Wednesday, August 13, 2014


MANILA-The camp of Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada manifested before the court last Tuesday his intention to conduct committee hearings inside the Camp Crame detention facility.
Through his legal counsel Sabino Acut, Jr., Sen. Estrada asked the justices of the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division during the continuation of the hearing regarding his bail petition that he be allowed to perform his legislative function, particularly to preside over committee hearings in performance of his official capacity as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.
Sandiganbayan asked the counsels to submit a formal motion on the request within 5 days.
It can be recalled that the Senate leadership has deferred the implementation of the suspension order issued by the Sandiganbayan against Estrada pending resolution of his motion for reconsideration.
Sen. Estrada believes the hearing could be done inside the common area of the detention facility, as there is enough space to accommodate government officials and other stakeholders which may be called upon to attend as resource persons.
Sen. Estrada noted the precedence set by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV who was able to hold committee meetings while he was detention in Camp Crame due to charges of a coup d’état.
Last June before the Senate adjourned sine die, Sen. Estrada took the floor to nominate Sen. Pia Cayetano in leading the passage of Anti-Discrimination in Workplace bill and to designate the labor committee vice chairman Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara to defend other pending measures before the plenary (bills which have already been tackled and passed by the committee and were sponsored by Estrada) in the event that he will not be able to do so.
Currently, Sen. Estrada is still able to write and submit legislative measures for consideration of the chamber.
Since he turned himself in to his father former President and incumbent Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada, the lawmaker has continued drafting bills and so far introduced the following bills: Increasing the night shift differential rate for workers; Ensuring occupational health and safety of BPO workers; Institutionalizing a National Employment Facilitation Service Network for Persons with Disability; Penalizing No Permit-No Exam policy of schools, among others.
The younger Estrada is also working on a bill which seeks to improve the inhuman condition of penal systems and heavy congestion of our jails. He cited a news report which says that a cell in Quezon City Jail houses dozens of inmates way beyond its intended capacity.
“Siyempre nakakaawa naman ang mga ibang akusado, mga ibang nasa loob ng kulungan. Ang balita ko sa Quezon City Jail doon sa isang kuwarto, sa isang kulungan, 138 na katao tapos iisa lang ang banyo. I think that is inhuman,” Jinggoy lamented.
On a related note, Sen. Estrada filed last year various measures seeking to improve the imprisonment facilities and its management, such as Senate Bill 2031 or the proposed Professionalization of Prison Management Act, Senate Bill 1552 which provides for an integrated jail facility in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized centers, Senate Bill 1602 which prescribes stricter penalties on the crime of delivering prisons from jail and infidelity in the custody of prisoners, and Senate Bill 1967 which provides reparation to wrongly jailed individuals.

Drilon to DOTC: Improve airport facilities, services

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today urged the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to speed up the repairs and rehabilitation of the country’s airports which are proposed to receive P13.3 billion under the proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 budget in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings next year.

The proposed budget, according to Drilon, is P4 billion higher than its current level of P9.1 billion in an effort “to improve the condition of the country’s airport facilities including the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and enhance their services.”

Drilon said that the good maintenance and service of Philippine airports will create a good impression for the country, when world leaders will flock to the Philippines for the 2015 APEC Summit meetings, which will be held in at least eight different locations in the nation.

“It is in the airports that visitors get their first and last impression of a country. It is therefore important that we make sure that the first and last thing people see when they visit the nation is the sight of an efficient and capable airport,” pointed out Drilon.

"Our improved airports will be a good boost to our international image when we host the APEC next year. That is why it is very critical that we make sure that the bidding process for the repair and rehabilitation projects will be efficient, and will avoid costly project delays or bureaucratic snags,” said Drilon.  

“An efficient transport infrastructure is key to the fast flow of people and tourists, resources and money into countries as it provides access to local and international markets and trade. When we allow our airports to remain unsatisfactorily dilapidated, we are also allowing a great deal of revenues to fly away," he added.

Based on the details provided under the National Expenditures Program (NEP), Drilon said various airports in the country will undergo different phases of development and capacity build-up next year. The NAIA will receive P592 million for its capacity expansion and maximization, whereas the Clark Airport will get P1.20 billion, Kalibo Airport will receive P950 million, and Iloilo International Airport will get P791 million.
Also included are the Busuanga Airport (P1.02 billion), General Santos Airport (P959 million), Ozamis Airport (P695 million), Calbayog Airport (678 million), and Camarines Sur Airport in Naga (670 million).  

Meanwhile, the government will continue to provide funding for the development of the Puerto Princesa Airport and Bicol International Airport which will receive P1.55 billion each in 2015, as well as the New Bohol (Panglao) International Airport Development Project and the Laguindingan International Airport which are budgeted with P400 million and P75.44 million respectively.

The budget is lodged under the DOTC’s budget of P59.0 billion, an increase of 20 percent from its current level of P48.8 billion.

The Senate leader said the improvements of our airports will be crucial to the attainment of various goals and target outputs listed by DOTC in the Performance Information section of the budget.

“Among the plans of DOTC for 2015 are to increase the number of seats offered to the public by five percent next year or equivalent to 28 million domestic seats and 26 million international seats; and increase the number of operated routes to 85 from 84 this year for domestic routes and 81 from 79 for international routes,” said Drilon.

He added that the agency is targeting 21 million domestic passengers and 18 million international passengers in 2015.

Drilon said the DOTC should explain its timetable for the projects and provide more details as to how it plans to achieve their target outputs.  

We must then respond to the rising number of passengers flying in and out of the county with better service, improved facilities and more responsible airport management," Drilon said.

“If the problem is the budget, the Senate is willing to extend support as long as the DOTC can assure us that the airport developments will be finished before the APEC meetings in 2015,” he concluded.  

Legarda Pushes for Revival of Gabaldon Schools

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today renewed her call for the restoration of Gabaldon school buildings in the country not only as part of heritage conservation but also to reuse them for their original purpose as places of learning.

Legarda said that the Gabaldon school houses, like the heritage houses built during the Spanish period, speak much about the nation’s history.

“The success of the restoration of these structures can promote the concept of heritage conservation especially in the provinces where these built heritage remain standing. These buildings can be used to ease classroom shortage or congestion especially in the countryside,” she said.

“As we teach the Filipino youth our nation’s culture and history, we should also inculcate in them the respect for things that form part of our heritage,” she added.
The Gabaldon school buildings were designed by American architect William Parsons and funded through Act No. 1801 authored by Philippine Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon.

The Gabaldon schools are huge school buildings with high ceiling, spacious corridors and rooms that are divided by wooden collapsible partitions with wide windows made up of capiz shells.

In line with this, Legarda filed Senate Resolution 800, asking the Senate to inquire about the status of the implementation of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) heritage school building restoration program, including the conservation and maintenance of Gabaldon school houses and other heritage structures within its jurisdiction.

She noted that under Memorandum Order No. 164 Series of 2009, the DepEd created the Task Force on Heritage School Buildings to determine the heritage school houses across all regions and be responsible for their restoration.

The Senator stressed that as built heritage structures, the Gabaldon buildings represent historic, architectural and socio-political significance to the country.

“These structures symbolize the first foundation of the Philippine public school system during the American colonial regime, in which each Filipino child, even from the most remote areas of the country, had access to formal education,” said Legarda.

Comelec budget jumps six-fold to P16.8 B, P3.7 B for PCOS machines

MANILA-The proposed budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for 2015 will soar to P16.8 billion, or six times its 2014 budget of P2. 8 billion, an increase Sen. Ralph Recto described “as a high price we’re being told to pay to have clean elections in 2016.”

Recto said P3.76 billion of the Comelec budget will be used to buy 41,800 precinct count optical scan or PCOS machines at a cost of P90,000 each.

In all, the Comelec is eyeing to buy P11.43 billion worth of assorted new equipment, according to a briefing paper by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the highlights of the P2.6 trillion 2015 national budget.

The new PCOS machines, the DBM paper said, will augment the 80,000 units in the poll body’s inventory.  

On top of the P11.43 billion for capital outlays, another 2016 election-related expense frontloaded in the 2015 budget is P1.2 billion for “preparatory activities” including voter’s registration, Recto said.

The Comelec is targeting a 4% increase in the number of registered voters which stood at 54,051,626 in August last year.

Pending the submission of the details of the mulled PCOS purchase, Recto said he was withholding judgment on whether its multi-billion price tag is justified.

“There are good and competent men in the Comelec like Chairman Brillantes. We have to get their side and also the views of other stakeholders who are likewise well-meaning,” he said.

“But what I am interested in knowing is if this will be a recurring expense, if this is what we will have to shell out every time we hold an election, which in this land is once every 500 days,” Recto said.

Aside from national elections, elections are also called for Sangguniang Barangay (SB) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) posts every three years.

On the last two alone, 672,442 officials are elected, a chairman for every SB and SK in 42,028 barangays and seven council members for each SB and SK.

In addition, about 18,050 national and local posts are elected.

“We have  ‘job fair’ every three years to allow people to hire close to 700,000 officials and the manner of hiring them is the one that’s expensive,” Recto said. 
“We can only hire less than a thousand doctors, probably a hundred PhD scientists and about 10,000 policemen every three years but we recruit elected officials in bulk, by the hundreds of thousands during the same period,” he said.

Recto said if the P16 billion cost to hold an election becomes a regular request every three years, “then there is no harm in looking for other means on how to bring down the cost of administering elections in this country.”

He said the final 2016 election tab could be higher as the P16.8 billion is just the request of the Comelec for preparations to be done a year before. “That amount does not include the funds required for election year proper.”

“Kung ganun kalaki ang gastos, maraming magtatanong kung bakit tayo bibili ng ganun kadaming PCOS machine na gagamitin lang once every three years gayong mas kailangan natin ng dialysis machines o X-ray machines,” Recto said.

Recto said the proposed P11.4 billion for new Comelec equipment is 19 times bigger than the proposed P592 million for NAIA expansion, 28 times of what we will pay 398 new DoH doctors in 2015, two and half times the total senior citizens pension of some 739,000 elderly.

“It is three and a half times of what our national vaccines and immunization budget is for next year, 11 times bigger than the Community Mortgage Program budget, and 22 times bigger than the Quick Reaction Fund of the Department of Agriculture for calamities,” Recto said.

But Recto said he is not blaming the Comelec.

“Probably what is at fault here is that we have so many government units, which create many positions up for grabs, which invite many candidates, who in turn will be chosen by a large voting base,” he said.

Sotto wants ban on backriders

MANILA-They have become a menace to society, back-riders on two-wheeled motorcycles that gave rise to the criminal lexicon, ‘riding in tandem.’ They execute the crime—from petty robbery to well-planned murder— as easily as they slip out, taunting law enforcement authorities.

And Senator Vicente Sotto III wants to stop this evil Batman and Robin tandem for good.

The senator has filed a bill banning motorcycle back-riders and proposed penalties for violators.

Records from the National Police showed that last year, more than 3,000 crimes related to riding in tandem motorcycle riders have been recorded in Metro Manila alone.

News and social media are rife with reports of robberies, murders and other crimes perpetrated by suspects riding in tandem.

“Motorcycle back-riders, most commonly known as the riding-in-tandem criminals have an ample opportunity to commit heinous crimes with impunity because of the facility of getting away from the crime scene by use of a motorcycle which can avoid and wind through even heavy traffic.

“This bill gives law enforcers to flag down the driver and question them,” Sotto said.

Based on Senate Bill No. 2344, any person who violates the provision of the law, upon conviction, will be penalized by imprisonment of prison correctional (minimum of six months and one day and maximum of six years) and fine of P20,000 for the first offense and an additional P10,000 for every succeeding offense.

However, the measure provide  some exemptions: (1) if the back riders are spouse, child and parent of the driver and (2) Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police personnel  who are in duty and in uniform are also exempted.

A similar measure is being studied in one municipality in Metro Manila following the spate of riding in tandem criminal activities.

“This may be frowned upon by some members of society, but we have to think of the higher good of protecting the life and limb of our citizens,” Sotto added.

Sotto recommended the bill as an urgent for adoption due to alarming statistics that crimes committed by riding-in-tandem.

In proposing the bill, the senator stressed that the bill can be refined and debated upon in the committee level to make it responsive and effective in deterring crime. “Let’s have an open discussion, argue on the pros and cons and let’s see where this leads us.”

Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., head of PNP Directorate for Operations Law Enforcement Division, has confirmed the rising incidence of motorcycle-related street crimes.

The alarming rise of crime statistics prompted the PNP leadership to include in its plan, in coordination with the National Capital Region Police Office, to give each policeman in all checkpoints photos of criminals – either fugitives or with a history of pulling off crimes on motorcycles.

The PNP said most crimes were recorded in the barangay (villages), police blotters, and in other law enforcement agencies. 


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