Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gordon appeals for sobriety and restraint in holding of Anti-Cha Cha rallies

Senator Richard Gordon ( Ind. ) appealed to all sectors participating in Anti-Charter Change rallies nationwide to pursue their protests peacefully. At the same time, he called on the police and military to demonstrate restraint and tolerance for the political exercise.

“Demonstrations against charter change are valid, democratic exercises but it must also lead us to a more sober and dispassionate discussion of all the issues involved. We believe that the Supreme Court will not allow House Resolution 1109 to be implemented and thereafter, the discussion on Charter Change can be pursued without duress or haste,” said Gordon.

The senator is opposed to House Resolution 1109, which dilutes and virtually negates the participation of the Senate in amending the Constitution. The resolution calls on the members of Congress to convene for the purpose of considering proposals to amend or revise the Constitution, upon a vote of three-fourths of all the members of Congress.

Article XVII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution provides that any amendment to - or revision of - the Constitution may be proposed by the Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

“This constitutional provision should not be misconstrued as a provision where both Houses of Congress vote jointly. The Constitution, the fundamental law of our land, is very clear as when Congress may vote jointly, and this does not include Charter change,” said Gordon.

He stressed further that Charter change must be pursued in an atmosphere where there can be no suspicion that it will be used as a vehicle to protect or promote political interests.

“Charter Change must be done right - at the proper time, definitely after the May 2010 elections; for the right reasons, that is, for national interest, not personal and vested interests; and within the legal means under the Constitution,” said Gordon.(30/prf)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gordon proposes condonation of penalties for employers with SSS delinquencies

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) sought the Senate’s immediate action on the measure that would authorize the condonation of penalties on delinquent contributions to the Social Security System (SSS).

Gordon said the implementation of a one-time condonation program of contribution penalties not only represents an opportunity to expeditiously settle contribution delinquencies, but also paves the way for resumption of members’ entitlement to benefits and loan privileges.

“The SSS requires a certain number of contributions before benefits may be availed of. If his employer were delinquent in the payment of contributions, the worker would be denied of the said benefit,” he said.

Records of the SSS show that as of June 2007, there are 287,631 employers who are delinquent in the payment of the mandatory contributions. These figures translate to a total delinquency of P14.6-billion.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, said that the SSS Charter provides the legal mechanism and procedure to collect such delinquent accounts from non-complying employers. The law imposes a penalty of three percent per month until the delinquent account is paid in full.

He added that in many cases, accumulated penalties of employers already surpass the principal amount of obligation, thereby making it difficult for many employers to settle their delinquencies.

In response, Gordon filed Senate Bill 2454, which would authorize the condonation of penalties on delinquent social security contributions.

As a condition, the employer must submit the corresponding collection list and pay the principal obligation either in full, within a period of 12 months, or in installment, within a period of six months, from the effectivity of the Act.

“A contribution delinquency condonation program will facilitate and hasten the extra-judicial settlement of past due contributions from delinquent employers,” Gordon said.

“This measure offers a reprieve to thousands of employers facing financial difficulties, while enabling their employees to resume their entitlement benefits and loans,” he added.

The SSS has twice implemented condonation programs on penalties for contribution delinquencies in 1987 and 1997. By the end of the second program in 1997, the SSS was able to collect P859-million in delinquent contributions. (30/tgp)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gordon: Civilians should be prioritized over military men on ambassadorial posts

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said that the government should give priority to career officers over military men in appointing ambassadors who would represent our country abroad.

Gordon, member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), said that while military men are qualified to represent the country, there are many career officers who are equally qualified to hold ambassadorial positions.

“While I agree that military men are qualified to represent our country, nonetheless, the others who are equally qualified in the civilian bureaucracy must be considered first. They must be given priority over the retired military officials,” he said.

During the CA hearing on Wednesday, Gordon said he wants to review the records of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff (Ret.) General Alexander Yano before he decides whether to vote for or against the retired general’s confirmation of his appointment as ambassador to Brunei Darussalam.

“I nominated for his (Yano) confirmation as AFP chief of staff. But this time I am questioning the policy which affects the fitness and qualifications of Gen. Yano because it smacks of accommodation, it defeats meritocracy, and demoralizes the bureaucracy,” Gordon said.

The senator explained that when ambassadorial posts are given to retired military generals rather than to career officers, it demoralizes the civilian bureaucracy and makes the military feel that they are entitled to rewards. (30/tgp)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gordon lauds passage of IHL bill on third reading

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today hailed the Senate’s passage on third reading of the measure codifying international humanitarian law (IHL) within the country’s legal system.

Gordon, author and sponsor of Senate Bill 2669, said the measure defines and penalizes crimes against international humanitarian law and other serious international crimes, keep our guard up operationalizing universal jurisdiction, and designating special courts.

“This measure is a symbolic gesture of our continuing adherence and strong commitment to IHL. But above symbolisms, our goal is to end impunity and penalize crimes against international humanitarian law,” he said.

Gordon also lauded the approval on the committee level of the House version of the bill as he urged members of the House of Representative to immediately pass the measure on second and third readings.

“There is a need to codify international crimes within the domestic legal system to ensure that those who commit war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity are not afforded impunity for their acts,” he said.

The IHL is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, a limit to the effects of armed conflict such that persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities are protected and the means and methods of warfare are restricted.

The core of SB 2669 seeks to define three international crimes, namely war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and to impose imprisonment depending on the gravity of the crime committed.

War crimes are acts committed in a situation of armed conflict and against a person not taking part, or no longer taking part, in the hostilities.

In international armed conflict, war crimes include willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and willfully causing great injury. In non-international armed conflict the criminal acts include violence to life and person, outrages upon personal dignity and taking of hostages.

Crimes against humanity are acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, such as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, enforced disappearance, among others.

In genocide, the primary element is that the act is committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

“SB 2669 will ensure that there are no havens for perpetrators of serious crimes of concern to the international community, by providing for their prosecution in the domestic courts,” Gordon said.

“The bill also provides that Philippine courts shall take additional measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses,” he added.

Gordon said the bill also introduces into the country’s penal system principles of criminal responsibility unique to the prosecution of international crimes such as command responsibility, non-prescription of crimes and irrelevance of official capacity.

In command responsibility, a superior is held responsible if he has done nothing to prevent a subordinate from committing a violation of IHL.

Prescription will not apply, especially in view of the gravity of certain violations that run counter to the interests of the international community as a whole, because the repression of serious violations of IHL is essential to ensuring respect for this branch of law. (30/tgp)