Opinion & Community

LOOK: Why petitioners want Comelec chairman Bautista impeached

BAUTISTA COMPLAINT. Impeachment endorsers (from right to center) Rep. Abraham Tolentino, Rep. Harry Roque, Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia show a copy of affidavit of verified complaint for impeachment filed by Atty. Ferdinand Topacio (extreme left) and former Rep. Jing Paras (2nd-left) vs Comelec chairman Andy Bautista at the House of Representatives on Aug 23, 2017. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler 


MANILA, Philippines – What started as an “issue of domestic squabble” could just turn into the biggest crisis for Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, as the House committee on justice begins tackling a valid impeachment complaint filed against him.

On September 20, Wednesday, the committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, will be tackling an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Negros Occidental Representative Jacinto Paras, and members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).


The committee meeting is the first step in many that will evaluate whether the complaint has enough basis – and numbers – to proceed before the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

This would be the 3rd valid impeachment complaint tackled by the committee in two weeks. On September 13, the committee found the first impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno sufficient in both form and substance. The second complaint, filed by the VACC’s Dante Jimenez and Vanguard's Eligio Mallari, was rejected because it was not found sufficient in form.

The Jimenez and Mallari complaint was thumbed down by the committee, 5-28, because it failed to follow the form on verification. The 2nd complaint had apparently used a form for complaints that was endorsed by one-third of the House membership – among the many methods of filing an impeachment complaint.

Jimenez's and Mallari’s complaint was endorsed by only 3 legislators – Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwen Garcia, and Cavite 7th District Representative Abraham Tolentino.

During the same hearing, ranking House leaders quipped that Roque, who voted in favor of the second Sereno impeachment case, did so because of the similarity in form of that complaint and the Bautista complaint. The second Sereno complaint and the Bautista complaint should have contained a verification form that indicates the private complainants' personal knowledge of their allegations.

Days after the Sereno impeachment complaint hearing, Topacio and Paras, filed a substitute verification on the complaint.

In that substitute verification, the two said that the allegations against Bautista are “true and correct of [their] own knowledge or based on authentic records,” according to a release from Roque’s office.

The complaint, upon filing, said that the allegations “are true of our knowledge and belief on the basis of our reading and appreciation of documents and other records pertinent thereto.”

Bautista’s troubles began in early August, when his estranged wife Patricia publicly accused him of amassing ill-gotten wealth and failing to declare properties during his time as Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and later, as Comelec chairman.

Topacio and Paras are citing Patricia Bautista’s allegations and the Comelec chairman’s alleged failure to prevent and respond properly to a data breach incident in 2016.

Here is a copy of the verified impeachment complaint as filed before the House Secretary General:


Here is a copy of the substitute verification filed days after the 2nd Sereno impeachment was rejected:


Bautista, who was appointed PCGG chair in 2010 and Comelec chair in 2015, has denied the allegations of his wife.

He is set to step down as Comelec chairman in 2022 yet. – Rappler.com


ASEAN human rights delegates barred from visiting De Lima

BARRED. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights delegates were barred from visiting detained Senator Leila de Lima. Photo from the Office of Senator Leila de Lima 


MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) were barred from visiting detained Senator Leila de Lima despite having complied with the 10-day visit notice.

Tian Chua and Charles Santiago, APHR delegates from the Malaysian Parliament, expressed disappointment over what happened.


Chua and Santiago, along with fellow APHR members Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, waited outside the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame for an hour but to no avail.

"I and my colleagues are very disappointed that our entry was not granted despite us giving an ample notice before the visit," Chua said.

Santiago said the event bolstered their beliefs that De Lima is "unjustifiably detained" over drug charges, which the senator maintains were fabricated. (READ: De Lima to Duterte, 'blind' followers in drug war: Your time will come)

"Seeking an appointment with a fellow legislator who has now been incarcerated and is in detention is something that we want to do, and not allowing us to visit her actually further affirms our beliefs that she is unjustifiably detained, otherwise the government doesn't have to worry about this," Santiago said.

"Our intention was to come here to express our solidarity with her, and as a fellow legislator in another ASEAN country, we believe that she's innocent and her persecution is part of the intimidation campaign against her, which violates her rights as a legislator," Chua also said.

If the government has nothing to hide, Chua said they should have been allowed to go in and visit the senator. (READ: ASEAN lawmakers: Free De Lima, end EJKs)

"We believe that if the authorities have nothing to hide, and if the authorities are doing things according to the principle of transparency, then we should not be denied from interacting and paying our visit to show our regards to her," he said.

The delegates submitted their request on September 6, more than the required 10-day notice before visiting the senator. Police present failed to give an exact reason for the delay in the issuance of the permit.

Last July, another foreign visitor was also denied entry. Liberal International (LI) president Juli Minoves was prevented from seeing De Lima due to an "administrative excuse." (READ: EU Parliament approves call to free De Lima– Rappler.com


Duterte wants someone else to appoint barangay OICs if polls postponed

BARANGAY POLLS. President Duterte thinks barangay elections should be postponed again. Presidential photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he doesn't want the power to choose officers-in-charge (OICs) if the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections are again postponed.

Duterte said in an interview on state-run PTV on Tuesday, September 20, that he had relayed his sentiments to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier that day.

"Sinabi ko kanina sa House of Representatives through the Speaker, 'wag mong ibigay sa akin, mag-appoint-appoint. Ayaw ko. Ibigay ninyo sa iba," said Duterte.

(I told the House of Representatives earlier through the Speaker – don't give me the power to appoint. I don't want it. Dive it to someone else.)

This is different from what he conveyed in March. At the time, then Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said that Duterte wants to handpick OICs in the country's more than 42,000 barangays if the elections are postponed. (READ: Duterte wants to appoint barangay OICs is polls reset)

Last year, the House minority proposed that the appointment of barangay OICs be handled by the Office of the President (OP) in close coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), local government units (LGUs), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and other concerned agencies.

When the barangay and SK polls were postponed in the past, the incumbent officials were placed on holdover or carryover status, or kept their positions until the next elections were held.

On Tuesday, Duterte reiterated that barangay elections, slated to take place on October 23, should again be postponed because he believes "40%" of barangay captains are involved in illegal drugs.

"They will really win, because they have money. You know barangays, you either scare the people or buy them off," said Duterte, who had won the presidency on the promise of eradicating crime, including the illegal drug menace, in the first 6 months of his term.

He added: "If you don't believe me, okay with me, no problem, let's have elections. But if those into drugs are reelected, that's not my problem."

The House version of the bill postponing barangay and youth elections seeks to move the exercise to May 2018. The Senate version proposes moving the polls to October 2018. (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)

Both measures seek to replace the incumbents with appointed officials.

Opposition lawmakers have opposed the postponement of the barangay elections. The appointment of barangays OICs also raises legal questions. (READ: Why Duterte's plan to appoint barangay officials violates the Constitution) – Rappler.com


Mexico: Strong earthquake topples buildings, killing scores

A strong earthquake has struck central Mexico, killing more than 130 people and toppling dozens of buildings in the capital, Mexico City.
Rescuers are searching for survivors and there are reports of children trapped in a partly collapsed school.
The 7.1 magnitude quake caused damage in Morelos and Puebla states and in Mexico State.
It struck while many people took part in an earthquake drill exactly 32 years after a quake killed thousands.
The country is prone to earthquakes and earlier this month an 8.1 magnitude tremor in the south left at least 90 dead.
The epicentre of the latest quake was next to Atencingo in Puebla state, about 120km (75 miles) from Mexico City, with a depth of 51km, the US Geological Survey said.
At least 64 people were killed in Morelos state alone, south of the capital, and 29 reported killed in Puebla state. Thirty-six are confirmed dead in Mexico City with another nine in Mexico State.
Close-up map of affected regions
About two million people in the capital were without electricity and phone lines were down. Officials also warned residents not to smoke on the streets as gas mains could have been ruptured.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told TV network Televisa that rescue services were dealing with collapsed or badly damaged buildings at 44 locations.
The earthquake drill was being held in Mexico City on the 32nd anniversary of a quake that killed up to 10,000 people.
Earthquake alarms did sound, correspondents say, but some residents apparently thought they were part of the day of drills.
Mexico City is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with more than 20 million people living in the metropolitan area.The prolonged tremor hit at 13:14 local time (18:14 GMT) and sent thousands of residents into the streets.
Jennifer Swaddle, a teacher at the British International School in Mexico City, told the BBC that part of her classroom collapsed after the earthquake hit.
"Something that started as a tremor quickly escalated into something where the classroom shook," she said.
"As we were leaving, the outside of my classroom wall fell, so there was a big pile of rubble. Luckily, fantastically, nobody was hurt, but it was incredibly frightening."
A six-storey blocks of flats, a supermarket and a factory were said to be among the collapsed buildings in Mexico City.
Mexican media also reported that some children had been rescued from the partially collapsed Enrique Rebsamen school, in Mexico City's southern Coapa district, but that others were still trapped.
Across the city, teams of rescue workers and volunteers clawed through the rubble with picks, shovels and their bare hands.
"My wife is there. I haven't been able to communicate with her," said Juan Jesus Garcia, 33, choking back tears next to a collapsed building.
"She is not answering and now they are telling us we have to turn off our mobile phones because there is a gas leak."
President Enrique Peña Nieto urged people to avoid the streets so emergency services could reach the most affected areas.Panic on the streets
By Juan Paullier, BBC News, Mexico City
Mexico City is a city all too used to earthquakes. But this tremor, on the anniversary of another one that left thousands dead in 1985, was especially powerful.
It sent thousands of people into the streets, trembling, shaking, crying, and trying to reach their loved ones by phone.
As time passes it is becoming clear that there are going to be many victims. In the capital alone, about 30 buildings collapsed.
In one of the worst-affected areas I saw dozens of people desperately removing rubble because they believed someone was trapped.
Alfredo del Mazo Maza, governor of the State of Mexico, said schools would be closed on Wednesday. He also ordered all public transport to operate services for free so that people could travel home.
Foreign leaders sent messages of support to Mexico as the scale of the disaster became clear.
US President Donald Trump, who has courted controversy with his plans for a border wall with Mexico, tweeted: "God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted his support following the "devastating news".

Trump's Former Campaign Manager Was Reportedly Wiretapped By US Investigators

Matt Rourke / AP

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election as part of an FBI probe that has grown to include Russia's meddling in the election, CNN reported on Monday.

Manafort, who resigned from the Trump campaign in August 2016, has been known to be under investigation by the FBI — who notably searched his home in a raid this summer. The investigation is examining Manafort's business dealings with pro-Russia leaders in Ukraine as well as whether he or the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in swaying the results of the 2016 election, the New York Times has reported.

But Monday's CNN report shows that the FBI investigation has gone further than previously known. Intelligence gained from the wiretapping has led to some evidence — though possibly inconclusive — that Manafort may have encouraged Russians to help with Trump's campaign, the network reported.

Details from the wiretapping have been provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, CNN reported. The wiretapping came under the authority of two secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders: following the beginning of the FBI's investigation into Manafort in 2014, then another that allowed the wiretapping to continue until early 2017, CNN reported.

A spokesperson for Mueller did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment.

The news comes as the New York Times reported on Monday that Mueller's prosecutors have told Manafort he will be indicted. In the raid of Manafort's home, agents sought evidence that he had set up offshore bank accounts, the Times reported. The investigation is also considering whether Manafort was involved in money laundering, violating tax laws, or improperly lobbying, it said.

Whether Manafort is charged with any crime — or if it implicates the larger Trump campaign in wrongdoing — remains to be seen. But President Trump earlier this year was critical of wiretapping of his campaign and personally accused President Obama of tapping Trump Tower.


"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump tweeted on March 4.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy," he continued.

Monday's reports, however, did not state that Trump or his New York home had been wiretapped.

Duterte’s martial law: Mission accomplished, says military

People line up early Monday morning at a police checkpoint before entering Iligan City,where security has been tightened following the siege of nearby Marawi City by theMaute terrorist group and its allies from the Abu Sayyaf. —BARRY OHAYLAN
DAVAO CITY — If there’s one thing the military can claim about the gains of implementing martial law in Mindanao, it’s preventing the violence in Marawi City from spilling to other areas.
With the intensified security operations, the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) “was able to carry out its mission,” Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, assistant regional military commander, said in a statement.
“Business remains vibrant in the region through the security arrangements and the active interagency operations of the military and the police,” said Gapay, who is also the spokesperson for the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

Marawi crisis
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under military rule following the attack of Islamic State-inspired terrorists on Marawi City on May 23.

The fighting for control of the city has left more than 800 people dead and displaced more than 400,000 people.
Gapay said the security situation in areas under Eastmincom, particularly Davao, Caraga and parts of Northern Mindanao and Cotabato regions had remained relatively stable.
“The Kadayawan Festival of Davao City, Higala-ay Festival in Cagayan de Oro City and other events held in the region were concluded peacefully,” Gapay said.
He said troops under Eastmincom had conducted 50,979 checkpoint operations and carried out 36,169 security patrols “to protect areas of convergence, worship areas and other public events.”
Eastmincom has the operational jurisdiction over troops under the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division and the 4th ID based in Cagayan de Oro City.
Gapay said the troops had succeeded in shielding the region from terrorists while protecting human rights and observing the rule of law.

Terror suspects captured
Eastmincom has set up a multisectoral advisory council, drawing representatives from different sectors, to check on rights abuses by security forces, he said.
Several terror suspects, including Cayamora Maute, the patriarch of the ringleaders behind the Marawi terror attack, have been captured by security forces in the region.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said declaration of martial law allowed the military to enhance its campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless groups in the island province.
He said checkpoints were set up in strategic areas, while a curfew was imposed on the entire province.
“We strictly enforce the ID system here. Everyone is required to bring their ID. With these measures, we have arrested a number of Abu Sayyaf and recovered firearms. [The] crime rate also went down, that is according to [the] assessment of the police,” Sobejana said.
Ruth Guerrero, who teaches at Ateneo de Zamboanga University, agrees with the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
Good for business
“For me, as far as Mindanao is concerned, it has imposed the message that we are mindful of our security, and that both the military and police are also on their toes to ascertain that the strategies of these radical extremists are quelled or intercepted,” Guerrero said.
Local officials have also expressed support for the implementation of martial law and its extension up to the end of the year, saying the stable peace and order is good for business.
Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu said his province had “become peaceful [with the implementation of] martial law because many lawless elements were arrested, including those who have connections with [the] Maute and [the] Abu Sayyaf [groups].”
Davao del Norte Gov. Antonio Rafael del Rosario said the extension of martial law “would allow the government to solve the problem of insurgency and terrorism for good.”
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said martial rule had not dampened business in the region, citing what he described as the successful holding of the Davao Investment Conference in July, with hundreds of local and foreign traders attending.
While the military maintains it has ensured respect for human rights in conducting its duties, rights groups have accused security forces of committing rampant abuses against civilians.
In Southern Mindanao alone, at least 46 cases of alleged summary killings perpetrated by military agents have been documented since the imposition of martial law, according to Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
These political killings, Karapatan said, have victimized peasants, activists and even lumad youth, as in the case of 18-year-old Ata-Manobo Obillo Bay-ao, who was shot dead by suspected progovernment militiamen in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte over a week ago.
Militarist order
For Mags Maglana, coconvener of antimartial law group Konsensya Dabaw, extending martial law would not solve the problem of violent extremism “but institutionalize a militarist order that would jeopardize civilian rule, affect the exercise of rights and socioeconomic activities, and encourage collusion with the political and economic elite” instead.
Maglana, who also writes a column for a local daily, drew parallels between the military rule imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, some 45 years ago, with Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, with the two draconian measures using the “state of lawlessness” in the southern Philippine region as cause for the imposition.
“Marcos’ martial law created the conditions that intensified human rights abuses, exploitation and underdevelopment in Mindanao. Instead of putting a stop to the conditions described in Proclamation 1081, martial law under Marcos became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Mr. Duterte’s military rule cited “violent acts” by the jihadis in Marawi City and nearby areas in Lanao del Sur as justification for the proclamation, Maglana said.
“Nearly four months later, (Duterte’s martial law) has not vanquished the violent extremist fighters in Marawi. Instead, airstrikes and sustained artillery attacks have done so much damage to the city that years from now its destruction might get cited as an example of yet another historical injustice and trigger more resistance,” Maglana said.
“[M]ilitary rule has managed to tap into the sense of fear of many urban Mindanaoans, convincing them that it takes no less than military supremacy to ensure stability and order,” she said.
Even as the specter of a nationwide martial law looms, Maglana has joined a growing number of voices calling for the lifting of military rule in Mindanao.
“It is not yet too late for President Duterte to lift martial law so that it does not meld with other factors that would make Proclamation 216 a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror, death and damage the way Proclamation 1081 ended up becoming. Violent extremism poses a complex set of challenges that cannot be met by a failed 45-year old formula,” he said.


Senators grill DepEd officials over unspent 2016 budget

Senator Loren Legarda FILE PHOTO / INQUIRER.net
The Senate Committee on Finance on Monday grilled the Department of Education (DepEd) over an unspent budget of P21.5 billion last year as it weighed in on the agency’s capacity to fully spend its proposed P613.1 billion budget for 2018.
At the hearing, finance committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda asked the agency to submit a memo listing the programs and infrastructures that were affected when the money was reverted to unappropriated surplus of the government’s general fund and specifying the reasons for incurring such amount.
“Before we even talk about giving you a new budget, we want to know why you returned P21.5 billion. Last week, we were very disappointed, saddened by the Department of Transportation returning P11.5 billion. Now we see DepEd returning P21.5 billion,” said Legarda.

“When we return funds to the Treasury, that means there are people unserved, there are classrooms not rehabilitated, there are books not printed and there are children not helped,” she said.

The DepEd broke down the P21.5 billion as the following: P12 billion for teacher positions; P5 billion for the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Gastpe); P1.3 billion for the provision and maintenance of basic education facilities, P1 billion for technical-vocational supplies and P3.6 billion for the provision of textbooks and instructional materials.
The P21.5 billion were 2015 allocations that were carried over last year.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones told the panel that the agency had difficulty keeping up with its backlog in 2015 as it was also catching up with the utilization of its 2016 budget.
“Now we are catching up with 2017 and we can only do it in phases,” said Briones, noting that the agency has introduced reforms, restructured its management system and tightened its cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to address classroom backlogs.
The DepEd also said the DPWH had a remaining balance of P76 billion or 70 percent of the P109 billion in the 2017 budget to be obligated for the construction of classrooms before December 2017. Legarda wondered if it could be done in a span of three months.
“If the DepEd is having hard time with the two-year cycle, now it’s a 12-month cycle. I’m really just worried that you may not be able to spend all. So I am asking you to do an internal housekeeping,” said Legarda.


Napoles wants to do a Jinggoy Estrada


The floodgates have been opened.
“This is very good for us,” the lawyer of alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, said of the Sandiganbayan decision that allowed former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who was accused of plunder and graft, to post bail.
Napoles will again seek bail soon like what Estrada has done on the heels of his temporary release over the weekend, making her the second pork barrel scam suspect encouraged by Estrada’s moves.

Former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who is still detained in Camp Crame, told reporters on Thursday that he would file a second bail plea as well, pending his trial for plunder.
Senators Revilla, Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile were detained in Camp Crame in 2014 for funneling their allocations from the pork barrel Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) into foundations set up by Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.

‘Sexy, Pogi, Tanda’
“Sexy” and “Kuya” were the code names for Estrada, while “Pogi” was for Revilla and “Tanda” for Enrile, according to Benhur Luy, principal witness in the scam.
It was Napoles who chose the code names for the senators, Luy said.
On Monday, Napoles’ lawyer Dennis Buenaventura said the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division’s 3-2 vote allowing bail for Estrada was a “favorable development” for his client.
The ruling, Buenaventura said, could be invoked in securing temporary liberty for Napoles, who was detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Unlike the Supreme Court’s August 2015 decision to release Enrile on humanitarian grounds, the Estrada bail ruling “definitely touches the main information” itself, the lawyer said.

The Napoles camp would first try to seek bail in the Fifth Division, which handles the Estrada case, before moving on to the First and Third Divisions, which handle the Revilla and Enrile plunder cases, respectively.
Buenaventura said the Sandiganbayan finding that the prosecution had failed to pinpoint a “main plunderer” in Estrada’s case also applied to Napoles, his coaccused.
Private person
Though Napoles was accused of controlling the network of dubious foundations where lawmakers’ PDAF proceeds were funneled, Buenaventura said a private individual like Napoles could not be considered the main plunderer either.
“In the legal definition of plunder, the main plunderer cannot be a private person. It should be a public officer,” he said. “So if it appears like that, this is not plunder.”
He also noted that the Supreme Court’s July 2016 ruling acquitting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder, which formed the Sandiganbayan’s legal basis to grant Estrada bail, bolstered the Napoles camp’s arguments.
“The [Arroyo] case made things clearer. That would be the guide,” he said.
The Sandiganbayan entertained Estrada’s second bail plea and took into consideration the Arroyo ruling, which laid down a stricter standard of evidence in plunder cases.
It initially found the prosecution evidence sufficient to deny Estrada and Napoles bail in its ruling on Jan. 7, 2016. This became final upon the denial of an appeal on May 11, 2016.
Things changed, however, after the Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo of plunder in the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence fund case over the failure to identify a “main plunderer.”
On Sept. 12, 2016, Estrada filed an “omnibus motion” for bail invoking the Arroyo ruling.
The Ombudsman objected to the motion as irregular, saying it was an attempt to skirt the prohibition on a second motion for reconsideration.
This time, however, the Sandiganbayan found that while the prosecution evidence was enough to establish the alleged scheme, it could not establish which of the defendants was the main plunderer.
“In the mind of the court, there is now an ambiguity or even doubt as to who the main plunderer is, given that there are two public officers charged … and the observation that the PDAF scheme apparently was commenced by or originated with Napoles,” the resolution read.


Senate OKs bill requiring economic managers to report to Congress

REPORT. The Senate has passed the bill seeking to require the country's economic managers to report biannually to Congress. Malacañang file photo 


MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, September 18, approved the bill that would require the country’s economic managers to report twice a year to a joint congressional oversight committee.

Voting 18-0, senators passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1483 or the Fiscal and Monetary Report Act of 2017, sponsored by Senate economic affairs committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian.


The bill mandates the secretaries of the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Governor of the Central Bank to appear biannually before the new Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Fiscal and Monetary Policies.

This is meant for them “to report on the status and the directions of the fiscal and monetary policies of the state.”

Gatchalian said the bill promotes transparency on the country’s monetary policies to effectively apply check and balance.

“This would ensure that Congress is kept abreast of the current position and direction of the government’s fiscal and monetary policies, especially with regard to the accumulation of foreign debt that could impact the country’s economic stability,” Gatchalian said.

Under the bill, the biannual reports would include data on the national budget, economic developments and prospects for the future, taking into account past and prospective developments in employment, unemployment, production, investment, real income, productivity, exchange rates, international trade and payment, and prices.

To promote accountability, the measure also requires the 4 agencies to upload their respective reports on their websites within 7 working days from submission to Congress.

A counterpart bill has yet to be filed in the House of Representatives. Once the measure is passed in the House, both chambers of Congress would then convene a bicameral conference committee to sort differences in their versions. The final version would then be up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature. – Rappler.com

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