Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

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)

Editorial Cartoon: The Drowning

July 12, 2008

Dying

De la Paz ties to Arroyo foes led to ‘removal’

July 10, 2008

July 10, 2008 05:50:00
Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang’s decision to “remove” Corazon de la Paz from the helm of the Social Security System (SSS) was due to her close ties to the Makati Business Club (MBC) and groups critical of the Arroyo administration.

This was according to a ranking government official working closely with state financial institutions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue.

“There were just too many issues,” the official said, referring to De la Paz’s dealings with anti-administration groups and organizations. “I think she’s too closely identified with the Makati Business Club and even the Black and White Movement.”

“Just last week, there was another,” the official added, although he declined to specify what the last straw was that prompted De la Paz’s replacement by Romulo Neri, chair of the Commission on Higher Education, effective Aug. 1.

As SSS administrator, Neri will also head a new Cabinet cluster, the National Social Welfare program, that Ms Arroyo created Tuesday.

De la Paz said that she only learned of Malacañang’s move when she received a call from Finance Secretary Margarito Teves on Tuesday night while she was attending a business meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“He called me up to tell me about the decision,” she said.

Interviewed upon arriving from a foreign business trip Wednesday afternoon, De la Paz acknowledged that politics figured in her departure from the state pension fund for workers in the private sector, but said that she submitted her resignation to Malacañang last month.

“If you are in government, there will always be politics,” she said in a telephone interview.

De la Paz refused to elaborate, however, on the political aspect of the change in leadership at the SSS, which manages P248 billion worth of assets and contributions from 27 million members.

“You know I will not answer questions like that,” she said when pressed further about the reasons for her departure.

Time to leave

The outgoing SSS chief said, however, that she had been at the helm of the pension fund for seven years already and that it was a “good time” for her to leave.

She said there was a “confluence,” of the Palace appointment of Neri as her replacement and her need for more time to take care of personal affairs.

“I need to look after my health, too,” De la Paz said.

Against Neri appointment

A number of senators are against the appointment of Neri, a reluctant witness in the Senate probe of the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, to the SSS, saying that it could further stoke political controversies amid the economic crisis.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Neri was qualified to serve as chief executive officer of the state-run pension fund.

As part of the MBC, De la Paz joined calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down during the so-called Hyatt 10 crisis in 2005, in the wake of the “Hello Garci” wiretapping controversy in which Ms Arroyo allegedly rigged the 2004 presidential election in her favor. The President has denied the allegation.

Unwise, untimely

In the Senate, Sen. Manuel Roxas II described Neri’s appointment to the SSS as “unwise” and “untimely,” especially considering that Neri has “minimal, real-life experience in the marketplace to sit atop the SSS which has nearly 30 million members.”

“I would not have made the appointment. These are turbulent times for the country—the stock market is volatile, the peso is losing steam, and we are beset with global uncertainties,” he said. This appointment will just drive unneeded political controversy.”

Sen. Francis Escudero said that Neri had already proved that he placed the interest of Ms Arroyo above the interest of the public when he refused to divulge what the President had told him after telling her that he was offered P200 million to favor the overpriced ZTE Corp. contract for the $329-million NBN deal.

The deal, which is being investigated by the Senate, was scrapped amid allegations that officials, including the President and her husband, received bribes from the Chinese telecommunication firm. The First Couple have denied the charges.

Off limits

“I am worried that he would take over the private money of private citizens that should be off limits to the political or financial interests of anybody in government. I just hope and pray that he will not spend the SSS’ money for political gains,” Escudero said.

Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal was surprised by the changing of the guard at the SSS. “People who have anomalies hanging over their heads should not be appointed in any government position,” she said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said naming another political appointee to a state pension fund, like Government Service Insurance System chief Winston Garcia, would send an alarming signal of Ms Arroyo’s plans on the SSS and GSIS funds, especially with the coming elections.

Ermita said concerns over the management of the pension fund was “definitely on the mind of a fellow like Secretary Neri” who, he said, was told by the President: “Don’t put in jeopardy the SSS interest or its members.”

“Everyone knows the competence as an economist and as an executive of Secretary Neri,” Ermita said, pointing out that before joining the Cabinet, Neri had served as chief of the Congressional Planning and Budget Office of the House of Representatives and professor at the Asian Institute of Management.

Neri will serve as SSS administrator with Cabinet rank and head the newly launched national social welfare program of government.

Covered by executive privilege

With the SSS being elevated to a Cabinet portfolio, Neri will be covered by the doctrine of executive privilege, Ermita said.

This means that Neri will continue to be barred from disclosing details discussed during Cabinet meetings or conversations with the President, including his knowledge of the NBN deal with ZTE Corp. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Michael Lim Ubac

Pinoy ‘healing’ priest barred from saying Mass in Toronto

July 7, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—“Healing” Filipino priest Fernando Suarez has been barred from saying Mass in Toronto, Canada, according to Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

Oliveros said Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toronto told him during the 49th International Eucharistic Congress held recently in Quebec, Canada, that the reason was Suarez’s healing activities.

Oliveros said it appeared Suarez had violated a Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directive—Article 4, No. 3, of the disciplinary norms contained in the Instruction on Prayers for Healing issued in 2000.

For his part, Oliveros said he was bent on pursuing his complaint against Suarez for holding healing Masses in Malolos City in Bulacan province last year without his permission.

“Although I had said in January that I would lodge a complaint against Suarez for holding Masses in Malolos without my consent, I could not do so due to so many commitments,” Oliveros said in an interview posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ website.

Suarez, a Philippine-born member of the Canada-based Companions of the Cross, has been drawing crowds to his healing Masses in the country and abroad.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz has also barred Suarez from Pangasinan province.(PDI)

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My Take:

Tsk! Pera-pera kasi ito eh.  These very act of Fr. Suarez violates the basics of the Social Doctrine.  Dun pa lang sa pagbebenta nila ng mga CD? Tsk. I smell another filthy scam here.

My apology to his followers, pero he is not God.  And as he defies some rules, he should be reprimanded, just like what the lord did to lucifer (ooops, im not saying that he is that evil). :)

Opposition hits Agora BOT bid

July 6, 2008

ON THE process of re-acquiring two multi-million markets with borrowed funds, local officials in Cagayan de Oro are now gearing to enter yet another P250 million Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement to reconstruct another market.

Opposition figures in the City Council have decried the plan, saying it smacks of “stubbornness” and “lack of judgment” on the part of the administration for its alleged failure to recognize that almost all BOT projects ended with the city losing millions in subsidies.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Councilor Reynaldo Advincula, chair of a taskforce overseeing the city’s public markets, said the “redevelopment” of the market and public utility vehicle terminal facilities will commence once the “buy-back” of Carmen and Cogon markets becomes final.

“The redevelopment of Agora market and passengers’ terminal facilities is on the pipeline and the private proponent will start construction after the city assumes operations of Cogon and Carmen markets,” Advincula told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in a phone interview.

The plan calls for a P250-million construction of Agora’s facilities to be undertaken by businessman Hong Sy under a BOT scheme.

Councilor Teodulfo Lao, an opposition member, said embarking on another multi-million BOT project similar to the losing Cogon and Carmen markets “reeks of “recklessness and lack of foresight”

Since 2005, the local government has subsidized both markets at P170 million, records from the City Treasurer Office disclose.

The subsidy scheme has been repeatedly questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the grounds that BOT projects are supposedly free of any monetary obligations on the part of the local government.

“The administration thought it has solved the high rental rates in the two semi-private markets by buying them back for hundreds of millions from bank loans. Now it is saying that it will again enter into another trouble by constructing a multi-million market using the same time-tested disadvantageous BOT formula,” Lao said.

But Advincula said: “Rehabilitation of Agora market and terminal is badly needed. The market is already dilapidated and there is a pressing need to modernize the passengers’ terminal.”

Lao and two other councilors opposed last month a measure that gave Mayor Constantino Jaraula the green light to negotiate a P377 million buy-back for Cogon and Carmen markets—both at their infant BOT stages.

Lao and his two colleagues—opposition Councilors Roger Abaday and Zaldy Ocon—also voted against an earlier measure that gave the mayor authority to borrow P500 million from the Veterans Bank to fund the buy-back.

The three argued that both measures were disadvantageous to the City Government and tended to favor the contractor UKC Builders.

For his part, Abaday advised administration officials to let the questioned Cogon BOT contract decided in court first before undertaking another project of similar character.

The case, which is now pending at a regional court, was filed by several vendors in 2005, arguing that the BOT contract was onerous.

Meanwhile, City Ordinance No. 2008-148 provides for a buy-back price of P267,673,800.77 for Cogon market and commercial complex—completed in 2005 at a cost of P252,487,477.20 and has a BOT lifespan of 25 years. Carmen market and commercial complex which was finished in late 2003 at a cost of P118,006,529.81—covered under a 20-year BOT term—will be bought for P109,331,552.43.

Mayor Jaraula explained that the increment to the buy-back prices of both markets would cover “reasonable cost of money incurred during their construction.”

For his part, Vice Mayor Vicente Emano said the re-purchase of the two markets would solve the predicament of stallholders who are grappling with rising rental fees.(SunStarCDO)

Editorial Cartoon: Stealing the Goods, Stealing the Votes

July 5, 2008

Another sign that the election season is on

Ombudsman orders FG, Abalos to comment on affidavits of NBN-ZTE witnesses

July 4, 2008

By Edu Punay
Friday, July 4, 2008

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First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and other respondents were ordered yesterday by the Office of the Ombudsman to comment on the affidavits of key witnesses to alleged anomalies in the $329-million national broadband network project granted to Chinese firm ZTE Corp.

Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus said investigators will collate all affidavits submitted by businessman Jose de Venecia III, Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. and engineer Dante Madriaga affirming their testimonies before the Senate and send them to the respondents for immediate response.

“We will give them time to comment or reply on the affidavits of affirmation submitted by the witnesses, which have been accepted as part of the complaints,” he told The STAR over the phone.

“They could file additional counter-affidavits if necessary. Itís always important to observe due process.”

De Jesus said the investigating panel might conduct further hearings and call on any of the complainants, respondents and witnesses for “further clarification.”

“A lawyer of one of the respondents said during earlier hearing that they would ask for 120 days (or four months) to reply on the affidavits since they would have to comment on statements in the 5,000-page transcript from the Senate,” he said.

“They would be given time to inspect transcript or obtain their own copies. But I think 120 days would be too lengthy.”

Once the respondents have commented on the affidavits of the witnesses, the panel would consolidate all seven complaints and issue a uniform decision whether or not to charge the respondents before the Sandiganbayan, De Jesus said.

Lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., a complainant in four cases against Mr. Arroyo and Abalos, sought the affirmation of the Senate testimonies of the key witnesses.

In his affidavit prepared by Francisco, Lozada affirmed his Senate testimony that Mr. Arroyo and Abalos were involved in the supposedly overpriced deal with ZTE Corp.

Lozada did not sign the 5,000 pages of the transcript in which his testimony appeared as required by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Instead he certified the transcript of stenographic notes from the Senate as “true copies.”

In his Senate testimony, Lozada narrated how “Chairman Abalos wanted to protect his $130-million commission on the project.”

The project was supposed to be on a build-operate-transfer basis but Abalos was insistent of having it done on loan basis, he added.

De Venecia, a son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. affirmed his Senate testimony last June 23.

Madriaga affirmed his Senate testimony before the Office of the Ombudsman last June 5. As technical consultant to the NBN deal, he affirmed under oath his statement that President Arroyo and her husband were involved in the controversial project.

In his 20-page defense, Mr. Arroyo claimed that the charges against him were “replete with innuendos, speculations and false assumptions.”

He denied that he threatened Jose de Venecia III for trying to bid for the NBN project.

Abalos was accused of graft in six of the seven cases while Mr. Arroyo was respondent in four. (PhilStar)

Editorial Cartoon: Not the People’s Champ

July 2, 2008

Kampeon ng kuwan…

Editorial Cartoon: The Hole

June 27, 2008

Yuckie!

Editorial Cartoon: Flood’s Way

June 25, 2008

Mahigit 2 yrs nang ginagawa, ilang milyong piso na ang nagastos, isang malaking hukay pa lang din ang floodway project ng gobyerno.

Arroyo-Bush Meeting to ‘Strengthen Unequal Relations, US Intervention ‘

June 22, 2008

The reported trip of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the United States to meet with US president George W. Bush and presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama will mark another low point in RP-US relations, according to the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“It will be an extravaganza of terror and economic plunder, the two areas of concern of the US government. The meeting with Bush would reaffirm existing unequal ties between the Philippines and the US. Arroyo hopes for continuity in these relations which is why she is meeting with McCain and Obama,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Arroyo’s status as a most favored Asian puppet of the US brings shame to the Filipino people, more than anything else,” he added.

The group said that there will not be meaningful benefits from the scheduled trip.

“In a time of severe crisis, we can’t see how the meeting with Bush can be beneficial to the Filipino people. The agenda is in favor of US geo-political and economic interests in the region as well as Arroyo’s desire of political survival. Bush and Arroyo are also known to have two of the worst human rights records for any president,” Reyes said.

Bayan said protests are already being readied in the states where Arroyo is expected to go. Protesters will include Filipinos in the US, as well as American human rights and migrants advocates.

“We are certain that Philippine support for the US war on terror will play an important role in the talks. The Philippines has given the US virtual basing rights through the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. Arroyo seeks a continuation of these policies, whether it’s McCain or Obama who wins,” Reyes said.

Bayan says the meeting with Bush and the US Secretary of Defense will also be crucial in determining additional US military aid for the Philippines. The beleaguered Arroyo regime has been using US military and economic aid to prop its isolated regime.

“Despite human rights abuses and hundreds of unresolved case, the US government is intent on increasing military aid to the Philippines. This is being justified as part of supporting the war on terror. The military offensive in Mindanao against the kidnappers of a Philippine journalist is being used to justify additional military aid and troop presence,” Reyes said.

“How convenient for GMA that she has another incident in Mindanao with which she could justify US military aid and intervention,” the Bayan leader added.

Bayan also said that the funding from the Millenium Challenge Corporation will be vulnerable to corruption considering the Arroyo regime’s track record. The Philippine government is said to have qualified for $700 million grant.

‘Onsehan’ ng Malakanyang

June 22, 2008

PW Reportorial Team

MINSAN nang iminungkahi ni Pangulong Arroyo na “maghigpit (na lamang) ng sintoron” sa panahon ng krisis. Ngayong todo-todo na ang pagsirit ng presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo – at di na maitatago sa mga katagang pampropaganda na “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” – mas sopistikado na ang tugon ng Palasyo.

Pero ang tanong, ito ba ang totoong hiling ng taumbayan sa panahon ng krisis?

Itinala ng Pinoy Weekly ang samu’t saring naging tugon ng gobyerno sa kasalukuyang krisis sa ekonomiya. Nilapatan din natin ng kaukulang pagsusuri ang mga tugong ito. Nakasasapat ba, o nakakapalala lang? O pampapogi lang? Hindi kami nagulat kung bakit onse ang bilang namin sa mga tugong ito.

11. Parang PBA, mahilig sa import

HABANG ipinipilit ng gobyerno na may sapat na suplay ng bigas para sa mga mamamayan, pinaplano naman nitong magrasyon ng bigas – tatlong kilo kada pamilya – at nakaangkat na ng tinatayang 2.2 milyong metriko tonelada ng bigas mula sa Vietnam, Thailand at US. Ito ang pinakamalaking bulto ng importasyon mula noong 1998.

Mula sa pagkakaroon ng sariling suplay ng bigas at nag-eeksport pa nga ng bigas noong dekada ’80, naging taga-angkat ng bigas ang Pilipinas mula noong 1993. Sa kasalukuyan, ang bansa ang nangungunang umaangkat ng bigas sa buong mundo.

Ayon sa Ibon Foundation, naging ganito ang kalagayan ng Pilipinas, dahil sa atrasadong produksiyon sa agrikultura at mga polisya ng liberalisasyon, pribatisasyon at deregulasyon na ipinatupad ng gobyerno mula noong dekada ’80.

Dahil sa pagpasok sa Agreement on Agriculture ng World Trade Organization, sapilitang nag-aangkat ang Pilipinas ng minimum na bulto ng bigas mula sa ibang bansa kahit pa may sapat na suplay ito.

Dahil dito, tumaas ang importasyon ng bigas, mula sa wala (0) noong 1994 hanggang 257,260 MT noong 1995 at patuloy pang tumaas hanggang 1.7 milyong MT noong 2006.

Patuloy naman itong binabatikos ng mga magsasaka. Naniniwala ang KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) na walang dahilan para mag-angkat ng bigas ang bansa.

Ayon sa grupo, kung may 7.2 milyong MT ng produksiyon ng palay ngayong anihan, isama pa ang kabuuang imbentaryo ng bigas noong Marso, may sapat na bigas para sa bawat Pilipino hanggang buwan ng Oktubre, kahit pa walang importasyon.

Umaangkat umano ng bigas ang Pilipinas dahil nauna na itong nakipagkasundo sa Vietnam at US.

Soliman Santos

10. Credit card ng mahihirap

UMANI ng batikos ang gobyerno nang tanggalin nito ang bigas-NFA (National Food Authority) sa mga palengke at palitan ito ng mga access card para hindi umano maabuso ang mas murang bigas.

Batay sa programang ito, ang murang bigas ay ibebenta lamang sa mga benepisyaryong may hawak na access card. Ipinamahagi ito sa 150,000 pamilya sa walong siyudad sa Metro Manila.

Maaaring makakuha ng mula dalawa hanggang 14 na kilo kada transaksiyon ang sinumang may hawak ng access card.

Kinutya naman ng Kadamay ang hakbang na ito, kasama na ang P5 Bilyong “Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino” programang subsidyo, na hindi naman umano makapagreresolba sa matinding krisis na kinakaharap ng maralitang taga-lungsod.

“Ang kailangan ng maralita ay trabaho, kabuhayan, sahod na makakabuhay sa kanilang mga pamilya, tiyak at disenteng paninirahan, nakasasapat na serbisyong panlipunan, katiyakan sa pagkain,” ani Carmen Deunida, tagapangulo ng Kadamay.

“Hindi nila kailangan ng limos, lalo na mula sa gobyernong gagawin lamang ito para lamang makapanatili pa ito sa poder. At ang paghihigpit sa kakayanang makabili ng NFA rice, na siyang gagawin ng iskemang family access cards, ay magreresulta lamang sa mas malala at malawakang kagutuman,” dagdag pa ni Deunida.

Soliman A. Santos

9. Lifeline subsidy: Limos sa kinawawang Pinoy

SA unang tingin, dapat lamang na mamahagi sila ng pera. Noong nakaraang taon, ginawa na nila ito, pero hindi sobre lang at hindi P500, kundi isang buong paper bag na naglalaman ng kung ilang bungkos ng papel na pera. Hindi sa ordinaryong mga mamamayan ipinamigay ang “limos” kundi sa mga kongresista at lokal na opisyal – para ibasura ang reklamong impeachment sa Kamara laban sa Pangulo.

Pero sa pamimigay ng gobyerno ng P500 sa bawat kabahayang gumagastos ng mahigit 100 kilowatt hour na kuryente, hindi na impeachment ang pinapatay ng Palasyo. Pinapatay nito, ayon kay Ramon Ramirez, tagapagtipon ng Power (People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity), ang iba pang dapat na hakbang ng taumbayan para ayusin ang power sector.

“Walang magagawa ang subsidyo para maibaba ang rates. Wala itong magagawa para maisaayos ang mga abuso ng power sector. Short-term lang ito, at limitadong tugon na may populistang intensiyon,” ani Ramirez.

Siyempre, bulnerable rin umano ang pondong ito ng gobyerno sa korupsiyon. Makakabuti lang umano sa pansamantala ang pamimigay ng pera kung “nakatarget ito sa mga taong nangangailangan talaga nito.”

Priscilla Pamintuan

8. Nakuryente sa Meralco

BILANG tugon sa halos linggu-linggong pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo, biglang pinuruhan ng mga alyado ng Malakanyang sa Senado, kasama si Winston Garcia ng GSIS, ang mga Lopez na mayoryang may-ari ng Meralco (Manila Electric Corp.).

Inakusahan ni Sen. Miriam Santiago ang pagkakaroon diumano ng “sindikato” sa loob ng Meralco na siyang nagpapanatili ng mataas na singil sa kuryente. “Mga konsiyumer ang nagbabayad na matataas na taunang suweldo ng chief executive officer ng Meralco at pitong iba pang senior executive officer na nagkakahalagang P97 Milyon ngayong 2008. Makakakuha naman ang mga opisyal at direktor ng P170-M. Lumalabas na may abuso sa manedsment,” sabi ni Santiago.

Hindi tutol ang militanteng mga organisasyon sa pag-iimbestiga sa mga Lopez at sa Meralco. Gayunman, lumalabas diumano

ang tunay na intensiyon ng gobyerno ngayong nanahimik na ito sa pagbira sa mga Lopez at nagkasya sa pamimigay ng lifeline subsidy para masubsidyohan ang binabayaran ng mga mamamayan sa kuryente.

Para sa mga manggagawa ng KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), hindi lamang simpleng pagpuksa sa mga Lopez ang makakapagpababa sa bayarin sa kuryente. “Idinulot ng Electric Power Industry Reform Act at iba pang iskema sa pagsasapribado ng gobyernong Arroyo ang walang habas na pagtaas ng power rates na di na mapasan ng taumbayan,” ayon kay Lito Fadriquelan, miyembro ng National Council ng KMU at presidente ng pederasyong Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa.

Priscilla Pamintuan

7. Barya-baryang dagdag-sahod

GAMUMO na, hindi pa lahat makatatanggap. Ito ang reyalidad ng P20.00 na umento sa sahod (P15 ang dagdag sa mismong sahod at P5 naman ang emergency cost of living allowance). Gaya ni Glee, 40 anyos na nagtatrabaho bilang isang mananaliksik sa isang kompanya sa Makati City, dahil hindi siya saklaw ng P20 na umento sa sahod.

“Sayang din naman kasi, kahit dagdag na pamasahe,” sabi ni Glee.

Ayon sa KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), bagaman ipinagmamalaki ng Dole (Department of Labor and Employment) na halos lahat ng rehiyon ay nagtakda na nang kanikanilang taas-sahod, nakatitiyak silang hindi naman lahat ng kompanya ay magbibigay nito.

Sa Iloilo na lamang, ayon kay Prestoline Suyat, tagapagsalita ng KMU, 80 porsiyento ng mga empresa ang nagpahayag na mag-aaplay sila ng eksempsiyon para hindi maibigay ang P20 umento.

Ang tanging pag-asang House Bill 1722 na inihain noon sa Kamara ni yumaong Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, tila aamagin na at tila ayaw ipasa. Noong 2007, muntik nang makalusot ang kaparehong panukalang batas—na si Beltran din ang naghain—ang HB 345 subalit muling ibinalik sa Kamara, batay na rin sa apela ni Cavite Rep. Crispin “Boying” Remulla at sinabing hindi pa napag-uusapan nang husto ang naturang panukala.

Noel Sales Barcelona

6. Laban o bawi sa matrikula

WALA pa ring balita hinggil sa sinasabing balik-bayad sa matrikula sa pampublikong mga unibersidad at kolehiyo.

“Patuloy na ikinakalakal ang edukasyon at sa panahon ni Pang. Arroyo, sa halip na bumaba, dumoble ang halaga ng matrikula at iba pang bayarin,” sabi ni Dion Cerrafon, pangulo ng Kabataang Pinoy party-list.

Inayudahan naman ito ng NUSP (National Union of Students of the Philippines) at sinabing kung hindi man sa matrikula humahataw nang paniningil ang mga eskuwelahan, sa ibang bayarin naman nito kinukuba ang mga magulang at estudyante.

“Naririyan ang P250 developmental fee sa Polytechnic University of the Philippines, bukod pa sa sinisingil ang mga estudyante ng Open University nang energy fee na nagkakahalaga nang halos P800,” sabi ni Sophia del Prado, student regent ng PUP.

Habang isinusulat ito, tahimik pa rin ang Ched (Commission on Higher Education) kung paano nila ibabalik sa mga estudyante ang sobrang singil sa matrikula.

Noel Sales Barcelona

5. ‘D2 n me, wer n u?’

IDINEKLARA ng DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) noong Mayo na pinag-aaralan nito ang posibilidad ng pagtanggal sa singil sa texting. Ayon sa ___ wala namang karagdagang gastos ang texting sa mga kompanya ng telekomunikasyon tulad ng Smart, Globe at Sun Cellular kung kaya hindi ito dapat naniningil.

Ikinatuwa ng Txtpower, isang grupo ng mga nagtataguyod ng IT (information technology) para sa taumbayan, ang panukalang ito. “Matagal na naming sinasabi na bahagi ito ng serbisyo ng GSM standard na ginagamit ng telecommunications companies at dapat maging libre pero hindi nakikinig ang gobyerno,” pahayag ng Txtpower.

Gayunman, sa kanyang kolum sa Business World noong Mayo 30, ipinaliwanag ni Luis Teodoro ang intensiyon ng panukala ng DOTC: “tinitingnang hindi masyadong mabait sa rehimen ang pinakamalalaking telco, at hindi lang magiging popular ang pagtulak sa kanila na gawing libre ang text messaging, tuturuan pa nito ang mga may-ari (ng telcos) ng wisyo ng pagsuporta (sa rehimen.”

Priscilla Pamintuan

4. Masahol na pasahe

MATAGAL nang gipit ang mga drayber na kumikita na lamang ng mahigit P100 sa 24 oras na pamamasada. Laging kunot-noo ng gobyerno, pagbibigyan ba ang petisyon nila sa taas-pasahe? O kikiling sa mga pasahero na hirap din namang bumunot ng karagdagang barya mula sa bulsa?

Kung tutuusin, hindi taas-pasahe ang hiling ng Piston (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) dahil alam nilang pasanin itong mabigat ng mga mamamayan. Pagbaba ng presyo ng langis ang kanilang panawagan. Pero dahil hindi nga ito matugunan ng Malakanyang, idineklara ng Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board noong Mayo 18 ang pasahe sa dyip nang 50 sentimos (naging P8 mula P7.50). Sa huling-minuto, mukhang natakot ang gobyernong Arroyo sa magiging reaksiyon ng mga pasahero. Kaya ipinagpaliban ang pagtaas—ng isang araw lang din naman.

Tuloy, disgustado ang mga tsuper pati na rin ang mga pasahero sa katawa-tawang atras-abante. Hindi kasi kailanman solusyon ang taas-pasahe sa pagsirit sa presyo ng langis. Pinaluluwag lamang nito nang bahagya, ang lubid na nakapaikot sa leeg ng kawawang mga tsuper.

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

3. Pamemeke’t pulitika sa iskolarship at pautang

SA tuwing may photo-op ng pamimigay ni Pangulong Arroyo ng iskolarship, hindi mo mawari kung sino ang may ngiting mas matamis; ang kabataang umaasang makapagtatapos sa tulong ng gobyerno, o ang Pangulo na umaasang maiaangat ang kanyang imahe sa mata ng madla.

Noong Hunyo 5, inilunsad ni Arroyo ang Student Assistance Fund for Education for a Strong Republic (Safe-4-SR). Umano’y P1 Bilyon ang kanyang pakakawalang pautang para sa mga estudyanteng naghihirap. Target nito ang 100,000 estudyante sa kolehiyo na pauutangin ng P8,000 kada semestre. Babayaran ang utang dalawang taon matapos ang graduation, ayon sa Ched (Commission on Higher Education) na mangangasiwa sa nasabing pondo.

Para sa grupong Kabataang Pinoy, hindi sila maililigtas ng mga programang wala ring lalim, lalo pa’t may kasaysayan ang gobyernong Arroyo sa paggamit nito para sa pamumulitika.

Matatandaang P185-M Emergency Financial Assistance for Students o Efast ang pinakawalan ilang buwan bago ang 2007 eleksiyon. Binigyan ng tig-P1-M ang mga kongresistang alyado ni Arroyo para sa ipamudmod sa anyo ng mga iskolarship.

Sa aktuwal, P14.2-M lamang ang namonitor ng COA (Commission on Audit) na ipinamigay sa ilalim ng E-fast, at sa mga estudyanteng ‘walang sapat na mga dokumento, walang tamang awtorisasyon, at di kuwalipikado.’

Hinala ni Dion Cerrafon, presidente ng Kabataang Pinoy, na kinasangkapan lamang ito sa pulitika. “Lumalabas na ginagamit ang mga student assistance program, hindi para tulungan ang mga estudyante, kundi para maisalba ang rehimen at sustentuhan ang mga ambisyong pulitikal ng mga kandidato ng administrasyon,” ani Cerrafon.

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

2. Propaganda, pampaganda

SA tugon ng gobyernong Arroyo sa krisis sa ekonomiya, tampok at tawag-pansin ang propaganda. Ginamit nito ang rekurso ng gobyerno at kinatuwang ang midyang mainstream para ipaabot sa publiko ang propaganda nito sa krisis.

Noong mainit na pinapatampok ng midya ang krisis – sa langis at pagkatapos sa bigas – iisa ang tugon ng gobyerno, mula kay Pang. Arroyo hanggang sa mga opisyal niya: Pandaigdig ang krisis, na umaabot kahit sa mayayamang bansa, walang kasalanan ang gobyerno, at hindi sa gobyerno nakasandig ang solusyon.

Matapos itong ipatimo, dalawa ang naging direksiyon ng propaganda ng gobyerno. Una, ang pagmamalaki sa naitalang “pag-unlad” ng ekonomiya noong simula ng taon. Sa isang tarpaulin ng gobyerno na nagkalat sa Kamaynilaan, at sa isang patalastas nito sa telebisyon, sinasabi: “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran.”

Ikalawa, pagpapatampok sa mga tugon ng gobyerno sa krisis. Madalas, kasama ng nabanggit na tarpaulin ang isa pang islogan: “Labanan ang Kahirapan.” Bukod pa rito ang mga propagandang naglilitanya sa mga nagawa ng gobyerno, tulad ng pagtatayo umano ng mga botikang nagbebenta ng murang gamot.

Kapansin-pansin din ang papel na direktang ginampanan ni Pres. Arroyo sa propaganda ng gobyerno sa krisis. Sa midya, lumilitaw na abalang abala siya: Nagsasalita tungkol sa pag-unlad ng ekonomiya sa harap ng mga negosyante, namimigay ng bigas sa mahihirap, nag-aanunsiyo ng paglalabas ng pondo para sa samu’t saring proyektong tutulong umano sa mga apektado ng krisis.

Roberto Andres

1. ‘Kayanin n’yo ang (emergency) powers ko!’

NOONG Abril, isinampa ni Rep. Thomas L. Dumpit, Jr. ng La Union ang Resolusyon 512 sa Kongreso, na humingi ng kapangyarihang pang-emergency para kay Pang. Arroyo. Ayon kay Rep. Dumpit, “hindi ordinaryo” ang krisis sa bigas, kaya kailangan ng pangulo ang dagdag na kapangyarihan para “matugunan ang krisis… sa pinaka-episyente at pinakamatalinong paraan.”

Panukala niya ang dagdag na kapangyarihan para matugunan ang diumano’y pangho-hoard ng bigas at paglilihis ng bigas na sinusubsidyuhan ng estado patungo sa komersiyal na pamilihan, at para lansagin ang kartel sa bigas.

Duda ni Rep. Liza Maza ng Gabriela Women’s Party, gagamitin lang ang kapangyarihan para labanan ang pampublikong ligalig na “puwedeng iluwal ng sumisirit na presyo ng langis, bigas at iba pang bilihin, ng pagdinig ng Senado sa ZTE na nakatakdang magbukas muli sa posibleng testimonya ni dating Espiker Jose de Venecia at muling pag-ikot ni Jun Lozada sa mga paaralan.”

Sa kanyang kolum, tila kinukumpirma ni Alex Magno, kilalang tagapagtanggol ng gobyernong Arroyo, ang kinakatakutan ng gobyerno sa krisis. Aniya, “Hindi tayo puwedeng magpatuloy at magbigay ng subsidyo… Pero hindi rin natin maaatim na humantong sa panlipunang pagsabog sa pamamagitan ng di pagbibigay ng gayong mga subsidyo sa panahon ng napakatinding panlipunang kahirapan.”

Madiin ang naging pagtutol ni Mayor Jejomar Binay ng Makati: “Naiisip ba ninyo kung ano ang gagawin ng administrasyong Arroyo kapag pormal nang ibinigay ng Kongreso ang kapangyarihang… ito? Wala pa mang kapangyarihang pang-emergency, inaabuso na (ni Pres. Arroyo) ang kapangyarihan niya.”

Matapos ang malaganap na pagtutol ng iba’t ibang sektor, nagpahayag ng di pagsang-ayon sa panukala maging ang Malakanyang at ang nangungunang mga alyado ng administrasyon tulad ni Espiker Prospero Nograles.

Roberto Andres

Privatization of Power Sector, the Root of High Power Rates

June 19, 2008

The impetus behind the current crisis is the restructuring of the sector through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, one of the first laws signed by President Gloria Arroyo in 2001.

BY IBON FEATURES
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

Amid the flurry of accusations between private distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor) over unjust charges, one fact remains clear: privatization and deregulation of the power industry– distribution, transmission and generation – is at the heart of high electricity bills.

For example, consider the multitude of unjust “pass-on” charges levied by Meralco on its customers. These include system losses, in which power lost through pilferage and technical problems are passed on to consumers and P500-million ($11,258,725 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.41) a year of Meralco’s own power consumption, which is similarly reflected in electric bills. There is also a reported plan to pass bad debts incurred by the power distributor on to consumers.

These charges have been approved by the government Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which is tasked to regulate the rates of electricity distributors. Although blame has been placed on the ERC’s lax regulation for such excessive “pass-on” rates, in truth the regulatory environment has become lenient because of deregulation of the power sector and while moving towards full privatization.

It should also be noted that although Meralco is a public utility with a congressional franchise, its essential nature is a private, profit-oriented corporation listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). Thus, it should not be surprising that the company exploits legal loopholes to levy such unwarranted charges in order to fatten its bottom line and make its stockholders and owners happy.

The privatization of the power sector created profit opportunities for private-sector independent power producers (IPPs). In order to quickly attract investors to the sector, government had to ensure the power producers’ profitability. Thus, onerous provisions such as “take or pay” (which required Napocor to buy 70-100 percent of power producers’ output) and ‘fuel cost guarantee’ (which obligated Napocor to source and pay for fuel used by IPPs) were tacked onto IPP contracts. These provisions bloated consumers’ power bills through charges such as the infamous Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA). They also contributed to Napocor’s skyrocketing debt burden.

It will be remembered that a government-mandated review of 35 IPP contracts during the Arroyo administration found that only six were “clean” or without financial or legal issues. Five were found to contain “onerous” terms that were “grossly disadvantageous to government.” However none of these contracts were cancelled, and were instead “renegotiated”.

High transmission charges have also been blamed as a factor in high power rates. But the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) is also set for privatization, and thus, needs to charge high rates in order to attract potential investors. It should also be noted that transmission charges are regulated by the ERC as well.

Open access

The impetus behind the current crisis is the restructuring of the sector through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, which was one of the first laws signed by President Gloria Arroyo in 2001.

Before EPIRA the sector was composed of generation, transmission and distribution sectors. Napocor generated electricity on its own and bought electricity from IPPs, and transmitted this to distributors and large industrial customers through high-voltage wires. Distribution of electricity to end-consumers was done by privately-owned electric utilities, a few government-owned utilities and electric cooperatives.

Under EPIRA, the various components of the power sector are separated into generation, transmission, distribution and supply. Generation and transmission assets of Napocor would be privatized while distribution would continue to be handled by the private sector. The end goal of the sale of Napocor’s generation assets is “open access” which is government’s supposed answer to high electricity prices. “Open access” ostensibly aims to introduce competition into the industry by allowing consumers to select their supplier.

EPIRA advocates claim that competition would lower rates, particularly with a provision which states that no power generator should control more than 30 percent of supply in a given grid and ostensibly prevents monopolies. But the experience of the deregulation of the downstream oil industry demonstrates that such “competition” does not bring down prices. Deregulation has resulted in new players taking 12 percent of the market while the big three oil firms (Petron, Shell and Chevron) share the remaining 88 percent or an average of 29 percent per firm. This has not stemmed cartel-like behavior with oil industry players raising pump prices nearly simultaneously. It has also not resulted in lower prices, as pump prices of all petroleum products have raised an average of almost 580 percent since deregulation of the industry was implemented in 1996.

EPIRA also notably allows cross-ownership between distributors and generators. This has allowed the Lopez family to own a controlling share in Meralco while also owning IPPs. This situation has led to questions of conflicts of interest as Meralco would naturally be more inclined to buy power from its sister firms regardless of whether it is cheaper than electricity sourced from Napocor IPPs.

Reversing privatization

In the light of high costs in power rates, the reversal of privatization of the entire power sector becomes an increasingly viable answer. This entails the repeal of EPIRA law, reversal of the privatization of Napocor’s generation assets, and government control over the entire power sector – distribution, generation, transmission and supply.

Of course many would question the return of state control over the industry, particularly in light of corruption allegations against Napocor such as its alleged overbilling of customers by some P10 billion ($225.17 million at the June 13 exchange rate of $1:P44.41) and its purchase of overpriced coal for its power plants.

However there remains no substitute for responsible state control in an industry such as the power sector whose natural monopolies will inevitably be exploited by private interests for maximum profit even at the expense of the public. And as a state-run industry, the people must have the right to subject the power sector to scrutiny and demand transparency in its operations. Effective state control remains the best solution to address high power rates – even as it is acknowledged that leaving the power industry to an administration known for allegations of corruption, unaccountability, and subservience to elite interests compromises achieving a pro-people power sector. Posted by Bulatlat

Driving Away the Poor for the QC Business District

June 19, 2008

To pave the way for the Quezon City Business District, hundreds of poor residents are being driven away. While big corporations occupy public lands, the poor are not assured of proper relocation.

BY KRISTINE ANGELI SABILLO
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

People and market stalls cramp the narrow Sebastian Street, the main road of Sitio San Roque, an urban poor community in Quezon City’s North Triangle Area. Thousands of families live in this community, which was said to have been inhabited a couple of decades ago. Hundreds make their living here, selling food, services and merchandise.

San Roque is bordered by Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and Agham road, enclosed by Trinoma mall and what they call “Dubai,” a vast desert-like piece of land. It is what developers call blight.

Along an eskinita (alley) from Sebastian Street, where women hugging packages of cheap National Food Authority (NFA) rice walk by, lives Yulie Villena, 46, mother of six. Her husband is a taxi driver and they have been living in San Roque for 18 years, one of the first residents in the area.

Rosalina Valdecañas, 52, has lived for 12 years in San Roque with her children. Her eldest son is a supervisor at a janitorial agency and her youngest is unemployed but does all sorts of jobs like delivering ice. Like Yulie, their family income is just enough for their basic necessities. When the need arises, her eldest son sells peanuts on buses after his shift.

With food becoming more expensive and money harder to find, the future is bleak for what society calls “the urban poor.”

Threat of demolition

But while residents like Yulie and Ros face uncertainty in terms of employment and food, they face greater uncertainty with the threat of demolition.

Over time, the community of San Roque is being reduced through a series of demolitions by the government and its partner corporations.

During the late 90s, a third of San Roque was demolished to make way for Ayala’s Trinoma mall. Last year, an initial six-meter strip of houses of some 30 families was shaved off for the EDSA widening project. Twenty-four more meters will be demolished in the coming months.

Business District

These pocket demolitions, while at first glance seem to be isolated cases, are actually part of a grander scheme for Quezon City – the QC Central Business District (CBD).

Under the QC CBD, the 250-hectare area of the North (96.4 ha) and East (99.2 ha) Triangle and the Veteran’s Memorial (55 ha) will be transformed into a mixed-use development, which the World Bank projects as “the center of gravity of all commercial activities in Metro Manila in the coming years.”

According to the Quezon City local government, the QC CBD was borne out of QC Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, Jr.’s initial plan to turn the city into “an internationally competitive model of urban development.”

However, it can be said that big businesses and international entities have long been eyeing the area, which is government land, because of its strategic location and real estate potential. This is why the Trinoma mall was realized despite its current location beside the urban poor community of San Roque.

Based on the reported measurements, the QC CBD will be larger than the Makati or Ortigas CBD. It is also easily accessible because of its EDSA and MRT frontage, which is longer than any other CBD in the country.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, two big financial institutions, would fund the design and commercial development of the area.

San Roque itself is situated in an area that, according to the QC government website, is speculated to have the highest land value if it becomes commercial. Instead of the community talipapa (small market), numerous basketball courts and thousands of houses, the San Roque and neighboring areas would house high-rise buildings, retail businesses and offices.

After Belmonte announced his plans of developing the 250-hectare area and the World Bank came up with a proposed framework, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order 620 for the realization of the CBD project and E.O. 620-A which determines the present composition of the Urban Triangle Development (TriDev) Commission.

The TriDev Commission’s task is to ensure the progress of the CBD project. Its chairman is Vice President Noli de Castro (Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council), its co-chair Mayor Belmonte, and its members National Housing General Manager Federico Laxa and Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera of the Office of the President.

Based on the present plans, the whole QC CBD area itself will be organized into five mixed-use thematic districts:

The Triangle Exchange (54.3 ha), where San Roque is situated, will be the high traffic district of the CBD, containing the three MRT stations and other roads. It holds the highest real estate potential of all the districts and would feature residential, commercial and recreational infrastructures.

The Emporium (37.9 ha) would focus on Information and Communication Technology infrastructures like research institutions, call centers and e-governance structures. Here, public and international offices will be integrated into commercial and residential developments.

The Downtown Hub (54.1 ha) would also be residential-commercial but with some of its lands devoted to institutional facilities for medical, education, science and training services.

Residences at Veterans (39.7 ha) would focus on the residential aspect, having a range of high-rise to lower residential buildings. Like the other districts, it still has commercial, recreational and transit centers.

Lastly, the Commons would be a mixed-use park with cultural, recreational and entertainment establishments nearby.

Relocation?

With the said plans, a complete overhaul of the area would be at hand. The inevitable question is, “Where will the displaced residents go?”

The residents see only three possibilities: relocation inside the area, relocation away from QC and demolition without relocation.

There have been talks within the community that the National Housing Authority (NHA) will be using its medium-rise housing project for the relocation of the San Roque residents inside the North Triangle. However, according to a local anti-demolition alliance in the area, such projects offer false hopes. In the first place, people would have to pay rent, which they could probably not afford. And second, to get a unit, one should complete certain requirements like a regular-paying job and a prescribed monthly income. This, according to the alliance, is impossible for most of the residents.

But most importantly, according to the NHA itself, relocation inside the area is not possible. The purpose of the CBD project is to achieve the highest financial potential of the land, according to NHA. Therefore, socialized housing inside the area is not feasible, especially now that the San Roque land has been leased to the New San Jose Builders company.

At the same time, relocation elsewhere is also problematic. Besides the terrible conditions of relocation sites – being far from the residents’ workplace, having no electricity or water, or having only a pair of bathrooms for the whole community – NHA engineers have admitted that there are really no relocation plans for the people of San Roque. Their relocation sites in other places like Montalban, Rizal are already full and could not accommodate another community.

With or without relocation, the project and the demolition it entails will push through.

At this point, one may ask, “Whose interest is the government prioritizing?”

One of Belmonte’s projects is to alleviate poverty. It is doubtful that demolishing communities and not providing relocation would help his constituents rise from poverty. The CBD project is said to be his gift to the people, but why is he demolishing his own constituents off public land in favor of profit-seeking companies?

Furthermore, with a series of executive orders, commissions and institutions paving the way for the CBD, the national government itself lends a hand to the escalating problem of widespread poverty and displacement both in urban and rural lands.

As Ros said, “Government property naman siya (yung  lupa). Sana ibigay na lang sa tao.” (It’s government property. I hope it gets distributed to the people) Contributed to Bulatlat

RP Economic, Political Situation Combustible – Sison

June 19, 2008

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), described the Philippine economic and political situation as combustible, citing the fuel and food crises as bases.

BY RONALYN OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), described the Philippine economic and political situation as combustible, citing the fuel and food crises as bases.

In a forum organized by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), June 12, Sison, speaking via internet, said that the fundamental rottenness of the Philippine economy is aggravated by the fuel and food crises. “Bunga ito lahat ng neoliberal globalization.” (Neoliberal globalization is the cause of all these.)

He blamed the manipulation by transnational corporations of the so-called shortage to raise the pump prices of petroleum products. “Pinalilitaw na magkakaroon ng shortage.Monopoly bourgeoisie ang nakikinabang.” (They make it appear that there would be a shortage. The monopoly bourgeoisie benefits from this.) Monopoly bourgeoisie refers to a handful of big capitalists who earn super profits through monopoly control of industries.

Sison said that the food crisis in the Philippines is characterized by the insufficiency in domestic rice production and run-away increases in rice prices. “Ang gobyernong Pilipino kasi, istupido dahil hinayaan ang dumping of food imports. Naging biggest net  importer of rice and food na  tayo.” (The Philippine government is stupid for allowing the dumping of food products. We have become the biggest net importer of rice and food.)

He said, however, that there is no shortage of food in the world at large. “Ang mayroon, food cartel na involved sa manipulation ng presyo.” (There is a food cartel involved in manipulation of prices.)

Sison explained that the Philippine economy was buoyed up for a while by foreign loans.
Pinag-iitsurang lumalaki, napapalitaw na may growth. Nangungutang para pagtakpan ang trade deficit, budget deficit.” (They made it appear that the economy is growing. But actually the government contract loans to cover up the trade and budget deficits.)

He said that except for the export of human resources, especially Filipino women, the Philippines has no source of solid income. The foreign exchange income, he said, is exploited by capitalists, too.

According to Sison, the situation is favorable for ousting the Arroyo regime. “Ang masa, handang kumilos. Nasa competence na lang ng ating mga organizers.” (The masses are willing to join the struggle. It is up to the competence of our organizers to tap this.)

He encouraged the broad spectrum of the Filipino people to unite and be militant in the assertion of rights. He warned that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may choose the next president to protect her loot and to cover up her crimes against the people.

Still optimistic, Sison said, “Kung may 100, 000 o milyon-milyon sa kalsada, tiyak bagsak ang halimaw na ‘yan.” (If there will be 100,000 or millions protesting in the streets, the downfall of that monster is inevitable.) Bulatlat

CBCP head: Gov’t subsidies may worsen poverty

June 19, 2008

MANILA, June 17, 2008—A ranking Catholic Church officials chided today the government’s “subsidy spree,” saying it will only exacerbate poverty in the country.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the motives are laudable, but the mode of implementation may not provide the required results.

The Arroyo government is currently providing financial subsidies, through its “Katas ng VAT” program, to identified poorest of the poor in selected communities.

The subsidies include the one-time lifeline electricity P500 subsidy, the one-time P8,000 cash loan subsidy for junior and senior college students and the P60,000 scholarships grant for incoming college students.

There is also the access card given to the poor to be able to buy subsidized NFA rice.

“The dole-outs are temporary solution. In fact, it may even aggravate the problem of poverty,” Lagdameo said.

Lagdameo said poverty would have been averted somehow if only the government utilized public funds for proper and fitting anti-poverty programs.

“Hindi sana mangyayari kung ang mga salapi na napunta sa mga stamps na na-divert sa pansariling kapakanan ay nai-ipon at napapunta sa dapat pagkagastusan para sa common good of the country,” he said.

“Ang mga magsasaka ay mayroon sanang fertilizers, ang mga tubigan ay mayroon sanang irrigation. Yun ay yung developmental na pagtulong at developmental na solusyon sa problema ng bayan. Kung lalabanan ang kahirapan, dapat sugpuin at pigilan ang mga nagpapahirap,” Lagdameo added.

He said the government must take care to allow the pump priming drive to be reduced to a massive dole out program that could worsen the parasitic mentality of some people and spur mendicancy.

He said there is a greater, more lasting value in teaching the poor “how to fish,” rather than in simply giving them fish. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

Group says Macapagal airport used to smuggle women for sex

June 18, 2008

CLARK FREEPORT – A human trafficking syndicate has been using the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport here to bring women from Pampanga to Sandakan, Malaysia, where they are forced into prostitution, according to an official of a nongovernment organization.

The police issued an arrest warrant for the suspect, Cindy Garcia Zamora, last year but the recruitment continues to this day, said Susan Pineda, executive director of the Ing Makababaying Aksyon (Ima or Pro-Women Action) Foundation.

Recruitment was monitored in Mt. Pinatubo resettlement sites in Angeles City and Mabalacat, Pineda said.

Based on the accounts of five women rescued last year, the trafficking-for-prostitution syndicate operates as a labor-hiring agency.

Rape in Sandakan

In the case of the five women, one of whom was barely 17, they were promised jobs as waitresses. They were assured of $600 in monthly salary, including free travel fare, and board and lodging.

Upon arrival in Sandakan, they were reportedly taken to a house and raped there. They were then transferred to a brothel in a high-end subdivision operated by Chinese businessmen.

That brothel was packed with some 200 women, mostly from Pampanga.

A report of Ima Foundation on the case said the brothel caters to sailors of various nationalities. It is said that several brothels are run in the same village.

Backdoor return

The women are flown back to the Philippines through Zamboanga, it was learned.

Zamora had been arrested but she had since posted bail, reports gathered by the foundation said.

In a phone interview from Hong Kong, Clark International Airport Corp. president, Victor Jose Luciano said that while the issue was an immigration matter, “we cannot allow or tolerate that evil work in DMIA.”

“I’m calling a command conference upon my arrival to apply strict measures to protect our countrymen from becoming victims of human trafficking,” he said.

“DMIA authorities will never allow the airport as exit or entry point for human trafficking and in coordination with immigration and police authorities, we will ensure strict measures to implement the same,” said Luciano.

Poverty, lack of jobs

Some groups had blamed poverty in the Philippines as the main force that drives women into becoming victims of prostitution rings.

The lack of jobs was often cited as a major factor that made human trafficking a profitable underworld business in the country.

(PDI)

Ces Drilon, companions free

June 17, 2008

MANILA, Philippines–Kidnapped television reporter Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were freed late Tuesday night, nine days after they were abducted in Sulu province.

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon confirmed the hostages were released at around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“They were picked up by Jun Isnaji and secured by four policemen at Sitio Danasi, lower Sinumaan, Talipao, Sulo and brought to the house of Mayor Alvarez Isnaji,” Razon related in a text message. Jun Isnaji is Haider Isnaji, the mayor’s son.

“Ces Drilon and company are in good condition but they will immediately be given medical attention and appropriate nutrition. A plan for airlift to Zamboanga, and a reunion with family are also being considered,” said Razon.

He said the three will have to first undergo a debriefing in Zamboanga City before they are flown back to Manila.

Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo were with another ANS-CBN cameraman, Angelo Valderama, when they were kidnapped in Maimbung, Sulu, on June 8 while they were on the way to interview a top commander of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

Valderama was released on June 12 after a P2-million ransom was reportedly paid for his “board and lodging.”

In a phone interview Tuesday night from Zamboanga City with reporters in Camp Crame, Razon denied that any ransom payment or concession had been made to the kidnappers who were believed to be Abu Sayyaf members.

He said the negotiators had built on the goodwill developed with the kidnappers since the release of Valderama last week and the “cancellation” of Tuesday’s noon deadline for the payment of P15 million.

The release of the hostages, Razon claimed, was merely “due to the persistent and persuasive efforts of the local crisis committee under Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and Governor Sakur Tan.”

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), also confirmed the release of the kidnap victims but declined to provide additional details.

“Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo are finally all free,” ABS-CBN said in a statement. “We are thankful our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded.”

“Above all, the release of Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo could not have been possible without the cooperation of the people of Sulu and their local government. We thank them and share their hope for enduring peace in Mindanao,” the statement added.

Razon meanwhile said he had no idea Senator Loren Legarda was part of the negotiations.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer also learned that Legarda had been involved in the negotiations for the last five days at the request of Drilon’s family and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., where Legarda was a broadcaster for many years before running for the Senate.

The Inquirer learned that Legarda secured the captives’ release without conditions or payment of ransom but on “purely humanitarian grounds.”

No military or police elements were present in the release operations.

“Ces is free. She is resting. Soon, she will be in the hands of her family,” Legarda told dzMM radio.

Legarda said the refusal of the victims’ families to pay ransom, and an imminent military operation, were the breakthrough that led to the release.

“Nung malaman nilang wala silang makukuha [When they realized they won't be getting anything], they were pushed against the wall. Wala na silang mapuntahan [They had nowhere to run],” Legarda said.

“The military operations in the past few days helped,” she said.

The senator said she was in constant contact with Drilon, who put her on speakerphone for her captors to hear.

At one point, Legarda said Drilon told her over the phone crying: “Loren, tell me if you guys can’t do it so I can accept my fate that they will behead us.”

Legarda said Drilon told her that Encarnacion’s hands were tied and was being prepared for beheading at one point.

It was at that instant that “I pressured them, I cajoled them, I appealed to them, I even threatened them. They should be freed,” Legarda related.

Legarda said Drilon’s group was “very upbeat and calm” though tired from the five-hour-long trek from the Sulu hinterlands.

Mayor Isnaji had been under pressure to secure the release of the captives, except that earlier Tuesday, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said he had stopped all negotiations with the kidnappers.

Haider Isnaji also said he had been on the phone with the kidnappers around six times beginning with their first call at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I told them that no P15 million is forthcoming, that both the government and ABS-CBN have a no-ransom policy,” he said, adding that the kidnappers “finally dropped the deadline.”

He said he was able to convince the kidnappers “to accept a livelihood package instead.”

Razon also said earlier Tuesday the police and military in Sulu were ready for any “contingency” but their “paramount concern” was the safe release of the three hostages.

Razon said that if there was any lesson from the kidnapping, it was also to properly exercise press freedom.

“Ang aral po dito laging sinasabi hindi natin puwedeng i-exercise press freedom na malalagay ang [The lesson here is we can't exercise press freedom by putting] reporters or journalists in harm’s way, na hawak ng terrorista or criminal elements,” said Razon. With reports from Ed General and Julie S. Alipala Inquirer Mindanao and Alcuin Papa in Manila (PDI)

Drilon, companions released ‘within 24 hours’–PNP chief

June 17, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 5) Philippine National Police ( PNP) Director General Avelino Razon has claimed television reporter Ces Drilon and two companions held hostage by alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf will be released “within 24 hours.”

“Payag na silang palayain sina Ces [Drilon],” said Razon in a phone interview with reporters, noting the captors assured the chief negotiator, Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, of the hostages’ safety.

Razon is in Zamboanga City to monitor the situation.

At the same time, Razon maintained that no one was giving in to the kidnappers’ ransom demands.

Earlier, the kidnappers extended indefinitely a Tuesday noon deadline for the payment of a P15-million ransom for Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo.

Another cameraman, Angelo Valderama, was released on June 12 after a reported payoff of P100,000.

The ABS-CBN crew and Dinampo, their guide, were abducted June 8.

Razon said indicators like the release of Valderama and the extension of the deadline showed the safe return of Drilon and the others was possible.

“We are hopeful, optimistic,” said Razon.

He added PNP personnel he had ordered placed on standby earlier in the day as part of a police “contingency plan” would also be pulled out.

“Now that things have turned out differently, hindi na rin kakailanganin ang ganung option [that option is no longer needed],” said Razon.

Razon and Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga held a news conference to announce that they were expecting positive developments.

Razon said the PNP was doing its best to secure the safe release of three captives. “Their safety is our paramount concern.”

Razon also showed the artist’s sketches of two suspects in the kidnapping — Ottoh Wals alias Tuan Wals and Wallid, and Sulayman Pattah alias Maas and Abu Harris. The government has put up a P500,000 bounty for each of the suspects.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police chief for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), admitted that the two suspects were “fresh faces, mga bagong mukha and bagong sikat [new faces, fresh faces].”

“Our intelligence community is presently conducting further research regarding the two suspects,” Goltiao said.

Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, Sulu police chief, said the identities of the suspects were established through information provided by the policemen who were among those who picked up assistant cameraman Angelo Valderama, one of the kidnapped ABS-CBN news crew, who was released on June 12.

Chief Superintendent Sukarno Ikbala, the PNP’s community relations head, also said he also did not have enough background on the suspects “because their sketches were just provided by the Directorate for Intelligence.”

Meanwhile, Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji said the kidnappers had given him a “24-hour ultimatum extension.”

In a press conference in Sulu aired live on radio minutes before the noon deadline for the ransom payment expired, Jun Isnaji, son of the mayor, said that the abductors had extended the deadline “indefinitely.”

The young Isnaji said ransom was not discussed during the negotiations but that the captors asked for livelihood projects in exchange for the release of Drilon and company.

The kidnappers had threatened to behead their hostages, Isnaji admitted, but added that they would no longer carry this out.

He said they have been talking with the abductors since about 6 a.m. Tuesday.

But the Indanan mayor said he not sure whether he was still the negotiator because he was asked to stop talking to the kidnappers by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.

In a brief phone conversation with the mayor Tuesday afternoon, he said the kidnappers had given him a “24-hour ultimatum extension.”

“It’s 12 noon tomorrow [Wednesday] and we are trying to convince them to release the victims out of humanitarian reason,” Isnaji said.

Tan, however, said he had ordered Isnaji to stop negotiating.

“I told him in person since yesterday [Monday] to cease and desist from negotiating … Sa ngayon walang bagong negotiator kasi pinatigil ko ang negotiation [At this point there is no new negotiator because I ordered a stop to the negotiation],” the governor said in a phone interview.

Gafur Kanain, executive secretary of the mayor, said the kidnappers only extended the deadline to noon Wednesday.

When asked around 2 p.m. Tuesday where Isnaji was, Kanain said the mayor was planning to go to the kidnappers’ lair to personally ask them to release their captives.

But Tan was firm in his decision.

“I told him myself and he knows this. This is his problem if he decides to go to higher authorities. I told him to stop negotiations so that everyone can go home, including the media here, because we are all confused,” the governor said in Filipino.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Isnaji said they sent various text messages to the kidnappers, suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Nagtetext na ako sa kanila [I have sent them text messages] hoping that pag-open nila ng [when they open their] cell phone they will want to continue their negotiations after the deadline,” said Isnaji in a phone interview.

“Kahit na we beg at lumuhod ako ma-release lang sina Ces [I will beg and even kneel down so that Ces and her team will be released], I will do that,” he added, noting that if worse comes to worse, they will have to adhere to the kidnappers’ demand.

He said that if the three captives were really in danger they would rather give in to the captors’ demands than follow the government’s “no-ransom” policy.

“If they are in real danger already, what is more important? Policy or someone’s life? Our problem is we don’t know where to get the money,” said Isnaji.

Isnaji said the kidnappers told him during their last telephone contact early Monday: “If our deadline does not produce a result we will implement our policy regarding the hostages.” He did not elaborate.

The negotiator said he also spoke with Drilon on Monday, when the broadcaster told him the gunmen were tying up the male hostages with rope.

“They are tying up Jimmy and the professor,” he quoted her as saying.

Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, maintained the government’s “no-ransom” policy.

Fatma Dinampo, the professor’s daughter, said their whole family was disappointed by what happened Tuesday.

Fatma said as early as 10 a.m. Tuesday, Isnaji had informed them that there would be no release.

“Naghanda pa naman kami, excited na mother ko, kaming lahat, sa pag-uwi ni Daddy [We even prepared, my mother was excited, all of us, at the thought of Daddy’s homecoming],” Fatma said.

She said her mother, Jainatul, prepared some food to welcome the professor home, and had even invited some close friends.

“Kung ransom ang hinihingi nila, wala naman kaming maibigay, hindi namin kaya magbigay at sinabihan na kami ng civil society group na hindi pwedeng bumigay sa gusto ng mga kidnappers [If they are asking for ransom, there is nothing we can give, we cannot give, and were advised by the civil society group that we cannot give in to the kidnappers’ demands],” Fatma said.

Drilon and two of her crew were abducted in Sulu last week while in pursuit of a story. One of her cameramen, Angelo Valderama was released days later after negotiators paid the P2 million “board and lodging fee” sought by the kidnappers.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered police and troops to recover the hostages alive and military reinforcements arrived in the area on Sunday.

The small group of militants, founded with seed money provided by Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s, have been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks as well as for kidnappings of western tourists and Christian missionaries.

Troops fire mortar shells in Sulu town

June 16, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The military deployed troops and fired mortar rounds Sunday in Indanan, Sulu, in what it said was a move to make its presence felt to Moro bandits who last week kidnapped ABS-CBN journalist Ces Drilon, her cameraman and a peace advocate.

Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, who is negotiating the release of the three kidnap victims being held in a forested area, said the military fired mortar shells on Sitio Timaho and Bud (Mount) Kapok.

Truckloads of troops began moving from a military base on the island of Jolo just before dawn, following a barrage of cannon fire that shook the area, according to a dispatch from Jolo town issued by Agence France Presse.

But the military denied a military operation was launched at that time.

Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of the antiterrorist Task Force Comet, told reporters late Sunday afternoon there were no military operations against Drilon’s kidnappers and that the shelling and troop movement were part of a “drill in an actual situation.”

“We just like them to feel the military presence in the area,” Sabban said.

He also said the activities were just a “rehearsal.”

Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), also said the shelling in Indanan town did not specifically target the group that was holding the ABS-CBN crew.

“There is no connection,” Allaga said in a phone interview with INQUIRER.net, referring to the kidnapping and the Sunday offensive. “With or without the kidnapping of Ces, we have long been running after the Abu Sayyaf. That can happen anytime, as long there is a report [of Abu Sayyaf presence], we will strike.”

Earlier Sunday, while celebrating Father’s Day with some of his battalion commanders on a beach in Sulu, Sabban denied that military operations were taking place. “It is unlikely to conduct military operations when negotiation is still going on,” he said.

“The shelling is a military operation that was previously planned even before the abduction,” said Chief Supt. Joel Coltiao, police commander for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

200 families displaced

Sumimpal Khanain, a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said around 25 mortar rounds were fired and that close to 200 families were displaced in Sitio Timaho Bud Kapo and Barangay Siyunugan.

A woman, identified as Sitti Bahari, was reportedly wounded. . “She was rushed this morning to the Sulu Provincial District Hospital,” Khanain said.

The kidnappers are holding Drilon, 46, her assistant cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, and Mindanao State University Prof. Octavio Dinampo.

The three hostages, along with ABS-CBN cameraman Angelo Valderama, were kidnapped on June 8 while on their way to a secret meeting with Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron. The abductors freed Valderama on June 12 after a P2-million ransom was reportedly paid.

The shelling was taken up during Sunday’s crisis management committee meeting.

According to Isnaji, the kidnappers called on Saturday night, saying they were concerned that government troops were seen near where they were holding the three kidnap victims. He said he pleaded with the Marines not to enter the area.

He said he also urged the kidnappers not to do anything they would later regret.

After the crisis committee meeting Sunday afternoon, Isnaji said the military had explained that the troops’ movement and shelling were “routinary” on their part.

“The Marines explained that it had nothing to do with the negotiations,” he said.

The abductors also called Sunday afternoon.

“They are fine and far away from the shelling),” Isnaji said.

P20-M ransom demand

The mayor said the kidnappers were demanding P20 million in ransom, “but I told them that amount is very impossible to give and that the government maintains a no-ransom policy.”

Isnaji said the kidnappers were Tausug sons and grandsons, aged 15 to 20 years, of his “contemporaries” in the MNLF. He said the kidnappers took up arms because life remained difficult.

Khanain said the kidnappers were “young Tausug boys.”

“They are not organized. They don’t have any name for the group,” he said.

Both Isnaji and Khanain confirmed that these young boys are difficult to manage.

“As a father of the town, a former leader and commander of their fathers and grandfathers in the jungle before, I am trying my best to influence them to give Ces and the two to me without any condition,” Isnaji said.

“All I can assure them is that government is doing its best to address their economic situation and education,” he said.

Military ‘asset’

Goltiao said Juamil Biyaw, alias “Commander Mameng,” had yet to be turned over to police custody by the military. “The turnover did not push through. He is still with Task Force Comet,” he said.

Khanain also called on the Philippine Marines to turn over Biyaw to the local police.

Biyaw was earlier reported to have led Drilon and company to their kidnappers. Biyaw, however, on Saturday showed up at the 3rd Marine Brigade headquarters and denied the allegations that he had a hand in the kidnapping and that he was a military asset.

“If the Marines had nothing to do with this, then they should cooperate and hand … Biyaw to the investigators. The more they keep the suspect, the more people here will think that uniformed people are behind the kidnapping of journalists and a peace advocate,” Khanain said.

Khanain said Biyaw “is not and was never a legitimate organic member of the MNLF.”

Khanain said Biyaw is known in the community as “an asset with a special mission.”

Marama Hashim, the driver hired by Drilon’s group, pointed to Biyaw as the man who led the victims to their abductors.

Goltiao denied news reports saying communication between the abductors and the negotiators had been cut off.

“There is still a line of communication on both sides,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

Police and military officials say the kidnappers belong to the Abu Sayyaf, which is known for abducting Christians and foreigners and holding them for ransom. The group has beheaded hostages when its ransom demands were not met.

The Abu Sayyaf has been linked by intelligence agencies to the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden and has been involved in the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.

Also Sunday, Encarnacion’s 15-year-old daughter appealed to her father’s abductors to take pity on his family and free the victims. On Saturday, Drilon’s family also made an appeal for her release and Encarnacion’s. With reports from Ed General, Inquirer Mindanao, and Agence France-Presse

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My Take:

Mortar? To make it’s presence felt?

Hmmm… How crafty.  It only shows the real way the military negotiates… with a bang.  nt with reason.

Or, is it the real intention?  Baka naman signal lang nila yun para dun sa mga may hawak kay ces.  na pwede na silang magbago naman ng strat hehehe (assuming na may sabwatan nga, at assuming na military personnels et al nga ang may hawak kila ces).

New dep’t devoted to information technology proposed

June 16, 2008

Congressmen voted to give due importance to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the life of the country when they approved on second reading a bill that would divide the Department of Transportation and Communications into two departments – one devoted to steering the country in keeping pace with the rapid development in the area of ICT, the other focusing on transportation.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is proposed to be created by House Bill 4300. It will concentrate on the fast pace of growth in this field, described as an “increasingly complex global technological phenomenon.”

Aside from HB 4300, congressmen have also started working on various proposals to put an end to the exploitation of mobile phone users by telecommunications firms that impose “unreasonable” charges for supposedly free “short messaging service,” Speaker Prospero C. Nograles said.

Albay Rep. Reno Lim, vice chairman of the House Committee on Information Technology, said telecommunications firms have unfairly treated their customers by charging interconnection fees on texting when they do not incur any incremental expenses for this service.

“I am fully convinced text can be given free but this will be counter-productive. Telcos should instead bring down SMS rate to R0.15 per text. This is very reasonable for both the firms and their clients,” Lim said.

Nograles said approval of HB 4300 will mean the splitting of the DoTC into two departments.

“Our future would depend on our competitiveness and grasp of modern technologies. Almost every day, new breakthroughs are announced in the information technology field. New technologies are becoming more compact but are more powerful. We have to be at pace with technology,” he said.

The House leader credited authors of HB 4300 for “thinking ahead to make sure we will not be left out by other countries” in connection with advancements in the telecommunications industry.

Aside from Lim, Nograles also cited principal authors Reps. Erico Basilio Fabian (NPC, Zamboanga City), Joseph Santiago (NPC, Catanduanes), and Edcel Lagman (Lakas, Albay).

Other authors of the measure include the following: Reps. Luis Villafuerte (Kampi, Camarines Sur), Roilo Golez (NP, Paranaque City), Juan Edgardo Angara (LDP, Aurora), Giorgidi Aggabao (NPC, Isabela), Ann K. Hofer (Lakas, Zamboanga Sibugay), Liwayway Vinzons Chato (LP, Camarines Norte), Jose Solis (Kampi, Sorsogon), Edgardo Chatto (Lakas, Bohol), and Mauricio Domogan (Lakas, Baguio City).

Santiago said the bill will address the existing problem where two diverse concerns – transportation and communications – are shouldered by one department, the Department of Transportation and Communications.

“With the creation of the DICT, there will now be a single and well-focused agency that will concentrate on ICT, which is an emerging global phenomenon engulfing all economies,” the Catanduanes solon said.

Villafuerte aired confidence that that through the DICT, “a world-class Philippine ICT will be developed and sustained, thereby ensuring a better future for all Filipinos.”

Under the bill the DICT shall promote, develop, and oversee the ICT systems and ensure reliable and cost-efficient communications facilities and services in the country.

It shall promote the technical training and scholarships that will enable Filipinos to compete in a fast-evolving information and communication age.

The measure provides for the creation of a coordinating body called Council of Chief Information Officers composed of representatives from concerned government agencies.

A Special Account in the General Fund called e-government fund shall be created to be administered by the DICT and may be augmented by donations, contributions, and grants from local or international funding agencies.

All operating units currently existing in the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) which directly support communications, the National Computer Center, and all offices, services, divisions, units, and personnel of the DoTC with functions and responsibilities dealing with communication are to be absorbed in the new department.

The following agencies will also be attached to the DICT: the National Telecommunications Commission, the Philippine Postal Corporation, and the Telecommunications Office (Telof).(MB)

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

My Take:

Hmmm…

Sino na naman kayang retiradong heneral ang mailalagay dito?

Hmmm…

Peace Adviser Esperon on Sulu kidnap: “It’s a terrorist problem; it’s a police matter”

June 16, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 June) – “I don’t see it as a threat to the peace process. It’s a terrorist problem. It’s a police matter. So we’ll leave it at that,” retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff, now newly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon said on the June 8 kidnapping in Sulu of a Moro peace advocate and a Manila-based television crew.

“I must tell you at this point I treat the matter as a matter for police action,” Esperon told a noontime press conference at the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MedCo) office.

Esperon, who has been moving around as PAPP since June 6 but will formally take over from Jesus Dureza on June 16, told peace advocates a similar line in a two-hour meeting late Friday afternoon at the Waterfront Insular Hotel.

Professor Octavio Dinampo, chair of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC), ABS-CBN senior reporter Cecilia Victoria “Ces” Drilon and her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderrama were abducted Sunday by still unidentified armed men. Valderrama was freed Thursday night upon payment of ransom. Reports of how much was paid ranged from P2 million to P5 million although Indanan Mayor Isnaji Alvarez, whom the abductors accepted as negotiator, was reported to have said only P100,000 was paid for “board and lodging.”

Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, chief of the Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) denied in an interview over ABS-CBN, that ransom was paid.

The group was abducted allegedly by the Abu Sayyaf group. But an Inquirer.net report quoting Sulu police chief, Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim said the driver of the vehicle Drilon hired to bring them to Maimbung told them a “military agent” named Juamil “Maming” Biyaw who was with the group from Jolo to Maimbung and who stopped the vehicle and guided the group to walk towards the interior of Labbah, could be behind the abduction. Hours later, Biyaw returned alone to where the vehicle stopped, to tell the driver to go home.

Esperon told peace advocates the report should be “subject to verification” and should “not be taken hook, line and sinker.”

“I don’t know if real agents really tell the people that they are agents. So subject to verification yan, that should not to be taken hook, line and sinker…Usually real agents don’t say they are agents, especially if they are doing something that is in violation of law.”

“I am not ruling that out,” he said, but stressed it should be “subjected for verification.”

Cocoy Tulawie, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Sulu said he hoped Esperon could have Biyaw picked up for interrogation as he might be able to provide answers.Tulawie told MindaNews in a telephone interview that they received information that there were smokers among the abductors. “The Abu Sayyaf don’t smoke,” he said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary-general, told MindaNews that Professor Dinampo had been allowed to talk to his wife, Hainatul, through mobile phone Friday afternoon, though only briefly.

“Be strong enough. Don’t lose hope. Take care of our children,” the professor was quoted as saying.

The MPC’s Council of Elders was among the peace groups that met with Esperon. The Council in the evening held a prayer ritual for the safety and immediate release of Dinampo, Drilon and Encarnacion.

Two chickens were freed to symbolize their collective desire for the hostages to be freed immediately.

The Council of Elders also agreed that Timuay Melanio Ulama, a Teduray and co-chair of the MPC, take over as presiding chair while presiding chair Dinampo is in captivity.

The other MPC co-chair, Father Roberto Layson, OMI, is presently on sabbatical.

At the noontime press conference, Esperon was asked if he, as former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, would recommend a military operation to rescue the hostages in Sulu.

Esperon replied: “I will not suggest at this point any military operation. If, indeed, there will be a need for such, it should come from the negotiating panels and the crisis management group. As it is, I’m not inputting yet into the matter because I don’t see it as a threat to the peace process. It’s a terrorist problem. It’s a police matter. So we’ll leave it at that.”

To the peace advocates, he said they are leaving the handling of the crisis to the provincial crisis management group.

“As it is, it is a serious situation but the primary responsibilities should be very clear….You know how it is. This is negotiation. So you could not just butt in and join the work there. That is contrary to negotiations. But largely it is a serious concern but .. it should remain as a police matter at this point. It becomes a security problem because again the terrorists, initially, are reported to be involved. When members of terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf are involved, then we take cognizance at the security level from a security point of view,” Esperon said.

“Sa akin naman sa Peace Process, it affects me because Prof. Octavio is involved and he’s one of our supporters in the peace process so it is in that matter that the peace process is affected but insofar as the involvement of the MNLF is concerned – this is the group we are monitoring because we have a peace agreement with them – we have not come to that point. So it is a national security concern because it involves a group that could sow terror and fear amongst us and it is a police problem. It should be addressed by police authorities. All these are being done at the level of (Sulu) Governor (Sakur) Tan,” he added.

The alleged kidnappers were initially reported to be led b y Albader Parad of the Abu Sayyaf and Gafur Jumdail of the Moro National Liberation Front faction which the military refers to as “Misuari Breakaway Group.”

Nur Misuari signed the “Final Peace Agreement” with the Philippine government on September 2, 1996, Misuari, jailed from November 2001 to January 2002 in Malaysia for alleged illegal entry and in Laguna and later Quezon City for alleged rebellion since January 2002, has been out on bail since April 25,

Esperon said he has contacts in Sulu and can directly to the military commanders there so “I know more or less what’s going on there.”

But Esperon was obviously still trying to find ways on how to handle the kidnapping issue in relation to his new job as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“Ang peace process nga ba ay damay dito?” (Is the peace process adversely affected by this issue), he asked. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Bukidnon legislators accept DENR offer tour minesite

June 16, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 June) — Bukidnon legislators will not hold their regular session on June 25 in favor of a “study tour” of a plant and quarry of a multinational cement company that supposedly showcases “responsible mining practices.”

The provincial board members agreed on June 11 to accept the invitation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for an “educational plant tour” dubbed “Dalaw Aral sa Minahan.”

The tour’s only destination is the plant and quarry of the Holcim Philippines Manufacturing Corporation in Lugait town, Misamis, Oriental, according to the letter of invitation by Juanito Manzano, MGB OIC regional director for Northen Mindanao to Vice Governor Alex Calingasan on June 3.

Board member Glenn Peduche, chair of the provincial board committee on environment protection, declined to answer requests by telephone for him to explain the decision to go on tour.

Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr vowed to keep Bukidnon from large-scale mining based on resolutions passed by the Sagguniang Panlalawigan before to seal-off the province from large-scale mining operations.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr confirmed that the board’s staff was told to make arrangements that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan “would like to go”.

Beltran told MindaNews he would still try to convince his colleagues not to hold it on a session day. “Mining is not a large industry here in Bukidnon and we don’t even allow large-scale mining here,” he said.


Beltran said it should not push through as there would be an environment summit in the province on June 26 to 27, organized by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office.

“I will talk them out of it this coming Wednesday (June 18) I will not go myself,” he said.

Beltran said the organizers offered free meals and free ride to and from Malaybalay City.

Manzano said in his letter the tour is part of the activities of the DENR for the celebration of Environment Month .

”We have lined up activities to give significance and noble tribute to mark the celebration with emphasis on information, education and communication campaign,” Manzano said.

He also said it is intended to “promote responsible small-scale and large-scale mining operations in the region.”

Manzano described the Holcim plant as a “model cement plant and quarry in the country showcasing responsible mining practices, best environmental management and corporate responsibility.”

He said the plant was twice awarded the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmetal Award, among others. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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My Take:

1. Corrupt move.  This is the common practice being done by the mining companies: invite legislators to a “tour” with freebies and behind the door add-ons.  commonly, the “invited” public oficial would sing the tune of the mining companies after the “tour.”

2. State corrupted.  The MGB spearheaded the “tour”? What the hell… Nagtatrabaho na pala sila ngayon para sa mga mining companies.

Palace defends cash subsidies

June 15, 2008

By Marvin Sy
Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Malacañang said the government’s grant of cash subsidies is a genuine effort of President Arroyo to relieve the poor from rising prices of basic commodities.

Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, in an interview over dzRB, said the President wanted to provide concrete assistance to the poor and one of the methods chosen was to provide a one-time P500 cash subsidy to households that use less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month.

A total of P2 billion was set aside by the government for the cash subsidy on power.

The President also ordered the distribution of P1,500 cash subsidies to farmers for the purchase of fertilizers.

The government has already extended subsidies for education and health care for children under its Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino program.

“The grant of subsidies is a genuine effort on the part of the President to bring immediate, quick relief to the poorest of the poor,” Remonde said.

Opposition legislators have criticized the program, saying it is illegal since it was not contained in the 2008 General Appropriations Act.

Some senators have also expressed doubt that it would help the poor cope with the continuous rise in the prices of basic goods and commodities.

Remonde said the criticism from the opposition was expected, but reiterated that the objective of the President cannot be questioned.

“We cannot satisfy everybody. The fact that the President is doing this is a very concrete manifestation of the efforts to bring some relief to the people,” he said.

World oil prices have gone up to record levels since the start of the year but there are indications that this could be easing.

Remonde said countries that are dependent on imported oil are affected by the rising oil prices so any drop in the world prices would be a welcome relief.

He emphasized the need to develop alternative sources of energy in order to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil.

Appeal for patience

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Esperanza Cabral, on the other hand, appealed to the beneficiaries of the P500 cash subsidy on power to be patient in claiming their share.

Long lines have emerged at all local government units as residents, even those who do not fall under the lifeline category, rushed to get their P500.

She also said that the subsidized National Food Authority rice being sold at P18.25 per kilogram through the use of the family access cards has yet to be implemented.

Although the Department of Social Welfare and Development has distributed the family access cards in some LGUs, the P18.25 rice has not yet been pulled out from the public markets by the NFA.

The distribution of the family access cards was intended to ensure that only the poorest families would have access to the P18.25 rice.

Meanwhile, Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. will not call for the immediate scrapping of the value added tax (VAT) on oil to give the government a chance to work on overall and long-term programs to address these problems.

But he warned that the government must be transparent in using public funds especially in the grant of subsidies, saying the people could not tolerate and “afford” corruption at this time.

“All prices are increasing because of the chain effect of the rise in oil prices. The government is like balancing on a tight rope. These developments are new and nobody foresaw them coming. So we really cannot rush the solutions for these because we would have to look at the issues as a whole,” Villar said over radio station dwIZ. – With Aurea Calica(PhilippineStar)

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My Take:

Concrete?  They dare call this as concrete program? Bakit?  Dahil napatunayan na nilang kayang maging isang boto ang P100 sa halalan?  Ibig sabihin naniniwala silang makapagbabago ng buhay ang limandaan?

Bakit hindi nila bigyan ng disenteng trabaho ang mamamayan?  Bakit di nila kayang ibasura ang EPIRA, e samantalang ang nagtahi naman ng EPIRA ay di naman tayo, kundi ang mga hinayupak na mga power companies na iyan.

Makuryente sana kayo at masunog para di na kayo maging letsong baboy!  Sunog na baboy, pwede pa! Bwisit!

Ombudsman findings unfair – lawmakers

June 15, 2008

By Delon Porcalla
Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Congressmen linked to the P728-million fertilizer scam in 2004 yesterday decried as “unfair” the initial findings of the Ombudsman implicating them in the misuse of public funds.

Quezon City Rep. Nanette Daza, one of the lawmakers named by the Ombudsman in the scam, explained that as a matter of procedure, it is the Department of Agriculture – not the congressmen – that identifies what projects should be undertaken in a particular district.

“No such thing as fertilizer, no such thing as overprice,” Daza told The STAR.

“In fairness to the other congressmen, we have never identified projects. These are identified by them (DA), not by us.”

Daza, now on her third and last term, could not recall though if the DA even provided her with towable shredders as reported.

“That I can’t recall. But if indeed there is I would have endorsed this to Payatas where this is needed. I still have to check the records,” she said.

Daza also cited her highly urbanized district as another reason why she cannot possibly avail herself of a fertilizer subsidy.

“My district and the NCR (National Capital Region) doesn’t need fertilizers,” she said.

Former congressmen Oscar Gozos of Batangas and Federico Sandoval II of Malabon-Navotas also made the same defense.

Both denied having received fertilizers for farm use, but admitted receiving shredders.

“These are not our funds. These are DA funds. We’re not even involved in the bidding. All of these came from the executive department even if Congress has the power of the purse,” said Gozos, now the mayor of Lipa City in Batangas.

“It is the DA that disbursed these funds, not us,” he added. “I’m not a recipient (in the fertilizer list), although I suspect that my name was included. But I didn’t get any fertilizer, in whatever form.”

Sandoval, for his part, claimed he never received any fertilizer for his former district.

“I don’t know (about the fertilizers and overprice). It is the DA that conducts the bidding. What I got was a shredder. Alangan namang tanggihan ko? E para naman sa district namin iyun (How can I refuse that? Anyway, my district was identified as a recipient of that shredder).”

As leader of the 241-strong House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles expressed displeasure over the report, which was leaked to the media despite the confidential nature of cases handled by investigators.

But Nograles could not say whether former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante used the involved congressmen in the scam.

Bolante, who is now hiding and undergoing deportation proceedings in the US, allegedly masterminded the scheme to help bankroll President Arroyo’s campaign in the May 2004 presidential elections.

“Let us not telegraph in haste our opinions until there is clear and final findings of a prima facie case,” Nograles said.

“As a matter of fact, this premature disclosure is against the confidentiality nature of Ombudsman cases where only final resolutions are made public. The reason being that reputations of officials may be unduly harmed by premature disclosures,” he said in a text message to The STAR.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who was also listed among the recipients, said congressmen “are not part of the process for the funds to be released. They may be correct that their districts were just recipients.”

An irate Makati City Rep. Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin, who in 2004 hurled invectives at Bolante, lashed back at Newsbreak for getting credit for the fertilizer expose.

“Newsbreak writes like they exposed it. I did and Newsbreak wouldn’t carry (the) story. Siguro nabili sila nuong una (Maybe then they were paid to kill the story),” Locsin said.

“Pu…ina, cleared daw ako ng mga p…iyan sa Ombudsman when ako ang nag-expose while ang lecheng opposition walang imik kasi sali sila. (… how can they say I was cleared by the Ombudsman when I was the one who exposed it, while those… opposition kept silent because they were part of it).”

“I demand a refund from everyone who got delivery. I need the money for the contract I put out on that asshole (Bolante). A clearance from the Pinoy Ombudsman is like a conviction from a US court, worse than useless. It is an insult,” Locsin said.

“I don’t allow monkeys to judge me. It is for me to decide that to do with the money in my name, not some monkey. Quote in full please. That’s what comes from giving chimps the right to hold public office,” Locsin said in a text message.

Former Tarlac representative and now Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was also on the list, said he and former Batanes representative Florencio “Butch” Abad were also used in the scam, even though they never applied for the program.

“This is rather a difficult situation since we are being used as a shield. Either way, the farmers will get angry. They read in the newspapers and ask us where (the money) is, and we say we’re not part of it, but they want to know why we didn’t get anything,” he said.

Aquino said they were told then the “guidelines” were still being processed, but he had received reports that several congressmen had already gotten their share. “Obviously, we were excluded,” he added.

Aquino nevertheless managed to secure a “certification” from Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap stating that his district in Tarlac was not a recipient of the fertilizer project.

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My Take:

This classic ‘doctor’s way’ (pandodoktor, hehehe) is another quality handiwork by the shadows (huge ones) lurking at the darker sections of Malacañan.  Sa tingin nyo, with jocjc’s situation e makakaya pa nyang makapagmaniobra ng ganyan?  Hehehehe never.

Someone in here did that, putting that opposition solons in the list to confuse the people and muddle the investigation.

Nice work to the Daddy of all suckers!

ABS-CBN crew member freed

June 13, 2008

AFP

JOLO, Philippines—(UPDATE 4) One of three TV journalists abducted by suspected Moro extremists was freed in the southern Philippines late Thursday.

ABS-CBN cameraman Angelo Valderama was released around 7:30 p.m. to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula, said Undersecretary Amilasan Amilbajar of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Mindanao.

But prominent anchorwoman Ces Drilon and cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion were still in captivity, along with a Mindanao State University professor who had acted as their local guide.

The four were abducted on Sunday as they were heading to interview some Abu Sayyaf leaders.

“But this is a positive development…we’re happy even if one person only (had been released),” Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police commander of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), told INQUIRER.net.

From Sahidula, Valderama was brought to the home of Indanan town mayor Isnaji Alvarez, the chief negotiator, in Sulu around 9:30 p.m., Goltiao said.

Amilbajar said a P2-million “board and lodging fee” was paid in exchange for his freedom.

“These funds came from the two negotiators. These funds are their campaign funds,” Amilbajar said.

Alvarez, who is running for governor of the ARMM in the regional elections in August, said in a telephone interview that the kidnappers told him Valderama was being set free as a “gift.”

The freed hostage told Alvarez that his two colleagues and Professor Octavio Dinampo remained with the kidnappers and were unharmed.

The kidnappers, described as members of the Abu Sayyaf group that has been blamed for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, were understood to have demanded up to P20 million ($454,000) in ransom.

Amilbajar told reporters that Valderama would be taken to a military camp here for a debriefing.

“He looked okay, but he would be given a [medical] check-up,” the official said.

Goltiao said a “middleman” fetched Valderama at an undisclosed location before he was brought to Alvarez’s residence.

Valderama is now under the protective custody of the Philippine National Police and will be presented to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Friday, said Goltiao.

’Military agent’

The police chief of Sulu said earlier Thursday that a known “military agent” led Drilon, her two cameramen and Dinampo to their kidnappers on Sunday.

Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim said Marama Hashim, the man hired by Drilon et al. to drive for them in Maimbung, Sulu, on the day of their disappearance, claimed that a certain Juamil Biyaw was the “missing link” to knowing who was behind the kidnapping.

Biyaw, a resident of Barangay Sandah in Patikul town, is known in Sulu as a military agent, Kasim said.

Kasim’s revelation was a surprise twist to the abduction case. Government, military and police officials had been saying all along that the kidnappers of Drilon et al. were Abu Sayyaf bandits.

But in a separate interview on the phone with the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) in Manila, Goltiao was incredulous.

“What? A military asset?” Goltiao said, adding that he and his men had spoken with Hashim. “Wala yun (There is no such thing). He didn’t mention anything like that.”

Goltiao said that from what the police had gathered from Hashim, the latter was hired to drive for Drilon et al. on Sunday and that when they reached the Ajid River, the group got off the vehicle and proceeded on foot.

Hashim waited for Drilon et al. from noon to 4 p.m. but they did not return, Goltiao said.

Hashim was earlier reported to have been kidnapped along with the four hostages. Hashim was released and taken into police custody on Wednesday night.

Quoting Hashim, Kasim said Biyaw was with Drilon and the others when they went to Maimbung on Sunday in the course of their Sulu coverage.

Biyaw ordered Hashim to stop somewhere in Barangay Labbah at around noon, Kasim said.

“The passengers, including Madame Ces, thought nasira ang sasakyan (the pickup had broken down),” Kasim said, quoting from Hashim’s account.

“All the passengers casually alighted and this Biyaw guy invited the four to join him in a walk toward Mount Mabusing (the forested interior of Labbah). So there was no scuffle. Madame Ces and the rest walked casually,” Kasim said.

Surprised, frightened

Hashim was reportedly surprised when the five left him on the highway.

“But he waited until 4 p.m., and this Biyaw returned alone and instructed the driver to leave the place. The driver, apparently disturbed, followed the instruction,” Kasim said.

He said Hashim was apparently frightened and made himself scarce: “Sa takot ng driver, hindi nga ito agad nagpakita.”

“Pero nakuha rin natin siya (But we got him), and he is now in our custody. Right now, we are looking for this Biyaw and we are checking further his background and how close he is with the military as he is being reported as an agent,” Kasim said.

Maimbung Mayor Najib Maldisa said Biyaw “is closely associated with some Marines in the brigade.”

On the other hand, Abdulwahid Basaluddin, chair of the Anak Sug Professionals in Sulu, said Biyaw was a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front and a “conflict mediator like [Dinampo], although Biyaw has more access to the military than Dinampo.”

Maldisa told the Inquirer that he, too, was confused by the turn of events: “Ako naguguluhan na sa takbo ng sitwasyon.”

“Thursday, it was the Abu Sayyaf. Now, it’s not. But it’s scary, with a military agent,” he said.

Maldisa said the police should immediately take custody of Biyaw “because he is the key to knowing who is behind the abduction.”

‘Mere speculation’

Contacted for comment, Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, the military spokesperson, described the information on the purported military agent as a “mere speculation and reckless allegation” that tended to muddle an “already complicated situation.”

“The military is supporting the current efforts being carried out to locate and secure Ms Ces Drilon and her crew,” Torres said in a text message.

Like Torres, Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, dismissed the information as “pure speculation.”

“We assure everyone that efforts are ongoing for the safe recovery of the ABS-CBN crew, and any speculation will certainly jeopardize these efforts,” Allaga said.

He said he would not comment further “so as not to confuse everyone.”

But Allaga disclosed that Goltiao and Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of Task Force Comet, were to travel to Sulu Thursday afternoon to supervise a military operation to secure the captives.

Asked to explain the military operation, Allaga quickly said: “It will have nothing to do with artillery fire or heavy troops. Negotiation is also a form of military operation.”

Other groups’ involvement

Kasim said he himself was “a bit confused” by the varying information that police had been receiving lately.

“[Hashim] gave information that runs counter to what our Maimbung police earlier supplied,” he said.

But he added that police were now looking into the involvement of groups other than the Abu Sayyaf in the kidnapping.

“I will not say anything at this moment. I will just let Hashim’s affidavit speak for what is the latest development,” Kasim said.

Maldisa said that if Drilon et al. “are not being held by the Abu Sayyaf, and all the MNLF members here have no idea about their disappearance, then another group pulled off the kidnapping.”

The mayor said he had been doing his own investigation among the MNLF commanders. “But all of them say they know nothing. Some, especially those in the hinterlands, were even surprised to know there was a kidnapping,” he said.

‘Presumption’

Kasim explained how the Abu Sayyaf came into the picture: “It was my Maimbung police chief (Insp. Abdulsamad Mañalas) who said that, and I admit, it might have been a presumption because the incident took place where Gafur Jumdail’s group operates.”

But Mayor Maldisa said Mañalas had denied naming the purported kidnappers prior to confirmation by ABS-CBN executives.

“Buti na lang (It’s good) we did some of our homework. That’s why I was a bit hesitant to blame anyone, especially if I didn’t see them with my own eyes or received any information direct from these bandits,” he said.

Kasim also said the earlier report that the driver and the dispatcher of the pickup were also taken by the kidnappers and then released was inaccurate.

He said Biyaw had been wrongly reported by police as a dispatcher.

‘Shocked’

But Gafur Jumdail and Albader Parad, the Abu Sayyaf members tagged as the kidnappers, were “shocked” at reports of their supposed involvement, according to a former MNLF sub-commander now in the employ of a town mayor.

The source, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said that on the mayor’s instructions, he had dispatched emissaries to the camps of Parad and Jumdail in Indanan and Maimbung, respectively.

“When my people entered Parad’s camp, they found Parad and his group having coffee. Parad and his group were all shocked to learn that Drilon had been kidnapped,” the source said.

He said his men had even checked the inner bunkers to make sure that no one was being hidden inside.

At Jumdail’s camp situated between the barangays of Kulasi and Labbah, the emissaries also found nothing.

“And Jumdail and his group even laughed. They said the media had given them free exposure, and that they were now very popular in Sulu, and even the whole world. They also didn’t know that Ces Drilon had been kidnapped,” the source said.

‘Little misunderstanding’

Alvarez had earlier told reporters he had spoken with Drilon by telephone on Wednesday night.

“I informed her that there was a little misunderstanding on the expenses to be paid for their stay,” he said in an apparent reference to difficulties in the negotiations.

“Accommodation,” “board and lodging” or “expenses”—rather than “ransom”—are terms often used by kidnappers because these are more acceptable to negotiators.

Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, chair and chief executive of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., Thursday reiterated that the network would not pay ransom for Drilon and her crew.

“Of course not. It would make life difficult for all of you [reporters]. We need prayers,” Lopez said on the sidelines of a stockholders meeting of Benpres Holdings Corp., the publicly listed investment arm of the Lopez family.

“We’re talking to her (Drilon) every day. She’s OK,” Lopez said.

ABS-CBN said Wednesday in a statement that it would abide by its policy of not paying ransoms, so as not to “embolden kidnap-for-ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk.”

Talks in ‘critical stage’

Quoting a source, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that negotiations for the release of Drilon et al. had reached a “critical stage.”

“We know the hostages are all OK,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Talks for their safe release have reached a critical stage, with the ransom demand going up from P10 million to P20 million,” the source said.

Unconfirmed reports said the local guide may have suffered a “mild” stroke.

Police and military sources would not comment on a media report that the group was being held by a Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaker wanted by the United States.

The Philippine Star newspaper named the Malaysian as Zulkifli bin Hir, who it said was holed up with local Abu Sayyaf militants Umbra Jumdail and Albader Parad.

The paper, quoting an unnamed military source, said the US-trained engineer was “the principal suspect in many bombing attacks in the Philippines, where he has been in hiding since August 2003 and training Islamic militants in handling explosive devices.”

Washington has offered a $5-million reward for the Malaysian’s capture.

Meanwhile, on the nearby island of Basilan, Muslim extremists kidnapped two Philippine Marines on Thursday and were demanding the release of detained Abu Sayyaf militant Sali Dungkal Alih in exchange, the military said.

Security forces arrested Alih in Basilan on May 6.

“They are offering us a concession — give us the liberty of Alih and then we will release the Marines,” said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgardo Arevalo.

Arevalo said the government was sticking to its position of not giving in to such demands. With reports from Alcuin Papa and Elizabeth Sanchez-Lacson in Manila, Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao Bureau; Thea Alberto, INQUIRER.net(PDI)

“Prosti-tuition” rises with school fees

June 12, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — As tuition increase, more and more students are pushed to engage in prostitution to raise enough money for their schooling, thus the term “prosti-tuition.”

According to Theresa Manglicmot of Gabriela Youth (GY), students both male and female resort to this decadent practice because of the high cost of education and the perennial economic crisis in the country.

“It is a disturbing fact, but because of extreme poverty the students are forced to opt for this as their last resort just to finish their studies,” said Manglicmot.

In a study made by GY back in 2006, the number of students engaged in prostitution increase during enrollment and exam periods, the time when students need to pay their dues in school.

“Based on the interviews we conducted, it is a seasonal affair and one can really point out that their main concern for doing this is to be able to pay for their school fees,” said Manglicmot.

According to Manglicmot, the prostituted students are either seasonally hired by prostitution dens or by pimps, and earn through commission basis.

Most of the time the pimps wait outside school premises with a client to see the students and choose whoever the client wants to have sex with.

“But now, because of the advance in cyber technology, the Internet becomes a more lucrative means to earn extra money because they are directly paid by the customers for the cyber sex services they render,” said Manglicmot.

According to Director Rosario Marzo of the Office for Linkages and Exchange Programmes of the Saint Louis University (SLU) during a press conference, students are forced to resort to these activities because they have spent their money that their parents gave to them.

“These students resort to prostitution mainly because they misuse the funds intended for their school budget,” said Marzo adding that the lack of family values is the main reason why these students engage in prostitution.

Manglicmot on the other hand said “this increasing incidents of prosti-tuition is not based on the lack of family values but because of how the education system here in the country is becoming more of a privilege than a right, making it not accessible to those who cannot afford.”

Manglicmot also said Filipinos are driven by the hope to improve their economic status, thus they value education and view gaining a university diploma betters their chances for a more stable employment and brighter future.

“The status of the national economy and present government policies have however further constricted the right to and opportunities for education,” concluded Manglicmot # Cye Reyes(NorthernDispatch)

Catanduanes governor opposes mini-hydro

June 11, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes — The provincial governor here who is supposed to lead in undertaking an environment-friendly project to minimize, if not combat, global warming turns out to be its strongest oppositor.

Gov. Joseph Cua of Catanduanes reportedly has expressed his opposition to the proposed construction of a mini-hydro power plant here despite favorable endorsement by Bishop Manolo A. De los Santos of the Diocese of Virac, the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines-Catanduanes chapter, Bicolano Senators Joker Arroyo and Gregorio Honasan, and of the National Power Corporation.

Sources claimed the project runs counter to the business interest of the governor.

The min-hydro power plant is an electric power generating plant that utilizes the kinetic energy of falling or running water (run-off river hydro plants) and turn the turbine generator to produce electricity. The project hopes to generate no less than 101 KW or more than 10,000 KW of renewable and clean energy.

Elizaldy ‘Zaldy’ Co, president of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc., (SUWECO) accused the governor of being the real ‘inconvenient truth’ because the governor is involved in diesel fuel business.

Co expressed disgust upon learning that Gov. Cua is blocking the mini-hydro power project which could have otherwise generated employment, provide clean energy and resolve power outages.

Co said that Cua monopolized the diesel-fed fuel business in the island Catanduanes, and worst, sell it at 30 percent higher compared to prices in mainland Bicol.

“There was a businessman who put up the Petron gasoline station and spent almost P2 million but he (Gov. Cua) opposed it too because it would affect his diesel business. The issue here is not only moral but ‘vested interest’ considering that he was elected as public servant. If he allows our project, the government will save P200 million a year, aside from providing clean energy,added employment and income,” Co told Bicol Mail.

Aside from gasoline business, Cua is also engaged in rice trading, owner of RSL buses plying from Catanduanes-Manila vice versa, and sea crafts operating the Catanduanes-Tabaco sea lane.

Co is constructing the Solong mini-hydro projects with capacity of 2.1 MW in San Miguel town, Hitoma 01 with 1.5 MW and Hitoma 02 with 1.35 MC capacity all in Obi, Caramoran town, Gigmoto mini-hydro power plant with 0.55 capacity in Gigmoto town and Kapipian mini-hydro project with 2.8 MW capacity in Solong,Catanduanes with the total of 8.3 MW capacity.

Apart from Catanduanes mini-hydro projects, Co is currently constructing several mini-hydro projects in the country such as the Villasiga Mini-hydro project in Igsoro, Bugasong Antique, Guiamon San Ramon Mini-hydro project in Laua-an, Antique, Dalanas Mini-Hydro-project in Barbasa, Antique, Tiniano Mini-Hydro project in Tibiao, Antique with 14.1MW total capacity. All these projects were supported by Bishop Lagdameo of the Diocese of Jaro to address the acute power shortage in Panay island, especifically in Iloilo.

In Albay province the on-going mini-hydro power plants are the Misibis Multi-Purpose Reservoir in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town, Cumagingking and Vera Falls mini-hydro projects in Malinao town.

The mini-hydro projects in this island province is programmed to be operational by 2010 with a total of 5,375 KW capacity and additional 2,600 kW capacity by 2013 to stabilize and energize numerous barangays here.

Unfortunately, the renewable energy project of SUWECO was blocked by Govv.r Cua before the Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Cua cited the following grounds in his opposition paper submitted May 26,2008 : the applicant failed to submit the documents prescribed by law; there is no competitive selection process or bidding undertaken by FICELCO in the selection of SUWECO as new power producer; the selling price of electricity offered by the firm is grossly overpriced and is against the basis established by law; SUWECO has no technical and financial capacity to undertake the project; the cooperation period stated in the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) is violative of the law; and SUWECO did not conduct a feasibility study to justify the assumptions made in the ESA.

As if on cue, Arvin T. Amata, provincial legal officer of Catanduanes, also asked the ERC to invalidate and scrap immediately the instant application for approval of the ESA submitted by SUWECO and FICELCO for lack of merit.

SUWECO entered into ESA with the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (FICELCO) whereby the latter would pay for all the electricity produced by the proposed mini-hydro electric plants at a discounted rate of 4 percent less than the subsidized and approved generation rate (SAGR) for Catanduanes for a period of 30 years from commercial operation, Co said.

On May 7, 2008, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Catanduanes led by Vice Governor Alfredo M. Aquino granted Gov. Cua an authority to represent the provincial government in any legal action relative to the electricity supply agreement entered into by FICELCO and SUWECO.

The provincial board council stated in their authorization given to Cua to oppose the said agreement due to following grounds; FICELCO has an existing ESA with several power providers which to date still remains to be in effect not having been declared invalid or rescinded by any competent authority in an appropriate proceedings, several provisions of ESA between FICELCO and SUWECO are found to be detrimental to FICELCO and its consumers.

The council added that the provincial government, pursuant to its mandate under section 16 of the RA 7160 to promote the general welfare of the people of Catanduanes, is duty bound to do and enforce any legal action including opposing the application for approval of the ESA between Ficelco and SUWECO which is pending before the ERC.

Former Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of Catanduanes, opined that Cua and his allies’ move was disadvantageous to the people while it was deemed to protect the governor’s business interest.

Tatad had Rodolfo Albano, Jr., Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Board to help facilitate the speedy completion and immediate operation of the mini-hydro projects being undertaken by SUWECO in several municipalities of the island province in order to liberate their poor constituents from the scourge of unstable power supply and inordinately high prices provided by highly polluting bunker-fed sources.

“I am made to understand, however that certain provincial politicians who are involved in the sale and distribution of bunker fuel, are moving to block the projects for their own reasons,” Tatad said in his letter to Albano.

He said that as former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and principal sponsor of the Electric Power Crisis Act in the Senate, it was his dream then to see the province of Catanduanes and other small islands in the country which are cut off from the national power grid, become self-sufficient in energy, through their exploitation of indigenous renewable energy sources like water, sun and wind.(BicolMail)

EPIRA Cause of High Power Rates, Says Scientist, Consumer Group

June 11, 2008

“Government measures such as the subsidy and failed takeover of Meralco management will not result to lower power rates,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang of AGHAM.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The Arroyo government is locked in a corporate battle to wrest control of Meralco from the Lopez family purportedly to lower power rates.

Also, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced last week, the allocation of a P2-billion ($45,325,779 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.125) subsidy for small power users. An estimated four million lifeline users or those with a 100kwh or lower monthly electricity consumption will receive P500 ($11.33) for their electric bills.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of scientist group Agham and convenor of the People Opposed to Warrantless Electrity Rates (Power) said, “Government measures such as the subsidy and failed takeover of Meralco management will not result to lower power rates. Apparently, such populist posturing is meant to fend off reactions to increasing prices of basic commodities. Mrs. Arroyo seems to be preparing for her next state of the nation address (SONA) in July.”

Tapang described the subsidy announced by the Arroyo government as a “one-shot deal” that can never be sustained.

In a separate statement, Engineer Ramon Ramirez, spokesperson of POWER, said, “There’s some deception here since the electricity subsidy will be coming from the value-added tax (VAT) which is also paid for by consumers. It’s the consumer subsidizing the consumer. Government is desperately trying to justify the existence of the VAT by making it appear that it is helpful for the poor.” The group has called for the removal of VAT on power.

Tapang said that aside from the removal of VAT, their group is calling for the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which, according to him, has put the Filipino consumers at the losing end.

EPIRA

Signed into law by Mrs. Arroyo in June 2001, the EPIRA seeks to restructure the electricity industry and privatize the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

One of the purported objectives of the EPIRA is to ensure the reliability and affordability of supply of electric power. After almost seven years, however, what happened is the opposite; the cost of electricity has increased due to numerous charges considered legal under the law.

Sec. 36 of the EPIRA mandates the unbundling of rates. This is consistent with the privatization thrust of the EPIRA wherein the power sector is segregated into generation, transmission and distribution sectors.

Hence, the controversial Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA) has been deleted from the consumer’s monthly electricity bill. However, Tapang said that the unbundling of rates has not removed the PPA; it has merely hidden it.

The PPA stemmed from the onerous contracts between Napocor and independent power producers (IPPs). Even without producing a single watt of electricity, the ‘take or pay provisions’ stated in the contracts guarantee payment for installed capacity of generation plants.

In its paper titled ‘Ever increasing rates from the EPIRA: A closer look at the electric power industry in the Philippines,’ Agham said that the PPA remains to be a large part of electric power rates of end-users albeit under different names. It is distributed in the various line items in the new electric bill such as the generation charge, the transmission charge, system loss charges, subsidies and franchise taxes.

System loss charges include technical losses, pilferages, and company use or electricity used by distribution utilities such as the Meralco.

Moreover, Sec. 32 of the EPIRA paves the way for the national government to directly assume a portion of Napocor’s debt amounting to P200 billion ($4,532,577,903). The so-called stranded cost recovery is reflected as a separate item in the consumer’s billing statement.

Other stranded debts of Napocor in excess of the P200 billion ($4,532,577,903) as well as qualified debts of distribution utilities form part of the universal charge stated under Sec. 34 of the EPIRA.

Other components of the universal charge include missionary electrification, environmental charge, among others.

The missionary charge is a compulsory contribution to a fund to be used for electrifying remote barangays (villages). Agham asked, “But why are we charged for a job the government should be doing? This is also true of environmental charges. Why are we charged for the havoc that the generation plants of Napocor or these IPPs do to the environment?”

Sec. 25 of the EPIRA states as a policy the full recovery of “prudent and reasonable” economic costs of a distribution utility.

The same Agham paper said that this particular provision gives authority to distribution utilities to recover and pass on to consumers currency fluctuations, fuel cost fluctuations and contract obligations. The Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) are concrete examples of these charges.

Tapang blamed the EPIRA and the privatization of the power industry for soaring prices of electricity rates. He said, “We have lost control over the power industry because it is already controlled by local big business and foreign investors whose main interest is to accumulate huge profits.”

Foreign interests

According to the Agham paper, most IPPs are owned by transnational corporations (TNCs) in partnership with local business tycoons. At least 22 out of 41 IPPs are largely foreign-owned.

Last week, Inquirer reported that the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines wrote a letter to Mrs. Arroyo asking the latter not to alter EPIRA and not to ‘tinker with IPP contracts.’ Asked for a reaction, Tapang said that the JFC’s statement only shows that foreign investors and financial institutions benefit from the EPIRA at the expense of the Filipino people.

Sec. 68 of the EPIRA mandates the creation of an inter-agency committee tasked to review IPP contracts. According to Agham, the said committee found that only six out of 35 contracts were without any legal or financial issues. The rest were supposed to be renegotiated by the government.

The privatization of Napocor, along other power sector reforms, is a long-standing recommendation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is part of the structural reform program (SAP) the country has to implement as a pre-condition to the granting of more loans.

Tapang challenged the Arroyo government to stand up against the interests of foreign investors by deleting the ‘take or pay’ provisions in the IPP contracts and to stop the privatization of Napocor. However, Tapang quickly added, “Based on Mrs. Arroyo’s track record, she can not risk foreign investments even as the Filipino people grow angry.”

As a long-term solution, scientist Tapang said, “Power is a strategic utility that should be run by government. We should nationalize the power industry and improve our capacity to produce electricity from indigenous sources of energy.”

He deplored the current thrust of the Arroyo government to sell out the country’s energy resources to foreign investors. “Our natural gas and other indigenous sources should be utilized to serve the Filipino people, not foreign interests.” Bulatlat

‘Exodus’ calls for end to militarization in countryside

June 10, 2008


Concerned organizations and individuals form an alliance called Exodus for Justice and Peace to call for a stop of the militarization in the countryside and for the return of hundreds of Lumads displaced from their communities. The alliance also seeks justice for the death of tribal chieftain Dominador Diarog, peasant leader Celso Pojas and other victims of human rights violations. (davaotoday.com photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Lawyer Beverly Musni, one of the convenors of EXODUS for Justice and Peace, talks about the displacement of lumads in Mindanao during the time of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo. She estimates about a million people displaced in different parts of Mindanao from 2001- 2008. (davaotoday.com photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Exodus’s members sign a statement of unity calling attention to the daily needs of victims, including health and medical services, psychosocial therapy sessions for women and children, legal services, moral support, among others. (davaotoday.com photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Peasant leader killed in front of family in Negros–police

June 9, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 09:13pm (Mla time) 06/08/2008

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines–A peasant leader was executed in the presence of his wife and 11-year-old son in Manapla, Negros Occidental, the police said on Sunday.

PO3 Ron Somondong of the Manapla police identified the victim as Armando Dolorosa, 45, vice president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers chapter at Hacienda Marian, Barangay (village) San Pablo in Manapla.

Three unidentified persons, armed with high-powered firearms and wearing bonnets, summarily executed Dolorosa at his house at Hacienda Marian at around 7:30 p.m. on Friday (June 6), according to his wife Janetta.

Janetta said her husband died of 23 gunshot wounds in different parts of the body.

She said her family believed that her husband’s killing was related to the implementation of the agrarian reform program in Negros Occidental.

Somondong said the victim might have known the killers, one of them he was heard to have called “Tol,” as he even welcomed them to his house.

Janetta, in a separate interview, recalled that a burst of gunfire followed after her husband invited the perpetrators to enter their house.

She said she saw her husband’s assailants run away but they immediately returned and pumped more bullets into the body of her husband, to make sure he was dead.

Policemen recovered 12 empty shells of M-16 and .30 rifles from the crime scene, Somondong said.

Janetta told police investigators her husband and 36 other agrarian reform beneficiaries were given Certificates of Land Ownership Awards by the Department of Agrarian Reform 2007 over a portion of land in Hacienda Marian.

Janetta said that since then, Dolorosa had been receiving death threats from persons whom she described as “planters.”

She, however, hinted that one of the gunmen whom her husband called “Tol” was a family friend.

Dolorosa recalled that the animosity started between her husband and “Tol” after agrarian reform beneficiaries in the hacienda got their CLOAs. “Tol” was not one of the beneficiaries, she said.

Armando was the third local NFSW leader who was killed in Manapla since 2003, police records show.(PDI)

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My Take:

This only shows that the government’s seemingly approval of these type of crime (as seen thru its inaction), invites more perpetrators to sow terror in the countryside.

Dahil walang hinuhuli at napapagpanagot, pati ang mga simpleng alitan ay nagiging dahilan na rin para magpatayan.

Kasalanan ito ng gobyerno.

Groups set last-ditch effort for CARP extension

June 9, 2008

THE Reform CARP Movement promised to flood the tent city outside the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City with at least a thousand farmers and peasants pushing for the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beginning today, and also tomorrow, the CARP law’s expiration date.

At the same time, other farmers calling the 20-year-old CARP a failure and said they would have nothing to do with its extension.

The Reform CARP Movement counts as members Task Force Mapalad, Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan, Task Force Baha-Talibayog and other farmers who have been picketing DAR since May to press for CARP extension.

The groups said the proposed five-year extension would give DAR the time to distribute its backlog of 1.1 million hectares consisting of private agricultural lands 60 hectares or more to about half a million farmers nationwide. “More than 3 million hectares were distributed during 20 years of CARP. Most of these lands are still in the hands of farmer-beneficiaries whose lives have certainly improved compared to those who remained mere tenants or farm workers,” the group said in a joint statement.

But Hacienda Luisita farm workers under the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, United Luisita Workers Union and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said CARP cannot take credit for the fact that thousands of farm workers and their families in Luisita now have more than 1,600 hectares for cultivation. They instead blamed government policies for encouraging land use conversion, land-grabbing, ejectment, crop conversion and other schemes that dispossess tillers, as well as high farm inputs and lack of agricultural support services that have led to the decreased rice production in the country.

“This is the reason why we are against any special session in Congress for CARP extension, they should let the anti-farmer program die a natural death,” the second groups said in a statement.

The Luisita farm workers accused government and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan of working together despite apparent political differences to reverse farm workers’ gains, adding that soldiers remain deployed for psy-war tactics in the 10 barrios straddled by the hacienda.

Last month, the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas in a study of stakeholders composed of farmers, indigenous peoples, urban poor and fisherfolks nationwide, said the stakeholders gave government a 70 to 75 percent rating in its implementation of major asset reform laws such as CARP, the Indigenous People’s Rights, Fisheries Code and various socialized housing program. Governance weakness, red tape and weak inter-agency coordination were blamed for the poor performance. - Randy Nobleza(MALAYA)

Gov’t looking at possibility of rehabilitating BNPP – Reyes

June 8, 2008

Reviving its nuclear program remains as one of the options being considered by the government amid rising crude prices, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said yesterday.

Reyes said that with oil prices reaching more than $ 138 a barrel, the government is looking at the possibility of rehabilitating the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

“I have taken the position that we have to revisit the nuclear option because we don’t want a situation where there will be power shortage. We are encouraging the development of alternative sources of energy, alternative ways of generating power,” Reyes said at the weekly news forum at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.

The BNPP, whose construction began in 1976 and was completed in 1984 at a cost of $ 2.3 billion, was the response of the Marcos administration to the energy crisis of the late 1970s.

Then President Ferdinand Marcos saw nuclear power as the best way forward in terms of meeting the country’s future needs and reducing reliance on imported oil.

The 630-megawatt power plant cost the Filipino taxpayer a total of $ 460 million on a debt of $ 1.06 billion though it never produced a single watt of electricity.

In 1986, President Corazon Aquino mothballed the BNPP because of safety defects and sued its builder for overpricing and allegations of bribery.

In 2007, there were reports that the country made its final payment on the plant in April last year. Reyes said only three months ago, officials of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in the country to evaluate the feasibility of commissioning the BNPP.

He said the tentative position of IAEA officials was that the country can rehabilitate the plant at a cost of 0 million for it to generate 630 megawatts of power.

Reyes said the rehabilitation may be expensive but the government is looking at what the plant can do the country in the long run.

“There’s no option that you will take that has no cost. If you’re looking at an option that has no cost, that option doesn’t exist,” he said.

He said before the rehabilitation, a complete feasibility study must be done and this will last for two years. The rehabilitation itself will take five years, he added.

The energy chief also said that rehabilitating BNPP would be faster than building a new plant, which may take one and a half decades.

“If you build a new plant, it would take 15 years to build it. Just looking for a site, the place where you locate the plant that will take a long time. You have to locate it in a place not vulnerable to earthquake and typhoons,” Reyes said. (Edmer F. Panesa)

“Take note of this, BNPP had survived earthquakes and typhoons,” he pointed out.

Besides nuclear power, Reyes said the government is looking at renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal, as well as alternative sources of fuel.

“We can’t have a situation where we do away with oil and coal. We will have blackouts then or we will have shortage in power supply,” he explained.

Without power, Reyes warned that investors would not come in and those who are already here will go away.(MB)

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My Take:

This is bullshit!

With the kind of government we have? We are not safe.  Yung mga advance countries na nga at mga disiplinadong tao pa na nagpapatakbo ng plantang nukleyar e nadaleng naaksidente, tayo pa kaya?

Baka sa pagpapatayo pa lang e panay mahinang klaseng materyal ang gawin dahil sa kikbak, komisyon at bukol.

tayo ang kawawa dito.  tutulan natin ito!

Bukidnon school exec asks PTCA to refund collections

June 8, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / June 6) – The chief Education official here has ordered the Parents-Teachers Community Associations in some schools to refund what they collected from parents during enrolment.

Dr. Gloria Benigno, Department of Education Bukidnon chief, told reporters here Friday that she would order a refund of the payments collected “in order to stick to the department order” and identified the PTCA in the erring schools which collected from parents before students were admitted for enrolment.

She said there were five schools which admitted that they allowed the PTCA to collect fees and contributions despite an order prohibiting collection of all types. She clarified that the DepEd in the province had implemented DepEd Order 19 issued by Education Sec. Jesli Lapus on March 19 which
removed all kinds of collections this school year.

Lapuz ordered no collections from school children enrolling in pre-school to Grade VI in the first month of classes, which covers even payments for BSP, GSP, Red Cross, Anti-TB and PTCA. Except for Grade VI and VI, no collection is allowed “at anytime during the school year”.

Benigno clarified it was the PTCA, not the teachers who did it, based on interviews she did with school principals.

Florante Corpuz, DepEd Bukidnon deputy superintendent, told reporters that there were no guidelines though that were passed on how to deal with erring schools for now.

“It’s up for our Secretary (Lapus) to deal with them,” he said.

Benigno said she reported the schools to the national office, which required schools divisions this week to report on the compliance of the order.

Corpuz said collections of voluntary contributions from PTCA would be allowed only in July, but only for higher school levels, for fifth and sixth grades. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

AFP chief urges soldiers to invest in stock market

June 7, 2008

By James Mananghaya
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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In a bid to increase soldiers’ income, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano said he would encourage troops to invest in the stock market.

In an interview, Yano said he welcomes the move of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to conduct free seminars on stock trading for soldiers to help them come up with alternative sources of income for their families.

“It’s a big help. As you know we soldiers are not that economically well off, so with this assistance to teach us the stock market, hopefully our soldiers – officers and enlisted personnel – can make good investments,” he said.

The AFP top brass said he also wants to attend the seminars to learn how he could have additional source of income, especially after his retirement.

PSE president Francisco Lim earlier said they hope that the seminar would enlighten soldiers on how to keep their savings and have another source of income for their families.

“We all know of course that there are risks involved in investing in the stock market but our aim in holding these seminars is to enlighten the soldiers about alternative investment areas where they can keep their savings and where they can earn potential extra income. Our market education department people are ready to touch base with the AFP in finalizing the schedule and details of these free seminars,” Lim said.

Yano said the free seminars on stock market investment could initially be conducted at the general headquarters and subsequently at the Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters.

An officer with a rank of lieutenant earns a gross pay of P21,000 a month, with P3,000 as allowance.

An ordinary private has a gross monthly income of P13,000, which increases by 10 percent every five years in the service.(PStar)

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My Take: Another scam, this is.  Wala na silang ibang magatasan, pati sarili nilang tao pagnanakawan.  Hay… maybe its true, corruption will prevnt this government to win the war against the insurgents.

UN World Food Program recommends review of gov’t initiatives for poor

June 7, 2008

By  Katherine Adraneda
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) yesterday recommended a review of programs to assist the so-called poorest of the poor by the Philippine government in the wake of continuing increases in food prices.

UNWFP-Philippines country director and representative Valerie Guarnieri noted the “centralized” distribution of subsidized sales of the P18.25 National Food Authority (NFA) rice in Metro Manila even as food prices increase across the country, affecting mostly the poor in the provinces.

In an interview during her visit to the NFA warehouse on Visayas Avenue, Quezon City where the queue of people buying NFA rice appeared to be getting longer by the hour, Guarnieri stressed that the government must ensure that its food programs reach the widest portion of the poor like those in Mindanao, considered the “most vulnerable” region in the country.

She emphasized that the Philippine government must look into whether or not the subsidized sale of NFA rice is being implemented properly and effectively, and if it is really reaching the “poorest of the poor.”

“We meet regularly with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority regarding the high prices situation,” Guarnieri told reporters.

“Making rice for sale at an affordable price seems to make sense but the subsidized sale (of NFA rice) appears to be only focused in Manila… there seems to be no significant way to expand the program outside Manila.”

“I have not seen this in Mindanao, which is the most hunger-prone area as many communities there are affected by conflicts,” she added.

“And the high prices of food today makes Mindanao more vulnerable.”

UNWFP currently conducts its work in the Mindanao region, notably in conflict areas where massive displacement of communities has led to widespread hunger.

UNWFP was also invited by the Philippine government to Mindanao to assist in the peace process, Guarnieri said.

At the same time, Guarnieri stressed that aside from reviewing the implementation of the subsidized sale of cheap NFA rice, the Philippine government should also evaluate other programs aimed at reducing hunger and poverty, which were implemented by the government even before the rice crisis occured.

Guarnieri was referring to government programs like the food-for-school project and conditional cash transfer scheme, among others, which could be expanded to reach more identified “poor areas” nationwide.

She noted that the two areas most affected by high prices are the urban centers, which are dependent exclusively on the market; and poor districts in the country.

“The government could look into ways on how to increase the income of families, for example. Or expand its food-for-school (program) in order to feed more,” she enumerated.

“It is not enough for (the government to just) announce what it intends to do,” she also said. “We suggest that the government look carefully at the implementation of its activities.”

During her visit to the NFA warehouse, Guarnieri spoke with some first-timers in the line, who claimed they are now compelled to buy the cheap rice because of the fresh round of increases in the price of commodities last week.

The UNWFP observed that people lining up at NFA warehouses to buy cheap rice consist not only of the poor but also the middle-class.

At this point, the UNWFP official recommended that the government begin to formulate a program of action to help other levels of society which are also likely to be affected by the seemingly unflagging increase in food prices.

“The government should look into the possibility of addressing the needs of the next level because they are likely to also suffer because of the continuing high prices (of food)… The government has to have some kind of a gradation support to be able to assist different levels,” Guarnieri said.

Three-pronged approach

Guarnieri said that the UNWFP has offered “three prongs of intervention” to the government, aimed at ensuring adequate food at affordable price to the people.

She said the subsidized sale of NFA rice is a “valid step” that governments around the world adopt in the immediate term, but emphasized that the government should not stop finding ways to permanently address the issue.

The UNWFP official said that in the medium-term, the government must look into ways to increase agricultural productivity, including measures to improve irrigation as well as investment in seed varieties.

In the long-term, Guarnieri said that the government should closely look into policies that were already put in place to ensure the free flow of food in and out of the country.

She noted that the government could assess the import tariffs it imposes on food commodities as well as the role of the NFA in the nation’s food security.

She assured the government that the UNWFP is ready to help in every stage towards the achievement of food security for its people.

“It (the system involved in the subsidized sale of NFA rice) doesn’t seem ideal, but it doesn’t seem bad as well,” Guarnieri said.

She stressed that no matter what programs or actions the government decides to take, “it has to make sure that the poorest of the poor are not left out or excluded.”(PStar)

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My Take: This story strengthened my belief that this “program” is actually politically-motivated, a desperate attempt to deodorize Malacañan-personalities in preparation for the fast-coming presidential elections.

Ombudsman approves filing of charges vs Jocjoc

June 7, 2008

By Edu Punay
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has approved the filing of charges of graft and corruption and illegal use of public funds against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante and other Department of Agriculture (DA) officials tagged in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni said Gutierrez has created a panel to conduct a preliminary investigation on Bolante and the other suspects.

“We will start the preliminary investigation on this case (fertilizer scam) very soon,” he said. “We are just finalizing the initial report from the (Field Investigation Office).”

Jalandoni said the Office of the Ombudsman has found ample grounds to pursue investigation on allegations against Bolante and other DA officials supposedly involved in alleged anomalies in the fertilizer project.

The preliminary investigation would determine probable cause on whether the complaint would be sent to the Sandiganbayan for trial, he added.

Violation of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code refer to giving undue injury to any party, including the government, caused by giving any private party any unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions, Jalandoni said.

Also recommended for indictment were Agriculture Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales and Assistant Secretaries Jose Felix Montes, Edmund Sana and Ibarra Poliquit.

The case arose from alleged anomalies in the distribution of the government’s P728-million fertilizer fund through the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program before the national elections in 2004.

The project was also supposedly overpriced by at least P127 million.

Bolante fled to the US in 2005 at the height of a Senate investigation into the fertilizer scam.

However, his asylum bid was denied twice by a Chicago Immigration Court in a ruling dated Feb. 9, 2007 and a Board of Immigration Appeals decision, dated June 25, 2007.

Bolante prosecution doubted

The President of the Anti-Graft League of the Philippines doubted yesterday the prosecution of Bolante because of his close ties to Malacañang.

Crispin Reyes, Anti-Graft League president, said the case would test the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue the recommendation of its field investigation to charge Bolante in court.

“The Ombudsman is faced with the dilemma, it’s a choice (between) her survival or the rule of law,” he said.

Reyes warned that any inaction of the Ombudsman on the case of Bolante would add to the unresolved anomalies and scandals in government.

“More suffering and abuses will trigger social unrest, even a revolution,” he said. – With Perseus Echeminada(PStar)

GSIS hits back at MBC

June 7, 2008

By  Michael Punongbayan
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) called on the Makati Business Club (MBC) yesterday to stop “parroting” the Lopez line that the government is out to take control of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Estrella Elamparo, GSIS chief legal counsel and spokeswoman, said the MBC should be objective and impartial in looking at allegations of mismanagement in the Lopez-controlled power firm.

“In fact, the MBC should be speaking against the excesses being committed by the Lopezes in Meralco,” she said.

“These excesses, like charging consumers Meralco’s own electric consumption and P30 billion of its income tax from 1994 to 2002, are what’s driving up the cost of power.”

Elamparo said while Meralco shareholders are not getting returns from their investment, other Lopez companies dealing with Meralco had been posting record-setting incomes.

“A case in point is the Lopez-owned IPP Sta. Rita, which Meralco paid P13 billion in a 12-month period from 2000 to 2001 for delivering just over P3-billion worth of electricity,” she said.

“The MBC should not be seen by the public as coddling the Lopezes, under which Meralco did not declare dividends for its shareholders from 1990 to 1997.”

Elamparo said the GSIS and other government financial institutions, which hold shareholdings of about 33 percent in Meralco, are campaigning to bring back good corporate governance and transparency to bring down power rates.

One reason why foreign investors think twice before putting money in the Philippines is that it has the second most expensive electricity rate in Asia, next only to Japan.

“The MBC knows fully well that their members’ cost of production increases due to the high cost of electricity, reducing the competitiveness of their products in the world market,” she said.

Elamparo said while consumers pay for power that Sta. Rita did not provide, the Lopez IPP was able to more than double its P8-billion capitalization in less than two years.

“Likewise, the global downward trend in stocks is also contributing to the downswing in the value of Meralco shares,” she said.

Elamparo said the GSIS is not out to take over Meralco, but only wants to have a professional team to run the company.

“Meralco will become attractive anew to investors when it is freed from the stranglehold of the Lopezes,” she said.

“This is because Meralco will be better managed and will be fully accountable based on international good corporate practices.”

Salonga defends Lopezes

Former Senate president Jovito Salonga defended yesterday the Lopezes from allegations that they were responsible for Meralco’s high electricity rates.

In a statement, Salonga said as legal adviser of President Diosdado Macapagal, he helped draft the congratulatory letter to Eugenio Lopez Sr. after his group acquired Meralco from its American owners, General Public Utilities in 1962.

“They are a family of nationalistic entrepreneurs, best known for their investments in public service companies such as power, telecommunications and tollways,” he said.

“But because these businesses are heavily regulated, the Lopezes are vulnerable to public scrutiny, and even severe criticism, from time to time. They have also been victims of repression.

“As a consumer of electricity myself, I would like to see lower electricity rates despite the global phenomenon of skyrocketing oil prices. This will be good for the economy. How to reduce it remains to be the bone of contention.”

Salonga said Meralco, being a publicly listed company, is regularly subjected to internal and external audits.

“I also understand the Lopez family is philanthropic and is very much into corporate social responsibility,” he said.

“It gives back to society part of what it earns from its public businesses, for example, in education, arts and culture, the environment, poor communities, disaster victims and even abused children.

“In light of these, I find it difficult to fathom the accusations leveled against Meralco and the Lopez family given the low credibility of some of its critics.”

Salonga said it was unfair for Meralco to receive the brunt of the blame for high electricity rates when the state-owned National Power Corp. had also been inefficient.

“I await government’s response to questions regarding Napocor’s buying practices and production inefficiency that, in sum, result in higher generation charges than Meralco’s independent power producers,” he said.

“Also, I want to hear from the government about the steps it has taken to address the issue concerning royalties and taxes it imposes on indigenous sources of energy like natural gas that renders such unnecessarily expensive.

“I believe Meralco is in no position to misrepresent its actuations because its books and operations are open to scrutiny.

“I understand that it is not only regulated by the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) but also by the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), COA (Commission on Audit), SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and the PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange).” –With Iris Gonzales, Aurea Calica(PStar)

P2-B subsidyo sa kuryente: Konsiyumer din magbabayad

June 6, 2008

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

Dahil pinaiikot lamang ng Malakanyang ang buwis na ibinabayad ng mga konsiyumer, hindi tunay na ginhawa ang hatid ng P2-Bilyong subsidyo sa kuryente na iniutos ng Malakanyang, ayon sa grupong Power (People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates).

Inihayag ng Presidential Task Force on Energy kamakailan na sasagutin ng gobyerno ang bahagi ng gastos sa kuryente ng mga kumokonsumo ng 100 kWh (kilowatt hour) pababa. Kukunin ang pondo sa subsidyo mula sa VAT (value added tax) na ibinabayad ng mga konsiyumer ng kuryente.

Limitado
Tinatayang P1,000 kada taon o P100 kada buwan ang mababawas sa binabayaran ng 1.9 milyong maliliit na konsiyumer ng kuryente sa Metro Manila at mga probinsya ng Cavite, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, at Quezon, ayon kay Kal. Esperanza Cabral ng Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Pero ayon kay Engr. Ramon Ramirez, tagapagsalita ng Power, tila nanloloko ang gobyerno dahil mula sa bulsa ng mga konsiyumer mismo ang subsidyo. “Isusubsidyo ng mga konsiyumer ang iba pang mga konsiyumer,” aniya.

Limitado ang saklaw ng subsidyo na para sa mga kostumer lamang ng Meralco (Manila Electric Company), ayon naman kay Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

“Kung magbibigay lang naman ng subsidyo ang pamahalaan, sa lifeline users dapat sa buong sa Pilipinas at hindi lamang dito sa Metro Manila. Tumataas ang presyo ng kuryente sa buong bansa,” aniya.

Pinuna naman ni Sen. Mar Roxas ang umano’y “pansamantalang solusyon” ng gobyerno sa mataas na presyo ng kuryente.

“Maganda man ang tulong ng P2-B, mauubos din iyan. Ang punto ay pinagsasamantalahan ba tayo sa singil sa kuryente? Dapat mapigil yung pagsasamantala,” aniya.

Pagbasura sa VAT
Iginiit ng Bayan (Bagong Alysansang Makabayan) na mas maigi ang pagbabasura sa VAT dahil magbebenepisyo ang lahat ng mga konsiyumer ng kuryente. Tinatayang makakatipid ng 70 hanggang 80 sentimos kada kWh ng kuryente ang mga ito kapag inalis sa singil ang nasabing buwis.

“Hindi namin maintindihan kung bakit ayaw ng gobyerno ang pinakasimple at batayang hakbang para mapababa ang singil sa kuryente. Bakit sa panahon ng krisis, prayoridad pa rin ng gobyerno ang pangongolekta ng buwis at bayad-utang?” sabi ni Renato Reyes Jr., pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan.

Mahigit P18-B kada taon ang nakokolektang VAT mula sa mga konsiyumer ng Meralco. Napupunta ang kalakhan sa bayad-utang.

Ani Reyes, nangongolekta ng VAT ang gobyerno para patuloy na makapangutang sa mga dayuhan.(PinoyWeekly)

Ang lihim ni Winston Garcia

June 6, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano/ Tarik Garcia

Hindi matapat sa publiko.

Ito ang ibinibintang ni Winston Garcia, general manager ng GSIS (Government Service Insurance System), sa pamilya Lopez na namumuno ng Meralco (Manila Electric Company). Tinatangka ng GSIS na makontrol ang Meralco, pinakamalaking distribyutor ng kuryente sa bansa, para mapababa umano ang labis-labis na singil nito sa kuryente.

Pero kung inililihim man ng mga Lopez ang abusadong paniningil nito, inililihim din naman ni Winston ang kanyang posibleng tunay na interes sa Meralco.

May koneskiyon ang pamilya Garcia sa Veco (Visayan Electric Company), pangalawang pinakamalaking distribyutor ng kuryente sa bansa. Malapit na alyado ni Pangulong Arroyo si Winston na tubong Cebu ang pamilya.

Nakadikit ang prominenteng mga miyembro ng pamilya Garcia sa Veco, na pag-aari ng pamilya Aboitiz. Nakabase rin sa Cebu ang mga Aboitiz, at tulad ng mga Garcia, malapit diumano sa Palasyo.

Dating legal counsel ng Veco si Jesus Garcia Sr., tiyo ni Winston. Humalili sa tiyo ni Winston ang kanyang pinsang si Jesus Garcia Jr. Ang pamangkin ni Jesus Garcia Jr. na si Jess Anthony N. Garcia ang kasalukuyang legal counsel ng Veco.

Samantala, umupo rin ang mga Garcia sa Board of Directors ng Vivant Corporation, nakalista sa Philippine Stock Exchange na holding company ng Veco. Si Jess Anthony N. Garcia ang kasalukuyang corporate investment officer at sekretarya ng Vivant.

(May dalawang grupo ng mga Garcia sa board ng Vivant. Hindi kadugo ng pamilya ni Winston ang mga Garcia na lahing Espanyol na kumokontrol sa board ng kompanya.)

“Niloloko ni Garcia ang publiko sa pamamagitan ng pagkukunwaring panig siyang walang interes na nagnanais lamang pababain ang singil sa kuryente ng Meralco. Sa totoo, may interes ang kanyang pamilya sa Veco, na makikinabang ang mga may-ari kapag nalusaw ang prankisa ng Meralco. Ang kanyang populistang retorika ay pagtatakip sa pandarambong ng mga alyado at kroni ni Arroyo,” ayon kay Jaime Paglinawan, tagapangulo ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Central Visayas.

Hindi umano malayong gamitin ni Garcia ang pensiyon ng mga kawani ng gobyerno para sa kapakanan ng kanyang pamilya at mga alyado sa pulitika at negosyo. Nagawa na niya ito noon.

Noong 2004, bilyun-bilyong piso ng pondo ng GSIS ang kinuha ni Garcia mula sa Land Bank of the Philippines na pag-aari ng gobyerno at inilipat sa pribadong Union Bank.

Iginawad din ni Garcia sa Union Bank ang multi-milyong pisong kontrata sa proyektong E-Card. Idineklara ng Commission on Audit na “illegal” ang nasabing kontrata.

Pag-aari ng pamilya Aboitiz ang Union Bank.

Samantala, nagpahayag ng pagtutol ang mga kawani ng gobyerno sa umano’y tiwaling pamamalakad ni Winstyon sa GSIS at pag-abandona nito sa tungkuling pangalagaan ang kanilang interes.

Sa ika-22 anibersaryo ng Courage (Confederation for the Unity Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees) noong Mayo 19, nagkaisa laban sa pamunuan ng GSIS ang mga empleyado ng National Food Authority, National Housing Authority, Bureau of Customs, Land Transportation Office, Department of Trade and Industry, National Broadcasting Network, Quezon City Hall, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Labor and Employment, Senado, at iba pang ahensiya ng gobyerno.

“Pinagsasamantalahan ng GSIS ang pondo ng mga manggagawa at ginagamit lamang sa pamumulitika,” ani Ferdinand Gaite, tagapangulo ng Courage.(PinoyWeekly)

Newks pushes gov’t-to-gov’t fertilizers’ importation

June 6, 2008

TO CURB the rising prices of fertilizers in the country, Bacolod Representative Monico “Newks” Puentevella has asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to initiate a government-to-government importation of fertilizers, initially Urea.

In his privilege speech at the House of Representatives, Puentevella has asked the DA to facilitate the importation of fertilizers with the funding to be provided by the Philippine Sugar Corporation (Philsucor). It may be augmented by the National Government, he added.

He said Philsucor will assume possession of the product and distribute it to the planters’ federations, who in turn, will sell the fertilizer to their member-farmers.

The lawmaker also proposed that the DA facilitates the first two shipments of about 25,000 metric tons per shipment and then establish reliable contracts with suppliers abroad.

The sugar industry would then take charge of the succeeding importations through Philsucor, Puentevella added.

Puentevella’s move was an offshoot to the worsening plight of the sugar industry that small farmers, especially in Negros, complained about the high prices of fertilizers.

Aside from fertilizers, the solon also joined a move calling all telecommunication companies in the country to include free text messaging as part of their basic services as well as the lifting of the expiration on prepaid cards.

He also suggested that telecom companies submit their own proposals that seek to alleviate the situation of their clients, who are already feeling the pinch of rising fuel and food prices.

In a related news, Puentevella said he was humbled when the House committee on good government deliberated on his bill that will investigate the approximately 11,000,000 textbooks and 300,000 teacher’s manuals worth about P518,000,000, bought and paid for by the Department of Education (DepEd) using the World Bank Social Expenditure Management Project 2 (SEMP2) loan proceeds starting 2006.

The textbooks, distributed to elementary students nationwide, turned out to have inconsistencies and errors that prompted DepEd to release a 21-page erratum entitled “Errata para sa Sibika 1-3 at HeKaSi 4-5 Batayang Aklat at Manwal ng Guro.” It was also reported the textbooks were of poor quality paper and bindings.

Puentevella is pushing for sanctions on the erring publisher or DepEd officials responsible for the defective and error-prone textbooks, bought and distributed nationwide, “to the detriment of the millions of elementary students using these books and the national government, which will be paying for the loan.”

The committee also decided to continue with the hearing to further deliberate the issue.

Meanwhile, Puentevella also defended House Bill 3957 in the committee on civil service and professional regulation, which seeks to limit the practice of cosmetic dermatology to licensed and qualified physicians.

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

My Take: Included in the “Senatoriables List” of the administration, Newks fired up his propaganda machinery, trying things to float his name up in the air.  This pspeech also intends to ‘court’ the support of the ‘asenderos’ in Negros.

RESTORE OIL INDUSTRY REGULATION TO ENSURE TRANSPARENT, REASONABLE PRICING

June 5, 2008

The recent announcement by local oil companies that they would need to increase oil prices by as much as P10 to P11 per liter highlights the urgency of reinstating regulation of the oil industry, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

IBON said that deregulation has not affected the domination of the three major oil companies (Shell, Petron and Chevron) of the local petroleum market. Instead, it has merely given the oil giants more room to manipulate pump prices since their transactions with their parent companies abroad have become even less transparent with price adjustments no longer subject to public hearings. The unregulated environment gives oil firms greater freedom to overprice and engage in transfer pricing.

The think-tank further pointed out that the recent P1.50 hike in pump prices implemented at the end of May was the largest hike since October 2001 when average retail prices went up by P1.20 per liter. It added that the oil companies are threatening even higher weekly hikes of P2 per liter allegedly to speed up recovery of their costs.

Data from the Department of Energy show that the three major oil players continue to control the bulk of the downstream oil market since the 60 new entrants that have entered the sector since 1998 accounted for an average of only 12% of total market share since the oil industry was deregulated.

IBON added that high world oil prices remain a result of the dominance of a few giant oil transnational companies – such as Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Texaco, Total and Exxon Mobile – over the global oil industry. Oil prices are pushed up further by unhindered speculation in global oil futures markets. The monopoly of the oil giants over the downstream and upstream levels of the industry makes them immune to the effects of supply and demand and allows them to dictate the prices at which they sell their products independent of changes in crude oil production. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

Row between Villafuerte, Gullas erupts

June 5, 2008

By Sammy Martin, Reporter

A squabble between the two biggest political parties in the country flared up during a closed-door meeting at the House of Representatives when Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas resigned from the powerful Commission on Appointments.

Gullas quit upon learning from his staff that he had been replaced as head of the House contingent to the appointments commission. The post had been vacated by Rep. Prospero Nograles, who was elected Speaker to replace Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. of Pangasinan.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte is being groomed to replace Gullas. The head of the House contingent automatically becomes the vice chairman of the commission.

Sources told The Manila Times that Gullas hurriedly went to an office in the House of Representatives armed with his resignation letter, The letter supposedly states that he was resigning not only as head of the House contingent but also as a member of the appointments commission.

The sources declined to identify the office.

Getting wind of Gullas’ move, members of the commission rushed to the office and tried to calm down the congressman who was allegedly talking at the top of his voice.

The sources said Lakas members managed to pacify the fuming Gullas, who, they added, looked pale.

Members of the House contingent are Representatives Rodolfo Albano 3rd, Rodolfo Plaza, Eduardo Zialcita, Carlos Lacson, Conrado Estrella 3rd, Abdullah Dimaporo, Jose Yap, Eileen Ermita Buhain, Emilou Taliño Mendoza and Joel Villanueva, the lone opposition representative.

A member of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) in the appointments commission, The Times sources said, tore the resignation paper of Gullas and assured him that he will stay as the head of the House contingent and that they will not allow him to be replaced.

Gullas said anybody can take his place but not Villafuerte, whom he classifies as a junior member of the contingent.

Villafuerte, the president of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), had refused to show up in meetings whose agenda is the merger of Lakas and Kampi. Lakas is the ruling coalition, of which Kampi is a member. President Gloria Arroyo founded Kampi.

Earlier Tuesday at the session hall, Albano approached Villafuerte, congratulating him, suggesting that members of the contingent are making moves to endorse him as Gullas’ replacement. Villafuerte thanked Albano for the compliments.

Villafuerte told The Times during a previous interview that the planned merger of Kampi and Lakas headed by Nograles will not materialize because of infighting among members of both parties in the local level.

He and Gullas failed to attend yesterday’s plenary.(ManilaTimes)

US denies ‘Joc-Joc’ asylum

June 5, 2008

Palace will not interfere in case, says Sec. Ermita

By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter

The US Board of Immigration Appeals has rejected the application for political asylum by a former Arroyo government official wanted in the Philippines in the case involving the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

The decision upholds an earlier ruling of the Chicago immigration court on the petition by former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Wednesday that Bolante’s troubles in the United States are a private, not public, matter. As such, Malacañang said Bolante will have to fight his own battles before the American judicial system.

The government of President Gloria Arroyo will not intervene in the Bolante case even if the former high official is extradited to the Philippines, Ermita added.

“Let him face whatever he has to face. He has to face it as a private person and the government will not meddle with it. We will not interfere in the disposition of a private person,” Ermita said.

Both the US Board of Immigration Appeal and a Chicago immigration court dismissed Bolante’s claims that he is in danger of persecution if he returns to the Philippines.

The former undersecretary has been tagged the main operator of the so-called fertilizer scam, which involved the alleged diversion of P728 million to allies of President Arroyo during the 2004 elections. There were unverified reports during the Senate probe that the diversion could have reached more than P1 billion.

When the Philippine Senate investigated the controversy, Bolante ignored subpoenas to appear and testify, and instead left the country for the United States. Upon arrival there, he was arrested for carrying a revoked visa.

The US Embassy in Manila cancelled the visa after the Senate blue-ribbon investigation named Bolante as the mastermind of the fertilizer scam.

Bolante reportedly tried but failed to bring his immigration case to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Ermita said Malacañang would just await the court processes now that Bolante’s petition for asylum has been denied.

Harry Roque, one of the Filipino lawyers going after Bolante, has confirmed that the former Cabinet member is still at Kenosha County Jail in Wisconsin.(ManilaTimes)

Fix GSIS before buying into MERALCO shares

June 4, 2008

TUGUEGARAO CITY – The employees association of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Region 2, recently called the attention of president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System to look into the situation that has been plaguing the GSIS before going into his plans to buy the Lopez shares in Meralco.

In a letter signed by Luthgarda S. Sibbaluca, DAR Employees Association president and all the officers and members of the association, they alleged that they are experiencing difficulties with the GSIS Tuguegarao City Branch.

“Although we can avail of the GSIS services, the net proceeds of our loans and benefits are inadequate due to the ‘systems failure’ in the computerization program the company,” the employees stated.

The employees also expressed dismay over the delayed posting of monthly premiums and loan amortization of their loans.

“We are prompt and accurate in our payments since these are automatically deducted from our salaries but we are wondering why your system can not upload these payments in time,” the employees said.

“What’s wrong with your system, or is there something fishy going on? they asked.

The DAREA members insisted that they should not be denied of the services of the GSIS since they are not remiss in paying their dues. # PIA Cagayan(NorthernDispatch)

ON THE HYPOCRISY OF PRES. ARROYO’S CALL TO LOWER TUITION RATES : Privilege Speech of Rep. Teddy Casiño, Bayan Muna

June 3, 2008

ON THE HYPOCRISY OF PRES. ARROYO’S CALL TO LOWER TUITION RATES

Privilege Speech

Rep. Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna Party-list)

14th Congress, House of Representatives (First Regular Session)

June 2, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to avail of the privilege hour to speak on the welfare of the millions of Filipino youth who are being deprived of their right to education.

Pasukan nanaman po, Mr. Speaker, at kinakabahan nanaman kaming mga magulang dahil tiyak na magtataas nanaman ng matrikula ang mga bata.

School is about to start and once again, we are saddened by reports that many higher education institutions or HEIs are about to increase their tuition and other school fees. This, even with the reality that the whole nation is suffering from the soaring prices of rice, oil and power, and other basic needs.

As if responding to every parent’s annual fear of another round of school fee hikes, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has issued an order for all state colleges and universities to freeze their tuition rates for the coming school year. She likewise made an appeal to all private education institutions to do the same.

Fine.

Normally, such pronouncements, by the President no less, would have been welcomed by this representation. After all, I am the principal author of a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on tuition fee increases. Also, since my entry into Congress, I have consistently fought against tuition fee increases especially in our state colleges and universities.

But Mr. Speaker, something about this recent populist pronouncement by the President leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And let me tell you why.

Unang-una, kwestyunable ang timing ng announcement ng Presidente. Ginawa po ito matapos ang pagpoproseso ng mga rate increases para sa darating na pasukan. Samakatuwid, tapos na po ang labanan, Mr. Speaker, nang nagsalita si Presidente. The fact is that the period for consultation and approval of tuition fee increases has long been finished, making the President’s appeal an empty piece of populist rhetoric.

But the hypocrisy of the presidential pronouncement goes deeper than that.

The fact is, it was the President herself who was instrumental in allowing schools to hike their tuition and other fees without limit and without fear of any sanction.

Allow me to quote an Inquirer report dated January 9, 2008:

“ MANILA , Philippines – Good news for owners and operators of private tertiary schools nationwide but bad news for students and parents.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently gave private educators the go-signal to lift the ceiling on tuition and other school fees earlier imposed by the government, “provided there would be consultations with students, as well as the parents,” top officials of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) quoted her as saying.

“Arroyo arrived at the decision after a series of meetings with CHED, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) and the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), among other groups.”

In other words, the President is saying one thing but doing the other: she is appealing for school owners not to raise fees while, on the other hand, assuring them that they can raise their fees, sky’s the limit. Iba ang salita, iba ang gawa, Mr. Speaker. It was due to the President’s intervention that the cap on school fee increases that the CHED tried to impose starting last year was lifted.

For the record, Mr. Speaker, let me inform you that during several hearings of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in the 13th Congress, we reiterated that CHED had the power and the mandate to regulate tuition and other school fees. In particular, I remember the vice chairperson of the committee, then Rep. Abayon, berating CHED officials for exempting schools from the mandatory consultation process as long as their fee increase was below the inflation rate. Members of the committee were of the strong opinion that this was illegal and patently unconstitutional.

Partly in response to Congress’ representations, CHED eventually amended its guidelines and procedures on increasing tuition and other school fees, also known as CHED Memorandum Order 14 of 2005. Through subsequent orders (CMO No. 15 s. 2005, CMO Nos. 05 and 42 s. 2006, and CMO No. 7 s. 2007), CHED imposed a cap on tuition and other school fee increases to within the prevailing inflation rate. It also reiterated the requirements for student consultations and the proper disbursement of the incremental proceeds of such fee increases among school facilities, teachers’ salaries and profits.

Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, nakinig sa atin ang CHED. It was one of those rare moments where the Executive branch actually listened to us. The cap on tuition increases and other amendments to CMO No. 14 were supposed to be implemented for school year 2007-2008.

However, on Feb. 19, 2007, in a speech before the biggest organization of private school owners, the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), then CHED Chair Carlito Puno announced the immediate and sudden suspension of CMO No. 14 and its amendments.

A day later, on Feb. 20, Puno issued an unnumbered memorandum to this effect and reinstated the older guidelines, CMO No. 13 series of 1998. The announcement and the ensuing unnumbered memo were maliciously issued a few days before the conclusion of campus consultations on school fee hikes.

We were all caught flat footed by this move, Mr. Speaker, especially since it was made too late in the day when summer vacation was about to start and the public was starting to be riveted by the election campaign. Nasalisihan po ang mga estudyante at mga miyembro ng Kongreso.

The reversion from CMO No. 14 to CMO No. 13, Mr. Speaker, essentially removed the cap on tuition and excluded miscellaneous and other school fees from the consultation process. In other words, it removed whatever clout there was that CHED and the students gained through CMO No. 14.

We later discovered that CHED’s actions were made at the behest of President Arroyo after she met with COCOPEA.

Let me quote a COCOPEA memo circular on the matter:

“Please be advised that after a meeting COCOPEA had with President Macapagal-Arroyo last week, the President took the initiative to order the creation of a review team…The review will also cover CHED Memorandum Orders No. 7, Series of 2007; No. 42, Series of 2006; and No. 14, Series of 2005. Hence, the suspension of these CMOs.”

The President’s orders and the subsequent cancellation of CMO No. 14 resulted in tuition increases of 6-20% in tuition and as much as 90% increases in other fees, including miscellaneous fees and the following nebulous charges: energy fee, sports development fee, testing materials fee, computer fee, library fee, test paper fee, audiovisual fee, aircon fee, insurance fee, late registration fee, ad infinitum, ad naseum.

Samakatuwid, Mr. Speaker, dahil sa kagagawan ni Pangulong Arroyo at ng CHED, nagatasan ng husto noong isang taon ang ating mga estudyante at kanilang mga magulang.

And this year will be no different because the same set of policies will prevail, with the President again meeting the school owners before making a belated and totally toothless appeal for them not to raise fees. Just two weeks ago, the CHED disclosed that 341 higher education institutions are seeking to increase their tuition this school year by 8-10%. This represents 19% of all HEIs nationwide.

Matapos tanggalan ng ngipin ang CHED para pigilan ang mga di makatarungang pagtaas ng matrikula, heto si Pangulong Arroyo, umaapila sa mga school owners na huwag magtaas ng matrikula. Ano ang tawag d’yan, Mr. Speaker? Hindi ba isang panggogoyo, isang panloloko? Isang malaking kahipokritahan?

Subalit hindi d’yan nagtatapos ang pagiging hipokrita ng Pangulo sa usaping ito.

Nanawagan siya sa mga SUC na huwag na muna magtaas ng tuition. Pero sa totoo lang, ano ba ang ginagawa ng gobyerno sa ating mga SUCs? Inaabandona, Mr. Speaker. Pinapabayaang magbulok at maglaho.

Sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo, lumiit ang share ng badyet ng edukasyon mula 17.4% noong 2001 hanggang 13.9% na lamang noong 2006. Bilang bahagi ng Gross Domestic Product, ito’y lumiit din mula 3.3% noong 2001 hanggang 2.19% ngayong taon.

Ramdam na ramdam ito sa mga SUCs. The budget allocation for SUCs represents 1.84 percent of the national budget for 2008, far behind the 2.74 percent allocation in 2007. Tuwing budget hearing, Mr. Speaker, ang mga presidente ng SUCs eh parang mga pulubi na nagmamakaawa sa atin para sa dagdag dahil sa sobrang liit ng kanilang tinatanggap. It is a fact that the nominal increase in the budget for SUCs this year is not enough even for shouldering the cost of additional expenditures due to inflation.

While the government boasts an additional budget for state collages and universities, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines , the largest public university in the country is suffering from a budget cut of more than six million pesos. In a glaring manifestation of the government’s abandonment of education, the University of the Philippines itself, the premiere state university, increased its tuition by 300% last year. Furthermore, other exorbitant fees continue to increase uncontrollably.

This whole scenario shows itself as a manifestation of the Arroyo government’s blatant disregard to the education sector and negligence to millions of Filipino youth.

This year’s budget allocation for the education sector represents just 2.19 percent of the Gross National Product, far behind the 6 percent of GNP as pegged by the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century.

Mr. Speaker, this is nothing less than gross negligence on the part of the government.

As a result of this prolonged negligence, our educational system, particularly public tertiary institutions, can accommodate only a small percentage of students who wish to get a college education leaving the liberalized and deregulated private sector, including diploma mills, wallowing in profits.

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, much as I would like to, there is not enough time to discuss Bayan Muna’s comprehensive critique on the educational system. What I would like to immediately address is the prospect of higher tuition and other fees for the coming school year.

Some proposals come to mind, Mr. Speaker. First, enough of the President’s hypocrisy and populist posturing. If she is really serious about lowering tuition and other school fees, she should allow CHED to impose a moratorium on fee increases in private and public tertiary schools. If not a moratorium, then at least a cap on increases should be imposed. At the same time, CHED should immediately issue guidelines for the refund of additional fees charged this year.

Second, the President should put her money where her mouth is. It is not enough to have a moratorium on fee increases in our SUCs. As important will be a substantial increase in their budgets. I expect that in the next budget hearings, the Executive will present a budget that increases the SUCs share by 30-50% of their existing budgets.

Third, Congress should immediately act on pending measures that seek to regulate tertiary education and ensure its affordability in order to guarantee the youth’s right to an accessible, if not free and quality education. The President should also certify these as urgent.

Thank you Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues.

Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy A. Casiño
Rm. 508, North Wing Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 931-5911

Assassination by Hired Killers Failed Twice

June 3, 2008

The Philippine government tried to get rid of Communist leader Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht. The Philippine government sent hired killers to The Netherlands to kill the Communist Sison. Details are coming out now

BY FOLKERT JENSMA
NRC.NEXT
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7,2008

The Hague.  They stayed in the Amsterdam budget tourist hotel Tourist Inn at the Spui [downtown Amsterdam], the members of the Filipino ‘hit team’ which came to The Netherlands in October 1999 in order to perpetrate a political murder. Their target was Jose Maria Sison, the rather elder Filipino Communist leader who has resided in Utrecht as an exile since 1987. Two men, with several thousand dollars cash and travelers  checks. They had landed in Frankfurt and travelled by train to Amsterdam.  There they bought two prepaid mobile cards and rented a car at Avis.

But the assassination of Sison was not committed. A second attempt with a second team, a few months later, also failed. The aspirant-killers first had difficulty in finding Sison. When they had found out his home, office and routes, they almost came into action twice. One time against the wrong person.  another time they got afraid and withdrew because Sison was walking, holding a child. Their rented car was also broken into – luggage gone. They gave a notification of this to the local police because of the insurance.

The killing was supposed be carried out with a knife and an axe. But it took so long  The teams lost courage, felt literally cold in The Netherlands and they got worried about home. They also found that they were conspicuous. The Utrecht people walked around in the cool spring weather just in T-shirts. They had thick jackets. And they had to hide therein the axe. Why did Manila anyway want that it had to be done with a knife? A real gun, that’s what they wanted!

The details come from the interrogation conducted by the Nationale Recherche [National Criminal Investigation] in the end of February 2008 at the American army base, Clark, in the Philippines with Jose Ramos (53). This person stayed for weeks over seven years ago in The Netherlands with the objective to kill Sison. He dropped out because he heard that back home he had been put on record as “deserted” [AWOL “away without leave”]. That made him afraid. He feared that the secret service would kill him after the assassination.

Sison himself had in the meantime found out about everything. His sources in Manila had informed him by letter. And he gave a detailed notification to the Utrecht police. This latter warned the AIVD [General Intelligence and Security Service], and after this everything remained still. No one was arrested. “Too few reference points,” says the Public Prosecutor’s Office later.

Until last week. Then the current lawyer of Sison, Michiel Pestman, came back from vacation. He found six new folders with testimonies on his desk. It looked like “the nth installment” in the procedure of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to get Sison in jail for a double murder in the Philippines. For against Sison there are the necessary complaints (see sidebar). But in the dossier there was a little gift: the curious declaration of Ramos – who appeared to incriminate himself, and so delivered the first proof that the attack [assassination attempt] earlier was real.

Ramos had kept the hotel bill and gave this willingly to the Nationale Recherche. The witness Ramos had contact with the [Philippine] secret service, from whom he received money and travel papers. And thus there was a connection with the Philippine government. Even a failed attempt at political assassination, according to Pestman, is a violation of the Dutch sovereignty by a foreign power.  Since when does a friendly country send death squads, to Utrecht, by the way?

The new information is for him also a chance to give a new turn to the Sison case. This Ramos and his travel companions must be extradited to The Netherlands. Or at least, in his estimation, they should be prosecuted in the Philippines. The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that the assassination was not carried out and thus it is not criminally punishable. But Pestman rejects the juridical argument of ‘voluntary withdrawal” [“vrijwillige terugtred”].  A ‘defective attempt’ remains criminally punishable if it is a grave crime which is committed ‘in association’. That was the case here. He now demands criminal prosecution.

In the dossier there was still something crazy. In one of the murders of which Sison is suspect, the police have discovered another suspect. A certain Edwin Garcia, also with connections to the secret service, who was supposed to also be in Utrecht. This man is supposed to have been recognized at the assassination of a renegade member of the party of Sison, a certain Kintanar. This person had gone over to the government side and appears to have organized the attack in Utrecht.

In that way, the ‘James Bond film’ was complete. The killing of Kintanar in the Philippines  could have been organized in order to put the blame on Sison. Sison is supposed to then have a double motive. Revenge against a traitor from one’s own circle who also tried to kill him in Utrecht.

Did Sison really do it or was he caught? There is no concrete proof for this. Only indications. Pestman points to official Philippine requests to The Hague to have Sison prosecuted. The suspicion against Garcia precisely takes the burden off his client. Just like the attack [assassination attempt] in Utrecht, it proves that the Philippine state wants to go very far to put Sison out of the way. However, the Public Prosecutor’s Office sees no connection between the cases.

Pestman calls the whole case a “stinking game” [“onwelriekend spel”]. Pestman is still making complaints against all the steps that the Public Prosecutor’s Office takes against Sison. Up to now, he is declared correct by the judges.  Against Sison there were insufficient serious complaints to seriously consider him a suspect. Pestman thinks that the case of the state is so weak that he would consider an interim dismissal disappointing. He prefers most a complete acquittal.

On June 10 the judge will issue a ruling on his complaint against the ‘notice of further prosecution’. Depending on that, the spokesman of the national office of the prosecutor says, “we are again evaluating the case”.

Sison on the EU-terror list

Jose Maria Sison causes a headache to the US and the Philippines already for decades. Since last year, the national office [of the Public Prosecutor] in Rotterdam tried to get Sison behind bars for the killing of two renegade members of his party in the Philippines.

The national office acknowledges that Sison was not in the Philippines during the time of the killings and that he has not spoken with the actual perpetrators. But because of his leading political role, it finds Sison to be a ‘functional perpetrator’ [‘functioneel dader’].

The Nationale Recherche, with American and Philippine support, carried out extensive investigation in the Philippines. Sison is since 2002 on the US and EU terror list. His bank account was blocked.

The EU Court of First Instance, part of the European Court of Justice, decided in 2007, that the listing on the terror list is unjust. The Council of Ministers however keeps him [on the list]. Sison was refused asylum in The Netherlands, but is tolerated because he cannot be expelled. Posted by Bulatlat

* This article is an unofficial translation sent to Bulatlat of an article that was published in a Dutch news magazine NRC.NEXT May 30, 2008.

As I See It : Neal Cruz (PDI)

June 2, 2008

Ban fake-journalist-smugglers

MANILA, Philippines – It is good that President Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered a revamp of the Bureau of Customs. For as long as the same people are there, smuggling will continue in our ports of entry, no matter whom you place there as customs commissioner. The old operators will just run circles around him.

One of the first things that the new customs commissioner should do is make the customs area in the South Harbor and the airport strictly off limits to tabloid operators. Do you know that there are more reporters covering the airport or Port Area than those covering Malacañang or Congress? And yet do you see many stories on the airport and customs in the newspapers and broadcast media? And do you know that there are more tabloids in the customs area than there are in the whole of Manila? These tabloids have a print run of only 1,000 copies each (the minimum order in a printing press) and are given away free in the customs area, just enough to be seen by the customs people. And they are used merely to intimidate and extort from customs personnel so their activities will not be exposed.

Those “reporters” are not really legitimate journalists but operators of smugglers who act as escorts and fixers. Most of them have identification cards of tabloids. They are what are derisively called “hao siao,” a Chinese term meaning “fake” or “impostor.” And the bigger the ID the more fake they are. A big ID is a dead giveaway that the holder is not legit.

Some of these smugglers even manage to get themselves elected as officers of press groups to give themselves legitimacy and more clout. And the customs people, including the customs commissioner, are intimidated by the title as an officer of this or that press club, not realizing that the legit members of those clubs abhor them and want to kick them out.

And here is an irony: a member of the anti-smuggling task force is suspected as a smuggler himself. Can you beat that?

One of the more notorious smugglers is an officer of a press association. The new customs commissioner should watch the passenger extension terminal, formerly the interline baggage room or IBR, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). That’s where his illegal shipments are coursed every day, which sometimes include prohibited drugs. No passenger passes the passenger extension terminal, only his shipments. One carousel is assigned to the shipments of this “hao siao.” Many of the airport personnel guards, airport police, customs and MIAA personnel—including some of the legit reporters—are in his payroll.

Legal importations usually pass through the arrival area, then taken to the warehouse where they will be claimed by the owner. He has to show a baggage declaration claim, a passport, plane ticket and other documents before they can be released after the taxes are paid. It is the forwarder who then delivers the cargo to the owner. There has to be a baggage declaration on which to base the taxes due, the complete name and address of the owner. The baggage has to be examined to determine the value and has to be accompanied by the passenger.

But in the case of the shipments for this “hao siao,” they just arrive, without an accompanying passenger, at the IBR. Instead of the name of the consignee, the cargo is merely marked with a pentel pen so that when it is examined and contraband, such as drugs, are found, the owner cannot be traced.

When the cargo arrives, the two fixers of this “hao siao” arrive to claim them. The customs personnel will then prepare the baggage declaration with fictitious names and addresses.

Challenge the customs personnel assigned to the IBR to produce the list of consignees, the baggage declarations supposedly surrendered to the cashier, then check the names and addresses there. You will find that they are fictitious.

Another thing: The weight of the cargo is underdeclared so that the minimum tax is less. The money saved is used to bribe some of the airport personnel.

This person I am referring to has been in the smuggling business for the last 25 years, so he already has a network of operators and protectors there. Lately, he found out that being a member of media gives him more clout among customs personnel, so he put up his own fly-by-night tabloids and had himself elected as an officer of a press association.

Where did I get my information? From the customs insiders themselves. If the customs commissioner is really serious about cleaning the customs bureau, he should ask some of the operators themselves confidentially. They know who is who there. A “hao siao” reporter of a tabloid there is immediately suspect. Why would he be there when there is no important news to be gathered there except smuggling? But do you read any story about smuggling in customs in the tabloids?

My advice to the customs commissioner: Don’t be intimidated by the proliferation of “reporters” and “columnists” of tabloids in the airport and customs bureau. Most of them are fakes. Even if they claim to be an officer of this or that press club, they are not supported by the legitimate press. In fact, they are hated by the genuine ones. The sooner you kick them out of there, the better your image will be in the legitimate press.

* * *

I have been passing through the concrete Carlos P. Garcia Street inside the University of the Philippines campus every day going to Katipunan Avenue. There is nothing wrong with it. But for the last few days, workers of a contractor have been tearing up the concrete obviously to pave it again. What gives? This is a waste of public funds.

It is a known fact that when there is money for the repair of a street, the repair job is given to a contractor even when no repair is needed. That is to give the job to the contractor so that he can kick some of the money back to the public official concerned. Is this what is happening here?

ZTE lunch was ‘turning point’ — De Venecia

June 2, 2008

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:53:00 06/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The lunch hosted by executives of ZTE Corp. of China for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Shenzhen in November 2006 was the “turning point” for the government policy of building a National Broadband Network (NBN), former Speaker Jose de Venecia said over the weekend.

De Venecia said that before the lunch tendered by the Chinese telecom executives, Ms Arroyo was for in favor of undertaking the NBN through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme which would not have cost the Philippine government anything.

“But after the golf game, during lunch, it changed,” De Venecia said in an interview.

De Venecia was with Ms Arroyo’s party during that visit to China. The meeting with ZTE executives for a round of golf and lunch in Shenzhen was kept secret by Malacañang.

Asked if by “changed” he meant that the project would no longer be a BOT undertaking, the Pangasinan lawmaker said: “Yes. It was the turning point.”

ZTE eventually won the contract through a government-to-government deal that stipulated that China would lend the Philippines the money for the project. But the project was cancelled after the Senate opened an inquiry into reports of bribes and kickbacks in the $329-million deal.

Timing not right

De Venecia, who was ousted from the House leadership earlier this year after his son—a rival bidder for the project—linked the President’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo to the NBN deal, gave no more information about the lunch meeting.

The Pangasinan lawmaker said he was still not ready to take the stand before the Senate blue ribbon committee to finish the story of that secret lunch meeting.

He said he had just recovered from the flu and would undergo a medical checkup this week to make sure he is in top shape physically when he finally decides to “tell all” about the ZTE-NBN deal.

He also reiterated his worries about the timing of his testimony and said it may be prudent to wait until the crisis brought about by the high cost of fuel and food has somehow eased.

Opposition leaders, among them former President Joseph Estrada, have expressed impatience over De Venecia’s hesitation in talking to the Senate.

Estrada, in a phone interview Saturday night, said De Venecia would have to brace himself for the backlash of his testimony, but he should testify “if he is serious about his own advocacy of a moral revolution.”

Senate President Manuel Villar had hinted that De Venecia could find the tables turned against him once he takes his seat at the Senate committee hearing. Nobody can stop any senator from asking De Venecia about his involvement in contracts other than the ZTE-NBN deal, Villar said.

In the end, the decision on whether or not to testify lies with De Venecia. “He knows what will happen or what will not happen more than anyone of us,” Villar said in an interview over dzBB ratio.

’I’ve nothing to hide’

De Venecia’s testimony was sought after pictures taken by a member of the party showed him with Ms Arroyo playing golf in Shenzhen with persons who were presumably ZTE officials.

De Venecia, however, dismissed insinuations he was delaying his testimony before the Senate because he was afraid the inquiry would lead to other controversial deals, some of which have been linked to him.

“I can’t wait to explain these deals. I have nothing to hide,” De Venecia said.

But De Venecia again stressed the need for “proper timing.”

Threat of martial law

He warned of the administration turning to martial law if a highly charged political issue worsened the economic situation.

“I do not wish to add to the problems facing our government and our people. And I certainly do not wish to create a political crisis that could provoke a declaration of martial law in any manner or form,” De Venecia said in a statement.

“I know that we Filipinos are used to living on the brink of political crisis but the national and global situation right now may be even more serious than we ourselves imagine,” he added.

De Venecia said that the ZTE-NBN controversy may prevent the country’s political and economic leaders from dealing with the steeply rising cost of living “in unity.”

Bracing for protracted war

On his concerns over his health, De Venecia said that he needed to be assured he is in top shape physically to take on what he believes will be a lengthy process.

“(In April), I was brought unconscious to a hospital in Doha, Qatar, after I delivered a speech and before my flight to South Africa (for the International Parliamentary Union conference). I have to fully regain my health,” De Venecia said.

“I have decided not to speak out on the ZTE scandal at this particular time. For I believe that when I testify it will be the beginning of a protracted and long drawn-out conflict and I must stay the course,” he added.

Prelate hits plan to submerge brgys for electric source

June 1, 2008

BALOI, Lanao del Norte, May 30, 2008—The bishop of the Prelature of Marawi criticized the proposal of the National Power Company (NAPOCOR) to submerge seven barangays here mostly ricelands to give way to its electric project.

Bishop Edwin Dela Peña said the proposal is compromising the welfare of the people as it may result to loss of livelihood and displacement.

He added that on top of development, the primary concern must be the wellbeing of the people and not solely the interest of progress.

Dela Peña said that the Ranaw Pat A’ Pangampong composed of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Iligan City and Marawi City is against the proposal to swamp under water the 7 barangays of Baloi.

Baloi is a 4th class municipality in the province of Lanao del Norte. It is the home of the Agus IV Hydroelectric Powerplant located in Barangay Nangka, which is 18 kilometers from Iligan City,

The Agus IV is the first underground hydroelectric plant in Mindanao and the third in the Philippines located 120 meters below ground face. The plant is said to be sufficient to power a city more than 12 times the size of Iligan City or to run 20 cement factories.

Dela Peña told CBCPNews that he is supporting the clamor of the people here to prevent the implementation of the project.

He added that by submerging the 7 barangays it is also tantamount to destroying the seat of power of the Sultanate of Baloi.

The proposal to submerge the 7 barangays is intended to augment the power supply needed for Mindanao.

“If we allow this project to continue we are tolerating the massive destructions to our lands and communities,” said Dela Peña.

Dela Peña said that he is not against development especially if it will benefit the people but if progress will lead to destruction then the Church will not tolerate it.

“We acknowledge the need for development but in such a way that it will not prejudice the lands, lives and livelihood of our people,” he clarified.

However, Dela Peña said that if the people will soon consent to the proposal then he will respect the decision of the denizens in the communities. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)


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