Senators insist separate vote over proposed amendment or revision of the Constitution

UNTV News   •   January 18, 2018   •   4696

(Left-right) Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said they are not pressured by the resolution recently passed by the House of Representatives regarding the mode of changing the charter.

Sotto noted the Senate will still follow the proper process.

“If they will insist on a constituent assembly, of voting jointly, they cannot expect any member of the Senate to cooperate because we can always say no. Any of the two houses of Congress can say no,” Sotto said.

“Obviously, voting separately weighs more. The Constitutional Convention weighs more than the constituent assembly,” Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments chairman Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.

Even Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel believes there is no need for Congress to conduct a joint session.

“When you are in a joint session physically, the automatic thinking is that it will also be voting jointly. And since voting separately is our interpretation, I think we can proceed separately,” Pimentel said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also noted the Supreme Court should not intervene in the process of Charter Change.

“I concur the observation former Chief Justice Puno that the Supreme Court cannot interfere in the process of amending the Constitution because it’s a political question,” he said.

During the Senate caucus, Tuesday, Senator Panfilo Lacson proposes to expel the senators who will not stand by the decision of the Senate majority.

“So I said, ‘To strengthen our talks, maybe we should agree to expel members who will agree to such an arrangement without the benefit of a resolution adopted by the body’. And nobody objected,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said. – Nel Maribojoc | UNTV News & Rescue

Senators slam lack of funding for health worker benefits in 2022 national budget

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Several senators are questioning the lack of funding for healthcare worker benefits in the 2022 national budget.

Senator Franklin Drilon, during the briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee on Thursday (September 9), urged concerned agencies to “fix budget priorities” and lamented that the budget for next year is not in line with the reality being faced by the country.

The senator questioned why there is no allotted budget for the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and hazard pay for healthcare workers while the National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has a P28 billion budget. He also questioned why the P45 billion budget for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots is placed under unprogrammed funds.

“We see that the public health is not given priority that it deserves,” he said. “Are we saying that insurgency has become a bigger, more dangerous threat than COVID-19 and its fast mutating variants?”

Marami pong pagkukunan ng budget itong kampanya laban sa insurgency. Hindi po kailangang maghiwalay pa tayo ng 28 billlion (We can get budget for the campaign against insurgency, there is no need to allot P28 billion for it) in the face of all these difficulties that we are facing, and in the face of the fact that our health personnel are not being given special risk allowance,” he added.

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros believe the budget should be fixed in order to address the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Hontiveros likewise lamented that there is no allotted budget for healthcare workers.

Sa kabila ng kali-kaliwang panawagan at panaghoy ng ating healthcare workers na maibigay na ang kanilang SRA, gaano kagarapal na sa budget sa susunod na taon ay ni singkong duling, walang inilaan para sa kanilang SRA, hazard pay, allowance sa meals, accommodations at transportation? Bigyan naman natin ng dignidad ang ating medical frontliners (Amid the calls and cries our healthcare workers for their SRA, its shameless how next year’s budget has no allotment for their SRA, hazard pay, meal allowance, accommodation, and transportation. Let us at least give our medical frontliners some dignity),” Hontiveros said in a statement.

Senator Joel Villanueva said that the Executive branch should submit an errata to provide benefits for healthcare workers.

He added that a P23 billion budget is needed to double the SRA and active hazard duty pay of around 120,000 healthcare workers in private and public hospitals.

Kung seryoso po ang ating gobyerno sa pagbibigay ng SRA at AHDP para sa ating mga healthcare workers, ang gagawin lang naman ng DBM at DOH ay magpadala ng budget errata sa Senado at sa House of Representatives, (If our government is serious in providing SRA and AHDP to our healthcare workers, the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Health can simply send a budget errata to the Senate and House of Representatives),” he said.

Meanwhile, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez said it was him who proposed to include COVID-19 booster shots in the budget, however, experts panels and health authorities said the country still does not need booster shots for COVID-19.

“I had a big argument with them and in fact the result is that it is actually the budget. Had we not argued with that, it would not even be in the budget because they said it’s not yet proven, it’s not yet approved, etc. I said I don’t care I said I just want to make sure that we have an item in the budget that we can activate if and when the health authorities decide that it is required,” he said.

The DBM reiterated that there is a need to allot budget for NTF-ELCAC.

“It will actually provide development funds for barangays which have been recently freed of insurgency or leftist elements. If government will not intervene, then who will? That’s the reason why we also assert that the NTF-ELCAC is important. However we defer to the wisdom of Senate, House if they find that these reasons are not sufficient,” according to DBM Officer-in-Charge Usec. Tina Marie Rose Canda.

The Malacañang has yet to provide a response to the senators’ concerns. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate seeks probe on alleged DOH mismanagement of P67-B COVID-19 fund

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate wants to look into the alleged mismanagement of funds of the Department of Health (DOH) allotted for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

After the recent assessment of the Commission on Audit (COA), senators are seeking to investigate the deficiencies on the DOH’s P67.32 billion COVID-19 budget.

COA attributed the said deficiencies to the health department’s non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, including the use of funds not for the intended purpose.

Senator Grace Poe said this proves to be counter-beneficial to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time.

“These funds were provided to strengthen the agency’s health resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate should “particularly look into the P3.97 billion worth of contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in the procurement process and lacking documentation.”

“It is imperative that we examine closely the DOH’s use of billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds given the findings of the COA and the corruption allegations that hounded the agency’s procurement of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.

Drilon said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III’s ineptitude is sabotaging the government’s response to the pandemic.

“While we see a shortage of beds, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen tanks, the DOH incurred P24.64 billion in unobligated funds that could have augmented our medical resources and paid on time the risk allowance of our medical frontliners,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country needs commitment and competence from the DOH leadership to ensure every peso budgeted and allocated would save lives.

“Given the COA findings, the DOH seems to be depriving thousands of Filipinos of healthcare services in the face of national emergency and it is nothing short of criminal,” she said. AAC

Sotto gets Sinovac jab

Maris Federez   •   May 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday (May 22) received his first dose of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.

“After A1, A2, and A3 Senate Employees, finally had mine although I’m A2. I took what was available upon arrival. Had Sinovac!” Sotto said in a message sent to reporters.

Sotto was accompanied by his wife, actress Helen Gamboa, who also got inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.

Earlier this week, Sotto said that 73 percent of 1,848 Senate employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with either Sinovac or Russia-made Sputnik V.

He said that senators have agreed to be among the last ones to get the COVID-19 vaccines allotted for the Upper Chamber of Congress.

Aside from Sotto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who is 75 years old, also got his first dose of coronavirus vaccine in San Juan City last April 10, being under the A2 category.

Drilon was inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Department of Health said that the second dose of the Sinovac vaccine is taken after 28 days, while the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be taken within the recommended interval of 12 weeks. —/mbmf

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