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

Maris Federez   •   August 10, 2019   •   597

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

Senate OKs proposed new anti-terror bill on second reading

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s fight against terrorism.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who authored and sponsored the bill, said Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeks to provide “a clear, concise, balanced and rational anti-terrorism law that adheres to regional and international standards.”

The bill includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

“With (Senate Bill 1083), we can be sure that whether the terroristic act is committed here or abroad, the perpetrator shall be within the arms of the law once he or she comes to our country,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

He also said that the new anti-terror bill seeks to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007, which “did virtually nothing to deter participation in the plotting of terroristic acts.”

The measure also introduces provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

“As a responsible member of the community of nations, we are duty-bound to improve our laws to ensure that we can implement UN Security Council Resolutions, meet international standards, and fulfill state obligations with the United Nations,” Lacson said.

The measure proposes the establishment of Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines.

It would also ensure that foreign terrorists do not use the country as a transit point, a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.

“We send a strong message to them: You are not welcome here. If you dare set foot in our country, you will be dealt with the full power of our laws,” Lacson said, adding that the penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole will be meted out to them.

The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendable by 10 days.

Despite being a tougher anti-terror law, Lacson assured the measure has enough safeguards against possible abuses by arresting officers and that amendments were crafted to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the accused individuals or suspected terrorists inside jail facilities are protected.

The bill also introduced a new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts, to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

The use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify will also be allowed under the measure.

The bill also provides for the police or the military to conduct 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years, the senator said.

To allay concerns of possible excesses by the authorities, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) shall be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist.

The measure also mandates the CHR to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons and shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.

Senators insist exemption from gag order plea on ABS-CBN franchise issue

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators believe that they should not be covered by the gag order that Solicitor General Jose Calida is requesting in relation to the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation.

 According to Senator Grace Poe, the Upper Chamber is expressing its respect and support to the Supreme Court (SC) but based on the court’s previous ruling, the Senate should not be affected by the gag order.

Poe is planning to start the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise on February 27.

Several senators also agreed that discussions on the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal should be given a chance.

 “I think it has to be established first, (before you curtail my freedom of expression), for me to speak freely,” expressed Senator Joel Villanueve.

“I think there is no compelling reason right now to do that,” he added.

“The Senate can pursue the oversight hearing in light of its oversight function,” believed Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa who is a known ally to President Rodrigo Duterte also supports the Senate’s discussion on the allegations against ABS-CBN.

“It concerns everyone, the public. So, hindi mo maiwawasan na pag-usapan iyan sa publiko, (You cannot stop the issue from being discussed in public,)” dela Rosa said.

“We have to give fair chance to everyone. Dapat malaman natin kung anong katotohanan. Pero pag sinabi mo na impluwensya ako sa desisyon ni Presidente, kayo may sarili kayong bias, ako naman (We should know the truth. But if you accuse me of being influenced by the President’s decision, like you having your own bias, I also am biased to my President,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, hopes that the Supreme Court will not include the Senate or any of its committees in the gag order.

“What may be covered, though, are the resource persons who will be invited to shed light on this instant case involving the franchise of ABS-CBN as they are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general,” Lacson explained in a statement.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who previously filed a joint resolution to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN to 2022, argued that the SC cannot bar a resource person from responding to a Senate invitation.

The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation. The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” Drilon said.

SC spokesperson Atty. Brian Hosaka, meanwhile, clarified that the Senate may still push through with their inquiry, even the House of Representative as they are not among the parties involved in the case.

The SC has given the Kapamilya Network five days to answer to the SolGen’s petition.

Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed support for the gag order.

“Tama naman siya doon kasi parang nagiging emotional ang issue on this particular topic,” Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“If ABS-CBN has committed a criminal act then the President will exercise his right and pursue a case against it before the court. But he will not use his office to stop ABS-CBN from continuing with its service. That’s for congress to decide, not for him,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado / Rosalie Coz)

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

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020

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

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