Senate adopts committee recommendation to file raps vs Faeldon, other BuCor and Bilibid officials

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020   •   769

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has adopted the recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to file charges against officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over the alleged abusive implementation of the Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

In the Committee Report No. 42 sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday, the panel recommended the filing of charges against former BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon, BuCor Documents and Record Section chief Ramoncito “Chito” Roque, Corrections Senior Inspector Ma. Benilda “Mabel” Bansil, and Corrections Officer Veronica “Boday” Buno.

Also recommended to be charged were Bilibid Directorate for Health Services director Dr. Ernesto Tamayo, Medical Officer Dr. Ursicio Cenas and Nursing Attendant Meryl Benitez.

The panel wants Faeldon charged for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) for committing nonfeasance in not complying with the requirements of Department Order No. 953; Roque, Bansil and Buno for accepting money for the promise of early release of prisoners; and Tamayo, Cenas, and Benitez for accepting money in order for PDLs to be confined in the New Bilibid Prison Hospital.

“The New Bilibid Prison became a place of vulnerability. Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL), while they deserve to be in prison because of their crimes, does not mean that they should be exploited and be taken advantage of. Their vulnerable situation makes them prone to the many extortions done inside the Bilibid,” Gordon said.

To reform the penal system, the committee also recommended that:

  • There should be a Model System of Penology;
  • There should be full digitalization of the carpetas, which should be accessible to the public or the families of the concerned parties;
  • There should be transparency, especially with regard to the computation of time allowances and release of prisoners;
  • Full digitization of all prisoner records is a must;
  • Digitalizing records of BuCor and BJMP employees and personnel for easy monitoring and filing;
  • The New Bilibid Hospital should be maintained and be well-equipped with adequate medical services;
  • There should be an operations center which can monitor every prisoner;
  • The use of artificial intelligence, digital and video analytics with command center independent from each other, inside our prison facilities to ensure that the PDLs, guards, employees are constantly monitored; and
  • There should also be a Code of Conduct followed

DOF assures enough funds for procuring vaccine supply

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) on Tuesday (June 15) assured that the national government has enough budget to procure coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government’s P88.6 billion budget is enough to vaccinate 70 million adult Filipinos. This, he said, will cover 149 million vaccine doses.

Dominguez also said that the government will be able to obtain 200 million doses if the private sector will also procure around 25 million doses to be added to the 30 million doses that “are currently in the pipeline for negotiations”.

When asked about the price range for the procurement of vaccines, Dominguez replied it ranges from P323.75 – P1,323.30 per dose. He, however, did not disclose which brands, saying it would violate the non-disclosure agreements with vaccine manufacturers.

Senator Franklin Drilon stated the need for the Senate as well as the public to know the price range of the procured COVID-19 vaccines.

“To be clear, wala po akong sinasabing may nagnakaw. Maliwanag po iyan. Tinatanong ko lang kung magkano ba dahilan sa ito’y obligasyon natin bilang mga senador, obligasyon natin kung paano natin ginagastos ang kanilang pera,” he said.

(To be clear, I was not saying there is corruption. It is clear. What I am asking is how much were the doses since this is our obligation as Senators. It is our obligation to know how we spend public funds.)

“This is a public forum, we cannot disclose publicly. Now if COA [Commission on Audit] wants to audit us, it is open for audit. I personally designed the financing of this involving ADB [Asian Development Bank], AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank], and involving World Bank as a double-check. Because they will not pay for that if they see that we are overpaying,” Dominguez said.

The government is also reviewing to have an additional P20 billion to procure doses for the vaccination of children ages 12 to 15 years old. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it already released over P660 billion funds for the government COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, the first batch of vaccine supply for the private sector will arrive on June 17.

Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also said that private companies will give excess doses to the local government.

“Most of the private sector indicated to me that they will donate it to the LGU. considering that when we procured the vaccine the intention of the private sector is really to help the government in producing the dosage,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate approves POGO tax bill on third, final reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 3, 2021

With votes of 17-3-0, the Senate has approved the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO Tax Bill on the third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. 223 which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent seeks to impose additional taxes on POGO.

The Gross Gaming Revenue or receipts from POGO’s gaming operation will have 5% tax. The gross income of all alien employees of offshore gaming licensees and service providers will also be imposed with 25% withholding tax.

According to Senator Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and sponsor of the bill, an estimate of P28.7 billion worth of taxes will be collected in 2021 once it becomes a law. Meanwhile, an estimate of P32 billion will be collected in 2022.

However, several Senators do not agree in approving the said bill. Senator Risa Hontiveros said online gambling should not be the main source of income for foreigners in the country. She also reported crimes and syndicates where several POGO employees are involved.

“I think it is important for this chamber, Mr. President, to take a stronger position against online gambling and the illicit activity it has brought to our shores,” she said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also agreed with Hontiveros.

“Indeed, whatever amount the BIR collects from POGOs may be used to fund projects to give relief to our people’s suffering during this pandemic. However, we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the social costs that the POGO industry brings and has brought upon us,” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

13 local bills increasing hospital bed capacity get Senate nod

Robie de Guzman   •   June 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading 13 local hospital bills seeking to improve the delivery of health care services by increasing the bed capacity of several hospitals in the country.

The bills approved by the Senate cover the following hospitals:

  • Eastern Visayas Medical Center
  • Benjamin Romuladez General Hospital and Schistosomiasis Center
  • Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. Medical Center
  • East Avenue Medical Center
  • Davao Occidental General Hospital
  • Eastern Pangasinan Regional Medical and Trauma Center
  • First Misamis Oriental General Hospital
  • Bacolod City General Hospital
  • Rosario District Hospital
  • Sinait District Hospital
  • Naguilian District Hospital in La Union
  • Senate President Neptali A. Gonzales General Hospital
  • Rizal, Palawan Lying-In Clinic

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, who sponsored the measures, thanked his colleagues for supporting the approval of the bills.

He said the passage of the proposed legislations into law would ensure the stability of the national health care system by making sure that hospitals will have sufficient capacity resources and personnel to respond to the pandemic.

Go expressed hope that the bills would immediately be signed into law after hurdling the bicameral committee and be included in the budget for next year.

 

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