Sotto says SOGIE bill no chance of getting Senate nod if…

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   1001

28-year-old transgender woman Gretchen Diaz at the Senate hearing deliberating the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill. Calls for the passage of the bill sparked anew following a viral video showing Diaz being barred from using the women’s restroom at a shopping mall in the Philippines. (Prib photo: Joseph Vidal/20 August 2019)

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill has no chance of passing in the Senate.

In a message to reporters, Sotto said the Senate could pass an anti-discrimination bill but not one that is focused only on members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.

“Anti-discrimination on persons pwede. Pero focused on gays, which the SOGIE bill is, and religious and academic freedom impeded plus smuggling of same sex marriage? No chance!” he said on Wednesday.

Sotto clarified his statement on Thursday, saying the bill has no chance of getting Senate’s nod if it violates certain freedom, including women’s rights.

“It has no chance of passing in the Senate, ‘IF’ it transgresses on academic freedom, religious freedom, and women’s rights,” he said in a statement.

The SOGIE bill, filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros, seeks to criminalize discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

She earlier urged her colleagues to immediately pass the measure following the incident where a transgender woman was barred from using a female comfort room at a mall in Quezon City.

Hontiveros refiled the bill in the 18th Congress after the previous Congress failed to approve the measure.

Sotto: No need for Congress to pass law for medical marijuana

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday reiterated that there is no need for Congress to waste efforts legislating a law that will allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Sotto issued the statement after the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) said that it recently approved “in principle” a resolution authorizing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating severe forms of epilepsy.

The Senate President said he will not raise any objection to DDB’s announcement but his support will border on the assumption that the use of such “is in medicine form and conforms with the DDB-PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) guidelines and permit.”

“The DDB move proves the law being proposed in the HOR is unnecessary. There are more important proposed legislations that our honorable counterparts at the HOR should spend their time on,” Sotto said.

“I hope they give priority to measures that will have more impact on the most number of our countrymen,” he added.

The House of Representatives in January approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to legalize and regulate medical marijuana in treating chronic or debilitating medical conditions. The bill also proposes the establishment of Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers which will be authorized to supply, sell, and dispense cannabis to qualified patients through S3-licensed pharmacists.

According to Sotto, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is already authorized under the country’s Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which he noted sets down the policy that “the government shall aim to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.”

He pointed out that the policy is implemented through a circular issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) providing the guidelines for the issuance of a “compassionate special permit.”

DDB chairman Catalino Cuy earlier clarified there is no need for a separate medical marijuana law since mechanisms already exist to allow the use of dangerous drug compounds in medicine form.

Cuy also said that cultivation and production of marijuana for medical or for any other purposes is still illegal in the country under Republic Act 9165.

Sotto pushes for long-term rehab plan for Batangas after Taal volcano eruption

Robie de Guzman   •   January 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III is urging his fellow lawmakers and policy-makers to start drawing up a comprehensive long-term plan for the rehabilitation of the province of Batangas after the eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a statement, Sotto said that while the government had started implementing short-term strategies to address the immediate needs of residents affected by the residents, these would not be enough to help the province get back on its feet again.

“We have to start pooling our ideas to rehabilitate Batangas. We need permanent solutions to resolve post-disaster concerns and help Batangueños recover,” he said.

The senator said the government should be ready to implement rehabilitation programs once Taal Volcano quiets down, and experts declare that the threat of a hazardous eruption is 100 percent over.

He also highlighted the need to address issues on housing, infrastructure, and livelihood, which he stressed will be the top three concerns of the provincial government.

Sotto said the long-term rehabilitation plans should include the provision of temporary and permanent homes to eruption-hit families, repair of roads, buildings and other infrastructures; and small and medium enterprise opportunities, among others.

“Let us not forget the hard lessons we have learned from the rehabilitation of Tacloban and Marawi. We did not have ready programs to help those who were affected by these tragedies, to the chagrin of the residents who relied heavily on the government to help them get back on their feet again,” Sotto said.

The Senate President noted that hundreds of thousands of families living in towns surrounding the Taal Volcano lost their homes and livelihood after thick layers of ashes belched by the volcano on January 12 blanketed their houses.

Their animals and pets were also killed, while volcanic quakes and fissures damaged roads and bridges in several towns.

Businesses have also remained closed, adversely impacting the sources of income of workers.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Sunday, January 26 lowered Taal Volcano’s alert level, which means a decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.

However, Phivolcs said that “this should not be interpreted that the unrest has ceased or that the threat of a hazardous eruption has disappeared.”

The agency explained it downgraded the alert status following a decline in volcanic earthquakes, slower ground deformation, and weak steam and gas emission at Taal’s main crater.

Sotto assures timely passage of 2020 budget bill

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has assured that the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be passed on time.

Sotto said the Senate is on track in its calendar for the approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as it resumed plenary deliberations Tuesday following its transmission by the House of Representatives.

“It was submitted on time. We are right on track of our timetable without sacrificing important issues being raised in the different departments,” Sotto said.

He also noted that senators have been given plenty of time to bring up and clarify questionable or ambiguous provisions in the budget bill.

Sotto said plenary discussions on the budget bill, including the period of interpellation, individual and committee amendments are expected to be completed by the last week of November.

The budget bill is also seen to be approved on second and third reading by next week to be followed by the convening of the bicameral conference committee by the first week of December.

“The bicameral debates will be unpredictable. We expect healthy debates among members of the bicameral panel as they thresh out and reconcile the differences in our respective versions of the measure. We hope they will remain level-headed and open-minded during the discussions,” Sotto said.

Congress is eyeing to have the proposed 2020 budget enacted and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before it goes on a break for the holidays on December 20.

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