Senate President Sotto still enjoys support of colleagues in 18th Congress

Maris Federez   •   May 31, 2019   •   1516

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

With the opening of Congress on July 22, new faces in the Senate and the House of Representatives will have their mettle tested in the world of politics.

Neophyte senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Imee Marcos and Francis Tolentino, who form part of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago-PDP bloc, are ready to set foot in the Senate.

Amid rumors of division in the Senate on committee chairmanship, Senator Cynthia Villar’s name has been floating to be the bloc’s bet for Senate Presidency.

Majority of the incumbent senators, however, have signified their support to the current leadership of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

 “I think Sen. Sotto will keep the Senate presidency,” said Senator Richard Gordon.

In a text message, Senator-elect Bong Go, stressed that he doesn’t know of any move that is pushing anyone in the Senate leadership, particularly that of Senator Villar.

Even Senator Villar, herself, said that she is not interested to become the Senate president.

Senate President Sotto, on the other hand, stated that even the mentioned incoming senators have also expressed their support to him.

He admitted that the support of his colleagues in the Senate is very crucial in his leadership.

“The Senate presidency is always at the pleasure of the members of the majority,” he added.

Other names floating to possibly replace Senator Sotto in the Senate leadership are that of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon. (with reports from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Go files bill seeking to amend Revised Penal Code, resolve GCTA law issues

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to amend the Philippine Revised Penal Code to resolve issues in the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule for inmates under the Republic Act 10592.

In filing the Senate Bill No. 1003, Go proposes to amend the Articles 29, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code, the same provisions which were amended and rendered unclear by the GCTA law.

Go said the proposed measure recognizes that the said articles gave the notion that prisoners, including recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes, are entitled to GCTA benefits.

The senator filed the bill more than a week after news broke out that convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez could be released earlier for good behavior.

Go said his proposal follows the points raised by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during a Senate inquiry on Monday (Sept. 2) on what seems to be lacking in the GCTA law and the safeguards that can be provided.

“I have filed Senate Bill No. 1003 to clearly state the intent and policy of the law not to extend the benefits of GCTA to prisoners who are convicted of heinous crimes,” he said.

Through SB 1003, Go added a provision that clearly states that convicts of heinous crimes “will not be eligible to be granted time allowances.”

He also added a list of heinous crimes to further avoid confusion and a provision that all prisoners for release on the basis of time allowances shall be subject for review.

The lawmaker also highlighted that Congress will be informed of the releases, “as the Bureau of Corrections will be required to furnish the Legislature with a report twice a year.”

“All of these will form part of our continuing fight against corruption and criminality, and illegal drugs,” Go said.

“The law may be ambiguous, but what is clear to me is that there is either negligence or corruption in the way our correctional system is being handled,” he added. “I say to the Filipino people – mananagot ang dapat managot.”

Senator Sonny Angara earlier filed a bill proposing to amend certain provisions of the GCTA law, including the clear definition of heinous crimes, the exclusion of recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons convicted of heinous crimes from availing of the GCTA and the deletion of the provision making GCTA irrevocable under the law.  

Proposals to repeal the GCTA law were also filed in the Senate following the controversy.

Installing Designated Survivor in Phl setting, timely – lawmakers

Maris Federez   •   August 30, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday voiced out his concern whenever the President, Vice President, senators, House representatives, and members of the Cabinet are together in one event.

“Example, there are extremists or a terrorist bomb at the Batasan and all died. We don’t have a successor,” he said.

That is why the senator believes that it is high time for the country to have a designated survivor, and filed his version of the Designated Survivor Bill.

A designated survivor is chosen and will be tasked to be the leader of the country when government officials included in the line of succession are incapacitated or have died at the same time.

An official who will be chosen to be the designated survivor will be brought to a safe house whenever the President holds a state of the nation address.

In the country’s existing law, included in the line of succession after the President is the Vice President, the Senate President, and the House Speaker.

 “After the Speaker of the House, we will continue the line of succession by naming the most senior member of the senate in terms of number of years. At kung naubos pa rin lahat ng senador, yung most senior member of the House of Representatives. Kung maubos parin ang lahat ng member ng House of Representatives [And when no one is left in the Senate, it will be the most senior in the House of Representatives. And when one is left in the House of Representatives], the President will now designate a Designated Survivor from among the members of the cabinet,” Lacson explained.

Meanwhile, on her version of the said bill in the House, Quezon City Representative Precious Hipolito-Castelo proposed that the Designated Survivor must be from the President’s Cabinet.

 “The absence of a leader can lead to lawlessness and disorder and, worst, anarchy,” the lady lawmaker said.

She stressed the need for a designated survivor, saying it will prevent the country from going into chaos in case the leaders perish.

Senator Lacson admitted that he was inspired to file the Designated Survivor Bill after watching the popular American TV series bearing the same title which revolves in the life and challenges of being the Designated Survivor.

U.S. law provides that a Designated Survivor is installed in office when the President, Vice President, and other officials come together in a gathering, such as the State of the Union Address, Presidential inauguration and during Congress Joint Session.

“Kapag naisabatas ito maraming hindi a-attend ng SONA [Once this is passed, many will not attend the SONA],” the senator quipped. (from the report of Grace Casin) /mbmf

Lacson questions release of 4 convicted Chinese drug lords in June

Maris Federez   •   August 29, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson

Even before the rumors of the possible release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, four Chinese nationals had been freed in June, according to Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson said the four are convicted drug lords and are scheduled to be deported to China.

Because of this, the senator wants to furnished with a complete list of prisoners that could possibly qualify to be released because of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

Lacson is concerned that the implementation of the said system is susceptible to possible anomalies.

“Baka naman per release ng convict meron corresponding amount [Per convict released might have a corresponding amount]. And we talk of 11,000 convicts to be released. At P10,000 or P5,000 each you can just imagine na [the] huge amount of money involved,” Lacson said.

On Monday, the Senate will begin the hearing on the proposed amendment of Republic Act 10592, particularly the provision on GCTA.

The senators who filed the amendment want the prisoners who are convicted of heinous crimes to be excluded from those who will be granted pardon or parole. (from the report of Grace Casin) /mbmf

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