House to fast-track 5 priority bills when session resumes

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 23, 2021   •   284

MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives will fast-track five priority bills as the session resumes next week, according to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

“We will do our best to help the President fulfill all his promises to the Filipino people,” he said.

Among the priority bills to be passed include:

1. Philippine Virology Institute Bill
2. Center for Disease Control Bill
3. Amendments to the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016
4. Bureau of Immigration Modernization Bill
5. National Housing Development Bill

Lawmakers aim to pass the Philippine Virology Institute Bill amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.  The bill proposes to create a research and development institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The institute, to be called the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines shall serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology.

The Center for Disease Control Bill aims to create an agency that would focus on preventing and managing the spread of diseases and other health threats in the country and abroad.

The bill amending the “Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act of 2016”, on the other hand, requires the CPD as the mandatory requirement for the renewal of a Professional Identification Card.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) Modernization Bill aims to make the BI more responsive to the challenges and developments of migration and immigration.

The National Housing Development Bill is set to provide continuous funding support for a large-scale pro-poor housing program in the country.

Velasco also hopes that the Senate approves the proposed Internet Transaction Act and the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Workers which was already approved by the lower house.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives said it is already prepared for President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 26).

House of Representatives Secretary-General Mark Llandro Mendoza said around 300 lawmakers will be allowed to physically attend the SONA.

Karamihan mga deputy speakers natin, former speakers darating din, sa mga senators natin, I think mga 10 ata ang nag-confirm na (Most of our deputy speakers, former speakers, and senators. I think 10 already confirmed),” he said. AAC

Duterte orders SolGen to ask COA to audit PH Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida to write to Commission on Audit (COA) chair Michael Aguinaldo requesting an audit of the Philippine Red Cross’ (PRC) financial records.

“I am ordering SolGen, si Calida, to write [COA chief] Aguinaldo a letter. Ask Aguinaldo to immediately conduct an audit diyan sa Red Cross. Ang hinihintay ko lang, the next step would really be the letter to be delivered by COA,” the President said during his pre-taped public address aired on Thursday (September 16).

The PRC is led by Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that is investigating the government’s use of pandemic funds.

The Chief Executive once again slammed  Gordon for the latter’s Senate probe into the government’s purchase of alleged overpriced medical goods last year.

Duterte had previously accused Gordon of using the PRC as his ‘milking cow’ in his previous election campaigns which led to a call for an audit of the humanitarian organization.

Lacson claps back at Duterte’s statement that Senate inquiries are all in vain

Maris Federez   •   August 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has belied the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that inquiries conducted by the Senate never ended up going anywhere.

Lacson said the general public has been enjoying a significant number of laws that the Senate has enacted based on the inquiries and investigations conducted by the upper chamber of Congress.

The Senator, in a seeming swipe at the President, told the chief executive to review the separation of powers in government.

“Magbasa rin muna siya tungkol sa doktrina ng Separation of Powers at Checks and Balances ng Ehekutibo, Kongreso at Hudikatura bago niya kami pakialaman sa Senado,” Lacson said.

The President, Lacson said, should instead focus his attention on the performance of the Cabinet, not just in addressing the pandemic but also in other aspects of governance.

“Sa halip, asikasuhin niya ang mga kakulangan ng sangay ng gobyerno na kanyang pinamumunuan na hitik sa incompetence at corruption, hindi lang sa pagtugon sa pandemya kundi sa maraming aspeto ng governance,” he said.

Lacson also expressed his disappointment that the President has been the one defending his officials who are the subject of their investigation, instead of being the one to charge these officials for their inaction or poor performance.

“Kaya hindi nakakasuhan ang ilang matataas na opisyal na naging subject ng pag-iimbestiga namin ay dahil ipinagtatanggol niya sa halip na makasuhan,” he said.

“Hindi trabaho ng Senado ang magsampa ng demanda. Trabaho ng Executive Branch iyon. Judiciary naman ang magpapakulong. Mahirap bang i-memorize yan?” Lacson added. —/mbmf

Deployment of SONA cops pending COVID-19 test result a breach of protocol – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The deployment of cops still awaiting results of their COVID-19 test during President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) was a breach of protocol, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

“We will say that there was this breach because we have guidelines for that at alam po natin that they should not have been deployed kung hindi pa po natin alam ang resulta,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing.

The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Wednesday reported that 82 of its personnel have contracted COVID-19, 51 of whom were part of the security contingent deployed during the SONA on July 26.

Vergeire stressed that if testing was done for screening purposes, they should have been quarantined first before their deployment.

The DOH is also not dismissing the possibility that the cops who caught COVID-19 could be super spreaders.

Vergeire called on those who may have had contact with the cops, particularly the protesters last Monday, to get in tough with local authorities.

The DOH is also closely monitoring with the Quezon City government for the conduct of active contact tracing.

“Hindi po natin dapat pinagpapabukas ang contact tracing dahil isang araw lang po na hindi natin mahanap iyong taong nakasalamuha o nakapag-interact sa isang positibong kaso, maaari na po nating maikalat ang impeksyon,” Vergeire said.

PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar on Thursday morning announced he has ordered the relief of QCPD Station 3 commander, Police Lt. Col. Christine Tabdi over the incident. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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