Senate scraps special session, to tackle COVID crisis measure when Congress reopens

THE SENATE will no longer hold special sessions to tackle the measure extending emergency powers granted to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to address the coronavirus crisis, and will just address the bill when Congress reopens on July 27. Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said conducting a special session would have “no big effect” at this point since Congress will start its second regular session on the 27th. The President’s spokesperson has previously said the executive branch will call for a special session. “Ang mangyayare (What will happen on July 27), we will approve it on third reading and then we will call for a bicam dahil iba ang version ng House (because it is different from the House version),” Mr. Sotto said in an online briefing Wednesday. The amendments proposed by the Department of Finance will be taken up during the bicameral conference, he added. The proposed Bayanihan 2 law sets a P140-billion standby fund for sectors affected by the coronavirus disease 2019. The programs include emergency subsidies to low income households, cash-for-work programs, and capital infusion to government financial institutions, among others. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Senators say franchise renewal should not be tied to ‘personal issues’ Senators on Wednesday said personal issues of government officials should not be a factor in deciding on the renewal of franchises for private companies. Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on Wednesday said the government should not meddle in the way a company runs its business, or in content in the case of broadcast media companies. “Ang gobyerno hindi dapat nakikialam sa laman ng editorial (The government should not meddle in the editorial content),” he said in an online briefing. “Hindi lang sa news hindi dapat nakikialam ang gobyerno, (Not only in news but) Government should be out of business. Government should not meddle with business,” he added. The Senate leader’s remarks were made ahead of the House of Representatives’ committee vote on whether or not to renew the ABS-CBN Corp. franchise. Mr. Sotto also said it is unlikely that the “bias” of the media network will be an issue when the Senate tackles the ABS-CBN franchise. Senator Ma. Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, for her part, said the deliberation should focus on matters that would benefit the public more, especially now that the country is battling a pandemic. “I guess kasama ‘yun sa pwedeng talakayin pero para nga sa akin ang masmahalaga sa atin, ‘yung access to information lalo na may pinagdadaanan tayong crisis (I guess that can be considered but for me there are more important things, such as giving access especially now that we’re dealing with a crisis),” she said in a separate briefing. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

DepEd to launch own TV channel for alternative classes

AN EDUCATION channel will be launched by the government as part of the alternative modes of learning for primary and secondary level students as face-to-face sessions in school will be restricted to avoid potential coronavirus transmissions. “We will be able to let DepEd (Department of Education) have its own official channel,” Philippine Communications Operations Office Undersecretary George A. Apacible said on Wednesday during the launch of Oplan Brigada Eskwela. DepEd will also prepare instructional materials that will be delivered through radio and online. Mr. Apacible said DepEd “will look for teachers that will look good and sound good for TV,” and have the skills to create educational videos based on the school curriculum. A Youtube channel will also be set up where the videos will be uploaded. The school year 2020-2021 will open on August 24.— Gillian M. Cortez

Senator Dela Rosa invited to reapply for US visa

SENATOR RONALD M. dela Rosa on Wednesday said the United States Embassy in Manila has invited him to reapply for a visa when it resumes operations amid the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Dela Rosa said he received the call after President Rodrigo R. Duterte talked with American President Donald J. Trump on April 19. “After nag-usap si President Duterte at President Trump, tinawagan na ako ng US Embassy na asikasuhin ‘yung visa ko (After President Duterte and President Trump talked, the US Embassy called me to work on my visa),” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel. Mr. Dela Rosa confirmed in January that his US visa was cancelled, which came after the issuance of a US resolution blocking members of the Philippines government linked to the detention of Senator Leila M. De Lima. The visa cancellation triggered Mr. Duterte’s decision to abrogate the Philippines’ visiting forces agreement with the US. In early June, however, the President ordered the suspension of the termination notice. — Charmaine A. Tadalan