Senate OKs 6 bills amid PDAF controversy

By Marvin Sy, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 11 2014 03:29 AM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 11:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Amid all the drama surrounding the alleged involvement of three senators in the pork barrel scam, the Senate showed it was still productive by passing six bills in a day.

Among the bills approved was the amendment to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, particularly on procedures in the inventory of seized drugs.

Vicente Sotto III, principal author of the bill, said that the failure by law enforcement agencies to strictly follow the current provision of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act on the inventory of seized drugs had resulted in the dismissal of 70 to 80 percent of the cases brought before the courts.

Under the bill, the physical inventory and taking of photographs of seized illegal drugs would now be conducted either in the place of seizure or at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending law enforcers.

The present provision states that “the apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.”

“The proposal will provide effective measures to ensure the integrity of seized illegal drugs since a safe location makes it more probable for an inventory and photograph of seized illegal drugs to be properly conducted, thereby reducing the incidents of dismissal of drug cases due to technicalities,” Sotto said.

The Senate also approved on third and final reading the proposed Lemon Law, a measure that would protect car consumers who purchase defective or substandard vehicles.

Also approved on third reading was the bill that would allow foreign banks to purchase up to 100 percent of the voting stock of domestic banks.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said that the liberalization of the rules on foreign ownership would give the Philippines a chance to take advantage of the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, in light of the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework to be implemented in 2020.

“Greater foreign participation in the banking and financial sectors is expected to augment the financial resources to which the Philippine economy may have access, thus supporting the initiatives of the present administration in implementing various infrastructure projects and rehabilitation programs,” Osmeña said.

On the health front, the Senate approved the picture-based warning on tobacco products bill.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, the co-author and sponsor of the bill, explained that the bill would require the manufacturers of cigarettes and other tobacco products to display picture-based health warnings in full color with accompanying text warnings on 50 percent of their principal display surfaces.

Cayetano argued that the imposition of graphic health warnings at the front part of cigarette packages is aimed at deterring smokers from “starting the vice and being addicted to it, as well as encourage existing smokers to drop the habit.”

The Senate also approved the bills that would declare July 27 this year as a special non-working holiday for the commemoration of the founding anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the declaration of Aug. 18 of every year as Jesse Robredo Day, a special working holiday in commemoration of the late interior secretary.