Dateline Manila: Senate honors victims of ugly Mindanao war PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 March 2015 14:15

BY Sammy Santos


In recognition of the gallant sacrifice made by the 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos, now collectively known as the Fallen 44, the Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution declaring March 6, 2015 as a National Day of Healing for Unity and Peace “to remember those who perished in Mamasapano as well as the thousands of lives lost from decades of armed conflict.”

The Senate Resolution No. 1204, authored by Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, and Aquilino Pimentel III, also encourages the Filipino people to stand for justice and at the same time stay in the course of seeking a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said that the resolution was an expression of the chamber’s desire to honor and give justice to all victims of the Mindanao conflict, and its support for the ongoing peace process that aims to finally end the armed hostilities in the Southern Philippines.

The resolution pointed out that the Mamasapano incident had grave implications on the ongoing Mindanao peace process and on the lives of Filipinos who continue to suffer from the debilitating impact of decades of war.

March 6 marks the 40th day after the January 25 Mamasapano incident that claimed the lives of 44 SAF commandos, 18 Moro fighters and a number of civilians caught in the crossfire. Figures from the Commission on Human Rights disclosed that at least 1,500 families have been displaced in the ongoing military campaign against lawless elements in Maguindanao.

“This unfortunate incident has likewise caused a national divide threatening to polarize the country and its peace-loving peoples, with some sections issuing condemnation, hasty judgment and espousing bloody retaliation,” the resolution said. “Civil society groups, peace movements and communities across the country have started to gather as peace advocates calling for unity and peace. There is an imperative and urgent need to pause and re-assess our common aspirations to bring peaceful solutions to our nation’s problems.”

Senator Bam Aquino had earlier recommended that the slain SAF commandos and the 31 others who survived the Mamasapano encounter that saw the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, be given with the Medal of Valor award.  The Medal of Valor entitles the dependents of the awardee to a lifetime monthly gratuity and precedence in employment in government agencies or government-owned and controlled corporations, among other benefits.

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SENATE LINKS WITH PHILHEALH:  To help poor Filipinos seeking medical services, the Senate has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to create an off-site office in the Senate compound at the GSIS Financial Complex in Pasay City.

Under the agreement, the Senate will continue helping Filipinos, particularly the poor and the elderly, get access to medical care through the establishment of a Philhealth satellite office right inside the Senate premises. Through its Public Assistance Center (PAC), the Senate will now serve as the venue for Philhealth frontline services, such as membership verification and status of claim refund.

SHIPPING SECTOR REFORM BILL: Last week, the Senate passed on third reading a bill that would allow foreign ships to dock in multiple ports, provided that their cargoes are intended for import or export and duly cleared by the Commissioner of Customs.

Senate Bill No. 2486, sponsored by Sen. Bam Aquino seeks to amend Section 1009 of the Presidential Decree No. 1464, otherwise known as the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978, which aims to introduce much needed reforms in the shipping industry.

The measure is part of efforts to sustain the country’s economic growth and prepare for the ASEAN economic integration slated to start this year.  “Improving our shipping industry and logistical capacity will position the country in the global market and improve the flow of goods and services in the country, which will help businesses and ordinary Filipinos alike,” Aquino said.

VILLAR BATS FOR MICRO-INSURANCE: With the onset of climate change, Nacionalista Senator Cynthia Villar is pushing for more micro-insurance programs, which, she said, would address the needs of the poor for risk protection and relief against distress, misfortune and other contingencies or emergencies.

In a statement, Villar said the products and services of micro-insurance providers will really provide big help to the poor. “This is particularly timely and relevant in the context of the natural disasters that we contend with at any given year,” she noted.

Citing the regulatory framework of micro-insurance, Villar noted that the poor, compared to the other sectors, needed more risk protection against death, injury and illness, loss of property, and other contingent events. Without any risk protection, she said, the poor were vulnerable and susceptible to unforeseen circumstances that will prevent them and their dependents from improving their lives and overcoming poverty.

PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS PUSHED: In a bid to hasten infrastructure development in the country, Senator Sonny Angara has a filed a bill that seeks to promote and authorize public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure facilities and services.

Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, said the government has traditionally been in charge of providing and financing infrastructure in the country, but investment requirements had exceeded the capacities of the government, prompting the public sector to enable private participation in infrastructure development. In the past two decades, a number of services in utilities, transportation, property development and information technology were provided through contractual arrangements, such as the build-operate-transfer (BOT).

Angara said the BOT law has been in existence since the 1990s. “Gains have been made with the passage of this law and yet, the full potential for the synergy of the public and private sectors in improving and expanding the country’s infrastructure, such as our airports and rail systems and even in the building of schools and hospitals, have not been fully taken advantage of,” he said. Angara’s Bill provides for more liberalized regulations and procedures to better address the needs and bureaucratic concerns of PPP investors.