Veteran senators to guide new colleagues in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   May 16, 2019   •   1207

UNTV File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III said on Wednesday (May 15) that veteran senators are willing to guide their new colleagues once they assume office.

Sotto added that the Senate Secretariat is always ready to assist the new senators.

“Anytime upon request or instruction, as they always do every time there is a new member of the Senate,” the Senate president said.

This came after former PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa, one of the leading senatorial candidates in the ongoing canvassing of the 2019 midterm polls, admitted in an interview that he needs a training or a crash course in lawmaking.

“Mayroon bang seminar diyan o ano bang training diyan para matutunan ko kung paano gawin ang batas? Ano ba ang mga trabaho namin diyan sa Senado? Kung mayroong ganun, I will take that opportunity para matuto ako,” Dela Rosa said on Tuesday.

(Is there a seminar or a training where I can learn how to craft laws? What does our job in the Senate involve? If there are [seminars] I will take the opportunity to learn.)

In reaction to Dela Rosa’s statement, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the incoming senator need not worry as his veteran colleagues are willing to give them pieces of advice on how to do their work in the Upper House.

Lacson, also a former PNP Chief, was Dela Rosa’s upperclassman in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Lacson is a member of the PMA Class of 1971 while Dela Rosa belongs to PMA Class of 1986. – Marje Pelayo

Dela Rosa wants BuCor Building no. 14 inmates excluded from GCTA grant

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider disqualifying persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) incarcerated inside Building no. 14 of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in Muntinlupa City from benefitting from the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.

Dela Rosa made the suggestion to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during the joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human rights and the Blue Ribbon Committee on Tuesday (Sept. 3).

The senator said inmates confined in Building no. 14 are considered not in good behavior because of their continuous engagement in the illegal drug trade even while in prison.

“Kaya nilagay natin doon para ma-stop ‘yung kanilang ginagawa so, meaning they are not in good conduct behavior habang nasa loob ng building,” he said.

Dela Rosa hopes the DOJ and other concerned agencies will take note of his proposal when they deliberate on the possible amendments to the Implementing Rules and regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act 10592, which increase the good conduct time allowance given to qualified prisoners.

“I would suggest to the Secretary of Justice na sana isama niyo dun (sa revised IRR) sir na once nasa loob ka ng building 14, you are not eligible for GCTA… In case ma-approve by this body ‘yung sinasabi ni Senate President (Vicente Sotto III) kanina na we will vote for the recall of the IRR at ibalik sa DOJ at DILG para baguhin in accordance with the spirit na gusto (ng Congress), yung na-envision ng legislators na nag-craft ng law na yan,” he said.

Guevarra, in return, agreed to consider Dela Rosa’s suggestion.

The RA 10592, which was passed in 2013, was intended to decongest the country’s prison cells. It also provides second chances to reformed convicts.

During the recent senate hearing, several senators have said that PDLs convicted of heinous crimes and those who committed grave offenses while in prison do not deserve reduced prison terms.

The GCTA law became controversial after news broke out that convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, could be among thousands of inmates qualified for early release due to good behavior.

This sparked public outrage, prompting several legislators to file bills seeking to amend or repeal the law.  

3 Senators want GCTA law repealed

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III (center) together with Senators Panfilo Lacson (right) and Richard Gordon (left) want GCTA law to be repealed.

MANILA, Philippines – Three senators have jointly filed a bill seeking to repeal the controversial Republic Act (RA) 10592, the law that increased the good conduct and time allowance (GCTA) for inmates.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III together with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon on Monday filed Senate Bill No. 993 which proposes to scrap the GCTA law that was enacted in May 2013.

The measure particularly seeks to repeal the amendments in Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code as contained under RA 10592.

Amendments contained in the GCTA law provides for partial extinction of criminal liability, including conditional pardon, commutation of sentence by allowing good conduct to be credited in the reduction of stay in detention.

The bill was filed amid a Senate inquiry into the questionable application of the law following the aborted release of convicted murderer-rapist, former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez who was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua for raping and killing Eileen Sarmenta and murdering her friend, Allan Gomez.

The senators said the early release of some convicts involved in heinous crime, including Sanchez, has sparked public outrage and prompted the upper chamber to look into the propriety of the law’s application in general.

Sotto, Lacson and Gordon cited Senate Bill 3064 filed in 15th Congress that became the basis of the GCTA, saying the intention of the framers “was primarily to grant good conduct allowance to persons deprived of liberty (PDL) while their case is still pending.”

The senators said the purpose of the measure is laudable in decongesting the overpopulated prison cells in the country.

“However, when it was enacted into law, it caused an absurd interpretation and its very provisions needed harmonization,” they said in a statement, adding that it has been subject to abuse by the persons allowed by law to grant time allowances.

In their explanatory note for the bill, Sotto, Lacson and Gordon said there’s logical reason to abandon the grant of GCTA if the magnitudes of its aftermath “are prejudicial for many of the victims and their relatives who are seeking justice.”

“The provision on GCTA has been in effect since the 1930s and it has not raised this kind of concern from the people and the government. Thus, it is an opportune time to go back to the old law where no question of proper implementation has been put forth to the government and prisoners are enjoying its benefits without a question of the propriety of its applicability on them,” they said.

“The law is always changing. It is usually reactive to what the society dictates and it constantly reflects changes that occur in our society because a law is simply never perfect,” the senators added.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights joined the Committees on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Finance and Blue Ribbon have conducted an inquiry into the alleged early release of Sanchez and the implementation of the law.

Gov’t stability in exceptional events: Lacson files ‘designated survivor’ bill

Robie de Guzman   •   August 29, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said he has filed a bill seeking to ensure the stability of government operations in case of a terrorist attack, major disaster or other “exceptional circumstances.”

In filing Senate Bill 982 or the “designated survivor” bill, Lacson said his proposal seeks to guarantee that the Office of the President will not be vacated when the chief executive and those specified by the Philippine Constitution to succeed him or her are killed or permanently disabled.

“This bill … seeks to provide an exhaustive line/order of presidential succession in the event of death, permanent disability, removal from office or resignation of the Acting President to ensure that the office of the President is never vacated even in exceptional circumstances,” Lacson said.

Under the present Constitution, the line of presidential succession includes the Vice President, Senate President, and House Speaker, as provided for in the 1987 Constitution.

In case of death or permanent disability of those specified in the Constitution, Lacson’s bill provides that the following elected and appointed officers who are not under any disability to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President shall act as President in the following order:

* the most senior Senator, based on the length of service in the Senate; 
* the most senior Representative based on the length of service in the House of Representatives; 
* the member of the Cabinet designated by the President.

The measure also proposes that the President shall designate a member of the Cabinet to be sequestered in a secret and secure location before any public or private activity, event or function with the attendance of the President, Vice President, and ranking officials.

“In the event of an extraordinary circumstance resulting in the death or permanent disability of the President, Vice President and the officials mentioned… the designated member of the Cabinet shall act as President,” the senator said.

Lacson said the Acting President’s official actions pertaining to the day-to-day operation of the government shall remain effective unless revoked by the elected President within 90 days from his or her assumption or re-assumption of office.

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