Senate to honor ex-Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020   •   674

The Philippine flag flies at half-mast in front of the Philippine Senate building Friday to mourn the passing of former Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta. (Philippine Senate)

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Friday said it will give honors to the late Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta, who passed away on May 14.

Aquino-Oreta was a member of the Senate during the 11th and 12th Congress.

Senate Majority Juan Miguel Zubiri said a resolution will be passed on Monday, May 18 paying tribute to the former senator.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier expressed his sadness over the passing of Aquino-Oreta, whom he worked with at the Senate and considers as his friend.

“My family and I are so saddened by her demise.  She was very close to me and Sec Greg,” Sotto said, referring to former senator and now Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan.

Sotto also said that his wife, Helen, was also “devastated” by Aquino-Oreta’s demise.

“Helen, being a relative of theirs is devastated by her passing away. She has not stopped crying since we were told the news last night,” he said.

Other senators have also expressed condolences to the family of the former lawmaker.

Malacañang also expressed sympathy over the demise of Aquino-Oreta.

“Our sincerest condolences to the family, relatives, friends and colleagues of former Senator Maria Teresa “Tessie” Aquino-Oreta who passed away yesterday, May 14 at the age of 75,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Senator Oreta had a distinguished career in public service. She served the country as a senator during the 11th and 12th Congress and as Representative of 8th, 9th, and 10th Congress,” he added.

Aquino-Oreta was the youngest sister of slain Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the aunt of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Her son, Malabon City Mayor Antolin “Lenlen” Oreta, announced her passing on Friday but did not disclose the cause. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Pangilinan called on DOH to reconsider Sinovac purchases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan called on the Department of Health to reconsider its order to purchase China’s Sinovac vaccine.

In a statement, the Senator noted the results of a new study in Brazil which showed Sinovac yielding a 50.4% efficacy rate. He also noted the vaccine price is steeper compared to the other vaccines with a higher efficacy rate.

“Sinovac, with just over 50 percent efficacy, is six times more expensive than AstraZeneca, which in contrast shows a 70-percent efficacy. Sinovac is more expensive yet it has the lowest efficacy. Given these latest findings, we call on the DOH to cancel the purchase of said vaccines,” he said.

Panginilan added that the country should procure vaccines on the basis of both higher efficacy and lower cost.

Based on data, Pfizer and BioNTech has an efficacy rate 95% and cost P2,379, Gamaleya is at 92% with a P1,220 price, and AstraZeneca is at 70% costing P610. Sinovac, meanwhile, costs P3,629.50.

The Philippines has secured 25 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole is scheduled to convene again on Friday, January 15, to further discuss the country’s vaccination program. -AAC

COVID-19 vaccination hearing on Jan. 11 will not include the PSG — Sotto

Marje Pelayo   •   January 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate hearing on the government’s vaccination plan will push through on Monday (January 11) but Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the probe will not include members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

Despite this, several senators maintained that it is the responsibility and mandate of Congress to conduct a probe in aid of legislation that will benefit the people.

Sotto, who heads the Senate Committee of the Whole, said the probe will focus on the government’s P72.5 billion budget for the vaccination plan against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and not anymore on the PSG’s use of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines.

“He is misinformed. I’m the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole as Senate President. The topic of my hearing is the roadmap for the P72.5 B for vaccines. Who in heaven’s name told him I’m calling for PSG? I think the President is being misled,” Sotto said in a statement.

Sotto believes the President was misinformed because the PSG was not really part of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he acknowledges the President’s executive privilege to bar the PSG from attending the probe.

“To investigate in aid of legislation is also a valid exercise of legislative power.  There is no preventing Congress from eliciting information in aid of legislation from other resource persons. Congress can exact information on matters that can help it craft better legislation,” he said.

He noted, however, that the Chief Executive should not stop Congress from doing its mandate.

“The Senate should continue with the hearing, especially in the light of the revelation that 100,000 POGO workers were inoculated in the country. That is illegal. In aid of legislation, the Senate must elicit information from other sources on how to strengthen the FDA and the Bureau of Customs to prevent similar episodes in the future,” Drilon said.

For his part, Senator Richard Gordon said it was wrong of the President to warn Congress considering they are a co-equal branch of government.

He added that though he recognizes PSG’s loyalty to him, still no one is above the law.

“Well, that’s unfortunate because I think he’s wrong. The president has got to respect the separation of powers clause,” Gordon said.

“To shackle the Senate or the Congress into not doing what it is supposed to do is I think a wrong thing to do for the president,” he added.

Amid the issue, Gordon still wants to know who supplied that vaccine administered to the PSG and how the group received the unauthorized vaccines.

He said the senators will sit on a caucus to discuss if they will raise the matter in the investigation.

“Bakit nila tinatago? Is somebody laying the predicate here for the Chinese medicine to be pushed? Because lumabas na ngayon 300-200 Chinese na ang inoculate,” Gordon said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, stressed that it is the Senate’s responsibility to scrutinize and put in order any negligence on the part of the Executive branch.

“Kung hindi pa handa at nagkakanya kanya at iba iba ang direksyon ng mga ahensya ng Executive branch, responsibilidad at tungkulin ng Senado magsilbing check and balance at busisiin ito at subukan ilagay sa ayos ang anumang kakulangan o kapabayaan na nagaganap sa kilos ng mga kinaukulan,” Pangilinan said.

This issue is not a matter to be ignored, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros particularly the report that some POGO workers were also inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines without the proper authorization.

“Hindi pwedeng ipagsawalang kibo ng pamahalaan ang napabalitang paggamit ng 100,000 POGO workers ng smuggled at unauthorized vaccine,” the opposition senator said.

“Bakit ba ang nangunguna pa yatang kunsintidor ng kontrabando ay ang sarili pa nating gobyerno?” she added.

To date, Sotto’s committee has yet to finalize the list of resource persons to be invited to the probe on Monday. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate probe sought on recent ‘unlawful killings’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 19, 2020

Several senators are seeking an investigation the spate of ‘unlawful killings’ of lawyers, doctors, and other victims of alleged ‘red-tagging’.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos filed separate resolutions following the slay of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband in Negros Oriental.

“At a time of the biggest health crisis the country has ever seen, I am alarmed that this anti-communist agenda reigned over the literal health and survival of the Filipino people,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The Senate also seeks to probe into the killings of lawyer Atty. Jovencio Senados, activist Randall Echanis, and others.

Marcos said she also wants an investigation into the slay and/or disappearance of members of the legal community, such as the case of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Theresa Abdilla.

“Huwag na tayong maghintay pa ng mga susunod na krimeng masasangkot ulit ang mga nirerespetong miyembro ng legal community bago pa tayo umaksyon sa hindi magandang insidenteng tulad nito, (Let us not wait for another incident of crime where respected members of the legal community are the victims before taking action),” she said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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