Nationwide round-up (12/02/20)

Senator looks into paper trail of P9.5-B DBP loan for 2019 SEA Games

A SENATOR on Wednesday asked the government-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for copies of the documents required and submitted for the P9.5-billion loan it released to MTD Berhad for the Southeast Asian Games in 2019. “Target namin ‘yung mga (Our target are the) files around May 2018 at hiningi namin ‘yung (and we are asking for the) loan or credit agreement, signing authority, minutes of the meeting,” Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said at an online briefing Wednesday. The senator is also requesting for copies of relevant presentations, management memorandum issued in connection with the MTD Berhad loan, and counsel’s opinion. Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel had earlier called for the Senate to conduct an investigation on a contract the government entered into for sports facilities in the New Clark City. She said the Bases Conversion and Development Authority received a P9.5-billion fund upon the approval of the 2019 budget, which was then used to pay for the MTD Berhad loan to DBP. She questioned why the loan was paid for by money from the national budget. The senator said she hopes the Blue-Ribbon committee will agree to push through with the inquiry. She had earlier faced opposition from Senator Pia S. Cayetano, who argued that such investigations discourage construction of world-class facilities. Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, meanwhile, said the investigation should be left to the hands of the Ombudsman. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Lacson flags P10B under DPWH budget

A SENATOR on Wednesday flagged some P10 billion worth of infrastructure projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that were realigned in the Senate version. “Questionable” realignments were found in the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said based on his initial examination, aside from the budget items he had earlier identified. “While some of my recommended slash from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget was adopted, we also noticed at least P10 billion worth of infrastructure projects realigned within the same agency under the Senate version,” Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said in a statement. Mr. Lacson said he can identify the location of the realigned projects under Senate Bill No. 7727, the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021, but may be unable to trace the realignment on the proponent. “This is the reason why I have always called for transparency in all our individual amendments by posting the same on our official websites for the media and the public to see,” he said. “I already instructed my staff to coordinate closely with the Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office on whatever movements of funds before the final version of the bill is presented to the bicam (bicameral) members for our signatures and approval,” Mr. Lacson said. He earlier cited that some P68 billion has been earmarked for the completion of multi-purpose buildings that remained poorly built despite receiving funding in previous spending plans. He had also questioned appropriations of more than P1 billion each to around 220 districts in the budget, or around P474 billion in total. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

President appoints 2 advisers on telecom, red tape

THE Palace on Wednesday announced the appointment of two presidential advisers who will aid in red tape and telecommunication issues. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, in a statement, said Leoncio B. Evasco, Jr. will serve as adviser on streamlining of government processes while Ramon P. Jacinto will be adviser for telecommunications. Mr. Evasco has previously served as President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s cabinet secretary while Mr. Jacinto was an adviser on economic affairs and information technology before being appointed undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. The President recently ordered to fast-track the rollout of telecommunication facilities by cutting down bureaucratic requirements. Mr. Roque said Mr. Evasco is fit for this job given his “familiarity with the present bureaucracy.” — Gillian M. Cortez 

House committee OK’s bill on stiffer penalties for wildlife exploitation

A MEASURE seeking to impose stiffer penalties on the exploitation and abuse of wildlife in the country hurdled a committee level at the House of Representatives. The House committee on natural resources has approved a consolidated bill of five measures calling for the “conservation and protection of wildlife resources and their habitats, and imposes penalties for violations.” The proposed law seeks to replace Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which was enacted 2001. “I am happy because of the penalties. We are prescribing longer prison terms and higher fines for those who abuse our wildlife, especially endangered species,” Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said in a statement Wednesday. The proposed new penalties for serious offenses such as illegal killing of wildlife are imprisonment of 12 to 20 years and a fine of P200,000 to P2 million, stiffer than the current six to 12 years, plus a minimum fine of P100,000. For minor infractions, it would be a prison term of one month and one day from only 10 days, plus a fine of P20,000 from only P200. The existing law “has to be updated, improved and strengthened to meet and address the demands and problems we have today,” Mr. Rodriguez said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Senate aims to pass counterpart bill on age of statutory rape

THE Senate committee on women, children and family relations will be working on the passage of the measure raising the age of statutory rape within the year, its chairperson said on Wednesday. “I’m hopeful… makahabol kami sa (of catching up with the) parliamentary status ng House and maipasa (pass it) within the year,” Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said at an online briefing Wednesday. She said the committee is to hold a technical working group meeting next week to finalize their report. The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on final reading House Bill No. 7160, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. The House bill will raise the age of statutory rape to 16 years old from 12, which Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel said is similar to the Senate committee’s proposal. Under the bill, sexual relations between a minor and an adult will also be considered a violation despite consent, she added. The Senate version will also include a “Romeo and Juliet” clause, which excludes two minors from the coverage of the bill provided their relationship is proven consensual and noncoercive. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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