Senate leadership supports resolution to allow Sen. de Lima to join sessions via teleconferencing

Maris Federez   •   August 10, 2019   •   1065

Senator Leila de Lima

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed his support to the resolution filed by Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson to allow Senator Leila de Lima to join them in the plenary session thru teleconferencing.

Lacson said they have ready equipment for that purpose.

It is the same equipment that the Senate used during then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s term when Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was allowed to join the Senate sessions while in detention.

Once the resolution is approved, De Lima will be able to interpellate in the plenary and file her proposed amendments on existing laws.

De Lima, however, will not be allowed to vote as Senate rules dictate that a senator must be physically present in the plenary to vote.

The lady senator, nevertheless, considered this news a welcome development.

“Great news!  Answered prayers. I’ve been longing to be given such privilege so I can more meaningfully fulfill my mandate,” she said.

De Lima’s camp said they still need to seek clearance from the Philippine National Police (PNP) for this.

Atty. Raymond Baguilat, De Lima’s counsel, said: “Ang rules ng PNP regarding sa mga tao sa custodial ayun nga, bawal ang electronic gadget. So, lahat yan kailangan ng approval ng PNP so iaakyat yan kay Gen. Albayalde [Among the PNP’s rules regarding personalities in the custodial facility is that electronic gadgets are not allowed. So, we need the approval of the PNP and this has to be elevated to Gen. Albayalde].”

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Dante Jimenez, however, is doubtful that this will be allowed by the court.

“I’m pretty sure the court will deny that,” Jimenez said.

The Senate Committee on Rules said that it still has to study the resolution before they present it to the plenary for the senators to deliberate and vote on. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Lacson, Sotto test negative for illegal drugs

Maris Federez   •   November 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday (November 22) underwent voluntary drug testing at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) office in Diliman, Quezon City, and tested negative for drug use, a statement from the Partido Reporma said.

Earlier in the day, Sotto said: “Magkaalaman na kung sino matatapang”.

The Lacson-Sotto tandem said their move was to show that they are drug-free and fit to run in the 2022 national and local elections.

Sotto earlier said that ordinary drug tests only determine “shabu” or  “marijuana” use.

However, the PDEA test that they took, he said, is a ‘’multi-drug one-step immunometric assay for the detection of drugs of abuse in urine.’’

In the statement, Lacson said he and Sotto took a multi-drug screening procedure, which is capable of detecting all types of illegal substances in a human body. They both tested negative for illegal drugs.

The tandem went through all the protocols from the signing up of forms to the submission of their urine samples where an attending physician monitored them closely to ensure the authenticity of the tests.

Last Friday, Lacson suggested Friday conducting a random drug test to candidates following President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on an unnamed presidential candidate who was into cocaine.

“I have never been addicted to drugs all my life, so I have no problem with that. In fact, we should all undergo random testing to make it more credible,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an ambush interview in General Santos City, Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go who is also running for president, reiterated that, although it is not mandatory, he is willing to undergo drug testing any time of the day.

“Ako naman po willing magpa-drug test anytime of the day. Anytime po kung kakailanganin,” Go said.

“Though hindi mandatory, pero just to prove lang po sa Pilipino kung sino yung fit na mamuno sa ating bansa ay willing po akong magpa-drug test, any time of the day po,” he added. —/mbmf

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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