Senate questions P39 meal allowance of inmates

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 3, 2019   •   830

Filipino jail guards salute as inmates sing the national anthem during a peace accord event to stop violence amongst gangs inside the New ‘Bilibid’ Prison’s maximum security compound in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 December 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

Senators on Thursday (October 3) questioned the P39 meal allowance of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) which was supposed to be P60 per meal a day.

In 2018, more than P1 billion was allotted for the Food Subsistence Allowance of persons deprived of liberty (PDL). However, during the bidding, the allowance was cut to P39 per meal a day.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also said the meal allowance had been increased to P70 per day in the 2019 national budget.

Hindi ko ma-reconcile bakit papakainin mo lang ang preso ng P39 worth of meals, when bina-budgetan na ng gobyerno. Saan napupunta iyong balance?” he said.

(I could not reconcile why you would give P39 worth of meals to inmates when the government has an allotted budget for it. Where does the balance go?)

Former BuCor Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos has revealed in the Senate hearing that the BuCor director receives P1 million from catering services.

Caterer, Angelina Bautista, recalled that they won the bidding for the provision of catering services to the Correctional Institution for Women in August 2018.

However, she said, they were disqualified after refusing to give “kickbacks” to officials.

Another catering service provider said they were also blacklisted in 2017.

“We cannot participate during the bidding because of the politics na nangyari nga po (that was happening),” according to Lisa Dizon of Mang Kiko Catering Services Inc.

However, former BuCor Chief Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa said that no one offered him any ‘kickbacks’ during his time as the BuCor Chief. He also said he did not accept any bribes.—AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Police frontliners to undergo physical, mental health check—PNP

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 17, 2020

Police frontliners will undergo physical and mental check up beginning July 1, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

PNP Spokesperson PBGen. Bernard Banac said their troops that are manning checkpoints and other areas are also at risk for stress and anxiety, particularly when most of them have not been home for months.

Banac said a group of psychologists will monitor the physical and mental health of police officers.

“Kasabay niyan ang laboratory, X-Ray at ang ECG… so titingnan ang physical well-being mg mga pulis ( It includes laboratory, X-Ray, and ECG…so we will monitor the well-being of the police),” he said.

Banac also said they will prioritize police officers age 40 years old and above and those who will undergo the health check up should wear their complete uniform.

“Alam natin na kapag 40 years old and above mas marami nang dinaramdam physically at madali na silang maka-experience ng stress at fatigue (We know that 40-year-olds and above are more susceptible to experiencing physical fatigue. They experience stress more easily),” he added.

Police officers with the birth month of January will be scheduled for the physical and neuro-exam from July 1 to 3. Meanwhile those born in February and March will be scheduled from July 6 to 8 and July 9 to 13, respectively. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Senate adjourns session sans passage of ‘Bayanihan Law 2’

Robie de Guzman   •   June 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has adjourned sine die its first regular session in the 18th Congress without passing the proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III adjourned the session on Thursday afternoon, without approving on final reading the Senate Bill No. 1564 that would provide for the Philippines’ coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response and recovery plan.

Before adjourning the session, senators held a caucus as they waited for the urgent certification from Malacañang to allow the swift approval of the measure.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte did not certify the bill as urgent as announced later by his spokesperson, Harry Roque.

Senate Bill 1564 seeks to extend until September the validity of the Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants the president special powers to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is an emergency measure which will expire once the Congress adjourns sine die.

Under the law, all provisions under an emergency measure cease to be valid upon the next adjournment of Congress.

According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, once the Bayanihan to Heal as One law lapses and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act is not passed, the national government will no longer be compelled to give cash aid.

“Mawawala ang emergency powers. Lahat ng provision sa Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, balewala na ‘yan kasi time bound ‘yan,” he said during an online interview with reporters before the resumption of Thursday’s session.

“Kung hindi mapapasa ito, ang mga kababayan natin na ‘di nakakatanggap ng tulong, ang maasahan lang nila kung ano ang ibibigay ng Executive Branch na available pero hindi sila mama-mandate ng batas na magbigay ng ayuda,” he added.

The Senate on Wednesday passed on second reading the proposed ‘Bayanihan to Recover as One Act but it did not reach the third and final reading due to the three-day rule in passing legislation. An urgent certification from the Palace would have expedited the passage of the measure.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the allocation of a P140-billion standby fund is proposed to help sectors and industries heavily-hit by the pandemic. It also seeks to provide funds for the procurement of additional COVID-19 testing equipment as well as the implementation of assistance programs for displaced workers, low-income households and other sectors.

Congress will open the second regular session in July. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Delayed cash assistance to fallen, sickened medical frontliners dismayed Senators

Marje Pelayo   •   June 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Medical frontliners who will get infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in line of duty starting February 1, 2020, are entitled to receive a compensation of P100,000.

Meanwhile, relatives of those who will die of the disease will receive P1-million, according to Section 4 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act. 

But until now, none of the infected healthcare workers not even the relatives of those who succumbed to COVID-19 have received any amount from the government which dismayed several Senators.

According to Senator Sonny Angara, the Department of Health (DOH) failed to come up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Law that is why they were not able to distribute the said financial aid to the supposed beneficiaries.

The Senator insisted that the DOH should not use the absence of an IRR as an excuse for not complying with the law. 

“It is really criminal. This neglect to pass and to delay these types of benefits,” Angara said. 

“These people, we keep praising them as our heroes but yet, it’s just mere lip service if we don’t give them anything material,” he added.

Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, stressed that providing aid to frontliners sickened or killed in the line of duty especially at this pandemic is something unquestionable. 

“You don’t need Implementing Rules and Regulations here. The law is very clear. Why should we distinguish? They have already died,” Gordon said. 

“A little investigation will tell us that you can pay them because they died because they were in the frontlines! That’s a no-brainer,” he added. 

Gordon noted that the COVID-19 death toll among healthcare workers has already reached 32 while two others are now severely or critically ill. 

Senator Kiko Pangilinan also expressed his dismay and called the matter ‘unacceptable and unforgivable.’

“They have already died. They have already suffered, and we continue to allow them to suffer more because of this failure and inaction on the part of the Department of Health,” he said.

Because of this, Senate President Vicente Sotto III demanded the DOH to explain such delays in the compensation of fallen and sickened healthcare workers.

“It is definitely unacceptable. The answer is acceptable. They have to do it and they have to do it today,” Sotto said.

The DOH, however, is yet to respond to the matter. —MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

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