RH Bill Finally Approved

After a year of debate in plenary, the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill is approved in the Senate and House after the ‘second and third reading’.

In polling done in the Senate, 13-8 in favor of proposal and no ‘abstention’ while the Lower House of Congress, 133 voted Yes, No, 79 and 7 abstention.

The senators who voted “yes” on the RH bill were Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ralph Recto, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.., Loren Legarda, Teofisto Guingona II, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan and Panfilo Lacson.

In other turn, ‘no’ vote were from senators Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, Vicente Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Aqui­lino Pimentel III, Jinggoy Estrada, Manuel Villar and Gregorio Honasan.

The two senators, Sen. Serge Osmeña and Sen Lito Lapid weren’t able to vote since they were out in the plenary when the voting of RH bill was done.

Before the vote, Sotto stood aside to insert some amendments to such bills.

Arroyo also hopes that the decision of the Senate and House in the RH bill will be respected in the bicameral conference committee.

Lacson also praised Enrile and Sotto due to their resistance to their ‘beliefs’ and ‘conviction’ of such measures.

Meanwhile in the House, it appears to raise more yes vote compared on second reading last week that only reaches 113 while it is noticeable that no votes lessen more that first earned 104 votes.

Because of this, Albay Rep.. Edcel Lagman said their contingent is already preparing for Bicameral conference meeting that is expected to do today.

“We are now preparing for the Bicam,” Lagman said after polling ended, he said, with almost 18 years of fighting to have the RH law in the Philippines.

“Eto na ang pinakamasayang araw,” stated Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin after the polls.

Corona In ICU, Can’t Return To Senate Today

Chief Justice Renato Corona will have to remain under treatment and observation at the hospital’s intensive care unit at the Medical City for about 48 to 72 hours according to the doctors. Prior to this happening, Corona will be incapable of returning to the Senate today for his scheduled cross examination.

The chief justice who went through already two heat bypass operations last 1995 and 2008 was brought to the Medical City last night at 8 p.m. (Tuesday) after his 3-hour statement and a followed up controversial walk out from the impeachment court.

Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesman, who went with Corona and his family in the hospital, said in an interview that he stayed with Corona from 8p.m. until midnight. He added that prior of his leaving, the chief justice gave him an assurance that he would be returning to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination (supposedly today).

“I left the hospital past midnight. I was able to briefly talk with the chief justice, and he assured me that he would appear this afternoon. When I got home a few minutes later, I got the unfortunate news that he was transferred to the ICU,” Marquez said.

The lawyers for the defense of Corona said in the radio interviews that the judge may not be able to immediately return to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination due to his medical condition.

“Latest was he has an elevated [troponin T level], a prelude to a heart attack. His condition is now being stablized in the ICU of Medical City,” Ramon Esguerra told the media on Wednesday morning.

48-hour monitoring

As of 9 a.m., Esguerra said that the chief justice is already in a stable condition but still has to remain in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the next 24 hours for proper monitoring and as to what the hospital doctors’ advised.

3 doctors of the Medical City have released a medical bulletin at around 10 a.m. today about the chief justice’s condition explaining that Corona may have suffered from an acute coronary syndrome or simply heart attack.

It was also mentioned by the doctors including senior vice president for medical services, Dr. Eugenio Jose Ramos, which they had to confine Corona in the ICU because of the reason that he is considered a high-risk cardiac patient.

Furthermore, the doctors said that Corona, a diabetic person, also is suffering from a renal failure that they ruled out another surgery for the chief justice. And they stated as well that they would not be allowing Corona to return to the Senate because he should be under strict monitoring.

The Senate has sent its own medical team to the hospital to check on Corona’s medical condition.

Lawyer Karen Jimeno cited that she would want Corona to return to the Senate and face the impeachment court again on Wednesday afternoon.

Disoriented

Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President, who was then sitting as the ruling judge in the impeachment court, affirmed that he will strike out Corona’s testimony if the chief justice failsto return for his scheduled cross examination.

Enrile highlighted that Corona’s walk out was indeed a sign of disrespect to the Senate as an impeachment court.

Enumerated in Corona’s 3-hour statement, he refused that he retained 82 dollar accounts, 31 peso accounts and 45 properties as suspected by the prosecution and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Prior to Corona’s walk out, he signed a waiver allowing the government and selected banking institutions to inspect and show in public all his bank records that includes his dollar deposits.

Though, he stated in his waiver that it would only be effective if the 188 other congressmen who signed his impeachment order and even Senator Franklin Drilon would be also open with regards to their bank accounts for examination.

After the signing of the waiver and raising the challenge, Corona told the court: “The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused.”

He stood up and left the floor, leaving the confused crowd and senator-judges. Even his lawyers asserted that they were not immediately informed of Corona’s reason for leaving the room without being properly discharged.

Enrile immediately ordered the Senate security to lock down the compound as soon as Corona left the session hall. Corona was then wheeled back to the session hall afterwards.

It was excused by Corona’s lawyers and his son-in-law doctor that the witness left the witness stand because he did not want to throw up and collapse in the session hall’s room.

The defense team said Corona suffered from hypoglycemia.

Marquez suspected that Corona’s hypoglycemic episode during the hearing could have been part of his heart attack. He also said that they were informed at the hospital that disorientation could be one of the symptoms of heart attack.

“I noticed that when he stood up from the witness stand, he did not know where to go. That’s what they say, when you suffer a heart attack you get disoriented,” he said.

The Senator-Judge said that Corona’s illness and hospitalization does not excuse his actions at the Senate impeachment court that is scheduled on Tuesday.

Pia Cayetano said in an ANC interview that no witness or acused should hold the court hostage by his wishes and demands.

“He (Corona) wanted to be the witness and the judge because he didn’t wait for the response of the Presiding Officer. He wanted to present his evidence but sinama pa niya pati si Senator-Judge ([Franklin] Drilon,” Cayetano said.

Moreover, Cayetano said that the senator-judges will hold an assembly to probably discuss Corona’s condition.

However, Marquez said that Corona has no intention at all to disrespect the Senate. He added that the chief justice knows that under the rules of court that refusal to be cross-examined may lead to striking out of the witness’ testimony.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Corona said he does not think Corona will resign despite poor health.

“In the five- to six-month period I’ve been with the Chief Justice. He has explained to us [that] for this case, for the judiciary, for this country, he is willing to lay down his life. He told us to proceed and fight…even against the wishes of his doctors and hisfamily, ilalaban niya ito,” Dennis Manalo said in an ANC interview.

Manalo uttered that the defense team hopes that Corona will be well enough to continue his testimony because they would not want the impeachment court to decide on the case under the present conditions.

“We are at the mercy of 23 senators who can say that ‘we don’t take that excuse, won’t accept that excuse, and not hear the rest of his (Corona’s) testimony anymore. We don’t want this case to be decided under these circumstances, it would be tragic on our part after working so hard,” said Manalo.

Tranquil Salvador, also a member of the defense team, said that they may ask the Senate court to “reset the testimony due to Corona’s illness.”

Salvador said that the rule of court allows the cancellation of a hearing if an indispensable witness is sick.

‘Minority boycotted term extension bills’

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she joined the Senate boycott last Wednesday to block alleged attempts to pass two controversial bills and not to show solidarity with Sen. Manuel Villar, who could have faced censure from his colleagues in the majority for the C-5 road controversy.

The two bills seek to reorganize the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“I am chair of the economic affairs committee, and I was never consulted on either bill. I would certainly have protested a vote on the floor this afternoon, because they have worrisome provisions,” she said.

“For example, like the pending immigration bill, the Pagcor bill seeks to grant security of tenure to the head of office,” she said.

Santiago said that reorganizing the NTC would have far-reaching consequences, because the agency has control over importations of signal jammers that could disrupt the operations of poll automation machines, cell phones, radios, and other tools for telecommunications.

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No Senate censure of Villar

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate adjourned session yesterday without a vote on the Committee of the Whole’s report on the C-5 road controversy involving Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar Jr. as he and his allies in the minority did not show up.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, and Senators Jamby Madrigal, Richard Gordon and Rodolfo Biazon assailed the apparent “boycott” by Villar and his allies.

They said their absence compromised other pending bills as well as the Blue Ribbon Committee’s report on the national broadband network controversy, which held President Arroyo, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and other officials accountable for the overpriced project.

Absent at yesterday’s last session aside from Villar and Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

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Senate declares ceasefire

MANILA, Philippines – After a vicious word war between allies and foes of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. early this week in connection with the C-5 road controversy, senators have agreed on a ceasefire to give way to last-minute work on priority legislative measures.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri clarified the majority was not trying to delay the vote on the Committee of the Whole report recommending censure for Villar but was only trying to save a day to pass priority bills on second and third reading and ratify those that had been approved by the bicameral conference committees.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, meanwhile, took advantage of the lull in the plenary battle to remind his colleagues – including Villar’s critics – that they had approved the controversial P200-million insertion four times during the deliberations on the 2009 budget.

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Enrile claims Villar tried to buy him off

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – A day after formally presenting a Senate committee report recommending the censure of Sen. Manny Villar for alleged unethical conduct, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile revealed Tuesday that Villar tried to buy him off by offering his “help” if Enrile changed his position on the C-5 road project controversy.

In an interview over radio dzMM and ABS-CBN News, Enrile, who is allegedly facing a coup plot hatched by Villar’s allies, said Villar invited him to lunch last August 29, 2009 to discuss the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry on the C-5 road extension project.

During their discussion, Enrile assured Villar of a fair hearing in the Senate inquiry if the latter just presented his evidence. He said Villar kept trying to persuade him to drop the inquiry and even hinted that he would be willing to repay Enrile for the favor.

“He [Villar] said: ‘Manong, pag may pangangailangan naman kayo, maaari naman ako tulungan kita.’ Sabi ko: ‘Manny, kung matutulungan kita na hindi labag sa batas, magkaibigan tayo, tutulungan kita. Wala nang kailangan na kapalit yun.’ E paulit-ulit. ‘Kung mayroon kang kailangan.’ E wala akong kailangan from Manny. Ako simple lang ang buhay ko.,” Enrile said in a radio dzMM interview.

(Villar said: ‘Manong, if you ever need anything, maybe I can help. I said: ‘Manny, if I can help you in any way that does not violate the law, we are friends and I will help. You don’t have to give me anything in return.’ But he kept on repeating it. ‘If you ever need anything.’ I don’t need anything from Manny. I live a simple life.)

He later told ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol World: “Para bang binibili yung loyalty ko. Parang ang dating sa akin ay sinusuhulan ako (It felt like he was buying my loyalty, like he was trying to bribe me).”

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C-5 drama heats up

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile chats with Sen. Aquilino Pimentel after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago walked out of a Senate plenary session yesterday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile chats with Sen. Aquilino Pimentel after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago walked out of a Senate plenary session yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – In yet another twist to the controversy that has divided the Senate and opened up old wounds, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. offered him “help” in return for killing the investigation into the C-5 road scandal.

“He was trying to buy me off, I suppose in exchange for a very favorable decision,” Enrile said at a press conference, referring to what had reportedly transpired in a meeting with Villar at a Makati hotel in August last year.

Enrile briefly excused himself from the press briefing to take medication for hypertension, saying he felt his blood pressure shoot up.

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Villar tried to stave off censure: Enrile

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – A day after recommending the censure of Sen. Manny Villar over alleged unethical conduct, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile revealed Tuesday that Villar and his Senate allies met with their group several times to convince them to change their position on the C-5 “double insertion” controversy.

In an interview over radio dzMM, Enrile, who is allegedly facing a coup plot hatched by Villar’s allies, said Villar invited him to lunch to discuss the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry on the C-5 road extension project.

During their discussion, Enrile assured Villar of a fair hearing in the Senate inquiry if the latter just presented his evidence. He said Villar kept trying to persuade him to drop the inquiry and even hinted that he would be willing to repay Enrile for the favor.

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Villar allies, critics face off on C-5 deal

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile blasts Sen. Manny Villar while Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano defends his partymate during deliberations on the C-5 report yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – Allies and critics of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. squared off yesterday over the ethics case against him during an emotional and tension-filled floor debate. Villar snubbed the session.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lashed out at the absent Villar, standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, for not facing his colleagues to explain the ethics case against him in connection with alleged road project anomalies, particularly the C-5 road extension.

In a report, the Senate Committee of the Whole chaired by Enrile said Villar should be censured for failing to divulge his real estate companies’ interests in the Las Piñas-Parañaque link road and the C-5 road extension projects.

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Senior AFP officials back Ibrado extension

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Senior military officials have expressed support for the term extension of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, who is due to retire in less than two months.

The senior military officials denied that their support for Ibrado was aimed at preventing any move to appoint Army chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)’s class 1978 of which President Arroyo is an adopted member, as chief of staff.

Bangit, perceived to be fiercely loyal to the President, is being groomed to succeed Ibrado, who will turn 56 and retire on March 10. The President is barred from making new appointments two months before the elections and until the end of her term on June 30.

If appointed, Bangit will bypass senior military officers of PMA class 1977, several of whom are strong contenders for the highest military position.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said that extending the term of Ibrado will give the next president a free hand to appoint a new AFP chief.

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