Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

(Editorial Cartoon) The Prayer

November 23, 2008


It even scandalizes Him! Harharhar!

(Editorial Cartoon) The Feast

November 23, 2008



(Editorial Cartoon) The Call

November 23, 2008

the-callNow, now.  Its not easy to forget, you see…

(Editorial Cartoon) Senate Coup, Senate Change

November 23, 2008

checkmateThe Administration wins it all!

Government neglect pushed Bakun folk into allowing mining exploration

November 18, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — The longing for proper access roads to and from their farms and vegetable gardens pushed some residents of barangay Gambang here to give their consent to the mine exploration project by Royalco Philippines.

During the turn-over ceremonies at the Tingbaoen-Galisen Elementary School where Royalco donated some 450 bags of portland cement for the concreting of the basketball court pavement, Yugo elder Willie Calixto said they had made several requests for the improvement of their dirt roads. “The provincial government has not prioritized the road funds for the said barangay,” he said.

In his speech, Paul Bagano, representing Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, said barangay officials keep hounding the governor’s office for support to improve their road but there are no funds so that they keep returning to Gambang in vain.

The community aspires to open a new farm-to-market road from sitio Sookan to Balite and Liwang, which was reportedly programmed as a provincial road at the time of the exploration by Trans-Asia Mining Corporation in the early 1970’s.

Calixto said the road project was abandoned when the company left in 1978. “Adu a complain ti tao idi,” (People complained of many things) he said, citing the requests for piped water from the source to the residential homes and gardens, among others.

No new road in MOA

The Memorandum of Agreement the community entered into with Royalco in January cited only road maintenance of the existing road from sitio Sookan to sitio Gambang Proper, and Kil-ingan in sitio Taneg. It also included the rehabilitation of the road connecting sitio Liwang and Nasungyoan and the rehabilitation of two existing footbridges in sitios Gaddang and Labilab.

No construction of any new road was mentioned in the said MOA, however.

Another elder from Yugo Alex Soriano said the diamond drilling done in his farm paved the construction of a dirt road. Drilling equipment had to be brought down to the drilling site that required the opening of an access road.

The approved exploration work involves diamond drilling in several sampling sites in four sitios of Gambang, namely Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. It also includes the gathering of rock samples along the river or on the road.

River stones, rocks and drilling core samples are then tested for mineral content in the core house in Sinipsip. Assay is done in Metro Manila, according to Engr. Ruben Quitoriano, Royalco senior mining engineer. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Bishops hit for encouraging revolt

November 16, 2008

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:11:00 11/16/2008

MANILA — Some 50 youngsters, clad in black shirts, marched from the Manila Cathedral to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ office in Intramuros, Manila on Sunday, to denounce what they considered as calls by some bishops for a revolt against the Arroyo government.

In black shirts and veils, the protesters, who said they belonged to the Coalition against Destabilization, portrayed CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, Lingayan-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Bishops Joel Baylon, Socrates Villegas and Jose Sorra as devils.

They likened the prelates to the four horsemen of the apocalypse for allegedly encouraging a bloody revolt against the government.

The young protesters dared the bishops to leave the safe confines of the pulpit before meddling in the affairs of government and calling for a revolt.

Earlier, the bishops issued a joint statement calling on the people to prepare for the setting up of a new government now, saying the Arroyo government was hopelessly corrupt.


My Take:

Historically, the church has launched some witchhunt campaign against individuals who profess progressive ideas.  Some of them victims were literally burned to ashes.

Now, the Philippine Catholic Church leaders are the ones under attack.  And the perpetrators are using youngsters now to advnce their devilish act.

It’s sad to note however that corrupt church leaders and lay members is too many for the five good bishops.  They are now being isolated by the modern Fray Botods of the Philippines.

Editrial Cartoon: (Bolante Case) Guarding Jocjoc

November 12, 2008


In the Philippines, Prosecution as Tool for Persecution

November 12, 2008

Political activists in the Philippines do not only have to contend with the seemingly never-ending assassinations of their colleagues. Lately, according to them, the Arroyo regime has resorted to filing criminal charges left and right against activists, in some cases bringing those arrested to areas in the country where political activism is weak or nonexistent, such as Oriental Mindoro, apparently so that they are deprived of crucial support from their family and colleagues.

According to Bayan, the country’s largest leftist group, 30 activists from the Southern Tagalog region alone already have warrants of arrests. They are specifically targeted because the regime considers the region a hotbed of the Communist insurgency.

Condemnations have been expressed (here, here, here, here and here) against what the activists consider as an intensification of the regime’s campaign against political dissent. (

Labor Migration in the Philippines: A Dangerous Doctrine

November 12, 2008

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment.

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

If the state policy making and legislative agenda do not change course, the whole nation will wake up one day to find that remittances accumulated through off-shore migration or labor exportation have become government’s No. 1 pillar of economic sustainability. Right now, foreign trade and investment – steered by neo-liberal globalization – and reliance on overseas development assistance are the first two pillars, followed by the export of Filipino labor. The state policy of globalization as specified by privatization, liberalization, deregulation, and labor-only contracting binds the three major pillars together.

Labor migration has become the safety valve to the country’s unemployment crisis and a major source of foreign exchange: It has surged way past the domestic job market as the remaining option for many Filipinos. In 2000 alone, more than 800,000 Filipinos were deployed abroad while only less than 200,000 were effectively added to the domestic labor market.(1) As unemployment has worsened under the Arroyo administration compared to the past 50 years some 3,000 Filipinos leave the country every day for overseas jobs – or a total of more than 1 million every year. With remittances growing by the year – 14.4 billion US dollars in 2007 constituting 10 percent of the country’s GDP – the government target is to increase labor migration to 2 million by 2010.(2) And the government is determined to meet the target: From January to April this year there were 516,466 migrant workers deployed thus raising the daily departure to 4,314 from last year’s 3,000.

In fact remittances sent by overseas Filipinos have outstripped both foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development assistance (ODA) which have declined in the past several years. FDI was 2.93 billion US dollars in 2007 but minus payments to loans the actual investment inflows fell by 69.3 percent to only 341 million US dollars. Last year’s 14.4 billion US dollars remittances is equal to 25 percent of the total ODA received by the Philippines – that is, in 20 years or from 1986-2006 (39.9 billion US dollars).

In general, last year global foreign remittances already totaled thrice the amount of aid given by donor countries to developing nations: 300 billion US dollars against 104 billion US dollars . No wonder labor migration is now being trumpeted by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations as a centerpiece program for developing economies.

For a government whose economic policy is subordinated to bitter policy prescriptions of the IMF and WB and adherence to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Arroyo regime’s agenda to make labor migration as a major source of government income received a boost from no less than UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Speaking before the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) on Oct. 29 in Manila, Ban Ki-moon, who is also South Korea’s former foreign minister, hailed migration as “a tool to help lift us out the (current global) economic crisis …(where) countries can draw the greatest possible development benefits.”

A model for migration

Organizers of GFMD chose Manila as the forum venue on account of the Philippines’ being a role model for labor migration among developing countries and chiefly because of the remittances accruing from foreign employment. Of some 8.2 million Filipinos(3) living and working in more than 193 countries/territories around the world, 43 percent are permanent immigrants while the rest or 4.7 million are temporary or contract workers. The Philippines is one of the leading sources of migrant labor in the world market. But it tops in the deployment of caregivers and domestics, 90 percent of them women, as well as in nurses, seafarers (30 percent of the world supply), and other medical workers and professionals.

Hypocritically since the Marcos years, the government denies the existence of a labor export policy. What it cannot hide however is the existence of a government infrastructure developed since the Marcos years that gives prime attention to the export of Filipino workers and professionals. This infrastructure promotes and processes out-migration, exacts – extorts, if you will – various exorbitant fees from outgoing OFWs, accredits recruitment agencies, provides skills training and immigration lectures, and supposedly earmarks benefits for the migrant workers and their families. This bureaucracy, which is headed by the President, includes the labor department’s Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with its office of migrant affairs and various Philippine Labor Offices (POLOS) based in many countries.

The government also sends several high-level missions every year to market Filipino labor abroad while job fairs for overseas employment are constantly held at home. Before it hosted the GFMD, Arroyo officials joined the first annual Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration (TFMI) held last July in Germany. Last month, President Gloria M. Arroyo signed into law the controversial Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which increases the number of Filipino nurses and caregivers deployable to Japan in exchange for relaxing restrictions to the latter’s exports and investments in the country.

No domestic economy

The promotion of labor out-migration is driven by the fact that the country does not have a viable domestic economy to speak of – an economy that generates adequate jobs to its people. Despite government land reform, 70 percent of agricultural land remains in the hands of landlords leaving the country’s millions of farmers unproductive and without a stable income. Instead of basic industries, what the country has are globally-integrated assembly lines or repackaging plants that exploit labor with low wages and lack of job security because of government’s labor contracting policy.

Moreover, labor wages are frozen low in order to attract foreign investment. It is the same policy that government promotes abroad to market Filipino skills in the form of caregivers, construction workers, and other workers. Filipino seafarers are preferred by international shipping companies because the government tolerates the low wages paid them even if monthly benchmark salaries are higher.

Attribute all these to government’s adherence to neo-colonial and now neo-liberal policies which open the country’s weak economy to unrestricted foreign trade and investment threatening not only the productive livelihoods of many Filipinos but also resulting in the shutdown of small industries. Neo-liberal policies exacerbate poverty and unemployment and are generally counter-productive in terms of building a self-sustaining economy and giving jobs.

Epic proportions

With some 4 million jobless Filipinos and another 12 percent underemployed, unemployment under Arroyo has worsened – in epic proportions since the last 50 years. Thus out-migration is a safety valve to the unemployed, including thousands of professionals – the last exit from a country that is about to implode in a social unrest. Labor out-migration has also become a political tool of sorts used by the regime to arrest a growing restlessness – if not discontent – among the people against a corrupt and weak government for its inability to provide jobs and a better future for its people. Yet while its economic management increasingly relies on foreign remittances the government has not seriously taken steps to safeguard the rights of OFWs and improve their labor conditions. For instance, of 193 destination countries for Filipino workers the country has only a handful of bilateral labor agreements.

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment. What government cannot provide it sells in the world market to help sustain the economies of advanced countries – that bear constant crisis anyway – and the domestic needs of their ageing populations. But this is dangerous, and not only because even before the government would take this extreme option the whole economy would have collapsed. It will erode the urgency for drastic policy reform and new governance and it will calm the people into complacency and defeatism. Or it can be used by the government to evade comprehensive policy reform that would make the economy more responsive to the basic social and economic rights of the people.

But in the first place what can we expect from a government that persists in the doctrine established by previous regimes embedding economic policies to global, transnational business perspectives? Instructive at this point is a critique of the GFMD by the parallel International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR)(4) last week: The GFMD and the UN secretary general’s pro-migration declaration “arose in the midst of the worsening world economic crisis – where far more advanced…countries are fighting their way out of this crisis even as they retain their…control and power, while poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment continue to aggravate the lives of peoples of Third World countries.”


End notes

(1) S.P. Go, “Remittances and International Labor Migration: Impact on the Philippines,” Metropolis Inter-Conference Seminar on Immigration and Homeland, May 9-12, 2002, Dubrovnik.

(2) Migrant labor remittances do not include those brought home directly by vacationing Filipinos or by door-to-door transactions, thus the total remittances could be more. In 2007, it is estimated to be as much as $18 billion.

(3) According to the government Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2008). Other estimates put the number at 10 million in nearly 197 countries.

(4) Held also in Manila on Oct. 28-30, 2008, the IAMR was organized by Migrante International together with the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), IBON Foundation, and other groups.

Body of Lies

November 12, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

Ever since the United States sent its troops to the Philippines in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Filipino people have been fed the line that the Americans are here either to help the people of Mindanao through humanitarian projects or to help train the Philippine military combat terrorism. The US troops have stayed in the country for so long now that not only have we lost count of exactly how many of them have remained – for all practical purposes, the Americans have set up camps in Mindanao. We know so little else about what they do here except some morsels of information contained in the occasional press release from the US embassy about medical missions and such.

Meanwhile, Filipino officials, particularly those belonging to the political opposition, have either lost interest in knowing exactly what the Americans are up to down south or they, too, had bought the line that all those undetermined number of troops, all those millions of dollars spent since 2002, are so the people of Basilan and Sulu can enjoy potable water or have their cleft lip fixed.

There had been assertions, of course, that there’s more to the presence of the US troops in Mindanao than meets the eye. Focus on the Global South, an international NGO, maintained, for instance, that the Americans have been engaged in an “offensive war” in Mindanao. Leftist groups, naturally, have been calling for the US troops’ pullout, particularly after the Americans suddenly sprouted everywhere — from Basilan, they moved to Sulu then to the Lanao provinces and God knows where else. And the usual line was, of course, they were on humanitarian or medical missions.

Perhaps the first real glimpse of the true nature of the US military’s presence in the south was the mission in 2002 that led to the rescue of Gracia Burnham, the American missionary, who, together with her husband Martin and several others, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 2001. The group has been linked to al Qaeda.

And today, The New York Times reported that the US military has used, since 2004, a “broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.”

“These military raids typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.”

The paper also reported about operations that reminded me of Body of Lies, the movie starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo diCaprio that was shown here recently. “In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.”

The New York Times report tells us not to believe whatever the US and the Philippine governments have been telling us since this “war on terror” began. Although the Philippines was not mentioned in the report, it is not difficult to imagine that we are one of the “other countries” where the US had launched these secret attacks.

If anything, this should give politicians a reason to ascertain exactly what the US is doing in Mindanao. As this report indicates, a strong argument can be made that this American presence may have violated Philippine laws.

If the US military can have its way in countries that are less friendly to Washington – Pakistan, for instance – how much more in the Philippines where Americans are given far greater access, whose people bestow on them a tremendous amount of trust that they probably will not find elsewhere?

Carlos H. Conde is a journalist based in Manila.

Militants reel from gov’t lawsuits

November 12, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:56:00 11/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Militant organizations are reeling from the legal offensive allegedly employed by the Arroyo administration in place of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of political activists.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores, managing counsel of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), said Monday that 72 activists and sectoral leaders were charged with the March 2006 ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) of policemen in Oriental Mindoro.

Of the 72 accused, 35 were charged with murder and frustrated murder, Pastores said.

They include Remigio Saladero Jr., the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a voluntary organization of human rights lawyers in the country.

Saladero and four other political activists are detained at the Calapan City Jail and will be arraigned Wednesday.


Pastores said the PILC will file a Motion to Cancel Arraignment and Motion to Quash/Recall Warrants of Arrest and Motion to Dismiss the cases.

In addition to the 72, the human rights group Karapatan said 27 leaders and members of various progressive organizations in the Southern Tagalog region were implicated in the Aug. 2 bombing and burning of a cell site in Lemery, Batangas.

Two of the group’s officials, Southern Tagalog secretary general Doris Cuario and Batangas coordinator Dina Capetillo, were among the accused.

In a statement, Karapatan said it was “outraged by the recent legal offensive of the Arroyo administration against the legal democratic organizations particularly in Southern Tagalog.”


Karapatan blamed the government’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), headed by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, for the alleged fabricated charges.

Ironically, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Philip Alston has recommended the abolition of the IALAG, Karapatan said.

Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a recent interview that the bombardment of cases against militant organizations was aimed at crippling the groups.

Enriquez said having scores of militant leaders in jail is in effect “demobilizing” their organizations.

She said she has asked the Commission on Human Rights to look into the matter.

12 armed men raid St. Scholastica

November 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:30:00 11/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Twelve men wearing Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) uniforms raided before dawn Friday a college in Malate, Manila and grabbed guns and communications equipment from stunned security guards.

The men, clad in camouflage pants and armed with high-powered guns, entered at around 1:25 a.m. the St. Scholastica’s College campus at the corner of P. Ocampo and Leon Guinto Streets.

Reports by the Manila Police District Mobile Patrol Unit (MPD-MPU) revealed that the raiders were aboard two vehicles: a black Toyota Revo (XKL-257) and another vehicle that was not identified.

Elvis Condez, security officer in charge, told police investigators they were surprised by the arrival of the “SWAT men” who quickly disarmed the guards on duty.

Condez said the men took two caliber .9 mm pistols, two caliber .38 revolvers, four cellular phones and a handheld radio, then left through Gate 4 on Estrada Street, headed in the direction of South Superhighway.

A ranking official of the MPD who requested anonymity told Inquirer (parent company of that the group simply intended to take the firearms.

“The group could be stocking up on firearms for a future heist,” the official said. He said they could have targeted the school because they had anticipated little resistance from the security guards.

Members of the MPD are conducting follow-up operations and have alerted other police units to intercept the Toyota Revo.

The Inquirer tried to get the side of the school on the heist but calls made to St. Scholastica’s College were unanswered, except for a recorded voice message saying all line operators were busy. A television evening news report, however, said the school would make a statement after an investigation.

MPD Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) head Chief Insp. Dominador Arevalo told Inquirer that his men at the theft and robbery section of Station 9 were not allowed to enter the school initially because of an ongoing meeting of officials.

Arevalo said theft and robbery section head Chief Insp. Benigno Macalindong went to the school to look into the robbery but was among those who were prevented from entering the building.


My Take:

I see another scenario-making here.

1. Dry run to copy NPA “agaw-armas actions” and label it in the future as the NPA’s handiwork.

2. Pure harassment-terrorism — Jun Lozada is being supported and shielded by the Nuns of St. Scholastica.  St. Scholastica Nuns are popularly known to be socially aware and is unhesitant to stand up for the good of the poor.

3. Maybe a future reference to any militarist plan to augment its forces in Metro Manila.

I hope Im wrong.

Mike Arroyo at St. Luke’s Hospital But not for Bolante, he says

October 30, 2008

By Thea Alberto
First Posted 10:53:00 10/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo dropped by the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon but not to visit former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante who is also confined there.

The First Gentleman said he was at the hospital for his regular physical therapy session, following an angioplasty operation last year. He said his sessions were usually Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We’re friends but we have not yet talked. We haven’t seen each other yet,” he said in Filipino, when asked whether he would visit Bolante, the alleged mastermind in the transfer of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2004 elections.

Arroyo, who was seen at about 7:30 a.m., left three hours later.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia Jr. also confirmed that the First Gentleman did not visit Bolante,

Balajadia was reacting to text messages which circulated Thursday soon after the President’s spouse went to St. Luke’s for his regular physical therapy session following a delicate angioplasty operation in 2007.

At a press conference, Balajadia said Senate personnel guarding Bolante round the clock had a logbook to track his guests.

So far, the names of the First Couple, or even Cabinet members such as Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, did not appear, he said.

“We have a log,” said Balajadia, disclosing that visitors of Bolante were “mostly relatives.”

The Senate will send its own doctors to conduct separate tests on Bolante, according to Balajadia.

But he could not say when, since Senate President Manuel Villar has been allowing Bolante to undergo all the tests that he wanted to avail of there.

“I’m not a doctor. It depends on the doctors,” he said, when asked if Bolante would be discharged from the hospital anytime soon.

“What SP [Senate President] said is we will give him a few more days (in the hospital),” he said, pointing out that the timeframe for medical tests would be the call of attending physicians.

However, Balajadia said it was absurd for the hospital to first get clearance from him before releasing any medical bulletin.

“Why would they ask for my approval? I’m only the security officer,” he said.

On Thursday afternoon, the SLMC finally issued a bulleting saying Bolante is stable but needs more to undergo more tests.

Bolante was brought to the SLMC Tuesday night, immediately after his arrival from the United States where he was deported following a failed bid for political asylum.

With a report from Nancy Carvajal, Michael Lim Ubac, Inquirer

Bolante back in RP

October 28, 2008

By Jerome Aning, Maila Ager, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:04:00 10/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Controversial former agriculture undersecretary Joc-joc Bolante arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Tuesday night aboard a Northwest Airlines Flight 71 at exactly 10:32 p.m.

Bolante’s arrival was confirmed by NAIA’s media affairs division chief Connie Bungag.

In a statement released to reporters a few minutes before he arrived, Bolante said he will “answer any and all accusations at the proper forum” after he undergoes a medical check up and treatment.

The former government official has been accused of engineering the so-called fertilizer scam, which involved the alleged diversion of P728 million intended for assistance to farmers to the 2004 campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He left the country in January 2006, after the Senate issued a warrant for his arrest.

The Senate said the arrest order was issued after Bolante snubbed summonses to appear at the inquiry into the P728-million fertilizer scam. Bolante is alleged to have engineered the diversion of the funds to the 2004 campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

However, in the statement, Bolante said he “had no intention of snubbing the Senate hearings and I had made known to the Senate in writing the reasons for my non-appearance that I had made prior commitments abroad, which were set long before the Senate scheduled hearings.”

“Now that I am back, I shall now fulfill my promise to face the issues and all the malicious accusations against me,” Bolante said in the statement, in which he also claimed that he fled the country and sought asylum in the United States for fear of his life after the Senate issued a warrant for his arrest.

“This confirmed my belief that forces from many fronts were out to get me–either in prison or six feet under the ground,” he said.

“In truth and in fact, I committed through counsel in writing to appear before the Senate during the last week of January 2006,” he said.

“Many baseless accusations have been thrown against me these past years,” Bolante said. “I chose to remain silent but I have come to realize that the more I remain silent, the more vicious the accusations have become.”

Bolante was arrested by American immigration authorities after his US visa was cancelled on the request of the Senate. He sought asylum in the US but was denied.

All-out war for Arroyo, De Venecia

October 26, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:53:00 10/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Former Speaker Jose de Venecia has abandoned his initial stand and decided to endorse the latest impeachment complaint against President Macapagal-Arroyo, his former friend and ally.

At a press conference held Saturday in his Makati home, De Venecia announced that he would testify in the impeachment hearings at the House of Representatives and spare no one in revealing the truth.

The Pangasinan lawmaker also said his endorsement of the complaint, filed by his son Jose “Joey” de Venecia III and several others, was without reservation and in line with his call for moral revolution. (He had earlier said he would not endorse the complaint out of delicadeza, or propriety, in light of his son’s involvement.)

“This fight is not my son’s fight alone; the complainants represent a wide segment of national society. Their fight is part of the nation’s search for truth and justice. And we must restore to public office the virtues of openness, accountability, integrity and good governance—all of which the Arroyo administration vhas cast aside,” De Venecia said, reading from a prepared statement.

But in Beijing, where she is attending the 7th Asia-Europe Meeting, the President does not appear to be taking notice.

According to Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, the issue is “under the radar” of Ms Arroyo, especially now that she is helping find solutions to the global financial crisis.

“Let’s leave them to their own antics,” Dureza told reporters at a briefing, referring to the group that had filed the fourth impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo.

He said that with Ms Arroyo nearing the homestretch of her term, she was more concerned with “preparing the country so that when the next president comes, it will be in good shape.”

‘No matter who gets hurt’

De Venecia said he would not hesitate to answer questions about the deals that the Arroyo administration had forged, including the scuttled $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp. and the Northrail project, in which he is implicated.

“I am prepared to testify at the witness stand if called by the House. I will answer all questions no matter who gets hurt,” he said.

De Venecia said the impeachment complaint would also serve a good purpose—to delay purported attempts to amend the Constitution to extend Ms Arroyo’s stay in power.

He said his earlier push for Charter change had stemmed from a noble and pure purpose, but “the motive now may not be so pure.”

De Venecia called on his fellow lawmakers to vote on the impeachment case on its merits and not on party affiliations. But he said he did not want to campaign to them to support the complaint because it was their duty to listen to their conscience.

He added that it was too early to declare the death of the complaint, and dismissed comments that it would not fly because 2010 was just around the corner.

“One week is a long time in politics, according to Winston Churchill,” he said.

The new complaint accuses Ms Arroyo of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.

Minority lawmakers have endorsed it but conceded that they lacked the 80 votes needed to get it through the administration-dominated House.

Role model

Joey de Venecia said he hoped that his father would serve as a role model for other lawmakers so that they would be convinced of the need to support the impeachment complaint.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, an endorser of the complaint, said De Venecia’s change of heart would help sway other lawmakers to back it.

But the President’s allies belittled the former Speaker’s stand.

“Truthfully, I think that the anti- and pro-impeachment ‘numbers’ have not changed in the House despite the JDV endorsement and support,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said in a text message.

He said he was able to assess the majority sentiment—that the impeachment complaint was ill-timed—from consultations with party leaders.

In a separate statement, Nograles called on the House committee on justice to act “swiftly and judiciously” on the complaint so that lawmakers could focus on the economy.

Rep. Abraham Mitra said De Venecia’s endorsement was “lightweight” because his friends in the House were more loyal to Ms Arroyo.

Mitra also said De Venecia was not a credible endorser because it was apparent that his action was for the benefit of his son, and not the country.

Rep. Rodito Albano likewise said De Venecia’s vote was immaterial, and accused the latter of just wanting to get back at the administration for unseating him from the speakership.

National interest

De Venecia said he had decided to endorse the complaint because he could not abandon the national interest and ignore the gravity of Ms Arroyo’s purported sins.

“For me not to endorse such grave allegations—and to prevent them from being heard by a competent political court—would in itself constitute a crime against the Filipino people,” he said.

He also said that after he announced his initial stand, leaders of the Catholic Church and of civil society tried to persuade him to change his mind.

Among these leaders were Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement and retired general Fortunato Abat, he said.

Asked what he thought were the tactics that the administration would use to kill the impeachment complaint, De Venecia cited former President Joseph Estrada’s purported claim that Malacañang could make money flow in the House.

But he refused to comment when asked if he agreed with Estrada.

De Venecia also railed at fresh attempts to persecute him and his son, which he said had reached “ridiculous heights.”

He said the justice department had recommended that his son be criminally charged for the scuttled NBN deal even though it was the latter who had pointed out the purported irregularities surrounding the project.

He lamented that the President’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos were spared despite being “most prominently connected to the NBN scandal.”

“By prosecuting and persecuting the innocent and protecting the guilty, the Arroyo administration has made a mockery of the justice system and forfeited the popular trust,” De Venecia said.

Sheer numbers

Dureza admitted that Ms Arroyo would have to deal with the legal process of impeachment no matter how frequently such a complaint had been filed against her.

But Malacañang is leaving it to Congress to decide on the fate of the new complaint, he said.

Given the present composition of the House, which will decide if the case is to be transmitted to the Senate, Ms Arroyo can afford to be optimistic, even confident.

Her allies comprise the majority of the 238-member House, as was the case when the three previous complaints were all crushed by the sheer strength of numbers.

Gabriel Claudio, Ms Arroyo’s adviser on political affairs, voiced the Palace’s stance in a text message:

“JDV or no JDV, the administration is confident of being able to defend itself and the President from any issue raised in the impeachment complaint.”

Claudio said De Venecia’s announcement did not come as a surprise.

“I guess he has to do what he has to do. After all, Joey is his son,” Claudio said.

He reiterated that the complaint would not prosper. “[Its] chances of success as well as the utter inappropriateness and destructiveness of its timing in light of the current global economic tempest remain the same,” he said. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra in Beijing and TJ Burgonio in Manila

DOJ CHIEF ON BRAVO INTERVIEW ‘ABS-CBN violated broadcast code’ Network: ‘It was a legitimate story’

October 22, 2008

By Tetch Torres
First Posted 19:11:00 10/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is considering a complaint against broadcast network ABS-CBN for airing on television an interview with wanted Moro rebel commander Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo.

Gonzalez accused the network of violating provisions of the Broadcast of the Philippines, particularly Sections 2 and 4, which state that “criminals shall not be glorified” and that “crime should always be condemned.”

However, reacting to the justice chief’s charges, the network, in a statement from news and current affairs head Maria Ressa, said the interview with Macapaar was “a legitimate story, and our interview with him aired October 20 and 21 adhere to ethical standards of journalism.”

Gonzalez said he might file the complaint against ABS-CBN before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, Association of Broadcaster of the Philippines).

He also accused ABS-CBN reporter Jorge Cariño of asking “loaded” questions and claimed that it was not enough for the network to get the side of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The interview created an impact that he [Macapaar] is greater than life with his followers cheering at his back,” Gonzalez said.

He also claimed the interview terrorized people by the impression that MILF might launch attacks.

Gonzalez said ABS-CBN should have coordinated with authorities to help catch Macapaar instead of allegedly allowing itself to be used for the Moro rebel leaders’ propaganda.

However, Ressa said it was ABS-CBN’s “responsibility as journalists to report on people and events that affect public interest.”

She also stressed that “the public has the right to know” about Macapaar, who “is one of the country’s most wanted men, a key figure in the collapse of the peace process in Mindanao.”

Ressa pointed out that ABS-CBN has been covering Macapaar “for many years now — even during peacetime. We will continue to report on what he says and does with the same zeal and professionalism that we would use when covering his arrest — if and when that happens.”


My Take:

Now, now.

Is the DOJ chief aware that Commander Bravo is not yet being tried and found guilty by a legitimate court?  If so, then he can never call Bravo  criminal at this point of time.

But if he would insist, then we might as well call the DOJ chief an anti-press freedom advocate.

Just thinking…

Favila on JPEPA: ‘Let it work first’

October 13, 2008

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:49:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The government appealed on Monday to critics to give the newly ratified Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) a chance, especially in the wake of the financial crisis sweeping across the globe.

“We have to let it work first,” Trade Secretary Peter Favila told reporters during the inauguration of the new RFM Corp. pasta plant in Mandaluyong City.

Favila said free-trade agreements such as the JPEPA would be more important for the Philippines in cushioning the impact of the global monetary crisis on the local economy.

“With so many problems in the financial markets, all the more that we need these FTAs,” he said in Filipino.

But Favila gave sectors opposed to the bilateral agreement with Japan a glimmer of hope, citing a provision in the JPEPA allowing either country to initiate a renegotiation of specific items.

“We will see as we go along on how the treaty works on both sides,” he said.

The Senate ratified the JPEPA last week despite criticisms pointing to the perceived imbalance of economic benefits allegedly tilted in favor of the Japanese.

The Arroyo administration was ostensibly exploring other markets outside of the US, its traditional trading partner, to help insulate the Philippines from the possible economic fallout emanating there.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo drumbeat the bright prospects coming from countries like China as new top export markets for Philippine electronic and agricultural products.

On Monday, she encouraged private businesses especially in Muslim Mindanao to explore more trading opportunities with Middle East countries.

“The bastions of wealth with both financial capacity and quick execution are the Middle East powers, given their oil-driven wealth and their unitary government apparatus,” she said in her speech at the RFM plant inauguration.

“The fact that the Philippine has a Mindanao close to the hearts of Middle East powers opens up such opportunities.” (PDI)


My Take:

Same old appeal.  “Try nyo munang inumin ang lason, at pag namatay kayo e lason nga yan.”  Wehehehe.

Editorial Cartoon: (JPEPA) Trojan Horse

October 13, 2008

Full of Japoks

Santiago wants Bataan nuke plant opened

October 13, 2008

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:41:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Faced with rising energy costs and the possibility of a power shortage by 2010, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Bill 2665 “mandating the immediate re-commissioning and commercial operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plan (BNPP).”

“Given the increasingly prohibitive costs of the present sources of energy and the unreliability of wind, solar and other alternative sources, there is a need to revisit and utilize the nuclear power option,” Santiago said in the bill she filed on Oct. 7.

She said the BNPP was capable of producing 620 megawatts, “enough to power the islands of the Visayas.”


My Take:

For God’s sake Ms. Senator.  Don’t use the Visayan people for your own political end.   Please find time to read numerous studies about the wind and solar power reliability, and discern that what u are saying in this news item is total ignorance.  Mismong ka-isla mo na si Gov. Perez ang nagpopromote nun.  Ni wala ka ngang ingay sa isyu ng coal fired power plant sa inyong Iloilo City eh, tapos ngyon eh, mgdadakdak ka na naman tungkol sa nuclear power.

Nuclear power plant is not the safest source of power, specially if it will be placed in the Philippines and operated by such a corrupt government like ours, and with a kind of armed forces like ours around.  Hay naku, the possibilities of accident because of corruption (tinipid na materyales etc.), and the military take-overs (we have a rich coup history here) are always there, putting millions of Pinoy lives in great danger.  At ano ang kapalit?  Power?  Are you sure that the cost of electricity will go down because of your nuclear plant?  Ow cmon Ms. Senator, dont treat us like an idiot.

Editorial Cartoon: (Teehankee Release) Over Her Dead Body

October 13, 2008


Businessmen slam Teehankee pardon

October 10, 2008

By Nikko Dizon, Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:34:00 10/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The influential Makati Business Club (MBC) Thursday criticized Malacañang’s “mishandling” of the grant of executive clemency to Claudio Teehankee Jr., saying the move was symptomatic of the broader problem of lack of transparency hounding the Arroyo administration.

The MBC also said the arguments of Malacañang officials in support of Teehankee’s release “betrayed a disturbing lack of respect for victims’ rights and the public’s right to information.”

Teehankee, now 62, was convicted of the 1991 killing of Maureen Hultman, 16, and Ronald John Chapman, and the near-fatal attack on Jussi Leino. He drew a life term and two lesser sentences. He was granted clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo late in September and released midnight of Oct. 3.

“While the government may have made the motions to meet the minimum requirements of the law with the notification of the Hultman family—which the Hultmans never received—and the publication of a notice when Teehankee applied for executive clemency, the recent statements of [Executive Secretary Eduardo] Ermita and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez have demonstrated a dismaying indifference to the plight of the victims’ families, insisting that the government was under no obligation to inform the Hultman family about the presidential pardon,” the MBC said in a press statement.

The umbrella organization of the Philippines’ largest corporations, the MBC has been critical of Malacañang since it called on Ms Arroyo to step down in 2005 in the wake of the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

Correct, but…

The MBC said Ermita was correct in his assertion that the power to commute sentences and grant pardons was a constitutionally enshrined presidential prerogative of the President. But it questioned the use of this argument to parry criticism of Ms Arroyo.

“Why deny the Hultmans, one of the grievously offended parties in this case, the courtesy and the right to be informed and to respond to the government decision?” it said.

The group pointed out that given the sensational nature of the case and the public attention that surrounded it, the lack of transparency in the grant of clemency could “only lead people to question the motives behind the Arroyo administration’s actions.”

It also tied the administration’s actions with the results of recent business surveys showing the Philippines languishing near the bottom of global competitiveness rankings.

The recently released Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009 of the World Economic Forum indicates that the Philippines has not made headway in improving its competitiveness rankings.

It states that one of the major reasons for this is the poor quality of the Philippines’ public institutions.

“With the Arroyo administration’s mishandling of the Teehankee case, we only see a further erosion in the people’s trust in our public institutions,” the MBC said.

225 political prisoners

Elsewhere, militant groups Karapatan and Selda issued a joint statement saying that with the grant of clemency to Teehankee, the President should also order the release of the remaining political prisoners her government agreed to free under the Oslo Joint Statement of 2004.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, of the 225 political prisoners nationwide, 198 were incarcerated under the Arroyo administration.

“How easy it is for this government to free a child killer while political prisoners continue to languish in jail,” said Donato Continente, spokesperson for Selda (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at para sa Amnestiya).

Continente, himself a former political prisoner, assailed what he called the Arroyo administration’s “practice of giving pardon to heinous crime offenders while sending political activists to jail.”

“Political prisoners should be freed first rather than giving executive clemency to heinous crime offenders such as Teehankee and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada,” he said.

Continente challenged the administration to “uphold its commitment to peace agreements and free all political prisoners.”

He said it continued to practice “a double standard in our justice system with the release of Teehankee,” and cited Ms Arroyo’s purported propensity to set free “the wealthy and the mighty” while disregarding agreements like the Oslo Joint Statement.

Continente was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of US Col. James Rowe, but the Supreme Court lowered his term to 17 years. He was released in 2005 after having spent 17 years at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Only 7 of 31

Karapatan spokesperson Ruth Cervantes said only seven of the 31 political prisoners who should have been released under the Oslo Joint Statement signed on April 3, 2004, with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines had been freed.

They were Alison Alcantara, Maribel Barcenal, Lucena Lagado, Antonieta Pegoria, Zenaida Llesis, Antonio Violin, and Alfredo Yodico.

Cervantes said Violin was sick and elderly and Yodico had been ill.

She also said Llesis was pregnant when abducted and imprisoned, and that human rights groups had to campaign for her release.

Cervantes said some of the remaining political prisoners had either served their sentence or their cases had been dismissed on merit.

She said one—70-year-old Haj Amad Upao, who was accused of being a member of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf—was killed in the siege of Camp Bagong Diwa in 2005.

Cervantes said nine of the political prisoners included in the Oslo Joint Statement had been approved for release since 2001 but remained in jail—Pedro Madera, Jr., Ricardo Solangon, Basilides Badion, Janeth Montecalvo, Galo Omar, Palili Jammang, Moner Taufic, Abubakar Bimbas and Jonnes Dinaguit.

She said Madera and Solangaon were still at the NBP. Omar, Jammang, Taufic and Bimbas were minors at the time of their arrest, she said, adding that they were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa after being accused of membership in the Abu Sayyaf during “martial law” in Basilan in 2001.

BIR chief resigns–Palace

October 10, 2008

By Thea Alberto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 10:34:00 10/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Lilian Hefti has resigned, Malacañang has announced.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said in a text message Friday that Hefti submitted his resignation days ago to President Gloria Mapacapagal-Arroyo.

“President Arroyo has already made her choice as to Hefti’s replacement but the announcement will be upon the arrival of Secretary Gary Teves tomorrow [Saturday] who is in the US,” added Golez.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in an interview at the House of Representatives, cited health reasons for Hefti’s resignation although Press Secretary Jesus Dureza told Palace reporters that one could also be the BIR’s alleged “failure to meet some targets.”

“The President measures the performance [of her officials],” Dureza said, noting that in the case of the BIR, “meeting revenue targets is a very important part of economic growth.”

Ermita confirmed Golez’s statement that the President has found a replacement for Hefti, but did not also name the successor.

Hefti, a former BIR deputy commissioner, was appointed in June 2007 as officer-in-charge of the revenue agency after the Palace sacked then Commissioner Jose Mario Buñag.

Hefti’s resignation came a day after Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol left his post to go to Union Bank as board member and to prepare for the 2010 election, where he will run for Congress.

The BIR, which accounts for about two-thirds of government revenues, is hard-pressed to meet its target to keep the government’s deficit goal. For 2009, economic managers had said that they expected a budget deficit of P60 billion.

The bureau conceded that it might fall short of its 2008 collection target of P854 billion, partly because of the slowdown in the economy’s growth and the tax relief granted by law to individual taxpayers.

Upon her assumption into office last year, Hefti started implementing several measures to boost tax collection such as auditing tax remittances made by the country’s Top 10,000 corporations, cleaning up of the BIR taxpayer database, and intensifying collection of the agency’s accounts receivables.

With a report from Reuters

Editorial Cartoon: (Melamine Controversy) Endorser

October 9, 2008


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

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transparency urged in Arroyo pardons

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Loren Legarda said Arroyo was letting loose criminals.

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

Michael Lim Ubac, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Hultmans ‘shocked’ at Teehankee release

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon hints at joining 2010 race

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloria Arroyo does a Sarah Palin

October 6, 2008

Is President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo doing a Sarah Palin?

I ask this in light of the insistence by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza that the press conference that was to have taken place last Oct. 2 had to be limited to economic issues and that the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) had to provide in advance the questions to be asked the president.

The Focap, through its president Jason Gutierrez of Agence France-Presse, balked at the preconditions set by Malacañang. Rightly so, I should say.

“The president is the nation’s chief political leader and as such the public would be interested in knowing where she is taking the country as well as her initiatives in response to outstanding political issues,” Gutierrez wrote Dureza after Malacañang canceled the event. “As members of the media, we in Focap see our role as the conveyor of the president’s message to the nation, be they political or not.”

Gutierrez added: “As a matter of principle upon which Focap was founded more than 30 years ago under martial law, and as responsible members of the press, we strongly object to being party to any form of media management, prior restraint or censorship. Fencing off certain subjects for discussion with the president does not bode well for press freedom.”

Dureza wrote Gutierrez back to say that Focap had misunderstood Malacañang’s action and that requiring advance questions was not a way to manage or censor the press briefing, as Focap alleged, but so that the president can better prepare her answers.

Then Dureza let on in his letter – almost gleefully, as if to say “Suck on this, Focap!” — that the president was going to meet with members of the Manila Overseas Press Club on Oct. 3 in a meeting he described as on a “no attribution basis.” (What!? I can talk to the president but I can’t tell people I did? Drat.) Presumably, MOPC agreed to the Palace’s conditions. (I won’t debate how any self-respecting media group would agree to something like this. Then again, the MOPC, in the “about us” section of its website, can’t even get the name right of Carl Mydans, the legendary photojournalist from Life magazine, so there you go.)

Before we go any further, let me point out a couple of things:

1. Malacañang always screens not just the questions to be asked during press conferences with Arroyo but also who can ask the questions. It does this with the MOPC, as well as with the Malacañang press corps and other media groups.

2. Arroyo and the Focap has always had a rocky relationship. Arroyo has always resisted meeting with Focap. She apparently doesn’t enjoy being asked relevant, intelligent questions. In July 2005, Malacañang actually barred Focap members from joining an Arroyo press briefing at the Palace. Earlier, Malacañang had been furious that Focap had invited as guests in its forums mutineers and former Arroyo officials who had become critical of her.

Now back to Sarah Palin.

In case you’ve been livin’ under dem rocks the past two months, she’s the moose-huntin’, straight-talkin’ hockey mom from Wasilla, Alaska, who was handpicked by dat doggone ol’ mav’rick John McCain to be his runnin’ mate in the US elections. (Dat sent everyone ape shit, din’t it?) Dat Sarah girl din’t have nothin’ by way of profound intellect and real political experience (aside from a little mayorin’ here and some governorin’ there) and so the McCain camp thought it was wise to protect her from the likes of Katie Couric, who can ambush her with tough questions, such as what sort of mag’zines and noospapers Sarah reads. (Our gal Sarah, bless her heart, replied, “All of dem!” which floored poor Katie nat’rally because even she can’t get past the advertisements in People mag’zine, no sir.) Dem ‘publicans only want her to talk to jern’lists who can ask only harmless, stoopid questions. And fer good measure, those doggone ‘publicans had insisted she memorized sev’ral talkin’ points. You betcha she drilled-baby-drilled those talkin’ points into her head in time for the debate last Fridey, which many out there in the vast and cold state of Alaska — where she is an executive of, where Sarah can actually see dem Reds runnin’ ’round like headless chickens since dey discovered cap’talism – folks ‘cludin’ her huntin’ pal Joe (Sixpack, not Biden) thought she wonned fair and square.

I can understand why the McCain camp did what it did with Sarah Palin. As her interviews with Couric showed, she’s an airhead. A doggone airhead.

But Arroyo? She’s an economist. She taught economics at UP. Her whole political credential revolves around her being adept with economics. She went to the same school as Bill Clinton, for crying out loud! She should be able to parry the toughest questions.

Ah, but the key issue in this mini-flap are not the advance questions. The more important issue is the requirement that the Focap people cannot ask her political questions. To paraphrase a Focap member who posted his thoughts on the group’s message board, “Excuse me? She’s the president of a country and she doesn’t want political questions?”

(It’s like interviewing Moses and all you are allowed to talk about is his beard. What’s with the stick? “Sorry, can’t go there.” You actually parted the sea with that? “What part of confidential-due-to-biblical-security you don’t understand?” Did you actually talk to God? Why would he disguise himself as a burning bush? “Is your head hard enough to withstand this tablet?”)

We all know, of course, why this is so. As far as Malacañang is concerned, journalists can be pests. They can provoke people — especially hot-tempered and arrogant people like Arroyo — into doing something silly during a press briefing, like raising their voice, respond condescendingly to reporters or, heaven forbid, throw a cellphone at one of them.

Or worse, Arroyo can be painted into a corner on questions about her legitimacy and all the scandals facing her and her people.

I actually pity Jess Dureza, who is himself a former journalist. I’m sure he doesn’t want to censor the press (nudge-nudge wink-wink). But with a boss like Arroyo, the tendency is, apart from simply following her wishes, to try to minimize the damage she could do to herself.

Braganza slams policy on shotguns for kapitans

October 6, 2008


ALAMINOS CITY–This is not a war zone.

This was Mayor Hernani Braganza referring to both his city and the province as he severely criticized anew the provincial government’s program arming barangay leaders with shotguns ostensibly for the latter’s protection and to help “maintain peace and order”.

In a press conference on Thursday at Lucap Wharf, Braganza minced no words in denouncing the program as he anticipated the misuse of the issued firearm by the barangay officials.

Underscoring his opposition, Braganza cited the Philippine National Police’s own policy that it would not agree to arming civilians with shotguns even in strife-torn Mindanao.

“If the PNP is not keen on arming the civilians to fight the rebels in Mindanao, why are we doing this in our province,” Braganza posed.

Despite being the lone voice opposing the shotgun distribution, Braganza maintained his stand that his city does not need shotguns because Alaminos, like the rest of Pangasinan, remains a friendly and peaceful city.

He reiterated his appeal to the Governor Amado Espino Jr. to re-issue the shotguns instead to the province’s local police stations known to be poorly equipped.

Braganza clarified he has nothing personal against the governor to whom he is indebted for saving his life when he was still a young activist in the mid 70s and Espino was then the Metrodiscom commander of the then Philippine Constabulary in Angeles City.

“We are not against the distribution of the shotguns per se,” said Braganza, pointing out that the shotguns should instead be issued to the police, who needs these more in its fight against criminality.

He stressed that the preservation of peace and order is the primary job of the Philippine National Police, and it is duty of civilian officials from mayor down to barangay captain, to govern, preventing crimes in their respective jurisdictions, without the use of guns.


The provincial government said that as of September 19, about 99 percent of the 1,330 barangay chairmen of Pangasinan were already issued one pump shotgun each.

Included were 15 of the 39 kapitans of Alaminos who, Braganza said, were personally invited by Espino to Lingayen without any coordination with his office.

The 15, the mayor said, defied the resolution of the city council headed by Vice Mayor Teofilo Humilde Jr. which adopted it in its regular session of September 5 expressing vigorous objection to the distribution of shotguns to local barangay captains.

Braganza said the city legal office is now preparing letters to the 15 barangay captains who received the shotguns, asking them to explain why they defied the city council resolution and his order not to receive the shotguns.

However, he said that of the 15 barangay captains, five have already expressed their desire to return the issued shotguns to the provincial government through the local police.

The same resolution had appealed to Espino to issue the shotguns to the local police instead.

However, he said he is still giving the 15 a chance to turn the weapons over to Liga ng mga Barangay president Helen Bumagat, barangay captain of Amandiego, who in turn will return the same to the capitol.

Humilde also read a manifesto from Alaminos City officials restating that Alaminos City attained unprecedented progress and peace “not by arming our barangay officials and civilians” during the press conference.

Braganza said it is the responsibility of the mayors like him to provide the barangay captains with all the tools and equipment, like vehicles, which they need to carry out their mandate “but never shall we give them guns”.

Braganza pointed out that only policemen should be made to respond to situations where crime perpetrators are armed.


Braganza echoed the observation of his fellow mayor, Domingo Doctor of Burgos, that the shotguns were issued without any guidelines at all.

Doctor, a lawyer and former military officer, even had to seek general guidelines governing the shotguns from no less than incoming Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, since the barangay captains were only given insufficient training to handle guns.

The city mayor expressed doubt that a mere memorandum receipt issued by the provincial government can take the place of a license or a permit to carry firearms.

He said licensing is a strict requisite for any holder of firearms set forth by law which must apply to all, and cited a need for the holder of firearms to secure clearances and undergo neuro-psychiatric test and even drug test before an application to hold firearms is approved by the PNP.

Councilor Cirilo Radoc, a lawyer, said once the firearm is used to commit a crime, both the barangay chairman and whosoever issued the firearm become criminally liable.

Braganza said he himself is a gun-owner, being a member of a gun club but his license to own and his permit to carry the same outside of his residence is not transferable to any city or barangay official.

He cited it as an analogy where license to own the shotguns belongs to the province and not to the barangay chairmen.—LM (SundayPunch)

Charter change possible next year – Miriam

October 4, 2008

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter

A constituent assembly to amend the Constitution could start next year despite the Senate consensus that it could wait until after 2010, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said Friday.

In a forum on Charter change at Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City, Santiago said Charter change, or “Cha-cha,” could push through in 2009 if the position of the House of Representatives on the computation of the three-fourths vote needed to convert Congress into a constituent assembly would hold sway.

She explained that the position of the House is there would be a joint voting of the House and the Senate in a constituent assembly and that the three-fourths vote should be obtained from the total number of repre­sentatives and senators.

“Since there are more congressmen than senators, the House will be able to out-vote the Senate,” she said.

The Senate position is that Charter change needs three-fourths of the House plus three-fourths of the Senate,” she said.

She predicted the Supreme Court would eventually decide the conflict between the House and the Senate. She noted, however, that even former Supreme Court justices and constitutional convention delegates are divided on the answer to this issue.

No clear answers from Constitution

The 1987 Constitution did not specify whether the House and the Senate should vote jointly or separately when Congress constitutes itself into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. Any Supreme Court decision favoring the House position would make the Senate vote in a constituent assembly irrelevant.

Santiago said that as a constitutional law professor, she opposes any Charter change unless there are compelling reasons.

“One compelling reason is the imperative necessity to change the nationalistic provisions, in order that the Philippines can be globally competitive,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Aqui­lino Pimentel Jr., author of a joint resolution seeking a shift to a federal government, wants Cha-cha as soon as possible. He is hopeful that his resolution would precipitate a nationwide information campaign and debates on the merits of his proposal.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, had said he would conduct hearings nationwide to feel the sentiments of the regions on Charter change. At the same time, he insisted that amending the Constitution could be best pursued if candidates who make an issue of it in 2010 will win.

Senate President Manuel Villar said Charter change could wait until after 2010.

“It is too divisive an issue right now, when we should be concentrating on alleviating the economic difficulties of our people,” he said. (ManilaTimes)

Palin escapes gaffes, but Biden wins debate

October 4, 2008

ST. LOUIS, Missouri: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defied her critics with an aggressive, folksy showing in her debate clash with Democrat Joe Biden, escaping without a disastrous gaffe.

But Palin, who branded Barack Obama “dangerous” in a string of attacks on the Democratic nominee, appeared to do little to transform a race that polls suggest may be slipping away from her running mate John McCain.

The Alaska governor disappointed those who predicted she would fail miserably in the keenly awaited primetime debate, following a tirade of mocking assessments about her credentials ahead of the election on November 4.

“I may not answer the question the way you want to hear, but I’ll talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also,” said Palin, who was wildly popular but has seen her opinion ratings fade in recent days.

Often winking at the camera, Palin fired off staccato sound bites and prepped answers that often ignored the questions, in a populist tone that framed her and McCain, and not Obama and Biden, as agents of change.

“I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they’ve just heard,” Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five said.

Palin has faced a storm of criticism for only doing a handful of media interviews and refusing to conduct a full-scale press conference.

Biden wins

Biden, a political veteran with 35 years of experience, provided detailed policy answers, trying to show a range of expertise across the economy, foreign policy and national security.

At one stage, he choked up when he talked about his wife and infant daughter killed in a 1972 car crash, in a moment that may have helped Biden forge an emotional connection with undecided voters.

Biden was careful not to attack Palin or her credentials directly, anxious about being branded as sexist or a bully, and sought to label McCain as a clone of unpopular President George W. Bush.

“I haven’t heard how his policy will be different on Iran than George W. Bush’s.

“I haven’t heard how his policy will be different on Israel than George Bush’s.

“I haven’t heard how his policy on Afghanistan will be different than George Bush’s, I haven’t heard how his policy in Pakistan will be different than George Bush’s.”

But Palin rebuked Biden for dwelling on the past.

“There is a time, too, when Americans say enough is enough with your ticket on constantly looking backwards and pointing fingers and doing the blame game,” she said.

Snap opinion polls suggested Biden won. CNN’s sampling said he took the clash by 51 percent to 36 percent and a CBS survey of uncommitted voters put Biden at 46 percent against 21 percent who said Palin won.

Palin the reformer

Framing herself as a typical middleclass person that goes to kids’ soccer games, showcasing her “hockey mom” persona, Palin painted herself as a reformer as a small-town mayor and governor and an expert on energy.

“Nice to meet you, can I call you Joe?” Palin said, in a comment picked up by microphones as she first met her adversary.

“Darn right it was the predatory lenders,” she said when asked whether mortgate sharks caused the subprime crisis.

The rivals clashed on the financial meltdown.

Palin warned Democrats would embrace wealth distribution and high tax policies that she said would limit growth. Biden argued that eight years of Republican policies were to blame for the economy’s nightmare.

“It was two Mondays ago that John McCain said at nine in the morning that fundamentals of the economy were strong,” Biden said.

“Later that day John McCain said we had an economic crisis—that doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy but it does point out he’s out of touch,” he added.

Palin chose not to parry a Biden claim that McCain argued against greater regulation on Wall Street, and contributed to the debt crisis.

She argued Obama voted in the Senate to raise taxes 94 times, a claim that has been questioned by newspaper reports and independent fact-check operations.

She painted Senator McCain as a “maverick” immune from the kind of Washington logjam politics she framed his colleague Biden as representing.

While Palin was strongest on domestic policy, the gap in experience and knowledge was exposed when the debate turned to national security, and the Bush administration’s foreign policy legacy.

She called the commander of the NATO-led security assistance force in Afghanistan “McClellan” instead of his name General David McKiernan, and her answers were often vague.

Mixed views

For her admirers, Palin gave a barnstorming performance, erasing doubts about her credentials and threadbare foreign policy experience.

“She’s holding her own with an experienced, polished politician,” said the owner of the Conservative Café, a coffee shop in Crown Point, Indiana that caters to right-wing customers.

In Dublin, Ohio, meanwhile, a group of around 100 McCain-Palin supporters crammed into Hoggy’s Barbecue and Grill were delighted.

Peggy Guzzo of Liberty Township, Ohio, was ecstatic at around the halfway mark. “I think she’s doing phenomenal,” Guzzo said.

“She’s taken control of the stage. She’s very authentic, very sincere. She’s speaking from true convictions. That’s what I love about her.”

But in Democratic-dominated Los Angeles, a group of debate-watchers crowded around a television screen in the heart of Hollywood frequently cringed and shook their heads as Palin went about her work.

“Frankly, I’m terrified,” said production assistant Robin Dicker, 35. “When you boil it down her message is essentially fear-based. And I worry that that is what people in middle America will respond to.

“I’m concerned that a lot of women voters will see the public image, the good looks, the hair, the children, the wholesome family, and then the message of fear, and they won’t look too far past that.”
— AFP (ManilaTimes)

Manila Times Exclusive: ‘Jueteng,’ illegal logging hound Isabela – Padaca

October 4, 2008

Despite making great progress in governance and electoral reform, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca said she faces much unfinished business in her fight against illegal gambling and illegal logging.

Padaca, who became popular for ending Isabela’s 40-year political dynasty of the Dy family and for recently winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, said the illegal numbers game jueteng is still rampant in the province.

Part of her difficulties is the public’s perception that “jueteng is a victimless crime” that provides livelihood for many people, she said during an exclusive roundtable interview with The Manila Times.

And she conceded that her success depends on whether “higher officials want it stopped.”

For example, Padaca told The Times that she asked the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to establish a small-town lottery in Isabela, hoping that will become a substitute for the illegal game. But so far, no dice.

She added that most “jueteng operators talk to previous leaders [of Isabela],” making it harder to stop illegal gambling, because her political rivals remain influential and are capable of offering protection.

Illegal logging

Like jueteng, the governor said the province needed to provide legitimate livelihood to draw people away from illegal logging. She estimates that between 10,000 to 12,000 people are involved in illegal logging, and “many of the people involved in illegal logging are poor people.”

The province looked at providing those people with piglets, but many of them are so poor that they cannot wait for the three months for their animal to grow up.

Instead, Padaca said she approached private companies and nongovernment organizations, like Haribon Foundation and the League of Corporate Foundations, for help in establishing a reforestation program that will create jobs—as well as replace the denuded parts of the northern Sierra Madre.

The governor said the province has confiscated about a million board feet of illegally cut down trees—worth about P150 million in the black market.

With the help of Secretary Lito Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the confiscated wood is to be auctioned, and the proceeds due the provincial government would be used to fund livelihood programs, the governor said.

Tourism business

Padaca said illegal logging not only robs the environment of valuable resources, but also opportunities to develop eco-tourism in Isabela.

Of the one-million-hectare land area of the province, about 360,000 hectares are in the northern tip of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Isabela has much to offer nature lovers, Padaca said, adding, “We even have a bonsai forest.”

And there is a lot of variety in the province, where there are a number of beach resorts that rival the world-famous Boracay in central Philippines, she said.

One such place is Honeymoon Island in Divilican town, she added.

But she concedes that infrastructure, like hotels, is still lacking.

Answering critics

Padaca said it’s unfair for her critics to brand her as anti-poor for her campaign to eradicate jueteng and illegal logging.

Her government has enrolled 130,000 people in the PhilHealth insurance program, which has raised some P73 million for her province, she said. That money has allowed the government to buy much-needed hospital equipment and fully equipped ambulances, she added.

Padaca is also working on a deal with the provincial government of Manitoba, which will hire 10,000 to 20,000 people from Isabela to work in Canada. The workers in demand are welders, accountants and restaurant crew, she added.

And Isabela has a scholarship program, the KTK or Kursong Trabaho Agad program, which helps young people take up vocational courses that help them get a job.
— Camille A. Bersola (Manila Times)


My Take:

Padaca ang Panlilio’s experience proves one thing, even a government official like them can never combat illegal gambling if someone higher than them, and someone who controls the guns and goons are in favor of it.


October 4, 2008

The scare from contaminated China-made milk products has become real for the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam and caused tempers to flare up violently in Taiwan.

Two milk products imported from China and sold in the Philippines have tested positive for melamine, Philippine health officials said Friday. The officials ordered that the products be removed from store shelves immediately.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said authorities suspect that the milk products, under the brand names Greenfood Yili Fresh Milk and Mengniu Original Drink Milk, were illegally smuggled into the country, as they do not have labels in English.

Duque played down any fears of a public-health scare stemming from consumption of the two brands.

He said the government has shut down a Manila supermarket found to be selling the brands.

“There have been no reports coming from our hospitals, whom we ordered to report to us cases of kidney problems that may have some associations with the intake of milk tainted with melamine,” Duque said.

Based on records of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD), there is no registered infant formula produced in China being imported into the country.

28 brands cleared

The Health department, meanwhile, cleared 28 other milk products being sold in local stores after tests on them for melamine contamination turned out negative.

These milk products are Anchor Lite Milk, Anlene High Calcium Low Fat milk UHT, Bear Brand instant, Chic Choc milk chocolate, Farmland skim milk, Jinwei Drink, Jolly Cow pure fresh milk, Kiddie Soya Milk Egg Delight, Lactogen 1 DHA infant formula, M&M milk chocolate candies, M&M peanut chocolate candies, Milk Boy, Nestogen 2 DHA follow-up formula, Nestogen 3 DHA follow-up formula, Nido 3+ prebio with DHA, Nido Full Cream milk powder, Nido Jr., No-sugar chocolate of Isomalt 2 Oligosaccharide, Nutri Express milk drink, Pura UHT fresh Milk, Snickers fresh roasted in caramel nougat in thick milk chocolate, Vitasoy soya milk drink, Wahaha Orange, Wahaha Yellow, Want Want Milk Drink, Windmill Skim Milk Powder, Yinlu Milk Peanut, and Yogi Yogurt Flavored Milk Drink.

While these 28 products were already cleared, Duque said the temporary ban would continue on Chinese products particularly those that would still undergo tests.

More tests

The 30 milk products were the first ones tested. Some 20 products are still undergoing tests, results of which will be released early next week.

Duque appealed to private laboratories not to conduct their own testing without coordinating with the Bureau of Food and Drugs first.

He said that the bureau has the only authority to release results of tests for possible melamine contamination of milk products.

The bureau said it plans to test about 200 food products imported from China that contain milk.

Health authorities said they would work with other government agencies to stop the importation and sale of contaminated milk products from China. They also plan to file charges against those who will be arrested selling or distributing such products.

Melamine, an industrial chemical, can cause kidney failure and was blamed for the death of at least four children in China and more than 50,000 others falling ill from it.

Lost revenue

The scare from this chemical has cost the Philippine distributor of the popular Snickers chocolate bar millions.

“We’ve lost P30 million in revenues since the melamine scare started,” Henry Azcarraga, the country head of MARS Inc., told reporters during inspection of the company’s imported products at the Bureau of Customs on Friday.

The bureau held release of MARS’ P5-million worth of imported chocolate products from China pending results of laboratory tests and analyses to be done by health offices.

Azcarraga said the chocolates that MARS distributes in the country have been given clearance by the governments of Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The company is also the local distributor of M&Ms and Dove chocolate bars that are highly popular among children and teenagers.

In September, Manila ordered Chinese-made milk products to be removed from grocery shelves after tests revealed widespread contamination with melamine, which also makes products appear to have more protein.

The move of the Philippines’ Health department to take out from stores contaminated China-made products will not affect trade relations between Manila and Beijing, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said also on Friday.

But Dureza added that China must be more concerned about the issue and should move fast to prevent further exports of the toxic products.

Around the region

In Vietnam, the country’s food-safety watchdog said also on Friday that it had found melamine in 18 milk and dairy products imported from China as well as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The toxin was discovered in milk, creamer and biscuit products, which had all been taken off supermarket shelves, the food safety authority and Health ministry said in statements on their websites.

Chinese milk producer Yili and Malaysian biscuit brands Khong Guan and Khian Guan were among the items containing melamine.

Tropical Vietnam does not have a large dairy industry and imports most milk products from neighboring China and Southeast Asia.

Many parents and kindergartens in Vietnam said they would cut milk from their children’s diet, media reports said.

But the Health ministry said: “Kindergartens and schools are strongly recommended not to cut milk from children’s menu to ensure enough nutrition.”

It has banned milk products of unclear origin and threatened to punish companies violating food hygiene and safety regulations.

In Russia

In Russia, authorities seized 1.7 tons of Chinese milk powder after banning imports over a deadly contamination scandal in the Asian country, Interfax news agency said Friday.

“We found 1.7 tons of dry milk produced in China in [the far eastern city of] Khabarovsk. We are confiscating it,” Russia’s consumer protection chief Gennady Onishchenko was quoted as saying.

The Russian government announced an import ban on all Chinese dairy products on Tuesday.

The restrictions were imposed on reports of the melamine toll on Chinese babies.

Minister attacked

In Taiwan, its Health minister was hospitalized also on Friday after he was allegedly attacked by opposition lawmakers angry over the government’s response to the widening scandal over tainted Chinese milk products, witnesses said.

Television footage broadcast on several networks showed the minister, Yeh Ching-chuan, being surrounded by a group of people, as reporters shouted, “How can lawmakers hit people? Don’t use violence.”

A lawmaker from the ruling Kuomintang at the scene, Chang Sho-wen, said the scuffle erupted when several opposition members of parliament tried to prevent Yeh from leaving the parliament after a meeting with bakery owners and MPs.

Yeh was later hospitalized for heart palpitations and dizziness, said a spokeswoman for the National Taiwan University Hospital.

A public-health expert best known for leading Taipei through the SARS crisis in 2003 as the capital’s deputy mayor, he took over as Health minister last week after predecessor Lin Fang-yue resigned over the tainted milk scandal.

Taiwan has banned all Chinese dairy imports and ordered those products already imported to be tested for traces of melamine.

Yeh said Thursday that six China-produced Nestlé products were pulled from store shelves after they were found to contain low levels of melamine, but insisted the contamination did not pose a significant health risk.

Nestlé Taiwan criticized the move, saying the levels were insignificant and that the government’s decision would cost it at least one billion Taiwan dollars ($31.15 million).
— Rommel C. Lontayao, Angelo S. Samonte, Anthony Vargas And AFP (ManilaTimes)


My Take:

Sec. Duque seems to be building his name for something.  Maybe its 2010 polls, maybe not.  But his recent cries on the Melamine ek-ek shows us that he’s a bit hungry for publicity.  Why don’t he welcome private groups initiative?  After all, the final say will be coming from his office naman eh.  Just asking.

Anyway, he lacks the appeal to win a senatorial race.  If ever he’s doing this for that ends.

NMYL, Conscience sign recall petition v. Panlilio

October 3, 2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — “We need a politician, not a priest,” a leader of the National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) Pampanga chapter said Thursday.

Janus Calara of NMYL-Pampanga issued the statement after he and his members signed the recall petition against Governor Eddie Panlilio the other day.

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

He said the priest-turned-governor has lost the confidence of the younger generation of voters and officials.

The signing of the recall petition was done during the NMYL’s general assembly meeting at the Max’s Restaurant here, which was attended by other 70 NMYL and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials.

“The NMYL-Pampanga believes in the stand of the Provincial Board (PB) and the Pampanga Mayors League (PML) to push for a recall through a signature campaign,” Calara told media men and other recall supporters.

The NMYL is a group of public officials whose age is 35 years old or below which advocates “for a new breed of politics which is non-traditional.”

“As young legislators, we, too have been advocating for good governance and transparency. It is sad to see the reality that despite the huge collection in quarry fees, no concrete program and projects have been given Kapampangans,” Calara said.

Taking a defensive stand, Calara said they were not paid to sign the recall petition, adding that they are not traditional politicians who only follow the move of the majority of politicians.

Asked who they think would best suit the post of the next governor in case of a recall election, Calara said: “For me, I think Vice Governor (Yeng) Guiao could very well take the post.”

Kambilan president Rosve Henson said they have gathered 200,000 signatures and are doing their own verification of the signatures before filing the recall petition at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Panlilio’s camp earlier expressed confidence that the priest-turned-governor will win in a recall election, in case one will be held.

Meanwhile, the Conscience Inc., the good government advocacy group headed by Pampanga’s Best owner Lolita Hizon, also signed recall petition against Panlilio in Barangay Cabalantian in Bacolor town on Thursday.

Crisostomo Martin, president of Conscience, said Panlilio’s administration “merely divided the province” and resulted into the buffering of social services, government programs and the progress of the province.

“Panlilio has made no significant change in this province and has only wasted the opportunity to make his term productive,” Martin said.

Hizon also lambasted Panlilio for being “psychologically incapacitated” in making logical decisions for the province. Chief of which, she said, is the continued “stubbornness” of the governor to remove provincial administrator Vivian Dabu.

In a separate interview with Panlilio, he said supporters of the recall should think well of his achievements before making such a decision.

Panlilio said he has done so much in improving the quarry collection of the province, the removal of corruption in government bidding, and fight against the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”

“It is their right (to support recall) but there should still be respect for both camps in such an endeavor,” Panlilio added. (IOF)

Editorial Cartoon: (Local Politics) Rats!

October 2, 2008


Bayan to Arroyo: Give Categorical Statement Vs Term Extension

October 2, 2008

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today challenged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to put in writing that she would not seek to extend her term beyond 2010. The challenge came after a United States think-tank revealed a study that charter change to extend the president’s term remains an option of the administration.

“Many cabinet officials have claimed that the president will step down on 2010. It’s the president who has been vague or silent on the issue. She has not assuaged public fears that she will be seeking a term extension,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“We challenge her to put in writing that she won’t support and benefit from any move that will result in a term extension for her and her allies. She must also be the first to stop moves that aim to change the constitution. It has to come from the proverbial horse’s mouth. ,” Reyes said.

Reyes said that declaring her intentions is “only half the problem.”

“Of course we have seen before how the president turned on her word. In 2002 she said she wouldn’t run, only to reverse herself less than a year later. Still, Mrs. Arroyo should make a categorical statement on the matter,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that it will continue to oppose current moves that seek to amend the constitution. “So far there are no indicators that the charter change drive is over. The House of Representatives is trying to push charter change and has brushed aside formal public hearings on the matter. There are also other maneuvers on specific amendments to the charter which could open the way for more changes in the constitution,” Reyes said.

“Charter change is still in play and the people have to be vigilant,” the Bayan leader added.

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments will vote on the need and manner of charter change as soon as the different congressional representatives finish their “consultation” with their constituents. There will no longer be any formal public hearings after the committee reversed its decision two weeks ago. There is also a proposal for a specific amendment to the provision that bans 100% foreign ownership of land which could be deliberated immediately on the floor.

On the president’s concern that she will be viewed as a lame-duck president if not for charter change efforts, Bayan said that the president should be more concerned with resolving real issues and problems.

“Why worry about being viewed as a lame-duck president? She should be more concerned with the perception that she is the most distrusted and disliked president since 1986. She should be more concerned with the perception that the Philippines in one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” Reyes said.

“The fear of being viewed as a lame-duck president is only important for a leader who wants to maintain political leverage. It is self-serving more than anything else,” Reyes added.### (PinoyPress)

PLCPD Cries Foul Over ‘Malicious Attacks’ Vs Repro Health Bill

October 2, 2008

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) took offense to the attacks being peddled by groups and personalities opposing the passage of House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population Development bill. “PLCPD is a legitimate NGO made up of members of Congress. We are advocating for the RH bill solely for the improvement of women’s health and to uphold freedom of informed choice,” Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director PLCPD, clarified. “That is all there is to it. There is no hidden agenda behind this campaign.”

Among the false charges hauled against PLCPD is that it is a foreign agent illegally influencing policymaking in Congress. “We would like to reiterate that PLCPD was organized in 1989 by senators and congress members who are committed to pursue pro-poor policies and our track record can prove our commitment for human development legislation,” San Pascual said.

Among the important human development laws that PLCPD supported and championed in recent years are Cheaper Medicines Act, Juvenile Justice Act, Abolition of Death Penalty, Solid Waste Management Act, Solo Parents Act, Anti-trafficking of Persons, Anti-violence Against Women and Children, Clean Air Act, Local Government Code, Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, Anti-Rape Law, Women in Nation-Building Act, Magna Carta for the Working Child, Magna Carta for Senior Citizens, Family Code and Early Child Care and Development Act, Anti-Smoking Act and Clean Water Act, among others.

Like a typical Philippine NGO, PLCPD sources its project funds through foreign grants, particularly from American foundations and European church-related organizations. Although diverse in types and durations, all development projects of PLCPD fall within its mandate of “improved quality of life through human development legislation.”

San Pascual stressed that PLCPD cannot claim sole ownership for what the Reproductive Health bill has achieved in terms of raising awareness among the public and policy makers on the perils that the lack of such policy has brought to the country. “The opponents are giving us too much credit when in fact, the credit for the high success of this campaign is shared among many civil society organizations, represented by Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, and many groups in the business sector, government agencies, academe, interfaith community, women’s organizations across the country, and of course the courageous authors and champions in both chambers of Congress,” San Pascual added.

Despite the intensified counter-advocacy of the anti-RH bill groups, San Pascual is optimistic that the RH bill will see victory in the 14th Congress. “Their savage attacks and misinformation campaign confirm the oppositions are running out of arguments on the issue. It will not be long that more of our policymakers can see their malicious intent and realize the significance and urgency of passing this measure.”=##(PinoyPress)

Plunder raps filed vs Villar over P1.5-B loan

October 2, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008


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Senate President Manuel Villar was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged failure of his family’s bank to pay a P1.5-billion loan with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In response, Villar’s office said a similar case had been dismissed “for lack of palpable merit” by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2006.

“Clearly, therefore, this case is a rehash, recycled strategy,” read the statement.

Villar’s lawyer Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang said this was a case of double jeopardy.

“Imagine, a previously dismissed case resurrected to suit the moment,” she said.

“How can a second plunder case be filed anew by a new set of complainants involving the same property?

“We therefore ask: Who are these people? Who are behind them? What are their motives? Even for the sake of argument that there was merit in the second complaint, the farmers should first establish their ownership of the 483-hectare property before the regional trial court.

“Like any other business concern, the Capitol Bank was not spared by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. As a result, the bank was forced to seek an emergency loan from the BSP in 1998.

“In return, the Capitol Bank assigned to the BSP its receivables and other collaterals in the form of real estate properties. This is in conformity with the BSP requirements and existing applicable laws and regulations.”

A group of farmers from Norzagaray, Bulacan said they charged Senator Villar with plunder in his capacity as stockholder of the family-owned Optimum Development Bank (formerly Capitol Development Bank).

Their lawyers said Senator Villar was charged with plunder because the BSP loan to the bank “involved public funds which was more than P50 million and that the securing of the unpaid loan was done through a series of loans and transactions.”

Named co-respondent was Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, ODB president.

Others charged were Anacordita Magno, ODB first vice president; Arturo de los Santos, ODB executive vice president; and Andres Rustia, BSP Department of Loans and Credit, and Asset Management Department managing director.

In their complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman last Sept. 26, the farmers said that Representative Villar and Magno – in their capacity as bank executives – managed to secure a loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion – P1.17 billion on April 22, 1998 and P332 million on April 24, 1998.

Based on the promissory notes signed by Rep. Villar and Magno, they promised to pay their loan after six months at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum, according to the complaint.

However, the complaint said the bank failed to pay the loan and a deed of real estate mortgage on a 485-hectare agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan was entered into by the bank and Manila Brickworks, Inc., represented by De los Santos, in favor of the BSP, represented by Rustia.

“Records show that Lots 1-9 titles of the real estate mortgage were issued through the relocation plan of Lots 1-9 Sc-11202-D as surveyed for Palmera Homes, Inc. dated April 27, 1995. Palmera Homes is one of the many subdivisions owned by Senator Villar and his wife, Cynthia,” read the complaint.

The farmers are disputing ownership of the 484-hectare land before the Malolos Regional Trial Court.

“But it was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land which is now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB,” the farmers said in a statement.

“The complainant-farmer learned about the BSP’s claim when they filed before the Malolos RTC a reconstitution of their land titles after the records of land titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the Registry of Deeds.”

In the case before the Bulacan RTC, the farmers questioned the TCTs in the BSP’s possession since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title on July 25, 1944 “took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines,” which was then under Japanese occupation.

At the Senate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Nacionalista Party secretary-general, said they would like the proper committees to handle the investigation into the charges against Villar.

“I think all the businesses of Senator Villar are declared and they are easy to see,” he said.

“But he will not be the only one to answer all the cases against him but his companies as well.”

‘Palace can’t wash its hands’

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday Malacañang could not wash its hands of the issue of double funding for the C-5 Road extension project since it was responsible for the disbursement of government funds.

“When the first appropriation was released out of the two funds for the same project, they said the other one was put on hold, meaning savings,” he said.

“Who uses savings? The one who holds the money. Maybe (we should) ask the President to assure the people she’ll not misuse the money for purposes for which it was not intended.”

Former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said the funds could even be used for the 2010 national elections.

“Like what they did in public works in the 2008 budget, P17 billion was added by the congressmen and senators, while P9 billion was cut from foreign-assisted projects,” he said.

“You can release that in the last quarter of 2009 in time for the first quarter of 2010,” he said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she would file a bill to promote transparency and accountability in passing the budget.

“In 2009, President Arroyo may release these P11.5-billion insertions,” she said.

“By 2010, each project may continue to be implemented. Hence, I strongly suspect that most of these secret projects are going to be used by incumbent legislators for the 2010 elections.”

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. debunked claims that the Palace could benefit from the double allocation, since the P200 million added on could become part of President Arroyo’s discretionary funds.

Andaya said the controversy should be kept in the Senate and that the charge that Mrs. Arroyo would use the savings for other purposes was pure speculation and an attempt to muddle the issue.

“While the search for truth on the C-5 issue touches on aspects of budget execution, it is, however, unfair to make the Office of the President part of collateral damage of an intra-chamber dispute,” he said.

Andaya said DBM did not release the P200 million after discovering the double allocation.

Malacañang could not use the “impounded” P200 million for political gains, he added.

Those responsible “should face the music and must not bail out by blaming others for the mistake they committed,” Andaya said. – Edu Punay, Aurea Calica (PStar)

COA says Northrail contract signed without public bidding

October 2, 2008

By Christina Mendez
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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State auditors have revealed that the contract for the 63-kilometer railway project from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan was signed without any public bidding.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said since the contract for Northrail’s Phase 1, Section 1 was not supported by a Certificate of Availability of Funds (CAF) – a basic requirement in the execution of a contract – the North Luzon Railways Corp. must explain why there were incomplete provisions in the contract and why the contract deviated from the Terms of Reference.

“Explain why this contract should not be considered null and void in the absence of a CAF covering the whole contract price,” read the report.

The COA report said the absence of a CAF was not in accordance with section 86 of Presidential Decree 1445.

“No contract involving the expenditure of public funds by any government agency shall be entered into or authorized unless the proper accounting officials of the agency concerned shall have certified to the officer entering into the obligation that funds have been duly appropriated for the purpose,” the report quoted PD 1445.

The COA said without a CAF, there is no assurance that the project will be implemented on time and Northrail might face the same problems previously encountered in Phase 1, Section 2, particularly the incurrence of higher commitment fees.

Initial review of the contract revealed that no CAF was issued by Northrail for the local counterpart funding amounting to $86.91 million, added the report.

The COA said the $421-million is a loan to the government, and that after the loan contract has been concluded, the amount should have been deposited to the account of the Republic of the Philippines.

Part of the amount advanced by CNMEG intended for right of way expenses and the relocation of public utilities amounting to $22.109 million – used by Northrail to pay for its loans in 2005 – remained unavailable, added the report.

Review of other payables in previous years showed that the $22.109-million was used to pay for Northrail’s loans with Banco de Oro, Metrobank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., the COA reported.

The supply contract was signed by North Luzon Railways Corp. and China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. (CNMEG, now known as SINOMACH), and endorsed by the National Economic and Development Authority in July 2004, according to the report.

The COA said the Department of Finance and Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) signed a $400-million Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement (BCLA) in February 2004.

“As provided in the BCLA, the lender agrees to make available a loan facility to the borrower in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $400 million or 95 percent of the contract price for the purpose of financing the construction of the Northrail project,” read the report.

“The remaining five percent or $21.05 million shall be the Philippine counterpart.”

State auditors said their review of the supply contract agreement revealed it was “granted to CNMEG without the benefit of a public bidding.”

“The contract agreement with CNMEG includes design,” read the report.

“However, said design has not been prepared and submitted before the implementation of the contract agreement, hence, said provision may be considered disadvantageous since Northrail is deprived of the option to determine whether the design conforms with the requirement of the Northrail vis-a-vis the contract cost.”

State auditors also questioned provisions of the BCLA that are “disadvantageous” to the government:

• The “no tax deductions” clause that prevents the imposition of taxes required by law;

• The one that cancels the right to immunity of the borrower; and

• The assignment of rights by the borrower requires the prior consent to the lender but the assignment of rights by the lender requires a mere notice to the borrower.

The agreement between Northrail and SINOMACH was signed in November 2006 to develop, rehabilitate, construct and supply the equipment and multiple units for Northrail Project Phase 1, Section 2 with a contract price of $586,910,000.

The DOF and the China Eximbank signed a $500-million Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement in January 2007 to fund the project.

“Initial review of the contract revealed that no CAF was issued by Northrail for the local counterpart amounting to $86,910,000, as required under Section 86 of PD 1445,” read the COA report.

“It was noted that despite the existing problems in the implementation of Phase 1, Section 1 of the project, particularly the inability to secure loans for the local counterpart fund, Northrail proceeded with the execution of the contract for Phase 1, Section 2,” read the COA report.

State auditors also questioned why a portion of an amount advanced by CNMEG supposedly for right-of-way expenses and relocation of public utilities worth $22.109 million but used by Northrail to settle its loans in 2005 remained unavailable.

State auditors said the company’s budget for operating expenses was spent to pay for billings for project management, an item under capital expenditure that was contrary to the intent of the budget.

When they checked the Northrail project’s accomplishments against its targets, they found out that there was a delay of 3.33 percent for pre-construction activities and 7.11 percent for civil and track works, the state auditors added.

The Northrail project’s first phase, a 32-kilometer stretch from Caloocan to Malolos, was originally funded by a $400-million loan from China’s Eximbank and $103 million counterpart funding from the government.

The second phase is another 32-kilometer project from Malolos to Clark, involving another $500-million loan from Eximbank. – With Reinir Padua (PStar)

Editorial Cartoon: Magnanakaw

October 1, 2008

They’re both the same.

Gov says US gov’t has helped Sulu more than Phil gov’t

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Saturday, 27 September 2008 14:54
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PASAY CITY (MindaNews/26 September) – Sulu Governor Sakur Tan wants American soldiers to “stay longer” in his province, claiming the United States government has been helping Sulu more than the Philippine government.

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } In defending the presence of American military forces in Sulu, Tan enumerated the assistance the US has given his province.

“With these (forms of assistance), I really do not see why we should discourage the presence of the US forces in my area. In fact I would like to invite them to stay longer and stay on in my province because we need the help that they are providing,” Tan said, adding, “no other government, in fact I think they’re (the United States) doing even better (for Sulu) than, with due respect, than the Philippine government.”

Tan issued the statement at the committee hearing Thursday (September 25) of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA) at the Senate’s Senator Pecson Room, triggering laughter from members of the committee chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and co-chaired by Rep. Antonio Cuenco, staff and guests, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

The Committee hearing was on the “alleged participation of American troops in the Mindanao armed conflict.”

Tan defended the American forces against issues about alleged human rights violations. “I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic).”

Tan said that when he assumed the post of governor last year, he met with various sectors from civil society and the military, including Colonel David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, and asked him the purpose of the US military in his area.

He said Maxwell told him they were there “to bring peace and development,” to which he replied, “if your purpose is to bring peace and development, you are most welcome even if you were Israelis. But if your purpose is to bring chaos and disorder, we have enough and even if you are Arabs, we do not welcome you.”

As governor, he said, he has “seen how the American forces in my area have been helping me in my governance, especially in civic, economic and social activities such as construction of bridges, construction of schoolbuildings, repairs of rural health units, including district hospitals, providing us with medicines, including surgical missions.”

“They are also providing us with Area Coordination Centers for all the18 towns including the provincial (center). These are structures that we have envisioned to be the catalyst to bring about coordination of all efforts of all government agencies, including the military, because in the ARMM, the provincial governments do not have control over other offices especially the national offices in the province so we have the Area Coordination Centers which we intend to organize down to the barangay level for the purpose of empowering the communities.”

The US military, he said, is “very supportive.”

“They are also going to construct a fire station in the capital town of Jolo because this is one of our principal problems now in Sulu and very soon, starting construction of the runway of the Jolo airport which should be able to land now, after construction, a 737,and we already have the funds ready, we signed already the memorandum of agreement,” he said.

“Likewise our water system, another very important commodity for everybody, we start the improvement by next week this is also partly funded by the US government and likewise the US forces are also learning from our Philippine soldiers in the matter of their strategizing their counter-terrorism and in fighting the criminal elements in our areas,” Tan said.

He explained that his administration has an agreement with the Philippine military that operations will be 80% civil-military and “only 20% purely military but it should be surgical and intelligence-driven operations to avoid collateral damage on the part of the civilians.”

Tan said the US government is “monitoring the implementation of projects and every now and then we open and inaugurate projects (with the US) more frequent than we do in the local government units.”

On the reported presence of the US military in the Ipil Massacre in Maimbung, Sulu, Tan said there was “no presence of American forces in the area because I was the first one to visit the families and I was the first one to condemn the Ipil massacre.”

In his statement to the Committee, Bishop Felixberto L.Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, main convenor of the US Troops Out Now Mindanao Coalition, cited the February 4, 2008 Ipil Massacre as one of the cases.

Calang said U.S. military spy plane (US P-3 Orion) “provided intelligence for an assault that led to the killing of eight civilians and four US military personnel were seen aboard military ship where victims’ bodies were taken after the incident.”

Eight persons, two of them children aged 4 and 9 were killed in what the military claimed was a “legitimate encounter” allegedly with the Abu Sayyaf in Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu on February 4 but which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found to be a “wanton carnage” of civilians.

The CHR on April 18 forwarded its April 14 resolution and investigation records to the Ombudsman for the Military, recommending the filing of criminal charges and the application of command responsibility “to maintain justice in the country.”

Tan also cited the order to close down the hospital in Panamao and said the American soldier in charge of Sulu, Major Eric Walker “apologized to me” and to the doctor, Silak Lakkian.

Lakkian told MindaNews that they “were ordered by American soldiers to shut down the generator the night of December 2 (2007). However, we decided to close the hospital because they told us that they will shoot us if we go out of the hospital at night.”

The kitchen and generator set were located outside.

“It took 28 days to resolve the issue. That’s why the hospital was closed for 28 day because we couldn’t sacrifice the lives of our people,” Lakian said.

Tan said: “I thought it was a matter of miscommunication. Theirs was for the purpose of cautioning civilians in the area but I made it clear to American forces through Walker that they should not impose on any individual in my province but course it through AFP in the area so they do not get their message directly but course it through authorities like Task Force Comet,” he said.

“So with these, your honors, I would think if there are human rights violation in my area , I should be the first one to condemn it but I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic). [Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews]

Relieved by Enrile panel finding in C-5 case, says Villar

October 1, 2008


Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. yesterday expressed satisfaction over the findings of the Senate Finance Committee that investigated the alleged irregular double entry of P200 million for the C-5 Road Extension project in the 2008 national budget.

Villar, who has been implicated in the controversy by opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, said he and his family felt relieved after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, chairman of the Finance Committee, said no evidence of wrongdoing was found or established during Monday’s hearing.

“Ako ay natutuwa sa nangyari kahapon na naestablish na wala tayong kinalaman diyan at wala tayong mali na ginawa doon,” Villar said.

Villar also shrugged off threats by the Senate minority bloc to lodge a complaint against him before the Ethics Committee in connection with the controversy.

The Senate President said he was the aggrieved party and should have been the one to file a complaint against those who tried to destroy him, his credibility, his family, and the Senate’s integrity.

“Napatunayan nga na wala kang kasalanan, bakit pa pahahabain?” Villar said. “Kung tutuusin ninyo, ako dapat ang masama ang loob sa nangyari, pero hindi na lang ako kumikibo dahil ang mahalaga sa akin ngayon ay ang institusyon ng Senado at napakarami pa nating problema sa ating bayan ngayon.”

“Napakarami pong naghihintay kung anong mangyayari sa atin sa krisis na nangyayari sa Amerika,” he said.

Lacson, in an interview, said opposition senators are bent on filing a complaint before the Ethics Committee to question an apparent conflict of interest in the controversy.

“Wala naman sa jurisdiction ng Finance Committee yung conflict of interest. Iyon para sa amin, mga public officials, mas importanteng issue iyon. Pero hindi iyon natalakay simply because wala sa jurisdiction ng Finance Committee,” he said.

“Dapat talakayin yung acts of impropriety sa Ethics Committee. So, kung may mga evidence, kung may mga hard evidence, at may pumapasok na mga ebidensya pointing to conflict of interest, then we will bring the matter before the Ethics Committee of the Senate,” Lacson said.

DBM: Bicameral panel should explain double insertion


Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said yesterday members of the bicameral committee on the 2008 national budget should explain the P200 million double insertion for the C5 road project that the Senate investigation last Monday revealed.

The head of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said members of the bicameral committee should explain the P200 million insertion, and that Malacanang should not be blamed for it because the Executive branch does not interfere in deliberations on the budget at the bicameral committee level.

“Why shift the blame to Malacanang? It has nothing to do with the insertion. The DBM is not even a member of the bicameral conference committee,” Andaya said.

“We will hold the amount in question until the Senate or the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can provide us with information explaining to us sufficiently what this additional amount is for,” he said.

Andaya said those responsible for the insertions should “face the music and must not bail out by blaming others for the mistake they committed.”

The Senate investigation on the C-5 extension project confirmed that a duplicate entry of P200 million was inserted in the 2008 national budget at the bicameral committee level.

Although the P200 million double entry for the C5 project was included and passed in the 2008 national budget, the DBM said the amount could not be disbursed, nor could it be classified as savings then spent for purposes that are not included in the 2008 national budget.

“The amount is appropriated specifically for the C-5 extension project and that is where it should be used,” DBM Assistant Secretary Verbo Bonilla said in a statement.

“Even if it is declared as savings, budget rules prevent the amount to be used for other items outside the regular programs in the Appropriations Act,” Bonilla said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers yesterday urged the DBM to release the additional P200 million earmarked for the completion of the C-5 road extension project which is expected to benefit thousands of commuters.

Parañaque City Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, whose district stands to benefit from the opening of the C5-South Luzon Expressway link road, said he sees no reason why the DBM should continue to withhold the funds for the project.

Party-list Representatives Joel Villanueva of Citizens Battle Against Corruption and Mujiv Hataman of Anak Mindanao agreed with Zialcita.

Villanueva cited “public interest” in calling for the “speedy but transparent completion” of the project. (with a report by Edmer F. Panesa) (ManilaBulletin)

Ping to Manny: See you at ethics panel

October 1, 2008


SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said Senate President Manuel Villar is liable for conflict of interest in pushing for the C-5 road extension project.

Lacson has accused Villar of sponsoring a law while the latter was still a congressman from Las Piñas that mandated the infusion of billions in government money into two housing finance institutions with which his companies did business.

He said now that the investigation of the Senate finance committee on the double entry mess has unmasked Villar as the one who pushed for the additional P200 million for the road extension under the 2008 budget, the battleground shifts to the ethics committee where evidence can be presented.

But Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago thinks otherwise.

“I disagree that this (conflict of interest issue) is a proper matter for the jurisdiction of the ethics committee because our Senate rules provide that ethics committee exercises jurisdiction only if the language or behavior is so-called un-parliamentary, that is to say that the behavior in this case is offensive to a senator or derogates the Senate as an institution,” she said.

Villar, in an interview, expressed relief that the Senate finance committee found no wrongdoing about the insertion in the 2008 budget.

“Wala tayong mali na ginawa doon. Yun pa naman ang aking unang sinasabi na wala talagang anomalya diyan,” he said.

Villar said he hoped his colleagues would no longer bring the matter to the ethics panel chaired by Pia Cayetano.

Malacañang chided Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno for saying that the Executive branch would benefit from the P200 million insertion.

“The Executive doesn’t know why the P200 million insertion was made… The DBM is not even a member of the bicameral conference committee,” Budget Secretary Rolando G. Andaya Jr. said.

“We will hold the amount in question until the Senate or DPWH can provide us with information explaining to us sufficiently what this additional amount is for,” he added, reiterating that the DBM has not released the second P200 million allocation after it discovered the double entry.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said critics should rise above partisan considerations and refrain from making speculative statements.

“The Palace made it clear from the outset that it will not allow any illegal release of any fund, much less benefit from it.”

Reps. Eduardo Zialcita (Lakas, Parañaque City) and Joel Villanueva (PL-Citizens Battle Against Corruption) urged Malacañang to release the second P200 million so that the C-5 Road extension project that would link South Luzon Expressway to Sucat Road would be finished.

They said it would be unfair to commuters, motorists and the transport sector if the project implementation is held hostage by controversies relative to the allegations of double insertion.

“DBM is duty-bound to implement the national budget. It cannot be selective in its implementation. The money to complete the project should be released without delay. There’s no reason why the funds should be put on hold,” said Zialcita, vice president for recruitment of Lakas-CMD.

Villanueva said public interest should be the prevailing consideration particularly as the project has a big potential impact on the traffic condition in southern Metro Manila cities and municipalities.

“After SLEX, Coastal Road and the old Quirino Highway, which are all congested with traffic, the C-5 extension is only main road in and out of Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Peter J.G. Tabingo (Malaya)

Gloria: Focus is on insulating RP

October 1, 2008

PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday said her economic team is working hard to insulate the country’s economy from the financial crisis in the United States.

Arroyo said the economic team is focusing on managing the inflationary pressure to avert any continued hike in prices of commodities, and in sustaining economic growth to “continue to generate jobs and deliver the tax revenues we need to fuel our investment,”

She said the government is also strengthening the banking system to improve the fiscal health, encourage investment, sustain the economic growth and insulate the economy from the volatility in the world market.

“We have been working hard to make sure that food supplies remain stable. We’re working hard to make sure that there is food on the table of every Filipino. We have also been introducing measures to lift the burden of high fuel prices from our people,” Arroyo said.

However, details of the programs were not mentioned.

Arroyo convened her economic team Tuesday night in Malacañang to further discuss measures and to assess the impact on the economy of the developments in the US including the rejection of the US House of Representatives on the $700 billion bailout package.

Expected to attend the meeting were Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Bangko Sentral governor Amando Tetangco, Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Andaya foresees that if the US Congress continues to reject the bailout plan, the current economic crisis could worsen and be far worse than the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

He said this would mean among others, that the interest rates would go up and exports would shrink. The US is the biggest trading partner of the Philippines.

“Mas concern namin kung ano ang effect. What will be the negative effects if a bailout does not materialize? Of course, down the line new taxes would be one of the options,’ he said.

Sen. Mar Roxas called on the Bangko Sentral, the DOF and other government financial institutions not to keep the public “out of the loop” about the unraveling global financial crisis.

“Lack of information only causes uncertainty among the public. As long as the BSP and DOF communicate clearly with the people – from sophisticated investors to ordinary depositors – we are containing speculation,” he said.

Roxas, chair of the committee on trade and commerce, said more importantly, the economic managers must take stock of any impact of the financial crisis on the real economy, which may happen within a few months unless plans to plug these are put in place.

Roxas said that instead of panicking or taking imprudent actions, the government and private sector institutions should take this challenge as an opportunity to plan strategically for the future.

“We already know that global markets are changing in an increasingly dynamic and interconnected way. We all know that we cannot be in ‘business-as-usual’ mode forever,” he said. – Jocelyn Montemayor (Malaya)


My Take:

What’s the detail?

Just asking.

Sabi ni Panlilio, Huwag Magsisinungaling

September 30, 2008


Ito ang esensya ng talumpating ilinahad ni Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, kilala bilang Among Ed, sa pinaka-unang paglulunsad ng kombensyon ng Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas (SLP) sa labas ng Luzon.

Binaybay ng Gobernador ang temang “Ang Laiko: Pangunahing Ahente ng Pagbabago Tungo sa Katapatan at Integridad para sa Mabuting Pamamahala” ng Linggo ng Laiko sa Pilipinas (National Laity Week ’08), gamit ang kanyang personal na karanasan sa pagsabak sa larangan ng politika.

Ayon kay Panlilio, hindi lang pari ang kailangang huwag magsinungaling, kundi ang buong sambayanang Katoliko. Aniya, ito ang pinaka-pangunahing hakbang sa pagpigil sa pag-usbong ng korapsyon sa loob ng mga tanggapan ng pamahalaan.

Kailangan aniya ng masusing gawaing pormasyon sa arena ng tinatawag niyang “ministry of politics.” Pabiro pa niyang nabanggit sa mga Obispong nakikinig ang malaki aniyang pangangailangan na magbuo ng batayang kurso sa politika na ibibigay sa masang kasapian ng Laiko sa buong bansa.

Dagdag pa ni Among Ed, “kailangan ding magkaroon ng masusi at tuluy-tuloy na pormasyon ng mga laikong gumagampan ng gawaing apostoliko sa loob ng mga tanggapan ng gobyerno.

Lubos namang napuno ng palakpakan ang benyu ng aktibidad, nang ideklara ng Gobernador na babalik agad siya sa pagkapari pagkatapos ng kanyang termino bilang Gobernador ng Pampanga.

Samantala, nangako ang Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas na magpapasa ito ng resolusyon na nagpapahayag ng suporta kay Among Ed laban sa kinakaharap niya ngayong “Recall Petition” na ilinunsad ng kanyang mga kalaban sa politika.

Ang Jaro Archdiocese ang siyang punong-abala sa naturang pambansang kombensyon ng LAIKO ngayong taon. Ang pagdiriwang ngayon ng Linggo ng Laiko sa Pilipinas ay bilang paggunita na rin sa kamartiran nina San Lorenzo Ruiz ats Blessed Pedro Calungsod, ang mga halimbawa ng martir na Laiko sa Pilipinas.

Editorial Cartoon: (Presidentiable War) Who’s The Victim?

September 28, 2008

We always are.

Drilon bares Arroyo’s P13-B pork barrel in 2009 budget

September 28, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 18:50:00 09/28/2008

BACOLOD CITY — Former Senate president Franklin Drilon bared on Sunday what he called a P13-billion pork barrel allocation for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2009 national budget proposal.

Drilon said the P13 billion was inserted into the social service sector budget.

The former senator said the funds to be placed at the President’s disposal consisted of cash assistance, rice subsidies, feeding and nutrition programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Nutrition Council.

“It is like writing a blank check (in favor of the President),” said Drilon, currently the president of Liberal Party, who was here to speak in Saturday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Bacolod Central.

Drilon said that under the 2009 proposed national budget currently being debated on in the House, the “Malusog na Simula, Yaman ng Bansa (Healthy Start, Wealth of the Nation)” Nutrition Program would get a lump sum of P4.3 billion.

A cash dole-out program called Pangtawid Pamilya Pilipino (Cash Subsidy for the Filipino Family) Program has been allocated P5 billion, also in lump sum, he said.

The budget would also include lump-sum allocations of P1 billion for a National Targeting System; P1 billion for the Kalayaan Barangay (Freedom Village) Program Fund; P1 billion for the Kilos Asenso (Movement for Progress) Support Fund; P375 million for the core shelter program; and P2.8 billion for the President’s calamity and contingent fund, he said.

Drilon warned the public that the Department of Agriculture, which has been mired in big-budget irregularities under the Arroyo government, has been allocated P7 billion for the Ginintuang Masagana Ani (Golden Bountiful Harvest) Program, or GMA, including P3.3 billion for fertilizers.

“This is the famous GMA rice and corn program which Jocjoc Bolante transformed into a P728-fertilizer scam during the 2004 election,” he pointed out.

Drilon also revealed allocations of P4.3 billion for farm to market roads, P12.5 billion for irrigation, and P9 billion for seeds, he said.

“The issue here is transparency and accountability. These are blatantly huge sum appropriations, where accountability becomes very difficult, especially considering that 2010 is an election year,” he said.

“There is so much discretion here that the President can use this to favor her political allies and to even to give them as dole outs for amendments to the Constitution,” he said.

Drilon called for a stop to this style of budgeting, which spawned the multi-million-peso fertilizer scam in 2004 that allegedly favored administration candidates and which has been continuing until today as what the Commission on Audit recently revealed.
“Fictitious foundations were made conduits in 2007 for releases of funds, resulting in massive corruption,” he said.

The issue of corruption has been hounding the Arroyo administration, he said, citing the recent survey of the Social Weather Station that placed the President’s popularity rating at negative 38 percent.

“To my mind this is due to corruption and blatant disregard of the rule of law,” he said.

Drilon also took note of a Makati Business Club study, which showed that as much as P29.5 billion in government capital spending was lost annually to corruption.

Citing reports of the World Bank and Transparency International, Drilon said retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote that the “Philippines is perceived as the most corrupt in Asia and among the worst in the world.”

Drilon echoed Panganiban’s assessment that massive corruption in government has been aggravating poverty and social inequities in the country.

He cited the government’s Family Income and Expenditures Survey showing that no less than five million Filipino families have been living below the poverty line, compared to only four million Filipino families in 2003.

This means that for every 100 Filipinos, at least 33 are very poor, according to Drilon.

No less than 10 million of the country’s labor force is unemployed and underemployed today, and 7.5 million Filipinos are abroad for lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines, official figures cited by Drilon show.

The national budget, which has been pegged at P1.4 trillion for 2009, would be critical to solving poverty and it would be important for the public to be vigilant about where their taxes would go, the former senator said.

Drilon warned about the growing frustration, hopelessness and disappointment among the people because “nobody gets jailed for the well-documented corrupt deals” and the administration “consistently displayed a knack for ignoring the rule of law just to have a firm grip on power.”

This, he said, was manifested in the recent outcry over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Drilon has gone to the Supreme Court to question the legality of the MOA. The Supreme Court might decide on the case by next week, he said.

Razon headed to NSC–Palace source

September 28, 2008

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:47:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — President Macapagal-Arroyo is poised to appoint newly retired Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon to the National Security Council (NSC), a Malacañang source has revealed.

“Razon will be a deputy to National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales at the NSC,” said the official, who asked not to be identified for not having been assigned to speak on the matter.

Razon retired from the police service on Sept. 27 and was replaced by Deputy Director General Jesus Versoza.

But both Gonzales and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita could not confirm Razon’s appointment to the NSC.

“I have no idea,” Ermita said.

In a separate phone interview, Gonzales said on Sunday he had not been apprised of Razon’s appointment.

But if it were true that Razon was going to the NSC, then he would be appointed deputy director general, according to Gonzales, who is director general of the agency.

Gonzales said Razon’s entry to the NSC would be welcome as “he has a reputation of being a good police officer.’’

Actually, Gonzales said, he already had something in mind for Razon should he be named to the NSC.

He said that with his police experience, Razon could look into the sudden rise in petty crimes in the country, a common complaint made to him by local government executives.

“I promised to look at it and this could be a good opportunity should General Razon come in,’’ Gonzales said.

Gonzales has lost three deputies — retired Gen. Victor Mayo, Pedro Cabuay, who is now chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and retired Gen. Romeo Tolentino, who is going to the Philippine National Oil Co.

His deputies now include Senior Deputy Adviser Milo Ibrado, Deputy Adviser Luis “Chavit” Singson and Arturo Lomibao, another former PNP chief.

Gonzales said Singson would like to do special assignments while Lomibao has been assigned to anti-terrorism work.


My Take:

Now, at least we see loyalty here.  PGMA is more loyal to PDSP than to the military.  Razon as Gonzales’ deputy?  Can Mamang Pulis stomach that kind of insult?

Just asking…

Road toward 2010 to be bumpy with Cha-cha–US think-tank

September 28, 2008

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:35:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — The Philippines’ political scene is facing a rough road ahead toward the 2010 presidential elections due to fresh initiatives to tinker with the 1987 Constitution and heightened economic risks from the global financial crisis, according to a New York-based think tank.

But remittances from overseas Filipino workers would continue to keep the domestic economy afloat, Global Source said in a paper titled “Minefields on the Road to 2010” dated Sept. 26.

“The road to the 2010 presidential election is not expected to be a smooth one,” said the commentary written by Filipino economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang.

Mounting a Charter change (Cha-cha) initiative, even if eventually blocked or pulled back, is seen as a way to save President Macapagal-Arroyo from becoming a “lame duck” during her remaining 20 months in office.

“Thus, this is a no-lose strategy for the leadership,” the paper said.

While local financial markets have been able to shrug off these political developments until now, Global Source said “it would be rash though to discount current moves as mere political noise.”

It reckoned that amending the Constitution would be a difficult process. “This is something that its crafters in all likelihood intended. Several previous failed attempts, going back to the 1990s during the time of President Ramos, attest to this,” it said.

The think tank also noted that the outlook for global growth dimmed since the most recent US financial crisis, which was expected to affect developing countries’ exports and growth prospects.

“Higher domestic inflation can exert pressure on wages anew, which firms may not be able to accommodate at this time given the poor business climate. This may lead to some labor unrest, increasing political tension further,” the report said.

But unlike in the 1980s when a confluence of unfavorable external conditions and internal political turmoil led to a debt crisis and the end of the 20-year Marcos regime, Global Source expressed confidence that remittances would continue to provide “buffer from the storm.”

Right before Wall Street’s crisis hit the headlines, Global Source observed that Philippine dailies dwelt extensively on Cha-cha ahead of the 2010 presidential elections. There are three ways—people’s initiative, constitutional convention, constituent assembly—to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

The last attempt at Cha-cha, in 2006, went for a people’s initiative, purportedly showing the signatures of some 6.3 million voters favoring amendments, but the initiative was junked by the Supreme Court as a “gigantic fraud.”

Global Source said opposition to Charter change appeared to stem from fears that it was a mere ploy to keep the current administration in power, either through term extension or a shift to a parliamentary form of government that would allow the incumbent to run for prime minister.

Suspicions over motives for Cha-cha led a broad segment of society, which recognized the need to adapt various economic provisions of the Constitution to changing global economic realities, to propose postponing any discussion of amendment to post-2010 election, the paper said.

Global Source also observed that the leadership’s unpopularity fanned suspicions that Cha-cha was intended to preserve political power for the President and her congressional allies (many of whom are also legally impeded from running for reelection) rather than to reflect the public’s will.

“While there is disconnect now between political developments and market movements, we think that the line in the sand for people to take to the streets is any obvious move to tinker with the rules to do away with the 2010 elections,” the report said.

The report also noted that the current leadership was accused of trying to engineer Charter change through a proposed peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Arroyo administration earlier announced support for Charter change in order to move to a federal system on grounds that this will lead to more responsive governance at the local level.

Global Source said that while there was much controversy on what was seen as creating a state for the Moro people with all its complications, the principal issue for many was that it would open doors for other constitutional changes, specifically moving to a parliamentary system without term limits that would concentrate power in the Lower House and do away with the Senate.

The peace agreement was in the end set aside, the paper said, leading to “unfortunate” consequences for the peace process.

Global Source, nevertheless, noted that members of Congress, allies of the leadership, already put forward an explicit proposal to amend the Constitution and shift to a parliamentary form of government.

This was to be achieved by convening Congress as a constituent assembly where, through a vote of three-fourths of its members, proposed changes would then be submitted to a referendum.

“Cha-cha moves have since gained momentum and more maneuvers may be expected in the coming months,” Global Source said.

While there are many roadblocks, including getting the nod of the Supreme Court and winning the referendum, some quarters believed that the current move would have a fair chance of passing within the relatively short timeframe before 2010, it said.

Some have even conjured up a Marcosian scheme in which emergency rule or martial law will be imposed to obtain the needed majority in the referendum.

Others have argued that a no-election scenario could materialize should current officials be retained during the transition to a parliamentary system.

“Analysts liken recent exercises to a horse race, with the leadership, seeing limited downside, allowing the race to go on and betting on a preferred horse—until events conspire to eliminate it in the running which would then require switching bets to the next preferred horse,” Global Source said.

“That is to say that if opposition, including from the Church, influential business groups and civil society (the groups that in the past have visibly shown outrage and taken people power action that led to the ouster of Marcos in 1986 and resignation of Estrada in 2001), turn out to be strong, the leadership will shift to alternative maneuvers to keep political influence beyond 2010,” it said.