Category: Statements

Second Senate Committee Hearing on Red-Tagging

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On the Philippine International Trading Corp. as a Procurement Arm

Utilizing the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) for the procurement requirements of several national government agencies may have to be revisited and stopped, not only to save on unnecessary expenses amounting to billions of pesos in delays and commissions or service fees.

Since the creation of the Government Procurement Service under the Department of Budget and Management, the PITC may have outlived its purpose. Initially, it was only used to circumvent the procurement of medicines, especially for emergency needs. But later, it has expanded into the procurement of other items like rice.

That said, it is only prudent that the government at least take a long hard look at the involvement of the PITC in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.


#PINGterview: P68B Skeleton Projects, Isantabi Muna sa 2021

In an interview on DZBB, Sen. Lacson addressed questions on:
* realigning P68B in ‘skeleton projects’ for areas hit by recent typhoons
* reports of getting COVID-19 vaccine

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Restoring Quick Response Fund for PNP, BFP Frontliners in 2021 Budget

In his interpellation of the DILG’s proposed P244.309B budget for 2021, Sen. Lacson sought to restore the Quick Response Funds for the PNP and BFP, whose personnel have been frontliners even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Lacson also proposed possible amendments to the PNP Law to raise entry-level salaries particularly for its lawyers, doctors and chemists.

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On the Appointment of P/Maj. Gen. Sinas as PNP Chief

Barring any controversy that Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas got entangled with in the past, he is a good choice for the top Philippine National Police post.

I’ve known him as a performer, always mission-oriented and undoubtedly will lead the police institution the way it should be led.

That said, the birthday maΓ±anita event was a hard lesson that I hope he has learned from, and which he will surely remember whenever he will be confronted in making decisions affecting the PNP as well as his personal reputation.


On the NTF-ELCAC Funds in the 2021 Budget

Image Credit: Manila Bulletin

I’ll join Senate President Sotto’s call to retain the P16.4-billion allocations to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The fund is not even at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU) and is intended to hold and develop barangays that are cleared of New People’s Army (NPA) influence.

As such, it will go to development programs such as farm-to-market roads and livelihood, as part of confidence-building to prevent the insurgency problem from returning.

With this, affected barangays will no longer be vulnerable to attempts by the NPA to recruit members especially from indigenous peoples. Pagkakataon ito pati sa mga NPA sa mga lugar na ito na magbagong-buhay.

The insurgency problem is more than 50 years old, easily the oldest in Asia. It is time we take the needed steps to address the insurgency problem.


On Calls to Create a Department of Disaster Resilience

Image Courtesy: UNICEF Philippines Twitter account

It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management says at least P1.5 billion is needed to set up the department. That does not yet include added salaries, capital outlay like office facilities, furniture, vehicles, MOOE, and CIF.

During the first public hearing last January, no less than the stakeholders who served as resource persons also cited concerns about creating a new department for disaster and risk reduction:

First, there is a policy direction for right-sizing the bureaucracy that is already bloated.

Second, the implementation especially of recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out not by the proposed new department but by existing agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.

Third, we can see that the newly created departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development cannot be properly funded, or at least are not given the appropriate funding to work properly.

One good example is the DICT, which for two budget years in a row has been asking for additional budget to establish and develop the country’s national broadband program and free Wi-Fi services for all government agencies. But the DBM has provided just a paltry sumin the case of the national broadband program, providing only P900 million out of the agency’s request for P18 billion.

Having said that, a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize the concerned government agencies before, during and after calamities both natural and man-made – from policy-making and planning all the way to implementation – would do the job with much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel. In contrast, a council-type organization like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has a very limited capability mainly because it is merely coordinative.


#PINGterview: Senate Probe on Red-Tagging; ‘FLR’ in 2021 Budget

In an interview with Senate media, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Probing alleged red-tagging, red-baiting
* ‘FLR’ practice in the budget
* ‘Exemptions’ in the mega-task force vs corruption?

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On the House’s ‘Early’ Transmittal to the Senate of the P4.5-T Proposed Budget for 2021

Image Courtesy: DBM

Regardless of the constitutional issues involving the House of Representatives’ version of the 2021 budget bill, it is still good that the Senate has enough time to approve our own version, leaving room for the bicameral conference and submission to the President for approval, thus avoiding a re-enacted budget.

Late yesterday afternoon, I submitted my Finance Subcommittee C report covering all the agencies assigned to me as Committee on Finance Vice Chair, in compliance with the Oct. 26 deadline set by the Committee.

However, I based my report on the National Expenditure Program, with a caveat that necessary adjustments will be made once the General Appropriations Bill is transmitted by the House.

Now that the GAB is available as reported, once we get hold of our copy, I’ll make adjustments based on the House version of the budget bill.


On Recent Statements by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.

Image: CTTO

Lt. Gen. Parlade strikes me as one AFP officer who is dedicated to the accomplishment of his mission to end the half-century-old insurgency problem.

That being said, his only fault is that he over-analyzes and over-talks, with some of his public statements threatening to affect his mission.

Under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, only the court can proscribe a group like the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. On the other hand, the purpose of surveillance work is defeated when the subject becomes aware that he is being tailed.

Maybe a little prudence and self-discipline on Lt. Gen. Parlade’s part will help.