House closely working with intel units for Duterte’s 4th SONA security

Robie de Guzman   •   July 12, 2019   •   1270

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Joint Session of the 17th Congress at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives Complex in Constitution Hills, Quezon City on July 23, 2018.
(Image courtesy of PCOO/KARL NORMAN ALONZO)

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Thursday said it is closely working with government intelligence agencies for the security of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Retired Major General Romeo Prestoza said they are directly coordinating with relevant intelligence units to evaluate any risks to the House or President Duterte during the SONA.

He said the increased security follows the recent bombings that rocked Sulu in Mindanao.

“Well part of it kasi, sa experience ko kasi I’ve been an intelligence officer for 27 years, those things talagang kinoconsider namin. Hindi namin pinapabayaan, tinitingnan namin,” Prestoza said in a press briefing about the SONA 2019 preparations.

“That’s why we initiate ‘yung direct na contact with the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency), ISAFP (Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines) and other intelligence units to see kung meron talagang connection or possibility na umabot dito,” he added.

However, Prestoza assured they have yet to see substantial security threats to the upcoming SONA, which Duterte will deliver at the Batasang Pambansa.

“When it comes to security threats, wala pa namang substantial, meaning talagang wala pang nakarating na actual na threat,” he said.

He also emphasized that the House security is prepared and well-equipped to handle security issues.

“We have extensive training and seminars to include simulation exercises and tabletop exercises para in case na meron nga, we would be prepared. Even ‘yung protocols, when it comes to emergencies ginagawa din namin,” Prestoza said.

When it comes to directing signal jammers on SONA day, Prestoza said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) shall be responsible for it based on their assessment of the proceedings.

“Kung kailangan nila or they feel they need to initiate na the jamming procedure, sila makakapag-dictate noon. I cannot dictate it,” he said.

In the same press briefing, House Acting Secretary General Dante Roberto Maling said that preparation activities for SONA remain on track and are the same as in previous years.

“Basically, the preparation has been the same through the years except siguro for very minor details, mga maliliit na arrangements lang. It doesn’t really deviate from what has been happening from the past years,” Maling said.

House eyes holding marathon 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.

“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.

The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

READ: House begins 2020 budget hearings

By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.

“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.

“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.

The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.

“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.

“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.

Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.

Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”

Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.

“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

House begins 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019

The House Committee on Appropriations begins its deliberations on the proposed 4.1-Trillion national budget for 2020. | 📷 House of Representatives Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Thursday started its hearing on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for the year 2020.

The House Committee on Appropriations began its budget deliberations with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

Davao City Third District Rep. Isidro Ungab, who chairs the committee, earlier said the DBCC briefing is one of the most important aspects in the lawmakers’ work and duty to scrutinize the 2020 national budget bill.

“The macroeconomic assumptions to be outlined will help guide our policy makers and business sector to craft plans based on the government projections on economic growth, price stability, among others, including government expenditures, as well as general directions for the coming fiscal year,” Ungab said in a statement.

The Thursday’s DBCC briefing was participated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance (DOF), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

On Friday, Ungab said officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) will present their budget proposals to the committee.

Prior to the start of the House budget deliberations, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called for a major caucus with the members of the 18th Congress on Wednesday.

Around 160 lawmakers attended the meeting, which according to Cayetano, discussed the various priority measures laid out by President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address and the setting of tasks and responsibilities.

“We discussed the various priority measures enumerated by President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address last month which will be included in the informal coordination meeting with the Senate and the Executive offices next week” Cayetano said in a Facebook post.

“After receiving the 2020 national budget yesterday, we are setting timelines and defining tasks and responsibilities to ensure that we get things done,” he added.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez earlier said they are targeting to hold marathon sessions, both in the plenary and committee level, to ensure the passage of the budget bill before the end of the year.

House leaders earlier said they are eyeing to approve the budget on October 4.

Romualdez said that by September 12, the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session has also been moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the appropriations committee. (RRD with details from correspondent Joan Nano)

Duterte to insist arbitral ruling to China: ‘Whether you like it or not’

Marje Pelayo   •   August 22, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he will raise the arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines in the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea when he visits China next week.

Duterte is scheduled to fly to China for a working visit from August 28 to September 3.

He will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping and talk about the Hague ruling, the code of conduct, as well as the proposed joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

“So whether you like it or not, would it make you happy or not, angry or otherwise. Sorry, but we have to talk the arbitral ruling, then what we get, if there is a start of the exploration and extraction of whatever there is in the bowels of the earth,” the President said during the inauguration of the 7.5 megawatt peak solar power project in the municipality of Odiongan, Tablas Island in Romblon on Wednesday (August 21).

“The proposal of 60-40 in our favor, would be a good start. I hope it would graduate to something like towards how do we solve the arbitral ruling peacefully,” he added.

The event was the President’s first public engagement after being out of the public eye for more than a week. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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