Issues

Sen. Bam condemns Maria Ressa’s arrest, says gov’t must follow rule of law

Sen. Bam Aquino condemned the arrest of Rappler chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ressa, calling it a government ploy to silence its critics, including journalists.

“Malinaw na pananakot ito sa mga kritiko ng administrasyon,” said Sen. Bam, adding that the arrest of Ressa is a big blow to press freedom, which he calls as an important pillar of democracy in our country.

“Lubha akong nababahala sa dagok na ito sa malayang pamamahayag. Mahalagang haligi ng demokrasya ng ating bansa ang press freedom,” emphasized Sen. Bam, who is running under the Otso Diretso slate.

“Kapag napilay ang demokrasya, mamemeligro ang mga karapatan at kalayaan ng mamamayan,” the senator added.

Ressa was arrested by elements of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for cyber-libel for an article published by Rappler in May 2012 or four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act was enacted.

Sen. Bam: May elections should focus on needs, welfare of Filipino people

The May elections should center on addressing the needs and other vital issues affecting the Filipino people, and not on President Duterte, according to Sen. Bam Aquino.

“Ang nais sana namin sa kampanyang ito ay hindi lang maging tungkol kay President Duterte o tungkol sa aming walo. Tungkol ito sa taumbayan,” said Sen. Bam, who is running under the Otso Diretso coalition.

“Ang eleksyon na ito ay tungkol sa mga boses na matagal nang hindi napapakinggan. Panahon na para ang mga sinasabi ng mga boses na ito ay maging bahagi ng mga programa ng mga ihahalal natin,” added Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam said the coalition is focused on crafting solutions to the everyday problems hounding the Filipino people, including high prices of goods, hunger, poverty, security and human rights, among others.

“Nagbabago ang kwento ng kampanya dahil lumalaki at tumitindi ang pangangailangan ng taumbayan dahil sa hirap ng buhay. Ang tanong nila, sino ba talaga ang makikinig sa pangangailangan namin?” said Sen. Bam.

“Ang uunahin namin ay ang taumbayan, at makikita niyo na ito ang nagbubuklod sa amin sa Otso Diretso,” the senator added.

As principal sponsor of the free college law, Sen. Bam said it opens up opportunities for Filipinos to have a brighter future through education and helps poor families cope with everyday needs.

“Sa halip na ipambayad sa tuition ang pinaghirapang pera, ngayon maaari nang magamit ito ng pamilyang Pilipino sa iba pang pangangailangan, lalo na ngayong mahal ang presyo ng pagkain,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam was one of four senators who stood up against the ratification of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law based on his firm belief that it will burden the Filipino people with high prices of food and other goods.

“Tumayo tayo kontra TRAIN Law dahil alam natin na ito’y malaking pabigat sa ating mga kababayan, lalo sa mga mahihirap,” said Sen. Bam, who has 35 laws to his name in almost six years as senator.

Sen. Bam: Independent Senate to safeguard welfare of Filipino people

Sen. Bam Aquino warned against a rubber-stamp Senate, stressing that an independent Upper Chamber will ensure that the welfare and interest of the Filipino people are protected.
 
“Hindi ito kampihan sa administrasyon o oposisyon. Dapat kinakampihan natin ang mga Pilipino,” said Sen. Bam, who is running for re-election under the Otso Diretso banner.
 
“Kailangan po nating tiyakin independent ang susunod na Senado para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan,” added Sen. Bam.
 
Sen. Bam underscored the importance of an opposition in the Senate, saying the country and the Filipino people will suffer if the Upper Chamber will simply give in to every desire of the administration.
 
“Hindi po makakabuti sa bansa kung ang lahat ng nasa Senado ay susunod na lang lagi sa gusto ng administrasyon. Kailangan na may titindig para sa interes ng taumbayan,” Sen. Bam said.
 
In the case of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, Sen. Bam said he voted against its ratification despite the heavy pressure coming from the administration as he is convinced that it will burden the Filipino people with high prices of food and other goods.
 
“Hindi po ako tumutol sa TRAIN Law dahil nasa oposisyon tayo. Tumutol po ako dahil responsibilidad ko na bantayan ang kapakanan ng taumbayan na siyang pahihirapan ng batas na ito,” said Sen. Bam.
 
However, Sen. Bam clarified that he’s willing to work with the administration when the welfare of the Filipino people is at the forefront.
 
Proof of this is the free college law, which Sen. Bam pushed as principal sponsor during his time as chairman of the Committee on Education in the 17th Congress.
 
“Ganyan po ang ginawa natin kaya naisabatas ang Free College Law. Dahil sa pakikipagtulungan, kahit kapos makakatapos,” said Sen. Bam, who has 35 laws to his name in almost six years as legislator.

Sen. Bam appeals to Malacanang: Suspend excise tax on fuel ahead of latest oil price increase

Sen. Bam Aquino appealed to Malacanang to suspend the excise tax on fuel under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, ahead of another round of oil price hike this week.
 
“Nakikiusap po tayo kay Pangulong Duterte na isuspinde ang dagdag-buwis sa petrolyo para tulungan ang ating mga kababayan,” said Sen. Bam, one of four senators who voted against the ratification of the TRAIN Law.
 
This week, oil companies are expected to increase prices of gasoline by 95 centavos to P1.05 per liter, diesel by 55 to 65 centavos per liter and kerosene by 80 to 90 centavos per liter.
 
In an effort to lower prices of petroleum products, Sen. Bam filed the Bawas Presyo sa Petrolyo Bill in May 2018, seeking to suspend and roll back the excise tax on fuel under the TRAIN Law once the country’s inflation rate exceeds the government’s target for three straight months.
 
“Wala pong ibang matatakbuhan ang taumbayan maliban sa Malacañan dahil tapos na ang session ang Kongreso,” Sen. Bam insisted, adding that government should listen to the cry of people who are burdened by high prices of food and other goods.
 
“Sana kahit panandalian man lang, sa pamamagitan ng pagsuspinde ng excise tax sa langis, maibsan ang kondisyon ng ating mamamayan sa pakikipaglaban araw-araw sa kahirapan. Konting malasakit lang mula sa gobyerno ang hinihingi natin,” added Sen. Bam.
 
With oil prices in the world market rising, Sen. Bam said the government should act now and immediately suspend the excise tax on fuel under the TRAIN Law to help lower prices of petroleum products.
 
“Ngayong tumataas pa ang presyo ng langis sa world market, hindi maganda na patawan pa ito ng excise tax na dulot ng TRAIN Law dahil sa ating mahihirap na kababayan na naman ang latay nito,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam to gov’t: Remove VAT on electricity to lower power rates

With consumers facing another electricity rate hike, Sen. Bam Aquino called on government to take the necessary steps to lower prices of power, particularly the removal of value-added tax (VAT) on electric generation, transmission and distribution.

“Kawawa naman ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi pa nga nakakaahon sa taas presyo, dagdag singil naman sa kuryente ang kanilang papasanin,” said Sen. Bam, 

“Dapat kumilos agad ang gobyerno para maibsan agad itong pahirap sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

Sen. Bam has filed Senate Bill No. 670 seeking to lower power rates by removing VAT from the sale of electricity by all electric companies and cooperatives.

The senator is pushing for the removal of VAT on electric generation, transmission and distribution as the costs of which are ultimately being passed on to already heavily burdened consumers.

Aside from removal of VAT, Sen. Bam also mentioned other recommendations that the government can undertake to lower prices of electricity.

“Kailangan simulan agad ang mga mahahalagang reporma sa power industry para hindi mahirapan ang taumbayan,” he said.

Sen. Bam said government must prioritize energy infrastructure projects to help address the country’s supply issues, and to remove red tape to enhance competition and encourage more players in power generation.

Sen. Bam: Set aside politics, prioritize welfare of children at risk

Let’s set aside politics and focus first on the welfare of children at risk.

Sen. Bam Aquino issued this call amid the measles outbreak in different parts of the country.

“Tama na po ang turuan at sisihan. Tama na po ang pamumulitika. Unahin po ang mga bata dahil nasa matinding panganib ang ating mga anak,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam made the appeal after the  Department of Health (DOH)  expanded the outbreak declaration to other regions such as Calabarzon, Western Visayas and Central Visayas, in addition to Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

“Kailangan din po tayong matuto sa trahedyang ito na hindi dapat pinupulitika ang kalusugan ng ating mga kabataan,” added Sen. Bam, who called on the government to establish an inter-agency task force that will immediately address the measles outbreak.

The senator said the inter-agency task force should be led by the DOH and joined by other agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

“The inter-agency task force will address the needs of the victims and conduct an aggressive and sustained health promotion drive to get parents to have their kid vaccinated,” said Sen. Bam.

The lawmaker also called on the public to cooperate with the government and help it stop this public menace.

“May mga anak din po ako na bata pa, umaapila po ako sa mga kapwa ko magulang na pabakunahan agad ang ating mga anak,” Sen. Bam said.

Sen. Bam’s bills for startups, scientists and students one signature away from becoming laws

Three measures principally sponsored and/or authored by Sen. Bam Aquino moved closer to becoming laws after their bicameral conference committee reports were ratified by the Senate late Wednesday. 
 
On the last day of regular session, the Senate adopted and ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 1532 or the Innovative Startup Act and Senate Bill No. 1534 or the Magna Carta for Scientists.
 
The Senate also ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 1597 or the Student Fare Discount Act, which was principally authored by Sen. Bam.
 
Sen. Bam pushed for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1532 as principal author and sponsor and of Senate Bill 1534 as principal sponsor during his time as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.
 
The three measures will be transmitted to Malacanang for President Duterte’s signature. 
 
If enacted into law, Senate Bill No. 1532 will provide support to innovative and tech startups, which pertain to businesses that provide unique and relevant solutions to pressing problems, such as transportation, financing, agriculture and healthcare.
 
Under the measure, host agencies, including DOST, DICT and DTI, are authorized to provide subsidies to innovative startups to help defray the costs of business registration, and the use of space, facilities, equipment and other services for their operations. Start ups will also receive subsidies for travel costs related to their participation in local and international start up events and competitions. 
 
In addition, the law creates a Start Up Grant Fund administered by DOST, DICT, and DTI to provide grants-in-aid for research, training, expansion, or scaling up and a Start Up Venture Fund administers by DTI to fund match investments in start ups by investors.
 
Senate Bill No. 1534 eyes to remove set limits on additional honoraria sourced from externally funded grants for S&T professions and foster ease in accessing benefits for S&T personnel in departments and agencies other than the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
 
“Malaking tulong ang dalawang panukalang ito upang lalo pang mapalakas ang sektor ng Science and Technology at para mabigyan ng tamang suporta ang entrepreneurs na may hatid na solusyon sa mga problema sa bansa,” said Sen. Bam.
 
Senate Bill No. 1597, for its part, grants mandatory 20-percent fare discounts to students on all land, air and water transportation, even during weekends and holidays.
 
In almost six years as lawmaker, Sen. Bam has 35 laws to his name, including the landmark free college law and the Go Negosyo Act.

Sen. Bam: Ensure enough funds for BOL transition

Sen. Bam Aquino called on fellow lawmakers to allot enough funds for the full implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to ensure the fulfilment of its mandate to bring peace and order in Mindanao.

“Dapat tiyakin na sapat at hindi kulang ang suporta para sa BOL,” said Sen. Bam, a co-author and co-sponsor of the BOL.

“Ang tagal na nitong pinangarap at inilaban ng mga kapatid nating Moro. Dapat hindi mabinbin ang transition dahil sa kakulangan ng budget,” added Sen. Bam, whose mother grew up in Mindanao, particularly Davao City.

Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law mandates that the current appropriation for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

Sen. Bam said the ARMM’s 2019 approved budget of P31.1 billion won’t be enough as the transition to BOL needs around P59 billion. 

The Senate version of the 2019 budget has allotted around P30 billion additional budget for the BOL, which Sen. Bam hopes to hurdle the bicameral conference committee.

If there will be a re-enacted budget for 2019, the President can issue a supplemental budget, subject to the certification of the Treasurer of the Philippines that there’s enough fund for the purpose.

“Sayang naman kung hindi natin bibigyan ng tamang pondo ang BOL. Itodo na natin ang suporta upang maabot na ng mga kababayan natin sa Mindanao ang inaasam nilang kapayapaan at kaunlaran,” said Sen. Bam.

“Kinakailangan ang sapat na budget para makalikha ng iba’t ibang trabaho para sa mga kababayan natin doon,” the senator added.

Sen. Bam: Don’t leave teachers hanging

The hard work and invaluable contribution of public school teachers should be properly recognized as they are essential to the success of the 2019 elections, according to Sen. Bam Aquino.

“Dapat bigyang halaga ang pagsisikap at paghihirap ng mga teacher sa halalan. Sa totoo lang po, sila ang tunay na bayani ng darating na eleksyon,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam issued the statement after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) warned that teachers who will serve in the 2019 elections won’t receive their honoraria in case of a re-enacted budget in 2019.

Sen. Bam, vice chairman of the Committee on Finance and member of the Senate bicameral conference committee on the proposed 2019 budget, said Congress is determined to pass the General Appropriations Act next week.

In case of a re-enacted budget in 2019, Sen. Bam said Congress can pass a supplemental budget for the payment of the teachers’ honorarium.

“Gagawin natin ang lahat para masigurong mababayaran ang ating mga guro sa kanilang trabaho sa darating na halalan. Biyan natin sila ng karampatang pagkilala at huwag ibitin ang mga kompensasyon at benepisyong itinakda ng batas para sa kanila,” said Sen. Bam.

“Sayang naman ang batas na ating isinulong kung hindi mapakikinabangan ng mga guro,” Sen. Bam added, referring to Republic Act 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) that he pushed as principal author in the 16th Congress.

The law increases the honorarium and other election service benefits and makes election service optional for public school teachers. It also increases honoraria for board of election inspector (BEI) and their support staff.

Under the law, compensation for BEI chairman will be increased to P6,000 from P3,000 while BEI members will receive P5,000 from P3,000.

From P3,000, DepEd supervisor/official will earn P4,000 while support staff will receive P2,000 from P1,500.

The teachers and all persons who rendered election service would also be entitled to a travel allowance of P1,000 each.

All government officials and employees serving as members of the electoral boards, DepEd supervisor/official and support staff will be given five days of service credit.

The ESRA also increases the death benefits from P200,000 to P500,000 and the medical assistance in such amount as may be “sufficient to cover for medical and hospitalization expenses until recovery” of injuries sustained while in the performance of election duties.

Sen. Bam breaks into top 12 in SWS survey

Sen. Bam Aquino improved significantly in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, climbing to 11thspot from 14th place in December.

Sen. Bam garnered 33 percent, up from 24 percent last month, in the SWS survey conducted from January 23 to 26, 2019.

The SWS survey marked the second straight time that Sen. Bam made it to the top 12.  The incumbent senator placed 10th to 16th in the Pulse Asia poll conducted from Dec. 14 to 21, with 32.6 percent.

In a statement, Sen. Bam thanked his supporters for his significant improvement in the SWS poll, but stressed that the fight still has a long way to go.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa mga patuloy na nagtitiwala at sumusuporta sa atin. Subalit mahaba pa po ang ating laban na ating susuungin,” said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam also underscored the importance of scrutinizing the track record and accomplishments of all the candidates so they select the right candidate in the 2019 elections.

“Mahalagang suriin ng ating mga botante ang mga nagawa ng isang kandidato upang mapili nila ang tamang tao na titingin sa kanilang kapakanan,” added Sen. Bam.

In almost six years as lawmaker, Sen. Bam has 35 laws to his name, including the landmark free college law and the Go Negosyo Act.

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