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Hannah Torregoza

Gordon to SSS execs: Improve the lot of 33 M pensioners

Senator Richard Gordon yesterday dared Social Security System (SSS) officials to justify their high salaries by looking for ways to improve the retirement benefits of 33 million members of the state pension fund. Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises issued the challenge in a hearing conducted jointly with the Committees on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development; Health and Demography; and Finance. Gordon told SSS executives they should be able to defend the amount of salary or compensation they receive which range from P450,000 a month to P5-million a year with the kind of service they extend to its members. “I sincerely hope you can find ways how to be efficient in your collection, to expand your market base,” Gordon said. “When you pay somebody well, you expect …

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Poe open to revival of Mamasapano probe

Senator Grace Poe yesterday said she is open to President Duterte’s plan to reopen the investigation of the bloody encounter that left 44 Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos dead in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 2015. Duterte, during his state visit to China, has expressed his desire to revive the case with the aim of knowing where the US$5-million supposed reward money for the arrest and capture of Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” went to. The President is also keen on finding out where a portion of Marwan’s finger is, after it was supposedly sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, to determine if it indeed belongs to the alleged terrorist. “As President, he has the authority to know all information, whether privileged …

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Enrile cautions Duterte: Consult Cabinet on foreign policy

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile cautioned President Rodrigo Duterte against issuing foreign policy statements without consulting members of his Cabinet. Enrile said that while Duterte’s independent foreign policy direction is commendable, he should not keep national security advisers in the dark about his possible announcements to prevent aggravating a sour relationship, especially anything pertaining to the United States. “The president has the right to say those things, but he should consult those that should be consulted, if he needs consultation. But there is no doubt he has that right,” Enrile said in an interview over Radio DZBB. “His position (of an independent foreign policy) is actually correct because I think his primary goal is to keep out of America’s compass and baton when it comes to foreign relations. All other countries should …

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Senators jittery at Duterte’s foreign policy statements

Some senators were appalled at President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy pronouncements during his state visit to China, seeking clarification as to the extent of “cutting ties” with United States and shifting alliance to China and Russia. Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV, who earlier filed a Senate resolution seeking to clarify the Duterte administration’s foreign policy direction, said the President should clarify what he really meant when he said he has decided to cut ties with the US. “What exactly does ‘cutting ties’ mean? Apart from having investments and aid come from the US and countries in Europe, there are Filipinos living and working in these countries. The Departments of Finance, Defense and Foreign Affairs can hopefully attend the (Senate) hearing and provide context, clarity and possible next steps,” Aquino said. Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson …

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FOI inches close to fruition

Senate committee on public information and mass media chair Senator Grace Poe yesterday sponsored in plenary the committee report on the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) law (Senate Bill 159) which aims to give flesh to the citizens’ constitutional right to information on matters of public concern as she sought for greater transparency in government. Poe urged her colleagues to support the bill’s passage into law in light of the Duterte administration’s avowed support for the measure. The bill, she said would provide more teeth to President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 2, which implements the FOI policy only in the Executive branch. “We truly appreciate the administration for its keen push of the FOI that would effectively make transparency, accountability and integrity as yardsticks in government performance,” said Poe who filed an FOI …

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Results of drug test in schools ‘confidential’

Senator Paolo Aquino IV on Wednesday said he has been assured by law enforcement agencies that results of random drug testing in schools will remain confidential. Aquino said officials of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Department of Education (DepEd) have guaranteed that the mandatory testing will not tread on the rights of students, but is meant to be a gauge of the prevalence of illegal drugs in schools. He said law enforcement officials made the commitment at the hearing of the Senate committee on education saying results of drug testing will be confidential and will not be used in “shame” campaigns. “If somebody found a student positive for drug use, they cannot use that information to expel a child from school. There’s a lot of confidentiality …

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Pimentel bats for SSS amnesty for ‘kasambahay’ employers

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is seeking passage of a bill granting a one-time amnesty that would allow employers to settle the unpaid Social Security System (SSS) contributions of their household helpers or ‘kasambahays.’ In filing Senate Bill No. 1180, Pimentel urged Congress to amend the pertinent provisions of Presidential Decree 442, as amended, and Republic Act No. 10361, or “An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers”, also called “Batas Kasambahay”, so that employers can comply with the law that promotes household helpers’ welfare and protection. The Senate leader, however, noted that not many of the over two million household helpers are members of SSS, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and Pag-IBIG Fund, based on records of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Pimentel noted that …

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Drilon: Duterte rants may impact on economic ties

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon urged yesterday state economic managers to ensure that the Philippines will maintain economic stability despite the Duterte administration’s ongoing pursuit of an independent foreign policy. Drilon said the government’s economic managers should put in place mechanisms to cushion the negative effects on the economy of the President’s continuing tirades especially against ally countries. The senator said this should be the government’s thrust especially if the President’s rants against the country’s long-term allies will remain unabated. “The country cannot afford to lose the support of its long-time ally countries, especially in the economic and development sectors,” Drilon said. “Antagonizing multilateral institutions and having poor relations with other countries may have serious economic consequences,” he added reiterating his support to the Duterte administration’s push for a more independent foreign policy. Drilon …

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Angara urges DICT to expand BPOs to rural areas

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara urged officials of the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to strengthen and expand the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry to the country’s rural areas. Angara made the pitch at a Senate finance subcommittee hearing, where he lauded DICT officials for spearheading the Rural Impact Sourcing Project, which focuses on sustainable job creation and other opportunities in the rural and underdeveloped areas in the country. “This is a very good program. We definitely laud this and we will support its nationwide implementation,” said Angara, who is also vice chair of the Senate labor committee. “Initiatives like this is certainly a step in the right direction as there continues to be a growing disparity in opportunities between the country’s progressive cities and the untapped rural areas,” …

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Gordon, De Lima get on each other’s nerves yet again

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committed on Justice and Human Rights, got into a testy situation with Sen. Leila de Lima yet again, but backtracked in his attempt to shift the order of the day from probing alleged extrajudicial killings to discussing proposals to reimpose the death penalty. Initially, Gordon wanted to change the focus of the panel investigation to the death penalty, but was forced to abandon his plan after realizing that none of the resource persons his committee invited were actually prepared to tackle the issue. But this was after De Lima, who originally headed the panel before her colleagues ousted her, questioned Gordon’s refusal to hear the witnesses the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were supposed to present during the panel’s sixth hearing. It was also De Lima …

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