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

Maris Federez   •   August 10, 2019   •   417

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

No solid evidence yet to charge BuCor officials in GCTA controversy — Lacson

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines has not found any strong evidence yet linking officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to the alleged anomalous implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

Senator Panfilo Lacson believes they still need more proof aside from the testimonials of the witnesses that appeared at the Senate inquiry in order for the Senate to recommend the filing of charges against the involved BuCor officials.

“Not only Director General Faeldon pero ang ibang dapat mahagip, sinoman ang i-recommend for criminal liability (Not only Director General Faeldon but everyone else that should be recommended for criminal liability),” Lacson said.

“We need solid evidence to even consider recommending filing criminal charges against them,” he added.

Lacson said there was supposedly a group of alleged officials of the agency who expressed their intention to speak up of what they know about the controversial implementation of the GCTA Law.

After some time, however, the said officials changed their minds and withdrew.

“I hope they will have a change of mind, change of heart and finally decide to tell all during the next hearing,” Senator Lacson said.

During the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, the Senate invited to attend several personalities including former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong who formerly served as Chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Several senators already expressed agreement in giving chance to detained Senator Leila de Lima to defend herself at the Senate hearing after her name was again dragged into the controversy for allegedly receiving money from drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Yes, she should be given an opportunity,” expressed Senator Franklin Drilon.

Meanwhile, three BuCor officials remained locked up inside the Senate after they were charged in contempt for ling before the Senate Committee. – MNP (with details from Grace Casin)

Sotto on GCTA hearing: More witnesses will be presented

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 11, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday (September 11) said more witnesses on the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) will be presented at the Senate hearing on Thursday (September 12).

Four to five new witnesses might testify during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing tomorrow.

According to Sotto, these are former inmates and employees of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). Their testimonies will center on the GCTA and “hospital pass for sale” issue.

“I signed seven subpoenas which include subpoena duces tecum, but personalities will be presented tomorrow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the calls and messages from Elvira Sanchez have been retrieved. Sanchez is the common law wife of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

The Senate is also seeking the assistance of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to identify who texted Elvira that her husband will be released.

In a previous hearing, Ms. Sanchez already said she did not know who texted and called her.

“Ang trace nila galing sa loob, (The trace came from the inside). It was a text from an inmate. As a matter of fact hindi lang text (it’s not just a text). Hindi accurate iyong sinabi ni Ms. Sanchez, [may] tawag, (Ms. Sanchez’s statement was not accurate, there was also a call)” according to Sotto.—AAC (with reports from Grace Casin)

Zubiri calls for Alcatraz-like prisons for heinous crime convicts

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 4, 2019

Senator Miguel Zubiri

Senator Miguel Zubiri has filed Senate Bill 1004 to establish a separate prison facility across the region for heinous crime convicts.

Zubiri filed the said bill in the wake of the near release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

He said, “Heinous crime convicts and high-risk prisoners belong to maximum security prisons in isolated and uninhabited islands, far from their victims and society at large.”

Zubiri also lamented that while jails keep society safe and punish criminals by restricting their liberty, Sanchez was living luxuriously and still enjoys privileges as proven by actual videos taken at the New Bilibid Prison.

The senator proposed the establishment of Heinous Crimes Penitentiary (HCP). Based on the proposed Senate bill, inmates from the New Bilibid Prison and other Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) jails should be transferred to HCP facilities a year after its establishment.

“Convicts like Mayor Sanchez belong to the proposed Heinous Crimes Penitentiary to be run by the Bureau of Corrections. I propose that personnel of the Bureau build and operate several HCP facilities in several regions to be identified by the Secretary of Justice,” he said.

The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum federal facility located on an island in California, United States. It housed the most dangerous criminals in the US. The facility operated from August 11, 1934, until March 21, 1963.—AAC (with reports from Grace Casin)

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