Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman urged members of the joint legislative oversight committee for President Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers not to metamorphose into a mere rubber stamp panel controlled by the executive.

Lagman urges Congress oversight panel for Duterte’s emergency powers not to act as Malacañang rubber stamp

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman urged members of the joint legislative oversight committee for President Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers not to metamorphose into a mere rubber stamp panel controlled by the executive.

According to Lagman, if the joint panel created under Republic Act No. 11469 or “Bayanihan Act of 2020” does not metamorphose into a partisan paper tiger, any wayward exercise by the President of special authorities under the said law can be reviewed and revoked by the panel.

Lagman stressed that his pronouncement “may be wishful thinking because the membership of the oversight committee is controlled by the supermajority coalition in both Chambers allied with the President,” although everyone has the innate capacity to rise above political loyalties and transcend constrictive boundaries

While the panel members of the Senate have already been appointed, namely Senators Pia Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, Christopher “Bong” Go and Franklin Drilon, the members of the House contingent are not yet known.

Mr. Duterte exercise of extraordinary budgetary powers is subject to the determination by the oversight committee whether it is compliant with the limitations and restrictions imposed by the Bayanihan Act.

Lagman stressed the unprecedented congressional power to review and reject the President’s excessive actions can be rendered nugatory and cosmetic if the joint oversight committee becomes the President’s rubberstamp because of partisan affinity.

Under Section 5 of RA 11469, “The President, during Monday of every week, shall submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week.

“The report shall likewise include the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned pursuant to this Act.”

Under the subject provisions, the President is obligated to render a weekly Monday report disclosing the specific amounts and respective utilization of funds under the 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) which he has augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress under RA 11469 is mandated to “establish a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee composed of four (4) members of each house to be appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, respectively.”

The joint panel shall determine whether such acts, orders, rules and regulations are within the restrictions provided herein.”

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DOJ forms 3-man prosecution team to handle cases vs PDEA, BOC over P1B shabu shipment

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento has assigned a panel of prosecutors who will be handling the criminal complaint filed against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Wilkins Villanueva and Bureau of Customs (BOC) Rey Leonardo Guerrero over the 2019 shipment of illegal drugs hidden among tapioca starch.

Malcontento said on Friday (March 5) the panel will be composed of three prosecutors who will be conducting the preliminary investigation of the complaint filed by National Bureau of Investigation-Task Force Anti-Illegal Drugs (NBI-TFAID) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Feb. 23.

They are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rassendel Rex Gingoyon who heads the panel and Assistant State Prosecutors Mary Jane Sytat and Ethel Rea Suril.

In the complaint, the NBI-TFAID accused 21 persons including Villanueva and Guerrero of having violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Their co-respondents include former PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino and BOC Deputy Commission Raniel Ramiro.

The NBI also recommended that all 21 be administratively charged with grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Aside from these, the NBI also accused Aquino, Guerrero and Ramiro of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Government Officials and should also administratively charged with serious dishonesty.

The NBI also named nine persons whom it recommended to be indicted for violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2012 including two persons for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

The shipment arrived in Cambodia in January 2019 and was declared as tapioca starch. But it was later was found containing 171 kilos of shabu.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson back in 2019 questioned the decision of the PDEA and BOC to auction the shipment despite getting information that it contained illegal drugs.

Lacson did not believe the claims of the PDEA and the BOC that it was a controlled delivery and accused the agencies of allowing Chinese drug lord Jacky Co, who was behind the shipment, to leave the Philippines.

Para ‘di mapagod sa pila: Precious Castelo bats for early voting for senior citizens, PWD

Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo has filed a measure to include senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to those who can cast their votes earlier than the scheduled day of election.

“It is safe to assume that the pandemic will still be here during the election period. Thus, it is important for Congress and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to take measures to help health authorities prevent the spread of COVID-19 among voters and the population in general,” said Castelo in House Bill 8756.

Castelo said senior citizens and PWDs, who are among the sectors most vulnerable to COVID-19 should be given the chance to cast their ballots without compromising their physical health and safety.

She called for expeditious action on her proposal, since the Comelec “is now in the thick of preparations for next year’s elections, which are just 14 months away, and the nation will soon be on election mode.”

Under the bill, the Comelec must schedule early voting for senior citizens and PWDs in pre-designated venues easily accessible to such voters within seven working days before the elections.

All senior citizens and PWDs who are registered voters shall qualify for early voting. However, the Comelec may undertake online pre-registration for the sole purpose of estimating the number of voters who want to avail themselves of advance voting.

Castelo said the Comelec can implement the same even to the succeeding elections.

Nasa batas ‘yan! Bernadette Herrera seeks probe on food delivery apps’ failure to give discount to senior citizens

By Billy Begas

Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera has filed House Resolution 1626 seeking congressional investigation into the failure of food delivery applications to honor the 20-percent discount granted by law to senior citizens.

Herrera pointed out that under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (Republic Act 9944) any resident citizen of the Philippines at least 60 years old is entitled to a 20-percent discount and is exempted from value-added tax on applicable goods and services for their exclusive use.

She said that Section 3(g) of RA 9944 specifically provides that “for delivery orders, the 20 percent discount shall likewise apply subject to certain conditions, i.e. senior citizen ID card number must be given while making the order over the telephone.”

“There is an increasing number of complaints from the senior citizens who could not avail of the discount mandated by law for food deliveries using applications like Food Panda and Grab, among others,” said Herrera.

Herrera urged food delivery service providers to incorporate the appropriate discounts into the account holder’s profile to allow senior citizens to avail of their discount.

“The money equivalent to the 20 percent discount of the senior citizens may be utilized for the medicine and other maintenance expenses as well as other necessities,” she added.

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