Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Senate adjourns today, ratifies pro-education bills

MANILA-The Senate ratified three bicameral committee reports promoting education before it adjourned session today, September 24, 2014. Plenary sessions will resume on October 20, 2014. 
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said the passing of a number of pro-education legislation is seen to expand the delivery of educational services offered by the state.

On its final day of session, the upper chamber ratified the bicameral committee report for Senate Bill No. 2272, which aims to strengthen the ladderized interface between technical-vocational education and higher education. The proposed measure seeks to provide alternative methods and systems of education for working students and out of school youths. 

On Tuesday, the Senate ratified the bicameral committee reports for Senate Bill No. 2274, which seeks to expand access to education through open learning and distance education in the tertiary level, and Senate Bill No. 2275, or the “Iskolar ng Bayan Act,” which seeks the automatic admission and provision of scholarship grants by all state colleges and universities to public high school students who belong to the top ten places of their graduating classes.  If enacted into law, the bill would give approximately 80,000 graduating students access to free college education as early as next year.

Drilon said the three education bills belong to the five proposed legislation passed by the Senate since the beginning of the 2nd Regular Session of the 16th Congress that are intended to advance the reach of the national educational system, and to overcome the challenges posed by poverty, physical barriers and lack of opportunities to the educational sector.

“Since the opening of the 16th Congress last July, the Senate has passed 14 bills on third reading, and another bill on second reading, while eight other bills are currently being interpellated or amended on the floor. The Senate also passed a total of 16 resolutions and three concurrent resolutions with the House of Representatives,” the Senate chief said.

Greater Social Services

Drilon said senators also pushed for the upgrading of social services extended by the government to its citizens.

Leading such measures is the Senate Bill No. 712, which provides for the mandatory Philhealth coverage for all senior citizens, thus amending Republic Act No. 7432 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

“Under the bill, all senior citizens would only need to present valid IDs to avail of Philhealth coverage for their medical expenses, as compared to the existing law where only senior citizens classified as indigent could avail of the national health insurance program,” Drilon said.

The Senate also passed Senate Joint Res. No. 2, which seeks to increase the subsistence allowance of all personnel under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) from P90 to P150 per day, and carried over House Bill No. 694, which aims to increase the burial assistance for veterans from P10,000 to P 20,000.

Up next: 2015 budget, Bangsamoro bill

Drilon said that upon resumption of plenary sessions, the Senate will immediately focus on the passage of the 2015 national budget, and other priority legislation such as Senate Bill No. 2408, or the Bangsamoro bill.

“When we return to the Senate floor, we will act on the proposed General Appropriations Act, which we have to finish and pass by the end of the year,” Drilon said.  

Drilon said he anticipated the beginning of healthy debates for the Bangsamoro bill, which he expected to be passed the Senate within the first quarter of next year.

Drilon said the Senate would also work on the joint resolution being sought by President Aquino granting him emergency power to deal with the looming power shortage in the summer season next year.

Senate commends Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardees

The Senate today adopted a resolution commending the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardees for their contribution in promoting the country’s cultural heritage.
Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 765, introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda, recognizes the outstanding Filipinos artists whose craft reflects Filipino culture and identity.
            The Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan or GAMABA award was institutionalized through Republic Act No. 7355 in April 1992.
“Since its first conferment in 1993, the GAMABA award has so far recognized the efforts of 13 traditional artists,” the resolution said.
The GAMABA awardees are Ginaw Bilog, Masino Intaray, Samaon Sulaiman, Lang Dulay, Salinta Monon, Alonzo Saclag, Federico Caballero, Uwang Ahadas, Darhata Sawabi, Eduardo Mutuc, Haja Amina Appi, Teofilo Garcia and Magdalena Gamayo.
“Cognizant of their artistic genius and their perseverance to instil national pride through the arts, it is but fitting that our Manlilikha ng Bayan, the nation’s "living treasures," be recognized and honored for their painstaking dedication to promote, protect and safeguard the nation’s rich intangible heritage,” Legarda said.
Candidates for the GAMABA award must be inhabitants of an indigenous cultural community in the Philippines that has preserved indigenous customs, beliefs, rituals and traditions and/or has syncretized whatever external elements that have influenced it.
She said each candidate must have engaged in a folk art tradition that has been in existence and documented for at least 50 years. The candidate must have consistently performed or produced over a significant period works of superior and distinctive quality. He or she must possess a mastery of tools and materials needed by the art, and must have an established reputation in the art as master and maker of works of extraordinary technical quality.

Legarda said the candidate must have passed on and/or will pass on to other members of the community their skills in the folk art for which the community is traditionally known. (Olivia Caunan)

Legarda: Dams Should Control, Not Worsen Flooding

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today reminded the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), which is in charge of managing 22 water dams in the country, to ensure that protocols on dam water releases effectively control, not worsen, flooding.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that at the height of incessant rains brought by Typhoon Mario and enhanced by the Southwest Monsoon, several dams reached their spilling levels.

“Updated dam protocols and improved coordination among agencies on disaster management and dam operators must serve their purpose of reducing, and not worsening, disaster impacts. Protocols should include projections of extreme weather events and must be linked with effective forecasting and early warning systems,” she said.

“Aside from ensuring that dam protocols are updated, there is a need to review actual implementation of such procedures. Timing is important—when and how much water should be released before a typhoon arrives is crucial in ensuring that dams store flood volume,” she added.

Legarda also said that when dams reach spilling levels due to heavy rains, operators should ensure that they do not indiscriminately release dam waters, that the warnings reach the communities that will be affected, and that the alerts allow them to respond ahead of time. Meanwhile, local governments should make sure that flood warnings are heeded by the communities and forced evacuation is implemented when needed.

The Senator recounted that in 2009, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, which she chairs, conducted a series of public hearings after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng. A matter of discussion in these hearings was dam operations as waters were released based on outdated protocols, flooding several provinces in Luzon.

“Like Ondoy in 2009, Mario brought too much rain for a day. These extreme weather events are the new normal and we should keep up with it through effective disaster risk reduction and management programs, which should include updated protocols on dam water releases,” said Legarda.

Cabanatuan HUC plebiscite set November 8

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – After two postponements spanning three years, the Commission on Elections has set for November 8 the holding of a plebiscite to ratify the conversion of this city into a highly urbanized city (HUC).

          In a four-page resolution approved by the Comelec En Banc, the poll body gave the go-signal for the plebiscite with all 1,360,508 registered voters of Nueva Ecija to participate in the exercise.

          City election officer Leonardo Navarro said the resolution was signed by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioners Al Parreno, Arthur Lim, Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito Guia and Lucenito Tagle.

          It came after the Supreme Court directed the Comelec to hold the plebiscite after ruling that all registered voters in the province should vote, granting a petition for certiorari filed by Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali seeking to stop two earlier Comelec resolutions setting the dates for the conduct of the plebiscite on December 1,2012 and January 25,2014 but with only registered voters of the city allowed to vote.

The bid to convert this city into a HUC, which is being pushed by Umali’s former ally, Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara, is contained in Presidential Proclamation 418 issued on July 4,2012 by President Aquino. However, the proclamation needs to be ratified in a plebiscite.

          Last January, the SC issued a Temporary Restraining Order stopping the Comelec from proceeding with the plebiscite scheduled on January 25. In issuing the TRO, the SC granted the petition of Umali who filed an earlier petition with the Comelec to consider allowing all qualified voters in the province to participate in the plebiscite, not just voters from the city.

The poll body struck down his petition and his motion for reconsideration.

Umali  has argued that Novo Ecijanos will be affected once Cabanatuan becomes HUC and thus, it is imperative for them to participate in the  plebiscite. He said no less than two former SC chief justices – Claudio Teehankee and Reynaldo Puno – have held the view that the political units affected by the plebiscite – Nueva Ecija and Cabanatuan – should participate in the electoral exercise.

“We are not saying the plebiscite should not be allowed. What we are saying is who should be allowed to vote,” he said.

Vergara said that the conversion of the city into a HUC is long overdue and has been supported by senators, among them former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former senator Aquilino Pimentel who authored the Local Government Code of 1991.  

Umali, a lawyer, said there is already  existing jurisprudence, foremost of which is a July 11,1986 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Tan vs Comelec regarding the creation of a new province of Negros del Norte wherein 2,768.4 square kilometers from the land area of the parent province were to be removed to create a new province whose boundaries would be substantially altered.

          He mentioned the separate concurring opinion of Teehankee stating that to limit the plebiscite to only the areas to be partitioned and seceded from the province is “as absurd and illogical as allowing only the secessionists to vote for the secession that they demanded against the wishes of the majority.”

          Another case in point, he said, was the October 19,1992 ruling in Padilla Jr. vs Comelec which stated that when the law states that the plebiscite shall be conducted in the political units directly affected, it means that residents of the political entity who would be economically dislocated by the separation of a portion thereof have a right to vote in the said plebiscite. “Evidently, what is contemplated by the phrase “political units directly affected,” is the plurality of political units which would participate in the plebiscite,” he stressed, quoting from the ruling.

          Umali said this is not the first time the issue of who should vote in the plebiscite is raised before the Comelec, citing the first case was Antipolo City’s own HUC bid wherein Rizal Gov. Casimiro Ynares III raised the same arguments.         The Law Department of the Comelec, he recalled, found basis in the contention of Ynares and officially opined that the conduct of the plebiscite must include the qualified voters of Rizal.

          He said the Department of Budget and Management has categorically ruled that there will be a substantial decrease in the land area of the province once Cabanatuan becomes a HUC.

The poll body originally set the date of the plebiscite on December 1, 2012 but this was postponed by the issuance of a TRO by the Palayan City Regional Trial Court. Subsequently, the Comelec issued a resolution postponing the plebiscite because of its proximity to the elections.

          On June 28 last year, shortly after Vergara got reelected, he wrote the Comelec asking it to conduct the plebiscite but the poll body said it was forced to defer all actions until after the barangay polls. 

          Vergara’s bid marks the second attempt to turn the city into HUC.  In 1995, Vergara’s predecessor, then-mayor Manolette Liwag pushed for HUC conversion which was subsequently proclaimed by then-President Fidel Ramos.

           However, the move lost badly during the plebiscite, largely due to the opposition of the Josons who were then at the height of their political reign. (Manny Galvez)  


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