Friday, May 30, 2014

Congress vows to provide higher benefits to barangay officials

MANILA-Barangay officials and workers will get more benefits once the various measures that seek to give them additional remunerations, particularly the granting of retirement pensions and loan packages, are passed into law, according to Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

Speaking before delegates of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas - Bulacan Provincial Chapter Convention held at Davao City, the Senate leader said that the leaderships of the Senate and the House have agreed to work on expanding the coverage of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to include the country’s barangay officials.

“We in Congress recognize the barangay leaders’ contribution to the community as front-liners of government service, so it is high time that we accord them the recognition and benefits the state is supposed to give to its workers,” Drilon said.

In the Senate, Drilon is the author of Senate Bill No. 467, which seeks to “amend Presidential Decree No. 1146, as amended, to expand and increase the coverage and benefits of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to include elected and appointed barangay officials.” A similar version of the bill was also filed by the senator in the previous 15th Congress. Last Tuesday, the bill was tackled by Senate Committee on Finance.

Once the bill is enacted, the barangays officials from almost 42,000 barangays in the country  can qualify for retirement benefits and other kinds of loans such as housing, salary, education and calamity loans, among others which the insurance agency is providing to state workers, explained Drilon.
He said that the inclusion is only warranted, due to the crucial part played by barangay officials play in addressing the everyday needs of their constituents, and in their role as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community level. 

However, despite their “evident importance,” Drilon observed that the officials of the barangay have not been recognized as government employees, particularly when membership in the GSIS is concerned.

“The allowances and benefits being given to barangay leaders do not commensurate with the quality of service and assistance they are extending to the community as well as to the government,” he said.

Under the bill, the compensation, honoraria and other emoluments being received by the barangay officials will be the basis in computing their contributions to GSIS.

This, Drilon hopes, will incentivize efficient performance among barangay officials, saying that these “benefits should inspire exacting efficient and effective results among public servants in the barangay level.”
The proposed measure also instructs the GSIS to work with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the national league of barangay captains and officials to formulate the necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the act. 

Drilon to drivers: Don't drive when drunk

MANILA-Following the full implementation of the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act next month, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today cautioned motorists against breaking the law to avoid being hit with a P20,000 to P500,000 fine and worse, imprisonment from three months to 20 years.

He said that "drivers should by now familiarize themselves with the rules against driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances."

The Senate chief stressed that the full implementation of the law is important in the light of a growing number of accidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal substances.

“This Anti-Drunk and Driving Act which the Congress passed in 2013 aims to protect the motoring public and ensure the safety of pedestrians. So the public needs to know exactly the new regulations that will be enforced soon," said Drilon

But Drilon also warned against unscrupulous individuals who might use the law to harass and extort money from motorists and urged the PNP and the DOTC to come up with measures to ensure that the law will not be used for extortion by unscrupulous law enforcers.

Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations released by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) last week, Drilon explained that the implementation of the law lies with a deputized law enforcement officer (LEO), such as members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who will be issued breath analyzers for the task.

However, Drilon said that the LEO’s powers to enforce the law have been strictly defined.

“A deputized law enforcement officer (LEO) cannot just stop and flag down any vehicle and then subject the driver to a sobriety test. In fact, an officer can only start screening the driver when there is reasonable ground to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, such as after they have committed a traffic offense,” he said.

Meanwhile, the regulations state that any apprehended driver will be subjected to three field sobriety tests to be conducted by the LEO: 1.) an eye test, where one must follow the object the officer moves a foot away from their face, 2.) a walk-and-turn test, where one must walk nine steps forwards and back, and 3.) the one leg stand, where one must stand on one leg and raise the other at least 6 inches from the ground and hold that position for 60 seconds.

The IRR provides that if the driver passes these tests, he/she will only be apprehended for his traffic violation only. However, if the driver fails any of the three tests, he/she will then be subjected to an alcohol breath analyzer test, where the LEO would determine the blood alcohol level of a person by testing his/her breath.

Drilon said that a major aspect of the law is the regulation limiting the allowable blood alcohol level to below 0.05% for most drivers. “But drivers of buses and other public-utility vehicles are now required to have no amount of alcohol (0.0%) in their blood, since people’s lives are at their hands everytime they get behind the wheel," he added.

The IRR stated that drivers who are suspected to be under the influence of dangerous drugs or other illegal substances will be brought to the nearest police station and subjected to a drug screening test, in accordance with existing anti-drug laws.

Drilon reminded motorists that penalties for offenders range from a minimum of  three months in prison plus a P20,000 fine, to a maximum of 20 years plus a P500,000 fine

“Meanwhile, non-professional driver’s license holders will also have their license suspended for 12 months on their first offense, and their second offense will get their licenses perpetually revoked. In the case of professional driver’s license holders, the first offense alone will result in their license's perpetual revocation,” Drilon said. 

Legarda: PHL, One of the Biggest Losers Amid Threats of Biological Meltdown

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today expressed alarm over reports of an impending biological meltdown that threatens the planet.

According to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the Philippines is ranked fourth in the world out of 19 ecological hotspots which indicate the highest concentration of biodiversity in the globe.

“Our country is blessed with rich biodiversity. This means we have the most to lose as threats of biological meltdown continue to be proven by scientific data and research,” she said.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is calling on the government to get serious about biodiversity protection and in implementing a program to build sustainable communities that protect the environment.

“This research on biodiversity hotspot echoes other data about the country’s biodiversity and the signs of its gradual degradation. We are dubbed as one of the megadiverse countries, being among the richest globally in terms of plant and animal species, and because of this we are also the biggest losers of environmental assault,” she stated.

According to the research, 90% of the Philippine archipelago was forested during the 1900s. The original old-growth forest today remains at 3-5%. This has caused a ripple effect in which water, air and other ecological services have been compromised.

“We have unique ecosystems. The report indicated that 44% of the birds in the Philippines can only be found here. This means birdwatching is  a unique experience because species like the Philippine eagle, trogon and the tarictic hornbill cannot be found elsewhere but in our country. Can you imagine a world where your children will only see Philippine eagle on photos, or Philippine tarsier will just be part of stories that the older generation can tell their kids?” Legarda stated.

“The government and all concerned institutions and departments, especially the local government must come up with a strategy to create sustainable communities which will be able to use our biodiversity responsibly,” she  said.

“Education is also vital in our bid to protect our biodiversity. Let us get everyone on board, each member of the community must be aware of what’s happening. We all stand to lose a lot from a biodiversity meltdown,” she stressed.

Legarda has several projects that deal with biodiversity protection. Her most recent work is a collaborative video documentary on Philippine Marine Biodiversity, launched during Earth Day 2014. The video reports the state of the Philippines’ marine biodiversity and what needs to be done to protect it.


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