Go files bill seeking to amend Revised Penal Code, resolve GCTA law issues

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019   •   759

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to amend the Philippine Revised Penal Code to resolve issues in the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule for inmates under the Republic Act 10592.

In filing the Senate Bill No. 1003, Go proposes to amend the Articles 29, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code, the same provisions which were amended and rendered unclear by the GCTA law.

Go said the proposed measure recognizes that the said articles gave the notion that prisoners, including recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes, are entitled to GCTA benefits.

The senator filed the bill more than a week after news broke out that convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez could be released earlier for good behavior.

Go said his proposal follows the points raised by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during a Senate inquiry on Monday (Sept. 2) on what seems to be lacking in the GCTA law and the safeguards that can be provided.

“I have filed Senate Bill No. 1003 to clearly state the intent and policy of the law not to extend the benefits of GCTA to prisoners who are convicted of heinous crimes,” he said.

Through SB 1003, Go added a provision that clearly states that convicts of heinous crimes “will not be eligible to be granted time allowances.”

He also added a list of heinous crimes to further avoid confusion and a provision that all prisoners for release on the basis of time allowances shall be subject for review.

The lawmaker also highlighted that Congress will be informed of the releases, “as the Bureau of Corrections will be required to furnish the Legislature with a report twice a year.”

“All of these will form part of our continuing fight against corruption and criminality, and illegal drugs,” Go said.

“The law may be ambiguous, but what is clear to me is that there is either negligence or corruption in the way our correctional system is being handled,” he added. “I say to the Filipino people – mananagot ang dapat managot.”

Senator Sonny Angara earlier filed a bill proposing to amend certain provisions of the GCTA law, including the clear definition of heinous crimes, the exclusion of recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons convicted of heinous crimes from availing of the GCTA and the deletion of the provision making GCTA irrevocable under the law.  

Proposals to repeal the GCTA law were also filed in the Senate following the controversy.

Go renews push for OFW department amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday reiterated his call for the establishment of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) amid challenges posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to migrant workers.

In a statement, Go said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the world economy, resulting in significant losses of jobs for Filipinos abroad.

Go has been pushing for the creation of a department that will manage the welfare and address concerns of OFWs.

“Noon pa lamang ay marami nang mga issues ang kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayang nagtatrabaho abroad. Ang paglipat-lipat ng ahensya ay naging pabigat na proseso sa kanila mula sa pagkuha ng kanilang mga permit, hanggang sa pagbigay ng tulong para maresolba ang mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ibang bansa,” he said.

“Mas lumala pa ngayon dahil sa hirap na dulot ng COVID-19 crisis. Kung mayroon pong DOFWs, mas mapapadali sana ang koordinasyon ng mga ahensya at may iisang departamento na tututok sa mga pangangailangan nila,” he added.

Go filed a bill seeking for the establishment of OFW department in 2019. The House of Representatives has passed its version in March this year while its Senate counterpart remains pending in the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

His proposed Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019 proposes to put government agencies dealing with OFW affairs under one umbrella.

The measure also aims to address perennial issues, such as the need to ease the coordination among offices concerned with OFW affairs; immediate legal assistance to OFWs in distress; lack of full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services; and lack of shared database system that contains all information of all OFWs to aid in tracking their status and fast track delivery of assistance to distressed workers.

Currently, services and information about OFWs are scattered throughout several offices.

“Madaming dinadaanan pang iba’t ibang ahensya bago makaresponde ang gobyerno sa mga OFWs na humihingi ng saklolo. Iba-iba ang concern, iba-iba ang kailangang lapitan pa mula DFA, OWWA, MARINA, at iba pa,” Go said.

“Nalilito ang ating mga OFWs sa pangkasalukuyang sitwasyon. Sa oras na kailangan nila ng saklolo, hindi na nila alam sino dapat lapitan kaya sa media o Facebook sila nananawagan,” he added.

If a department for OFWs will be created, Go said this will make government more efficient and responsive to the concerns of Filipinos abroad.

“If mayroon na tayong department for OFWs, iisa na lang ang lalapitan at iisa na lang ang makikipag-coordinate na departamento. Magiging mas maayos ang pagresponde sa mga krisis at mas mabilis nating matutulungan ang ating mga kababayang humihingi ng saklolo,” he stressed.

The lawmaker stressed that the challenges currently faced by OFWs and the difficulties experienced by the government in responding to their needs show the relevance of the proposal to establish a department with a sole mandate to handle the concerns of our “modern day heroes”.

“Nakita po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Napapanahon na talaga para magtatag tayo ng departamento upang mas maprotektahan ang kanilang kapakanan,” Go said.

OFWs displaced by the public health emergency have been repatriated to the country through flights facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment have extended assistance to qualified OFW beneficiaries under the government’s livelihood and other assistance programs.

The Maritime Industry Authority, for its part, is implementing its Seafarers Uwi Pamilya program where seafarers stranded in Metro Manila are assisted in going home to their families in the provinces, subject to quarantine and other health protocols.

Senator Bong Go, several Cabinet execs to go on quarantine after exposure to virus-infected solon

Robie de Guzman   •   March 26, 2020

FILE PHOTO: Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go | PVI/Cerilo Ebrano

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Bong Go and several members of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte will undergo a self-quarantine after exposure to a congressman who recently tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement issued Wednesday, Go said they have initiated contact tracing, particularly those present during the meeting he attended last Saturday.

“Wala naman po akong nararamdamang sintomas ng sakit. But since protocol requires that those who were directly exposed to persons positive for COVID-19 need to undergo self-quarantine, I am left with no choice but to comply,” Go said.

ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap’s confirmation that he contracted the coronavirus disease only came days after getting tested on March 15.

He apologized to those whom he may have exposed to the virus when he attended some meetings while his test results were still pending.

The congressman revealed he led a meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations on March 10; he also attended a meeting in Malacañang on March 21, as well as the House of Representatives’ special session on March 23.

House lawmakers who were exposed to Yap during the special session have been placed under home quarantine.

Cabinet members who were physically present during the meeting in Malacañang last Saturday also decided to undergo self-quarantine.

These include Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), will also undergo a self-quarantine due to second-level exposure.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, on the other hand, said he had no contact with Yap during the meeting, and that he was wearing a face mask and observed social distancing.

The officials assured they will continue to perform their tasks and attend meetings via teleconferencing to discuss matters relating to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Some senators opt out of COVID-19 testing

UNTV News   •   March 20, 2020

Senate of the Philippines facade

Although Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri has announced he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being asymptomatic, some senators have opted not to undergo a COVID-19 test.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan have decided not to go through COVID-19 testing, saying they are not manifesting any symptoms and are strictly following protocols given by the DOH.

Some of their co-lawmakers have already taken the test including Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino and the first two senators who initiated to undergo self-quarantine, Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay.

Senator Christoper Bong Go has also undergone COVID-19 testing with President Rodrigo Duterte who came out negative. — by Harlene Delgado

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