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Gerry Baldo

Speaker to speed up plenary impeach vote

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno who has been urging the House to speed up the impeachment case against her for her trial in the Senate will finally get what she has been wishing for: the speedy impeachment complaint sent to the Senate for trial.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday said he would heed the call of President Duterte to speed up the impeachment process against Sereno, who has claimed that she has been vilified for the past nine months by the House of Representatives and demanded the House to speed up the case for her to get justice from the Senate.
“Yes it will be done once we resume sessions,” Alvarez said in a text message.
“I will request the Congress to go into the impeachment right away because the two entities (quo warranto and impeachment ) can hear it simultaneously, they can proceed with the quo warranto, which is lodged before the High Court.
President Duterte said before leaving for China yesterday, irked by the claims of Sereno of his having a hand in her impeachment and quo warranto cases, stressing that as Sereno wants him to be her enemy, he will be her enemy.
“So that I would like to ask Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez, kindly fast track the impeachment. She is bad for the Philippines,” he added.
The House Committee on Justice has already found probable cause on the impeachment complaint against Sereno. Six articles of impeachment have also been prepared against her, consisting of the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes.

Before Congress adjourned its session on March 21, the House Committee on Rules has referred for plenary consideration the committee report and articles of impeachment against Sereno.
Progressive lawmakers, however, denounced Duterte’s call.
Predictably, Bayan Munda party-lister Rep,. Carlos Zarate, for one, said that Duterte’s order may just be a “smokescreen” for Sereno’s pending removal through the quo warranto proceedings.
“Some information is now being floated that majority of the Supreme Court justices might give due course and remove Sereno via the quo warranto proceeding,” he said.
“We are calling on the Filipino people to stand up for what is right and just, and, guard against unwarranted developments in the quo warranto and the impeachment proceedings,” he added.
Another member of the opposition in the Lower House yesterday expressed extreme disappointment in President Duterte who, on teh Day of Valor, left for China and ordered his minions in the House of Representatives to fast track the impeachment of Chief Justice Sereno.
“It is ironic that President Duterte flies off to China which have occupied our islands in the West Philippine Sea thus becoming our enemy while declaring that Chief Justice Sereno as his enemy,” Akbayan Rep Tom Villarin said yesterday.
Villarin lambasted Duterte for playing god and imposing his whims upon Congress which is a co-equal branch of government.
“It is indeed a day full of ironies when a President orders a co-equal branch in Congress to fast-track an impeachment against the Chief Justice whom he declares an enemy. The President is playing ‘god’ and arrogating unto himself powers over Congress and the Speaker meekly submitting to his whims,” Villarin added.
The Akbayan lawmaker, defended Sereno who has asked the solicitor general to explain why he filed a quo warranto case against her.
“It clearly manifests his totalitarian nature and abhorrence to democratic values,” the Akbayan lawmaker said.
The lawmaker took the cudgels for Sereno as he said that the rationale of Chief Justice in asking to explain why the Solicitor General, an alter ego of the President, filed a quo warranto case against her is a valid legal argument.
“As a lawyer, the President should know better than burst in a fit of rage. If he has no hand in filing the petition, the President should let Solgen Calida do the explaining in the proper forum,” he said.
He said the statement of Duterte is sub judice.
“As the case is now heard by the Supreme Court en banc, such statement by the President is uncalled for as the matter is sub judice,” Villarin said.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano also claimed that even members of the majority coalition feel there is a “dictator” at the House of Representatives. Alejano is in the minority.
Alejano made the remark as he was asked to comment on reports of an ouster plot against the House leadership, particularly Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
Alejano was quoted in online reports that he does not see a problem in changing the current House leadership, as long as the opinion of each member of the chamber, regardless of party, is respected.
Alejano, however, said that as a member of the House minority, they can only do so much.

While Filipinos traveling abroad are being asked to pay a travel tax, foreigners coming to the country are not.

This was the lament of Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte as he proposed imposition of a travel tax on foreign visitors to the country to help generate funds for tourist welfare services, such as the establishment of information desks, tourism police training programs and special projects for tourists with disabilities (PWD) and special needs.
Under House Bill 7434, Villafuerte is recommending a fixed rate of $25 as “Tourist Welfare Tax” collected from tourists staying here for less than 60 days.
Villafuerte said the government currently imposes a travel tax on Filipinos traveling abroad without a similar imposition to foreigners traveling to the Philippines even while neighboring economies tax foreigners flying into their countries.
If you travel on economy you pay P1620 or $35 and if you travel on first class you pay P2,700 as provided for in Presidential Decree 1183. Overseas Filipino workers and infants two years and below are exempted from paying the travel tax. Filipinos who are permanent residents abroad who will not stay over a year is also exempted from paying such travel tax.
“The bill intends to build on the growth of the tourism industry in the Philippines by generating funds for the improvement of tourist welfare services in the country,” Villafuerte said in HB 7434’s explanatory note.
He said the fixed rate of $25 is competitive with the current travel taxes that other Asian countries have set and is based on the average rates of entry and exit taxes imposed by, among others, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Hong Kong and China.
As is the practice in other countries, the proposed Tourist Welfare Tax will be incorporated into the airline ticket price, according to Villafuerte.
“The proposed collected fees will be allocated to the Department of Tourism (DoT) to improve the tourist welfare services such as existing and ensuing Tourist Information and Assistance Desks, the Tourist Police training and development program, specialized tourist programs for persons with special needs and persons with disabilities,” Villafuerte said.
The funds collected will also be allocated to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority for the improvement of services in tourism infrastructure, Villafuerte said.
Under the bill, a provision for the adjustment of the tax five years after its first implementation is provided “in anticipation of possible inflation,” Villafuerte said.
Local government units will also benefit from the fees collected from the Tourist Welfare Tax encourage the development of local tourism programs, said Villafuerte, who is vice chairman of the House committee on local government.
According to Villafuerte, the country’s tourism industry has contributed a total of P2.85 trillion to the economy in 2016, representing almost 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Last year, the DoT recorded over 6.6 million tourist arrivals in the country, posting an 11 percent growth from the year prior.
Citing government data, Villafuerte said the industry started 2018 with a strong rise of 16 percent in tourist arrivals in January, with the DoT looking forward to a consistent rise in the coming months.

Solon wants archaic PNP tattoo ban scrapped

Thursday, 05 April 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

A ranking member of the House of Representatives yesterday pushed the abolition of what he termed as an archaic ban on tattooed persons from enlisting into the Philippine National Police.

According to House appropriations committeee chairman Rep. Karlo Nograles of Davao City, the prohibition against tattoos among PNP applicants could just be an arbitrary rule as it is not in the PNP Manual.
“There is no mention regarding a specific prohibition of having tattoos on applicants based on the manual for PNP members issued by the National Police Commission (Napolcom),” Nograles, a lawyer, said.
“Republic Act (RA) 8551 also known as the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998, also does not say that having tattoos is a ground to disqualify applicants who want to join the national police force,” he pointed out.
A closer look at the PNP Online Requirement Application System also makes no mention of tattoos as a basis for rejection.
“The Recruitment and Selection Division of the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management of the PNP does acknowledge the possibility for applicants to reveal tattoos in the ‘Initial Screening’ of applicants, but it is merely implied that it is a detriment,” Nograles said.
Item No.4 in the Initial Screening process says that “the Recruitment Officer shall initially conduct visual physical inspection for presence of large tattoos and noticeable physical deformities.”
Nograles, who is calling on the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to lift its tattoo ban on potential recruits, stressed that tattoos aren’t physical deformities.
“Tattoos aren’t a gauge of a person’s physical ability or toughness. It makes no sense for the PNP or AFP for that matter to turn away an applicant who is able and willing to serve his or her country just on the basis of such body markings,” the Davao lawmaker said.
“In short, the tattoo ban is an arbitrary rule that’s been perpetuated by unfair negative judgments on people with tattoos,” Nogrlaes said, adding that he’s planning to file a measure that would expressly de-stigmatize tattoos as far as the application process is concerned.
Tattoos, he said, have become an art form and a form of artistic expression. The Constitution protects all forms of artistic expression, just like pure speech, Nograles said.
Some lawmakers do have tattoos.
The PNP has reportedly rejected the solon’s proposal, saying that having tattoos were “anti-good grooming.”
“How can this be against good grooming if even highly-respected actors and athletes are wearing tattoos? It’s that kind of archaic thinking that we want to get rid of,” Nograles said.
The PNP also claimed that having tattoos would prevent police officers from donating blood in times of war or conflict, since medical practice prohibits this. However, Nograles said the reality is that a lot of cops and soldiers get inked after joining the service.
“How come they can get tattoos after joining the service but are banned to have tattoos while enlisting?” he asked.
Nograles earlier had said that opening up the service to tattooed individuals would greatly increase its recruitment pool. He said that Filipinos who want and are physically to enlist shouldn’t be denied their right to service their country.

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