Senate may reinvestigate pork barrel scam

admin   •   May 12, 2017   •   3189

MANILA — Sen. Francis Escudero will wait until July before urging the Senate to reinvestigate the multi-billion pork barrel scam.

Sen. Escudero said he will first make way for the investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the case.

He said more things need to surface from the PDAF scam where Napoles revealed a list which includes several lawmakers.

“Iyong dumaan kay Ginang Napoles ay anim na bilyon lamang. May higit anim na bilyon pa ang hindi natalakay, hindi tinatalakay at noong naghi-hearing palang… hiniling ko na ituloy doon sa parteng iyon na hindi na nabigyan ng pansin ng Senado o ng DOJ,” Senator Escudero said. (Only P6-billion passed through the hands of Mrs. Napoles. More than P6-billion more has not been discussed during the previous hearings. I requested for the continuation of discussions on the part overlooked by the Senate or DOJ.)

Because of the PDAF scam, Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada and other involved personalities were charged and imprisoned.

“Hindi lang naisali noong araw siguro kaya tinitingnan uli. Dahil kung talagang hindi naisama, meron naman ebidensya. Kasi ang lakas ng padinig namin noong araw eh na may mga sinabing pangalan eh pero hindi sinama,”  said Senator Richard Gordon.

(It was not included before so it should be looked into again. If indeed it was not included, there is evidence. We strongly asserted before there were names mentioned but were not included.)

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Senator Gordon may again conduct a probe. However, new evidence must be presented before the reinvestigation. — Joyce Balancio | UNTV News & Rescue

Senate leader says local officials without offenses are under DILG, not DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   April 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), not the Justice Department, has jurisdiction over local government officials who did not violate any law.

“If a local official has not violated any law, the DILG is the Department that has jurisdiction over him. Not the DOJ!” Sotto wrote on his Twitter account.

Sotto made the remark in response to the move of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is under the DOJ, to summon Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for allegedly violating the provisions of the Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law.

The NBI accused the mayor of disobeying the national government’s order to suspend public transportation during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine when he allowed tricycles to operate in his jurisdiction.

Mayor Sotto earlier stressed that he already lifted his order allowing tricycle operation to ferry medical workers in his city before the Bayanihan law was passed on March 24.

The Senate President, one of the principal proponents of the Bayanihan Act, also said the law cannot be applied retroactively.

“NBI will be well advised to be cautious in their interpretation of the law I principally authored. Any so-called violation of RA 11469 can’t be retroactive!” he said.

“What are they talking about? Laws are never retroactive if detrimental to any accused,” he added.

The elder Sotto is Mayor Vico’s uncle.

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Senators defend Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto against NBI summons

Robie de Guzman   •   April 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Wednesday blasted the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for summoning Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto over his alleged violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The NBI on Tuesday summoned Sotto, saying he violated the law when he allowed tricycles to operate in his jurisdiction despite the suspension of public transport operations during the enhanced community quarantine period in Luzon.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, in a statement, said Sotto did not violate the law when he allowed the operation of “improvised tricycles” before March 18.

“Paano nilabag ni Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto ang batas na hindi pa batas? Ginamit ang mga improvised tricycle bago mag-March 18. Umapela, tinanggihan, at sumunod sa utos si Mayor Vico March 19,” he said.

“Naging batas ang Bayanihan to Act Heal as One Act (Special Powers Act) noong March 24,” he added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also slammed the NBI for bringing “hostile attention” to “well-performing leaders” amid the crisis on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Andaming kailangang bigyna ng solusyon: nagkakasakit na health workers, mga nagugutom. Why hostile attention to well-performing leaders like Vico?” she wrote on her Twitter account.

“The Bayanihan Law cannot be applied retroactively, and doesn’t suspend the right to dissent or express views. May na-insecure ba?” she added.

Senator Joel Villanueva also questioned the NBI’s move, saying that as far as he is concerned, the mayor has the “best practices” that other local government units “started to emulate nationwide.”

Villanueva also said that Sotto’s ideas to combat the spread of COVID-19 threat “make sense.”

“So, our question is do we really need this notice right now when we want our local government officials to mobilize all the resources they have to respond to their constituents’ needs? We have an urgent task at hand, and distractions such as this don’t help,” he tweeted.

Mayor Sotto was earlier lauded for coming up with solutions to address the COVID-19 crisis in his jurisdiction.

Among the city’s notable responses was the deployment of market-on-wheels, mobile kitchens and portable disinfection facilities.

According to Mayor Sotto, he is ready to respond to the NBI summon.

“Handa po kami kasi wala naman kaming tinatago,” he said.

Bill seeking additional powers for Duterte vs COVID-19 filed at Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   March 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to declare the existence of a national emergency and to authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to exercise powers necessary to address the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis has been filed at the Senate on Monday.

Senate Bill No. 1413 titled “We Heal as One Act,” seeks to authorize Duterte to realign funds, and investments including unused or unreleased subsidies and transfers, held by any government-owned and controlled corporation or any national government agency.

The bill also proposes to grant Duterte the authority – for a limited period and subject to restrictions – to issue rules, regulations, and directives to address the coronavirus situation in the country.

The measure likewise proposes to grant the president the power to adopt and implement measures to prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19, expedite medical testing and observation of persons under monitoring, and the immediate treatment of confirmed virus-infected patients.

He may likewise direct the operations of privately-owned hospitals and other establishments to house health workers or serve as quarantine or distribution areas, as well as order public transportation to mobilize medical workers and other frontliners.

“The management and operation of the foregoing enterprises shall be retained by the owners of the enterprise, who shall render a full accounting to the President or his duly authorized representative,” the bill read.

The proposed measure also states that the president may also take over the operations of the said businesses – subject to limits and safeguards under the 1987 Constitution – if these enterprises “unjustifiably refused or signified that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for anti-COVID-19 efforts.

The president may likewise undertake fast procurement or supplies as the need arises including testing kits, personal protective equipment, and other medical devices.

The proposed measure also seeks to authorize Duterte to cancel projects and programs to utilize its funds, realign budget and allocate funds held by any government agency to fund measures against the COVID-19 crisis.

The measure also seeks to ensure that local governments are acting in line with the directives of the national government.

The president will also submit a weekly report to the Congress while a Joint Oversight Committee will be established to determine whether such acts and orders of the President are within the specified restrictions.

The bill, introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Pia Cayetano, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

The Senate held a special session to tackle the bill on Monday.

Twelve senators, including Sotto, Cayetano, and Acting Senate Majority Leader Sherwin Gatchalian, Senators Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Ralph Recto, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Grace Poe and Francis Tolentino were present during the session.

The session, however, was temporarily suspended as they await the attendance of two more senators to reach a quorum.

Cayetano, who will sponsor the bill on the floor, said she is in the process of consulting the Cabinet officials, and consolidating all the proposed amendments introduced by her fellow senators. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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