Early voting for senior citizens, PWDs pushed

A PROPOSED law that will allow senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWD) to cast their ballots earlier than the scheduled voting day is being pushed for approval before the next elections in 2022.

“The committee on suffrage has already approved our substitute bill and is now at the appropriations committee for its budgetary provision. We hope that Congress could approve the bill in time for its implementation for the next combined presidential-congressional-local elections in May 2022,” Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said.

Under House Bill 2839, seniors, or those 60 years old and above, and PWDs can avail of early voting privileges through accessible establishments to be set up by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) within seven working days before the actual election day.

Other agencies such as the National Council on Disability Affairs, Commission on Human Rights, Department of Health, Department of Interior and Local Government, and local government units will also be mandated to create a registration system “that shall allow senior citizens and PWDs to register and opt for early voting in order to improve their voting experience.”

Comelec Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento earlier said that they support legislative measures on early voting.

Meanwhile, 250,000 voter registrations have so far been recorded since the September 1 reopening, according to Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez.

In a briefing on Monday, Mr. Jimenez said this turnout is lower than in previous registration periods due to continued mobility restrictions nationwide.

“(T)hat’s expected kasi sa kasagsagan pa tayo ng pandemya (because we are still at the height of a pandemic). In the last three to four weeks, umabot tayo sa (we reached) 250,000 transactions processed nationwide,” he said, noting that number would have just covered the National Capital Region (NCR) in past registration periods.

He added that they expect the number to pick up slowly.

Voter registration for the 2022 elections began last January but was suspended mid-March following lockdowns. Voter registration will be open until September 30, 2021. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Gillian M. Cortez 

Lawmaker appeals to banks, e-payment firms to defer online transaction fees

A LAWMAKER on Monday appealed to the country’s biggest banks and financial technology companies to defer imposing fees for online fund transfers “at least until the end of the year.”

“The pandemic is not yet over and a lot of people are still suffering from its effects, thus it is only proper for these banks to continue providing relief to their distressed clients by extending their waiver of fees for online fund transfers,” Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), only eight banks have agreed to suspend the fees for the use of their Instapay and PESONet digital channels until the end of the year, while 10 other banks, mostly the biggest in the country, are waiving fees only until September 30 as previously announced.

The fees were waived starting mid-March as lockdowns and other mobility restrictions were imposed by government to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.

The financial institutions resuming online transaction fees by October 1 are BDO Unibank Inc., Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., China Banking Corp., China Bank Savings, Bank of Commerce, Robinsons Bank, Philippine Savings Bank, and Philippine National Bank.

Mobile wallet GCASH has also announced that it will start charging its users P15 per bank transfer starting Oct. 1.

“If smaller banks can afford to forgo income from fund transfer fees, I don’t see any reason why large banks could not do the same,” Ms. Herrera said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Duterte wants to see violators of ease of doing business punished, says Zubiri

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte wants public officials immediately punished for obstructing or failing to implement the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) law, a senator said on Monday.

“I think he wants to see more punitive actions. I think the President wants to see more cases, more people suspended,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told the Trade department.

“The way it was told to us by the senate president is, wala siyang nakikitang nangyayare sa batas (he doesn’t see the law being implemented).”

The EoDB, contained under Republic Act 11032, is intended to streamline and speed up government services.

Mr. Duterte recently consulted Congress leaders for possible amendments to the law to further streamline processes in securing documents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This prompted senators to file a bill granting Mr. Duterte special powers to expedite permit processing, which will be tackled on Tuesday at the committee on civil service committee.

“The President complained about the EoDB problem in the Philippines. I’m sure there were several complaints that reached his desk,” Mr. Zubiri said.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, on the other hand, said they are not aware of such complaints and that the Department of Trade and Industry has filed cases against agencies that failed to improve their systems.

“We were not made aware of those complaints that reached the President,” Mr. Lopez said.

Those found to have failed in implementing the “required improvement,” he added, are facing charges. — Charmaine A. Tadalan