Senate adopts resolution urging NTC to reconsider shutdown order vs ABS-CBN

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2020   •   1687

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to reconsider the cease and desist order it issued against the ABS-CBN Corporation.

The upper chamber approved Senate Resolution No. 395 after 12 senators voted in favor of it, while nine abstained.

Among those who abstained from voting on the resolution are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Pia Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Tolentino, Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos, Ronald Dela Rosa, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, and Bong Revilla.

The senators who abstained from voting argued that the issue has already been filed before the Supreme Court and that the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN should emanate from the House of Representatives.

Cayetano, who initially signed the resolution, said she withdrew her signature as she would like to refrain from expressing her views while the issue remains pending at the High Court.

The resolution reiterated the Senate’s stand that the ABS-CBN, its subsidiaries and affiliates, should be allowed to continue operations pending the disposition of its franchise renewal.

The NTC issued a shutdown order against ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4.

The media network went off air in compliance with the order but it filed a petition before the Supreme Court, claiming that the NTC gravely abused its discretion when it issued the order instead of deferring to Congress, which has the plenary power to grant and renew legislative franchises.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said the petition has been raffled to a magistrate while the House committee on legislative franchises issued a show cause order, asking the NTC to explains its action.

Senate mourns death of ex-Pres. Noynoy Aquino

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Thursday expressed their condolences on the passing of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Aquino passed away this morning for still undisclosed reasons. He was 61.

“No matter what political side you’re on, when a former president passes away, the country mourns,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters.

“His death diminishes us all. Sincerest condolences from the Senate and my family,” he added.

Senator Grace Poe also paid tribute to the late former president.

“Sa nagbukas ng pinto ng serbisyo publiko para sa atin, maraming salamat sa iyong legasiya ng pagsisilbi nang buong katapatan at dedikasyon. Ipinakita sa atin ni PNoy ang kahalagahan ng mabuting kalooban sa isang pinuno: walang pag-iimbot sa kapwa, malinis ang intensyon, at walang pagkagahaman sa kapangyarihan,” Poe said in a statement.

“Pinapahalagahan namin ang iyong matapat na paglilingkod, PNoy,” she added.

Senator Sonny Angara likewise honored Noynoy’s legacy as he expressed his sympathies to the Aquino family.

“Rest well knowing that in time your own legacy will be remembered as it should be, from a perspective that is objective. You have earned your place in the annals of Philippine history. May the Lord bring comfort to PNoy’s siblings and rest of the Aquino clan,” he said.

Senator Manny Pacquiao also remembered Aquino’s programs during his term as president.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Former President Benigno Aquino III. His love for the country was manifested in his term of service where he championed the ‘Daang Matuwid’ and the ‘Kayo ang Boss Ko,’” he said.

“We are sending our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the beloved family of the former president. His legacy will be remembered,” he added.

Senator Joel Villanueva, who served as director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) during the Aquino administration, expressed sadness over the passing of his friend.

“The nation lost a leader, and I, a friend. But he was more than that. He was a mentor, a brother to me,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“If I was Tesdaman, he was the TESDA Godfather. He believed in the great talents of our youth, waiting to be unlocked if given good training, right breaks, and inspiring success stories. By ordering that they be trained, he invested in their dreams,” he said.

Villanueva remembered Aquino as “a simple man, plain Citizen Noy,” after his stint in Malacañang, and “a compassionate tito, never missing the perks and the powers he once wielded.”

“When the passion of the present had died down, a fair assessment of his administration will bear the truth of great achievements, brave decisions and moral leadership,” he said.

“We now commit him to the embrace of our Lord, and his life and works to history’s kind judgement,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who served as Aquino’s rehabilitation czar in areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda, said Noynoy served his country “very well with humility, honor, and integrity.”

“It was indeed a privilege to have served with him – both in the Senate and the Executive Department, but more than that, to be his friend,” Lacson said.

“As our country’s leader, he did not deserve to be unappreciated. He served his country very well with humility, honor and integrity,” he added.  “Even as President, he always managed to promptly respond to my messages, no matter how casual and trivial.”

Prior to winning the presidency, Aquino served in the Senate from 2007 to 2010.

He chaired the Senate Committee on Local Government in the 14th Congress and was also vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

DOF assures enough funds for procuring vaccine supply

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) on Tuesday (June 15) assured that the national government has enough budget to procure coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government’s P88.6 billion budget is enough to vaccinate 70 million adult Filipinos. This, he said, will cover 149 million vaccine doses.

Dominguez also said that the government will be able to obtain 200 million doses if the private sector will also procure around 25 million doses to be added to the 30 million doses that “are currently in the pipeline for negotiations”.

When asked about the price range for the procurement of vaccines, Dominguez replied it ranges from P323.75 – P1,323.30 per dose. He, however, did not disclose which brands, saying it would violate the non-disclosure agreements with vaccine manufacturers.

Senator Franklin Drilon stated the need for the Senate as well as the public to know the price range of the procured COVID-19 vaccines.

“To be clear, wala po akong sinasabing may nagnakaw. Maliwanag po iyan. Tinatanong ko lang kung magkano ba dahilan sa ito’y obligasyon natin bilang mga senador, obligasyon natin kung paano natin ginagastos ang kanilang pera,” he said.

(To be clear, I was not saying there is corruption. It is clear. What I am asking is how much were the doses since this is our obligation as Senators. It is our obligation to know how we spend public funds.)

“This is a public forum, we cannot disclose publicly. Now if COA [Commission on Audit] wants to audit us, it is open for audit. I personally designed the financing of this involving ADB [Asian Development Bank], AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank], and involving World Bank as a double-check. Because they will not pay for that if they see that we are overpaying,” Dominguez said.

The government is also reviewing to have an additional P20 billion to procure doses for the vaccination of children ages 12 to 15 years old. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it already released over P660 billion funds for the government COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, the first batch of vaccine supply for the private sector will arrive on June 17.

Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also said that private companies will give excess doses to the local government.

“Most of the private sector indicated to me that they will donate it to the LGU. considering that when we procured the vaccine the intention of the private sector is really to help the government in producing the dosage,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate approves POGO tax bill on third, final reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 3, 2021

With votes of 17-3-0, the Senate has approved the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO Tax Bill on the third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. 223 which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent seeks to impose additional taxes on POGO.

The Gross Gaming Revenue or receipts from POGO’s gaming operation will have 5% tax. The gross income of all alien employees of offshore gaming licensees and service providers will also be imposed with 25% withholding tax.

According to Senator Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and sponsor of the bill, an estimate of P28.7 billion worth of taxes will be collected in 2021 once it becomes a law. Meanwhile, an estimate of P32 billion will be collected in 2022.

However, several Senators do not agree in approving the said bill. Senator Risa Hontiveros said online gambling should not be the main source of income for foreigners in the country. She also reported crimes and syndicates where several POGO employees are involved.

“I think it is important for this chamber, Mr. President, to take a stronger position against online gambling and the illicit activity it has brought to our shores,” she said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also agreed with Hontiveros.

“Indeed, whatever amount the BIR collects from POGOs may be used to fund projects to give relief to our people’s suffering during this pandemic. However, we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the social costs that the POGO industry brings and has brought upon us,” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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