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Angie M. Rosales

For Senate, cha-cha proposed amendments out by March

Friday, 02 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The Senate committee report on the proposed amendments to the Constitution as well as the convening of the upper chamber into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or the Constitutional Convention (Con-con) is likely to be out by March.

The Senate is still uncertain whether the upper chamber will convene as a Con-Ass or a Con-con.
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan announced this Thursday following another round of public consultations in Cebu City on pending resolutions related to proposed Charter change (Cha-cha).
So far, ongoing public consultations seem to indicate that its sentiment appears to be split on whether to go through it via Con-con or Con-Ass, he said.
“Maybe two or three hearings after that before we complete our consultations on public hearings and then prepare the committee report. So going by a timeline we’re looking at maybe by the end of March but by then, we will have a better sense since there are still people being invited for public consultation,” the chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes said.
After holding a public hearing in Cagayan de Oro last week, Pangilinan said they are scheduled to carry out the same in Baguio City and probably another in Bicol region in addition to Southern Luzon.
“We are here in Cebu to hear our resource persons whether they are for or against Cha-cha. We want to hear the different views of our kababayans here in Region 7 to listen to their sentiments before finalizing our committee report on Cha-cha at this time and submit it to the Senate,” he said.

Based on what they have gathered so far, Pangilinan said there appears to be a split support on Cha-cha via Con-Ass or Con-con.
“There seems to be clearly those against Con-Ass and as we said, issues of mistrust if the politicians will be the body to amend the Constitution, They do not like the Con-Ass mode and if there is cha-cha, what is needed is a Con-con.
“It is clear that what our countrymen in Region 7 want an increase in funding for the local governments and not to concentrate power and resources in Luzon or Manila.
“Others have said that because of this, there should be liberalism. Still others say what is needed is to amend the Local Government Code, for a increase in funding to go to the people,” he said.
It’s almost the same sentiment in Cagayan de Oro where stakeholders from Mindanao participated and from what they have gathered so far, a large percentage of Filipinos are still not well-aware about the issue on Cha-cha and even the proposed federalism.
“Information dissemination is also critical. So many are still unaware precisely what is this all about. Therefore it is really a challenge for us in the Senate, as well as ang media, to help us in disseminating information because in the final analysis, it is the people who will approve of this. What is difficult for those who will ratify the Constitution are not aware of, or understand well, the amend-ments.
The report, Pangilinan said, will either state whether the committee will endorse Cha-cha or not or whether the mode of amendment will be Con-Ass or Con-con.
“These are the issues that can be contained in the committee report.
We will present it on the floor and we will debate it. If we get the majority , we will submit this to the floor and debate on this. We can either adapt it, amend it, reject it. So that is what is going to happen,” he said.
On the matter of the two Houses voting jointly, Pangilinan said that the Senate will definitely not agree to it.

Lacson to UN: Probe better sans Callamard

Friday, 02 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The United Nations (UN) can expect greater cooperation from the Duterte administration if it drops UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, whom President Duterte had accused of being biased against him, in the proposed probe on alleged human rights violations in the war on drugs, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

“I understand where they are coming from. Rightly or wrongly, the President is more than convinced that Callamard can no longer be objective and fair if she is the one to conduct the investigation,” he said in a text message to reporters.
The chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs said that if the UN will insist on sending Callamard, “they may not get the same cooperation that some other rapporteur may get.”
“Besides, it would do the UN well if they consider the credibility of their investigation. Again, rightly or wrongly, insisting on sending Callamard might not provide that credibility,” Lacson said.
The senator was reacting to the statements made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano when he delivered a speech at the High Level Segment of the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, on the other hand belittled Cayetano’s call to the UN saying that it’s just an attempt to “damage control” the situation when the latter asked the UNHRC “not to politicize or weaponize” the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“Damage control is being done to head off the ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation,” the senator said referring to the issue on “crimes against humanity” filed against President Duterte in relation to the Chief Executive’s war on drugs that has made initial progress.
A complaint was filed by lawyer Jude Sabio before the ICC last year and supplement complaints were also filed by Trillanes and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
Speaking before the 47 delegates of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, Cayetano said the Philippine government is ready to deal with the called probe against the President by the international human rights body but UN special rapporteurs should observe the code on conduct and avoid politicizing the issue.
“All we ask for is fairness. There are 7.5 billion people in the world. Send anyone except one who has already prejudged us and who, by any measure cannot be considered independent and more so objective,” Cayetano said, referring to UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard.
“If I were the UN, I would accede to the condition since it would be hard to hide (alleged extrajudicial killings),” Trillanes said on the matter of alleged abuses committed in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the administration.
Callamard gets a backer
Cayetano, meanwhile, invited his counterpart in Iceland to visit and observe the human rights situation in the Philippines, following the latter’s remarks about the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs before the high-level segment of the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
In his remarks before the Council, Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson urged the Philippines to allow UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to visit without any precondition or limitation so she could conduct an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country.
He said Iceland takes pride in leading 40 countries in calling out the Philippines over alleged human rights violations committed in the course of its anti-illegal drugs program.
Cayetano met with Thordarson on the sidelines of the UNHRC event on Tuesday, during which he conveyed his “serious disap-pointment” with the latter’s statement.
“After explaining why the Philippines has to undertake the campaign against illegal drugs, I told Foreign Minister Thordarson not to take my word for it and that it would be best if he could come and visit so he could see the situation for himself,” the foreign affairs chief said.
Citing the strong bilateral ties between Manila and Reykjavik, he told Thordarson the Philippines would have appreciated it if Iceland first reached out to hear the country’s side before arriving at such a conclusion.
“I am sure your society also has its own challenges but if our situation were reversed, you would feel the same way we feel right now,” Cayetano said as he shared with his counterpart how the government’s campaign against illegal drugs “has been politicized by critics of President Rodrigo Duterte”.
Cayetano stressed that Manila actually shares Iceland’s recommendations for the conduct of an independent and impartial assessment of the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The Philippine position, he said, is actually not new as Manila is always willing to cooperate with the UN.
Despite the openness to receive independent experts, however, “Manila will still not be able to accept Callamard because of her biased and antagonistic stance towards the Philippine Government,” he added.
Ambassador Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, who was present during the meeting, said Cayetano requested the meeting with Thordarson to allow him to see the country’s perspective.

Impeach Sereno seen to start after SONA

Thursday, 01 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The House should be prepared to prove its case as the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is expected to start by the last week of July or shortly after President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA), Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said.

Based on their discussion, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the Senate will schedule its legislative work on Mondays and Tuesdays while reserving Wednesday to Friday for the impeachment proceedings.
As per impeachment rules, the proceedings will start at 2 p.m. as what was practiced in the past.
Pimentel vowed yesterday to ensure the impeachment trial will be fair, saying the Senate will not allow politics to affect the proceedings.
“The attitude of a senator, (although) I know that they already know this is that if there is no evidence, then acquit. But if there is evidence, we also have to consider convicting. That’s why the burden is on the House (of Representatives) if they will now file the impeachment complaint here in the Senate, they should be prepared to prove their case,” he said in an interview with reporters.
Sotto, when asked about the discussion of the majority bloc during a caucus prior to their holding of plenary session, said the majority expects the Articles of Impeachment to be submitted during or after the break.

Congress is set to go on a Holy Week recess beginning March 24 and will resume on May 14 before going on a sine die adjournment on June 1.
“More or less they admit, most of us admit of the possibility on the last week of July or after the SONA that a full-blown impeachment court starts for the impeachment trial. The stipulations and the possibility of convening, we can do that in May,” Sotto said.
“There are procedures that we have to follow,” he added.
Morning sessions mulled
The senators will have to discuss among themselves whether they will hold impeachment hearings in the mornings, said Sotto.
“We are somehow perplexed at the idea that some of important bills might be delayed. As I said all of these are projections. I can be wrong, the impeachment trial can start early,” he added.
Pimentel refused to comment on calls on Sereno by her fellow SC magistrates to resign.
“When the impeachment complaint reaches the Senate we will sit as judges,” he said.
“No one can force you to resign. A resignation is an act by the person, which is voluntary. No comment on the indefinite leave since I do not know the rules in SC. They must have their own rules on leaves,” he said.
Sen. Leila de Lima’s continuing detention does not disqualify her from being among the senator-judges in the impeachment proceedings, Pimentel said.
“She remains a member of the Senate,” he said.
But the matter of de Lima physically participating in the Senate, convening as an impeachment court trial anytime soon, is another matter, Pimentel emphasized.
“But who knows? So you do not disqualify her just because she is detained. By halfway or at the end, she may physically be present,” he said.
Given that the Senate which has 24 seats comprising only of 23 members, with one of their colleagues, former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano appointed last year by President Duterte to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as secretary, Pimentel said that the reckoning number will be 23 in ascertaining the two-thirds vote.
A vote of two-thirds of all its members is required to convict an impeachable official.
“(But) in effect it remains the same. For 24, 16 is needed while for 23, 15.33 is two-thirds but there is no 1/3 of a person so 16 will still be the number,” he said.
Drilon asks SC to halt infighting
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on the other hand urged the SC magistrates to spare the entire judicial institution from their infighting, brought about by the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
“The infighting in the Supreme Court, which has become a public spectacle, has affected not only the people’s confidence on the judiciary but also the administration of justice in the country,” Drilon said.
“We hope for this matter to be resolved among themselves, away from the public’s eye, as it only aggravates the situation that the institution is currently facing,” he added.
Reports said that Sereno was forced to go on leave after several magistrates threatened to call for her resignation if she will not take the break.
The challenge now for the SC, Drilon said, is to find ways that could help preserve the integrity, dignity and independence of the entire judiciary.
“The SC is one of the pillars of our democracy. We should protect and isolate it from the consequences of the impending impeachment trial of the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court must rise to the crisis whole,” he said.


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