No solid evidence yet to charge BuCor officials in GCTA controversy — Lacson

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2019   •   839

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines has not found any strong evidence yet linking officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to the alleged anomalous implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

Senator Panfilo Lacson believes they still need more proof aside from the testimonials of the witnesses that appeared at the Senate inquiry in order for the Senate to recommend the filing of charges against the involved BuCor officials.

“Not only Director General Faeldon pero ang ibang dapat mahagip, sinoman ang i-recommend for criminal liability (Not only Director General Faeldon but everyone else that should be recommended for criminal liability),” Lacson said.

“We need solid evidence to even consider recommending filing criminal charges against them,” he added.

Lacson said there was supposedly a group of alleged officials of the agency who expressed their intention to speak up of what they know about the controversial implementation of the GCTA Law.

After some time, however, the said officials changed their minds and withdrew.

“I hope they will have a change of mind, change of heart and finally decide to tell all during the next hearing,” Senator Lacson said.

During the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, the Senate invited to attend several personalities including former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong who formerly served as Chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Several senators already expressed agreement in giving chance to detained Senator Leila de Lima to defend herself at the Senate hearing after her name was again dragged into the controversy for allegedly receiving money from drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Yes, she should be given an opportunity,” expressed Senator Franklin Drilon.

Meanwhile, three BuCor officials remained locked up inside the Senate after they were charged in contempt for ling before the Senate Committee. – MNP (with details from Grace Casin)

New agreement on pork imports to benefit consumers — Sotto

Marje Pelayo   •   May 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senators and government economic managers have agreed to propose an amendment to the Executive Order 128 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Based on what both sides have agreed upon, import tariffs on in-quota on pork will be reduced to 15% provided it is within the minimum access volume (MAV) on the first three months of implementation.

After three months, it will be increased to 20% for the succeeding months.

Meanwhile, the initial recommendation of 400,000 metric tons for minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 254, 000 metric tons.

Sotto believes this will benefit the economy, the local hog raisers and most importantly, the consumers.

“The swine industry has many allied industries like corn, crops, transportation. Kaya hindi porke hindi ka kumakain ng pork ay wala kang kinalaman dito. May kinalaman ka dito kapag tinamaan ka ng inflation na mabigat,” Sotto said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole will soon release its committee report on the three hearings they conducted.

The reports are expected to contain recommendations on the possible amendments in EO 128 to prevent technical smuggling of pork imports and to clarify the role of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Sevice (NMIS) for that matter.

“The committee report will contain the content of the proceedings and what we feel should be legislated or if not, the executive department should work on,” Sotto said.

Sotto added that the Senate should be informed right away once the new EO is released. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate adopts resolution urging Duterte to revoke EO lowering pork import tariffs

Robie de Guzman   •   April 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Committee of the Whole has adopted a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw his order to temporarily reduce tariff rates for imported pork and increase its minimum access volume.

At least 17 senators supported the resolution during the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday that sought to discuss issues on local pork supply and prices due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

“The two policies can potentially spell the demise of our local hog industry, most of them belong to what we call backyard hog raisers,” said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who drafted the resolution.

The Executive Order 128 mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent in during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 1r5 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons, from 54,000 metric tons, the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.

Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

The resolution hit the Department of Agriculture for its failure to satisfactorily establish through accurate and reliable data that the country will have 388,790 MT of deficit in the supply of pork for the year which necessitates the increase in MAV.

It also stated that based on the testimonies of the resource persons during the first hearing of the committee, “there is a reasonable basis to conclude that the new set of tariff rates and the huge increase in the MAV can cause the demise of the local hog industry and cost the government billions in foregone revenue.

“Industry members and experts believe that the reduction of import duty and the increase in MAV will not necessarily translate to lower pork prices and that such policies can only result in loss of billions of government revenue and the flooding of the market with imported pork,” the resolution read.

The resolution was co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Leila De Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Richard Gordon, Ramon Revilla Jr., Joel Villanueva, and Cynthia Villar.

Drilon earlier questioned Duterte’s move to sign the order while Congress is on break, stressing that “by law, the authority of the president to fix tariff rates while Congress is not in session can be withdrawn or revoked by virtue of a joint resolution.”

If the executive department will not heed the Senate’s call, Drilon said he would file another resolution in May to revoke the executive order and propose appropriate import duties and minimum access volume of pork.

Congress is currently on break and will resume plenary sessions on May 17.

Malacañang earlier acknowledged that Congress has the authority to revoke EO 128 as the president’s power to adjust tariffs is “only a delegated power given by Congress to the President to impose tariff rates, imports or exports pursuant to Sec. 28 par 2, Art VI of the Constitution.”

Palace respects calls to revoke EO lowering tariff of imported pork

Robie de Guzman   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang respects the plan of some senators to file a joint resolution seeking the revocation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order, which temporarily reduces the tariff rates of imported pork products.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that he and Senators Cynthia Villar and Franklin Pangilinan are intent on filing a resolution to reverse Duterte’s Executive Order 128.

“The Palace respects the call of some lawmakers to revoke Executive Order No 128, which temporarily modifies the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine,” Roque said.

The Palace official acknowledged that Congress has the authority to revoke EO 128.

“In the event that our lawmakers decide to reverse EO No 128 lowering the tariff on imported pork, such action is within the legislative power of our lawmakers. EO No 128 lowering the tariff of imported pork is only a delegated power given by Congress to the President to impose tariff rates, imports or exports pursuant to Sec. 28 par 2, Art VI of the Constitution,” he said.

“Hence, Congress may, by law, impose limitations on such delegated power or may reverse the same,” he added.

EO 128 mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The EO said that the current 30 percent to 40 percent tariff rate for imported pork will be restored after the 12th month.

Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

Drilon said the resolution seeks to revoke the EO  and provide for the appropriate tariff and minimum access volume of port importation.

The senator cited Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which was the basis of EO 128, stating that the law allows the President to increase, reduce or remove existing rates of import duty “while Congress is not in session.”

However, he noted that Section 1608 (f) of RA 10863 provides that “the power herein delegated to the President may be withdrawn or terminated by Congress through a joint resolution.”

“EO 128 will kill the local hog industry, not the African Swine Fever or ASF. The irrational and drastic decision to increase the minimum access volume or MAV serves as a final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the local hog industry,” Drilon said.

Roque, however, said that the president can still exercise his veto power should he raise objections in the tariff bill.

“Further, should Congress pass another bill changing the tariff on imported pork, the President may veto any particular item or items in such appropriation, revenue, or tariff bill,” he said.

“However, given the importance of the issue, the Executive and the Legislative branches can work together in protecting the interest of the stakeholders such as consumers and our hog raisers alike,” he added.

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