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.###


Statement of Rep. Barry Gutierrez on AMLC report stating VP Binay earned billions from Makati infras

What more does VP Binay need to hear? The Senate says, he’s guilty. The Ombudsman says he’s guilty. COA says, he’s guilty. And now, the AMLC says, he’s guilty. Why can’t he defend himself? He should face the people and show the evidence he says he has, not just deny. That only works for show business, not in the courts. VP, you are running for President. How will you face the problems of society if you cannot face the damning evidence against your character and integrity? The Office of the President is an institution for service, not a den for thieves.


Ano pa ba ang kailangang marinig ni VP Binay? Sa Senado, guilty siya. Ombudsman, guilty siya. COA, guilty siya. At ngayon, sa AMLC, guilty siya. Ipagtanggol naman niya ang sarili niya. Humarap sa taumbayan at ilabas ang ebidensiyang sinasabi niya, huwag puro deny. Pang-showbiz lang ‘yun, hindi para sa korte. VP, tumatakbo ka bilang Pangulo. Paano mo haharapin ang mga problema ng lipunan kung hindi mo maharap ang mabibigat na ebidensya laban sa pagkatao at integridad mo? Ang opisina ng Pangulo ay isang tanggapan para sa paglilingkod, hindi lungga ng kawatan.###

Gutierrez bats for gender-equal government, political processes

Males continue to dramatically outnumber females in Philippine politics and governance, paving the way to a male-dominated political landscape and a persistent gender gap in the country’s public service system.

In an effort to correct the gender imbalance and foster equality, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez today is batting for the approval of a measure to forge ahead a gender-equal government and politics.

Also known as the “Women Participation and Representation in Political Parties Act of 2013”, Gutierrez introduced House Bill 3877 which seeks to provide greater support to political parties that would integrate greater roles for women in their leadership and internal policy-making structures.

“While the Philippines has made steady progress in closing gender gaps in education and health, the limited participation and representation of women in top level management posts and key policy-making units remains an issue of concern that requires the active intervention of the state,” he said.

In the recent Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (2013), the Philippines ranked 5th among 133 countries on gender parity. In the report, the status of women in the country as reflected in the four indices of the report showed above-average marks (Economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment). But in all those four indicators, the Political Empowerment index remains an issue that needs to be addressed (See attached photo).

“Although a lot of women are involved in government and political works, it is notable, however, that their presence is only observable at the lower levels of our political and governance systems. It narrows, however, as we move higher to top management and elected or ministerial posts,” Gutierrez said.

“The composition of the 16th Congress, for instance, is highly dominated by men: only 78 out of 225 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 out of 24 seats in the Senate are occupied by women, or 27.1% and 25%, respectively. And only two women out of fourteen (14%) succeeded to hold the Philippine presidency,” he added.

According to the United Nations, the critical mass that indicates sufficient women participation in any given body is 30%.

“We have to speed up the rate of increasing women participation in our political and nation-building processes in order to balance gender differences in politics and governance. A substantial mass of women in our public service system will ensure that their needs and interests are taken into account in decision-making processes that affect their lives in all levels of public life,” Gutierrez said.

The lawmaker also emphasized that the bill is an affirmative action that intends to accelerate political participation and equitable representation of women in politics and governance. Thus, it will not force political parties to adapt its recommendations, but it will strongly support those who will integrate, promote and strongly advocate women agenda in their systems and platforms.

“When approved, this measure will expedite the fulfillment of the State mandate to address all forms of gender inequality in the society,” Gutierrez concluded.###

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.###

Statement of Rep. Barry Gutierrez on VP Binay imitating Mar Roxas’ platform for jobs

Sabi nga, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Kaya natutuwa kami na ginagaya ni VP Binay ang plataporma ni Mar na palalaguin ang trabaho sa manufacturing at BPO. Papunta pa lang si VP, pabalik na si Mar dahil lampas apat na milyong trabaho na ang nagawa ni Mar dahil sa BPO. Pero kung gagaya pa rin si VP, sana isama na niya ang pagiging malinis sa paggamit ng pera ng bayan. Puwede niyang simulan sa paglalabas kay Baloloy at Limlingan, ng mga dokumento na magpapatunay kung binili o minana niya ang mga ari-arian niya, at kung magkano ang patong sa mga proyekto niya sa Makati. Alam naming mahirap pa sa inyo ‘yan VP, pero push mo lang.

You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This is why we’re pleased that VP Binay is aping Mar’s platform on increasing jobs in manufacturing and BPO. While he’s out making promises, Mar has already delivered more than four million jobs because of BPO. But if VP insists on appropriating Mar’s ideas, why doesn’t he go all the way and copy Mar’s clean record on the use of public funds? He can start by showing where Baloloy and Limlingan are, the documents that prove if his properties were bought or inherited, and how much he earned from his projects in Makati. We understand going clean will be extremely difficult for VP, but it’s worth a try.


House approves bill extending term of Martial Law victims Claims Board

The House of Representatives passed a two-year term extension for the Martial Law Victims Claims Board to ensure that adjudication of all Martial Law claims applications will be duly accomplished and fully resolved.
“It proposes to extend the life term of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) until May 2018, in response to the sudden upsurge in recognition and reparation claims applications. This gives the Board sufficient time to resolve all claims and finally bring justice to the victims of human rights abuses during the Martial Law, especially those who are in their final years of their life,” said Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, principal author of the bill.
“We can’t let the hopes of the victims and their families with pending claims applications, and who have waited for years to get the justice, recognition and reparation they deserve, become blighted due to the deadline,” he added.
As of December 2015, the Board has deliberated on about 11,071, or about 14.61%, of the total claims received. This means, there are still 64, 450 claims applications pending adjudication.
“Prior to the enactment of RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act, the number of applications was estimated at 20, 000, which involved those covered by the damages suit filed before the District Court of Hawaii against former President Ferdinand Marcos’ violation of the US Alien Tort Statute for flagrant human rights violations (Cesar Hilao et al., v. The Estate of Ferdinand Marcos).  The timeline, the resources, personnel and budget allocations necessary for its implementation were determined accordingly,” Gutierrez said.
Since the start of filing until May 2015, however, the number of applications skyrocketed to 75, 530, which means the Board, through its three Divisions, has to simultaneously evaluate 316 cases per Division per week, or almost four times more than what was initially projected.
“With its current available resources and personnel at its disposal, it is clearly impossible for the Board to fully adjudicate all cases by its initial target completion date,” Gutierrez said.
“Forcing the Board to finish its backlog of claims in four months as some are insisting, given its current situation, we are concerned that this preference for speed and quantity, instead of quality, in the evaluation, investigation and adjudication of claims potentially risks incorrect decisions and erroneous reparation claims,” he emphasized.
“By extending the Board’s term, we assure the victims with pending claims that they will receive the recognition they deserve while making certain that all claims are judiciously resolved and fraudulent ones are fully investigated and duly disposed of,” Gutierrez concluded.
The approved bill was co-authored by Gutierrez’ fellow Akbayan Rep. Angie Katoh and District 6, Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte.
The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board was created by virtue of R.A. No. 10368, signed into law by President Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III on February 25, 2013. The law states that the Philippines acknowledges the heroism and sacrifices of those who suffered abuses by the authoritarian regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos and it is the state’s obligation to recognize them and provide reparations.
The principal source of funds for the implementation of RA 10368 is the P10B plus accrued interest which form part of the funds transferred to the government of the Republic of the Philippines from Switzerland by virtue of an Order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997. This was adjudged by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in 2003 as final and executory in Republic vs. Sandiganbayan (G.R. No. 152154) as Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines.###

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.###