Sunday, January 19, 2014
MANILA-The Senate has erected a “do not plunder” sign in the P20 billion fund to rehabilitate Yolanda-hit and quake-damaged areas in the Visayas.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said that a special provision of the P20 billion budget for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program in the 2014 national budget inflicts long jail terms and hefty fines for those who will embezzle rebuilding funds.
The provision states that “any government official, employee and person who shall misuse any amount of the fund under his control or administration shall suffer the maximum penalty imposed under the Revised Penal Code, Republic Act 3019, Republic Act 7080 and under penal laws.”
Under RA 7080, or the Anti-Plunder Law, life imprisonment and a life-time ban on holding public office shall be meted out to any person who amasses at least P75 million in bribes or kickbacks from government projects.
Republic Act 3019 punishes graft and corrupt practices with imprisonment of up to 10 years, a perpetual ban from occupying public office and confiscation of unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion of the guilty official’s lawful income.
Stealing a measly P200 in public money, on the other hand, will result in prison time of between six months and six years under the Revised Penal Law.
Recto praised Sen. Chiz Escudero, chair of the Senate finance committee, for drafting the language of this “plunder warning” provision.
“This is the first time that a provision of this nature has been incorporated in the national budget and this is thanks to Senator Chiz,” Recto said.
“Sa simpleng salita, may matinding babala sa budget na mabubulok sa kulungan ang sino mang magnanakaw ng pondo para sa mga sinalanta ng bagyo at lindol,” Recto explained.
After a series of man-made and natural calamities hit the country on the second half of last year, Recto said the Senate, by cutting the fat and trimming the overhead of some government agencies and programs, cobbled together a P20 billion fund for the rebuilding of disaster-hit areas.
Covered by the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program are reconstruction works in areas devastated by typhoons Yolanda, Santi, Odette, Sendong, Vinta and Labuyo; by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu; and civil strife in Zamboanga City.
Under the 2014 General Appropriations Act, the funds shall be released directly to implementing agencies based on the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and upon the approval of President Aquino.
Earmarked to receive the funds are the Department of Agriculture (P500 million), Department of Education (P1 billion), Department of Energy (P500 million), State Universities and Colleges (P3 billion), Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (P1 billion), Department of Health (P1 billion).
Department of Public Works and Highways (P5 billion), National Housing Authority (P1.5 billion), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P3.5 billion), Department of Transportation and Communications (P1 billion) and local governments ( P2 billion).
These agencies are required to post in their respective websites the description of the projects, the cost, the winning bidders and the status of their implementation.
Recto explained that the rehabilitation and reconstruction fund is but one of the budgetary sources of reconstruction money. The others are the P13 billion Calamity Fund and P80 billion in the Unprogrammed Fund.
He said the “plunder warning” is also in effect in these appropriations.
MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the need to make full use of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to arrest and prosecute offenders of cyber pornography.
In her privilege speech, Legarda, principal sponsor of the said law, expressed alarm over recent headlines on cases of children being subjected to online pornography, some even by their own parents and guardians.
“Police authorities have already deemed cyber pornography as the top crime in the country today. The fact is already hard to take. What makes it even more unimaginable is that many of the victims of this high-tech form of illegal human trade are children. We need to put an end to these kinds of abuses,” she said.
The Senator explained that under the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, harboring a child for purposes of prostitution or production of pornographic materials is considered trafficking.
Furthermore, the crime is not plain trafficking but qualified trafficking when the offender is the parent, guardian or someone who exercises authority over the child. Any person found guilty of qualified trafficking shall serve life imprisonment.
Legarda added that The Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Law, a measure she likewise authored, also penalizes sexual acts, including prostitution, committed against a woman or child.
“We support the Department of Justice, as head of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, and the National Bureau of Investigation for the full and effective implementation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. We raise the possibility of the Supreme Court creating special courts to expedite the prosecution of human trafficking cases especially those that involve children. We support a massive information and education campaign against trafficking and cyberporn,” Legarda said.
In a relation to the proliferation of cyber pornography incidences, the Senator filed a bill that would protect minors from accessing pornographic materials over the Internet.
Under Senate Bill No. 532, the Anti-Computer Pornography Act, acts such as transmitting or offering to transmit information containing indecent materials to a minor and providing access to transmission of said materials to a minor will be considered a crime.
“We need to curb cyber pornography and all forms of human trafficking. We need to work together to put an end to the illegal human trade. We need to beef up our efforts now and save the lives of the many innocent children who are hoping that soon they will be rescued from slavery and be able to tread on a new path for a brighter future,” Legarda concluded.
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