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

Maris Federez   •   May 31, 2019   •   1858

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

Duterte to deliver 5th SONA at Batasang Pambansa — Sotto

Maris Federez   •   July 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27 at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

“I just received word today that the President has decided to deliver his SONA in the Batasang Pambansa, the House of Representatives, on July 27,” Sotto announced during an online conference with Senate reporters.

But due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), they will limit the number of people who will be allowed entry to the Congress plenary hall.

Sotto said only 50 people will be allowed to attend – 25 from the executive and 25 from the legislative departments, which include office staff and security personnel.

And unlike the previous SONA, there will be no invited audience.

Sotto added that only nine members of the House of Representatives (HOR) and eight senators are expected to attend physically.

Sotto said he will be joined by Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Tolentino, Ronald Dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Sherwin Gatchalian and Pia Cayetano.

The Senate President said he agrees with the decision of the Palace.

“I agree with that decision of the executive department. We must give the country and the public and the people the semblance that your government is up and about and ready to continue with its job,” he said.

Sotto said attendees in the SONA are all expected to undergo rapid testing and comply with the health protocols to be implemented during the event.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, on the other hand, said it is not yet confirmed whether the President will personally appear in Congress or will just do a video telecast emanating from Malacañang.

“The venue is confirmed, it is Batasan pero ang alam ko po, hindi pa po 100% sure kung physically maga-attend ang president or mag-broadcast po from Malago to Congress,” Roque said.

Under the Constitution, the President is mandated to deliver his SONA before a joint session of Congress every fourth Monday of July. — (with inputs from Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

Bill mandating employers to offer work from home set up filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   June 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to make work from home arrangement a mandatory option offered to employees has been filed in the Senate.

In filing Senate Bill No. 1448, Senator Imee Marcos noted that alternative working arrangements are becoming a new normal in offices due to the continuing threat of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Marcos said her bill proposes to introduce amendments to the Republic Act 11165 or the Telecommuting Act to make working from home a mandatory option for employees whose physical presence in the workplace is not necessary for the completion of his or her job, and who have been in the company for at least a year.

“Should the physical presence of the employee be necessary for a particular task, the employer may require his/her attendance in the workplace, within office hours and during weekdays, but not more than twice a week,” Marcos said in her proposal.

Telecommuting is defined in the present law as a work arrangement that allows a worker to perform his or her tasks from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.

“Various sectors, including the labor sector, have to make major modifications in their policy to ensure compliance with social distancing measures,” Marcos said in the explanatory note of the bill.

“This bill, this seeks to strengthen the Telecommuting Law by making it mandatory, and not merely optional, for employers to offer telecommuting as an alternative to employees whose physical presence in the workplace is not absolutely essential to the performance of their functions,” she added.

The measure also states that a contract of employment should clearly indicate the eligibility of a given position for telecommuting.

“Clearly, a ‘new normal’ of social distancing, new hygiene standards and limited physical contact shall prevail into the future,” Marcos said.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Telecommuting Act on December 20, 2018, after Senator Joel Villanueva pushed for its passage in the previous Congress.

Go pushes gov’t aid for live events workers amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has called on the government to also provide support for displaced workers heavily affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, especially those in industries that cannot resume operations due to social distancing and community quarantine measures.

In a statement in Tuesday, Go said workers engaged in live events, entertainment industry, as well as those engaged in businesses that cannot operate at this time, must be given utmost attention by the government.

“Dahil sa COVID-19, may mga industriya talagang hindi makapag-operate ngayon. Bawal ang pagtitipon kaya tulad nung mga nasa live events organizing, kailangan maghanap ng ibang pagkakakitaan,” he said.

“Bukod pa diyan, ang mga tao sa entertainment industry ay apektado rin po, lalong lalo na ‘yung ordinaryong manggagawa tulad nung parte ng mga production crew bilang halimbawa. Ito po ‘yung mga kababayan nating bumubuhay sa industriya ng sining na ngayon ay hirap makabalik sa kabuhayan nila,” he added.

The live events industry consists of events, like meetings, conferencing, exhibitions, concerts involving international and local artists, theatrical productions, corporate, social, cultural, fashion, sporting, and club events, weddings and family celebrations, trade fairs and exhibits, and on-ground activation and sampling activities.

“Tulungan nating mapagaan ang pinapasan ng mga nasa ganitong uri ng industriya. Wala pong dapat mapabayaan sa panahon ngayon,” Go added.

The senator also expressed hope that once the health situation improves and the spread of COVID-19 is under control, more provinces and cities under modified general community quarantine can provide guidelines for these industries to resume operations in accordance with health protocols.

Go, former long-time aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, also urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Labor and Employment, and other concerned agencies to look into the situation of and provide assistance programs for the displaced workers.

He also suggested events businesses to avail of emergency loans and financing program for micro, small and medium enterprises.

The DTI is presently implementing COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) program, which aims to help enterprises stabilize or recover from losses due to the health crisis.

The National Live Events Coalition (NLEC) recently appealed for government assistance for their members, highlighting that the live events industry, comprised of businesses and industry professionals, institutions, agencies, technical and staging providers, concert and festival producers, wedding and social events planners, venues, performers and freelance production workforce, have faced lost opportunities and revenues due to COVID-19.

Live events organizing is a multi-billion industry that provides employment to several thousands. The NLEC said the industry is composed of 30,000 MSMEs.

Some MSMEs related to the industry may have to close down or operate only at 10% capacity.

Although the live events industry is not specified in the latest Senate version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, Go is urging the administration’s economic managers to look into the matter and explore more opportunities for the government to extend help to this sector in these trying times.

“May mga provisions sa Senate version ng Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) para sa mga subsidies, loan programs at iba pang social assistance na pwedeng makatulong sa mga empleyado ng ganitong industriya,” Go said.

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