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

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2019

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

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Duterte wants OFW department up by December

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

One-stop service for Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs in side the POEA biulding in Ortigas.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the establishment of a separate Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) by December this year to address the persistent woes with illegal recruiters and other concerns.

Duterte said the proposed department’s power will include strict regulation of Philippine-based recruitment agencies.

“Kaya apurahin ko ‘yang Department of OFW. Bawal na ang recruitment sa abroad — sa labas. Kung gusto nila, diyan sila maglagay ng mesa. So, under the supervision of government at walang horrendous charges. Hindi ako papayag ng ganun ‘pag natayo ‘yan,” the president said in a speech during the Araw ng Pasasalamat for OFWs ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo last Friday (July 12).

Duterte said he wants the framework for this proposal be completed by the second week of August.

He also warned illegal and abusive recruiters to shape up as they will no longer operate without direct government supervision once the proposed department is created.

“Kaya kayong mga recruitment, bilang talaga ang araw ninyo… ‘Pag hindi ko kayo nadala sa usapan na maganda, brasohan tayo. ‘Pag nag-brasohan tayo, kayo ang matatalo. Sigurado ‘yan,” he said.

In line with this, former special assistant to the president and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed the Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.

Go’s proposal seeks the creation of the said department to serve as the umbrella agency to address all concerns of Filipinos working overseas.

The measure will also create an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund to provide financial aid to Filipino migrants in distress and provide livelihood loans for OFWs returning to the Philippines for good.

Once approved into law, the department will absorb the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, the International Labor Affairs Bureau and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Currently, Filipinos wanting to work abroad need to go to different departments to secure necessary documents and present other concerns such as employment and technical education.

The neophyte lawmaker believes the president will certify the measure as urgent to swiftly hurdle the Congress before the year ends.

“I think it’s possible and doable naman po by December. Maybe the president will certify it as urgent. At ang gusto na mangyari ng presidente [ay] maiwasan ang illegal recruitment or maging biktima ng illegal recruitment,” he said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Capiz Rep. Castro eyeing House Minority leader post

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro

MANILA, Philippines – Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro is considering seeking the Minority Leader post when the 18th Congress opens later this month.

In a statement, Castro said he is seriously studying suggestions by other congressmen for him to take the post “to maintain a credible balance of opinion on all issues” in the House of Representatives.

“I am seriously considering whether I could maintain my balance considering the hairline difference between being a minority member from an opposition. This is because, critical collaboration as distinguished from being destructive is called for,” he said.

Castro said he is open to suggestion and will wait for guidance before he responds to his fellow lawmakers’ call.

The Capiz representative served as Majority leader in the latter part of the 17th Congress, replacing Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr.

Castro’s statement comes after Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion for him to take the Majority Leader position instead following the latter’s endorsement of a term-sharing set-up between Congressmen Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco as House speaker.

READ: Romualdez accepts House Majority Leader job

READ: Duterte: Cayetano, Velasco to share term as House Speaker

But Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate opposed Castro’s bid, saying the Minority Leader should come from the genuine opposition.

“Mahirap namang hawak na nga nila ang leadership ng Congress ay pati minority leadership ay kukunin pa nila,” Zarate said in a statement.

(It is not right for them to have the minority leadership when they already have the leadership in Congress.)

“If someone is to be the minority leader, he should at least be part of the true minority who opposes the anti-democratic and anti-people policies of the administration,” he added.

Zarate is the progressive Makabayan bloc’s candidate for House Speakership race. (with details from Grace Casin)

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Senators think charter change still has a long way to go in 18th Congress

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Courtesy : HOR Facebook page

Some senators are still not sold on the idea of instilling changes in the 1987 Constitution in the 18th Congress.

This, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s manifestations of pursuing the charter change.

Senator Franklin Drilon said it is still uncertain as to how senators will vote on the proposed constitutional amendment.

Drilon said, “(It is) difficult to predict at this time how the senators will vote. Senate prides itself as independent of Malacañang.”

“Plus, I sense that a number of my colleagues have a “moist eye” on the Presidency in 2022, and may not support an amendment which may lead to a shift to federalism,” he added.

Liberal Party president, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who held the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, meanwhile, said the fate of the charter change will depend on composition of the Senate.

“That all depends on the majority. We will see how it goes given the new composition of the Senate,” Pangilinan said.

Senator Ralph Recto, on the other hand, said he still wants to have the cha-cha proposal scrutinized.

“We’ll have to take a look at details of the cha-cha proposal,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, believes that majority of the senators have not wavered in their stance regarding the charter change.

 “It’s a little more complicated than what the President and the House want. Why? We are simply back to the same question, which is to clarify the ambiguity of the provision in the Constitution that deals with the manner of voting by Congress constituting itself into a constituent assembly,” Lacson said.

He further said, “Again, in doing so, we are faced with a chicken and egg situation. If it’s via ConCom, do we have enough time to accomplish it before the end of his term?”

Neophyte senator Francis Tolentino, however, believes that the passage of the proposed change in the form of government can still happen during President Duterte’s term.

“Tapos na yung preparatory work ng ConCom. Yung ginawa ni former Justice Puno [The preparatory work in ConCom is finished. What former Justice Puno did], it was commissioned by the executive branch. May napadala na silang report at nasa infancy stage na yung kauna unahang version nito yung sa Bangsamoro. Hindi pa siguro huli ang lahat [They were able to send their report and the very first version of it – the Bangsamor- is already at the infancy stage. Maybe it’s not yet too late,” Tolentino said.

The proposed charter change was able to slightly move in the Lower House during the 17th Congress.

It was, however, stalled in the Senate until the Congress adjourned. (with reports from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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