Archive for the ‘legal’ Category

Hindi biro ang mag-Cha-Cha

December 13, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Ekspresyon ng pagtutol sa Charter Change: Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

NAKAKATAWA na nakakatakot ang isang bidyo na kumakalat ngayon sa Internet. Ginampanan ng nagpapakilalang Juana Change ang mahigit limang-minutong komedya hinggil sa ngayo’y mainit muling isyu hinggil sa Charter change (Cha-Cha). “Isang araw, magugulat ka na lang. Matanda ka na pala, kami nandito pa,” sabi ng kontrabida bago humalakhak at i-laser gun ng kanyang sidekick ang isang mananayaw na umaalma sa pambababoy diumano ng gobyerno sa kanyang paboritong sayaw.

Malinaw na tinutukoy ng bidyo si Gloria Arroyo, ang Pangulong pinakamatagal nang nakaupo sa puwesto sunod sa diktador na si Ferdinand Marcos.

Pinaniniwalaang nagmumula pa rin kay Arroyo ang panibagong tulak sa Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso na amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon.

Simpatetikong Korte Suprema?

Halos kasabay ng pagbabasura ng Kamara sa ika-apat na reklamong impeachment laban kay Arroyo, sinimulan muli ng House Committee on Constitutional Amendments ang mga pagdinig hinggil sa Cha-Cha. Tinalakay ang House Resolution 737 ni Espiker Prospero Nograles ng Kamara. Pinababago ng HR 737 ang Seksiyon 2 at 3, Artikulo XII ng 1987 Konstitusyon para payagan ang mga dayuhang pagmamay-ari ng mga lupain sa bansa.

Katuwiran ni Nograles, kailangang isalba ang ekonomiya ng bansa sa gitna ng krisis pandaigdig.

Pero agad na sumingaw ang mas kaduda-dudang motibo sa Cha-Cha sa HR 550 ni Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas. Pinahahaba nito ang termino ng Pangulo hanggang Hunyo 30, 2011.

Sa kabila ng iskandalong nilikha ng HR 550 na agad namang ibinasura ng komite, nagpursige sa Cha-Cha ang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo sa partidong Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino). Itinutulak nila ang pagbubuo ng Kongreso sa isang Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

May 167 kongresista na ang pumirma sa ihahaing resolusyon ni Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, presidente ng Kampi. Balak ng Kampi, mangalap ng 197 pirma sa Kamara na kakatawan sa ¾ ng kabuuang miyembro ng Kongreso o 238 kongresista at 24 senador. Pupuwersahin nitong resolbahin ng Korte Suprema, sa wakas, ang isyung bumabara sa pagbubuo ng Con-Ass.

Ayon sa 1987 Konstitusyon, maaaring amyendahan ang Konstitusyon kung boboto ang ¾ ng mga miyembro ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso. Pero hindi malinaw dito kung boboto nang hiwalay o iisa ang Mababa at Mataas na Kapulungan.

Di tulad noong 2006 na ibinasura ng Korte Suprema ang people’s initiative, naunang tangka ng administrasyon para itulak ang Cha-Cha, paborable para kay Arroyo kung magdedesisyon sa susunod na taon ang korte hinggil sa Con-Ass. Pitong hurado ang magreretiro. Pawang mga appointees ng Pangulo ang matitira. Siya rin ang magtatalaga sa bagong mga hurado.

Mismong si dating Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, kinatatakutan ang isang “Korte Suprema ni Arroyo.” Umano’y baka mabahiran ng impluwensiya ng Pangulo ang tanging sangay ng gobyerno—sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Chief Justice Reynato Puno—na may imaheng relatibong independiyente mula sa ehekutibo.

Paliwanag ni Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, presidente ng United Opposition, “Malakas ang loob ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-cha sa Kamara na magiging simpatetiko ang Korte Suprema at aalisin nito ang legal na mga balakid sa Konstitusyon hinggil sa term limits ni Arroyo.”

Term extension: ‘Di mapipigilan’

Sa isang birthday party sa tahanan ni Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez noong Nobyembre 15, napabalitang dumalo sina Pangulong Gloria at kabiyak na si Mike Arroyo para basbasan ang Con-Ass. Ngayon, kasama ni Villafuerte sina Romualdez at Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, anak ng Pangulo, sa pangangalap ng pirma para dito.

Itinatanggi ni Villafuerte na ang lahat ng ito ay para maisalba ang Pangulo, na posibleng kumaharap sa iba’t ibang kasong kriminal kapag natanggalan ng immunity from suit sa 2010. Umano’y walang kinalaman ang Con-Ass sa pagharang sa darating na halalan. Dapat lang umanong resolbahin ang moda ng pagbabago ng 1987 Konstitusyon.

Pero marami ang naniniwala na kapag nabuo na ang Con-Ass, hindi mapipigilan ang pagpasok ng probisyon sa pagpapahaba ng termino.

Isa na rito si Sen. Francis Pangilinan. “Kung may humirit at sabihing ayaw ko ng economic provisions lamang, walang magagawa ang sinumang senador o kongresista. Dahil hindi puwedeng ilimita…Oras na magkaroon ng objection, at magkaroon ng proposal, puwedeng pagbotohan iyon. At kung ang pagbobotohan ay term extension, baka matuwa ‘yung napakarami at sabihing, ‘sama-sama na tayong pabor,’” aniya.

Hindi sang-ayon ang mga senador, maging ang kilalang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo na sina Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago at bagong-halal na Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, sa Cha-Cha bago ang 2010 halalan.

Para kontrahin ang Con-Ass, naghain ng resolusyon si Sen. Mar Roxas na nagpapatawag ng isang Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) pagkatapos ng 2010 halalan. Ang mga delegado sa Con-Con na siyang magpapanukala ng mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon, ihahalal kasama ng iba pang mga opisyal ng gobyerno.

Ayon kay Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., na nagtutulak ng pagbabago tungo sa parlamentaryong porma ng gobyerno, “makukulapulan ng partisanong pamumulitika” ang paghalal ng mga delegado sa Con-Con.

Pero dahil tila mahihirapan ang Kamara na ilusot ang Con-Ass nang walang kaparis sa resolusyon mula sa Senado, bukas sa Con-Con si Nograles—dahilan para umugong ang balitang patatalsikin siya ng mga taga-Kampi mula sa pamunuan ng Kamara—gayundin si Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor ng partidong Lakas.

Walang kinalaman?

Samantala, iginigiit ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza na walang kinalaman ang Palasyo sa hakbang ng kanyang mga kapartido. Hindi rin umano ito makikialam sa isang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

Gayunpaman, dinedma nito ang hamon ng ilang mga obispo na pumirma ang Pangulo ng isang dokumentong nangangakong hindi siya mananatili sa puwesto lampas sa 2010. “Ipagpapatuloy lamang niya ang dapat gawin bilang Presidente—ang pamumuno (governance),” ani Dureza.

Pero ayon kay Sen. Pia Cayetano, ang pananahimik ni Arroyo at kabiguan nitong sawatahin ang Con-Ass ay nangangahulugang pabor siya rito. “Kung talagang sinsero siyang hindi pahabain ang kanyang termino, bakit hindi niya ihayag ang oposisyon sa mga hakbang ng sarili niyang mga kaanak sa Kamara?”

Nagkakaisa rin ang mga lider-simbahan at ang mga negosyante na anupaman ang moda o ipinapalitaw na dahilan, hindi dapat amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Self-serving” o pakikinabangan lamang ito ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-Cha, ayon kay Alberto Lim, presidente ng Makati Business Club. Maging si Edgardo Lacson, presidente ng kadikit ng administrasyon na Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sinabing magdudulot lamang ng “political turmoil” o kaguluhang pampulitika ang Cha-Cha ngayon.

Ayon pa kay Arsobispo Gaudencio Rosales, na kilala ring tagasuporta ni Arroyo, hindi dapat ipagkatiwala ang Cha-Cha sa mga nasa kapangyarihan dahil sa kanila umanong “vested interests” o itinatagong pansariling mga interes.

Kahit ang taumbayan, lumalabas na hindi pabor sa Cha-Cha.

Sa pambansang sarbey noong nakaraang buwan ng Ibon Foundation, mayorya o 77.4% ng mga rumesponde ang nagsabing tutol sila sa pag-aamyenda ng Konstitusyon. Tumaas pa ang rating na ito kumpara sa sarbey noong Abril kung saan 68% ng mga rumesponde nang negatibo sa Cha-Cha.

Laging may duda

Bukod sa posibleng pagpapahaba ng termino ni Arroyo, tinututulan ng progresibong mga kinatawan ng party-list at ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) ang iba pang inihahaing mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon. Pangunahin dito ang pagtanggal sa mga restriksiyon sa dayuhang pag-aari ng lupa, pampublikong yutilidad, mass media, paaralan, at advertising firms.

“Magreresulta ang 100% pagmamay-ari ng dayuhan sa mga lupain ng pinatinding pangangamkam ng lupa mula sa mga magsasaka at pagdambong sa kalikasan,” sabi ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Binabantayan din ng Bayan ang pag-aamyenda sa Bill of Rights na nagsisiguro ng batayang mga karapatang pantao, at pag-alis ng mga safeguard o panlaban sa pagdedeklara ng Batas Militar.

Dagdag pa ng grupo, tututulan nila ang pagpapababa sa kinakailangang mga boto sa Kongreso para ratipikahin ang internasyunal na mga tratado na maaaring nasa disbentahe ng taumbayan, gayundin ang mga probisyong magpapabalik ng dayuhang mga tropa at baseng militar sa bansa.

“Sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang sirkunstansiya…laging pagdududahan ang mga hakbang para baguhin ang Konstitusyon. Sa panahong hindi dominante sa gobyerno ang interes ng mga mardyinalisado at inaapi, laging makikinabang sa Cha-Cha ang mga naghahari sa ekonomiya at pulitika, kapwa lokal at dayuhan,” sabi ng Bayan.

Panahon ng oposisyon

Kung paniniwalaan ang mga grupo at indibidwal na nag-oorganisa ng malaking kilos-protesta sa Disyembre 12, “papuntang Ayala Ave. ang lahat ng daan.” Umano’y panahon nang magpakitang-gilas ang mga tumututol sa Cha-Cha at pananatili sa puwesto ni Arroyo.

Kinabibilangan ito ng mga taong-simbahan, negosyante, estudyante, dating nakakataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at progresibong mga grupong sektoral na kumakatawan sa mga manggagawa, magsasaka, maralitang lungsod, empleyado ng gobyerno, kababaihan, at iba pa.

“Talagang naghahanap ng venue ang taumbayan para maipahayag ang kanilang galit sa Cha-Cha,” sabi ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan.

Kung pagbabatayan ang sentimyento ng ordinaryong mga mamamayan gaya ni Juana Change, magiging makulay at pursigido ang muling pagbuhay ng protesta laban sa hindi birong banta na matapatan o mahigitan pa ni Arroyo si Marcos sa bilang ng mga taon na nakaupo sa puwesto.

http://www.pinoyweekly.org

RP to get $500-M loan for food security, judicial reform

December 10, 2008

By Paolo Romero Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend a $500-million facility for food security projects of the Philippines as well as programs that aim to reform the country’s justice system.

President Arroyo approved the loan proposals yesterday.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board chaired by the President approved a $200-million “Food Crisis Response Development Policy Operation (DPO) Loan” of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank, and the $300-million “Governance in Justice Reform Program” also known as “Governance and Justice Reform Program” of the Asian Development Bank during the Cabinet meeting at the Palace.

According to a brief provided by Dureza, the loan aims to support the government in addressing the challenges of high food prices in the short and medium term, “particularly by supporting measures to strengthen social protection and safety net to protect poor and vulnerable populations.”

“The operation focuses on the government‘s policy and institutional interventions in the area of social protection aimed at mitigating the impact of the price shocks and future shocks to the poor,” the paper said.

The operation also responds to the government’s request for quick disbursing budget support to help finance higher than the programmed expenditures for food-crisis-related expenditures.

Among the measures that will be funded by the loan are lowering and stabilization of domestic food prices in the short term; mitigation of high food and fuel prices on poor households; and improved conditional cash transfer program, it said.

The loan will be released in a single tranche and the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Agriculture, Education, Interior and Local Government, Health, National Food Authority, and the National Nutrition Council will be the implementing agencies.

The ADB loan will support the government “in its effort to create a just and equitable society and enhance the rule of law in the country,” the document said.

The ADB program aims to support the increase of resources available to the justice sector; and improving access to justice of the poor and other vulnerable groups.

The implementing agencies are the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Governments, and Budget and Management, and Office of the Solicitor General.

===========================

My Take:

What Judicial Reform?

By appointing news set of justices percieved to be Arroyo allies?  By maintaing Sec Gonzalez as DOJ chief?

By continued lip service on the cases of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings of activists, human rights workers and media persons?

Just asking.

UPLM condemns latest threats on vice chair

December 9, 2008

The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) strongly condemned the new threats directed against lawyer Emiliano Deleverio, UPLM vice chairperson, amid the still despicable human rights situation of the country.

The renewed threats on Deleverio, a Pagadian City- based human rights lawyer,  was delivered Tuesday through text message on his cellular phone, warning him to take things easy.
“Atorni au au ha ang imo batasan ky ampay ra ba na sa tagabukid. (Attorney, watch your manners, the people up the hills will surely like you),” the clearly veiled threat reads.
Deleverio received the said threats while he was attending a hearing at Camp Crame, Manila, over an administrative case against Pagadian Police Chief Oscar Buenaobra.
UPLM believes that this renewed threat on Atty. Deleverio came from the same elements who consider public interest lawyering as anathema to their anti-democratic activities. In the past, Atty. Deleverio has been at the receiving end of the military’s ire in Western Mindanao because of  his advocacies.   He has been subjected to surveillance and harassments for handling human rights cases, including that of  Angelina Bisuña Ipong, the oldest political detainee in the country today.
Atty. Deleverio co-handled with Atty. Tirsendo Poloyapoy the country’s first successful Writ of Amparo case  on the abduction of  Ruel Muñasque in October 2007.
UPLM is gravely alarmed that  attacks on peoples’ lawyers, especially from its ranks,  is still happening despite the close scrutiny and criticism made by both domestic and international human rights  institutions on the administration of Pres. Arroyo.    The recent international mission of foreign lawyers and judges last November 4 to 6 clearly pointed out that killings and harassment of lawyers and judges carrying out their legal duties are continuing, contrary to the rosy “praise releases”  and  self-serving denials coming from the Arroyo government.
From January 2001 to October 2008,  the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) has recorded 22 lawyers and 15 judges who  were killed, while 41 human rights lawyers have been subjected to various degrees of attacks.

UPLM

20 Nov 2008

For Reference:
Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate
Secretary General

Statement: The Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers on James Balao’s enforced disappearance

November 20, 2008

By SHANKAR LIMBU (Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples)
BABLOO LOITONGBAM (Human Rights Alert India)
CHERYL L. DAYTEC

It is brought to the notice of the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) that Mr. James M. Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) has been abducted by a group of armed men in civilian clothes claiming to be policemen on 17 September 2008 in La Trinidad, Benguet and that his whereabouts are still unknown to date.

A petition for a writ of amparo filed by Mr. Balao’s family with the assistance of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) is pending before the Regional Trial Court in La Trinidad, Benguet. ANIL is concerned that on the behest of CHRA and CPA, the Commission on Human Rights issued an order for the inspection of state detention facilities. But the military denied entry to Camp Aguinaldo.

There is reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Mr. Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressive harnessing of natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains under the Mining Revitalization Program, among others.

In this connection ANIL:

– Expresses its solidarity with the Balao family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and other organizations and individuals involved in the campaign to bring out James Balao. – Reminds the Philippines Government of its international human rights obligations to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Balao and to ensure his safety and security. – Strongly urges the Philippine Government to make public his present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources – Calls on the Philippine Government to become a state party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all persons from Enforced Disappearance. #

Asian lawyers urge Philippine government to surface James Balao

November 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers from various countries of Asia added their voice at urging the government to surface James Balao in a recent conference held at the Club John Hay here.

“We strongly urge the Philippine Government to make public his (Balao) present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources,” said the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) in a statement.

Participated by 25 lawyers, the conference, which ended Tuesday, was sponsored by Tebtebba Fopundation, an indigenous peoples international center for policy research and education based in this city.

Balao, who belongs to the Benguet Ibaloi tribe, was abducted by alleged policemen on September 17 in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. His whereabout is not yet determined until now despite a petition for writ of amparo his family filed in a court in Benguet Province.

Bringing case to UN

A lawyer from India, Babloo Loitongbam, a member of ANIL, said that they will utilize international venues for the case of Balao.

“We will submit our statement to the United Nations Working Group on Enforce Disappearances,” Babloo added. He explained this UN mechanism started in the 1980s in cases of enforced disappearances in Latin America.

Babloo said, “The mechanism had been proven effective in bringing the issues to the attention of the concerned governments after deliberation by the said working group.” Babloo has been lawyering in India defending human rights cases in his country since 1992.

Diplomatic “appeal”

Another ANIL member added they will bring Balao’s disappearance case through a diplomatic “appeal” to the Philippine Embassy Consulate Kathmandu, Nepal.

“We will communicate to the Philippine Embassy for them to act on the case of Balao’s disappearance,” pointed out Shankar Limbu, a Nepalese lawyer for eight years, in an interview.

This is their act of solidarity with human rights advocacy outside their country, added Limbu, who is the secretary of the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese IndigenousPeoples (LAHURNIP).

Lawyer Chyt Daytec-Yangot, a Baguio-based human rights lawyer, said ANIL’s statement asking the Philippine government to surface Balao is part of the organization’s human rights advocacy.

She added ANIL is composed of indigenous lawyers in the Asia region rendering free legal services to indigenous peoples.

ANIL claimed in its statement there is a reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressively harnessing the natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities’ ancestral domains under its mining revitalization program.

It also urged the government to become a party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Lawyers,media hit arrest of labor lawyer

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers and media groups condemned the arrest of labor lawyer and columnist Remigio Saladero Jr. and tagged it the worst attack against a human rights defender and an advocate of press freedom.

They added Saladero’s arrest and continuing detention is the manifestation of the gravity of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s human rights violation records.

“That is (Saladero’s case) the worst form of attack against human rights defenders, filing trump up cases to silence him on his human rights work and advocacy,” said Atty. Jose Mencio Molintas, appointed member of the indigenous rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC).

Saladero is a labor lawyer who also writes “Husgahan Natin,” a column discussing labor issues and human rights on the Pinoy Weekly, a web-based news outfit. He is currently detained at Calapan City Provincial Jail in Mindoro Oriental where he was brought after his arrest last October 23 in his home in Antipolo, Batangas on multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges arising from the Philippine National Police (PNP) claim that he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Molintas, who is also the vice-president for Luzon of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added he knew Saladero as dedicated to his human rights work by rendering free legal services to the workers and the poor and oppressed.

Another lawyer, Cheryll Daytec-Yangot condemned the arrest as an assault on basic human rights and a manifestation of the gravity of GMA’ s disregard on basic rights.

“If they can concoct a case against a lawyer and violate his human rights, they can do that to anyone just to stifle dissent on a regime whose record is unprecedented,” added Daytec-Yangot, a human rights lawyer here.

She added Marcos’ human rights record pales in comparison with that of Arroyo.

Press freedom advocate

Media groups on the other hand viewed the arrest and continuing detention of Saldero as a concern on press freedom.

Desiree Caluza, Secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet and a member of the NUJP National Directorate, pointed the press is enraged by how the state continues to perpetrate abuses against writers and journalists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.

“Saladero was arrested not because he was being suspected as an NPA but because he wrote criticisms on government’s inability to address the issues of the labor sector,” Caluza pointed out adding, “The government should stop thinking that the arrest of Saladero will stop those who would write and express the issues of the marginalized sectors. The will to express and write about the marginalized sector cannot be curtailed as long as the exploitation and oppression continues.”

Meanwhile, NUJP in a statement said Saladero is known as a defender of press freedom, having argued before courts against the Arroyo government’s implementation of the Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which resulted in the raid of a national broadsheet, threats of closure of broadcast stations and arrest of journalists.

“We urge the court in Calapan City to speedily act on the case. We likewise ask the members of the PNP in Calapan City to exert restraint and to refrain from further violating his rights,” appealed NUJP.

Pinoy Weekly staff refuted the PNP claim that Saladero is an NPA member. “He could not have been writing his weekly column “Husgahan Natin” and working as a high-profile labor lawyer in Manila if he was in the hinterlands as a rebel,” a staff-writer said.

NUJP appreciates Saladero’s contributions to the cause of press freedom and advancement of rights of media practitioners and workers. “We are concerned that his prosecution may be linked to his high-profile work as a human rights lawyer, government critic and columnist,” the statement said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Transparency urged in Arroyo pardons

October 7, 2008

By Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:53:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) While the decision to grant a pardon or executive clemency is a constitutional right, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be “fair and transparent” in enforcing them, senators said Tuesday.

Opposition Senator Francisco “Chiz” Escudero said the President failed to be transparent in granting executive clemency to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., was released from the National Bilibid Prison over the weekend after serving only 14 years of his double life imprisonment term for the murders of Maureen Hultman and a friend in Makati City in 1991.

“Ang hinihiling lang lagi sa Pangulo ay accountability at
transparency…bakit hindi naipagbigay alam sa publiko [What has always been asked for from the President are accountability and transparency… why was the public not informed]?” asked Escudero, noting that the decision could have been there for months.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan described the release of Teehankee as proof of the rotten justice system in the country, where rich and influential criminals could easily avail of executive clemency regardless of the severity of their crime.
“The release of Teehankee is indicative of the state of our system of justice in the country, rotting away due to failed political leadership and governance,” said Pangilinan in a text message.

But Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Teehankee’s release was the “prerogative of the President,” saying it was an “act of state that prisoners are entitled to seek executive clemency once they have served the minimum required sentence.”

Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II agreed with Enrile, but noted that the power of the President to grant pardon or lower a convict’s sentence through executive clemency was a policy that must be “objective” and not discretionary.

“It is just disheartening that applications for clemency and pardon by the rich and influential persons are immediately acted upon by our officials. It is a pity that this is not the same as far as other prisoners, who have grown old in prison, are concerned, and who until now are still awaiting government action on their cases,” Roxas said in Filipino.

“This is wrong. Justice is not being applied equally on the rich and the poor, so the people have lost trust in the country’s justice system,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the government to release an official list of those who benefited from the presidential pardon so that the public could see whether the parole was “fair” to either both rich or poor.

“The DoJ, through the Board of Pardons and Parole, should make public an inventory of convicts in heinous crimes who are pardoned or paroled, with emphasis on their social status. Is everyone getting a fair shake?” said Lacson.

Mincing no words, Lacson accused Arroyo of tipping the scales of injustice in favor of “well-connected, influential and rich convicts” who, he said, “apparently [are] getting priority even in parole.”

Lacson, a former director general of the Philippine National Police, said the list of those who benefited from pardon and parole “may give the public a glimpse into whether the rich and influential are still putting one over the justice system, even after they are convicted for heinous crimes.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s admission that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, reminded him about Claudio’s application for clemency was “very revealing,” Lacson said.

The convict’s brother Manuel is presently the Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

“Secretary Gonzalez’s admission was very revealing. If you don’t have someone in the corridors of power to ‘remind’ the authorities about your case, you will be forgotten. This is no longer a fair fight, especially for the common Filipino,” he said.

Lacson noted that Gonzalez had admitted that Arroyo was the one who had ordered the release of Teehankee.

“While no one can question the prerogative of the President in ordering the release of a convict, no one can blame the aggrieved parties for feeling sore and cheated of justice either,” said the senator.

Senator Loren Legarda said Arroyo was letting loose criminals.

“Are we turning into a country that does not respect the law, that abuses its powers of executive clemency? It is dismaying and disappointing to say the least. Are we turning our country into a country of criminals on the loose?”

Michael Lim Ubac, Philippine Daily Inquirer

(Husgahan Natin) Namalo nang dahil sa pagseselos

September 24, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

NANG dahil sa matinding selos ay nanghataw ang isang empleyado. Dahil dito, tinanggal siya ng kompanya. Pero ang pangyayari ay naganap sa isang lugar na labas na sa kompanya at sa oras na tapos na ang trabaho ng empleyado. Tama ba ang kompanya sa pagtanggal sa empleyado? Ang kasong “Michael Lagrosas vs. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Phils., Inc., et. al.” (GR No. 168637) na denisisyunan ng Korte Suprema nitong Septembre 8, 2008 ay sumasagot sa katanungang ito.

Emplyedo si Michael sa isang kompanya ng droga. Dati niyang kasintahan itong si Dulce na kasamahan niya sa trabaho. Isang araw, may dinaluhang pulong ng kompanya itong si Dulce. Ginanap ang pulong sa isang lugar sa labas ng kompanya. Matapos ang pulong, kumain si Dulce sa isang restaurant kasama ang kanyang mga kaibigan. Pagbalik niya sa car park upang kunin ang kanyang kotse, sakay na siya sa kotse ni Cesar, isa din niyang kaibigan. Naghihintay na pala doon si Michael na galit na galit. Sa nangyaring gulo ay pinalo ni Cesar ng tubo itong si Michael. Nang umawat si Dulce, aksidenteng tinamaan napalo din siya sa ulo ni Michael.

Nang malaman ng kompanya ang pangyayari, tinanggal nito sa trabaho si Michel sa trabaho. Labag daw kasi sa patakaran ng kompanya ang manakit ng kapwa empleyado. Nangatuwiran si Michael na aksidente lamang ang pagkapalo niya kay Dulce ngunit hindi nakinig ang kompanya. Napilitang magdemanda ng illegal dismissal si Michael.

Dineklara ng Labor Arbiter na hindi dapat matanggal si Michael. Tama na raw ang tatlong buwang pagkasuspinde bilang parusa sa kanyang ginawa. Hindi nakuntento ang kompanya at umapila sa National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) . Binaliktad ng NLRC ang desisyon at sinabing dapat matanggal si Michael. Humingi ng rekonsiderasyon si Michel sa NLRC at muling ibinalik nito ang desisyong pababalikin siya sa trabaho. Dinala ng kompanya ang kaso sa Court of Appeals at muling nabago ang desisyon. Ayon naman sa Court of Appeals, legal ang pagtanggal kay Michael at hindi na ito dapat pabalikin. Napilitang dalhin ni Michael sa Korte Suprema ang kaso.

Upang matanggal ang isang empleyado sa paglabag sa patakaran ng kompanya, kailangang ang patakarang ito ay may kaugnayan sa kanyang trabaho, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Sa kaso ni Michael, walang koneksyon sa kanyang trabaho ang nagawa niyang pagkakasala. Una, tapos na ang trabaho ni Michael nang maganap ang pangyayari. Sa katunayan, sa labas pa ng kompanya ito naganap. Pangalawa, hindi naman talaga ang kanyang kapwa-empleyadong si Grace ang nais niyang saktan. Ang habol niya ay hindi isang empleyado ng kompanya. Aminado naman si Grace na aksidente lamang ang pagkatama sa kanya.

Dahil dito , sabi ng Korte Suprema, hindi tama ang kompanya sa ginawa nitong pagtanggal kay Michael. Walang anuman sa ginawa ni Michael na nagpapahiwatig na hindi na siya karapat-dapat sa kanyang trabaho. Kung may nagawa man siyang kasalanan, iyon ay labas sa klanyang trabaho at hindi nakakaapekto dito.

Inutos ng Korte Suprema ang pagbalik kay Michael sa kanyang trabaho at pagbayad sa kanyang backwages. (Pinoy Weekly)

Disbarment case filed vs CA’s Sabio

September 22, 2008

A lawyer has filed a disbarment case against Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. who was suspended last Sept. 9 by the Supreme Court for two months in connection with the improprieties of appellate justices handling the Meralco ownership case.

Fernando Perito, in a petition filed with the Supreme Court Saturday, said he wanted to correct “what could have been an oversight or lapse of ethical application among members of the esteemed judiciary.”

Perito earlier sought the disbarment of Justice Sabio’s brother, PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio, for violation of legal ethics for his attempt to influence the magistrate “to help” the Government Service Insurance System in wresting control of Meralco from the Lopez family.

The SC has referred to the Bar Confidante the actions of Camilo Sabio.

The SC, in its per curiam decision, found Justice Sabio guilty of breaking the “shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases in the Court in order to preserve and protect the integrity and independence of the Court itself” when he discussed the Meralco case with Camilo and businessman Francis de Borja.

The high court noted Justice Sabio indicated undue interest in the case when he refused to yield the chairmanship of the Special Ninth Division although its regular chair, Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes returned last June 10, 2008 after a leave of absence.

Perito said the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary provides that judges should exercise the judicial function independently and free from extraneous influence, inducement, pressure, threat or interference, direct or indirect from any quarter or for any reason.

(Malaya)

Workers form new union in Lepanto mines

September 13, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A newly formed workers’ union recently obtained the labor depatment’s nod for the Consent Election.

Shipside Employees Union-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (SEU-NAFLU-KMU) on August 27 got the approval of the Department of Labor (DOLE) to conduct Consent Election among its members and other employees of the Shipside Inc. to formalize the legality of their union.

The elections will be held on September 10 at the workplaces in Mankayan, Benguet and Poro Point in San Fernando City, La Union.

Shipside Incorporated is an independent contractor operating or the Lepanto Mine Division of the Lepando Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo).

In a preliminary hearing at the DOLE-CAR on August 27 here, representatives of the union through their lawyer Federico Bunao stressed they have the right to organize a union as stated in the Labor Code of the Philippines.

Bunao then moved that a consent election should be conducted instead of a certification election as there is no other contesting party against their petition to hold such election. He said that the SEU-NAFLU-KMU is the sole legitimate organization in the establishment.

Counsel for the company, Anthony Wooden, said the company has no intention to interfere in its employees’ right to organization. It only filed appropriate remedies available to them under the law.

The SEU-NAFLU-KMU has 175 members mostly working in the underground workplaces of Lepanto mines.

The union was established on November 30 last year and was registered at the Labor Relations Division of the DOLE-CAR on March 3. It filed for a petition for a Certification Election on April 25. #Aldwin Quitasol(NorDis)

Excerpts from SC panel’s report

September 10, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:37:00 09/10/2008

Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez Jr.’s failed leadership as head of the Court of Appeals

He had been indecisive in dealing with the turmoil arising from the Meralco case. He vacillated and temporized on resolving the impasse between Justice Jose Sabio Jr. and Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes over the chairmanship of the division that should hear and decide the Meralco case.

He failed to take action on the reported bribe-offer by Meralco to Sabio. He hesitated to assert his leadership of the Court even when the parties repeatedly urged him to lay down the rule for them to follow. Was he hampered by the fact that he has relatives— two daughters— employed in the GSIS, and a sister who is a consultant thereof? He pleaded lack of authority. Was he not aware then, or did he discover too late, that… he is in fact authorized to act “on any matter” involving the Court and its members?

He should have convened the Court en banc as soon as the alleged bribery attempt on Justice Sabio was reported to him, for it was an attempt to corrupt a member of the Court, calling for the “protection and preservation of the integrity of the judicial processes” of the Court, hence an administrative matter cognizable by the Court en banc.

Vasquez admitted his “lapses in judgment.”

What is as appalling to the public as the reported attempt to corrupt a member of the Court of Appeals, was the silence, inaction and indifference that it elicited from the Presiding Justice who failed to recognize it as a crime and an outrage to the Court itself, requiring his immediate and forceful action and that of the Court en banc to deter similar future inroads upon the independence, integrity and honor of the Court.

Vasquez appeared to be unaware of some deficiencies or defects in the administrative procedures currently practiced in the Court of Appeals.

Irregular and improper conduct of Justice Vicente Q. Roxas

1. His inaction, as ponente [writer of the decision], on several motions of the parties

2. Roxas was dishonest and untruthful.

(a) Roxas admitted that the “Transcript of Final Decision,” which is supposed to be a transcript of the deliberation on July 14, 2008 of the Eighth Division on the final decision in the Meralco case was not a true “transcript” of the minutes of the meeting, but purely a “transcript from memory” because no notes were taken, no stenographer was present, and no tape recorder was used.

The so-called “transcript” is a fabrication designed to deceive that there had been compliance — when actually there was none — with the prerequisite of the IRCA [implementing rules of the CA] that consultation and/or deliberation among the members of the Division must precede the drafting of a decision.

(b) The statement in the “transcript” that it was a “recap from our previous deliberations” was another falsehood because there had been no previous deliberations.

(c) The reference in the “transcript” to a “Final Report of Justice Roxas” was also false for Roxas admittedly did not submit a “report” as ponente… The “Final Report” which he submitted was admittedly the decision itself, which he and Justice Bruselas Jr. had already signed. The “Final Report” was merely the title of the page that served as the cover of the decision.

(d) Although the parties were given 15 days after the hearing on June 23, or up to July 8, to simultaneously submit their memoranda and memoranda of authorities… Roxas prepared the decision before the parties had filed their memoranda in the case and submitted it to Justice Dimaranan-Vidal for her signature… His “rush to judgment” was indicative of “undue interest and unseemly haste,” according to J. Romero.

He cheated the parties’ counsel of time, effort and energy that they invested in the preparation of their ponderous memoranda which, as it turned out, neither he nor the other members of the Eighth Division bothered to read before signing his decision. He made a mockery of his own order for the parties to submit memoranda and rendered their compliance a futile exercise.

(e) Roxas’ testimony that when he brought the Meralco decision to Dimaranan-Vidal… it was only a draft for her to read, because she asked if she may read it, not for her to sign it, is completely false. The testimony was labeled by Dimaranan-Vidal as a lie, and she called Roxas a liar, because she did not ask to borrow the decision for her reading pleasure, but Roxas personally brought it to her office for her to sign as a member of the Special Ninth Division.

(f) Roxas was thoughtlessly disrespectful of a colleague… when he unceremoniously discarded, shredded and burned the decision that Dimaranan-Vidal had signed, because he allegedly forgot that Dimaranan-Vidal and Sabio had already been “reorganized out” of the Special Ninth Division as of July 4, hence, out of the Meralco case.

The truth, it seems, is that Roxas, who had consulted Justice Villarama Jr. on which Division should decide the Meralco case, may have been convinced that it should be the Special Ninth Division. That is why he brought his decision to Dimaranan-Vidal for her signature. However… while Dimaranan-Vidal was patiently poring over his decision, Roxas was persuaded to bring his decision to the Eighth Division (to which he and Justice B.L. Reyes belong after the July 4 reorganization of the Court), it may have dawned on him that if the case remained in the Special Ninth Division, Sabio might dissent, requiring the Presiding Justice to constitute a special division of five.

If he (Roxas) should fail to obtain a majority of the Division on his side, he would lose his ponencia; someone else would become the ponente (perhaps Sabio). That may be the reason why he junked Sabio and Dimaranan-Vidal (even if the latter concurred with his decision) because he was unsure of Sabio. He chose to cast his lot with his companions in the Eighth Division — Reyes and Bruselas — with whom he and Meralco were “comfortable.”

(g) Roxas was disrespectful to Presiding Justice Vasquez Jr., whose ruling on his “Interpleader Petition” he sought on July 21, but he promulgated the Meralco decision two days later on July 23, without waiting for Vasquez’s ruling which came out on July 24… Vasquez was embarrassed and humiliated by Reyes’ and Roxas’ lack of courtesy and respect for his position as head of the Court.

Irregularities and improprieties committed by Justice Jose L. Sabio Jr.

1. Sabio’s telephone conversation with his brother, PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio

…. As both Secretary Camilo L. Sabio and Justice Sabio, Jr. are lawyers, they should know that Secretary Sabio’s phone call to Justice Sabio constituted a violation of Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

Ironically, both of them found nothing wrong with brother Camilo’s effort to influence his younger brother’s action in the Meralco case, because both believe that our Filipino culture allows brother-to-brother conversation, even if the purpose of one is to influence the other, provided the latter does not agree to do something illegal.

For his part, although Justice Sabio against his brother’s advice, did sign the TRO in favor of Meralco, his unusual interest in holding on to the Meralco case, seemed to indicate that he may have been actually influence “to help GSIS” as Secretary Sabio had advised.

By allowing his brother to influence his conduct in the Meralco case, Justice Sabio violated Sections 1, 4 and 5, Canon 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippines Judiciary.

Justice Sabio was remiss in his duty to inform the Presiding Justice about Secretary Camilo Sabio’s call to him which he admitted was unethical as his brother tried to influence him.

2. Francis de Borja’s cell phone call to Justice Sabio, on May 31 was a wake-up call that Sabio should have heeded.

De Borja who describes himself in his affidavit as a deal maker or project packager, met Justice Sabio some 10 years ago when the latter was still an RTC Judge in Cagayan de Oro.

De Borja said in his Affidavit that: “Having enough confidence in our friendship” he decided to call up Justice Sabio on his cell phone on May 31 “to talk about the Meralco/GSIS/SEC case.”

Knowing the nature of Borja’s profession, Justice Sabio, should have been wary of the former.

Sabio’s action of discussing the Meralco case with De Borja was highly inappropriate and indiscreet.

The investigating panel finds more credible Justice Sabio’s story about De Borja’s P10-million bribe-offer on behalf of Meralco, than De Borja’s denial that he made such an offer.

However, Sabio was again remiss in his duty to make a full disclosure of the bribery attempt when he mysteriously withheld the name of De Borja as the bribe-giver.

Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes was discourteous to Presiding Justice Vasquez

Reyes addressed a letter on July 22 for Vasquez, reiterating his request that Vasquez decide which Division of the Court of Appeals [will handle the Meralco case]. The Presiding Justice told him and Roxas who had filed an interpleader the previous day, that he would study the matter. However, Reyes and Roxas decided not to wait for Vasquez’s opinion/ruling. Without withdrawing the interpleader petition nor his (Reyes’) letter request …they promulgated the Meralco decision on July 23. Vasquez was completely taken aback when he learned about it on July 24… He felt belittled and humiliated by the discourtesy of the two justices to him.

Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal was too compliant

Vidal deviated from the IRCA when she allowed herself to be rushed by Roxas to sign the Meralco decision…without reading the parties’ memoranda and without the deliberation among members of the Division required by the IRCA. She knew that the TRO would not expire until July 30 … yet she allowed herself to believe Roxas’ misrepresentation that signing the decision was urgent. Her compliance with certain dissembling practices of other justices of the Court, in violation of the IRCA, showed weakness and lack of independence on her part.

Prepared by Kate Pedroso and Schatzi Quodala, Inquirer Research

Oral argument on Subic rapist’s detention at SC Sept. 19

September 10, 2008

Nicole’s lawyer worried about corruption in CA

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will be hearing the oral argument on a case on the transfer and detention of convicted rapist Daniel Smith on September 19, the lawyer of the American Marine’s victim said.

At the same time, Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of the victim known publicly only as Nicole, acknowledged being worried about the unfolding bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals, where Smith’s appeal of his conviction for the November 1, 2005 rape at the Subic Bay Freeport is pending.

Ursua said the high court will hear the motion they filed to cite the government in contempt for whisking Smith out of the Makati City jail in December 2006, even before a court could decide on the issue, and transferring him to the American embassy in Manila, where he continues to be detained.

But Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said the rape convict is not a party to the Supreme Court case, which is between Ursua and the Office of the Solicitor General. “We are a minor party there, if not a simple observer,” he said.

Ursua said the continuing bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals worried them because the alleged pressure the executive branch of government allegedly brings to bear on appellate judges is “common knowledge.”

“We are worried that, because of the Meralco case, it is not unlikely that it could happen here, given the interest in this case, which involves the United States and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” she said.

Ursua was referring to the petition filed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) against a cease and desist order (CDO) handed down by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the election of the power firm’s board earlier this year.

The CDO had been sought by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as part of a bid to wrest control of Meralco.

The case has seen appellate justices accusing each other of corruption amid allegations of bribe offers from either Meralco or the government and even personal calls from government officials asking for a decision in favor of GSIS.

The Supreme Court created a panel of retired justices who investigated the allegations and are expected to release its findings soon.

“We are worried. We can only do our work, the rest is up to the process and the justices,” Ursua said even as she pointed out that the issue of Smith’s conviction and detention has gone beyond what he did to Nicole.

“To many people, Nicole is just collateral damage. In the context of Mindanao, where there is focus on the presence of US troops, the stakes have become higher,” she said.

Ursua recalled that Nicole testified that American troops have some form of base in the Zamboanga military camp where her mother ran a canteen.

“Remember, she talked in the beginning of her testimony about the US camp, about how they have always been there. That’s why it’s part of her life seeing American soldiers. They’re not just visiting,” she said.

Justiniano and Ursua both said that all pleadings have been submitted to the Court of Appeals since October last year. They said they are only awaiting the decision, which could either affirm the guilty conviction or reverse it.

===================

My Take:

The way the SC handled the CA controversy, and the kind of sentence they awarded to the guilty justices, Nicole’s camp has every right to be suspicious of whatever decision they’ get from the CA, specially if its against their crusade.

CA justice in bribe row dismissed

September 10, 2008

MANILA — A Court of Appeals (CA) justice was dismissed while another was suspended for two months over alleged impropriety and irregularities in handling the Meralco ownership case.

A three-man panel created by the Supreme Court (SC) recommended the sanctions, and the SC en banc, in a per curiam decision, adopted these and dismissed from service Associate Justice Vicente Roxas.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Roxas was found guilty of multiple violations of the canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, grave misconduct, dishonesty, undue interest, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

The high court likewise voted to forfeit all of Roxas’s benefits, except accrued leave credits if any, with prejudice to his re-employment in any branch or service of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. was found guilty of simple misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a justice of the CA and was ordered suspended for two months without pay, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will warrant a more severe penalty.

The court also severely reprimanded CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. for his indecisiveness, while Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was meted with a reprimand. Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal meantime was admonished by the SC to be more circumspect in the discharge of her judicial functions.

The SC also referred to the Bar Confidant the actions of Sabio’s elder brother, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Camilo Sabio, of influencing the judgment of a member of the judiciary in a pending case.

The high court also referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the allegations of Justice Sabio that businessman Francis de Borja offered to bribe him with P10 million in exchange for his inhibition in the Meralco case.

Except for Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who were allowed to inhibit themselves from the case, the magistrates voted as follows: 12 voted to dismiss Roxas, while one voted for his suspension from service for six months.

For Justice Sabio, 10 SC justices voted for his two-month suspension, one voted for six-month suspension, one for reprimand only as he should be credited for being a “whistleblower,” and one for his dismissal from service.

Eight SC justices voted to reprimand Reyes and five were for his suspension from service for one month. As to the rest, the voting was unanimous.

Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Edgardo Cruz, and Apolinario Bruselas managed to escape censure from the SC although they were also investigated by the panel for their participation in the fiasco.

In ruling for Roxas’s dismissal, the SC said the CA justice “inexcusably failed to act on a number of motions of the parties prior to the promulgation of the (Meralco) decision,” such as the Government Service Insurance System’s motions that he inhibit himself and to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Eighth Division issued in the initial stages of the case.

The High Tribunal likewise said Roxas has been dishonest and untruthful in relation to his disclosures to the panel, citing the alleged fabrication of the “transcript,” which he said was “designed to deceive that there had been compliance with the prerequisite of the Internal Rules of the CA (Irca) that consultation and/or deliberation among the members of the division must precede the drafting of a decision.”

“Indeed, the fabrications and falsehoods that Justice Roxas blithely proffered to the panel in explanation/justification of his questioned handling of the Meralco case demonstrated that he lacks the qualification of integrity and honesty expected of a magistrate and a member of the appellate court,” the per curiam decision stated.

Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, dishonesty is considered a serious offense that may warrant the penalty of dismissal from service, even for the first offense.

The panel also found that Justice Sabio committed improprieties, citing the telephone call made by his brother. It stated that Justice Sabio failed to uphold the standard of independence and propriety expected of him as a magistrate of the CA.

It further noted that although Justice Sabio signed the TRO in favor of Meralco contrary to his brother’s advice, his “unusual interest in holding on to the Meralco case” seemed to indicate that he might have been actually influenced by his brother “to help GSIS.”

The panel said: “Justice Sabio broke the shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases in the Court in order to preserve and protect the integrity and independence of the Court itself,” when he talked with brother and with de Borja about the Meralco case.

The panel cited that Justice Sabio adamantly refused to yield the chairmanship of the Special Ninth Division although its regular chairman, Reyes, had returned to duty on June 10, 2008.

Vasquez, for his part, was severely reprimanded for his failure to act promptly in order to avert the incidents that damaged the image of the CA, with a warning that similar acts in the future will warrant a more severe penalty.

The SC said Vasquez failed to provide leadership expected of him as head of the appellate court, and his admission of his lapses in judgment.

“This Court is of the view that much of the trouble now being faced by the CA could have been averted by timely, judicious, and decisive action on the part of the presiding justice (PJ). Certainly this unpleasant and trying episode in failure to act in the early part of his tenure as PJ has indelibly impressed upon him what is required of him as leader of the second highest court in the land,” the SC said.

In so far as Reyes is concerned, the SC adopted the panel’s finding that he was “discourteous” to Vasquez when he signed Roxas’s ponencia despite his July 22, 2008 request-letter to the presiding justice to decide which division of the CA – the Eight Division with him as chairman or the Special Ninth Division chaired by Justice Sabio – should promulgate the decision on the Meralco case.

As far as the role of Vidal, the SC panel found her “too compliant” particularly when she deviated from the Irca and allowed herself to be rushed by Roxas to sign the Meralco decision on July 8, 2008, without reading the parties’ memoranda and without the deliberation among members of the division required by the Irca.

Roxas is the second magistrate of the CA to be dismissed during the stint of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, following Elvi John Asuncion.

His dismissal came following a resolution of the SC last August 19 that fined him P15,000 for his failure to resolve two motions for reconsideration in another case lodged in his division, with a stern warning that his commission of any act of impropriety in the future will merit a more severe penalty.

In that case, Roxas was charged with dishonesty and grave misconduct but the SC dismissed these charges and found him liable only for failure to resolve the motion for reconsideration and accountable for undue delay in resolving the motion for reconsideration, in violation of Section 9 (1), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as well as of Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary.

The SC decision was based on the report and recommendations of the panel composed of retired SC justices Carolina Grino-Aquino, Flerida Ruth Romero, and Romeo Callejo that found the five justices liable for administrative offenses, including violations of the Irca and the Code of Ethics of lawyers and justices.

Roxas was unavailable for comment as of Tuesday evening, but his staff said the CA justice has locked himself inside his chambers the whole day and left early after learning from the media about his dismissal.

Justice Sabio, who also could not be reached for comment, was in Bohol for an official leave, but his staff said he was to return to Manila late Tuesday afternoon as he still has classes at the Ateneo Law School in the evening. (ECV/Sunnex)

Husgahan Natin: Kolumnista: Empleyado ba ng pahayagan?

September 8, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

ANG isang kolumnista ba na nagsusulat ng kolum sa isang pahayagan ay maituturing na empleyado ng pahayagan? Sinagot ng Korte Suprema ang tanong na ito sa kasong “Wilhelmina Orozco vs. The Fifth Division of the Honorable Court of Appeals, Philippine Daily Inquirer, et. al.” (G.R. No. 155207, August 13, 2008).

Sa nasabing kaso, isang kolumnista sa isang sikat na pahayagan itong si Wilhelmina. Nagsusulat siya ng kolum dito tuwing linggo at binabayaran ng pahayagan sa bawat kolum na nailalathala.

Isang araw, bigla na lamang tinigil ng pahayagan ang paglabas sa kolum ni Wilhelmina. Kinausap niya ang editor. Pinaliwanag naman nito na napagpasyahan ng patnugutan na magbawas ng kolumnista upang mapaganda ang pahayagan. Sa kasamaang palad, napagpasyahan na ang kolum ni Wilhelmina ang isa sa mga mababawas.

Nagsampa ng kasong illegal dismissal si Wilhelmina sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter. Bilang depensa, sinabi naman ng pahayagan na hindi nito empleyado si Wilhelmina. Pinanalo ng Labor Arbiter si Wilhelmina at inutos sa kompanya na ibalik ito sa kanyang trabaho at bayaran ng backwages. Nag-apela ang pahayagan sa National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) at kinatigan nito ang Labor Arbiter. Dinala ng pahayagan ang kaso sa Court of Appeals at dito, naiba ang desisyon. Panalo naman ang pahayagan at sinabing wala itong obligasyon na ibalik si Wilhelmina dahil hindi niya ito empleyado. Dinala ni Wilhelmina ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Upang masagot ang katanungan kung si Wilhelmina ay empleyado ng pahayagan, sabi ng Korte Suprema, apat na bagay ang ating titingnan. Una, ang pahayagan ba ang kumuha kay Wilhelmina? Pangalawa, ang pahayagan ba ang nagpapasahod sa kanya? Pangatlo, ang pahayagan ba ang nagtiwalag sa kanya? Pang-apat, may kontrol ba ang pahayagan sa pamamaraan kung paano ginagawa ni Wilhelmina ang kanyang trabaho?

Walang duda na sa unang tatlong tanong, may sabit ang pahayagan, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema. Ngunit ang pang-apat na tanong ang pinakamahalaga. May kontrol ba ang pahayagan sa paraan o proseso kung paano ginagawa ni Wilhelmina ang kanyang trabaho? Kung mayroon, empleyada nito si Wilhelmina. Kung wala itong kontrol, hindi nito empleyada si Wilhelmina.

Walang kontrol ang pahayagan sa mga pamamaraan kung paano ginagawa ni Wilhelmina ang kanyang mga kolum, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema. Hindi dinidikta ng pahayagan kung ano ang isusulat na artikulo ng kolumnista sa kanyang kolum linggu-linggo. Hindi rin kontrolado ng pahayagan ang estilo sa pagsusulat ng mga kolum na ito. Ganoon din kung anong uri ng pananaliksik o pag-aaral ang kailangang gawin, para maisulat ang nasabing mga kolum. Lahat ng mga ito ay diskarte na ni Wilhelmina at walang pakialam ang pahayagan.

Oo nga’t nasa patnugutan ng pahayagan kung tatanggapin ba nila o hindi ang mga sinulat ng kolumnista. Subalit ang kapangyarihang ito ay nagsasaad ng kontrol sa resulta ng paggawa, hindi sa pamamaraan o proseso nito. Ang kailangan ng batas para maituring si Wilhelmina na empleyada ng pahayagan ay ang kapangyarihan ng patnugutan na baguhin ang pamamaraan at proseso ng kanyang pagsulat sa kanyang mga kolum; hindi ang kapangyarihan upang tanggihan ang kanyang mga kolum na ginawa, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Hindi natin maihahambing ang isang kolumnistang tulad ni Wilhelmina sa isang reporter. Ang isang reporter ay kontrolado ng patnugutan sa paraan ng kanyang pangangalap at pagsulat ng balita. Maaari siyang italaga sa isang “beat” lamang. Ang kanyang balitang isusulat ay nakapaloob sa “beat” na ito. Kailangan din niyang ipaabot sa editor kung anong balita ang kanyang sinusulat at ibigay ito sa tamang oras, upang hindi magiging bilasa ang mga ito. Bawal din sa reporter ang magtrabaho sa ibang pahayagan. Kaya’t maliwanag na ang isang reporter ay empleyado ng pahayagan.

Sa panig ng mga kolumnista, hindi sila dinidiktahan ng editor kung ano ang kanilang isusulat. Hindi nila kailangang magpaalam sa patnugutan bago sila sumulat ng isang bagay. Malaya din silang makapagsulat sa ibang pahayagan basta’t nagagawa nila ang kanilang lingguhang kolum. Maliwanag na hindi sila empleyado ng pahayagan.

Talo ang kaso ni Wilhelmina.(PinoyWeekly)

6,533 law grads take Bar exams

September 7, 2008

By Sandy Araneta
Sunday, September 7, 2008

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A record number of 6,533 law graduates will take the 2008 Bar examinations starting today at the De La Salle University (DLSU) on Taft Avenue, Manila, the Supreme Court said.

In a report posted on the SC website, Deputy Clerk of Court and Bar Confidant Ma. Cristina Layusa said of the total 6,560 petitions to take the Bar exams, 11 had been denied.

Sixteen Bar candidates have also withdrawn, reducing the number of examinees to 6,533 as of press time yesterday.

The exams will be held on all four Sundays of the month – Sept. 7, 14, 21 and 28.

Last year, 5,626 examinees took the 2007 Bar exams, and only 1,289 examinees, or 22.91 percent, passed.

The first Bar Exams were held in 1901 with 13 examinees.

Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga, who chairs the 2008 Committee on Bar Examinations, said this year’s exams have the “most number of candidates, the most number of rooms (to be used).”

This year’s examinees will use 95 rooms, five conference rooms, and Central Plaza, and 57 additional classrooms, including six theater-type rooms, of the DLSU Taft campus.

Also a record number are the 1,440 personnel assigned to help ensure the successful conduct of this year’s exams.

Layusa said they include building coordinators, superintendents, supervisors, headwatchers, watchers, bar assistants and special assistants.

Operatives of the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Manila Police District’s traffic, area security, bomb disposal and mobile units, as well as medical and dental personnel, will be deployed in the area on all four Sundays.

Layusa urged the examinees to come early today since the annual Alay Lakad along Roxas Boulevard may affect the traffic situation in the area.

The gates of DLSU will open as early as 5 a.m. on the Sundays of the Bar exams.

A portion of Taft Avenue from Quirino Avenue to Pablo Ocampo Sr. street (formerly Vito Cruz) will be closed to vehicular traffic from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. on exam dates. (See traffic rerouting story on Page 11.)

During the Aug. 28 briefing of personnel for the 2008 Bar exams, Tinga urged them to serve in the “most transparent and the best-run professional exams.”

“Let us do our duty well… that way, the Bar exams will remain to be the most trusted, most honest, most popular,” he said.

It was announced in the Bar briefing that Supreme Court Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura will chair the 2009 Committee on Bar Examinations.

The High Court has adopted guidelines on the personal conduct of examinees and for activities within the perimeter of the venue of the Bar exams.

Stressing that the Bar exams are in the nature of a court proceeding, the SC enjoined all examinees and all other persons within the “perimeter area to observe the same conduct and decorum as they would when attending a court hearing.”

The SC said no noise-making activities of any kind shall be allowed in the perimeter area from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on any of the four Sundays of the Bar exams.

“Alcoholic beverages and any kind of deadly weapon shall be absolutely prohibited within the said area for the duration of the exams,” the SC said.

On the observance of proper decorum, the SC said, “No improper or unbecoming conduct in the perimeter area shall be allowed for the duration of the Bar Examinations, including but not limited to: ‘streaking’ or any other form of exhibitionism; any form of parade; the playing of live or loud music; cheerleading exhibitions; political demonstrations, gambling, and other similar activities that would disrupt the exams.”

At the end of exam time at 5 p.m. in all four Sundays, any conduct or activity within the perimeter area shall be governed and regulated in accordance with the relevant laws and local government ordinances, the SC said.

The Depth of Corruption at the Appeals Court

September 2, 2008

The Meralco case is not about public interest; it is all about conflicting business interests. And it is being decided not on the basis of the strength of arguments but by the power of money and influence. This is the depth by which our system of governance, and of rendering justice have been corrupted.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, no. 30, August 31- September 6, 2008

First came the seeming whistle blower, Justice Jose Sabio Jr. who claimed that he was offered P10 million ($217,746 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.925) by someone close to the Lopezes to step aside and let Justice Bienvenido Reyes preside over the division that would decide on the intra-corporate dispute between the Lopez family and GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Chair Winston Garcia in the battle for control over the Manila Electric Company (Meralco). But suspicions shifted to purported whistle blower Sabio after businessman Francis de Borja appeared saying that Sabio told him he was offered a Supreme Court seat and an undisclosed amount of money to rule in favor of GSIS.  Sabio, according to Borja, said that it would take P50 million ($1,088,731) for him to resist pressures from the Arroyo government.

Who is telling the truth?

It did not help any that at the hearings of the investigation panel formed by the Supreme Court (SC), which was comprised by retired justices, the honorable justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) started bickering and accusing each other of violating judicial processes to favor one of the contending parties. What was revealing during the hearings was that the bickering justices gave inconsistent statements; and worse, there were numerous violations of judicial processes and ethics putting into question the integrity of the second highest court of the land. Clearly, partisan interests were at work and the (dis)honorable appellate court justices were acting in behalf of opposing parties.

Then came the admission of Justice Sabio that his brother Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chair Camilo Sabio called him up suggesting that he rule in favor of GSIS. But that was not all, Camilo Sabio, during his testimony, revealed that he decided to call his brother after Jesus Santos, lawyer of Jose Miguel Arroyo and GSIS trustee, told him that the division handling the Meralco case, of which his brother was a member, was about to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in favor of Meralco.

The SC investigation panel was rightfully appalled at the obvious leakage of what was transpiring inside the walls of the appellate court. But what was more appalling was the PCGG chair who supposedly does not have anything to do with the workings and decisions of the Court of Appeals suddenly calling his brother lobbying for a decision favorable to GSIS. (Much like a Commission on Elections chair getting involved in the approval of a government contract that has got nothing to do with elections!) And he found nothing wrong with it?  The investigation panel hit the nail in the head when they said that Sabio was blurring the line between what was ethical and not, between what was right and what was wrong.

Worse, he admitted that he did so because he was prompted by a GSIS trustee who just happens to be, or so they claim, the lawyer of the husband of the president.  Santos was quick to claim that Jose Miguel Arroyo has got nothing to do with his act of trying to influence the decision of the CA.

The root of the controversy

The whole controversy and intra-corporate battle for control over Meralco began when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unleashed her trusted enforcer Winston Garcia of the GSIS to wrest control of the electric distribution company purportedly to stop Meralco from overcharging its customers. PCGG Chair Sabio was using the same argument to justify his actions.

If the Arroyo government is really serious in bringing down electricity rates and preventing Meralco from overcharging, it should have reviewed and repealed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which deregulated and privatized the power industry thereby enabling power generating and distributing companies to set rates without seeking the approval of the government. It also enabled the Lopez family to purchase power generating companies, giving it the opportunity to control rates further and to profit twice: from generation and distribution charges.  Meralco’s being the largest power utility company providing power to 4.5 million people in 25 cities and 86 municipalities including Metro Manila, its vertically-integrated position – owning both power generation and distribution companies – and its profitability make it a favorite target of dictators and their greedy business partners.

Meralco posted a net income of P2.48 billion ($54,001,088) from January to June 2008 compared to P2.34 billion ($50,952,640) in the same period in 2007. Its distribution revenues alone amounted to P12.85 billion ($279,804,028) while its total revenues reached P49.1 billion ($1,069,134,458). These do not yet include the profits of its power generation companies.  Some quarters suspect – and not without basis – that the Arroyo government is interested in wresting Meralco from the Lopez family to hand it over to a favorite business partner, which is also into power distribution and generation, albeit not even half as big as Meralco.

The major issues involved

The controversy surrounding the handling of the Court of Appeals of the Meralco-GSIS case has turned out to be not merely a simple case of bribery nor has it put into question the integrity of only one or two justices; it is all about the independence of the second highest court of the land and the competence, or rather integrity, of its justices.

It is also not merely an intra-corporate battle, it is a tug of war between an economically powerful and monopolistic family, the Lopezes, and the Arroyo government, which allowed monopolies to exist, in the first place, because of its policies of deregulation and privatization.  The only problem for the Arroyo government is that the Lopez family is more identified with the opposition than part of its retinue of political supporters and business partners.

The Meralco case is not about public interest; it is all about conflicting business interests. And it is being decided not on the basis of the strength of arguments but by the power of money and influence. This is the depth by which our system of governance, and of rendering justice have been corrupted. And as we have mentioned in an earlier analysis, this case manifests the failure of justice and the failure of governance under the Arroyo government, where the distinction between what is right and what is wrong has been obfuscated. Bulatlat

Access of the Poor to Justice in an Elite-Dominated Constitutional Government and Society*

September 2, 2008

I think no one will disagree with the proposition that our problems in the judiciary, in the legislature, in the executive branch, in the rest of our institutions and processes are inextricably intertwined and will defy lasting solutions unless we dismantle the prevailing unjust social and economic order and establish a truly free, democratic and sovereign nation.

BY JUDGE AD LITEM ROMEO T. CAPULONG
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No, 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

In his speech on June 30, 2008 on the topic of our forum this morning, our keynote speaker, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, noted that “the poor complain that the playing field in our justice system is tilted against them.”  He attributed this complaint to a variety of reasons, one of which is that judges “decide cases without considering their social context.”  Allow me to add my piece to this keen observation by saying affirmatively that this complaint is true and unquestionably supported by empirical data and experience.  This is particularly true in the struggle of poor Filipinos against economic, social and cultural injustice.

My topic in the program is to define the framework of this struggle from the perspective and aspirations of the oppressed and exploited poor under the prevailing economic, social and cultural order or, more appropriately disorder, to borrow the terminology of a perceptive political analyst.  At the outset, I wish to make it clear, that just like the other participants, I am keenly aware of the limitations of the rule-making power of the Supreme Court to widen the access of the poor to our justice system.  But at the same time, I think we can now agree that our discussions and proposals cannot be confined to procedural issues and remedies.  And to achieve what I consider as our minimum objective of identifying the barriers to the poor’s access to justice and their causes and remedies, we can set aside the fine distinction and lump together both procedural and substantive matters.  In fact, our thesis should be to make all the three branches of government under the tripartite system work together to address this fundamental problem of inadequate and, in most cases, lack of access of the poor to redress injustices committed against them by the rich and the powerful.

We all know that we live and suffer in a stratified society and under a government that is dominated by a tiny elite.  This tiny elite has a monopoly of political power and economic resources which they use and often abuse to tilt the scales of justice in their favor.  We have a long history of anti-colonial and neo-colonial struggle against foreign domination, particularly against the United States, transnational corporations and multi-lateral institutions whose means and machinery of control are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and effective.

We are endowed with rich natural resources but millions of Filipinos are mired in deep and widespread poverty under a system characterized by a backward, agrarian and pre-industrial economy that serves the narrow interests of foreign and domestic elites.  We have not been allowed to develop as a people and to chart our own future.  An overwhelming majority of our people continue to be disenfranchised and victimized by human rights abuses, oppression and exploitation.  Our elections are a farce in which the people are given the illusion that they are participating in a meaningful process.  In reality, they are not being offered real choices in terms of adopting a pro-poor and pro-Filipino program of government and choosing leaders who will represent their genuine interests.  Our electorate is being deceived, taught and induced to sell their votes, cheated, intimidated or sometimes killed.  We have been electing to office different factions of the Filipino elite alternating in power in a vicious cycle of self-interest, mutual accommodation, constantly shifting personal and political loyalties and dynasty-building.  The result is a government that is perennially unable to provide the most basic needs of the poor in health care, education, shelter and livelihood.

I venture the view that this, in brief, is the social context suggested by Chief Justice Puno in understanding the problems of the judiciary and the variety of reasons why justice and equity for the poor in their true meaning remain “an ideal that is far from the reality of their everyday lives.”  I respectfully submit that the bench and the bar as well as policy-makers should have as their guiding and over-riding principle the foregoing social context in the following cases and conflicts involving the poor:

1.    The peasants in their struggle for genuine land reform and their legal battle against land-grabbing and eviction in the name of so-called development by land-grabbers masquerading as property developers;

2.    The workers in their struggle for decent wages and working conditions and in their struggle to organize trade unions and associations that empower them and represent their genuine interests;

3.    The urban poor and informal settlers, oftentimes disparagingly called “squatters,” in the defense of their right against summary eviction and for adequate relocation site, housing and livelihood;

4.    The migrant workers in the defense of their human rights under national and international law in the host country and in their struggle against the apathy and callousness of their own government to their problems as migrant workers and to the problems that beset their families in the homeland;

5.    The small fisherfolk in their struggle to defend their fishing grounds against the intrusions of local and foreign fishing magnates;

6.     The indigenous people in the defense of their ancestral domain against land-grabbers and local and foreign mining companies;

7.    Political victims  of violations of human, civil and political rights such as extra-judicial killings, involuntary disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and arbitrary detention committed by the state through its police, military and paramilitary forces; and

8.    The public in general on legal issues like environmental protection and consumer rights.

There is almost unanimity on the ills that afflict our judicial system and the problems of the marginalized poor in accessing this system to enforce or defend their economic, social and cultural rights.  I fully agree with the Chief Justice that the following are seemingly insurmountable problems waiting for immediate short-term solutions:  “lack of knowledge of their rights under the law, lack of resources to fight for their rights, exorbitant cost of justice, lack or ineffective legal representation, delays in the dispensation of justice, complex and incomprehensible legal procedure, anti-poor laws, judges who decide cases without considering their social context, etc.”  With due respect, may I add to this list three major weaknesses and vulnerabilities that pervade and continue to deteriorate in our courts and among the judges today.  And these are:  (1) bribery and corruption;  (2) political and other forms of undue pressure;  and (3) our sub-culture of pakiki-sama and utang na loob.

To be candid, the victims of these judicial afflictions are generally the defenseless poor – those who belong to the marginalized sectors I just mentioned who are forced to go to court either to defend or to assert their economic, social and cultural rights against formidable adversaries who have unlimited resources and the full support of the government, including the military, police, local officials and private armies.

I believe that there are two ways of addressing the multi-level barriers that impede the poor’s access to justice.  One is to consider simple measures and remedies that are doable in the short term.  Judging from the inputs of the first forum and this forum, the concrete proposals have been comprehensive because they are anchored on actual experience.  The other way of addressing these barriers is to examine scientifically their roots and be part of the wider national struggle to dismantle these roots that afflict not only the justice system but more importantly, the whole Philippine society.  I think no one will disagree with the proposition that our problems in the judiciary, in the legislature, in the executive branch, in the rest of our institutions and processes are inextricably intertwined and will defy lasting solutions unless we dismantle the prevailing unjust social and economic order and establish a truly free, democratic and sovereign nation.  And this is the reason why, as a concluding part of my brief presentation, I only have one concrete proposal which is not only both procedural and substantive, but also fundamental and structural.  With your permission, Honorable Chief Justice, colleagues and friends, without sounding sarcastic or skeptical because I am coming to you with clean hands and absolute sincerity allow me to propose in this forum the adoption and promulgation not only by the Supreme Court but by our people of what I call the writ of Andres Bonifacio.

*Presented at the forum Kabuhayan, Karapatan, Katarungan sponsored by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Malcolm Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City

** Justice R. T. Capulong is the Co-chairperson of NUPL and President of the Public Interest Law Center

SC to Work for Social Justice – Chief Justice Puno

September 2, 2008

Chief Justice Reynato Puno

“Maaasahan [ang Korte Suprema] na gagawa ng lahat ng kayang gawin upang ang social justice na isang mandato ng ating Saligang Batas ay magkaroon ng saysay sa ating mga kababayan.” Chief Justice Reynato Puno

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

Chief Justice Reynato Puno said that the Supreme Court will consider expanding the writ of amparo, dealing with harassment suits, setting up of small claims courts, among others, to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of the poor.

Writ of amparo

In his speech at the forum titled, “Kabuhayan, Karapatan, Katarungan,” (Livelihood, Rights, Justice) organized by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), August 28, Puno said that the writ of amparo may be expanded to protect economic, social and cultural rights of the poor.

The writ of amparo was promulgated by the High Court on October 24, 2007 to provide legal remedy for victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Quoting reports from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Puno said that the Commission on Human Rights’ (CHR) monitored a significant drop in incidents of extrajudicial killings. Meanwhile, United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston noted the improvement in the situation after the SC introduced new rules.

Puno said that with the effectiveness of the writ of amparo, the SC will seriously consider expanding its scope. He said that in Mexico, the writ of amparo also covers social, economic and cultural rights.

The chief justice said that the writ of amparo, for instance, could be used as a protection against demolition of urban poor communities.

The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), an organization of urban poor, welcomed Puno’s statement.

The group complained that Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) always decide for the demolition of their communities. Kadamay’s Ed Lecson, said they had no one to turn to during demolitions.

Ang pamahalaan natin, magaling mag-drawing ng proyektong pangkaunlaran pero hindi kasama sa guhit ang maralitang tagalunsod,” (The government is good at drawing so-called development projects but the urban poor is always excluded in the plan.) said Lecson.

Harassment suits

Puno also vowed to consider the proposal of the NUPL regarding the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP).

In his presentation, Julius Matibag, NUPL member, said that SLAPP cases are essentially harassment suits. “Layon nitong manakot, manggipit sa mga kritiko… mas mapanganib, mas mapaniil sa karapatang pang-ekonomiya,” (These are intended to threaten, harass critics…more dangerous and more repressive of economic rights) he said.

Matibag said that victims of SLAPP cases are burdened and threatened with costly and long litigation, danyos perwisyo (payment of damages) and detention.

The NUPL, in its proposal, defines SLAPP as 1) any civil complaint, counter-claim, criminal complaint or information, or administrative complaint; 2) filed against individual or individuals, groups, labor unions, entity or associations, community residents, or the like; 3) by reason, or arising out, of their exercise of freedom of speech, expression, or of the press, or of the right to peaceably assemble or petition the government for redress of grievances in matters of public concern; 4) intended merely to harass, vex, exert undue pressure, or stifle the resources of such individual or individuals, groups, labor unions, entity or associations, community residents, or the like.

SLAPP cases, Matibag said, are usually used by mining companies and banana plantations against community residents, indigenous people, environmentalists, media; landlords against peasants; employers against workers; universities and colleges against students; and, public figures, politicians against critics, media.

Matibag cited multi-million libel suits, cases of slander, grave coercion, illegal assembly direct assault resistance, disobedience and injunctions as some of the SLAPP cases filed.

In their reports, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment enumerated harassment suits filed against their members and supporters.

Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, called it criminalization of agrarian cases. He said that 13 peasants in Cagayan Valley were charged with arson, another 13 were charged with illegal logging in Cadiz. Some were charged with theft.

Roger Soluta, KMU deputy secretary general, also opposed the criminalization of labor disputes. He said that workers, especially those who are on strike, are charged with various common crimes.

Meanwhile, Kalikasan National Coordinator Clemente Bautista disclosed that at least 100 environmental advocates have been slapped with charges because of their opposition to mining and logging. Bautista said 80 teachers in Sibuyan were charged with illegal assembly and grave coercion. In Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, Oxiana Royalco Resources mining company filed a petition for permanent injunction against 24 leaders of indigenous people to prevent them from continuing their barricade.

Puno said, ”Tutugunan [ng Korte Suprema] ang SLAPP na ginagamit upang ligaligin, guluhin at pigilin ang nagtataguyod ng karapatan konstitusyonal na pang-ekonomiya, pang-pamayanan at pang-kultura.” (The Supreme Court will address SLAPP that is being used to harass, stop those who advance their constitutionally-guaranteed economic, social and cultural rights.)

Puno added that the High Court will also consider SLAPP back actions for damages against the complainant.

He said that they will study the different approaches used in the US, Canada, Europe where SLAPP cases and SLAPP back actions originated.

Small claims courts

Puno also announced that the Supreme Court is finalizing the rules of procedure for small claims cases. He said that pilot courts will be chosen hear small cases involving the poor.

Hindi na kailangan ng abogado, hindi na susundin ang masalimuot na rules of procedure,” (There will be no need for a lawyer; the complicated rules of procedure will not be followed.) Puno said.

Almost all groups who presented their reports complained of the lack of pro-bono lawyers.

Puno said the Supreme Court aims to bring the success of small claims courts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States to the Philippines.

Civil cases with damages not exceeding P100,000 ($2,177 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.925) may also be heard in these courts, said Puno.

Other concerns, recommendations

Jose Enrique Africa, research head of Ibon Foundation, proposed that trade deals, economic and social policies be subjected to judicial review.

Africa said that the effects of macroeconomic policies violate the people’s economic, social and cultural rights.
In a statement, Bayan asserted that trade and investment agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO), Mining Act of 1995 and the Malampaya natural gas project must be reviewed. “Many of these policies have upheld the globalization paradigm which sought to open up the country to investments and trade, effectively removing protections for domestic economy and national patrimony,” Bayan said.

Writ of Andres Bonifacio

CJ Puno with BayanMeanwhile, Ad Litem Judge Romeo Capulong, president of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and chairperson of the NUPL provided the framework of the struggle of poor Filipinos for economic, social and cultural rights.

Capulong said, “We live and suffer in a stratified society and under a government that is dominated by a tiny elite. This tiny elite has a monopoly of political power and economic resources which they use and often abuse to tilt the scales of justice in their favor.”

He added, “We are endowed with rich natural resources but million of Filipinos are mired in deep and widespread poverty under a system characterized by a backward, agrarian and pre-industrial economy.”

He said that marginalized sectors, the defenseless poor, are forced to go to court either to defend or assert their economic, social and cultural rights against ‘formidable adversaries’ who have unlimited resources and full support of the government, including the military, police, local officials and private armies.

Capulong said, “…our problems in the judiciary, in the legislature, in the executive branch are inextricably intertwined and will defy lasting solutions unless we dismantle the prevailing unjust social and economic order and establish a truly, free, democratic and sovereign nation.”

He proposed the adoption of what he called the writ of Andres Bonifacio.

In reaction, Puno said, “I fully concurred with all the statements of Judge Capulong. Totoong lahat lalo na ang tungkol sa elite-dominated government and society. Bulag at bingi na lang ang hindi makakakita ng katotohanang iyan.” (All of it is true especially those about the elite-dominated government and society. One has to be blind and deaf in order not to see the truth in that.)

Puno said, “Maaasahan [ang Korte Suprema] na gagawa ng lahat ng kayang gawin upang ang social justice na isang mandato ng ating Saligang Batas ay magkaroon ng saysay sa ating mga kababayan.” (Rest assured that the Supreme Court would do everything within its power so that social justice, which is one of the mandates of the Constitution, would have meaning for our countrymen.) Bulatlat

Camp John Hay lawyers face disbarment raps

August 27, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — When it rains, it pours.

Camp John Hay lawyers Georgina Alvarez and Hilario Belmes are facing disbarment raps before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

This after being sued last month for robbery, malicious mischief, grave threats and coercion before the City Prosecutor’s Office together with other key officials of the privately run-Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) in connection to complaints by business concessionaire Corazon Aniceto who claimed her restaurant inside the John Hay Special Economic Zone was illegally demolished upon their orders.

Aniceto, through her lawyer Emiliano Gayo, claimed before the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline that Alvarez, also CJHDevCo’s Senior Vice President and Belmes, the firm’s legal officer, “took the law into their hands and abetted their co-officers and co-employees of CJH to take the law into their hands in clear grave abuse of rights.”

The disbarment complaint against Alvarez and Belmes also emanates from Aniceto’s July 9 complaint before Assistant City Prosecutor Rolando Vergara on the demolition of her restaurant El Rancho by CJHDevCo on the wee hours of the morning on April 30, 2008 despite an injunctive relief already filed in court.

“Without any court order or any notice to me, (they) demolished the structures of the restaurant and forcibly took away all the things there,” Aniceto claimed.

Aniceto accordingly lost at least P5 million of her hard-earned money from her sheer entrepreneurial efforts for the past decades.

Lawyer Gayo insisted “although there was notice to vacate, there was no notice of demolition,” though Alvarez had insisted that the concessionaire’s contract had lapsed and the firm needs the area for the Ayala development plan, thus their notice for her to walk away from John Hay.

Gayo had suspected Aniceto was singled out citing why other structures beside the former El Rancho restaurant have not been demolished until now.

Including Alvarez and Belmes, Aniceto had sued CJHEDevCo Officer-in-charge Frederico Alquiros, Project development officer Engr. Saldy Masarate, Chief security officer Albert Escalderon, Supply Officer Austin Tiongan, Security supervisor Renato Reyes and several others John Does for the same criminal and civil suit.

Lawyer’s Code breach

As lawyers, Alvarez and Belmes breached the Code of Professional responsibility and their Oath of Office when they allegedly ordered the demolition despite a case still pending in court Aniceto claimed before the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline,.

The complainant also claimed that the demolition at early dawn “was to surprise (me) and render (me) unable to seek injunctive reliefs.” Alvarez and Belmes “not only disrespected and disregarded the law and legal process, but engaged in unlawful conduct and abetted activities aimed at defiance of the law and at lessing confidence in the legal system in violation of their oath as lawyers and of Canon 1, rules 1.01 and 1.02 of the Code of Professional responsibility,” she added.

Canon 1 states that a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes. Its Rule 1.01 stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct, while Rule 1.02 says that a lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.

“These tenets underscore the role of a lawyer as the vanguard of our legal system, which both Alvarez and Belmes defied and violated,” Gayo explained .

By taking the law into their hands, Gayo further claimed, Alvarez and Belmes, have caused Aniceto to lose her sole source of livelihood, in violation of her Constitutional right not to be deprived of property, without due process of law.

Aniceto was earlier allowed by the courts to litigate as a “pauper litigant” because she had nothing to pay for the filing fees at the prosecutor’s office here.

Harassment suit?

Still, Alvarez claimed the disbarment case is still part of Aniceto’s harassment against them. “It is unfortunate that aside from harassing our officers with criminal cases, comes this,” she said

The CJHDevCo senior vice-president also claimed that these were already “part of desperate moves (of Aniceto) to unfairly attack counsels.”

Alvarez vowed they would face the suits squarely.

Aniceto’s earlier criminal complaint was also tagged by Alvarez as “totally without basis”.

Alvarez had said that Aniceto’s axe to grind comes from her “losing the injunctive relief she earlier sought but was denied.”

Aniceto earlier petitioned Executive Judge Edilberto Claravall for a Temporary Restraining Order and was granted.  When the TRO lapsed, again Aniceto asked for a Preliminary Injunction but was denied.

Gayo filed for a motion for reconsideration which is still pending in court. “It is not resolved yet because the civil case and other reliefs we sought in the civil case have not gone to trial,” he said contrary to Alvarez’s insistence. # Contributed by Ace Alegre(NorthernDispatch)

Husgahan Natin: Pag-aareglo na walang abogado

August 25, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero

PAANO kung sa isang kaso ay nagka-ayos na ang manggagawa at kapitalista? Maaari pa bang isantabi at balewalain ang nasabing pag-aayos dahil nagreklamo ang abogado ng manggagawa ? Ito ang isyung tinalakay ng Korte Suprema sa “J-Phil. Marine, Inc., et. al. vs. National Labor Relations Commission and Warlito E. Dumalaog “, G.R. No. 175366, na hintulan ng Korte Suprema nitong Agusto 11, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, isang cook sa isang overseas na barko itong si Warlito. Nagsampa siya ng kasong money claims laban sa kompanya, manning agent nito, kasama ang kanyang presidente. Ayon sa kanya, hindi raw siya binayaran ng kompanya ng kanyang overtime pay, vacation leave pay, sick leave pay, at disability benefits. Lumaki daw kasi ang kanyang puso dahil sa kanyang trabaho at habang buhay na siyang hindi makapagtrabaho pa.

Pinawalang bisa ng Labor Arbiter ang kaso ni Warlito ngunit inapela niya ang desisyon nito sa National Relations Commission (NLRC) . Binago naman ng NLRC ang desisyon at pinagbayad ang kompanya ng US$50,000 kay Warlito bilang disability benefits.

Dinala naman ng kompanya ang kaso sa Court of Appeals. Ibinasura ng Court of Appeals ang kaso dahil kulang ang mga dokumentong ibinigay ng kompanya. Napilitang dalhin ng kompanya ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Samantalang nakabinbin ang kaso sa Korte Suprema, nag-alok ng P450,000 bilang areglo ang kompanya. Pumayag naman si Warlito. Pagkatanggap ni Warlito ng bayad ng kompanya, kaugnay ng areglo, pinapirma siya ng quitclaim ng kompanya. Ang paglagda niya ng nasabing quitclaim ay ginawa sa harap ng Labor Arbiter.

Kaagad pinaalam ng kompanya sa Korte Suprema ang nagyaring pag-aayos nila ni Warlito. Hiningi ng kompanya na kung maari ay i-dismiss na ang kaso dahil sa naganap na pag-aayos sa kanila ni Warlito.

Sumagot naman ang abogado ni Warlito. Sinabi nitong wala silang tutol sa pag-dismiss ng kaso subalit dapat bayaran ng kompanya ang halagang US $50, 000 na dating panalo ni Warlito. Ayon sa abogado, dapat ibawas lamang ang unang P450,000 na binigay ng kompanya kay Warlito sa US$50,000 na dating hatol ng NLRC. Masyado raw mababa ang P450,000 na binayaran ng kompanya bukod pa sa hindi siya kinonsulta tungkol sa nasabing aregluhan.

Nagpasya ang Korte Suprema na tuluyan nang i-dismiss ang kaso dahil sa kasunduang naganap kay Warlito at sa kompanya.

Pinaliwanag ng Korte Suprema na ayon sa Art. 227 ng Labor Code, ang aregluhan ng manggagawa at ng kompanya, basta’t kusang-loob nilang ginawa, ay dapat igalang. Makikialam lamang ang husgado kung may naganap na lokohan o pilitan sa nasabing aregluhan. Kung walang ebidensiya na may naganap na dayaan, lokohan, o pilitan sa nasabing pag-aareglo, kikilalanin ng husgado ang aregluhan.

Bagama’t walang abogadong tumulong kay Warlito nang maganap ang aregluhan, ginawa ito sa harap ng Labor Arbiter. Maliwanag na walang nangyaring pilitan o lokohan sa nasabing aregluhan, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Tungkol naman sa sinasabi ng abogado ni Warlito na maliit ang halagang P450,000 dahil nanalo na dati si Warlito ng US$50,000, ang dapat magreklamo sa bagay na ito ay si Warlito mismo.

Nakapagtataka, sabi ng Korte Suprema, subalit wala namang reklamo tungkol rito si Warlito. Dapat nating isipin na ang abogado ay ahente lamang ng kanyang kliyente. Malinaw sa nagyaring aregluhan na gusto ito ni Warlito at walang magagawa ang kanyang abogado kundi igalang ang kanyang kapasyahan.

May karapatan lamang makialam ang abogado kung dahil sa aregluhang naganap ay nawalan siya ng attorney’s fees. Subalit sa dokumentong nilagdaan ng kompanya at ni Warlito ay nakasaad na babayaran ang abogado ng kanyang attorney’s fees. Kaya walang dahilan para magreklamo ang abogado ni Warlito.

Tuluyan nang dinismiss ng Korte Suprema ang nasabing kaso.(PinoyWeekly)

Satur, 3 others cleared of kidnap-slay charges

August 23, 2008

By MAGTANGGOL VILAR

GUIMBA, Nueva Ecija – “For lack of probable cause,” the court here has dismissed the other day the charges of kidnapping with murder filed by government prosecutors against Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, and Rafael Mariano, party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza, and Bayan, respectively.

They were charged with kidnapping with murder and two counts of murder for the alleged liquidation of three rebel returnees suspected as deep penetration agents by the leftist movement. The killing reportedly took place in 2001, 2003, and 2004.

In a 12-page order issued by Guimba Regional Trial Court Judge Napoleon R. Sta. Romana, the four party-list representatives were cleared of the charges for the twin charges filed against them by a panel of prosecutors.

The panel of prosecutors was composed of now retired Provincial Prosecutors Antonio Ll. Lapuz Jr., Edison Rafanan, and Eddie Gutierrez.

With the retirement of Lapuz, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Floro F. Florendo took over as lead member.

However, their 14 co-accused were not as lucky as the court caused the issuance of warrants for their arrest. They are Eugenia Magpantay of 189 A. Bonifacio Ave., Tañong, Marikina City; Vicente Cayetano of Poblacion, Norzagaray, Bulacan; Delfin Pimentel of Barangay Ditumabo, Baler, Aurora; Emeterio Antalan of Estiponia, Pura, Tarlac, all allegedly high-ranking officials of the Central Luzon Regional Committee and Nueva Ecija Provincial Committee of the CPP, NPA, NDF.

Lawyer Romeo T. Capulong, lead counsel of the four party-list representatives, hailed the decision as “the triumph of decent parliamentarians who champion the cause of the defenseless masses.” He said that to hold the party-list representatives during the pendency of the cases, considering that they are non-bailable cases, would deprive their constituents of the services of their duly elected representatives.

Sta. Romana noted “substantial infirmities” in the information filed by the prosecutors. The alleged conspiracy among the accused was not established by separate and independent evidence, Sta. Romana said.(MB)

Justice trains guns on CA chief, GSIS lawyers

August 20, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:20:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—On his third day on the stand on Tuesday, Court of Appeals Justice Vicente Roxas trained his guns on CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. and lawyers of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Roxas presented what he termed “newly discovered evidence,” including the purported positions and high salaries of Vasquez’s relatives in the GSIS, and the alleged attempt of the state firm’s lawyers to “barge into” his private chambers.

Roxas said his first “evidence” was that Vasquez’s relatives—daughters Ruth and Agnes, niece Luisa Hernandez and sister Lenny de Jesus—were GSIS employees earning from P80,000 to P200,000 a month.

He said Vasquez did not disclose this to the CA en banc during its session on July 31.

Vasquez and GSIS lawyer Estrella Elamparo disputed the allegations, and Roxas later agreed that his information on the presiding justice’s relatives was hearsay.

Roxas was testifying at the daily hearing of the Supreme Court-created panel’s investigation of purported improprieties in the CA in connection with a case involving Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the GSIS.

The panel is composed of three retired justices of the high court—Carolina Griño-Aquino, Romeo Callejo Sr. and Flerida Ruth Romero.

Roxas, the ponente (writer) of the decision favoring Meralco, was also questioned on his being a fraternity brother of the lawyers of Meralco.

In response, he said such ties were of no moment and did not affect his decision-making.

‘Greater interest’

“The purpose of the first newly discovered evidence is to show that the presiding justice had a greater interest in the case,” Roxas said at the start of the hearing.

But in the afternoon session where he was questioned by Vasquez, Roxas conceded that the information on the salaries of the presiding justice’s relatives was just hearsay.

He said he got the names of Vasquez’s relatives and their supposed posts from an article in the newspaper Malaya, and learned of their salaries from a piece of paper given to him.

“So you’re saying it to the panel on hearsay?” Vasquez said.

Roxas agreed, saying the information was not of his own personal knowledge.

Retired Justice Callejo observed that since the article did not name the source of the information, it was “double hearsay.”

Vasquez moved that Roxas’ testimony on his relatives’ salaries be stricken off the record.

‘Out of the blue’

Roxas also accused Vasquez of “rushing” his July 24 opinion, stating that it was the CA’s special 9th Division that should rule on the Meralco vs GSIS case.

Vasquez issued the opinion in response to a query from Roxas stemming from a dispute on whether it was the special 9th Division of Justice Jose Sabio Jr. or the 8th Division of Justice Bienvenido Reyes that should decide the case.

“PJ (Presiding Justice) Vasquez came out of the blue after the decision was promulgated [on July 23], which would put in a bad light the 8th Division” Roxas said, adding:

“It’s my opinion the PJ rushed his letter, if I may be blunt about it, to embarrass the 8th Division.”

But Vasquez contended that when he issued his July 24 opinion, he was unaware that the July 23 decision favoring Meralco had been promulgated a day earlier.

Had he known, he said, he would not have issued his opinion because it would have been rendered useless.

Retired Justice Romero asked why Roxas would, by the same token, even ask Vasquez for an opinion on the matter when Roxas and another justice had signed the decision by that time.

Roxas said that when he asked Vasquez for an opinion, he knew that he would get no response because the latter had claimed to have no jurisdiction over the dispute.

Elamparo’s ‘gall’

Roxas’ next “evidence” was a recent discovery from his staff that GSIS lawyers, including its chief legal counsel Elamparo, had tried to “barge into” his private chambers on the day Meralco filed the petition against the GSIS and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“The purpose is to show that Attorney Elamparo knew fully well, when she tried barging into the office of Justice Roxas, that she was committing a crime,” Roxas said, adding that Elamparo had also had the “gall” to allege that Meralco lawyers had met with him before a temporary restraining order was issued by the SEC on the inclusion of proxy votes at the May 27 Meralco board elections.

Elamparo, who also took the stand, denied barging into Roxas’ private chambers. She said that she and another GSIS lawyer did go to Roxas’ office, but only to give him a copy of their motion to defer action on the Meralco petition.

She also said they had introduced themselves as GSIS lawyers to Roxas’ staff, and did not get to meet the justice.

Frat ties

Roxas was also questioned on his ties with a Meralco lawyer and on his actions related to the case that “mystified” at least one panel member.

Retired Justice Aquino, the panel chair, asked Roxas about his being a member of the Sigma Rho fraternity in the University of the Philippines, and who among the Meralco lawyers were his fraternity brothers.

Roxas confirmed that Pancho Villaraza, Avelino Cruz, Simeon Marcelo and Reggie Angangco—of the well-known law firm bearing their surnames—were fellow Sigma Rhoans.

The Firm, as the law office is popularly called, represented Meralco during the oral arguments on the case.

Marcelo, a former Ombudsman, had earlier explained that the law firm was only recruited by Meralco in the middle of the case, for the oral arguments. He said it was chosen because of its expertise in intracorporate disputes.

Roxas said his being of the same fraternity did not affect his decision-making, and pointed out that a senator belonging to Sigma Rho had lost a case he had handled.

How many reasons?

Sabio questioned Roxas on the latter’s “zealous” guarding of the Meralco vs GSIS case.

“I wonder for how many million reasons you are guarding the case,” Sabio said.

Roxas objected to the question. Aquino sided with him and told Sabio to rephrase the question.

Roxas said he was not giving special attention to the case, and that he treated all his cases the same way.

Romero questioned Roxas on his giving a copy of his draft decision to Justice Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, who was not a member of the 8th Division to which Roxas was transferred.

He maintained that the copy he gave to Vidal was just for her reading pleasure and was not intended to be signed.

But Vidal said his claim was “preposterous” in light of his earlier testimony that he personally handled all papers related to a case to keep them confidential.

Advice to inhibit

Justice Martin Villarama told the panel of his suggestion to Roxas that the latter inhibit himself from the case.

Roxas had sought Villarama’s opinion on the dispute between Sabio and Reyes.

According to Villarama, he was then hearing unpleasant things concerning the Meralco vs GSIS case. He said he told Roxas that with or without a motion to inhibit, his advice to the latter was to run from the case “because there might be problems.”

He said Roxas’ response was: “I think I will follow your suggestion.”

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My Take:

Now, now.

It’s mud slinger’s game now.  But this is a welcome development to Filipino people.  Now we really can say that justice here in the Philippines is tainted by corruption, and we need general overhauling to clean it and to expect genuine justice.

SC orders Chevron to pay P1-B in back taxes

August 18, 2008

By William B. Depasupil, Reporter

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered Chevron Philippines Inc., one of the three biggest petroleum firms in the country, to pay government some P1 billion in unpaid duties and taxes for oil imported 12 years ago.

In a 35-page ruling penned by Justice Renato Corona, the Court’s First Division ordered the oil firm “to pay the amount of P893.78 million plus 6 percent legal interest per annum accruing from the date of the promulgation of the decision until its finality.”

Chevron, formerly Caltex Phils. Inc., can file a motion for reconsideration before the High Court.

The petroleum firm incurred the tax deficiency between March 8 and April 10, 1996, covering shipments of 354 million liters of crude oil, six million liters of reformate, and 16 million liters of feed stock.

The oil firm, according to court records, filed the required import entry more than 30 days after the shipment had arrived and was appraised a 3 percent duty, as provided by Republic Act 8180 or the Downstream Oil Industry Regulation Act of 1996, which became effective on April 16, 1996. Prior to the effectivity of that law, the duty on crude oil was 10 percent.

Three years later, then Department of Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu received an anonymous tip claiming the deliberate concealment, manipulation and scheme by Chevron and Pilipinas Shell in the importation of crude oil resulting in huge revenue losses for the government.

Avoiding to pay the 10-percent rate

It was found out during the investigation that Chevron filed a late declaration of its oil import for to avoid paying the 10-percent rate of duty and be entitled to pay only 3 percent as provided for under the law.

On August 1, 2000, the district collector of Customs at the Port of Batangas sent a demand letter to Chevron for the immediate settlement for the discrepancy in its tax payment.

Also, an investigation by the Bureau of Customs showed that the import entries for the questioned oil importation were filed by Chevron beyond the 30-day, non-extendible period prescribed under the Tariff and Customs Code.

With the violation, the oil shipments were already considered abandoned and seized in favor of the government.

Tax officials concluded that the fraud was made in collusion with the former Port of Batangas district collector. It also ordered Chevron to pay P 1.1 billion, representing the total dutiable value of the importations.

On appeal, the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) also ruled that the oil firm was liable for deficiency in customs duties.

The Supreme Court pointed out that as a general rule, the CTA’s findings and conclusions are accorded great respect and are generally upheld by the High Court. (ManilaTimes)

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My Take:

May the SC continue this kind of work.  At least they’re making my hope for this country stand firm.

Husgahan Natin: Pinilit magretiro

August 17, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

ALIN ang masusunod: ang patakaran tungkol sa pagreretiro na pinapatupad ng kompanya sa pamamagitan ng isang memorandum o ang Republic Act 7641 na siyang batas natin sa pagreretiro? Sinagot ng Korte Suprema ang katanungang ito sa kasong ” Universal Robina Sugar Milling Corporation vs. Agripino Caballeda and Alejandro Cadalin” , G.R. No. 156644 na hinatulan nito lamang Hulyo 28, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, manggagawa sina Agripino sa isang malaking kompanya na nagpo-proseso ng asukal. Nang magsimula sila ng pagtatratrabaho dito, ang sinusunod na patakaran ng kompanya pagdating sa retirement ay ang memorandum na ibinaba nito sa kanyang mga manggagawa. Ayon sa memorandum na ito, ang isang manggagawa ay kailangan nang magretiro sa kompanya isang buwan matapos niyang maabot ang gulang na ika-animnapung (60) taon.

Nong 1993 ay nagkabisa ang RA 7461. Sa taon ding iyon ay nagkaroon ng collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ang kompanya at ang unyon nito na nagsasabing ang patakaran pagdating tungkol sa pagreretiro ay iyong nakasaad sa batas. Kasapi ng unyon itong sina Agripino.

Nang umabot sa edad na 60 itong sina Agripino ay bigla na lamang silang pinagretiro ng kompanya. Walang magawa sina Agripino kungdi ang sumunod noong una. Ngunit pagkatapos nilang magretiro ay nagsampa sila ng kasong illegal dismissal sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter.

Ayon sa kanila, ang ginawa ng kompanyang pagparetiro sa kanila ay labag sa batas dahil hindi pa sila dapat magretiro. Dahil dito, nagkasala ang kompanya ng illegal dismissal.

Nakumbinsi naman ang Labor Arbiter at pinanalo sina Agripino. Nag-apela ang kompanya sa National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) at dito, nanalo naman ang kompanya. Sinabi ng NLRC na walang illegal dismisal sa ginawa ng kompanya dahil tama lang ang ginawa nitong pagparetiro kina Agripino. Dinala naman nina Agripino ang kaso sa Court of Appeals. Binaliktad naman ng Court of Appeals ang hatol ng NLRC at sinabing labag sa batas ang ginawa ng kompanyang pagparetiro kina Agripino. Napilitang dalhin ng kompanya ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Kinampihan ng Korte Suprema sina Agripino. Sang-ayon sa RA 7461, ang compulsory retirement age ay 65 years old. 60 pa lamang sina Agripino. Samakatuwid, walang karapatan ang kompanyang pilitin silang magretiro. Bagama’t may sinusunod na memorandum ang kompanya, hindi ito maaring mangibabaw sa RA 7461. Ang RA 7461 ay batas. Mas mabigat ang batas kaysa sa patakaran ng kompanya. Lalo na at may CBA ang dalawang panig na nagsasabing ang pagreretiro sa kompanya ay susunod sa sinasabi ng batas.

Hindi rin maaring gamitin ang katuwirang kusang hiningi nina Agripino ang pagreretiro. Hindi maitatwa na pinilit silang magretiro ng kompanya. Walang magawa sina Agripino rito. Kung hindi nila kukunin ang kanilang retirement benefits, magugutom ang kanilang mga pamilya dahil tiyak na hindi na sila bibigyan ng kompanya ng trabaho. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit sila pumayag na magretiro.

Inutos ng Korte Suprema ang pagbayad ng backwages kina Agripino mula pagkatanggal hanggang sa umabot sila sa 65 na taong gulang at pagbayad sa kanila ng retirement benefits ayon sa RA 7461.(PinoyWeekly)

Pangakong napako

August 10, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

SA KASALUKUYANG batas, ang isang  manggagawa ay may tatlong (3)  taon para isampa ang anumang money claims niya laban sa kompanya. Ibig sabihin, bago lumipas ang tatlong taon, dapat naisampa na niya ang kanyang kaso sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter. Kapag hindi niya nagawa ito, ituturing nang paso ang kanyang kaso. Ang tawag dito ay prescription. Ito ang nakalagay sa ating  Labor Code.

Ngunit may pagkakataon na ang patakarang ito ay hindi nasusunod. Kahit lampas na ang tatlong taon , pinahihintulutan pa rin ang manggagawa na maghabol laban sa kompanya. Ang  kasong Accessories Specialist Inc. vs. Erlinda Albanza, etc., GR No. 168985 na denisisyunan ng Korte Suprema nitong Hulyo 23, 2008 ay naglalarawan sa pagkakataong ito.

Sa naturang kaso, nagtatatrabaho itong si Jones bilang manedyer sa kompanya. Dahil sa  nalulugi ang kompanya, pinilit nitong mag resign si Jones sa kanyang posisyon. Sa panahon ng kanyang pagbitaw sa kanyang tungkulin, hindi nabayaran si Jones ng kanyang sahod sa loob ng labinwalong (18)  buwan. Meron din siya dapat makukuha na separation pay ayon sa patakaran ng kompanya pero pati ito ay hindi rin  naibigay sa kanya.

Dahil sa alam ni Jones na  mahirap ang katayuan ng kompanya, nagtiyaga siyang maghintay sa hindi niya nabayarang sahod at separation pay. Ngunit hindi pa rin siya nabayaran ng kompanya. Ilang beses niyang sinubukang maningil. Pinangakuan din siya ng ilang beses ng kompanya, pero ang mga pangakong ito ay napako. Sa kalaunan, matapos ang mahigit apat na taong paghihintay, binawian ng buhay si Jones.

Hindi naman nag-atubili ang kanyang biyudang si Erlinda at nagsampa ito ng kaso sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter  para makuha na ang hindi nasingil na sahod at separation pay ni Jones sa kompanya . Naawa naman  ang Labor Arbiter at siya ay pinanalo. Nag-apela naman sa NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) ang kompanya. Katuwiran nito, lumampas na sa taning na panahon bago naisampa ni Erlinda ang kaso para sa kanyang nasirang asawa. Tatlong taon lang ang sinasabi ng batas pero maglilimang taon na nang isampa ni Erlinda ang kaso. Hindi ito pinakinggan ng NLRC at pinagbayad pa rin ang kompanya. Dinala ng kompanya sa Court of Appeals ang kaso pero ganun pa rin ang desisyon. Napilitan ang kompanyang umakyat sa Korte Suprema.

Ayon sa Korte Suprema, totoong tatlong taon lamang ang binibigay na panahon ng batas sa isang mangagawa upang isampa ang kanyang money claims laban sa kompanya. Ngunit may pagkakataong ang taning na ito ay hindi nasusunod.

Sa kaso ni Jones, mapapansin na pinaasa siya ng kompanya. Pinangakuan siya nitong  babayaran na ang halagang kanyang hinahabol . Dahil sa pangakong ito ay nagtiwala si Jones at hindi nagsampa ng kaso laban sa kompanya sa panahon na sinasabi ng batas. Lumalabas na may kasalanan din ang kompanya, sabi ng Korte Suprema. Kung hindi ito nangako kay Jones, maaring nagsampa na ng kaso ang huli. Dahil dito, hindi maaring gamitin ng kompanya ang prescription.  Hindi na ito maaring tumalikod  sa kanyang pangako at dapat lang niya itong panindigan, paglilinaw ng Korte Suprema.

Inutusan ng Korte Suprema ang kompanya na bayaran ang hindi nabayarang sahod pati separation pay ni Jones.(PinoyWeekly)

Pangmomolestiya sa pabrika

August 10, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda & Patrick Bilog

nilalabanan na ang diumano'y seksuwal na panghaharas (Patrick Bilog)

NANGINGINIG noon si Gloria Bongon tuwing nakikita niya ang boss.

Alas-otso pa lamang ng umaga, isang araw noong 2006, nang dumating siya sa tarangkahan ng pabrika ng Bleustar Manufacturing & Marketing Corp. Papasok siya bilang manggagawa sa pabrikang gumagawa ng mga sapatos na Advan. Ngunit bago pa makapasok, nasa tarangkahan na ang kanyang boss na si Jimmy Ong. Aniya, lasing na naman ito.

Tinawag siya at dinuro ni Mr. Ong. “Ikaw siguro ang pasimuno ng lahat ng ito. Ikaw siguro ang nagsisimula ng unyon,” ayon diumano sa boss.

Batid ni Gloria ang matagal nang tsismis. Batid niya ang kuwentong umiikot-ikot sa hanay ng mga manggagawa ng Bleustar. Naunahan siya ng takot. Kung kaya, nagawa niyang itanggi ang pagkakasangkot niya sa pagtatayo ng unyon. “Hindi ho,” ani Gloria, para huminahon lang raw si Mr. Ong.

Pero nahatak na siya papalapit sa boss. Binuksan diumano ni Mr. Ong ang kanyang zipper ng pantalon. Saka inilabas ang ari, pilit na pinahahawakan kay Gloria na kumakabog ang dibdib sa takot.

Nagawa niyang makalaya sa hawak ng boss. Kabado pa rin sa nakakawindang na karanasan, pero lalong naging sigurado umano si Gloria na tama ang ginagawa niya, na kailangang ipagpatuloy ang pagtatag ng unyon sa loob ng Bleustar. Sa pagkakaisa ng mga manggagawa, magagawa nilang protektahan ang karapatan mula sa mababang pasahod, masamang kondisyon sa paggawa, at sekuwal na pangmomolestiya.

Simula’t sapul

Isa ang Advan sa natitirang lokal na kompanya ng sapatos na aktibo pa rin sa produksiyon sa kabila ng matinding pagpasok ng dayuhang – karamiha’y mula sa Tsina – kompanya ng sapatos.

Sikat ang kompanyang pinagmumulan ng Advan. Bago itinatag ang Bleustar, pag-aari ng pamilya Ong ang Rubberworld Philippines, na noong dekada ’80 ay nag-eempleyo ng mahigit 5,000 manggagawa. Sikat ang produkto nitong Grosby at Kaypee, na naging opisyal pang sapatos sa PBA (Philippine Basketball Association).

Pero noong 1994, sa kabila ng malawakang pagpasok ng mga produktong sapatos mula sa Tsina, unti-unting nagtanggal ng mga manggagawa ang Rubberworld. Nagdeklara ng pagsara ito noong 1995. Nagreklamo sa korte at nagwagi ang mga manggagawa ng Rubberworld sa pagtanggal sa kanila sa trabaho nang walang sapat na backpay at iba pang benepisyo.

Taong 1993 nang unang itatag ang Bleustar. Sa pabrika nito sa RMT Industrial Compound sa Tunasan, Muntinlupa City, nakakapaggawa ito ng 5,400 pares ng rainboots araw-araw at 2,700 pares ng Advan na sapatos araw-araw. Mahigit 200 manggagawa ang ineempleyo nito – karamiha’y regular na sumusuweldo ng P382 kada araw. Sa mga regular, 85% ay pawang mga kababaihan.

Sa unang taon ng mga operasyon ng Bleustar, napasok agad ang noo’y 19-taong-gulang na si Gloria. “Pioneer na manggagawa ako rito,” ani Gloria.

Ayon kay Gloria – at sa iba pang babaing manggawang nakapanayam ng Pinoy Weekly – simula’t sapul ay naging “aktibo” na diumano si Ong sa panghaharas sa kanyang kababaihang manggagawa. Sa panayam ng Pinoy Weekly sa ilang babaing manggagawa ng Bleustar, sinabi nilang kadalasang gawain ng boss ang ihinto ang kotse sa labas ng tarangkahan tuwing pasukan at labasan ng mga manggagawa.

“Halos araw-araw ang panghaharas sa mga babaing manggagawa ng Bleustar,” kuwento ni Gloria, na naging bise-presidente ng BWLU (Bleustar Workers’ Labor Union). “Palaging lasing siya. Kapag nakikita na namin, gagawin namin ang lahat para umiwas sa kanya,” sabi ng isang babaing manggagawa na tumangging magpakilala.

Pamilyado ang boss nila, pero hindi raw ito naging hadlang para makursunadahan ang ilang babaing manggagawa, na sa simula’y pumasok sa pabrika sa edad na 18 hanggang 22 anyos. (Tumangging magkomento ang tanggapan ng Bleustar hinggil sa akusasyong ito ng mga manggagawa laban kay Ong.)

‘Ihilamos mo na lang’

Ang ilan pang babaing manggagawang nakausap ng Pinoy Weekly, nakaranas ng “panghihipo sa dibdib.” May ilan pang naranasan din ang naranasan ni Gloria: pilit na pinahahawak daw sila sa ari ng boss.

Ayon kay Gloria, mayroon ding seryosong sinusuyo ni Ong – niyayayang makipag-one night stand, o makipagtalik nang isang gabi, sa kanya. May ilang babaing superbisor na umamin na sa kanya na inalok silang “ibahay” ng boss. May ilang tumanggi, pero may pumayag. Tumanggi na si Gloria na pangalanan ang mga ito.

“Kapag umiiyak ang iba dahil sa pambabastos sa kanila, sinasabihan sila ng superbisor na babae, ‘Ihilamos (o iligo) mo na lang ’yan. Mawawala rin ’yan,’” kuwento pa ni Gloria. Ang ibang bisor, pinapayuhan ang mga nakababatang mangagawang babae na balewalain ang sinasabing panghaharas dahil “parang halik lang ’yon ng isang ama.”

Ilang beses umanong nagtangkang magtatag ng independiyenteng unyon ang mga manggagawa. Pero palaging natatakot daw ang mga opisyal o “napapalambot ang tindig” dahil sa iba’t ibang “pang-aamo” ng manedsment.

Taong 2006 lamang nasimulang maitatag ang BWLU. Lumawak ang hanay ng unyon, lalupa’t tuluy-tuloy diumano ang “panhaharas” ng may-ari. “Marami ang sukang suka, punung-puno na sa pinaggagagawa sa kanila,” sabi ni Gloria.

Hulyo 12 nang magpiket ang mga manggagawa sa ilalim ng BWLU sa harap ng tarangkahan ng pabrika bilang protesta sa mababang sahod at “harasment.” Humihingi rin silang kilalanin ng Bleustar at ng gobyerno ang unyon sa isang certification election bilang opisyal na representante ng mga manggagawa ng Bleustar.

Pero Hulyo 14 nang ihayag ng kompanya na tanggal na raw sa trabaho si Gloria at ang 62 na mga opisyal at miyembro ng unyon. Muling nagpiket ang mga manggagawa. Idineklara ng DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) na isasagawa ang certification election noong Hulyo 25.

Natuloy ang botohan, pero di pinayagan ang mga nagpiket na bumoto sa loob ng pabrika. Segregated ang pagboto nila sa labas, pero inilalaban ng manedsment ng Bleustar na huwag bilangin ang kanilang boto dahil tanggal na umano sila sa trabaho.

Hindi pa nagdedesisyon ang DOLE sa kinahinatnan ng eleksiyon. Pero “kung hindi kami dadayain”, halos sigurado diumano ang BWLU na magwawagi. “Malakas ang laban namin,” sabi ni Gloria. Kung patas lang daw ang laban, siguradong wagi sila. Pero hindi nila masabi, baka raw gawin ang lahat ni Ong para yurakan ang boto ng mga manggagawa tulad ng diumano’y pangyuyurak sa kanilang pagkatao.

Ngayon, nanginginig pa rin si Gloria tuwing nasisilayan ang boss. Pero hindi na sa takot. Nanginging siya sa galit.(PinoyWeekly)

Supreme Court halts Moroland deal

August 5, 2008

SC ignores gov’t plea of executive privilege

By Tetch Torres, Leila Salaverria, Michael Lim Ubac, Christian V. Esguerra, Nikko Dizon
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:07:00 08/05/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court, ignoring a new plea for executive privilege to keep diplomatic negotiations secret, stopped the signing on Tuesday in Malaysia of an agreement that critics feared could lead to an independent Bangsamoro state.

Jose Midas Marquez, the high court’s spokesperson, announced that the tribunal by a unanimous decision Monday issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to preserve the status quo after an en banc session called to act on petitions filed by local officials in Zamboanga City and North Cotabato.

The petitioners from North Cotabato are Governor Jesus Sacdalan and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol. Those from Zamboanga City are Mayor Celso Lobregat, and Representatives Isabelle Climaco and Erico Basilio Fabian.

The local officials questioned the memorandum of agreement (MOA) establishing an expanded Bangsamoro homeland hammered out during negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and scheduled to be signed in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday. The local officials also demanded a copy of the agreement.

Marquez said the court ordered the solicitor general to furnish the officials a copy of the final draft of the MOA not later than Aug. 8 and scheduled oral arguments on Aug. 15 on the officials’ plea to be excluded from the deal. The parties were asked to submit comments within five days.

“When the signing has taken place … rights might be violated. So to prevent violation of certain rights of the people, the court decided to issue the TRO,” Marquez said.

“We submit to the sound discretion of the Supreme Court,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters. “It is the ultimate arbiter of issues and so the signing will have to be canceled.”

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the court action should not be seen as a “setback” to the Arroyo administration. “It’s just a resetting [of the signing]. This is one of the dynamics of democracy,” he said.

MILF calls move a ‘setback’

“It’s a setback, but we will let the panels decide on whatever measures they want to take to address this recent development,” MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu told reporters. He said the 12,000 MILF fighters remained committed to ending the separatist rebellion that has claimed more than 120,000 lives in Mindanao over the past four decades.

The government peace panel, in a 26-page comment filed earlier Monday by Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, opposed the petition for a TRO, invoking executive privilege in an attempt to keep negotiations and the draft MOA secret.

Executive privilege

“These negotiations include definite military, national security and diplomatic concerns, and have involved the presence of a foreign mediator. This being so, the entire process—the negotiations involving the said MOA and the draft documents thereof resulting from said negotiations—is covered by the doctrine of executive privilege which prevents the disclosure of information that could subvert military or diplomatic objectives,” the panel said.

The government lawyers said while it recognizes the right of the petitioners to information, “they do not have an unfettered access to everything as these rights are subject to certain limitations.”

“Notably, there are matters which, despite their being of public interest and concern, are considered privileged in nature,” Devanadera said.

It was the third time in one year that the Arroyo administration had invoked executive privilege.

The court earlier upheld the President’s right to keep diplomatic negotiations secret when it supported former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri’s decision not to answer questions during a Senate hearing on an alleged bribery attempt surrounding the scuttled $329-million broadband network project with China’s ZTE Corp. and rejected demands to release negotiation documents on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo departed for Kuala Lumpur hours before the court handed down the TRO to witness Tuesday’s scheduled signing along with his Malaysian counterpart Rais Yatim. Malaysia brokered the peace negotiations.

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and chief government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia also left for Malaysia without waiting for the outcome of the court hearing on the complaint by the Zamboanga City and North Cotabato officials that they were not consulted on the inclusion of their areas that would form part of the territory of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Copies of the MOA were circulated during a meeting of retired generals and leaked to reporters at the weekend, but the document itself has not been officially released.

Emotions get in the way

In contesting the TRO, the peace panel said North Cotabato would not be included in the expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) without the consent of its residents in a plebiscite.

“Petitioners do not stand to suffer any irreparable or material injury as the final decision on whether they shall be part of the expanded ARMM or not belongs to the people of North Cotabato,” the peace panel said.

The panel said that consulting the people did not mean they should be involved in every step because if this was followed, then “nothing would get done as numerous interests and heightened emotions would get in the way of compromise.”

It said the plebiscite that would be held after the signing of the MOA was sufficient consultation.

North Cotabato officials filed the first petition questioning the MOA two weeks ago. Monday, Zamboanga City officials joined the petition.

Zamboanga City Representatives Fabian and Climaco and Mayor Lobregat said the government’s peace panel should be compelled to give them copies of the draft MOA.

The officials asked that Zamboanga City be excluded from the Bangsamoro homeland or that the MOA be declared null and void if it would be signed.

According to them, the draft of the MOA was a matter of public concern. They said that the ancestral domain issue referred to the claiming of ownership of certain areas, and possibly even private property, which was why Zamboanga residents should be informed about the deal.

Travesty of justice

“The nondisclosure of the provisions of the MOA has deprived the people of its right to information and to participate in the decision-making process. This is a blatant violation of the constitutional rights of the people,” the Zamboanga officials said.

The officials also said national security could not be used as an excuse to withhold the MOA from them.

“To hide behind the mantle of national security so that the people would remain in the dark on matters affecting their lives and properties is a travesty of justice and of the constitutional rights of the people,” they said.

The MOA calls for an expanded ARMM and grants the BJE its own internal security force, a system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative institutions, full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and natural resources, according to a draft of the document secured by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

The BJE also will be able to send trade missions abroad and enter into international agreements.

Administration officials have rejected criticism that the MOA amounted to ceding a portion of its territory to the MILF and granted the expanded Moro homeland the status of a state.

Dureza welcomed the TRO.

“We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the position of the panel in crafting this momentous and historical agreement that will address the longstanding problems of Mindanao and the country as a whole,” he said.

TRO a relief

Dureza, who had served as peace panel chair in previous talks with the MILF, even said that the TRO was a “relief.”

“This will allow a dispassionate, objective discussion of the merits of the issues that surround the said ancestral domain agreement. So it might be good that at this early stage, the Supreme Court will be part of that due diligence effort in taking a look at this agreement in its totality and also take a look at its provision,” he said.

Dureza also said he had told the President about the court action and she welcomed it as an opportunity to ventilate the issues.

Rep. Fabian, who filed the petition against the deal, said the ruling was “very good news for our people down south” who opposed the draft accord.

“We have won the first step,” said North Cotabato Vice Gov. Piñol. “This is an important lesson for government peace panels, that on matters that affect people’s rights, they must be consulted first.”

Former President Joseph Estrada also welcomed the TRO. “We all desire peace in Mindanao but it must not be obtained at the expense of our territorial integrity, and certainly not by methods that desire transparency and are in apparent haste,” he said.

Gen. Alexander Yano, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the AFP was ready to respond to any security threat that might result from the court’s TRO. He said the military was closely monitoring developments.

Editorial Cartoon: Shadow Boxing

August 2, 2008

Ala Pakyaw

Chief Justice moves on appeals court row

August 2, 2008

Sabio debunks De Borja P50-M claim

By Jerome Aning, Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 08/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines–Chief Justice Reynato Puno has ordered the gathering of all documents pertinent to the bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals as the contending parties engaged in a back-and-forth of accusations related to the case between Manila Electric Co. and the Government Service Insurance System, Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said Friday.

Puno issued the order upon learning that the Court of Appeals (CA) had decided to elevate to the Supreme Court the issue of the “propriety” of certain justices’ actions in connection with the case, Marquez said.

The Chief Justice “also ordered that the case be included in the Supreme Court’s deliberations on Tuesday,” he said.

Marquez said the high tribunal would hear both sides and could discipline the CA justices found to have erred.

The case involves the May 27 election of the board of directors of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the conduct of which the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), a major Meralco shareholder, had disputed.

CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. called a press conference—which he said had clearance from Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr.— to debunk the affidavit of businessman Francis de Borja, who has claimed that Sabio stated “P50 million” would be the amount he would accept to refuse what he said was a government offer of money and a seat in the Supreme Court—according to De Borja’s affidavit—if he favored the GSIS in its legal battle with Meralco.

De Borja executed the affidavit on Thursday to deny that he had offered the justice P10 million to step aside and let another justice issue the decision, which favored Meralco.

Sabio earlier said in a letter to Vasquez that a man “brokering for Meralco” made the P10-million offer to him. The emissary was unnamed, but De Borja said he had felt alluded to and decided to come forward.

‘Filthy lie’

Reading from a prepared statement, Sabio said at the press conference: “I must state that I cannot even begin to express my anger, outrage and disgust that a person whom I treated with civil respect and kindness, and whom I thought respected me, would impute such a filthy lie to me. But that Mr. De Borja would have the nerve to make these lies, under oath, is utterly disgusting when it was him who had come to me with the offer of the bribe.”

He said he was now up against the Lopezes, who run Meralco and are one of the Philippines’ most influential business and political clans, who he said were using and conspiring with De Borja to portray him as a corrupt official of the judiciary.

“I know that the Lopezes will do everything possible using their money and power to discredit me. This is just the beginning. I know that they will not stop at doing everything to discredit my integrity,” Sabio said.

He challenged De Borja to submit to a lie-detector test along with himself. He said he was “seriously considering” charging De Borja with bribery and perjury.

Sabio again detailed the circumstances of his July 1 meeting with De Borja at the lobby lounge of the Ateneo Law School in Makati City, where he teaches law courses.

He made a new disclosure: that De Borja’s first words to him at the time were “You know, Justice, who’s with me in the car? It’s [Meralco chairman] Manolo Lopez.”

Sabio said De Borja told him that Lopez was with him too when he met up with Sabio for the first time and that De Borja was interceding for the Lopezes because the case was “a matter of life and death” for the clan.

In a phone interview after Sabio’s press conference, De Borja denied telling Sabio that Manuel “Manolo” Lopez was with him in his car on that night.

“No, I never said that,” De Borja said. If you know Manolo Lopez—he is somewhat aristocratic—he would be the last person to wait for somebody in the car, and they did not know that he was abroad at that time.”

‘Twisted’

De Borja said Sabio had again twisted the story: “I said in my affidavit that he told me his wife would be waiting for him in the car, and he says now that Manolo was waiting in my car….”

De Borja—who has described himself to the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a longtime friend of Lopez’s and makes his living “brokering contracts, making deals and packaging projects”—said he was ready to face the suit Sabio would file against him.

“It’s a free country, let him file it and we’ll see,” De Borja said. “I was prepared the moment I signed my affidavit. Obviously, I considered the consequences, so I wouldn’t have made up a story.”

De Borja said he was accepting Sabio’s challenge for a lie-detector test, on the condition that they do it simultaneously and with “a competent foreign agency.”

He said, “And my third comment is: He is a lawyer and a justice. He knows that a lie-detector test [result] is not admissible as [court] evidence, so why is he asking for it?”

De Borja said of Sabio: “He is a public official, being a justice. So he must be like Caesar’s wife, who is beyond suspicion. And to be beyond suspicion, you must be squeaky-clean, and he is not squeaky-clean.”

De Borja reiterated he was taken aback when Sabio replied “P50 million” when he asked what it would take for Sabio to resist the purported government offer of money and a Supreme Court seat in exchange for a ruling favorable to the GSIS.

He said he had expected Sabio to answer that the justice would not be swayed by any offer and would rule based on his conscience.

Why cling to it?

On the phone with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, De Borja asked why Sabio refused to yield the chairmanship of the CA Eighth Division—and the Meralco vs GSIS case—after the division’s regular chairman had returned from a vacation leave.

He said: “Why is he clinging to it when the procedure is so clear that the case goes to the ‘ponente’ [the designated writer of the decision] and the permanent justice gets back the case once he returns from leave? And can you imagine him going out in public saying these justices were bribed? He is the one impugning the integrity of the court, so his fellow justices are angry with him.”

De Borja said the GSIS was not directly opposing the CA decision that favored Meralco. “Nobody is saying the decision is wrong,” he said. “They are just casting doubts on the integrity of the justices in order to cast a shadow on the decision.”

He added: “There are a lot of similarities in our affidavits, but in major issues, we differ. So it’s up to the people to decide who is telling the truth.”

To assert his truthfulness, De Borja cited portions of his affidavit in which he recounted that Sabio told him about the dispute in the CA over the Meralco versus GSIS case, including the latter’s beef with Justice Bienvenido Reyes.

He said only Sabio knew about these things. “How could I have picked up all those details?”

As for Sabio’s expressed fear of being harmed by the Lopezes, De Borja said: “Have you heard of the Lopezes having had anybody killed? They are not that type of people.”

No resignation

Sabio rejected calls for his resignation, describing them as “stupid.”

He said it would be for the Supreme Court to determine the guilty party. He added that if he had ever accepted a bribe, “I would not stay a day longer in this court.”

When asked if the controversy would erode public confidence in the Court of Appeals, and if it was the first time such a scandal had happened, Sabio said without elaborating: “Ang daming nangyaring first time dito. [A lot of first times have happened here.] This is a case of first times.” With a report from TJ Burgonio; with editing by INQUIRER.net

CHRONOLOGY OF A BATTLE ROYALE

August 2, 2008

May 1 to 26, 2008—GSIS-Meralco row starts. GSIS demands from Meralco, among others, access to corporate documents. Meralco claims GSIS plans to wrest control of the utility firm.

May 27, 2008—Meralco holds its annual stockholders’ meeting on May 27 despite a cease and desist order from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

May 29, 2008—Meralco files a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) for the issuance of a temporary restraining order. The petition enjoins the SEC not to implement its show-cause order against Meralco’s acting corporate secretary for allowing the validation of the 1.9 billion proxy shares during the annual stockholders’ meeting that saw the Lopez group emerge victorious over the GSIS.

May 30, 2008—The CA’s Special Ninth Division, in a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, issues a 60-day temporary restraining order prohibiting the SEC, the GSIS, SEC Officer-in-Charge Enrique Garica and Huberto Garcia, director of the SEC’s compliance and enforcement department, from implementing the controversial SEC cease and desist order.” CA Associate Justices Jose Sabio and Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal concurred with the ruling.

June 21, 2008—Meralco lawyers argue that SEC’s cease and desist order has no date and is signed by only one commissioner.

July 24, 2008—The CA voids the cease and desist order. Its Eighth Division, in a 57-page decision penned by Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, said the SEC has no jurisdiction over the case. It adds that it is the regional trial court that should decide on intra-corporate disputes.

July 24, 2008—Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. writes letter to Justices Reyes and Roxas over which division should issue the decision on the Meralco-GSIS case.

July 26, 2008—Justice Sabio writes a letter to Presiding Justice Vasquez, complaining that there is something “fishy” about the July 24 CA decision.

July 28, 2008—CA Presiding Justice calls for en banc session to settle controversy between CA’s Eighth and Ninth Divisions over Meralco-GSIS row.

July 30, 2008—Justice Sabio reveals that a businessman has offered him P10 million for his silence on the case.

July 31, 2008—CA en banc holds session, tosses to Supreme Court the issue of propriety regarding actuations of justices.

July 31, 2008—Cagayan de Oro City businessman Francis Roa de Borja surfaces. He issues affidavit claiming he is the one being referred to by Justice Sabio. He also claims that Sabio has told him that an emissary from the GSIS offers him millions of pesos and a post at the Supreme Court in exchange for a favorable decision.

August 1, 2008—Justice Sabio calls a press conference, denying the allegations of de Borja, saying they are filthy lies.(ManilaTimes)

Manolo lopez says Sabio’s charges a fabrication

August 2, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Anonuevo, Reporter

The chairman of Meralco denied any involvement in an alleged bribery attempt on Associate Justice Jose Sabio of the Court of Appeals for Sabio to take Meralco’s side in its legal dispute with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Manolo Lopez, during a press conference held on Friday, belied Sabio’s claim that he was “waiting in a car” when businessman Francis Roa de Borja offered the appellate-court justice P10 million to inhibit himself from the row involving fight for control of the Manila Electric Co, or Meralco, the country’s largest power distributor.

Lopez said he was in the United States having a medical check-up when the alleged meeting took place on July 1 at the Ateneo Law School in upscale Rockwell in Makati City.

“I categorically and vehemently deny the allegations of Justice Jose Sabio. Mind you, I do not have the habit of waiting in the car for anybody except my wife. The [allegations are] malicious and pure fabrication. I am a resident of Rockwell,” he pointed out.

To support Lopez’s claim, company officials presented before media the Meralco chairman’s boarding passes when he went to the United States on June 27 and returned to the country on July 13.

Although he admitted knowing de Borja, Lopez said they were “more of social friends than anything else.”

“I know Francis but I have not authorized him or anybody to make representations for [me on] any matter that involves cases of Meralco and the Lopez family. We have retainers and lawyers to handle legal matters,” he said.

Lopez added that his wife and de Borja’s wife, who belong to a religious group, are “closer” to one another than he and Francis are.

Despite the accusations hurled by Sabio, the Meralco chairman said he still has to decide if he will file any case in court against Sabio.

He added that Sabio, who also has claimed that the Lopezes are out to get him, has nothing to fear from his family, who themselves have “suffered setbacks, legal or otherwise, for the past years.”

The dispute between Meralco and the GSIS stemmed from the government pension fund’s failed try, through its head Winston Garcia, to wrest control of the utility from the Lopezes in May this year during the utility’s annual stockholders’ meeting.

The GSIS was able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Securities and Exchange Commission to halt the meeting.

Meralco’s management elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals. (ManilaTimes)

Sabio: Lopezes my slayers

August 2, 2008

Businessman’s bribe allegations filthy lies

By William B. Depasupil, Reporter

Embattled Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. of the Court of Appeals called as “filthy lies” the allegations hurled against him by a businessman in connection with a row between two divisions of the appellate court over which should handle a case involving Meralco and the GSIS.

Sabio, during a press conference held on Friday, said he is bracing for the worst from the Lopez family that he claimed was financing the move of the businessman—Francis Roa de Borja—to destroy his integrity. The Lopezes are the majority owners of Meralco, the country’s biggest power distributor.

The appellate-court justice said that someone had tried to bribe him with P10 million for him to inhibit himself from the case that concerns control of the utility.

On Thursday evening, de Borja said he was the person alluded to by Sabio but denied that he had offered the bribe.

“I expect matters to get worse because I am up against the billions of the Lopezes,” he told reporters.

Sabio dared de Borja, a long-time friend of his, that they both take a lie-detector test to determine who is telling the truth. Meanwhile, he said, he is considering filing “bribery and perjury” cases against the businessman from Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province.

“At the onset, I must state that I cannot even begin to express my anger, outrage, disgust that a person whom I treated with civil respect and kindness; and whom I thought I respected would impute such filthy lies on me. But that Mr. de Borja would have the nerve to make these lies, under oath, is utterly disgusting when it was he who came to me with the offer of the bribe,” he said.

Twisted information

Sabio also claimed that the contents of de Borja’s 10-page affidavit were full of lies and twisted information as he vehemently denied the businessman’s accusation that he was willing to take the GSIS side for P50 million.

According to the appellate-court justice, he never initiated any contact with de Borja. “It was he [de Borja] who would call either me, or our mutual friend, Mrs. Evelyn Clavano, to meet up,” Sabio said. He added that de Borja was able to get his number from Clavano, a cousin of de Borja.

Clavano has issued an affidavit of desistance in support of Sabio, narrating the circumstances that led to Sabio’s meeting with de Borja.

“Francis de Borja requested me if I have the cell phone number of Justice Jose Sabio Jr. He [de Borja] related that because he is very close to the Lopezes of Meralco, he wanted to call him [Sabio] regarding his possible inhibition in a certain Meralco case, wherein he was designated as a substitute member of the division vice a justice who was temporarily on-leave by reason of sickness. He [de Borja] further said that the Lopezes desire that the same justice, with whom the Lopezes are more comfortable, sit in the division,” Clavano said in her affidavit. Sabio said de Borja’s first contact with him happened on May 31, or a few days after the Meralco case was raffled off.

“Mr. de Borja called me, so suddenly, and after having had no contact [with him] for almost a year,” he added.

The second contact, Sabio said, took place on July 1 and he later agreed to meet with de Borja after Sabio’s 8 p.m. class at the Ateneo Law School.

It was on that night that de Borja allegedly bragged that Manolo Lopez, the chairman of Meralco, was at Lopez’s car.

“At that point, he [de Borja] mentioned the impasse between Justice Bienvenido Reyes and myself,” Sabio said. He added that de Borja also bragged to him that he was responsible for Meralco’s hiring of the Villaraza law firm for the power distributor’s case against GSIS.

P10 million ready

“Then he [de Borja] explained that he was there to offer me a win-win situation. He said, ‘Justice, we have P10 million. Ready, ‘” Sabio said.

“At that point, I was shocked that he had a very low regard for me. He was treating me like there was a price on my person. I could not describe my feelings. I was stunned,” the appellate-court justice said. He added that he told de Borja, “I cannot in conscience agree to that [offer to bribe me].”

Sabio said he presumed that his refusal of de Borja’s offer was the last of it but to his surprise, their mutual friend, Clavano, called him a few days later to relay the offer, which according to him he also declined.

Clavano said de Borja had told her that the Lopezes want a justice with whom they are “more comfortable” to sit in the division.

After the incident, Sabio said, de Borja continued to pester him with calls asking him to reconsider his decision not to accept the P10 million.

Deadline nearing

In one call, Sabio added, de Borja even “reminded” him that the deadline for accepting the offer was near and asked him if he thought about the offer.

“Sayang kung hindi ito tatanggapin, sayang ang P10 million [What a waste if you will not accept the P10 million],” the appellate-court justice quoted de Borja as saying.

“I could not believe he would repeat an offer. I repeated my no . . . He could not understand,” Sabio said. “If I accept that [offer], my conscience will bother me forever.”

He said de Borja then told him that after two to three weeks, “Makakalimutan ito ng tao [people will forget about it],” and that other Ateneans had accepted bribes before. According to Sabio, de Borja and the Lopezes were conspiring to portray him as a corrupt judiciary official. He said he had been warned by friends that something might happen to him.

“The Lopezes will do everything possible using their money and power to discredit me. This is just the beginning. I know that they will not stop at doing everything to discredit my integrity,” he added.(ManilaTimes)

Natutulog sa kangkungan

July 31, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero

DAPAT lamang na matapos ang isang labor case sa pinakamadaling panahon. Ito ang sinasabi ng batas. Upang makamit ito, may takdang panahon para i-apela ang mga desisyon. Kapag lumampas ang panahong ito at hindi mo nagawa ang iyong apela, tapos ang laban. Magiging pinal na ang desisyon at wala ka nang magagawa kungdi ang tanggapin ito.

Nangyari ang ganitong sitwasyon sa kasong “Nationwide Security and Allied Services, Inc. vs. The Court of Appeals, et. al.” , G.R. No. 155844, na dinesisyunan ng Korte Suprema noong Hulyo 14, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, nagsampa ng reklamo ang mga security guard laban sa kanilang kompanya sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter . Naglabas ng desisyon ang Labor Arbiter na dapat bayaran ng kompanya ng separation pay ang mga guwardiya.

Nag-apela ang kompanya sa NLRC (National Labor Relations Commision). Pinawalang bisa naman ng NLRC ang apela sa dahilang huli na nang ito ay mai-file ng kompanya. Umakyat ang kompanya sa Court of Appeals ngunit ganoon pa rin ang hatol. Napilitang dalhin ng kompanya sa Korte Suprema ang kaso bilang huling hirit.

Kinatigan ng Korte Suprema ang mga security guard at sinabing tama ang NLRC at Court of Appeals.

Maliwanag sa Art. 229 ng Labor Code na ang gustong mag-apela laban sa desisyon o hatol ng isang Labor Arbiter ay may sampung (10) araw mula sa pagkatanggap ng desisyon para gawin ito. Kung hindi magawa sa nasabing panahon ang apela, magiging pinal ang desisyon.

Ganoon din ang sinasabi sa NLRC Rules of Procedure. Sampung araw lamang ang binibigay para i-apela ang desisyon. Hindi ito maaring ipa-extend at anumang motion na humihingi ng extension ay ibabasura.

Sa kaso ng mga security guard, natanggap ng kompanya ang desisyon noong Hulyo 16. Isinumite ng kompanya ang kanyang apela noong Hulyo 29. Ayon sa batas, dapat ay isinumite ito ng kompanya sampung araw (10) mula ng matanggap nito ang desisyon na dapat ay nong Hulyo 26. Malinaw na nahuli ng tatlong (3) araw ang apela ng kompanya, sabi ng Korte Suprema.

Dapat lamang na mahigpit na sundin ang taning na binibigay ng batas tungkol sa panahon ng pag-aapela. Kailangan ito para tumakbo ng maayos ang ating sistema ng hustisya, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema. Kaya, dapat lamang ibasura ang apela ng kompanya.

Kaya kung sakaling kayo ay may labor case at malapit nang hatulan ang kaso ninyo, maging mapagmatyag. Huwag matulog sa kangkungan. Tiyaking nakikipag-ugnayan kayo sa inyong abogado upang magawa niya ang inyong apela sa oras. Kung hindi, baka matulad kayo sa kompanya sa pinag-usapan nating kaso.

‘Amparo Dismissals Encourage More Killings’

July 30, 2008

CA SERIAL DISMISSALS OF AMPARO PETITIONS: ENCOURAGING THE ESCALATION OF EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

The NUPL strongly criticizes the recent spate of decisions by the Court of Appeals dismissing amparo petitions which are indicative of a failure to comprehend the intent and nature of the new judicial remedy that initially brought a ray of hope for the victims, families and human rights defenders. These decisions unfortunately disregards the actual state of human rights in the Philippines today that has prompted the promulgation of the new remedy in the first place. This spate of decisions will only encourage the re-escalation of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances because of the continuing impunity which has unfortunately and unwittingly been judicially engendered further.

Misunderstanding Amparo

The Court of Appeals has recently dismissed amparo petitions for the supposed failure of the victims-petitioners to prove that their rights to life, liberty or security were violated or under threat. In the case of survivor-witness Francis Saez who implicated Gen. Jovito Palparan – the epitome of a vicious and remorseless human rights violator who “got away with it” – to the killing of two human rights workers in Southern Tagalog, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition because “it appears” to have been precipitated by “fear that something might happen to him, not because of an apparent or visible threats to his life, liberty or security”. The CA also dismissed the amparo petition of Nilo Baculo, a media man who believes he is also under threat. Similar petitions for the writ were also recently dismissed one after the other in the case of activist-farmer Jonas Burgos, peace consultant Elizabeth Principe and – only yesterday – the Gumanoy sisters, daughters of one of the said Southern Tagalog human rights workers.

Firstly, the CA decisions seem to have sorely misunderstood the nature of amparo petitions and the interim relief for a temporary protection order demanded in the Saez and Baculo cases. The rule states under Rule 14 (a) that:

(a) Temporary Protection Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon motion or motu proprio, may order that the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family be protected in a government agency or by an accredited person or private institution capable of keeping and securing their safety. If the petitioner is an organization, association or institution referred to in Section 3(c) of this Rule, the protection may be extended to the officers involved.

Clearly, the Court may grant a temporary protection order motu proprio or “on its own initiative or discretion” even without a request or motion from the petitioner. Unlike the other interim reliefs, protection orders may be granted without a hearing. The intent of the rule, therefore, is to facilitate these protection orders rather than make it a burden for the petitioners to prove that they are under threat. The Protection Order is precisely a mantle intended to protect the victim should his claim to threats be true. No injury is caused if the Court will grant it and state that “even if the threat has not yet been fully established by direct evidence, the Court grants you protection and warns any person or entity not to violate your right to life, liberty or security”. The writ of amparo is in the nature of an affirmative action wherein the Court should grant the protection order if the respondents fail to prove that they are not threatening the life of the victim. Dismissing a petition on the unsure ground that the threat “appears” to be baseless is surely not the intent of the amparo rule.

Secondly, The CA decisions’ unreasonable standard of asking the victims for “clear evidence” of “apparent or visible” threats to the life of the petitioner could be misplaced. Judicial decisions will have to be in touch with the reality outside the immaculate walls and towers of the courtyards. There have been 900 extra judicial killings, several hundreds of disappearances, and daily accounts of almost routinary torture of the most heinous kinds in the Philippines since 2001 and there has been very little “visible or apparent” evidence gathered by the police to identify the perpetrators. The only time when the victims will have the opportunity to get a “visible or apparent” evidence of the threats is when a gun is already pointed at them and the trigger is about to be pulled. To place that burden on the victims rather than government agencies is clearly a misreading of the amparo rule.

The Supreme Court declared that the writ of amparo is not a criminal action requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt, nor is it a civil or an administrative proceedings, but a prerogative writ intended to protect human rights. In the above cases, it seems that the Court of Appeals did not find the allegations of petitioners “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion that there is a real and actual threat” to the life, liberty or security of Saez, a survivor-witness himself who implicated a notorious general for the killing of his two fellow human rights workers and who is being asked to “spy” on his own lawyers who are themselves members of NUPL. The decision considers the report of surveillance, and the “tailing” of the victim as nothing more than a mere baseless “fear”. This brings to mind a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on September 9, 1985 on the human rights situation of Chile under Gen. Augusto Pinochet:

On March 14, 1980 the teacher Oscar Salazar Jahnsen appeared before the Santiago Appeals Court, and complained of the conspicuous tailing to which he had been subject and expressed his fear of being illegally arrested and requested that he be granted adequate protection. When the respective report was requested from the Minister of the Interior, the Minister replied, “in this Department of State there is no information about this person” (confidential official letter 873 of March 18). x x x Six days later the court rejected the application and on April 28 the teacher Salazar was killed in a “security operation”. Concerning this event the media reported:

according to the versions supplied to the press, the event was the consequence of the tailing of Oscar Salazar for several days. Security officials followed him yesterday from the downtown area and in Lo Cañas Street ordered him to surrender. It was not stated why the arrest had not taken place earlier.

102. The account given indicates that the Judiciary has shown serious negligence in processing the applications submitted to it for safeguarding the personal liberty, the physical integrity, and even the life of many persons opposed to the Government. This attitude has favored, by omission, the condemnable practices of the Government, which have not been investigated with the decisiveness .

The New Template of “Voluntary custody”

In the case of the habeas corpus petition of 17 year old Fatima Gumanoy and the amparo petition of Juvy Ortiz and Jeffry Panganiban, the Court of Appeals dismissed their respective petitions on the ground that the subjects purportedly chose to remain in the custody of the military. This ruling is a far cry from the groundbreaking decision of the Dipolog and Davao RTC which ordered the release from military custody of petitioners Ruil Munasque and Luisito Bustamante both of whom also signed “affidavits of voluntary custody” with the AFP. The courageous Davao and Dipolog RTC judges who, despite Munasque’s and Bustamante’s affidavit professing voluntary custody with the military, released the victims to the custody of their family with an admonition that they can go back to the military’s custody the very next day should they persist on their declaration that they want to remain under the military’s custody. The RTC judges showed a keen perceptiveness of the conditions on the ground, the reality and context of human rights violations and sensitivity to the victims’ plight when they ordered their release.

The basis of the custody of the military must be a legal basis, not upon the whim or request of anyone, even the victim especially since the AFP is not a hotel or a boarding house where anyone can just demand board and lodging. If there is no arrest warrant or commitment order, the Court of Appeals cannot order that a victim remain in the custody of the AFP as in the case of Gumanoy, who is a minor.

Secondly, the Court of Appeals must be conscious or take note of the credible allegations, pervasive public perception and independent findings – both here and abroad – and hundreds of complaints in different national and international fora that the military, police and their agents are involved in human rights violations, abduction and enforced disappearance including torture. This immediately puts a legal responsibility on the courts to frown on claims by subjects that they ‘want’ to be in military custody as testimonies most likely given under duress. A decision dismissing an amparo petition because a subject ‘wants’ to be under the military’s custody, rather than with his family, is based on an unrealistic assessment of the facts and, denies reality and even common human experience. It simply taxes one’s credulity.

In his speech before the Court of Appeals, Chief Justice Reynato Puno reminded the CA justices that amparo is intended to protect human rights and exhorted them to do so when he declared:

The power to interpret law is therefore a power that can make a difference. The power is weak only in the hands of weaklings; the power is puny only to those whose minds no longer dream and dare.

Together with the rulings in Saez, Baculo, Gumanoy, Panganiban and Ortiz and more recently, the rulings in the Jonas Burgos and Elizabeth Principe petitions, it seems that the heralded promise that was amparo is floundering not in any local RTC who might be more in touch with reality but in the ivy towers of the Court of Appeals. After giving the amparo a chance, where else can the victims really go for real justice?

Date : 27 July 2008

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, Secretary General

Project employee: anu-anong mga indikasyon?

July 24, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

PAANO kung tinatanggi ng kompanya na regular na empleyado nila ang manggagawa ? Paano kung ang sabi nito ay isa siyang project employee ? Ano-ano ang mga katangian ng isang project employee at ano naman ang katangian ng isang regular employee?

Ganito ang karanasan ni Bienvenido sa kasong Bienvenido Goma vs. Pamplona Plantation Incorporated (GR No. 160905, July 4, 2008). Nagdemanda siya ng illegal dismissal sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter dahil ayaw nang magbigay ng trabaho sa kanya ang kompanya. Nagtatrabaho siya bilang karpintero dito.

Bilang depensa , sinabi ng kompanya na hindi ang kasalukuyang manedsment ang kumuha kay Bienvenido kungdi ang dating manedsment nito nang iba pa ang may-ari ng kompanya. Wala na ang dating may-ari na ito at ginawa ng korporasyon ang kompanya. Giniit nito na hindi ito obligadong i-absorb ang mga manggagawa ng dating may-ari. Naniwala ang Labor Arbiter sa depensang ito at pinawalang bisa ang kaso ni Bienvenido.

Umapela si Bienvenido sa NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) at binaliktad ng huli ang desisyon. Inutusan ng NLRC ang kompanya na ibalik si Bienvenido sa kanyang trabaho at bayaran ito ng kanyang backwages. Sinabi ng NLRC na kahit bago na ang may-ari ng kompanya, patuloy nilang pinakikinabangan ang serbisyo ni Bienvenido sa loob ng dalawang taon. Kaya, maituturing na regular na nilang empleyado itong si Bienvenido.

Dinala ng kompanya sa Court of Appeals ang kaso. Dito ay inamin nito na nagtrabaho nga sa kanya itong si Bienvenido subalit bilang karpintero, ay isang project employee at hindi maituturing na regular employee ang huli. Binaliktad naman ng Court of Appeals ang hatol ng NLRC at pinanalo muli ang kompanya. Napilitang dalhin ni Bienvenido ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Ayon sa Art. 280 ng Labor Code, ang isang manggagawa ay maituturing na regular na empleyado kung ang kanyang trabaho ay mahalaga o kailangan sa negosyo ng kompanya, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema. Siya ay maituturing na project employee kung ang kanyang serbisyo ay kinuha kaugnay ng isang partikular na proyekto lamang at sinabi sa kanya kung hanggang kailan ang proyektong ito.

Sa kaso ni Bienvenido, walang katunayan na kinuha ng kompanya ang kanyang serbisyo kaugnay ng isang proyekto lamang. Wala ring patunay na sinabi sa kanya ang haba ng proyektong ito, kung talagang mayroon mang proyekto. Tanging alegasyon lamang ito ng kompanya na hindi suportado ng anumang ebidensiya.

Isa pa, ayon sa Department Order No. 19, kailangang i-report ng kompanya sa pinakamalapit na employment office ang pagtatapos ng kontrata ng isang project employee. Sa kaso ni Bienvenido, walang ginawang report ang kompanya. Ito ay nagpapatunay na isang regular na empleyado si Bienvenido, sabi ng Korte Suprema.

Dahil sa isa siyang regular na empleyado, matatanggal lamang si Bienvenido kapag may sapat na batayan sa ilalim ng batas. Walang sapat na batayan na naipakita ang kompanya sa hindi pagbigay nito ng trabaho kay Bienvenido. Dahil dito, hindi legal ang ginawang pagtanggal sa kanya sa trabaho, sabi ng Korte Suprema.

Binaliktad ng Korte Suprema ang hatol ng Court of Appeals at inutos na bayaran ng backwages at separation pay si Bienvenido.(PWeekly)

ILPS: Inspiring Peoples to Fight for a New and Better World

July 21, 2008

Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison on the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)

The International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) successfully held its Third International Assembly (TIA) in Hong Kong from June 18 to 20. Prof. Jose Maria Sison was re-elected as chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC).

BY D. L. MONDELO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) is today the most outstanding and largest anti-imperialist and democratic formation of global scale. It has attracted to its fold a great number of member organizations, with individual members running into millions, from the ranks of workers and peasants and the middle social strata in various countries and continents. It has become a rallying point because of its well-known resoluteness, militancy, self-reliance and effective campaigns.

The ILPS takes up a whole array of 18 concerns and issues involved in the people’s struggle for national and social liberation against imperialism and reaction. It has gained the trust of the people and has overshadowed the World Social Forum (WSF) because it has an uncompromising anti-imperialist line, it relies on the fighting will and capabilities of its member-organization and does not depend on funding from imperialist agencies.

The ILPS successfully held its Third International Assembly (TIA) in Hong Kong from June 18 to 20. Prof. Jose Maria Sison was re-elected as chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC). Here is Bulatlat’s interview.

Q1: Did you expect to be re-elected as ILPS Chairperson?

JMS: Before the assembly, the leaders of some major member organizations of ILPS from some countries had asked me to stay on as ILPS chairperson.  Nevertheless, the wish of these organizations was subject to the ILPS democratic process.  Like other candidates, I was nominated and elected by secret vote to the ICC. And then when the 3rd ICC convened on the day after the assembly, it elected its executive officers to form the International Coordinating Group (ICG) with me as chairperson.

Q2: You could not attend the TIA because of travel restrictions. But by using skype video chat you were very much present at the assembly. What do you think of the internet as a medium for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people?  So far ILPS has used it effectively.  But in what way can it become ineffective?

JMS: Indeed, thanks to the use of Internet live video communication, I was able to participate in the last meeting of the outgoing ICC on 17 June 2008, in major parts of the assembly program from 18 to 20 June 2008 and in the first meeting of the newly-elected ICC on 21 June 2008.  I was able to deliver my general report to the plenary session and to answer some questions. I could even watch the cultural solidarity night and participate in it by singing two songs.

The Internet is a very effective way of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people. It is a fast and cheap medium for collecting, keeping and disseminating information for the purpose of education, voluntary organization and mass mobilizations. People can interact with each other in print, audio and video and arrive at common understanding and courses of action. The proceedings and results of the ILPS Third International Assembly are speedily posted at the website http://www.tia.ilps.org and are made available to everyone worldwide.

The monopoly bourgeoisie controls the governments, telecommunication companies and servers and can use them under the guise of anti-terrorism, national security and other pretexts to prevent the people and the anti-imperialist forces from having access to the new technology. The broad masses of the people must be vigilant and must be resolute and militant in upholding and defending the principle and exercise of the freedom of thought and expression. All the time they must be able to use the most time-tested methods of arousing, organizing and mobilizing themselves for national and social liberation, no matter how much the imperialists and local reactionaries control the mass media.

Q3: You played a prominent role in conceptualizing, organizing and founding the ILPS. Can you tell us your role up to the time that you first became chairperson in 2004?

JMS:  With the cooperation of some organizations from several countries, I convened the International Initiative Committee (IIC) in 1998 for the purpose of preparing the establishment of the ILPS.  We conceived of the ILPS as an international anti-imperialist and democratic alliance of mass formations in anticipation of the upsurge of the people’s resistance against the the escalation of exploitation and oppression under the US-instigated policies of imperialist “globalization” and aggressive wars.

On the eve of the Battle in Seattle in November 1999, I delivered a speech against the WTO and the myth of “free market” globalization in an international conference in Seattle and raised the call for anti-imperialist and democratic mass organizations to join the ILPS. I was the chairperson of the IIC until it founded the ILPS in its First International Assembly (FIA) in Zutphen, the Netherlands in May 2001.  At this assembly were 339 participants (314 delegates and 25 special guests), representing 232 organizations based in 40 countries. The FIA heard my report, ratified the ILPS Charter, conducted 18 workshops on 18 major global concerns and elected the International Coordinating Committee (ICC).

The ICC elected the renowned labor leader Crispin Beltran as its chairperson and appointed me as ILPS General Consultant. The ICC and the entire ILPS were very successful from 2001 to 2004 in taking positions on major global issues and on local issues of global significance and in undertaking sectoral and multisectoral meetings and campaigns of information and mass actions against imperialism and reaction.

In November 2004 the ILPS held the Second International Assembly in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.  It issued an excellent General Declaration, firmed up the study commissions to a significant extent and elected a new ICC. This in turn elected its executive officers, including me as the chairperson.

Q 4. What were your accomplishments as ILPS Chairperson from 2004 to 2008?  What are the objectives you wish to accomplish under your new term?

JMS:  The ILPS and I benefited from the experience and achievements of the ILPS and ICC under Crispin Beltran as chairperson from 2001 to 2004. Whatever distinct contributions I could make to the achievements of the ILPS from 2004 to 2008 were made possible by the support and cooperation of colleagues in the ICC, ICG, General Secretariat, the staff and the study commissions and, most important of all, the ILPS member organizations.

My report to the TIA presents the major ILPS achievements and puts in context what I have done as ILPS chairperson after the SIA. I tried to do my best in performing the role of presiding officer of the ICC and ICG, chief spokesperson, chief coordinator and chief representative of the ILPS.  In accordance with the ILPS Charter, General Declaration, resolutions on the 18 concerns and timely resolutions of the ICC and ICG, I issued many statements on a wide range of global issues.  I called for particular actions and for sustained campaigns on various issues.

Under my new term, I wish the ILPS to issue statements and calls to action on an ever wider range of issues, to expand and intensify information and educational work, to engage and attract more member-organizations, build national chapters and global region committees, conduct sectoral and multisectoral gatherings and generate campaigns on various issues and raise more resources for the improved and expanded functioning of the ILPS at various levels.

Q 5.What are the global conditions favorable and unfavorable to the ILPS and the anti-imperialist mass movement?

Let me state first the unfavorable conditions. Under the baton of the U.S., the imperialist powers and the puppet regimes are united in escalating the exploitation and oppression of the people under the slogans of “free market” globalization and global “war on terror” despite inter-imperialist contradictions. The economic and financial crisis of monopoly capitalism is ever worsening and is driving the imperialist powers to whip state terrorism on a global scale,  increase military interventions and unleash wars aggression.

But the unfavorable conditions are also precisely the conditions that challenge and drive the peoples of the world to wage resistance. The people’s discontent is deep and widespread in the imperialist countries as well as in the semi-colonies and dependent countries. The people’s armed resistance against aggression, occupation, social injustice and state terrorism is growing fast.  Mass protests are breaking out at an accelerated rate all over the world.

The ILPS can avail of these favorable conditions for further clarifying the issues, raising the level of consciousness,  inspiring the people to strengthen their organizations, encouraging them to take the anti-imperialist and democratic road of struggle and mobilizing them to fight for a new and better world of greater freedom, social justice, all-round development and a just peace.

Q 6: How is the ILPS similar and dissimilar to other comparable international organizations? How do you relate to them?

JMS:  The ILPS has arisen and developed in sharp contrast to imperialist-funded organizations, alliances,  networks and conferences that present themselves as critical of  the manifestations of global capitalism but are in fact mere reformists begging for reforms from the oppressors and exploiters in order to preserve and prettify the system of oppression and exploitation.The ILPS  addresses itself to the oppressed and exploited people to fight for reforms as means to a revolutionary process of national and social liberation.

Among truly progressive and revolutionary forces and people, the ILPS enjoys high prestige because of its anti-imperialist and democratic position on a comprehensive range of issues, such as those covered by its 18 concerns, and its resolute and militant campaigns mainly for the national and social liberation of the peoples of the world. The ILPS has accomplished so much despite its financial constraints.

The crypto-Trotskyites and social democrats formed the World Social Forum (WSF) to counter the ILPS and to coopt a wide range of organizations through the tactics of the variety show and carnival.  But the WSF has been discredited because it is reformist. It does not strike at the roots of imperialism and global reaction. It receives funding from the most ignoble imperialist sources like the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the like.

Organizations that are truly anti-imperialist and honestly for a new and better world have differentiated themselves from the pro-imperialist core of the WSF.  They either stay within the overly wide framework of the WSF and cooperate with the ILPS and its member-organizations or separate themselves from the WSF to assert their integrity and cooperate with or join the ILPS.

Q 7: What are the most significant political forces that you wish to arouse, organize and mobilize against imperialism and reaction?  How do you go about arousing, organizing and mobilizing them?

JMS: The ILPS is most interested in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata. It gives highest priority to attracting the trade unions and peasant associations to become ILPS member-organizations. It is also eager to attract the progressive organizations of the women and youth and the associations of teachers, artists and writers, scientists and technologists, health professionals, lawyers and other sectors.

It is interested in the organizations that are active in movements for national and social liberation and in sectoral and multilateral organizations and alliances that are based on concerns and issues pertaining to sovereignty against imperialism, social justice, human rights, peace, protection of the environment, and so on.

The ILPS has its information and educational work to arouse the people, its enlistment of member-organizations and formation of national chapters and global region committees and the campaigns on various issues to mobilize large numbers of people.  But in fact, the ILPS is essentially a coordinating center at various levels.  It can only be as strong as the member-organizations are strong and willing to unite, cooperate and coordinate with other forces within the framework of the ILPS Charter.

Q 8: Is not the job of ILPS chairperson so heavy and preoccupying that you have no more time to work for any Philippine organization? By working for the ILPS, are you not reducing your working time for the struggle of the Filipino people for national and social liberation?  Within the ILPS, are you not likely to give a disproportionate amount of attention to the said struggle?

JMS: The work of the ILPS chairperson is indeed heavy and preoccupying. I have to do a lot of the things that a chairperson would not do in a well-financed and well-staffed organization. The speeches that I address to various organizations, the articles that I write for various publications and the legal cases that I am involved in also take a lot of my time. But I still manage to be the Chairperson of the International Network for Philippine Studies and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The organized forces in the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation are relatively well developed. They would not consider as a loss of time the work that I devote to the ILPS. On the other hand, they could consider my work for the ILPS as an opportunity for the Filipino people’s struggle to be better known and to gather political and moral support on a global scale. Many patriotic and progressive organizations in the Philippines are member-organizations of the ILPS because they recognize the need for international solidarity and common struggle against imperialism and all reaction.

I avoid giving a disproportionate amount of attention or whatever benefit to the Filipino people’s struggle because I am always conscious of the ILPS as an international alliance and coordinating center for all its member organizations and allies on a global scale. The ILPS member organizations from the Philippines are numerous and thus provide a strong support to the ILPS.  But the Philippines like any other country is subject to the rule that it can have a maximum of only three seats in the ICC.  This rule ensures the international character of the ILPS.

Q 9: How much of a problem to the ILPS and to you as ILPS chairperson are the “terrorist” listing and the court cases involving you in the Philippines, The Netherlands and Europe?

JMS: Because the ILPS and its member organizations have an anti-imperialist and democratic character, they are in firm solidarity with me and strongly support me against the “terrorist” listing and the false charges hurled against me. They see the false charges against me as violations of my human rights and blatant acts of oppression. They see the monstrous hands of the U.S. and other imperialist states and the Arroyo puppet regime.

The false charges have been used to deny me legal admission as a refugee and residence in The Netherlands, to ban me from work, to freeze my bank account, to terminate my social benefits, to curtail my right to travel, to put me in prison last year, to have the excuse to raid the NDFP office and the homes of seven Filipino families, to intimidate my colleagues and friends, to attack me with further prosecution and imprisonment, to stigmatize me and incite hatred and violence against my person and to inflict material and moral damages me without letup.

The ILPS is accustomed to having its highest officials subjected to oppression. Deputy Chairperson Memik Horuz was arrested and imprisoned in Turkey for many years since 2001. Honorary Chairperson Crispin Beltran was imprisoned in the Philippines from 2006 to 2007. ICC member Dr. Ahmad Maslamani was imprisoned for several years from 2005 onwards. I joined the distinguished group by my imprisonment in the Netherlands in 2007. In each case of oppression, the ILPS member organizations stood up in various countries to defend the democratic rights of the victim. Whenever an ILPS officer was imprisoned, the ILPS launched campaigns to denounce the injustice and demand the release of the prisoner.

Q 10: Can you give a message to the ILPS member-organizations and the people of the world? What are the problems to overcome and what are the tasks for overcoming these and advancing to a  new and higher level?

JMS: Once more I wish to thank all the ILPS member organizations for keeping me in their trust and confidence and reelecting me to the ICC. Let us all work together in order to carry forward the people’s struggle for national and social liberation against imperialism and all reaction. Let us exert ever greater efforts to arouse, organize and mobilize the broad masses of the people. The people themselves are eager to wage mass struggles because they cannot tolerate the acute suffering that they are undergoing in the ever worsening crisis of the world capitalist system, especially under the US-instigated policies of “free market” globalization and the global “war on terror.”

The problems to overcome are the evils of monopoly capitalism and all reaction and all the policies and acts of exploitation and oppression that they imposed on the people. The people must fight  these evils resolutely and militantly and march from victory to victory. The tasks of overcoming the evils and advancing to a new and higher level of the struggle are gargantuan. But our strength is still very limited. We must build on our existing strength, overcome our own weaknesses and increase our strength several fold by undertaking the necessary work in the fields of education, organization and mass mobilization. Bulatlat

Cordi reps lead ILPS workshop on IPs, national minorities

July 18, 2008

NEW TERRITORIES, Hong Kong — Anti-imperialist calls reverberated in the successful staging of the International League of Peoples Struggle-Third International Assembly (ILPS-TIA) with 350 delegates from across the globe which the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) attended from June 18 to 20.

CPA headed the Study Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Minorities and Nationalities or Commission No. 10. The 3-day assembly revolved in the theme: ‘Strengthen the people’s struggle, unite to build a new world against imperialist aggression, state terrorism, plunder and social destruction!’

Nine delegates from CPA participated in the ILPS-TIA and attended various workshops for the said 18 concerns. Windel Bolinget, Jill Carino, Joanna Carino, Donna Villamor, Maty Camfili, Vernie Diano, Flora Belinan, Carol Galvez and Chie Galvez participated in the workshops on self-determination, women’s rights, rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trasgendered, national liberation, arts and culture, environment, and freedom for political prisoners.

CPA served as the lead organization of Study Commission No. 10 on the rights of indigenous peoples, national minorities and nationalities for self-determination, and decoloni-zation against discrimination, racism, and national oppression by imperialism and local reaction. This workshop had in attendance delegates from the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Canada, United States, Colombia and Australia.

Senator Anna Margarita Madrigal and Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan also participated and shared their legislative agenda and achievements for the indigenous peoples in the Philippines.

“Prior to ILPS, CPA organized a caucus in Baguio for the same study commission, which was also attended by indigenous peoples in the Philippines, the Moro people represented by Suara Bangsamoro and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, representatives from Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nagaland, Taiwan, Burma and Bangladesh”, said Bolinget, CPA secretary-general.

Bolinget presented Study Commission No. 10 resolution which was approved by the TIA Plenary which contain the following points for ILPS to pursue:

• To wage a campaign against the imperialist-led “war on terror” and the national security laws it spawned, with their particular impacts on indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations; • To militantly resist displacement of indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations from their ancestral lands and territories and the destruction and plunder of their resources by reactionary States and multinational corporations; • To expose and oppose the use of USAID, Official Development Assistance and other so-called development packages as a deceptive and divisive tool against indigenous peoples, national minorities, nationalities/nations; • To combat racism, chauvinism and discrimination against indigenous peoples, national minorities, nationalities and nations in all its forms and to recognize their distinct identities and dignity; • To reach out to other oppressed indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations around the world and build stronger solidarity with them against imperialism and local reaction towards the realization of their right to self-determination. • To continue to deepen study and understanding of the diverse situations of indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities/nations; present-day forms of national oppression, and the theory and practice of self-determination; and to consciously link their struggles with the class struggle against the common enemy, which is imperialism.

CPA also presented a particular resolution on imperialist mining and plunder of resources. It was also approved by the Plenary.

CPA delegates also presented the play ‘Kaigorotan’ in the Solidarity Night where all delegates gathered for songs, poems, plays, dances and chants with a common theme; Down with US imperialism! Long Live the Fighting People of the World! Long Live ILPS!

After the ILPS, CPA delegates proceeded to the Cordillera Migrants Forum on Mining and Human Rights that was organized by ATIS (Abra-Tinggian-Ilokano Society) and Cordillera Alliance (Corall).

ILPS is an anti-imperialist united front at the international, global region and national levels. In recent years, it called for people’s action against the imperialist policies of globalization, war of terror, environmental plunder, the US war on Iraq, exploitation and oppression of people, including indigenous peoples and discrimination among others.

It is the most outstanding anti-imperialist and democratic formation that provides political guidance on 18 concerns, namely, cause of national liberation; socio-economic development; human rights; just peace; trade union; agrarian reform; women’s liberation; rights of the youth; children’s rights; right to self-determination of indigenous peoples; national minorities and nationalities; rights of teachers; right to health; science and technology; arts and culture; justice and indemnification of victims of human rights violations; rights of homeless persons; rights of the elderly; and rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. # Chie Galvez(NorDis)

Agency fee: kailangan ba ang pahintulot ng empleyado?

July 17, 2008

Husgahan Natin

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

MAAARI bang obligahin ng unyon na bawasan ng kompanya ng agency fee ang mga empleyadong hindi kasapi ng unyon kahit wala pahintulot tungkol dito ang naturang mga empleyado? Paano kung hindi rin pumayag ang kompanya? Ito ang katanungang tinalakay sa kaso ng Del Pilar Academy vs. Del Pilar Academy Employees Union, G.R. No. 170112, na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema noong Abril 30, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, ay nagkaroon ng CBA (collective bargaining agreement) sa pagitan ng eskwelahan (Del Pilar Academy) at ang unyon nito (Del Pilar Academy Employees Union). Ang unyon ang kinatawan ng mga guro at non-teaching staff sa nasabing eskuwelahan.

Pagkatapos ng CBA, ay hiningi ng unyon sa manedsment na kaltasan ng agency fee ang sahod ng mga empleyado na hindi kasapi ng unyon na nakinabang sa CBA. Tumanggi ang manedsment sa dahilang walang nakasulat na pagsang-ayon ang nasabing mga empleyado. Bukod pa rito, ang dagdag sa sahod na ibinigay sa mga hindi kasapi ng unyon ay bunga ng batas, hindi ng CBA, pangatuwiran ng manedsment.

Nagsampa ng kasong unfair labor practice ang unyon laban sa eskuwelahan sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter. Nagdesisyon ang Labor Arbiter na walang unfair labor practice sa ginawa ng eskuwelahan. Ganoon pa man, dapat niyang kinaltasan ng agency fee ang mga hindi kasapi na empleyado gaya ng gustong mangyari ng unyon.

Nag-apela ang eskuwelahan sa National Labor Relations Commission ngunit ganun din ang naging hatol. Umakyat ito sa Court of Appeals ngunit ganun pa rin. Napilitan itong pumunta sa Korte Suprema.

Pabor sa unyon ang naging hatol ng Korte Suprema.

Ang pagkokolekta ng agency fee sa halagang kasing laki ng butaw sa unyon at iba pang bayarin mula sa mga manggagawang hindi kasapi ng unyon ay nakasaad sa Art. 248 (e) ng Labor Code, sabi ng Korte Suprema. Sinasabi ng ganung batas na hindi na kailangan ang pahintulot sa nasabing mga manggagawa. Sapat na na sila’y nakinabang sa CBA, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Bagamat sinasabi ng manedsment na ang dagdag sa sahod na tinatamasa ng mga hindi kasapi ng unyon ay dahil sa kautusan ng batas at hindi dahil sa naganap na CBA, marami pa ring benepisyong tinatamasa ang hindi mga kasapi ng unyon dahil sa naganap na CBA. Halimbawa, ang dagdag na vacation leave with pay na ngayon ay kanilang tinatamasa ay dahil sa CBA at hindi sa batas. Ang dagdag na sahod kapag lumampas ang isang guro sa normal na teaching load ay galing din sa CBA. Ang longevity pay na gayon ay umiiral ay dahil din sa CBA. Maliwanag na ang mga benepisyong ito ay hindi makukuha kung hindi dahil sa CBA ng manedsment at ng unyon, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Dahil dito, dapat lang na singilin ng manedsment ng agency fee ang mga manggagawa na hindi kasapi ng unyon. At sa pagkakataong ito, hindi na kailangan ang kanilang pahintulot, pagtatapos ng Korte Suprema.(PinoyWeekly)

Court orders Nani trial for falsifying SALN

July 15, 2008

THE Sandiganbayan Third Division yesterday ruled that former Justice Secretary Hernando “Nani” Perez must stand trial for falsification of public documents as the graft court junked with finality his motion seeking the dismissal of the case.

In a seven-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Francisco H. Villaruz Jr., the Third Division said there is sufficient basis to proceed with trial, contrary to Perez’s argument that the offense should have been absorbed by the graft charge against him now pending before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division.

Perez was accused of using his former position to extort $2 million from former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez, a.k.a. Mario Crespo, in 2001 after the latter declined to execute affidavits that would have implicated several private individuals in the Estrada plunder case.

Based on this allegation, the Office of the Ombudsman filed four criminal charges at the San-diganbayan indicting Perez, his wife Rosario, brother-in-law Ramon Arceo and businessman Ernest Escaler for robbery and graft which are now pending before the First and Second Divisions.

Perez alone was accused in the second graft and falsification cases.

The court pointed out that based on the Supreme Court’s pronouncements in the case of People vs. Relova, it is possible for a single act to offend against “two or more entirely distinct and entirely unrelated provisions of law thus justifying the prosecution of the accused for more than one offense.”

The court reiterated that there is no basis to admit into the record newspaper clippings that Perez claims to constitute evidence that the Office of the Ombudsman bowed to “political considerations” in charging him in court. The Sandiganbayan said the news clippings were “hearsay evidence” since none of them contained direct statements from the Ombudsman and none was part of the pleading from the very start, unlike the newspaper excerpts of the diary of Sen. Edgardo Angara which were admitted in the case of Estrada vs. Desierto. – Peter J.G. Tabingo(Malaya)

Manila Pen Case Dismissal Hit: Police Warned Against Using Court Decision to Arrest Journalists

July 11, 2008

The arrest and investigation of media practitioners who covered the Manila Peninsula incident by the police were justified, said a Makati regional trial court judge. He even said that journalists were “so lucky for not being charged with criminal cases.” Media groups called the decision the biggest blow on press freedom since 1946, adding that the situation is even worse than martial law.

By Ronalyn V. Olea
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

Mas masahol pa ito sa martial law. Sa martial law, alam mo ang limits. Ngayon, gugulatin ka na lang.” (This is worse than martial law. During martial law, you know the limits. But now, you will just be caught flatfooted.)

Journalist Vergel Santos more or less summed up the sentiments of his colleagues at a roundtable discussion last July 2 in Taguig City.

Irked by the June 20 decision of Makati regional trial court (RTC) Branch 56 Judge Reynaldo Laigo, Santos said this has the biggest chilling effect in the journalism profession.

In his five-page decision dismissing the civil case filed by media practitioners, Laigo maintained, “The order issued by Philippine National Police National Capital Region Office (PNP-NCR) Chief Gen. Geary Barias was but lawful and appeared to have been disobeyed by media when they intentionally refused to leave the hotel premises.”

Laigo added, “An appropriate criminal charge under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code could have been initiated against them…they were so lucky as none had been initiated. Their having been handcuffed and brought to Camp Bagong Diwa for investigation and released thereafter, was justified, it being accord with police procedure.”

He also said that the pronouncements made by Barias and other defendants and the advisory of Secretary Gonzalez following the Manila Peninsula incident “have not and will not in any way curtail, much less avert media from exercising freely their rights to cover or obtain information on future events.”

Journalists were handcuffed and “processed” after the Manila Peninsula incident.

Thirty-six journalists and camera operators, along with representatives of some media organizations and the academe, filed a civil suit against the police and authorities after the siege.

Atty. Harry Roque, legal counsel of the complainants, said he was surprised that the civil case has already been dismissed. Laigo’s ruling was issued June 20 but Roque said he was the last to get a copy. “Nauna pa si Barias makakuha ng kopya. Siya pa nga ang nag-leak sa media.” (Barias was the first to get a copy. He was even the one who leaked it to the media.)

Roque initially thought that the dismissal pertains to their petition for preliminary injunction intending to prolong the temporary restraining order (TRO). Earlier, Makati RTC Executive Judge Josefina Salonga granted their petition for TRO directing the PNP, Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) not to repeat the offenses against the media.

Roque said that contrary to Barias’ pronouncements and to Laigo’s opinion, Ashzer Hachero of Malaya testified before the court that the police issued no categorical order for journalists to leave the hotel premises.

Wrong decision

Roque said, “Dahil sa Chavez vs NTC ruling, sa tingin ko, with all due respect, mali ang desisyon ni Judge Laigo.” (Because of the Chavez vs. NTC ruling, I think, with all due respect, Judge Laigo’s decision is wrong.)

The Supreme Court upheld press freedom in its ruling on Chavez vs. National Telecommunications Commission. “Kahit advisory, kung ang resulta ay magkaroon ng takot ang media upang gampanan ang kanilang trabaho, ay paglabag sa karapatan ng pamamahayag.” (Even an advisory, if it will cause chilling effect on media in performing their jobs, constitutes violation of press freedom.)

Roque said he is still studying whether to go to the Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court to file an appeal.

He said he is ready to take the case to the United Nations Committee of Human Rights in Geneva when all domestic remedies have been exhausted. ”Naniniwala na ang ginawa ng ating kapulisan ay seryosong paglabag sa Article 19 ng International Covention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)” (I believe that what the police did is a serious violation of the Article 19 of the ICCPR.) The Philippine government is a state party to the agreement.

Warning

In a statement, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said, “The RTC decision would not only legitimize an illegitimate attempt to subvert press freedom, the Constitution and democracy. It would now embolden and arm the regime with the license to repeat the offense, as it has several times threatened to do.”

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) also expressed alarm, “The dismissal of the suit and the executive rationale behind the police’s arrest of covering journalists to start with, immediately brings uncertainty and danger to media practitioners in future urgencies – uncertainty and danger not from the inherent risks of emergencies, but from the mandate that police and the government have granted themselves (now with court backing) to dictate what would be out of bounds for news coverage.”

In a statement, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), an alliance of tertiary student publications, criticized the court ruling, “…in effect, [it] excuses authorities’ abuse of power over unfounded allegations and baseless accusations.” “After accusing members of the media of colluding with the military rebels, the police were unable to support their accusations,” the CEGP said.

Roque said that Barias is obviously happy with the decision. He told the media, “Huwag kayong mabigla kung gagamitin [ang desisyon]. Hindi na lamang kayo aarestuhin kundi kakasuhan na rin.” (Do not be surprised if the police will use the decision. You will not just be arrested, you will also be charged.)

But Roque also warned the PNP that the RTC decision is binding only to the parties thereto and has no jurisprudential value. “Akala nila, sapat nang basehan, nagkakamali sila. Hindi pa po ito pinal.” (If they think they have enough bases, they are mistaken. The decision is not yet final.)

If the PNP will repeat the offense, Roque said, “Pupwede na natin silang kasuhan ng kasong kriminal, coercion or serious illegal detention.” (We can also file criminal charges against them, such as coercion or serious illegal detention.)

Judiciary

Ellen Tordesillas, one of the complainants, said she is concerned on the possible loss of faith in the judiciary.

In an interview, Carol Araullo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance) chair, said that justices, because they are appointed by the executive, are vulnerable to undue influence or interference by the executive department.

She said, “If media practitioners, despite their being influential, were slapped by the RTC decision, how could the ordinary citizens who do not have the political and economic power to voice out the injustices done to them obtain justice?

Policy

Santos said the attacks on media are ‘methodical and conspiratorial.’ “May mga pwersang gustong sumupil sa atin.” (There are forces out to suppress us.)

The CMFR deemed that the ruling was issued “in the context of a clear policy by a regime hostile to press freedom and the people’s right to information to do all it can, both within and outside the law, as well as to stretch to the limit of what is legally allowed.”

It added, “No regime has the right to dictate that a decision to stay and cover is wrong and can be penalized.”

Araullo said, “In covering the news, intentionally or not, journalists are able to expose the oppressive nature of the state, the use of state power to protect and promote the interests of a few ruling elite. An administration like Arroyo, which is under siege and hugely unpopular, cannot tolerate even that. And the purpose of the actions at the Manila Pen is to instill fear among media practitioners.”

She said that the message to the media is clear, “Better behave, either by self-censorship or by meekly following military or police orders or they themselves will be targets. The state is the number one violator of human rights, particularly civil and political rights. It is important that journalists remain independent and fair and assertive of their right to cover the news, especially controversial political issues. In a sense, it is an important shield or defense against an all-powerful state.” Bulatlat

Mobile court resolves 20 cases in one day

July 10, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:52:00 07/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The decisions came down swiftly Wednesday from judges presiding at the first hearings of a justice-on-wheels program outside the packed Manila City Jail.

In less than 15 minutes, the charge of robbery-holdup against Aldrich dela Cruz, 20, was provisionally dismissed by Judge Reynaldo Ros after the accuser failed to heed repeated summonses to appear in court since the alleged crime happened in December 2007.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim were present during the initial proceedings inside a bus that was converted into a courtroom, marking the launching of the mobile court program in Metro Manila.

The mop-haired Dela Cruz, wearing the usual yellow T-shirt of a detainee, got some words of wisdom later from Puno and Lim, who told him that he should shape up from now on and he would get all the help that he needed if he decided to put his life in order.

All told during the daylong hearings conducted by Ros and three other judges on the bus, 20 cases were resolved and the inmates got either temporary or permanent freedom from various crimes, mostly against property, for which they had been charged.

87-year-old inmate

One of the inmates who queued outside the bus was 87-year-old Juanita Fedelino, whose case for alleged drug pushing had been pending for the last six years. “Even if I didn’t do it, I will admit that I did it just to get this over with,” she said.

The justice-on-wheels program, patterned after a similar project successfully implemented in Guatemala to decongest prisons there, was launched in the Philippines four years ago with funding from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Four buses that had been converted into courtrooms were acquired in 2004. These buses have been deployed in the provinces in an attempt to bring justice to many of the accused languishing in remote jails. With the alarming increase in prison populations in Metro Manila, Puno decided to field one in the metropolis.

The Manila City Jail is one of the most crowded in the capital. It was built to house only 1,000 inmates but is now crammed with more than 5,000.

Likely surge in crimes

Puno told reporters that he was worried that with the current economic crunch, there could be a surge in crimes.

“It’s only natural. If times are hard, crimes against property rise. That’s a big problem, the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and the local government units, have to work together,” he said.

“The poor who are accused of illegal acts need access to justice because if you are already hungry and are oppressed by the justice system, that is a dangerous thing for a country,” Puno told reporters.

“If a person is hungry and suffers injustice, he will be thinking bad things,” he said.

Socialize justice

Puno said he had ordered an inventory of pending cases and hoped other local governments units would cooperate with the Supreme Court in the same way that Lim had.

He also said that the high court was thinking of how the additional funds would be used to bring down the cost of justice.

The proposal of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to remove the filing fees for criminal cases, and only charge filing fees for civil cases, is being studied, he said.

“We will consider that because when you talk of criminal cases, liberty is the issue. That is why we will look into this especially if they have no money to pay these fees. Liberty is beyond cost. We will think of how to socialize the cost of justice,” he said. With Eliza Victoria, Inquirer Research

Turning palms into clenched fists

July 7, 2008

ISSUE ANALYSIS No. 10
July 3, 2008
Series of 2008

Putting the imperatives of the elite-dominated state supreme over the fundamental rights of the people is a dangerous doctrine. In interpreting the law, the court’s mandate is to be on the side of basic rights – expand them if need be – and make justice more accessible to those who have less in life.

Turning palms into clenched fists

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA)
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)


The Supreme Court (SC) now faces the daunting task of ministering to reforms of the Philippines’ justice system which remains largely inaccessible to most Filipinos particularly poor litigants. By opening the gateway to citizens’ participation – at least through policy recommendations – aimed at making the justice system closer to the masses, the high court also faces a challenge to make amends. It is being asked to revisit rulings that it handed down on landmark cases seen to have caused a grave impact on poor Filipinos’ social, economic, and cultural rights. Judicial activism, steered by SC Chief Justice Reynato Puno, now stands as a respondent in a people’s case.

The first step taken by the SC toward instituting reforms in the judiciary and criminal justice system to make it accessible to the poor was a “Forum on increasing access to justice” held last June 30 – July 1 at the Court of Appeals (CA) compound in Manila. The Manila forum was joined by some 150 delegates from people’s organizations and NGOs as well as justices, judges, lawyers, and government representatives – with a similar number of participants in Cebu in the Visayas and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao interacting by video conference.

The recent forum was a follow up to the summit on extra-judicial killings (EJKs) convened by CJ Puno in July 2007. (See “Collision course,” Issue Analysis No. 14, July 19, 2007 at www.cenpeg.org) The July 2007 summit was the high court’s response to domestic and international pressures for an end to extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances that had left more than a thousand social activists dead or missing in six years of the Arroyo regime. This time around, this week’s forum sought to stabilize the scale of justice that is tilted against the poor in the context of the people’s economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR).

The ESCR, embodied in the country’s Constitution and in various international treaties and conventions, upholds a person’s right to life, food, jobs, shelter, education, beliefs, and other basic rights. Held as inviolable, inalienable and indivisible, ESCR is supposed to be guaranteed by the state through its governance and a justice system that ensures the protection of such overarching rights over and above the imperatives of the state. Unfortunately, no such thing exists in the Philippines despite government claims to being a democracy. And it was a poignant irony to hear injustice being talked about inside the halls of justice.

Testimonies and grievances

Listen to the preponderance of testimonies and grievances of representatives of farmers, labor, urban poor, fisherfolk, vendors, women, indigenous peoples, Moros, senior citizens, and other marginalized classes and sectors on the country’s judicial system:

  • Low awareness and capability of many magistrates, court administrators, prosecutors, quasi-judicial courts, arbiters as well as security personnel on the economic, social, and cultural rights of individuals not to mention Philippine and international laws providing for such rights;
  • Widespread and systemic violations of the poor people’s ESCRs by the powers that be are aggravated by connivance between state authorities and the violators;
  • A judicial system from the barangay to the national levels subverted by corruption, political patronage, and other problems that make the administration of justice and disposition of cases detrimental and prejudicial to the rights of poor litigants;
  • A judicial environment hostile to poor litigants where they bear heavy burdens ranging from prohibitive fees, court personnel’s lack of sensitivity and compassion, discrimination especially against women, juvenile offenders, indigenous peoples, and Moros, as well as harassments;
  • A language barrier where court proceedings and documentations are conducted in English making them incomprehensible to the poor;
  • Human rights defenders, environmentalists, paralegals and other volunteers are treated with non-recognition and condescension by fiscals, prosecutors, police agencies, and even magistrates;
  • The tendency of state authorities to criminalize acts done by poor people together with social activists and community leaders while defending their rights often leading to extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, and other human rights violations

Under these conditions, the poor are dispossessed of their lands, lose their jobs, or are deprived of access to communal resources. Suspects in criminal and related cases are guilty simply because they have no means to prove their innocence. Poor litigants prefer suffering in silence to engaging in long and tedious suits that waste away their lifetime savings or force them to incur debts. In short, the poor are further marginalized by a judicial system that is hostile to their pursuit of justice. It is not surprising that the country’s prisons are congested with inmates coming from the poorest of the poor. Access to the court, like managed public toilets, is measured by one’s ability to pay.

People’s rights

Access to justice, however, refers not only to the adjudication or disposition of cases, whether civil or criminal. Basically, it pertains to an individual’s enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights that include the exercise of civil liberties, due process of law, and self-determination, among many other rights. The first set of rights is alien to the poor simply because of their lack of access to land, food, shelter, education, jobs, and other economic and social rights and welfare services.

In a country that has been historically dominated by the elite, access to the ESCR by the poor is determined by a power relationship that vests the rich and powerful with more rights leaving the lower classes with nothing. Hegemony in terms of wealth and influence gives the elite the monopoly to administer the state which is comprised of the government, political parties, the electoral process, the coercive machinery of the police and military, as well as the legal and judicial system. The poor, once marginalized, have simply no access to the courts of justice. The court system serves as a charade of democracy that means nothing to the poor.

Just the same, the judicial reforms being spearheaded by CJ Puno are welcome under a situation where the government is fast losing public trust while the credibility of the court system is badly eroded. One unanimous recommendation from the forum including lawyers and judges in attendance was to put an end to political patronage in the court system by transferring the appointive powers of the chief executive on all magistrates to the SC assisted by the Judicial and Bar Council. Aside from this, a multi-sectoral body representing the marginal sectors will be formed to advise both institutions with regard to appointments.

Key to the institutionalizatio n of reforms is for the reformer to build its own credibility, to be a role model by matching its words with actions. The SC which Puno heads is now being asked to perform an act of redemption or, if you will, soul-searching. Among the policy recommendations of the forum participants is for the high court to revisit major rulings that are perceived to have made the lives of the poor – for that matter, the whole country – more miserable. These include, among others, the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT), the 1995 Mining Act, E-vat, oil deregulation, as well as the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). In rendering its judgment on these landmark issues, the high court chose to either affirm the controversial laws or, adhering to the constitutional separation of powers, to rule that the imperatives of the chief executive are a matter of “political question” that is beyond the legal ruminations of the court.

This is a dangerous doctrine precisely because it puts the imperatives of the elite-dominated state supreme over the fundamental rights of the people. In interpreting the law, the court’s mandate is to be on the side of basic rights – expand them if need be – and make justice more accessible to those who have less in life.

Once justice is compromised, the poor will find other recourse outside the legal institutions more compelling. In his initiatives toward judicial reform, Puno mentions of anti-poor laws, court practices that ignore the social context of the poor, and “large inequalities in wealth that lead to disparities in political power and the enforcement of laws.” He also admonishes about open palms begging for justice today – and turning into “a sea of clenched fists” tomorrow.

Reference:


Bobby Tuazon
Director, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA)
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
TelFax +63-2 9299526; mobile phone: 0915-6418055
E-mail: cenpeg.info@gmail.com; info@cenpeg. org
http://www.cenpeg. org

Marinero: Kailan magkakaroon ng death benefits?

July 5, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero

Marami sa atin ang may kamag-anak na marinero. Ang Pilipinas ang isa sa mga bansang may pinakamaraming “seafarers” sa buong mundo.

Sadyang mahirap ang maging marinero. Tigib ng hirap at panganib ang paglalayag sa malalaking dagat sa mundo. Ngunit kung sakaling mamatay ang isang marinero ng isang “overseas vessel” sa panahon ng kanyang kontrata, may matatanggap bang benepisyo ang kanyang pamilya? Paano kung ang kanyang pagkamatay ay sanhi ng mga kadahilanang wala namang relasyon sa kanyang trabaho, magbabayad pa rin ba ang manedsment ng barko ? Ito ang katanungang tinalakay ng Korte Suprema sa kasong “Coastal Safeway Marine Services, Inc. vs. Leonisa Delgado”, G.R. No. 168210 na dinesisyunan nitong Hunyo 17, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, chief engineer itong si Jerry sa isang barko na ang biyahe ay nasa Middle East. Limang (5) buwan pa lamang siya sa barko nang siya ay magkasakit. Pinababa siya at ginamot sa isang ospital sa Saudi Arabia ngunit siya ay namatay. Dinala sa Maynila ang kanyang mga labi.

Agad namang humingi si Leonisa, biyuda ni Jerry, ng death benefits sa kompanya. Tumangging magbayad ang kompanya. Napilitang magdemanda si Leonisa sa Labor Arbiter. Pinanalo naman nito si Leonisa. Ayon sa desisyon ng Labor Arbiter dapat magbayad ang kompanya ng death benefits kay Leonisa sa halagang US $ 50,000 at US $7,000 bawa’t isa sa apat niyang anak na mga menor-de-edad.

Nag-apela sa National Labor Relations (NLRC) ang kompanya ngunit hindi nabago ang desisyon. Inakyat ng kompanya ang kaso sa Court of Appels pero talo pa rin ang kompanya. Napilitang pumunta sa Korte Suprema ang kompanya.

Bilang unang katuwiran, sinabi ng kompanya sa Korte Suprema na wala raw katunayan na ang pagkamatay ni Jerry ay sanhi ng “work-related causes”. Wala raw patunay na ang sanhi ng pagkamatay nito ay dahil o may kaugnayan sa kanyang trabaho. Dahil dito, wala raw obligasyon ang kompanya na magbayad sa mga naulila ni Jerry.

Mali ang katuwiran ng kompanya, sabi ng Korte Suprema. Lahat ng kontratang pinirmahan ng mga marinero ay sakop ng “standard employment contract” na inilalabas ng Phil. Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) . Ang nilalaman standard employment contract na ito ay tinuturing na bahagi ng kontrata sa pagitan ng marinero at ng barko. Sa madaling sabi, upang malaman natin ang karapatan ng bawat panig, dapat din nating tingnan kung ano ang sinasabi ng POEA standard employment contract.

Sa POEA standard employment contract, nakasaad na ang isang marinero na mamatay sa panahon ng kanyang kontrata ay makakatanggap ng death benefits. Hindi sinasabi rito na kailangang “work connected” o sanhi ng kanyang trabaho ang dahilan ng kanyang kamatayan. Ang tanging kondisyon lamang ay kailangang mamatay siya sa panahon ng kanilang kontrata. Sa kaso ni Jerry, limang buwan pa lamang ang kanyang kontrata nang bawian siya ng buhay. Hindi pa tapos ang nasabing kontrata. Walang duda na sa ilalim nito, makakatanggap ng death benefits ang kanyang mga naulila, sabi ng Korte Suprema.

Bilang pangalawang katuwiran, sinasabi ng manedsment ng barko na may pinirmahan si Jerry na affidavit of waiver na nagsasabing walang pananagutan ang barko sa anumang mangyari sa kanya. Ganun pa man, hindi ito binigyan ng bigat ng Korte Suprema. Una, nilabas lamang ito ng manedsment matapos silang matalo sa Labor Arbiter at naka-apela na sa NLRC ang kaso. Hindi nila nilabas ito nang nakabinbin pa sa Labor Arbiter ang kaso. Sa madaling sabi, maaring gawa-gawa lamang nila ang nasabing affidavit. Pangalawa, labag sa patakarang pampubliko ang pag-ayaw sa isang karapatan na hindi pa malinaw na mapapasa-iyo. Paano aayawan ni Jerry ang death benefits na hindi pa malinaw na mapapasakanya noong ginagawa niya ang affidavit of waiver? Dahil dito, hindi binigyan ng Korte Suprema ang nasabing affidavit .

Inutos ng Korte Suprema na bigyan ng death benefits ang biyuda at mga anak ni Jerry.(PWeekly)

Chief Justice Puno vows to improve poor’s access to courts

July 2, 2008

Rey G. Panaligan

Complaints against exorbitant lawyer’s fees, high cost of filing a case in court, and delays in the resolution of cases aired by the marginalized sectors of the country hounded the two-day “Forum on Increasing Access to Justice by the Poor” held simultaneously in Manila, Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

But Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno vowed to act on the complaints as he assured that “we will not lose even a fraction of time before aggregating the ideas proposed in this forum and putting the doables into our rule books.”

“Words on a parchment, without more, will not automatically open the doors of justice to the marginalized among our people. Their rights must be respected beyond mere paper guaranties and must be translated into reality by their enforcement,” Puno stressed in his closing remarks.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court (SC) formally received from various sectors their grievances and recommendations to improve access to the courts and the judicial system.

Puno said the two- day forum heard “the anguished cry of the representatives of the farmers, fisherfolk, children, women, migrant workers, urban poor, Moro communities, labor, informal sector, indigenous peoples, and senior citizens.”

“We have also felt the sympathetic ears of our government officials… and have also seen the readiness to help of the representatives of the business sector,” he said.

“There must be a continued and continuous effort, especially on the part of the able, to handhold the poor to the doorsteps of justice. And the able should not get weary even if the way is long and lonely, even if it is full of thorns and thistles,” he added.

The Chief Justice pointed out that “there are strong links between establishing democracy, reducing poverty, and improving access to justice.”

“Democracy is undermined where access to justice by all citizens – irrespective of gender, race, religion, age, class or creed – is impeded. Access to justice is also closely linked to poverty reduction, since poverty means deprivation of choices, denial of opportunities, and lack of voice in decisionmaking,” he said.

He stressed that improving the access to justice by the poor should be viewed as only a part of a larger effort of the government to promote social justice “in all phases of national development.”

“For while it is a noble endeavor to provide better access to justice by the poor, it is far nobler to put a period to the persistent problem of poverty – so that all Filipinos would have the opportunity, within their own means, to protect and enforce the rights owed them by the state and by their fellowmen,” he added.

For the business sector, lawyer Miguel B. Varela, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), paid tribute to Chief Justice Puno and the SC in initiating the forum to increase access to justice by the marginalized sectors of society.

Varela said that just like an individual, a business entity – as a juridical person – “has rights to protect under the law.”

But he pointed out that “the pace with which business operates is not reflected by the tempo of the resolution of any case involving an enterprise.” He, in effect, lamented the delays in the resolution of cases filed before the courts.

Varela cited three areas where the private sector and the judiciary can held each other in improving the justice system in the country.

The private sector, he stressed, should be acquainted with the legal and judicial process “to effectively mainstream itself in operationalizing justice system in the country,” while the judiciary “needs the same acumen on business practices, principles and operations to better comprehend with the emerging needs of business and how it can effectively gauge its performance in pursuit of competitive complementation with business.”

In behalf of PCCI, Varela batted for expanded utilization of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the declogging of court dockets.

He said that the PCCI itself has institutionalized a Mediation Center ‘that aims to expand the number of trained mediators coming mostly from local chamber of commerce and industry affiliates all over the country who can take on specific cases and help in their early settlement.”

He also recommended that lawyers should be compelled to handle more pro-bono (free) cases in lieu of complying with the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MDLE) credit units.

“The SC MCLE committee could probably set the guidelines on how cases will be farmed out to lawyers who opt to handle cases rather than attend seminars,” he said.

The training of more mediators, particularly in farflung provinces, was also recommended by Varela.

At the same time, Varela expressed apprehension over the alarming low level of the Philippines’ competitiveness to attract foreign investors where the “role of the judiciary cannot be overemphasized.”

He set as an example the recent ruling of the SC that affirmed the legality of the Spot-Zoning practice of local government units.

He was referring to the SC decision that upheld the legality of the resolution of the Manila City Council that led to the relocation of oil depots in the district of Pandacan.

“We respect the ruling of the High Court in the aforementioned case. We are worried, however, about its implications to investor confidence and the economy as a whole in the long run,” he said.

‘We believe that giving a blanket, absolute, and unfettered affirmation of the local government unit’s power to declare zoning may be too injurious to the competitiveness of the Philippines in attracting investors to the country,” he lamented.

The two-day forum was a sequel to the National Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances held last year at the historic landmark Manila Hotel.

The Manila Hotel summit paved the way for the adoption by the SC of the Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Habeas Data – two legal remedies to protect the privacy of an individual and checks threats and violations of his right to life, liberty, and security.(MB)

Pagpaparehistro ng unyon

June 22, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

ANG pagtatayo ng unyon ng mga manggagawa ay madaling sabihin ngunit napakahirap gawin. Mahigpit itong tinututulan ng mga kompanya at gagamitin nila ang lahat ng teknikalidad sa libro para ito ay labanan. Ganoon pa man, hindi dapat panghinaan ng loob ang mga manggagawa sa kanilang hangaring magka-unyon sa kanilang kompanya. Dapat nilang tandaan na ang karapatang magtayo ng unyon ay pinapangalagaan ng ating Saligang Batas at kung hindi naman gaanong matibay ang dahilan ng manedsment laban dito, tiyak na aaprubahan ng husgado ang itinatayo nilang unyon.

Isang kasong maari nating pagkukunan ng aral sa bagay na ito ay ang Dong Seung Incorporated vs. Bureau of Labor Relations, et. al., ( G.R. No. 162356) na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema nito lamang Abril 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, nagtayo ng unyon ang mga manggagawa at naiparehistro nila ito sa Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Nang malaman ito ng manedsment, agad itong nagsampa ng kaso para kanselahin ang rehistro ng unyon. Ayon sa manedsment, hindi nasunod ng unyon ang hinihingi ng batas para ito marehistro. Kailangan daw kasi na bawat dokumentong ibibigay ng unyon ay may kalakip na sertipikasyon mula sa kalihim nito na nagpapatunay na ang dokumento ay totoo at hindi peke. Kailangan ring notaryado ang mga sertipikasyon na ito. Nakalimutan daw ng unyon na ipa-notaryo ang mga sertipikasyon na kanilang inilakip, kaya hindi ito dapat binigyan ng rehistro. Isa pa, sa 200 manggagawang kasapi ng unyon, 148 ang pumirma sa isang petisyon na nagsasabing naloko lamang sila kung kaya sila sumali sa unyon.

Lumabas ang desisyon ng Regional Director ng DOLE at nagpasya itong kanselahin ang rehistro ng unyon. Hindi naman nawalan ng pag-asa ang mga manggagawa at umapela sila sa Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR). Binaliktad naman ng BLR ang naunang desisyon at sinabing mananatili ang rehistro ng unyon bagamat inutusan niya itong magbigay ng notaryadong sertipikasyon. Dinala ng manedsment sa Court of Appeals ang kaso ngunit talo pa rin ang manedsment. Napilitang dalhin ng manedsment ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Napansin ng Korte Suprema na totoo nga na walang notaryadong sertipikasyon ang bawat dokumento na ipinakita ng unyon kaugnay ng aplikasyon para sa rehistro nito. Ganoon pa man, may pangkalahatang sertipikasyon ang unyon na lahat ng dokumentong kanyang ibinigay ay tunay at hindi huwad. Ang pangkalahatang sertipikasyon na ito ay notaryado. Ayon sa Korte Suprema, sapat na ang mag-isang sertipikasyon na ito para masunod ng unyon ang hinihingi ng batas. Hindi kinakailangan ang tig-isang sertipikasyon bawat dokumento tulad ng gustong mangyari ng manedsment. Ang layunin ng batas kung bakit kailangan ang sertipikasyon ay upang matiyak na tunay ang mga dokumentong ibibigay ng unyon sa pagpaparehistro nito. Ang layuning ito ay makakamit din kahit na isang sertipikasyon lamang ang ibibigay para sa lahat ng dokumento at hindi kailangan ang tig-iisang sertipikasyon bawat dokumento.

Hinggil naman sa sinasabi ng manedsment, na marami sa mga kasapi ng unyon ang pumirma sa salaysay na niloko lamang sila ng unyon para makuha ang kanilang mga pirma na sila ay sumasali dito, napansin ng Korte Suprema na hindi maliwanag kung paano ginawa ng unyon ang panlolokong ito. Kulang sa detalye ang salaysay. Hindi malinaw kung saan, kailan, at ano ang ginawa ng unyon para lokohin ang mga kasaping ito. Pangalawa, ang salaysay na pinirmahan ng mga kasapi na nagsasabing niloko sila unyon ay xerox copy lamang at hindi orihinal. Hindi naibigay ng manedsment ang orihinal na kopya ng salaysay na ito. Kaya, ito ay walang kwentang ebidensiya at hindi maaring bigyan ng bigat, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Nagpasya ang Korte Suprema na panatilihin ang rehistro ng unyon.(PimoyWeekly)

Court Convicts Suspect in Killing of Activist

June 19, 2008

A human rights lawyer called the first conviction of a perpetrator in the extrajudicial killings of activists in the country as a ray of hope. But other perpetrators remain scot-free and so the search for justice continues.

By ARTEMIO DUMLAO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) —  One of the suspects behind the killing of Jose Doton, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Pangasinan, was found guilty of murder.

Judge Ulysses Butuyan of the Regional Trial Court Branch 51 of Tayug town, Pangasinan found Joel Flores guilty of murder and frustrated murder. Butuyan sentenced the assassin to 41 years in jail and ten years more for the frustrated murder of Jose Doton’s brother Diosdado.

Flores, believed to be an intelligence operative of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), was arrested in mid-2006.

Doton, a staunch critic of the San Roque Multi-purpose Dam Project in San Manuel town, Pangasinan, was killed on May 16, 2006 in San Nicolas town of the same province. Motorcycle-riding men shot Doton dead about 200 meters away from his home. His brother Diosdado who was with him at that time was seriously wounded.

Flores was also ordered to pay the heirs of the Doton family P 500,000 ($11,258 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.41) and P200,000 ( $4,503) to Diosdado for damages.

Reynaldo Cortes, a lawyer and member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance hailed the decision. “We commend Judge Butuyan for deciding on the merits of the case. This is a first for the more than 900 cases of extrajudicial killings of activists in the country.”

Cortes also praised Alfie Bince of the Pangasinan Integrated Bar of the Philippines who help prosecute the case for the Doton family.

Cortes said, “Before his death, Doton received death threats and was subjected to a vilification campaign and surveillance, just like the other victims of extrajudicial killings. He was tagged as a communist sympathizer and a terrorist.”

The human rights lawyer said the conviction is “”a ray of hope in our quest for justice for victims of human rights violations.”

“More work has to be done. The mastermind and the companions of Flores who carried out the killing still have to be identified, arrested and brought to justice,”.said Cortes. Contributed to Bulatlat

Paglipat sa ibang departamento: maaari bang tanggihan?

June 14, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

ANG isang manggagawa ba ay maaring ilipat ng manedsment sa ibang departamento o lokasyon sa kanyang trabaho? Kung sakaling ginawa ng manedsment ito ay maaari bang hindi sumunod ang manggagawa? Ang kasong San Miguel Corporation vs. Angel C. Pontillas, G.R. No. 155178, na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema nitong Mayo 7, 2008 ay mapagkunan natin ng aral sa bagay na ito.

Sa nasabing kaso ay nagtratrabaho itong si Angel sa malaking kompanya ng beer bilang company guard. Hindi nagtagal at naging regular si Angel sa kompanya. Ngunit sa tingin ni Angel ay mababa lamang ang ibinibigay sa kanya na sahod ng kompanya kung ihahambing sa ibang guwardiya nito. Kaya nagsampa siya ng kasong “money claims” laban dito.

Samantalang nakabinbin ang kasong isinampa ni Angel, nagkaroon ng “reorganization” sa kompanya. Dahil dito, iba na ang naging “organizational set-up” ng kompanya at nalipat sa ibang departamento ang opisina nina Angel. Kaugnay nito, naglabas ng memorandum ang manedsment tungkol sa ginawang “reorganization” at inutos ang pag-alis nina Angel sa dating bodegang kanilang binabantayan at paglipat sa bago nilang tanggapan.

Hindi sumunod si Angel sa utos ng manedsment. Patuloy siyang pumapasok sa dati niyang puwesto sa bodega. Isa sa kanyang dahilan ay ganti lamang ito ng manedsment sa kanya dahil sa kanyang isinampang kaso laban sa manedsment.

Nagsagawa ng pagsisiyasat ang manedsment kung bakit nilabag ni Angel ang kautusan ng manedsment na siya ay lumipat na dapat ng opisina. Nang hindi masiyahan ang manedsment sa paliwanag ni Angel ay nagbaba ito ng memorandum na nagtatanggal kay Angel sa kanyang trabaho sa salang “willful disobedience”.

Dinagdagan ni Angel ng “illegal dismissal” ang dati na niyang kaso sa kompanya. Sa kasamaang palad, hindi niya nakumbinsi ang labor arbiter. Napatunayan ng labor arbiter na walang katuwiran si Angel para tanggihan ang inuuutos ng manedsment. Kaya, tama lamang na tanggalin ng manedsment sa kanyang trabaho si Angel dahil sa pagsuway niya sa utos ng manedsment.

Hindi naman pinanghinaan ng loob si Angel at kaagad nag-apela sa National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). Dito, nabago ang desisyon. Sinabi ng NLRC na walang sapat na dahilan ang pagkakatanggal kay Angel at dapat siyang ibalik ng manedsment sa kanyang trabaho.
Ang manedsment naman ngayon ang naghabol sa Court of Appeals. Ngunit hindi natinag ang nasabing korte at sinang-ayunan ang desisyon ng NLRC. Dahil dito, napilitan ang manedsment na dalhin ang kaso sa Korte Suprema.

Binaliktad ng Korte Suprema ang desisyon.

Sinabi ng Korte Suprema na maaring ilipat ng manedsment ang isang manggagawa basta’t may sapat na dahilan at ang nasasabing paglilipat ay hindi makapagpababa sa kanyang rangko, sahod, at iba pang mga benepisyo.

Ang ginawang paglipat kay Angel ay bunga ng “reorganization” na isinagawa sa kompanya. Walang palatandaan na ginawa ng manedsment ang nasabing “reorganization” para gantihan lamang si Angel. Sa katunayan, hindi lamang siya ang inilipat ng manedsment kungdi pati ang kanyang mga kasama. Ito ay nagpapakita lamang na walang diskriminasyon sa ginawa ng manedsment, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema.

Wala ring nabago sa sahod at benepisyo na tinatanggap ni Angel, dagdag ng Korte Suprema. Ganoon pa rin ang mga ito. Hindi rin nabago o bumaba ang kanyang rangko sa trabaho. Ibig sabihin nito, hindi api si Angel sa ginawang paglipat sa kanya ng manedsment.

Dahil dito, dapat sinunod ni Angel ang utos ng manedsment na siya ay lumipat na sa ibang departamento. Ang sinadyang paglabag ng isang manggagawa sa kautusan ng manedsment ang dahilan para siya matanggal sa kanyang trabaho, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema. Ito ang sinasabi ng ating Labor Code. Sa ginawang paglabag ni Angel, may karapatan ang manedsment para tanggalin siya sa kanyang trabaho.

Kaya mga mambabasa, kung ang ginawang paglipat sa inyo ng manedsment ay walang sapat na dahilan o di kaya’y makakaapekto sa inyong sahod, benepisyo, o rangko sa trabaho, maari kayong tumanggi. Kung hindi naman, daanin na lamang ninyo sa diplomasya kung ayaw ninyo. Tiyak, tagilid tayo kung ikakaso.(PinoyWeekly)

CA decision favoring Australian firm a temporary setback

June 13, 2008

House militant bloc supports Nueva Vizcaya LGUs in fight against foreign mining intrusion

BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy Casiño today renewed full support to the people of Nueva Vizcaya as he labeled a Court of Appeals decision preventing the its provincial government from implementing an order that halts mining operations in the area as “a temporary setback for environmental protection, local governance and the defense of national patrimony.”

The Court of Appeals issued a 60-day injunction with temporary restraining order on the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government that issued a Cease and Desist Order [CDO] on OceanaGold, a Melbourne-based mining firm.

“The militant partylist bloc in Congress supports the people of Nueva Vizcaya and its Governor, Luisa Cuaresma in this fight. Gov. Cuaresma only put out a CDO to stop OceanaGold from operating the mine after it failed to pay P30 million for a quarrying permit, aside from the growing tension among indigenous tribes – including the murder of the village chief – that the entry of the mining firm has caused. The CA decision has obviously favored the Australian firm over the local people of the province,” Casiño said.

The militant solon was visibly dismayed by the decision penned by Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando that completely favored Oceana Gold Mining Inc. The company runs the Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project in Bgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

“I cannot help but surmise that the decision is part of the Arroyo administration’s effort to allow OceanaGold to go on with its mining operations that will permanently damage the area. The OceanaGold incursion into Nueva Vizcaya at this point is the cause of brewing tension and violence among Ifugao and Bugkalot tribal communities in Dipidio. The company has in fact supplanted the government in the area as it has arrogated the functions of providing social services and peace and order in the area. It has demolished houses and bulldozed rice lands. With all due respect to the Court, we went to the area last June 7, were waylaid by a police checkpoint and in fact saw the deep division among the once peaceful local community due to the entry of OceanaGold. This, to my mind, is what the Court should do to better come up with a decision,” Casiño said.

Casiño, along with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan went to the area to have an onsite inquiry into OceanaGold’s violations committed in its operations.

From June 7 to 8, 2008, the said Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities held two on-site hearings in Bgy. Kakidugen and Bgy. Didipio in Kasibu town, mining sites of foreign owned mining companies RoyalCo and Oceanagold, respectively.

The investigation also focused on the OceanaGold’s alleged violations of human rights, the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process, certain provisions of the current Mining Law and the Local Government Code in relation to its mining operations.

“It should also be noted that even before the CA decision, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza already branded the the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government’s cease and desist order illegal. This emboldened OceanaGold to go to the CA and defy the local authorities. The municipal and provincial governments do not support the project yet Atienza is siding with the mining firm. We will not back down from this temporary setback. The militant bloc in Congress sides with the people and supports the stand of the local governments versus destructive mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya,” Casiño said.

The House militant bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Casiño and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Reps. Ilagan and Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. #

Lozada asks Ombudsman for immunity from suit

May 28, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — A key witness in the Senate inquiry into the national broadband network (NBN) deal on Wednesday asked the Office of the Ombudsman for immunity from any suit that may be filed in connection with the scandal-tainted contract.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman panel conducting the preliminary investigation into the seven complaints filed in connection with the NBN deal gave resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. five days to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for not showing up at the hearing as he had been required to.

Abalos is still on a Caribbean cruise with his wife. He was represented by his lawyer, Gabriel Vilareal.

At the Wednesday hearing, Ombudsman panel Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. was asked if he wanted to affirm his testimony before the Senate.

Lozada’s lawyer, Ernesto Francisco, replied that they had “deep reservations” in doing so because some of the testimony could be self-incriminating.

The lawyer was referring to answers Lozada gave on questioning by Senator Miriam Santiago of a project involving the planting of jatropha during the time the Senate witness was president of the Philippine Forest Corp.

The National Bureau of Investigation has filed graft charges against Lozada for the project.

The Ombudsman panel gave Lozada and fellow NBN witnesses Jose de Venecia III, Dante Madriaga and journalist Jarius Bondoc seven days to review the affidavits of their Senate testimonies.

Wednesday was the first time Lozada and De Venecia III showed up together at the Ombudsman’s probe into the NBN deal.

The two have testified before the Senate about the alleged kickbacks surrounding the NBN contract awarded to China’s ZTE Corp., to which First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. have been linked.

The $329-million deal was cancelled late last year by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo soon after the Senate opened its probe.(PDI)

Palparan finally issued subpoena in libel case

May 25, 2008

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:57:00 05/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Quezon City prosecutor’s office has finally issued a subpoena to retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan in connection with the P20-million libel suit filed by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) against him nearly two years ago.

The complainant, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap, broke the news to the media upon receipt over the weekend of a copy of the subpoena issued May 7 by Quezon City assistant prosecutor Corazon Romano.

Romano ordered Palparan, as well as Hicap, to appear before her on June 19 at 2 p.m. for a preliminary hearing.

“We are ready for this face-off. We want to face him and tell him right to his face his crimes and sins against the fisher people and peace-loving folks in Bulacan,” Hicap said in a press statement, alluding to Palparan’s alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances when he was in the military.

The preliminary investigation would require Palparan to swear to his written statement and submit himself for clarificatory questioning.

Palparan would also be required submit counteraffidavits but would be allowed to move for the dismissal of the case.

The libel case stemmed from statements issued by the controversial former military general against leaders and members of the fisherfolk group and the activist party-list group Anakpawis in the Bulacan coast areas.

‘Grave dangers’

Palparan had accused Pamalakaya and Anakpawis in an Inquirer interview of creating trouble along the coastal areas of the province through intimidation and recruitment of civilians to the outlawed New People’s Army (NPA) and extorting P50,000 monthly from fishpond operators in the province.

In the same interview, Palparan said it was necessary to single out Pamalakaya and Anakpawis in the counter-insurgency campaign of the government to eliminate communist guerillas.

Pamalakaya interpreted Palparan’s statement as an open endorsement of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the province.

In their nine-page complaint, Pamalakaya said that aside from tarnishing its image, stature and reputation, Palparan’s statements indirectly threatened its officials, organizers and members with “grave dangers” to their lives, security and safety.

“It exposes them to dangers of extrajudicial killings, abductions, threats and harassment,” Hicap said.

In asserting its legitimacy as a people’s organization engaged in various advocacy work, Pamalakaya said it was a legal organization registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a federation, Pamalakaya said it had 36 provincial chapters all over the country and individual members numbering not less than 80,000 as of July 2006.

As a fisherfolk organization, Pamalakaya has been invited to various gatherings abroad, including the United Nations, which made Pamalakaya a resource group in the early 1990s for the crafting of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos).

In the last 20 years, Pamalakaya leaders and representatives have gone to the United States, Italy, Denmark, India, Sri Lanka, France, South Africa, Hong Kong, Cambodia, France, Kenya and the Netherlands to attend various international conferences and gatherings of fisherfolk across the globe, it said.


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