Senators on new House charter change resolution: ‘Not a priority’

Robie de Guzman   •   December 16, 2019   •   665

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators remain indifferent to the proposal of the House of Representatives to amend the provisions of the Philippine 1987 Constitution.

According to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, charter change is not among the Senate’s priority agenda.

“It’s not a priority in the Senate. It’s not in any committees, there’s no resolution filed. We are not talking about it,” he told reporters in a press briefing Monday.

Sotto’s statement was in response to the passage of a House resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution.

The unnumbered resolution, which was approved in a closed-door meeting last week by the House constitutional amendments committee led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, seeks to relax the economic restrictions stated in the country’s charter, and lengthen the terms of local government officials, congressmen and senators to five years and three terms.

Under the present charter, a senator can serve for six years and run for two consecutive times while congressmen and local officials can serve for three years and three consecutive terms.

Although the proposal will not be discussed, the Senate said it will not stop the Lower House from convening as Constituent Assembly to tackle the draft charter change.

A resolution of both houses or a joint resolution requires the approval of both chambers and the signature of the president, according to the Senate’s website.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said that pushing for charter change is doomed without the Senate’s approval.

Drilon also advised congressmen who would insist on passing charter change to “make it a point to include their return address because the Senate and the Filipino people will not accept it.”

The opposition lawmaker also called the proposal of House lawmakers to extend their term as a “self-serving move.”

READ: House OKs resolution on longer terms for Congressmen, local officials

“The term extension is ill-conceived. It extinguishes all the good intentions they may have in mind in pushing for Cha-cha. We will oppose it,” he said in a statement.

He added that the non-mention of Cha-cha and federalism in the last state of the nation address of President Rodrigo Duterte was a clear message to Congress that Cha-cha is no longer a priority of the administration.

“Apparently, the message was lost on the members of the House of Representatives. I had said it before and I will say it once more, Cha-cha is dead,” Drilon said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also said the passage of the House resolution on charter change would not prosper if submitted to the Senate just like what happened in the past.

“Dati na nating nakita ang kapareho na Resolution of both House sa panahon ni [former president Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo. At the time, it was dead in the water dito sa Senado. I’m confident bilang bahagi ng Senate minority at si Senator Kiko [Pangilinan] ang chair ng Senate committee on constitutional amendments, if that would be sent here, it will also arrive dead in the water ditto sa Senado,” she said in a media interview.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa expressed doubt on whether Duterte will still be able to implement the reforms he is pushing if the charter would be amended, adding that he would support it if it includes a shift to federalism.  

“Baka kulang na ng oras, short na ang oras at panahon ni President Duterte, hindi na niya make-carry out ang gusto niyang mga pagbabago na gagawin pero still kung pupwede pa, go ahead, suporta ako diyan,” he told reporters in a separate interview. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

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)

House solon wants charter change proposals shelved ‘indefinitely’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020

Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday said he will propose the suspension of deliberations on the controversial charter change (Cha-Cha) proposals amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said he is inclined to recommend to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to “shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely” to focus on discussing measures to address the public health crisis and help the Filipino people prepare for the ‘new normal’.

The lawmaker made the proposal following claims that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other advocates initiated moves to gather up to two million signatures in support of Cha-Cha.

“This is not the time for the DILG and its allies to relaunch their signature drive and renew their push for Cha-cha. They should postpone it until this health crisis is over,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“So my message to Cha-cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” he added.

Rodriguez said pushing for Cha-Cha can wait as Congress will first have to attend to measures that will “save lives and the livelihood of our people.”

The DILG earlier denied it has launched a signature campaign for Cha-Cha, branding these reports as fake news. RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

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