Akbayan’s bill empowering LGUs to expropriate lands for homeless families gets Cotabato City Council’s nod

A proposed measure intended to ease homelessness in local government units across the country has gained the support of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cotabato City, saying the bill will be “beneficial to [Cotabato City] city and its constituents.”

Giving its nod to the House Bill 6342 principally authored by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, the City council approved Resolution No. 5911 “highly commending” the House of Representatives Committee on Housing and Urban Development for the bill’s approval.

“The bill will surely address the land and housing needs of the landless and homeless families in the country,” explained the resolution.

“[It will] facilitate the acquisition of land for housing projects for the poor sector of our society who does not have the means to acquire land and build decent homes,” it added.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Hon. Jonathan S. Cortez, a Council member and chairman of the Cotabato City Council Committee on Housing, Planning & Resettlement and Land Use, also recognized the role of Akbayan in moving the proposed measure forward.

Related article: Cotabato City Council recognizes Akbayan reps role in housing reform bill’s passage

 

Gutierrez, together with fellow Akbayan Rep. Angelina Katoh and former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, were recognized “who, in one way or the other, contributed to the approval of House Bill No. 6342.”

Filed on December 12, 2015, the HB 6342 seeks to empower local governments units (LGUs) to identify and acquire lands as sites for socialized housing for the homeless and poor families. READ MORE: Full text of House Bill 6342

Lands covered by the proposed measure that could be acquired for socialized housing includes:

a) Those owned by the Government or any of its subdivisions, instrumentalities, or agencies, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and their subsidiaries;

b) Alienable lands of the public domain;

c) Unregistered or abandoned and idle lands;

d) Those within the declared Areas for Priority Development, Zonal Improvement Program sites, and Slum Improvement and Resettlement Program sites which have not yet been acquired;

e) Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services or BLISS sites which have not yet been acquired; and

f) Privately-owned lands.

The House of Representatives has already approved HB 6342 on third and final reading, and is currently pending at the Senate.###

Gutierrez urges DOH: Ensure 100% compliance to graphic health warnings on cigarettes by tobacco companies

Akbayan today is pushing for a 100% compliance to graphic health warning labels on cigarette packages by tobacco companies.

“After almost a decade of waiting for the enactment of the Graphic Health Warning Law and another year for its IRR, we are happy that the long-awaited implementation of this important health policy to bring down the high number of cigarette smokers, especially among youths, is finally becoming a reality,” said Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, who is one of the principal authors of the measure.

The statement was made following the announcement of DOH reminding tobacco companies that the manufacture and distribution of cigarettes without the mandated graphic health warnings on their packages are no longer allowed as of March 3, 2016.

“We also urge DoH to be fully on guard against potential violations to ensure that there is 100% compliance by all tobacco companies,” Gutierrez said.

The graphic health warnings are intended to help increase awareness and instill health consciousness among the public about the dangers of smoking and, thereby, contribute in reducing the incidence of smoking: motivating smokers to quit and prevent young people from initiating smoking, Gutierrez said.

According to the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, an estimated 28 percent, or 17.3 million Filipino adults aged 15 years and older, are daily smokers.

Tobacco Atlas also noted that more than 71, 850 Filipinos are killed yearly due to tobacco-related diseases, while more than 505, 600 children and 15, 570, 000 adults continue to use tobacco each day.

 

Penalizing violators

According to the GHW law, also known as RA 10643, the penalties shall individually apply to manufacturers, importers, and distributors of tobacco products as well as their agents/representatives for acts violating the provision of the health warnings, as provided:

(1) On the first offense, a fine of not more than Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00);

(2) On the second offense, a fine of not more than One million pesos (P1,000,000.00); and

(3) On the third offense, a fine of not more than Two million pesos (P2,000,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or both, at the discretion of the court: Provided, That the business permits and licenses, in the case of a business entity or establishment shall be revoked or cancelled.

If the guilty officer is a foreign national, he shall be deported after service of sentence and/or payment of applicable fines without need of further deportation proceedings and shall be permanently barred from re-entering the Philippines.

Joining the global fight against cigarette smoking

In 2005, Philippines became a signatory to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a treaty binding member-states to pass laws and measures aimed to protect public health from the dangers of tobacco use.

The enactment of the Graphic Health Warning in 2014 also allows us to comply with our international obligations under the Convention, Gutierrez concluded.###

Gutierrez: Enactment of stronger Probation law sets momentum for criminal justice reform

A ‘stronger’ Probation law has been signed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a positive move seen by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez will kick-start criminal justice reform in the country.

Also known as Republic Act No. 10707, the approved measure seeks to amend Presidential Decree No. 968, otherwise known as the ‘Probation Law of 1976’, as amended.

“With the approval of the measure, we set the ball rolling in reforming our criminal justice system and instituting corrective measures to address the gaps within the processes and the system which emerged with the test of time,” the lawmaker said.

Gutierrez, who is a main author and member of the bicameral conference committee that drafted the approved proposal, is also a lawyer and former Director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Human Rights (IHR).

It focuses on probation reform to ensure that law offenders are punished effectively and appropriately, while also making certain that those who show a promise of reform, particularly the low-level offenders, are given the chance to transition back to regain their lives and re-enter the mainstream society with less difficulty.

The new law has a retroactive provision which provides that when a judgement of conviction imposing a non-probationable judgement was modified following an appeal or review, the convicted offender shall be allowed probation based on the modified decision.

“This provides offenders, who fall between the gaps of our legal system and, inadvertently, receive highly disproportionate penalties, the redeeming chance to have their punishment corrected according to individual character and the circumstances of the offense committed,” Gutierrez explained.

Other salient provisions of the bill includes expanding the coverage and standardizing the tenure, responsibilities and the remuneration of volunteer probation assistants (VPAs) to make sure they are effective in assisting the chief probation and parole officers in the supervised rehabilitation program of the probationers.

As volunteers, they are not entitled to any regular compensation, but they are provided reasonable transportation and meal allowances.

The Act is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2280 and House Bill No. 4147.

Following the approval of the new Probation Law, Gutierrez also expressed hope this will set in motion other justice reforms, particularly in ensuring that irrelevant and antiquated provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which contains the general penal laws of the country, are repealed, amended and kept to date.###

SCENES from the 10-day study tour mission of AKBAYAN PARTYLIST Rep. Barry Gutierrez in Brazil to learn about the country’s ‪#‎ZeroHunger‬ program

Yesterday, Rep. Barry arrived home from the tour bearing personal lessons about the country’s Zero Hunger Program and the Food Purchase Program wherein smallholder farmers produce and supply the needed food requirements of school children. In this effort, the right of children to adequate and nutritious food is tied up with their education. Moreover, this right is also tied up with social justice and rural development efforts given that the suppliers of food are smallholder farmers, some of whom are beneficiaries of Brazil’s land reform.

Brazil undertakes this linked effort without distorting the supply and demand for agricultural products through market-referenced pricing. Thus, Philippines has much to learn about Brazil’s mechanisms for ending hunger and reducing poverty.

These experiences could help help shape and ramp up our national efforts to push for our #ZeroHunger campaign in the country.