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Nationwide round-up (11/17/20)

P200-M quick response fund for police, fire bureau eyed in 2021 budget

AN additional P200 million has been proposed for inclusion in the 2021 budgets of the police and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to serve as quick response fund (QRF) during calamities. At Tuesday’s Senate plenary session, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson noted that these two agencies do not have a QRF allocation despite the police and firefighters serving as front-liners during emergency response such as in the Taal Volcano eruption early this year and the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Lacson said the 2016 National Budget provided for a QRF, but were removed in succeeding years. Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara pointed out that despite the allocation, the QRF was not released. “It was never released, according to the PNP (Philippine National Police)… The requirements were quite stringent,” said Mr. Angara, speaking as sponsor of the 2021 budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government where the two agencies are attached. Of the proposed QRF budget, P125 million will be allocated to the police and the remaining P75 million to the BFP. Mr. Lacson committed to augment the agencies’ budget during the period of amendments.

Lawyers seek online preliminary conference on anti-terrorism law

LAWYERS asked the Supreme Court to conduct online the preliminary conference on the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic. The high court has set the preliminary conference for the more than 30 petitions against the law expanding terror crimes in the country on Nov. 26 at the Supreme Court premises. The Free Legal Assistance Group, legal counsel of one of the petitioners, asked the court in its motion to instead use videoconference. “As to the conduct of the preliminary conference by videoconference, the petitioners submit that the said mode will best balance the urgent need for the speedy resolution of the consolidated petitions with the current public health realities arising from the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” the filing read. The group noted that the Supreme Court has allowed the lower courts to conduct their proceedings through videoconference. The group also noted that an online conference would better accommodate the counsels of the 37 petitioners who will be coming from different parts of the country, given current local travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine period imposed by local government units. “Petitioners respectfully submit that there need not be any tradeoff between public health and the speedy and orderly resolution of the petitions against the ATA,” the motion read. On the simplification of the issues raised, the motion noted the most common points raised by all the petitioners “that may benefit from the live questioning of the bench.” These are the “overbreadth” of the law, void for vagueness, and the need for the issuance of status quo ante order or similar preliminary injunction. Procedural issues may be addressed through memoranda as they are specific to various petitioners, it added. The date for oral arguments has yet to be set. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

House resolution honoring calamity responders put forward

A RESOLUTION honoring first responders during calamities, particularly the recent typhoons that devastated large parts of Luzon, has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Las Piñas Lone District Rep. Camille A. Villar filed on Tuesday House Resolution No. 1354 calling on the chamber to express its “collective support and commendation to the men and women in uniform, local government units, nongovernment organizations and other private organizations and individuals for their valiant efforts in helping our countrymen in the rescue and relief operations during the recent typhoons that hit the Philippines.” Ms. Villar said these front-liners embody the Filipino tradition of bayanihan, which is the coming together of the community.

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