of total closure of the Senate from January 10 (Monday) to  January 16 (Sunday),” he told reporters.

“They will conduct thorough disinfection and this will lessen contact among employees to prevent or slow down virus transmission,” he added.

Sotto said total closure means no one will be allowed to enter the Senate premises except for those involved in the disinfection process to be conducted on January 8 and January 15.

The House of Representatives earlier announced it has extended the lockdown in its offices until January 16, also due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

 

Defense chief Lorenzana tests positive for COVID-19 anew

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed on Wednesday that he has again contracted COVID-19.

In a message to reporters, Lorenzana said he was informed of his test result earlier in the day but he has not manifested any symptoms.

He said he is fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

“This morning I got the result of my swab test yesterday afternoon after the Senate hearing. I am asymptomatic,” he said.

“Yes, I am fully vaxxed. I’ll observe myself for several days after that I’ll have another swab,” he added.

The Defense chief first tested positive for COVID-19 in April and recovered.

Lorenzana took a swab test after undergoing screening for COVID-19 on Tuesday when he physically attended a Senate hearing for his department’s budget for 2022.

With this development, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they might suspend the budget deliberations on Thursday to give way for the testing of exposed Senate staff.

Lorenzana had interactions with several senators during the session. Among those who was exposed to him were Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino.

Senators and staff who had contact with Lorenzana have been asked to undergo quarantine and get tested after five days.

DILG, provinces urge Senate to restore NTF-ELCAC’s P28B budget for barangay dev’t program

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines have appealed to the Senate to restore the P28.1 billion Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) proposed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for NPA-cleared barangays in the 2022 budget.

In a statement issued on Monday, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the program is “a game-changer in our battle to end Communist Terrorism in the country.”

“Unti-unti nang nararamdaman ng mga naninirahan sa mga barangay na sakop ng SBDP ngayong taon ang tunay na kahulugan ng pagbabago at pagkalinga ng gobyerno na hindi nila naramdaman sa nakaraan dahil sa mga Komunistang Terorista,” Año said.

The DILG chief noted that “there is now momentum in the fight against Communist terrorism and slashing the P28.1 Billion will send a wrong signal to the Local Government Units who have been expecting these development projects next year.”

“We must remember that the battle against the CTGs is not just a battle of arms, it’s also a battle for the hearts and minds of our people,” he said.

The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) echoed Año’s appeal.

During its 8th General Assembly, the LPP said it passed Resolution No. 2021-009 supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-insurgency program and urging the Senate to approve in full the proposed Support to the Barangay Development Program in the 2022 General Appropriations Bill.

“The full and continued implementation of the BDP needs to be pursued in order to bring about and sustain progress and development in these identified conflict-affected barangays that urgently need government support and assistance,” said LPP President and Marinduque Governor Presbiterio Velasco, Jr.

“The proposed projects under the SBDP which were identified by the community residents themselves, represent their collective aspiration towards genuine peace and development,” Año said.

The DILG Secretary stressed that cutting the proposed NTF-ELCAC budget next year will deprive these remote barangays of development and will make them vulnerable once more to the CTGs at a time when we have already gained significant strides in our whole-of-nation approach to defeat communist terrorism.

“Mahigit 50 taon nang naghihirap at napag-iwanan ang ating mga kababayan na nakatira sa mga bulubundukin at malalayong lugar na dati ay pinamumugaran ng mga communist terrorist groups (CTGs),” he said.

“Nakikiusap po tayo sa ating mga Senador na huwag ipagkait ang pagkakataong maramdaman nila ang pagmamalasakit ng gobyerno at malasap ang tunay pagbabago,” he added.

Año said that the P16.44-billion development projects under the SBDP this year are in full swing in the 822 insurgency-cleared barangays with several projects already completed and others in different phases of implementation.

Of the 2,318 SBDP projects funded this year, 19 are already completed, 557 are undergoing implementation, 783 are under procurement, and 959 are under pre-procurement.

Among the completed SBDP projects are livelihood projects in Barangay Mount Diwata, Monkayo, Davao de Oro; lot purchase for housing in Barangays Don Mariano Marcos, Tagbua, and Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental; distribution of seed capital to poor farmers in Barangay Caduha-an, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental; livelihood project in Sangab, Maco, Davao de Oro; installation of 50 units LED solar street lights with solar panel in Barangay Darapuay, Bansalan, Davao del Sur; and purchase of rice harvesters in Carataya, Mahunodhunod, Putian and San Antonio in Cuartero, Capiz.

“Based on the current status of SBDP projects, we are expecting that majority of them will be completed by the first quarter of 2022 with some spill-over projects to be completed by the second quarter,” Año said.

He explained that some of the projects are still under procurement on the LGU level because it takes about 1-2 months for the preparation of pre-procurement documents like Detailed Engineering Design (DED) from the implementing local government units (LGUs), Certificate of Pre-condition (CP) or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC) from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and Notice of Authority to Debit Account Issued (NADAI) from the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).

The DILG Chief maintained that completing these documentary requirements were even more challenging with the stringent COVID-19 restrictions as another 4 to 5 months are needed to complete the procurement process in compliance with the Republic Act (RA) 9184.

He added that actual implementation of the SBDP projects on the ground takes about 1 to 4 months to complete depending on the nature of the project with non-infra projects usually completed faster than infra projects like roads and buildings.

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