Angie M. Rosales

Anti-tambay drive gets Senate backing

“If they say, being ‘tambay’ violates local ordinances, then keep it local.” Amid concerns of alleged rights violations in the government’s latest anti-crime campaign, the support for the drive against loiterers or tambays in the Senate has been snowballing. Senators JV Ejercito and Panfilo Lacson were in unison in having the matter of dealing with so-called “tambays” in the local level, even at the barangay level. “I would understand the reason for that order which is the broken windows theory in that we have to make sure that the environment is not conducive for criminals and lawless elements,” Ejercito said. As a former mayor himself, Ejercito said the barangay and law enforcers knows too well who could be the potential criminals in the area. Use local ordinances But there are past local ordinances with the same objectives that could be duplicated or revived especially in the absence of an apparent clear implementing rules and regulations from the Philippine National Police (PNP), Ejercito said. Ejercito said the PNP could step in if the subjects of similar campaigns in the barangays refuse to heed the ordinance. Lacson, a former PNP chief, said the arrest of loiterers were based on local ordinances which means that the campaign can be best addressed at the local level. “If they say, being ‘tambay’ violates local ordinances, then keep it local. The Chief PNP doing all the explaining and justifying instead of the concerned local chiefs of police only adds up to the suspicion and criticisms,” Lacson, who headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001, said. He added it would be better to leave it to local chiefs of police who can implement local ordinances under the provisions of the PNP Law. Davao City as model Lacson cited the highly successful anti-criminality experience of Davao City under then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, which gained widespread and almost unanimous public support from local residents.

No grandstanding in WPS meet Rody: It’s all about oil

No grandstanding will be allowed in a meeting among members of the Executive and Legislative branches that Sen. Richard Gordon has proposed to discuss the administration’s policy toward China’s aggressive buildup in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). “The talks should not be made public, there should be no grandstanding. The issue should be discussed to make it clear. If there’s disagreement, then we can do a legislative review anytime,” Gordon said. “There are game plans which Congress should know. The problem is that we are lacking on that front. So we have to start fixing such lack,” he said. “[Do it] in a proper way because you cannot conduct diplomacy before the eyes of the media because there will be a tendency, even on the part of the President to play a macho game. Same with us [lawmakers],” Gordon said. Instead of calling for a Senate hearing, Gordon said a meeting in Malacañang should be resorted to, explaining lawmakers cannot be kept in the dark regarding the situation with China. While the President is considered as the chief architect in foreign policy, Gordon said the foreign policy is subject to perpetual review. “The foreign affairs (department) should reveal to Congress its every move to guide the Legislature on what it can do. The review should be constant to guide Congress and the President on their actions. It can’t be possible that we only react,” he said. As it is, the senator said there’s also a need to speak with one voice as there are just too many who speak about the issue. “The foreign affairs (department) should reveal to Congress its every move.” The country’s dealings with China and problems that had cropped up recently such as the alleged harassment suffered by Filipino fishermen in the hands of the Chinese Coast Guard should be part of the discussions, he said. “We should have a unified voice. We can’t have so many personalities talking, most of whom do not appreciate the totality of the issue. It is too easy to ignite public emotion,” Gordon said. “The subject here is not the territory but the fishing grounds. Our problem is when the giant vessels of the Coast Guard of China arrive, Filipino fishermen do not have protection so we need an intense discussion with China. Who would help us? Will the United States fight for us to protect our fishing rights? I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” the senator said. Gordon said there seems to be no clear position and this has been going on even in the past administrations. And even if the country is lacking in logistical support, in terms of military capability to deal head-on with China, the government should not back down in asserting its territorial rights, he added. After all of the diplomatic means have been exhausted, pursuing formal protests can be resorted to, the senator added. “We should speak softly but carry a bigger stick,” Gordon said. Bottomline is oil In a speech in Davao City, President Duterte attributed the aggressive posture of China in the disputed region to its interest in finding oil resources for industrial development. The President indicated a growing need among rich countries to find oil resources to meet the growing demand in their country. “It’s really the resources, eventually it’s geopolitics. China, posturing there, is also interested in oil. So they need it because it fuels industrialization,” Duterte said during the celebration of Eid’l Fitr, the end of the Muslim feast of Ramadan. “The secret is the oil. And they used the resources of that country and the fat of the land to reach or arrive now on their present level of industrialization,” he said. “Anywhere you look in this world, even the mic in front of me and the glass of water, and the paper that I will be reading or I may not. All of that, it’s oil. It’s oil there outside. You’d see many vehicles produced or even the primitive lathe machines and that is a product of an equipment or machine using oil,” he said. Climate change backlash Duterte said a related problem with massive industrialization is climate change which the Philippines is being made to suffer due to regulations now that was meant for industrialized states which are being compelled to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sotto: Cha-cha starts if separate votes OKd

Deliberations on the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) will begin in the Senate provided that the two chambers of Congress agree to vote separately on proposed amendments, aSenate President Vicente Sotto III said as the Consultative Committee (ConCom) to review the 1987 Constitution is expected to complete its draft Federal Constitution this weekend. Sotto said proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution is not among the priority in the agenda of the coming third regular session of the present Congress “We’ll have to play it by ear. There are a number of priority legislations lined up. The committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes has presented a committee report or is ready to present a committee report so let’s see,” he said. “We’ll be able to complete the draft by the weekend,” ConCom Senior Technical Assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso said in a briefing yesterday. “After the TWG (technical working group), lawyers, and Office of the Chairman have reviewed everything line by line, we hope to complete the draft by Saturday or Sunday,” he added. Cha-cha pace depends on Du30 “(But) if the President requests to start with chacha, we are sure to take it up immediately. But we cannot guarantee its swift passage in the Senate. We really have to scrutinize it first,” Sotto said. The Senate chief underscored the position of the Senate for a separate vote if Congress will be convened as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass). Sotto said he’s now studying a proposal which will provide for a “hybrid” mode of amending the Constitution which he said will gain majority support in the Senate. “(If it’s through the mode of) Con-Ass, if voting separately, there is a chance in the Senate,” he said. “I have a hybrid proposal for 12 senators, 12 congressmen, 12 nominees by the President, 12 nominees from the civil society or the different sectors from the academe and so on,” the Senate leader said. The matter is yet to be discussed by Sotto to his counterpart, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez or even President Duterte on this matter. Sotto said he has been studying the proposal for about a month now and has discussed this with Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III only.

Villar wants Senate to look into water quality in Manila Bay

Sen. Cynthia Villar has sought a Senate inquiry into the condition of waste water treatment in Metro Manila, identified as a main factor in the continued quality of water in Manila Bay. “We still have a long way to go in reviving Manila Bay back to its pristine condition. Sadly, despite our efforts to clean up, water quality in the bay continues to worsen because of poor solid waste management and the lack of facilities for proper waste water disposal,” she said. The chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, took note of the recent pronouncements of the chief regulator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) saying the lack of sewerage facilities in Metro Manila is “10 times worse than Boracay.” Manila has only 14 percent of its required number of sewerage treatment plants which remove contaminants from the waste water before they are dumped in rivers and bays. “We want to know what the MWSS and its concessionaire are doing or planning to do to speed up the pace of the installation of sewerage treatment plants in Metro Manila because the next 19 years may be too long and would make the problem irreversible,” the senator said. In filing resolution No. 747, Villar said the called inquiry, in aid of legislation, will attempt to determine whether or not the concessionaires are actually collecting and using the water utility charges, including the environmental and sewerage charges from their respective consumers in order to fund their sewerage projects. The senator noted informal settlers at the Port of Manila do not have toilet facilities. This was also the reason why she initiated a project with the Department of Health (DoH) to provide toilet bowls in Baseco where 5,000 families have no toilets. “Despite the mandate given to MWSS way back in 1971 and the responsibilities given to its concessionaires more than 20 years ago, Metro Manila is still far from having adequate sewerage facilities, an indication there is a failure of implementation and enforcement of the laws with respect to the provision of adequate sanitation, drainage and sewerage facilities even in Metro Manila; and this amounts to a violation of the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology as the people’s health continues to be in peril,” part of the resolution said.

Mental Health Act awaits Duterte’s signature

The bill that will provide basic mental health services down to the barangay level is now in the final process of being enacted into law. Senators Sonny Angara and JV Ejercito yesterday expressed hope that President Duterte will sign into law the Mental Health Act which was transmitted to Malacañang last May 21. “The Mental Health Bill (is now) in the final process of passage. (It is) very significant now that there are too many cases of depression and suicides. We’re hoping that this measure would be able to address this prevailing problem and minimize incidence of suicide and depression,” Ejercito said. Angara, one of the co-authors of Senate Bill 1354, or the Mental Health Act of 2017, also shared the relevance of the measure as well as the need for the government to make mental health care more affordable and accessible. “Another challenge is getting Filipinos to overcome stigma. To address this, the bill seeks to integrate mental health programs and policies in schools and workplaces,” the lawmaker explained. The bill, once it becomes into law, will mandate the Department of Health to provide psychiatric services to all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals while increasing the capacities of mental health professionals. Currently, the Philippines has only 490 psychiatrists or one psychiatrist per 250,000 Filipinos, a far cry from the standard ration of one per 50,000 people. “Another problem is we do not have enough psychiatric facilities and psychiatrists in the country,” Angara said. Senate President Vicente Sotto III is the principal author of the bill while co-sponsors include Ejercito, Angara and Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

Include psych care in Philhealth — solon

The rising incidents of depression and related mental illnesses prompted a senator to seek the expansion of the coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) primary care benefit package to cover psychiatric consultations Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday said mental and behavioral disorders may lead to impairment in judgement, self-inflicted pain, or worse, suicide. “This can be prevented. Early intervention through consultation with psychiatrists and proper medication should be readily accessible to ordinary Filipinos,” he said. “Hindi dapat maging hadlang, lalo na sa mga mahihirap, ang malaking gastusin para sila ay magpatingin at magpagamot (High costs should not be a deterrent to consultation and cure, particularly among the poor),” Angara said. Celeb deaths spark mental health concerns The recent deaths of renowned celebrities such as celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade have sparked calls to strengthen mental health policies worldwide. Globally, more than 300 million people live with depression which is a leading cause of ill health and disability. Angara noted in the 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) study, the Philippines had the highest incident of depression in Southeast Asia. Angara stressed the importance of early intervention and prevention in the treatment of mental illnesses and urged PhilHealth to cover fees for consultations with psychiatrists as present coverage does not include such medical care and the medicines needed for cure. PhilHealth only covers hospitalization costs due to acute attacks of mental and behavioral disorders at P7,800 in subsidy to members. Angara is pushing the expansion of the health package to include free check-ups and consultations, laboratory tests and medicines to all PhilHealth members.

Legislation of student fare discount sought

Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday pressed the need for Congress to institutionalize the 20 percent student fare discount as its current implementation is merely based on memorandum circular of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). “If we want to provide long-term assistance to our students, we need to come up with a law to institutionalize the regulatory policy which can always be subject to change,” he said. “Such could come in a form of a legislation that will ensure the continued implementation of such policy which, at present, may not be enforced effectively since it’s just based on a circular issued by the LTFRB,” he added. The Department of Transportation (DoTr) recently issued a public reminder about the entitlement of students to fare discounts not only during weekdays, but even during weekends and holidays as well as the corresponding penalties for operators and drivers of public utility vehicles who violate such regulation. Angara, author of Senate Bill 945 which seeks to expand the student discount’s coverage to cover not only land transportation but even the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), airplanes and passenger ships all year round, enjoined colleagues to fast-track the approval of his proposed measure. The vice chair of the Senate education committee underscored the need for such legislation to ensure that students will continue to enjoy reduced transportation in the future. “Let’s lessen a bit the hardship of parents in sending their children to school. One way is to help our students by cutting their transportation expenses. The money saved from the fare discount can be used for other school requirements,” Angara said. “We always say that the youth is the future of the country. Let’s make this come true by investing adequately on our students,” he added.

Battle for BBL remains

ZUBIRI: POLITICAL CLANS TO DERAIL LAW Support from both chambers of Congress and the determination of President Rodrigo Duterte for its passage do not gurantee the quick approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the battle for the law to grant Muslim autonomy continues, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Proceas (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza said. Despite the legal soundness of the proposal law, any version that Congress will come up with will also likely end up in the Supreme Court as some political clans are out to derail its implementation, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri added. Zubiri said some political families have taken his efforts in overseeing the enactment of the long overdue measure against him. Dureza said in a speech during the National Conference on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Federalism, the administration is pushing a single BBL version that conforms to the Constitution. Dureza said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will work with the bicameral conference in reconciling the BBL versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Duterte certified both versions of the bill as urgent administration measures. “The work towards an acceptable BBL version is still continuing,” he said. Members of the Senate and the House will convene in a bicameral conference to come up with a version that Mr. Duterte will sign into a law in July. “There is still a lot to be done. We hope that our partners will continue to work for advocacy in the communities because we cannot leave this totally to the sound judgment of Congress,” Dureza said. “We must make people feel that there are dividends of peace coming out of this effort,” he added. SC challenge certain “I tell you, I am sure that the BBL will be challenged before the Supreme Court before it is signed by the President. I’m sure about it because there are political clans who want to see this derailed. There are certain groups that don’t want to see this approved because this will change the landscape in the autonomous region,” Zubiri said. “I know some politicians, political families are upset. But I have to be a statesman here. I should stay above local political concerns. And I apologize to them if they feel that way against me. But I have to do what is right,” he said. “I don’t want anymore of our men and women in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the PNP [Philippine National Police] to lose their lives or houses burned or areas blown up. Enough is enough. We have to look at long-term solutions for peace. I believe the Senate has the version that will be able to carry these forward,” Zubiri said. Zubiri, sponsor of the BBL bill in the Senate, said the challenge now that both Houses of Congress will have to hurdle is to ensure that the final outcome will be constitutionally-compliant. “If the measure does not comply and the version that comes out will be stricken down by the SC, definitely we will have a problem on peace,” Zubiri added. The majority leader vowed to engage his colleagues sitting in the bicameral conference committee, in deliberating on and in reconciling the two versions of the BBL. “This will empower, under the parliamentary system, more party list advocates who believe in women’s rights on good governance to be able to take leadership roles in the Bangsamoro region,” he said. Zubiri said they are committed to finish deliberations on the measure next month and have it ready for ratification when Congress opens its third regular session on July 23. “We are committed to finish it. Usually the bicam does not take two days but we were given five days (to work on it). There will be some heated discussions but I am sure we will pass the BBL,” he added. “We are committed to finally sit down with this group and sign the final peace agreement. When the President signs it into law on July 23, this is historic. If we achieve peace in Mindanao, the president now can concentrate with peace process with NPA (New People’s Army), and lawlessness,” the senator said. Zubiri further admitted that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) are not happy with the approved versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. “We can’t approve their version en toto. They are not lawmakers. Many of them are advocates for different advocacies. In lawmaking whatever you file is not the exact measure that will come out in third and final reading especially in the bicam (level),” he said. ‘Radical changes’ backed Zubiri added Mr. Duterte appears to have the support of some senators on the radical changes to address the issue on criminality in the country even as the warning came with a reference to martial law. Senators Gregorio Honasan and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri allayed fears on the any possible declaration of national emergency to address the rising criminality. “Extra ordinary means, I’m not much in favor of. But I can see where the President is coming from. These extra security measures in Mindanao I feel are welcome. We welcome it. Now if he plans to do this in Metro Manila, we should welcome more police presence. I think that’s great. People can jog in the Baywalk. I welcome it but so as long as we do not trample on the rights of the Filipinos,” Zubiri told reporters in a press conference in Pasay City. Honasan, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said that such kind of pronouncements coming from the Duterte, it should always be assumed that the he will always be bound by the Constitution in the exercise of his powers and prerogatives as President. Besides, Honasan pointed out, the President is an experienced lawyer and prosecutor. “This will also guide him in his statements, vocabulary and terminology, whether its emergency powers partial law or national emergency,” he said. “We must always assume that he is ultimately responsible for promoting peace law and order and upholding the rights of all Filipinos to life liberty and property, if they enjoy these rights with the corresponding responsibility and duty to the rest of society,” Honasan added. Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he still has to decipher what the President meant by his pronouncements made following his arrival from South Korea where he broached the possibility of using his emergency powers saying that there were simply to many crimes happening in the country now. “We can only hope that the ‘radical action’ against crime and corruption he’s planning to take, refers only to a more aggressive action by our law enforcement agencies in crime prevention and suppression based on duly established procedures and anchored on good intelligence-gathering methods rather than an indiscriminate or shotgun-like approach that could affect the civil rights of our population at large,” he said.

Koko clarifies Sereno resolution ‘not a court plea’

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Friday clarified that Senate resolution No. 738 is not a plea for submission to the court but only “to express the opinion or the sense of the Senate.” Pimentel is one of the 14 senators who signed the resolution. Pimentel also distanced himself from his colleagues who pushed for its passage on the last day of the session or before they adjourned sine die. “Walang masama (if it will be adopted) kung may oras. But it’s 2 a.m. already at that time (There is nothing wrong if it will be adopted given enough time),” the senator said referring to their marathon session that lasted until early morning Thursday due to protracted debates on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Pimentel has previously stated that the resolution could still be ratified when Congress resumes session in July. On Wednesday, Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration on the Supreme Court ruling granting the petition for quo warranto which nullified her appointment in the High Court. But Pimentel downplayed the significance of the resolution even if it was adopted in time for Sereno’s filing of the motion for reconsideration. “Weight is in the point of view of the SC,” the senator commented on the matter as he maintained that Resolution No. 738 only expresses the “sense of the Senate to uphold the Constitution on the matter of removing a chief justice from office.” The 14 senator-signatories agree that under Section 2 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, “SC members may be removed from office, on impeachment for and conviction of culpable violation of the Constitution.” The SC’s decision to grant the quo warranto petition sets a dangerous precedent that transgresses the exclusive powers of the legislative branch to initiate, try, and decide all cases of impeachment, they said. The senators also called out on the SC to review its decision to nullify Sereno’s appointment. Meanwhile, Pimental also stated for the record that he is not withdrawing his signature on the resolution amidst reports that some of its signatories are now considering withdrawing their supposed after Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised some issues about it. Lacson underscored that the Senate has no power to interpret the Constitution like the SC and that its adoption is tantamount to influencing the High Court to reverse its decision since there is still a motion for reconsideration. Lacson is not a signatory to the resolution along with Senators Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao, Juan Miguel Zubiri, JV Ejercito, Gregorio Honasan, Richard Gordon, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III. While admitting that any other court or body could not review SC decisions, Pimentel insisted that the people should then review the High Court’s rulings. “These are [just] plenary discussions about the SC decision. It is part of helping the people form their opinion on the soundness. This is not about the Constitutionality, but on the soundness of the arguments of the SC,” he said.
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