Senate to probe on Chinese investments in three islands in Cagayan, Zambales provinces

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2019   •   862

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Senate seeks to investigate reports that Chinese investors are planning to develop the Fuga Island in the province of Cagayan and the islands of Grande and Chiquita in Zambales.

In a statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is wondering why the government allowed these movements despite China’s alleged bullying practices in the West Philippine Sea.

She added that these islands are no ordinary islands as they have an important role in the military’s history.

“Amid China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, it is baffling that the Duterte government allowed this to happen. These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security,” the senator’s statement reads.

Senator Panfile Lacson also pointed, “security concerns dahil kung Chinese investors ang magde-develop at yung proximity dun sa mga facilities. Lalo’t may report na lumabas na yung western command in Palawan merong allegedly Chinese tourists na kumukuha ng pictures so anong intention [security concerns because if Chinese investors will the ones to develop (these islands) and their proximity is in (our military) facilities. Especially now that the Western Command in Palawan has reported that there is an alleged Chinese tourists taking pictures, on what intention]?”

Aside from the three islands, the Senate may possibly discuss the development of the 32-hectare lot of Island Cove Resort in Kawit, Cavite that is to be used by the Philippine Off Shore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry.

This is only several kilometers away from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) air and naval bases. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

AFP to assist in distribution of SAP 2nd tranche in ‘problematic areas’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is ready to provide assistance to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the distribution of the second tranche of the emergency subsidy under the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

In a statement on Wednesday, AFP Spokesperson Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said the military has coordinated with the DSWD to discuss the process and the security to be provided in the distribution of cash assistance especially in the ‘problematic areas’.

Arevalo said that ‘problematic areas’ include those where SAP anomalies were reported, geographically-isolated barangays in island municipalities and far-flung areas, and locations with reported presence of terrorists and other threat groups.

The military spokesperson expressed confidence that the military will be able to do its part in the mission, as they have undertaken a similar task in the past such as the distribution of election materials in hotspot areas.

“We will employ in this task our experience in distributing election paraphernalia during local polls,” Arevalo said.

He also said that the new task may “affect our security operations” in terms of troop adjustments, but he assured that this is “not enough to hamper operational success.”

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista, a former Philippine Army chief, on Tuesday revealed that the AFP and the Philippine National Police will assist them in the distribution of cash assistance as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Senate OKs bill seeking stiffer penalties for perjury

Robie de Guzman   •   May 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, May 18 approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to impose longer prison sentences and larger fines for individuals, especially public officials, who will commit perjury.

Voting 20-0, senators passed the Senate Bill No. 1354, which proposes to amend Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code and increase the current penalty on perjury from a range of the minimum period to medium period, or from six years and one day to 10 years of imprisonment.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and sponsor of the bill, said the proposed higher penalties were meant to deter people from committing perjury as they testify under oath in proceedings, such as legislative hearings, and to create a culture of truth-telling in government.

“In other words, you lie, you pay… Do not trifle with the truth,” he said in a statement.

Perjury, he explained, is committed by a person when he “knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the crimes of false testimony under judicial proceedings, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.”

Under the existing law, persons guilty of perjury are only sentenced from four months and one day to two years and four months of imprisonment.

For public offcials or employees who would commit perjury, the penalty of imprisonment will be imposed in its maximum period, along with a fine of P1 million, as well as perpetual disqualification from holding any appointive or elective position in government, Gordon said.

Gordon believes that the bill would help address the issue of low conviction rates for people charged with perjury.

“As we uncovered during our committee hearing, a factor for the low cases is the low penalty imposed on the crime of perjury. The current penalty for perjury is subject to probation and the bail imposed is also low, roughly Php6,000 only. Given the high costs involved in prosecuting a crime, there is no motivation to prosecute the crime of perjury,” he said.

The bill was co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Leila de Lima.

Its counterpart bill at the House of Representatives remains pending at the committee level.

Senate to honor ex-Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

The Philippine flag flies at half-mast in front of the Philippine Senate building Friday to mourn the passing of former Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta. (Philippine Senate)

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Friday said it will give honors to the late Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta, who passed away on May 14.

Aquino-Oreta was a member of the Senate during the 11th and 12th Congress.

Senate Majority Juan Miguel Zubiri said a resolution will be passed on Monday, May 18 paying tribute to the former senator.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier expressed his sadness over the passing of Aquino-Oreta, whom he worked with at the Senate and considers as his friend.

“My family and I are so saddened by her demise.  She was very close to me and Sec Greg,” Sotto said, referring to former senator and now Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan.

Sotto also said that his wife, Helen, was also “devastated” by Aquino-Oreta’s demise.

“Helen, being a relative of theirs is devastated by her passing away. She has not stopped crying since we were told the news last night,” he said.

Other senators have also expressed condolences to the family of the former lawmaker.

Malacañang also expressed sympathy over the demise of Aquino-Oreta.

“Our sincerest condolences to the family, relatives, friends and colleagues of former Senator Maria Teresa “Tessie” Aquino-Oreta who passed away yesterday, May 14 at the age of 75,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Senator Oreta had a distinguished career in public service. She served the country as a senator during the 11th and 12th Congress and as Representative of 8th, 9th, and 10th Congress,” he added.

Aquino-Oreta was the youngest sister of slain Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the aunt of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Her son, Malabon City Mayor Antolin “Lenlen” Oreta, announced her passing on Friday but did not disclose the cause. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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