Sotto: No need to railroad federalism efforts after Bangsamoro Organic Law approval

admin   •   July 19, 2018   •   4102

 

 

IMAGE_UNTV_NEWS_080717_TITO SEN

FILE PHOTO: Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

 

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law hurdles the scrutiny of the bicameral conference committee following the reconciliation of all its sensitive and contentious provisions on Wednesday (July 18).

And with the expected enactment of the proposal, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that the Congress will no longer need to railroad the efforts for the shift to federalism.

During a weekly press briefing at the Senate, Sotto noted that the proposed organic law could be a good test case to see if a federal type of government would work in the country.

“Magandang experimental itong Bangsamoro Organic Act. Dito makikita natin kaya hindi natin kailangang apurahin yung federalism,” Sotto said.

The measure seeking to create a Bangsamoro entity that aims to help attain lasting peace in Mindanao is expected to be ratified by the Congress on July 23.

President Duterte is expected to sign the bill into law on the same day when he delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Sotto added that in the two years of the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Act, the public would be able to weigh in if it is effective or not.

He said that the Congress can always repeal the law if it fails to cease the hostilities. But if it turns out positive, it would not be hard to push for charter change.

Sotto admitted that for now, he is not keen to push for the immediate passage of the proposed federal charter as it contains issues that need to be thoroughly scrutinized.

These include the proposed political party system, putting up of a democracy fund and the anti-political dynasty.

“Maraming debatable issues pa,” said the Senate president.

The Senate leader plans to call for a caucus after the SONA on Monday (July 23) to get his fellow senators’ take on the proposed constitutional revisions. — Nel Maribojoc | UNTV News & Rescue

Senate approves bill resetting BARMM elections

Robie de Guzman   •   September 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday approved on final reading a bill seeking to reset the first regular elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Voting 15-3-1, senators approved Senate Bill No. 2214, which proposes to move the date of the BARMM elections from May 2022 to May 2025, synchronized with the national elections.

The measure amends Section 13, Article XVI of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the local government committee and sponsor of the bill, said they saw the need to extend the BARMM transition period in order to implement the political and normalization efforts embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

He noted that despite the accomplishments of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the global pandemic posed significant challenges to the execution of the priority programs and projects of the Bangsamoro government.

“However, it (the committee) is also mindful of the Bangsamoro people’s right to assert their democracy in the said region and exercise their right of suffrage. Although the BTA has considerably delivered some of its mandates under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, there is much work yet to be done,” Tolentino said in a statement.

The bill states that upon the expiration of the terms of the incumbent members of the BTA, the President shall appoint 80 members of BTA who will serve up to June 30, 2025, or until the election of their successors.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Richard Gordon, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Risa Hontiveros are co-authors of the bill.

In the House of Representatives, the Committees on Suffrages and Electoral Reform, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, approved last week a committee report that consolidated proposals to extend the BARMM elections.

Sotto supports deferment of enforcement but laments ‘misinterpretation’ of Child Car Safety Law

Robie de Guzman   •   February 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has chided the critics of Republic Act No. 11229 or the Child Safety Motor Vehicles Act, saying its provisions were heavily “misinterpreted” and that detractors should read it first before vilifying the law.

In a privilege speech on Monday, Sotto defended the law mandating the use of child restraint systems or car seats for young children, adding that misinterpretation of its provisions should not be a reason for the postponement of its full enforcement.

Sotto said he would support the deferment of its implementation considering the current COVID-19 pandemic when people do not have extra funds to purchase car seats.

“However, if the reason for the postponement is not due to the pandemic but that the law is being misinterpreted, that I cannot support,” he said.

The Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019. The law mandates that children below 12 years old with a height of less than 150 centimeters or 59 inches to use child restraint systems or car seats and are only allowed to take the front seat if they meet the 4’11’ height requirement, on top of using the regular seat belt.

The law was set to be fully implemented on February 2 but transportation officials earlier said they will not yet apprehend or issue tickets to violators as they aim to conduct intensified information drive about the law within the next six months.

Sotto said the law clearly states the age, height and weight it covers, and children who do not fall under these requirement as provided by law could use the usual seat belts.

Under the law, violators will be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 and suspension of driver’s license for one year for the third and succeeding offenses.

“Are we just going to allow our country to remain as a third world country in terms of safety of children? Many have a very low understanding of the law that we passed. There are countries similarly situated or shall we call underdeveloped or the least developed countries such as El Salvador, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Mozambique, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, but their implementation of their car seat or child seat safety law is doing well or are doing well,” Sotto said.

He said private motorists in first world countries like the United States, Europe and Asia are required to rent a child seat when they rent a car. Nobody complained about the requirement, Sotto noted.

“Now, why is a car restraint system necessary? Mandating the use of age-appropriate child restraint system like car seats and booster seats, are one of the evidence-based road safety policies that will save lives of the minor passengers and will give them a better chance of surviving a car crash,” he stressed.

Sotto also hit social media users who contribute to the “misinterpretation” of the law, as well as skeptics concluding that China will benefit from the law’s implementation.

“Let’s stop the blame game. There are people saying that the Chinese will benefit from it. If that is the argument, then don’t buy an iPhone because it is assembled in China. Huawei, shoes like Adidas, as they are all manufactured in China,” he said.

“I wonder, in this issue, I wonder who the cerebrally challenged are? The implementers, or those opposing the law on social media?” he added.

While he agrees that the implementation of the law is ill-timed, he emphasized the importance of its enforcement to ensure child car safety.

“Our country is behind when it comes to the safety in transportation, especially the safety of the children. I can only pray that our children and grandchildren do not get hurt because of our misunderstanding of the law. Kaya please, basa muna bago kumontra,” he said.

The Senate committee on public services has set an inquiry into issues surrounding the measure on Tuesday while a similar hearing will also be held at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Sotto, Lacson want fresh probe into alleged PhilHealth corruption

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday said a fresh investigation should be conducted into the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) following the resignation of one of its officers.

“There must be a full blown Senate investigation. Allegations and denials abound therefore diligence is necessary,” Sotto said in a statement.

“Where there is smoke, there is fire!” he added.

Lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith resigned from his post in PhilHealth citing “widespread corruption” in the agency as one of his reasons for quitting. He also said in his resignation letter that the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by overseas Filipinos workers was “unconstitutional” and against his personal values to let OFWs “pay for the spillages” of the agency.

He also claimed that there is rampant and patent unfairness in the agency’s promotion process, and that his salary and hazard pay has not been on time since he started investigating Philhealth officers as its “anti-fraud legal officer.”

According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, he is now drafting a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the issue.

“I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday,” Lacson said in a separate statement.

Reports quoting sources said that corruption claims were the topic of an online meeting that led to a shouting match between Philhealth officials on Thursday evening.

“That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable,” Lacson said.

“Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law,” he added.

Last year, the Senate launched a probe into alleged conflict of interest between PhilHealth and the Department of Health. The investigation also covered DOH contracts that went to pharmaceutical firms owned by relatives of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales earlier denied claims of widespread corruption in the agency and called on Keith to substantiate his allegations. He also said that Keith only raised the issue after his application for another post at the agency was turned down.

Morales also denied the alleged resignation of two other PhilHealth officers due to corruption allegations. He said his head executive assistant resigned to pursue his doctoral studies while a corporate counsel denied any news of quitting his post. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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