Senate OKs bill granting President special powers vs red-tape

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2020   •   486

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant the President the authority to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications during national emergency.

Voting 23-0 on Wednesday, senators approved Senate Bill 1844 which grants power to the president to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses, and certifications, and to streamline and speed up the process for the issuance of such documents.

The measure was passed shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

The bill covers all agencies of the executive branch, including departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils; government instrumentalities, government owned and controlled corporations and local government units.

Under the measure, the President shall have the authority to accelerate and streamline regulatory processes and procedures for new and pending applications and renewals of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations, including fixing or shortening the periods provided for under existing laws, regulations, issuances and ordinances.

It also authorizes the President to suspend or waive the requirements in securing such permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations.

In consultation with or upon recommendation of affected government agencies, the President may also prescribe to be permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, and the suspension or waiver of the requirements in securing permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications or authorizations.

The proposal likewise reiterates the power of the chief executive given by the Constitution to remove or suspend any government official or employee as provided under the measure.

The bill, however, provides that the authority to be granted to the President “shall not be used to undermine the existing procedures and processes, under applicable laws, rules, and regulations, meant to protect the environment, especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally critical areas.”

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who sponsored the bill, said the measure was made under the same principle as that of the Bayanihan 2 provisions to extend the President’s authority beyond the current pandemic and any national emergency that the country might face in the future.

He said the measure could ease the already heavy burden of the businesses that were heavily hit and continuously being beaten by the gargantuan effects of the pandemic.

“This is a good accompanying measure to the ease of doing business. I think a lot of good will come out of this and I believe that with this, the President will be emboldened to remove more people for their ineptitude and incompetence,” he said in a statement.

The bill was authored by Zubiri, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte wants more mobile police to deter street crimes

Marje Pelayo   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants to improve the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) mobile capacity to enhance their capability to fight criminality, specifically street crimes. 

In his public address on Wednesday (October 14), the President expressed concern over the increasing rate of street crimes with the reopening of the country’s economy even amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Chief Executive expressed the need to further train cops, procure more motorbikes and improve police visibility to deter motorcycle-riding suspects.

“We have seen an upsurge of hold ups, street crimes because of the liberality offered by the opening of the economy and of course, people are now allowed to go freely and travel,” he said.

“The only way to counter anonymity of the criminals is also to fight the criminal on the ground,” he added.

READ: PH crime rate dropped by 47% during community quarantine period — JTF COVID Shield

In September, the PNP reported that crime rate or incidents of eight focused crimes in the country dropped by 47 percent during the six months of community quarantine from March 16 to September 15, 2020.

However, the PNP still recognize the need to continuously maintain police visibility, beat patrol and coordination among barangay officials to back the existing peace and order measures amid the current pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Sara Duterte denies hand in Velasco election as House Speaker

Robie de Guzman   •   October 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has denied involvement in the changes that ensued in the leadership of the House of Representatives, which saw the installment of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco as the new Speaker.

In a statement, Duterte said she only expressed the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party’s support for the term-sharing agreement between Velasco and Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano during her meeting with the Marinduque solon.

The Davao City mayor said that during their meeting last week, Velasco sought her help in securing the votes of three Davao region representatives who belong to HNP for his speakership bid.

Duterte serves as the chairperson of the HNP.

“Congressman Velasco came to Davao City to personally meet me and discuss Hugpong ng Pagbabago. He intimated that there will be a Speakership vote and he sought for my help, as the chairperson of HNP, with regard to the votes of the three HNP Congressmen from Davao region,” she said in a statement.

Duterte said she expressed support for the term-sharing agreement between Velasco and Cayetano that was brokered by her father, President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under the term-sharing deal, Cayetano would serve as House Speaker for the first 15 months or until October 2020 while Velasco will take over the position for the remaining 21 months of the term.

The Davao City mayor, however, denied reports that she made moves to ensure that the deal will be enforced.

“The only thing na may involvement ako sa House of Representatives is because chairperson ako ng Hugpong ng Pagbabago at hanggang diyan lang ang participation ko,” she said in a separate interview.

Several days after their meeting, Velasco was installed as the new House Speaker, replacing Cayetano.

He was elected to the chamber’s top post after 186 lawmakers declared the position vacant and voted for his installation during a remote session at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City on Monday.

During his speech, Velasco thanked his allies, as well as Mayor Sara and her brother, House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte.

“Nagpapasalamat din ako sa tiwala at moral support ni Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, Deputy Speaker Pulong Duterte,” he said.

On Tuesday, House lawmakers voted to ratify Velasco’s election as the new Speaker. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lucille Lloren)



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