Archive for October 7th, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: American Gigolo

October 7, 2008

Ready to woo them votes with a bunch of Alaskan flowers.

Protesters wear sad masks for MassKara

October 7, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:42:00 10/07/2008

BACOLOD CITY – Instead of masks with happy faces identified with the city’s ongoing MassKara Festival, about 100 persons donned masks with sad faces and picketed the Bacolod Police Station to demand the release of five farmers arrested during the recent visit of President Macapagal-Arroyo to Bacolod City last week.

The five workers of Hacienda Paraiso in La Carlota City and Hacienda Grande in La Castellana owned by Antonio Arroyo, uncle of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, were among those demanding the immediate distribution of the Arroyo lands in Negros Occidental under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, TFM spokesperson Edna Sobrecaray said on Monday.

Police Station 1 is located in front of the Bacolod public plaza where the city is celebrating its 29th MassKara Festival known for masks with smiling faces.

The protesters carrying placards said they were wearing masks with sad faces to symbolize the agony of the farmers detained instead of receiving land that the President had promised them in 2001.

The police Thursday filed multiple charges against the five arrested for interrupting Ms Arroyo’s speech at the opening of the MassKara Festival in Bacolod City on Wednesday.

Supt. Leo Erwin Agpangan, Bacolod City Police Office deputy director for operations, said they filed charges against Hermegildo Padilla, Everlito Alguna, Bonifacio Alguna, Noel Estaris Jr. and Gerardo Batalla for inciting to sedition, alarm and scandal and resisting arrest before the City Prosecutor’s Office.

The five were with about 20 protesters, including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan members, who unfurled banners with anti-Arroyo messages just as the President was starting her speech before about 5,000 people.

“We will continue to hold daily protest actions until the police release five farmers from detention. We condemn their arrest. They do not deserve the charges against them,” Sobrecaray said.(PDI)

3 farmers tortured, killed by soldiers?

October 7, 2008

By Joey A. Gabieta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:41:00 10/07/2008

TACLOBAN CITY – A human rights group in Eastern Visayas claimed that soldiers tortured and killed three civilians from a remote village of Borongan City.

Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas identified the fatalities as Jimmy Anday, Chito and Ronald Catubay who were said to be on their way to their farms in Sitio Bagong Barrio, Barangay Pinanag-an, the farthest village of the city, when the incident took place on Sept. 3.

Katungod secretary general Kathrina Castillo said the three were on their way to their farms when they allegedly met a group of soldiers later identified to belong to the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB).

Based on their investigation, the three “bore marks that they were tortured” before they were killed, Castillo said.

“Their hands were tied and their stomachs were sliced,” Castillo said in an e-mail.

Aside from killing the three, their houses were also razed, she said.

But Lt. Col. Alberto Desoyo, commanding officer of the 62nd IB based in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar, denied Castillo’s claim.

On the day of the alleged incident, Desoyo said his men were in the area to conduct “legitimate military operations.”

“There were about 20 to 30 New People’s Army (members) in the area which resulted in an encounter with my men. Based on the bloodstains that we have discovered after the firefight, there were injuries and casualties on the side of the enemies,” Desoyo said in a phone interview.

Rebels

“But definitely, all were rebels and not civilians (as alleged by Katungod),” Desoyo added.

He said the encounter also resulted in the injury of one of his men whom Desoyo could not identify.

Desoyo admitted that the military remained aggressive in its anti-insurgency campaign but insisted that civilians were not its targets.

During her recent visit in the region, President Macapagal-Arroyo again directed the military officials in the region, led by Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, 8th Infantry Division commanding general, to finish the insurgency before the 2010 deadline.

The President said the insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas was one of the reasons the region remained poor.

Tabaquero said they would eradicate the insurgency in the region but would always observe and respect the rights of civilians.(PDI)

Palace defends Teehankee pardon ‘No complaint from Hultmans’–Ermita

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Malacañang has defended President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to a controversial murder convict, saying this underwent a “very rigorous review.”

Claudio Teehankee Jr.,who was convicted for the 1991 murders of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and 21-year-old Roland John Chapman was released from the National Bilibid Prisons on Friday evening.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that as early as 1999, the Hultman family had agreed to a P6-million settlement with the Teehankees. Under the terms of the settlement, the Hultmans would get the Teehankees’ house in San Juan if the convict failed to pay the full amount.

“This was committed [against] the Hultmans, and the Hultmans did not object when asked about the possibility of giving Mr. Teehankee pardon,” Ermita told reporters in Malacañang.

“The Hultmans thought there was remorse on the part of Mr Teehankee. He has served his time, and therefore, they did not object when they were asked during the processing of his paper…That’s a major factor [in the President's decision],” he added.

Ermita said the grant of executive clemency was Arroyo’s prerogative.

“There really is nothing special about it except for the fact that he is a prominent personality,” he said.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, for his part, said he was informed that the Hultmans had been advised of the impending release of Teehankee and posed no objection.

“I also assume that he has already paid the civil indemnity to the family of the victim,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez admitted that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, a former justice undersecretary, dropped by his office one time and asked if Claudio could be released on parole.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza pointed out that Teehankee was only one of 292 prisoners that were granted executive clemency in an order dated September 28.

Asked about perceptions the clemency order on Teehankee was kept secret, Dureza said: “There is no such thing as secrecy. When we grant clemency it’s publicly announced, although some malicious minds will probably give it that spin.”

Earlier, he told radio station dzMM that the case of Teehankee was “subject to very rigorous review, it was even reviewed twice.”

For good conduct, Dureza said five days was deducted from Teehankee’s sentence for every month he spent in jail in his first two years of imprisonment.

“Ultimately [after] 14 years of being imprisoned, he was therefore entitled to a commutation of sentence,” Dureza said.

Dureza said all convicts who have displayed good behavior in prison were entitled to executive clemency.

Asked if the President was set to pardon another high-profile murder convict, Rolito Go, Dureza said: “Haka-haka lang po iyon [That's speculation].”

Go was found guilty of murder three years after he shot and killed Eldon Maguan in 1991 following a traffic altercation. He is serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net

Bicam approves renewable energy bill

October 7, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:03:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee adopted on Tuesday the renewable energy bill, which aims to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and thus help shield Filipinos from price fluctuations in the global market.

Principally authored by Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri in the Senate, and Representatives Juan Miguel Arroyo and Luis Villafuerte in the House, the bill supports the development of renewable energy (RE) sources such as hydro, wind, sun, biomass and ethanol over crude and other petroleum products.

The bill seeks to encourage local entrepreneurs to go into the development of the country’s vast alternative energy resources through a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, and help decrease dependence on imported fuel.

Both panels of the Senate and House of Representatives crafted a compromise version of the bill, certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after more than five hours of deliberation at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Angara and Representative Arroyo said the final copy of the bill would be sent to both houses for ratification before the adjournment of Congress on Wednesday.

The House approved the bill in June, while the Senate passed it on third and final reading in late September.

To show government’s aggressiveness in tapping alternative energy resources, the bill, if signed into law by President Arroyo, will give renewable energy users and developers tax-free privileges on the importation of equipment and even a seven-year income tax holiday.
It would take about two years, and billions of pesos, to put up renewable energy plants and facilities, said Zubiri after the bicameral meeting.

So far, 12 companies have been “waiting in the wings” and willing to spend P50 billion, Zubiri said. He added that the country can produce an initial output of 100-200 megawatts of clean energy for the next two years.

“But in the long run, power will become cheaper because we don’t need to import [so much] oil,” he said.

Angara said the proposed measure would foster sustainable growth, energy independence and economic security for the country, saying “renewable energy use can save the country valuable foreign exchange of as much as $3.6 billion or almost P200 billion in fuel purchases.”

“Every 600-million-kilowatt-hour of RE generation saves one million barrels of oil. The Philippines could avoid having to buy more than 100 million barrels of oil by developing 2,500 megawatts of RE-based [energy] by 2014,” said Angara.

The bill calls for the massive utilization of renewable energy sources that are abundant in the country but remain untapped, so far, due to lack of funding and encouragement from the national government.

Zubiri said the measure would begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants and bunker-fuel plants that “are polluting [the environment] and causing greenhouse gases and climate change…At the same time, it will lead to lower power prices because the sale of RE to the consumers is value-added tax-free.”

He said homeowners who would tap solar power for their electricity needs under the metering system would be paid for energy they would produce.

“They will have a discount. At the end of the month, Meralco [Manila Electric Company], for example, will check how much they produced energy-wise, how much they consumed and fed to the energy grid. Meralco will deduct that from the total cost. Consumers can even be repaid by Meralco, or they can now be given a discount, but definitely, they will be getting a discount for the electricity charges.”

He said the measure would benefit the poor directly because host-communities of renewable energy would be given 100 kWh in “direct discount” for their electricity bills, plus “very, very minimal transmission and tolling charge.”

“This is the best package of incentive to any developer,” he said, disclosing other fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, to wit — VAT-free for manufacture, importation and sale of renewable energy equipment, depreciation loss, net operating cost carry over, among others.

(PDI)

Inquirer Mindanao NPA loses ‘mother of all mothers’

October 7, 2008

By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 00:20:00 10/05/2008

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Lola emerged from the tent, complete with matte-finished cheeks, lips in strong pink and a sky-blue choker to match the shirt. Although everyone was busy for the big day, they never failed to notice Lola whose flamboyance, many would say, was so contagious even in the least demanding times.

That day, Lola was to officiate at a wedding in a hinterland village of Compostela Valley. And when much of the attention was showered at the bride and the groom, Lola effortlessly took a generous part of it from the indigenous peoples, the farmers and the visitors who had traveled far to witness and celebrate the union.

Puzzling for outsiders to see was how Lola was getting all the fuss, but it was understandable, really, for someone who hooked the world’s admiration (and criticisms) when Lola married a young man in an elaborate and controversial ceremony three years ago.

Lola is Valerio Mante Jr. or Ka Richard, a gay communist fighter who, for more than 10 years, surrendered himself to the embrace of a “people’s revolution.” He was one of the top leaders of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao who took up the fight of peasants and indigenous peoples against oppressive forces.

Mourners from mountains

And when he passed away recently, a throng of mourners from the same sectors swelled into Davao City—never mind if it would show a bit of heart toward the revolutionary movement.

On board trucks and braving military checkpoints, hundreds of people went down the hills of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental to say goodbye to Val. He was buried on Sept. 30.

Val, 57, died from blood infection that resulted in kidney failure, a day after he was finally confined in a city hospital or more than 14 hours after his comrades brought him on a crude stretcher down the mountains of Compostela Valley. It was a week after his health deteriorated rapidly.

Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao, said Val, to the very end, chose to stay at their base.

“He did not mind the intermittent fever he was suffering from and instead told the comrade-medics not to fuss over him because he was just fine. After so much convincing, he finally allowed himself to be brought to a hospital in Davao,” Del Mundo said.

Before his death, Del Mundo said, Val was even making everyone in the hospital room happy and made a list of those who would be invited to his wake, “playfully reminding us that even in his death, there are people to organize and mobilize.”

Active

Val’s involvement as an activist and a guerrilla started when he was an active worker of the Catholic Church, even long before the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. During the First Quarter Storm, he joined Khi Rho, a mass organization working among peasants.

He was detained for more than a year at the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary Barracks in Tagum City. After his release, he went back to Davao City and directed a Lakbayan protest march from Tagum to Davao against massive landgrabbing.

During martial law, Val became the chair of the Citizens Council for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and later joined the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. He also became a member of the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the early 1990s and head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Mindanao from 1996 to 1998.

Val was the “darling of the press,” working from one sector to another. Antonio Ajero, a veteran journalist, said Val gained the respect of the media during his time for being “amiable and sincere to what he’s saying.”

“I could remember him as someone very personable and sincere. He was very articulate and had a good relationship with the media because he was never arrogant, and had good answers to every question,” Ajero said.

Joining the NPA

His friends recall that Val’s decision to join the NPA became a topic for discussion among them.

Nick David, one of his closest friends, said he had a debate with Val over his joining the underground movement because of Val’s age. (At that time, Val was 47, fresh from heading Bayan.) “He was already too old to join the movement,” David said.

But then when David visited Val in the mountains, he realized how Val loved the people and how he was being loved in return. “He loved the farmers so much. During dinners, he would carefully pick crumbs because in producing rice grains, farmers have to go through a difficult experience,” he said.

Journalist Carlos Conde, another friend of Val’s, wrote in his blog: “To be sure, many would scoff at Val’s decision to become an NPA and the things he stood for, dismissing this as stupidity, a mindless commitment to an ideology long discredited.”

“But Val, during the times when we interacted while he was already with the NPA, would often impress on me that this ‘dead ideology’ is far from deceased in the poor rural areas where peasants are locked in a never-ending struggle with their landlords. In areas, for instance, a real agrarian-revolution was taking place, supplanting the bogus one being implemented by the government,” Conde added.

Rural reach

In his journal, Val expressed that his decision to join the armed revolution came after he desired to expand his reach to the people in the rural areas.

“At the height of my activism, I decided to join the NPA. My decision elicited various reactions from the people close to me. Some were happy, some were skeptical. This did not affect my decision,” he wrote.

“It was a product of a long and painful struggle against selfishness, individualism and pride. I gave up a comfortable lifestyle, left my family and relatives and evaded close friends. It was the harshest yet the best decision so far I’ve made in my life,” he added.

Sama Sulong, a “lumad” leader from Boston town in Davao Oriental, said Val would always be remembered as the “inahan sa tanang inahan (mother of all mothers).”

“Lola treated us as his real children. The grandmother of the lumad people … the hero of the oppressed,” Sulong said.

PERA Law (Full Text/Scanned)

October 7, 2008

Please read it here.

CBCP PRISON CARE EXEC No proof Teehankee reformed ‘Good conduct in jail not same as full rehab’

October 7, 2008

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:58:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. may have been jailed for 14 years, but a Catholic church advocacy group for prison reforms doubts whether he has “reformed” since the country’s penal system does not provide any rehabilitation program for inmates.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said having a record of “good conduct” inside a Philippine prison would not be the same as undergoing rehabilitation.
Good conduct only means the inmate did not join any riot or cause any trouble, said Diamante.

“‘The problem in our system is that there is no treatment. If there is no rehabilitation program, then the decision [to free Teehankee] becomes a very political one,” he said.

The CBCP advocates “restorative justice,” which provides for a rehabilitation program that would eventually give convicted criminals who have reformed a chance to return to society.

“Pardon or clemency should not be based on whether time has been served, there should be a program,” Diamante stressed, pointing out that hundreds of other inmates who had applied for clemency since they had served their time were turned down.

“How would you rehabilitate if there is no rehabilitation program? What then is the basis of the release? That’s why the decision [to pardon] would always be questioned since there is no clear basis,” Diamante said. (PDI)

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

Hultmans ‘shocked’ at Teehankee release

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:04:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The family of the late Maureen Hultman is “very angry” and “shocked” over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to the man convicted of her murder.

“We are very sad, very disappointed, and very angry,” Andres Hultman said in an interview on QTV-11 television Tuesday evening.

The elder Hultman criticized the secrecy he said surrounded the clemency grant to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

“He was sentenced to life imprisonment…Now he’s free. Why was it kept quiet and secret? Why didn’t the rules and regulations apply,” Hultman said.

Hultman’s statement belied Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s claim earlier Tuesday that the family did not oppose the clemency grant.

“It was completely unexpected. The possibility was never mentioned to us, that he will be pardoned,” Hultman said.

He also expressed dismay over reports that Teehankee’s brother, Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization Manuel Teehankee, a former justice undersecretary, asked Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to push for his brother’s pardon.

“What does this say about the country?” he said.

Hultman laughed off reports that Teehankee had apologized for the murder of his daughter, saying, “The last time we talked to him, he denied that he committed the crime.”

“We miss everything about her [Maureen]. She was the most lively of our children,” he said.(PDI)

UN adopts new Somalia piracy resolution : Urges states to deploy military ships, planes

October 7, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 22:41:00 10/07/2008

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively join the fight against rampant piracy off the coast of lawless Somalia.

Resolution 1838 “calls upon all states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft.”

The French-drafted text urges states with naval vessels and military aircraft operating on the high seas and airspace off the Somali coast “to use the necessary means, in conformity with international law…for the repression of acts of piracy.”

It again “condemns and deplores all acts acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels off the coast of Somalia.”

It said that “the provisions in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of member states under international law.”

Last June, the 15-member Council had already adopted a resolution empowering states to send warships into Somalia’s territorial waters with the government’s consent to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The June resolution had given a six-month mandate to states cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government (TFG) in fighting piracy to “enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purposes of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The waters off Somalia — which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity — are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.

Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by pirates off Somalia’s 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) of largely unpatroled coastline.

The pirates operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

Tuesday, pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware with 21-member crew off the coast of Somalia said that a deal could be reached soon for the vessel’s release.

“A deal might be sealed by Wednesday and then we will issue a statement regarding the end of the matter,” said Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the estimated 50 pirates holding the MV Faina since September 25.

The pirate would not comment on the amount of ransom being negotiated. (PDI)

Gordon hints at joining 2010 race

October 7, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:47:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Hinting at his entry into the 2010 presidential derby, Senator Richard Gordon reminded the nation on Tuesday that the “next president should have competence, integrity and reliability.”

The senator, in a press statement, said he “has remained open to clamor for him by some sectors to seek the presidency come the May 2010 elections,” although it also said he has “yet to make his decision final as he prefers to focus his efforts on his works in the Senate.”

In September, Senate President Manuel Villar declared his decision to seek the presidency in 2010, a move that made him the target of colleagues in the chamber who also harbor presidential ambition.

Villar has been accused of inserting into the 2008 national budget a double funding for the Circumferential-5 extension road in Parañaque City, a claim he and his Senate allies vehemently denied.

With the global financial meltdown, Gordon said the country should have “a strong leader.”

“The next president should be able to offer to the Filipino electorate a proven track record of competence, enjoy integrity and can be relied upon during times of national crisis,” said Gordon.

More than money and political machinery, Gordon said a presidential candidate, or any candidate for national or local post, should possess the right qualities of a strong leader to improve the country and the citizenry.

“The next president of this nation should possess the traits of a strong and competent leader to be able to put to the front burner the need to uplift our people from their suffering and to provide them with the dignity that they deserve,” he said.

“The people should choose a leader that has the right qualifications, an unsullied track record of performance, a national vision, and someone who is least tainted by corruption or by influence of the powerful,” he added.

The statement said Gordon has been strongly pushing for the rehabilitation and acceleration of the country’s education and health care system, the promotion of tourism that would create jobs in the countryside, and the institution of political reforms, foremost of which was the full automation of the country’s electoral exercise.

Concurrently, Gordon is the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), which he claimed to have modernized, “transforming it into an institution that is not only limited to providing blood and responding to disaster-related incidents, but also offering volunteer, social, community health and nursing, and safety services.”

Recently, the PNRC acquired new equipment such as ambulances, rubber boats and fire trucks, which have allowed its volunteers to respond quickly to more victims of disasters and calamities.

“It is unfortunate that most people look up to politicians who have money and political power, when what they really have to focus on are the good and productive things that a candidate has done to improve the country,” Gordon said.

He explained that the Filipino voters should be “smarter” in choosing the country’s next president by looking deeper into the track record of the candidates.

“Our country needs a leader and not just a political figure. We need a president who knows not only what the country needs, but also what should be prioritized among those needs and how each necessity should be addressed,” he said. (PDI)

CLIMATE CHANGE, IRRESPONSIBLE MINING Green NGO warns of deadly combo for RP

October 7, 2008

By Margaux Ortiz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:05:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Climate change and irresponsible mining in the country could prove to be a deadly combination in coming years, a legal policy research and advocacy organization said on Tuesday.

Members of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said miners’ inability to predict the weather and amount of rainfall could prevent them from implementing safety measures properly.

“These mining companies say they are able to contain mining toxic wastes in what they call tilling ponds or dams,” Ronald Gregorio, LRC campaigns paralegal, said in an activity held in Quezon City in observance of the Anti-Mining Solidarity Week.

However, the tilling ponds and dams — where hazardous wastes such as mercury and cyanide are dumped — are known to spill over and pollute the surrounding land or watershed whenever the miners miscalculate the amount of rainfall.

“Climate change has blurred the divide between summer and the rainy season. Summer now does not mean that there would be no rains or even typhoons,” Gregorio said.

He added that mining might not be suitable for a disaster-prone country such as the Philippines.

“Typhoons and earthquakes would only worsen the situation, with the consequent spillage of toxic wastes leading to death of biodiversity and food scarcity,” Gregorio said.

He added that the number of mining companies operating in the Philippines only painted a bleaker picture for the environment, especially with an undermanned Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gregorio likened the DENR to the Bureau of Food and Drugs, which he said lacks the capacity to monitor all dairy products in the country amid the melamine scare.

“With so many mining corporations operating in the country, it is impossible for the DENR to monitor them all,” he said.

LRC documents show 30 companies with exploration permits in the country and 262 companies with mineral production sharing agreements.

He called the government’s mining revitalization program “reckless and unfair to land owners, especially farmers.”

“The government’s mining policies do not jive with the people’s rights,” LRC’s Ana Muhi stressed.

She said “these policies do not take into consideration human rights, biodiversity, water, agricultural, displacement and starvation costs.”

Gregorio said the group has been planning to push for an alternative mining bill, which would stipulate that the industry should have a link with “downstream industries.”

“This means the creation of local industries such as metal processing and machinery plants that would turn the minerals into finished products without exporting them,” Gregorio said.

He added the creation of such industries would regulate the extraction of minerals and prevent the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.

“There would be no use for such destructive chemicals because the miners would not be pressured to sell the minerals for a higher rate abroad,” Gregorio said.

“The Philippine Mining Act should be scrapped and replaced with a more patriotic law,” he said. (PDI)

Prof says power rate hike would continue to be felt

October 7, 2008

by Liza Agoot

UP DILIMAN, Quezon City – Contrary to the objective of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power in the country continues to increase.

Prof. Rowaldo Del Mundo who gave a three-day seminar on the subject EPIRA 101 to board members and employee representatives of the electric cooperatives in the country said that power rate hike will continue to be experienced.

The seminar is part of the competency training and certification program in electric cooperative power distribution system engineering given by the National Electrification Administration in cooperation with the National Engineering Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

The Philippines, Del Mundo said, has the second highest power rate compared to other countries all over the world.

The increase in power cost, he said, is brought about by the privatization of the generation companies, which were earlier tagged to address the high cost of power in the country.

He explained that one-third of the country’s debt was incurred by the National Power Corporation (NPC) in constructing power plants. Instead of the power plants becoming assets after many years, 91 percent of them have become liabilities.

Del Mundo said that solving the NPC’s indebtedness will actually solve one-third of the country’s indebtedness from international financial institutions.

He further said that privatization can greatly solve the problem.
However, in selling the generation companies, the government tagged a price about 300 percent higher than the cost that one will incur when it decides to build its own generation plant.

He took as an example the 15-year-old Masinloc power plant which has an economic lifespan of 30 years. Its price is US $270 million but was sold at US $930 M.

“Where do you expect the investor to get the return on investment?” The professor said, “Naturally, from the power that will be delivered.”

He said that privatization of the NPC power plants is still about 51 percent. By 2009, privatization could have reached more than 70 percent.

The generation cost as of this time, Del Mundo said, remains to be regulated. However, it is expected that at 70 percent privatized, the generation cost will start to be deregulated, leading to uncontrolled rates.

Looking at the electric bill, he said, generation cost is about 70 to 80 percent of the cost of power paid by the consumers.

“There is no way to go but to balloon the rates,” he said.

However, the phenomenon of privatization, he added, can be battled.

“Electric cooperatives can help solve the problem by engaging in generation. Look at the viabilities of the rivers in your area,” he said.

Cooperatives, he said, are non-profit by nature compared to private utilities. “When rates are perpetuated by private utilities, the coops will have to show the actual costs and by nature cannot have pro-fits,” he said.

He encouraged cooperatives to empower themselves, improve their system and never say “we don’t have money,” whenever requests for power lines in un-electrified areas as well as in industrial areas come in.
There are ways on how coops can cope with the demand for power without necessarily having to tremendously increase power rates.

Del Mundo said, the Benguet Electric Cooperative, which he has been supervising for more than three years now as a consultant, continuously improves itself in terms of manpower skills and capabilities as well as system upgrade.

This is the reason why Beneco, while not perfect, tries its best to provide a good service to the consumers, as well as continues with its missionary goal to provide electricity to all areas covered by the franchise. (BaguioMidlandCourier)

Academic research reveals that Abra River is polluted

October 7, 2008

by Liza Agoot

A study conducted by the Saint Louis University College of Engineering showed that the Abra River is polluted.

The study entitled “The Abra river system water quality monitoring” by Josephine Aries Dulay came out in the Northern Luzon Research Journal published in 2007 which is an inter-university publication for applied research and development studies.

Data sampling for the research was started in October 2004. The sampling was performed on a quarterly basis.

“Water samples taken from different sites along the length of the Abra River system were analyzed in terms of physic-chemical characteristics which include temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, biochemical oxygen demand, nitrates, lead, mercury, chromium, and cyanide concentrations,” reads the study’s abstract.

The samples were taken from the headwaters in Guinaoang as control sample, then going down stream at the mill outlet, tailings dam spillway, Lepanto Bridge, Kayan, Gitlangan, Bulaga, Patungkalew, Banoen, Manabo, Bucay, Bangued, Banaoang, Caoayan, and Santa.

“It was found that except for temperature, all parameter readings exceeded allowable limits or did not meet minimum required concentrations set forth in DAO 34 for the rivers to be classified AA (public water supply class I), Class A (public water supply class II), or Class B (recreational water class I),” the study reads. “This means that the river is polluted and is no longer suited for domestic use.”

“During samplings at the mill outlets and tailings dam spillway, no life forms in these parts of the river were observed,” the researcher noted.
Also alarming to note is the presence of toxic substances such as high nitrate concentrations, heavy metals, and cyanides.

The nitrates could be attributed to fertilizers, domestic and industrial effluents, and animal manure.

Heavy metals present are lead, mercury, and chromium in concentrations much higher than acceptable limits. Although these metals are naturally present in the environment, “if found in excessive amounts, they are most likely due to industrial discharges,” the study reads.

Cyanide has also been found to be in concentrations above the acceptable limits, “especially at the mill outlet and the mine tailings spillway,” the study reads. “Cyanide is the most common chemical used to extract gold from ore despite the fact that leaks or spills of this chemical is extremely toxic to fish, plant life, and human beings.”

Cyanide can break down with sunlight and oxygen, but the low amount
of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water hinders it from breaking down.
The low DO also means the water cannot support aquatic life.

“Due to the pollution, the river may no longer be able to fulfill its productive and life-sustaining functions, as the river’s assimilation and self-purifying capacity is greatly impaired,” the researcher stated.

Abra River stretches from Mountain Province passing through Ilocos Sur and Abra. It used to be rich in aquatic resources supporting the needs of the communities it traverses.

Growth in population, urbanization, technological advancement as well as mining, the study mentioned, have contributed to the river’s pollution.

The abstract of the study reads, “The evidence gathered suggests that much of the pollution in the river originate from the corporate mining operations.”

The study shows that deforestation and slash and burn activities in the upland area, illegal logging and tunnel shoring in mining areas causing soil erosion and river siltation, and use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers by the farmers nearby also cause river
pollution.

While the research may hurt, the researcher’s objective in doing the study is to assess the river’s capacity to receive waste discharge and later recover from the disturbance, to classify the river according to guidelines set by Department Administrative Order 34 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

It was, however, stated that the river has the capacity to regenerate if proper management of waste disposal is met.

The author suggested that dredging, like what Marcopper in Marinduque did, can be done to be able to bring back the ecological system of the river beds. Oxidation to destroy cyanide molecules can also be done.

Mining operations and environmental protection going together, the author said, is realizable, but “radical changes in mining practices and stricter government implementation of environmental laws” must be done and “mining companies [should] utilize available technologies for the treatment of contaminated fresh surface water, efficient on-site reduction of metal and the control, storage, and beneficial utilization of mine tailings.” (BaguioMidlandCourier)

Release of missing CPA leader being demanded

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Two groups in the region are calling on the military and intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to cause the release of James Balao, one of the founding members of the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

He was reportedly missing since Sept. 17 and was last seen in Baguio City.

The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance made the call to the AFP and the PNP, which the groups claimed are the most possible agencies behind Balao’s disappearance.

The CPA reported Wednesday that Balao is the second founder of the CPA to be the victim of a supposed enforced disappearance after Ama Daniel Ngayaan, who was abducted by government forces in Pasil, Kalinga in 1987.

To recall, Balao, who worked for the Research and Education Commission of the CPA, was first arrested in 1988 for alleged illegal possession of subversive documents but the case was subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

The call for the government forces to cause Balao’s release, if he is indeed in their custody, gained support from other cause-oriented and militant groups in the Cordilleras in wake of the noted pattern of disappearances of prominent militant leaders and protesters whose cadavers were later recovered while some are still missing up to now.

“Balao’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. It is part of a systematic and desperate move of the state against members and officers of the CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency campaign,” reads the CPA statement released to the media Tuesday afternoon.

The CPA has been labeled by the military as a political front of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or supporter of the New Peoples Army, but such tag was vehemently denied by the group, saying that CPA is a legitimate people’s organization.

“We challenge the AFP and PNP to immediately and unconditionally surface James Balao. Each day that you, the PNP and AFP, remain silent and indifferent to the enforced disappearance of James only validates further your accountability in his disappearance,” the CPA statement further reads. (BaguioMidlandCurier)

Mediaman files counter charges vs police officer

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao & Liza Agoot

A mediaman filed a case for violation of his rights as an accused person before the People’s Law Enforcement Board  against the head of the police station who detained him unjustly last week after a minor vehicular accident.

Peoples Journal
photojournalist Cesar Reyes filed a criminal case against P/Insp. Joseph Fokno Del Castillo, chief of Baguio City Police Office Compac 4, for violation of Republic Act 7438 or incriminating an innocent person as well as delay in the delivery of detained persons. An administrative case for grave abuse of power and authority was also filed against the police officer.

This stemmed after the police proceeded to detain Reyes from midnight of Sept. 18 up to noon of Sept. 22 for charges of grave threat and
illegal possession of fire arms without his knowledge.

To recall, Reyes was involved in a vehicular incident night of Sept. 18 along Session Road, when he bumped into a KIA pride taxi driven by Jaime Caccam. Caccam then called for back up from fellow drivers and his operator Carlos Abrigo. Reyes said that he was forced to bring out his gun when one person pushed him to the ground after being verbally abused by several other men.

To settle the matter, Reyes paid P2,000 for the supposed damage to the taxi while Abrigo said he forgave the journalist. The amicable settlement was logged in the police blotter of Compac 4.

But what surprised Reyes was that Abrigo went back to file a case for grave threat against him after the amicable settlement. More surprising to Reyes was why he was charged for illegal possession by Del Castillo when he voluntarily surrendered his gun and necessary documents to the authorities. Del Castillo even attested that the firearm seized by two of his men from Reyes was turned over to him together with the firearm license card and permit to carry outside of residence.

“When I was detained at Compac 4, I was never informed that I was being investigated. I was only made to believe that I will just raise the amount of P2,000 to pay Abrigo. There is therefore no basis for Del Castillo to state in his affidavit that he informed me of the nature and cause of my arrest and my constitutional rights as an accused because he never did,” Reyes said.

“The case for grave threat was unnecessary because Carlos Abrigo and I have already settled our differences as borne in the police blotter we both voluntarily signed,” he added.

Del Castillo also failed to deliver Reyes to the proper judicial authority during the entire period of his detention. From Compac 4, Reyes was brought to the City Jail 5 p.m. of Sept. 19. This was when he learned that he was being charged with grave threats by Abrigo and illegal possession of firearm by Del Castillo.

The mediaman was ordered released on Monday by the City Prosecutor’s Office after inquest prosecutor Ruth Bernabe dismissed for lack of probable cause the illegal possession of firearm case filed against him. “There is no probable cause to indict the respondent of violation of illegal possession of firearm. It appears from the records of the case that the respondent was able to present a license for the said firearm as a permit to carry,” reads Bernabe’s resolution.

Lawyers Richard Cariño and partner Christian Ulpindo, who acted as Reyes’ legal counsels, said they do not want to pre-empt their next move.

As of Sept. 26, however, Del Castillo continues to unjustly withhold Reyes’ firearm license and permit to carry.(BaguioMidlandCourier)

Kalikasan PNE challenges Isabela Gov: Expose and persecute big-time loggers!

October 7, 2008

For the past months, Gov. Grace Padaca has been actively campaigning against illegal logging in Isabela, and has in fact successfully confiscated logs worth millions of pesos. But for Kalikasan-PNE, a militant environment group, efforts to curb forest denudation must be focused on big-time loggers and the politicians behind them.

“We challenge the governor to expose and persecute big-time loggers and corrupt politicians instead of going after poor communities doing small-scale logging in her province. She has the authority and responsibility to do this. In addition, statistics and studies have shown that the major denuders of forest are the big-time legal commercial loggers who are also the ones the main financiers and buyers of illegal logging in the country,” Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr.

According to a study made by Center for Environmental Concerns, an environmental education and research NGO, legal or government-sanctioned logging accounts for 68% of the total forest cover loss from 1981 to 2002, while illegal logging accounts only for 2%.

“Facts show that the big-time commercial loggers in Isabela are the ones who cleared vast tracts of forest and even up to now are the main culprits of forest destruction in the province. In 2006, one logging company in Isabela was allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to log 25,887 hectares of forest; this is already way more than the declared forest reserve in the province. Also, in 2006, there were 7 logging companies which have Industrial Tree Plantation Agreement (ITPLA) which allow them to exploit a total of 62,266 hectares of forest areas. This reflects how the policy of Arroyo government and the DENR favors commercial logging over forest conservation and rehabilitation,” explains Mr. Bautista.

Based on the data from Forest Management Bureau (FMB), the total forest lands in Isabela is 411,804 hectares in 2003. In 2006, there is only one forest reserve in the province which is Tumauini Watershed Forest Reserve covering 17,670 hectares of forest lands in the Isabela.

“Gov. Padaca and other local government officials with forests in their area of jurisdiction should strike at the root of forest denudation and this is the licensed operations of big-time loggers. They should use their legitimate power and to cancel the permit of destructive logging operations and hold the big-time loggers accountable. At the same time, communities involved in small-scale logging should be assisted and provided with alternative livelihoods,” Mr. Bautista explains.###  (Kalikasan)


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