MANILA, JUNE 3, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Marvin Sy - The last two working days of the Senate this June 5 and 6 are meant to provide a ceremonial end to the 15th Congress, where five of its members would be ending their terms.

Since no substantial work is expected to be accomplished in just two session days, the legislature at this time is traditionally described as a “lame duck Congress.”

However, apart from the delivery of farewell speeches by outgoing senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan and Manuel Villar Jr., a bill or two could still be acted upon by Congress to pave the way for its signing into law.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, who is reportedly eyeing the Senate presidency, said he was aware of one bill that could still be enacted into law if Congress agrees to act on it during the last two session days.

“There are some bicameral committee reports which will be presented. One particular report is the ratification on the juvenile justice system. There are some amendments to the juvenile justice system. I was informed by Sen. Chiz Escudero that the bicam report for the amendments on our juvenile justice system is being prepared and will be submitted during the June 5 session in order that it can be ratified,” Drilon said.

The bill would amend Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.

A bicameral conference committee hearing was held last February to reconcile the conflicting provisions of the bills passed separately by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

However, that hearing ended in a stalemate as the Senate panel could not agree on the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the bill.

Pangilinan, principal author of the law and a member of the Senate bicameral conference committee panel, noted that the Senate’s version of the bill opted to retain the current minimum age of 15 while the House of Representative’s version brought it down to 12.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III pushed for the adoption of 12 as the minimum age if the cases involve heinous crimes.

Pangilinan said that this compromise solution offered by Sotto was discussed among the members of the bicam of both sides.

It is also expected that the Commission on Appointments (CA) would hold one last meeting on June 5 to act on the promotions of the officers of the Armed Forces.

This was agreed upon by the members of the CA before Congress adjourned for the three-month campaign period.

Possible fireworks

Some fireworks could also be expected if Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago decides to show up for the last two sessions as she vowed to do during her various interviews last February.

Santiago said that she would confront Lacson over his statements on her alleged misuse of Senate funds.

She also vowed to bare more details about the reported misdeeds of Lacson as well as his sexuality.

The two senators engaged in a long and bitter word war before and after Congress adjourned session last February.

Pimentel supports Drilon

Meanwhile, Sen. Koko Pimentel III indicated his support yesterday for the Senate presidential bid of Drilon, the campaign manager of the Liberal Party, once the 16th Congress opens in July.

Pimentel, who recently won a new mandate, said he sees Drilon getting support from about 16 to 18 senators of the 24-member chamber, which would spell victory and ensure a pro-administration Senate.

“If Senator Drilon declares his bid, I will support him,” Pimentel said during his thanksgiving mass and celebration in Pasay City the other night.

Pimentel said that given the chance, his top committee choices would include the Senate committees on education, justice, electoral reform, and/or tourism.

Pimentel said he will also discuss with his colleagues during caucus the need to streamline the oversight committees.

‘Comelec intel funds OK’

On the other hand, Pimentel does not see anything wrong with the use of intelligence funds by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said the Comelec should liquidate the intel funds amounting to P30 million under the present budget.

He also said that former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman should back up his claims that each Comelec commissioner received P7 million in intelligence funds without any use for it. – With Christina Mendez


Enrile resigned to losing Senate post By Norman Bordadora

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (photo) is apparently resigned to losing his hold on the Senate leadership and sliding into a minority role when a new Congress convenes in July, even as his presumptive successor has begun wooing his closest allies in the chamber’s so-called macho bloc.

According to Sen. Franklin Drilon, the new majority’s supposed candidate for Senate President, Enrile has committed the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to take on the role of a constructive opposition in the 16th Congress.

“We will not be obstructionist,” Drilon quoted Enrile as saying.

The outgoing Senate President did not seem to mind his attempts to solicit support from Enrile’s allies in his bid for the Senate leadership, said Drilon, President Aquino’s party mate in the ruling Liberal Party.

“Senator Enrile expressed no objection to my seeking the support of senators presently identified with him, or the so-called macho bloc, so that we can all work together on measures that can improve the lives of our people,” he said in a statement.

Drilon, who said he and Enrile met in a Makati hotel last Thursday, quoted Enrile as saying that he and other UNA senators will actively engage the LP-led majority coalition in policy debates but will not get in the way of important legislation such as those dealing with poverty alleviation and jobs.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the Senate President Pro Tempore, said Enrile already told him of the meeting with Drilon.

“[What Senator Drilon] said was correct. Senate President Enrile said that if he could convince senators, individual members of the UNA and the macho bloc, then it’s OK,” Estrada said in a telephone interview.

Sticking it out with Enrile

But Drilon has yet to talk to him about it, he said. And even if he were to do so, Estrada said he would stick it out with Enrile, even if they move to the minority.

“I have already given my word to Senate President Enrile. If the Senate President will go down, I will go down with him,” Estrada said.

“Besides, I have already been in the minority,” he added. Interestingly, Drilon was the Senate President when Estrada began his first term during the Arroyo administration in 2004.

However, Estrada said he could not speak for the other members of the Enrile bloc on the issue of sticking it out with a minority-leader Enrile.

‘Macho’ bloc

Enrile’s so-called “macho” bloc is composed of Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and the recently reelected Gregorio Honasan. Another member of the bloc is outgoing Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Enrile and Estrada are members of the UNA. Although he ran under the UNA coalition in the May elections, Honasan is an independent. Sotto is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

The recent elections added two more UNA members to the Senate roster. They are Senators-elect JV Ejercito, the son of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Jinggoy Estrada’s half-brother, and Nancy Binay, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter.


Estrada and Sotto said the members of the macho bloc will be meeting after the “lame duck” sessions next week to discuss how they would proceed if and when Drilon and the new majority come knocking at their door to ask for their support.

“I will consult JPE [Enrile] and Greg [Honasan] if ever Frank talks to us,” Sotto said.

“Our friendship knows no bounds whether I or any one of us is in the majority or minority. Same with Senator Drilon and I,” Sotto added.

Asked how the group came by the name, Sotto said, “it was the media that coined the term.”

“We’re all hard-headed and poised to fight,” he said.

“We’re also survivors… [we’re] still alive,” he added.

NP support sealed

Drilon last week secured the support of the Nacionalista Party, the party with the most Senate members at five—reelected Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator-elect Cynthia Villar and incumbents Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“Senator Villar assured us that the NP will continue to support the President and his legislative agenda in the Senate and that there will be a common candidate of the coalition in the Senate,” Drilon told a news forum.

“The people sent a clear message with this election: Let’s continue with what the President started three years ago,” he added.

According to Drilon, among the important measures to be tackled in the next Congress are the proposed new charter to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the rationalization of the government fiscal incentive program, and a mining law.

Drilon was the campaign manager of the administration’s Team PNoy coalition.

Its senatorial ticket was made up of the President’s handpicked candidates from the LP, the NP, the NPC, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, the PDP-Laban and the Akbayan party-list group.

The coalition won nine of the 12 senatorial seats being contested, securing for the administration a strong majority in the new Congress

Comelec gets 59 poll protest cases so far By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 2, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has so far received 59 electoral protest cases, and it expects the number to increase in the coming days.

“It’s already 59 and we started raffling them off. But I was told that many more cases are being filed, so it may reach 100,” Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said.

Most of the cases involved local candidates and the Comelec will start hearings on June 6.

“Maybe they just could not accept that they lost in the elections… Majority of the cases filed had already been dismissed,” Tagle added.

Tagle could not immediately recall how many protest cases were filed when the Comelec first automated the elections in 2010. But he said the figure was less compared to the time when the country was doing manual polls.

Many of the cases filed in 2010 questioned the accuracy of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

For this year’s elections, the Comelec once again convened the Random Manual Audit (RMA) team to conduct random manual audit of election results to determine the accuracy of the PCOS machines.

The RMA team randomly selected polling precincts and did a manual count of the election results there. The team compared the results of the manual count with the automated count.

The team is composed of the Comelec, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and National Statistics Office (NSO).

In 2010, the 24-page report of the RMA team showed that the discrepancies in the manual and automated counts were minimal at not more than one percent.

The report also showed that based on the NSO’s cumulative variance for five positions subjected to RMA in 2010, “none failed the accuracy rate of 99 percent.”

The auditors evaluated the ballots from 1,046 sample clustered precincts across the country, representing 540,942 people in the country’s first automated polls. The results of the Automated Election System (AES) count were compared to the manual count results.

“Ideally, the number of votes counted from the AES should be the same as the number of votes counted manually. However, discrepancies between the counts per AES and per RMA occurred which can be attributed to clerical errors (errors in transposition) and/or mathematical errors (errors in counting and adding of taras),” the report said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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