Sotto signs proposed P3.7-T 2019 national budget “with strong reservations”

Marje Pelayo   •   March 26, 2019   •   1453

FILE PHOTO: Senate President Vicente Sotto III

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday (March 26) finally signed the 2019 General Appropriations Bill “with strong reservations.”

In a press conference, Sotto said he signed the measure but attached an annotation explaining his strong reservations on the bill.

“I already signed the enrolled copy. It’s now going to be an enrolled bill presented to the President, but I placed my reservations on the signature,” he said.

Reading his letter to the President, Sotto argued that his attestation “is limited only to those items approved by the bicameral conference committee and ratified both Houses of Congress.”

The Senate leader maintained that the P75 billion worth of programs or projects under the local infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) funded through “internal realignments” were “unconstitutional.”

“The President may wish to consider disapproving these unconstitutional realignments, pursuant to his constitutional power to veto particular items in the General Appropriations Bill,” Sotto concluded in his letter.

The 2019 National Budget Bill will now be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for review and signature. – Marje Pelayo

Sotto backs shift of NCR to modified ECQ, says rushing back to ‘old normal’ will be reckless

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the government to place high-risk areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement, Sotto expressed his belief that the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to shift some areas into modified ECQ was based on recommendations made by experts who have been on top of the public health crisis.

“I am confident that the recommendations given to him were the result of intelligent discussions that were based on solid data provided by authorities on the ground,” he said.

While he acknowledged that many people, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), are yearning to return to their jobs and start earning income again, Sotto said it would best “if we all proceed on the side of caution and not throw away the gains of our sacrifices for almost two months.”

“I understand their concerns about losing their work and being unable to provide for the basic needs of their families,” he said.

“Rushing back to the ‘old’ normal, or even just a semblance of it, will be reckless. It will expose majority of our people to the continuing threat of the infectious novel coronavirus and open the gates for a second wave, which could be more vicious and difficult to handle,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the government announced that areas with high-risk for COVID-19 will be placed under modified ECQ starting May 16 until May 31.

These areas include Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City.

The entire island of Luzon had been placed under ECQ from March 17 to April 30. Some areas, including Metro Manila, were then placed under an extended community quarantine until May 15.

Under a modified ECQ, 50% of the workforce and operations of selected manufacturing and processing plants will be allowed to resume. Transportation will remain limited for essential goods and services.

Sotto said the downgrade of many areas to a general community quarantine will be a challenge for everyone to be more responsible individuals, and to care for the welfare of the public.

“Ngayon natin makikita ang disiplina at responsibilidad ng bawat isa sa atin,” he said.

“Walang sinuman sa atin ang gustong bumalik ulit sa ECQ. Nakasalalay sa ating lahat ang success o failure ng ating laban kontra COVID-19,” he added.

As of May 11, the Philippines has recorded 11,086 confirmed cases with 1,999 recovered patients and 726 deaths.

Most of these cases were reported in Metro Manila.

Sotto pushes for wider COVID-19 mass testing as May 15 ECQ end nears

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2020

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III is calling on the government to expand the mass testing for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as areas currently under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) anticipate a transition to a more relaxed general community quarantine period.

In a statement issued over the weekend, Sotto said the coverage of the mass testing being conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) must be widened to cover more people, especially those who will soon be allowed to go back to work under a GCQ status.

The senator expressed concern that most workers will return to their workplaces even as the rate of COVID-19 infections remains high, especially in Metro Manila.

Sotto said that at the Senate, 20 employees were found positive during a rapid testing conducted when the sessions resumed last Monday.

He said this should serve as an eye-opener to government leaders and the general population who have been pushing for the relaxation of quarantine rules even while the threat of coronavirus remains high.

“These employees duly complied with the stay-at-home order of the government. They just stayed inside their homes for almost two months. They were not exposed to anyone who is sick of COVID-19. They did not show and feel any of the symptoms,” he said.

“Kung sila na nasa bahay lang at sumunod sa lahat ng health protocols ay nag-positive sa virus, siguradong mas malala ang pwedeng mangyari kung ma-lift na ang enhanced community quarantine at ang lahat ay papayagan ng lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay,” he added.

Sotto stressed that an expanded mass testing will give health officials “a clearer picture of the extent of COVID-19 transmission and infection.”

He said the results of an expanded mass testing coverage will also serve to caution government leaders against prematurely lifting the current ECQ in Metro Manila and other areas and rushing their transition to general or relaxed quarantine.

“Magagabayan ng resulta ng mas malawak na mass testing ang ating mga lider para sila ay maghinay-hinay sa pagbuo ng desisyon ukol sa pagtanggal ng ECQ. The premature lifting of the strict quarantine regulation could lead to a worse second COVID-19 wave,” Sotto said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) will discuss on Monday its final recommendations on the fate of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila.

After its meeting on Monday morning, the IATF will submit it recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte for his final decision on the matter.

Metro Manila and other areas in the country with high COVID-19 cases have been placed under ECQ until May 15.

Sotto proposes to move opening of classes to September amid COVID-19 worries

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said he has filed a bill seeking to move the opening of classes in both public and private schools to September instead of June.

In a statement, Sotto said his bill seeks to adjust the opening of the next school year to ensure the welfare of students nationwide amid the continued threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In filing Senate Bill No. 1438, the lawmaker proposes to amend the Republic Act 7977 or the Act on Lengthening of School Calendar, which mandates the opening of school classes every year on the first Monday of June or not later than the last day of August.

Noting that the June school opening is just a month away, Sotto said there is a need to delay this year’s school opening amid worries over the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

He also stressed the importance of giving the Department of Education (DepEd) “more time and opportunity to prepare and adopt measures for the new normal of the education system,” considering the COVID-19 situation.

The bill also seeks to serve as the enabling law for the execution of the April 24 recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) to move the class opening to September.

“The approved recommendation of the IATF-EID runs counter to the law… To remedy the situation created by COVID-19 and consequently allow the execution of the IATF-EID recommendation, this measure is being proposed,” Sotto said.

Classes in all levels and all activities in both public and private learning institutions nationwide have been suspended since March 10 after President Duterte declared a national health emergency because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

Sotto said he would still push for the bill despite the DepEd’s announcement that the school year 2020-2021 will start on August 24.

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