Archive for the ‘scams’ Category

Plunder evidence vs ‘Joc Joc’ readied for Ombudsman

January 28, 2009

BY JP LOPEZ

THE Senate is readying the transmittal of testimonial and documentary evidence to help the Office of the Ombudsman in filing plunder charges against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante and other key personalities implicated in the P728 million fertilizer fund mess.

“We have enough (evidence) to bring this (case) to the Ombudsman. There is a ton of evidence, and we have heard testimony among witnesses that was presented by way of checks and reports. We warn the Ombudsman that there is enough evidence,” Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said.

The Blue Ribbon panel is expected to come out with a preliminary report recommending the filing of plunder and other charges against Bolante, alleged Malacañang liaison Jaime Paule, alleged runner Marites Aytona, and others for defrauding the government of an estimated P620 million.

Gordon said money laundering, falsification of documents, and other offenses were committed but these would all be absorbed by plunder which is a capital offense.

Gordon lamented the lackadaisical attitude of the Ombudsman on the findings and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon and the food and agriculture committee in December of 2005 for the prosecution of Bolante whom they tagged as mastermind of the 2004 fund mess.

“It has been 1,056 days since the (Joker) Arroyo and (Ramon) Magsaysay (Jr.) committee submitted its report on its investigation into the fertilizer project but the Ombudsman has yet to file graft charges or take action against any individual in connection with the controversy,” he said.

Gordon said if the Ombudsman does not want the public to lump it together with the evasive, if not downright, lying witnesses, the Ombudsman should take action and stop putting off the filing of appropriate charges.

“I advise the Ombudsman not to tarry any longer because this will just open more questions that demand answers, and above all, demand what we call justice. Indeed, the people’s frustration is evident. People have become cynical and frustrated,” he added.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and a group of farmers tilling lands owned by the Arroyo family in Negros Occidental backed the possibility of plunder charges against Bolante and company.

CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio and Task Force Mapalad president Jose Rhodito Angeles said the move of the Blue Ribbon committee is justified considering that it involves public funds. – With Gerard Naval(Malaya)

ROXAS SAYS Agri funds misuse continues post-Bolante Roxas urges probe post-harvest funds

December 27, 2008

INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:47:00 12/27/2008

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Agriculture, Joc-joc Bolante

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged misuse of agriculture funds continues in the Department of Agriculture even after its former undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante left the agency, Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas said Saturday.

“Hindi nagtapos ang pangungurakot noong umalis si Joc-Joc sa DA. Itinuloy ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Arroyo ang maling paggamit ng pera ng taumbayan at nakita sa imbesigasyon na umabot ang kalokohan sa NABCOR (The corrupt practices didn’t end with Joc-Joc’s departure from the DA. The administration of President Arroyo continued its misuse of the people’s money and investigation showed it spread to NABCOR),” the Liberal Party president said in a press statement.

Bolante is linked to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam; the money intended for farmers’ fertilizer allegedly went instead into the campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Citing the 2007 report of the Commission on Audit, Roxas said some P300 million was disbursed by the DA for acquisition of post-harvest facilities, but these could not be validated by the auditing agency.

On top of this, he said, P95.167 million of post-harvest projects purchased by Nabcor were not used by farmers for being inapplicable and outmoded.

The 2007 CoA report also showed that P734.255 million was transferred from the DA to Nabcor, which in turn charged a 10-percent administrative fee when handing these to nongovernmental organizations and people’s organizations, thus reducing the amount benefiting these groups.

Aside from these alleged anomalies, the DA had taken P225.22 million from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund and transferred this to the Nabcor for the implementation of a “Competitive Food Processing and Cold Chain Operation” project, despite Nabcor’s insufficient capability and manpower to carry this out.

“Hindi pwede na basta-basta ang ganitong paglipat ng pondo mula sa DA papuntang Nabcor at mga iba’t ibang grupo. Kailangan natin ng accountability at transparency dito (We can’t simply allow these fund transfers from the DA to Nabcor and other groups. We need accountability and transparency here),” he said.

Roxas said he has filed Senate Resolution 824 to look into the transactions of Nabcor which the Commission on Audit had found to be anomalous.

“Kung gusto nating gumanda ang buhay ng ating mga magsasaka at pakainin ang bawat Pilipino, siguraduhin muna natin na wasto ang paggamit ng pondo ng gobyerno (If we want to raise our agriculture sector and feed every Filipino, we have to ensure the proper use of government funds),” he said.

“No P14M cash for fertilizer”

November 17, 2008


BOLANTE, AUMENTADO, CHATTO, CAJES, JALA
If figures based on documents of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Audit (COA) are accurate, the province received P14 million in fertilizer funds at the height of the 2004 elections.

However, Gov. Erico Aumentado, Representatives Edgar Chatto (First District), Roberto Cajes (Second

District) and former Third District congressman Eladio Jala all denied they actually received the fertilizer allocations in cash.Aumentado said he did not receive a single centavo out of the P5 million reportedly given to the provincial government as reflected in the DBM records of fund releases.

Chatto, Cajes and Jala also explained that they did not personally receive the farm inputs or any fund for the purpose.

The DBM and COA documents revealed the three solons as recipients of P3 million each.

The two incumbent solons and Jala, who is now assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), all welcomed the Senate probe into the P728 million fertilizer subsidy that were allegedly diverted to bankroll the 2004 campaign of Arroyo and administration candidates.

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During Friday’s “The Governor Reports”, Aumentado said that he was only informed that fertilizers were delivered to the Provincial Agriculture Office. The farm inputs were purportedly purchased by the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Provincial Agriculturist Liza Quirog, in a separate interview, confirmed that no less than 40 towns were beneficiaries of the fertilizers distributed by the DA but could not give the amount of the farm inputs.

Quirog recalled having received and distributed the liquid (foliar) fertilizers to the towns sometime in July 2004.

The delivery of the fertilizers was done all at the same time with all the boxes brought to the provincial DA office.

The governor assigned Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Bebot Pinat to handle the distribution of the fertilizers to the municipal agriculture officers in the towns.

SOLONS EXPLAIN

The three solons said they all want to clear their names and welcomes the ongoing Senate inquiry with the testimony of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante.

Rep. Chatto disclosed that it was then DA Regional Director Eduardo Lecciones who facilitated the fertilizer support program funneled directly to the local government units.

In his district, Chatto said it was Balilihan town that became the recipient since the interior town is known for enhancing agricultural productivity.

Vice Mayor Dominisio Chatto, who was then town mayor, was the one who implemented and audited in accordance with the procurement rules and procedures with full documentation.

Full liquidation of fund disbursements was done with the DA regional office, according to Balilihan municipal treasurer Lina Banac.

For his part, Rep. Cajes said he was asked by the regional DA to identify two towns that need fertilizers the most.

Cajes said he recommended San Isidro and Dagohoy towns. After recommending the towns, he never heard again what happened to the fertilizer support.

Then Dagohoy Mayor Sofronio Apat and then San Isidro Mayor Boy Samoya, both were not able to give him updates on the distribution of the fertilizers as he was already in the thick of the campaign for the 2004 elections.

Meanwhile, ASec. Jala said that when asked by Regional Director Eduardo Lecciones what town he wanted to receive fertilizers, he recommended the town of Bilar being one of the top rice producing towns in the province.

He was able to confirm from Bilar Mayor Fanuel Cadelina that organic fertilizers, granules, and not liquid, were distributed in his town.

Cajes, who used to chair the House committee on ethics recalled that Task Force Abuno, created by the Office of the Ombudsman, visited the town when the fertilizer scam erupted in the media.

In fact, he learned that a team from COA visited the town. He was informed by Mayor Cadelina that the team found no irregularity on the distribution of the fertilizers.

“Even before, I already favored the investigation of the fertilizer fund because my district will be affected by this mess when in fact it is really an agricultural district unlike Makati and Quezon City that were also listed to be recipients of farm inputs,” Cajes said.

“I’m sure there are available official records that would help in the investigations,” he added.

PRESIDENT’S ALLIES

According to a report of the Ombudsman, 53 governors, 105 congressmen and 23 municipal and city mayors received different amounts out of the fertilizer fund.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Bohol chair John Ruiz III said while not all solons and local officials got the farm subsidy, most of those included in the list of recipients were identified either as partymates or pro-Arroyo.

According to Ruiz, the three Bohol solons and the governor are just as responsible as the Arroyo administration on the fertilizer scam.

“Being the privileged few of supposed “trusted” government officials to implement such multi-million national program, it entails a sense of responsibility of the individual “public servants” to ensure that his/her poor farmer constituents would not be short change.”

Bayan made this statement as Ruiz claims that farmers under the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Humabol) “never heard of the actual distribution process of the fertilizers.”

In a survey conducted over dyRD, 95-percent of respondents do not believe that Pres. Arroyo is not involved in the supposed P728 million anomaly. (TheBoholChronicle)

FERTILIZER FUND PROBE Bolante clears Arroyo

November 13, 2008

Fund disbursement ‘not a scam’

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 05:59:00 11/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 14) Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante has cleared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of any involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

At the same time, Bolante denied the disbursement of the money, which he is accused of diverting to Arroyo’s 2004 campaign kitty, was a scam.

Bolante was grilled for almost eight hours during the hearing, which ended a little past 7 p.m. and showed little signs of flagging, prompting Senator Panfilo Lacson to comment that the former agriculture official “is not sick.”

“As far as I know, the P728-million farm input and implement program funding of the Department of Agriculture was not a scam,” but a legal, valid and proper use of government money, Bolante said in response to questioning from Senator Loren Legarda.

“Your Honor, President Arroyo was not involved in this particular project of the Department of Agriculture. The implementation of the P728 million farm input-farm implement program was approved by the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] without the approval of President Arroyo,” Bolante said in response to a question by Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas at the start of the Senate investigation into the scandal Thursday.

But Roxas countered that Bolante’s answer was hard to believe.

“That’s hard to believe, Mr. Bolante because we know the President as a micromanager, she dips her hands into everything in government. For you to say that she did not approve this is hard to believe,” Roxas said in Filipino.

Pressed by Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Bolante reiterated that the President had nothing to do with the release of the fertilizer fund.

“Wala po [Nothing],” he said. “We did not have to [get the President’s approval because it’s a regular activity of the Department of Agriculture.”

“It’s part of the budget of the Department of Agriculture. The source of the fund is the regular budget of the Department of Agriculture,” he added.

“It was legal, valid and proper funding,” he told Legarda.

Bolante said there are records to prove this, including a memorandum of agreement indicating the recipients of the money and how it was used.

He also cited a report to the Commission on Audit that 91 percent of the fund had been liquidated.

Bolante said the project had been approved by the DA and did not require the approval of the President.

He also admitted that it was his office that prepared the list of project proponents of the fertilizer fund.

“The list was prepared by my office, tasked by the DA to put together all pending request from different units,” he said.

At the same time, Bolante described as “very unfair” and “railroaded” the Senate’s move to arrest him.

“In all honesty, I really feel that the decision to cite me for contempt and the consequent warrant of arrest was very unfair and railroaded,” he said.

He said the Senate, during the 13th Congress, had indicted him and branded him as the “architect” of the fertilizer fund scam.

Bolante said, “No,” when asked by Estrada whether the money was meant for administration candidates in the 2004 elections.

He said the records of the DA would show that most of these projects were implemented in June and July 2004 or long after the election.

Before this, Bolante has said that he has nothing to hide and apologized to the Senate for “whatever inconvenience” his absence has caused in the course of its investigation into the multimillion-peso fertilizer fund scam.

“I would like to apologize for whatever inconveniences my non-appearance to this august body has caused… I assure you, it’s not out of respect [to the Senate as a whole]” … nor I have something to hide,” said Bolante.

Bolante faced the upper chamber for the first time since he was implicated in the controversy in which he has been tagged as the alleged mastermind.

“It’s not our duty here to prove your guilt but to find the truth,” said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the blue ribbon committee that is presiding over the case.

At the same time, Cayetano said that while Bolante was “fit” to testify, the Senate medical doctor informed him that the former government official was suffering from chronic ulcer and therefore, should be allowed periodic snacks.

Bolante arrived at the Senate Thursday more than an hour before the hearing that started at 9:51 a.m.

Students from the Pasay North High School carried white and red roses for the senators as they sat at the gallery of the session hall to listen to the hearing.

Bolante has been accused of being the brains behind the alleged transfer of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the campaign kitty of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the 2004 election.

He has not issued a statement since his arrival from the United States where he fled shortly after the expose and tried but failed to seek political asylum.

Bolante arrived in the country last October 27 but before an arrest order could be served by the Senate was brought immediately to the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City where he stayed for more than two weeks until this Thursday.

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

October 30, 2008

By Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
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

Senate report: Euro generals ‘guilty’ Graft, money laundering cited

October 26, 2008

By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 10/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate committee on foreign relations has found the entire Philippine National Police delegation to the 77th Interpol General Assembly in Russia guilty.

In a draft report signed by its chair Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, the committee recommended the criminal prosecution of the eight-man PNP delegation for graft, malversation of public funds, and violation of the anti-money laundering law and banking rules.

In what was perhaps the fastest legislative investigation conducted in the Senate, the committee also recommended that PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno be subjected to preliminary investigation for violating government travel restrictions.

The report is being circulated for the signature of the committee vice chair, Sen. Mar Roxas, and its members.

The committee opened on Thursday an inquiry into the P6.9 million brought to Russia early this month by then PNP Director and comptroller Eliseo de la Paz, who has since retired.

Santiago gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer a copy of the eight-page report on Friday, a day before she flew to New York for the Nov. 6 elections of the International Court of Justice. The senator is vying for an Asian seat in the court.

She said she issued her report after the committee ended its Thursday hearing, where De la Paz was a no-show.

But she said the inquiry could be reopened when De la Paz is brought before the committee.

Antonette Aristoza, the committee secretary, told the Inquirer that as of Saturday, there were “no instructions for further hearings.”

Criminal liability

The committee’s first recommendation was for the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly.

The report said it “appears that some or all of them might be criminally liable” for the following offenses—malversation, under Article 17 of the Penal Code; technical malversation of public funds under Article 220; violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the New Central Bank Act.

The PNP delegates were De la Paz, Deputy Directors General Emmanuel Carta and Ismael Rafanan, Directors Romeo Ricardo, Silverio Alarcio and Silverio Doria, Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, and Supt. Elmer Pelobello, the designated aide of the group.

The wives of De la Paz, Caringal, Carta and PNP chief Verzosa also joined the trip, but both the police and Puno have maintained that the women paid their own way.

The report said the delegation violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. AO 103 suspends foreign travels except for ministerial meetings and scholarship or training that are of no expense to the government.

The same ban, on account of austerity measures, was reiterated in Executive Order No. 459 issued in 2005, and PNP Circular No. 202-017 issued in 2002, which provides that foreign travels shall not involve government or PNP funds.

The report said the delegation also violated the law on allowable travel expenses stated under EO 298, which provides for a daily subsistence allowance of $229, or about P11,450. The report noted that the per diem of the PNP delegation amounted to P21,418, or almost double the amount allowed by law.

The PNP delegation also violated the law against the travel of officials who are about to retire, the report said.

It said all but one of the officials who went to Russia were more or less 55 years old, near the retirement age of 56.

Puno

“Such preliminary investigation should include the [interior] secretary,” the report said.

It held Puno liable for violating Malacañang’s rules on travel, after noting that the grant of travel authority to some officials and employees were delegated to department secretaries like himself under EO 459.

“Under the doctrine in administrative law that liability follows duty, the [interior] secretary should be held liable for violating the travel ban under [AO] 103 issued in 2004,” the report said.

During the Thursday hearing, which served as a scolding session for Puno, Verzosa and the other PNP officials, Santiago assailed the interior secretary for allowing the trip to Russia despite the existing austerity measures of the President.

She also questioned Puno and Verzosa for allowing the retiring police officials to travel in violation of government rules.

The report asked that Verzosa be subjected as well to preliminary investigation for ignoring the travel ban.

“At the hearing, the PNP chief admitted that he was informed of a so-called contingency fund in the amount of some P7 million, but all he did was to order an investigation after the event,” it said.

De la Paz

The report also recommended that De la Paz be arrested and detained in the Senate.

But up to Saturday, the Senate has not issued the arrest warrant for De la Paz, who made himself scarce after arriving from Russia on Tuesday.

The report noted the ex-comptroller’s statement that he would appeal his arrest before the Supreme Court.

“Even so, unless the Supreme Court orders otherwise, De la Paz should remain in detention under Senate custody, until he purges himself of the contempt,” it said.

The committee cited De la Paz in contempt when he failed to show up at the inquiry. Santiago then ordered his arrest, but the warrant needed to be signed by Senate President Manuel Villar, who arrived from abroad only on Saturday.

The report also pinned down De la Paz for several violations, saying his claim that he was carrying contingency funds had no basis in law.

“While the authorized travel expenses amounted to some P2.3 million, the alleged ‘contingency fund’ amounted to P6.9 million. Thus, the contingency fund carried by De la Paz could not possibly be placed in the category of ‘incidental expenses,’” the report said.

It said his claim was also contrary to law because contingency funds should not be given in advance.

The report likewise defended the committee’s jurisdiction over the case and the contempt citation for De la Paz.

It said the majority needed to issue the arrest warrant referred only to a majority of all the members present, and not of the whole committee.

PNP probe

The PNP is expected to release the results of its own investigation on Monday.

On Friday, Verzosa faced the media but still shed little light on the questioned release of the travel fund for the PNP delegation to Russia.

Verzosa stood pat on his testimony before the Senate committee on foreign relations that he had no hand in the release of any cash advance for the PNP delegation.

He said he had also limited the authority of Senior Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, budget division chief of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership, while Camp Crame continued its inquiry into the latter’s alleged transaction with De la Paz in withdrawing the P6.9 million from the PNP coffers.

“[Rentoy] is under investigation by the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management,” Verzosa said. “The penal actions [and] administrative actions against him will be put up and recommended upon termination of investigation.”

Rentoy is still on active duty but “we’ve advised him not to undertake disbursements,” Verzosa said. With a report from Tarra Quismundo

========

My Take:

Maybe Jun Lozada can help shed light as to the whereabout of General De la Paz.

(NorDis Editorial) The officers and Cruella De Vil

October 22, 2008

On the national front pages this passed week was a high ranking military officer stopped from departing at a Russian international airport in possession of P6.9 million in cold cash. Did that money come from the Philippines?

An ordinary Filipino is not allowed to bring more than P3,000 out of the country. Even if the inspector for humanitarian reasons would allow P4,000, but not P6.9 million, in the present Philippine economic situation. That is gross, obscene and inhuman, especially that one is a government official – unexplained wealth, or on a world tour? Is it not everyone equal in the face of the law?

Also on the national papers, the government has urged companies in critical mining areas to put up “civilian auxiliary groups” to further strengthen security forces and “take legitimate steps to protect their claims.

Equally in the application and implementation of the law, are indigenous peoples communities in their own traditional form of a company also equally entitled to put up their own “civilian auxiliary groups” and “take legitimate steps to protect their ancestral domain claims?”

“On top of such initiative, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is likewise studying the creation of an investment defense force (IDF) to address security concerns on a wider scope, where mining activities are conducted,” said defense Secretary Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. Among the initial areas identified for IDF is Cordillera, especially the Abra area.

In the prospective mine areas in the Cordillera, communities feel and talk of the growing presence and violence of government military forces. In Abra, some two weeks ago, it is the second time this year the military bombed Tubtuba and Beew. People from the area have not complained or told of harrassment or gross infringement on rights to their farms, forest, their village, private properties and their lives perpetuated by anyone or even by what the government call ‘rebel forces.’

Complaints and community outrage was only expressed when mining and logging companies and government military troops came to their home. During martial law and then again now their villages are bombed, restricted and occupied by military troops.

Most people ordinarily know and respect the uniform – police or armed forces – as created to protect them and to maintain the peace. With that news in the national papers are widespread experience of real people like the Burgos, Cadapan, Empeño, the Manalo brothers and Balao families and people of Tubo, Abra.

Piling up are documentations on officers getting away with peoples’ taxes, murder, rape, enforced disappearance, bombing, torture, land grabbing, even extra-judicial killings.

The uniform can very well be the face of Cruela deVil or the Demon himself. Beautiful or handsome with pit dark intentions.#

‘CONTINGENCY FUND’ ISSUE Lawmakers move to probe PNP generals

October 20, 2008

By Maila Ager, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:58:00 10/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers in both houses of Congress set the ball rolling on Monday for the investigation of why a retired police general was caught by customs officials in Russia for carrying millions of pesos in undeclared currency.

In the Senate, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a resolution directing the committee on foreign relations, which she chairs, to investigate the October 11 incident in which retired Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Eliseo dela Paz and his wife were stopped at the Moscow airport with at least P6.9 million worth of currency, way beyond the amount legally allowed travelers.

The PNP and Department of Interior and Local Government have said the money was a “contingency fund” for the top-level police delegation to the 77th Interpol assembly in St. Petersburg.

Even before she filed Senate Resolution 724 on Monday, Santiago had already scheduled for Thursday the hearing of the committee.

In the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna party list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño filed Resolution No. 843 directing the committee on public order and safety to immediately conduct an inquiry “on the unusually large PNP contingent” to the Interpol meet from October 7 to 10.

Among those who went on the trip were police generals’ wives, including Cynthia Verzosa, wife of the PNP director general.

PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa was not a member of the PNP delegation.

Among those invited to the Santiago committee hearing are Versoza, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and representatives from the Bureau of Immigration, Commission on Audit, and Anti-Money Laundering Council, committee secretary Tonette Arestoza said.

In the resolution, Santiago said it is imperative for De la Paz to explain why he was carrying an “excessive” amount of cash when he could have deposited in the PNP’s account, used travel checks, or only carried the amount needed to pay for airport fees and other expenses.

“The Napolcom [National Police Commission] should also be investigated and questioned as to how De la Paz got hold of an excessive amount of money, and if such was approved by them or not,” Santiago said.

In a radio interview over the weekend, Santiago also said the travel expenses of the delegates’ wives should also be examined, including where their money came from, to determine if the trip was affordable on their incomes.

“Ipagpalagay natin na pera nila. Kung ganun, saan nila kinuha [Granting it was their money. If so, how did they earn it]?” she said in the interview. “Dapat sagutin nila [generals], saan nila nakuha ang pera e ganyan lang ang sweldo nila. Ano, lahat sila nag asawa ng milyonarya [They should answer that, where they got the money when they make only so much. What, all of them are married to millionaires]?”

In the House, Ocampo and Casiño’s resolution said: “The PNP multimillion [peso] travel contingency fund scandal is brazenly scandalous in the light of the state of the PNP. The PNP generals easily go on official travel with their spouses in tow, while police forces on the ground raise complaints that they do not have equipment, vehicles, fuel, and even their own police stations to carry out their functions.”

They also noted that the PNP delegation to the Interpol assembly “was too big, especially in these times of economic hardship faced by the country and the world.”

“The PNP could have trimmed down the delegation by half and should have followed pertinent national and international laws on travel, travel expenses, and carrying of finances,” they said.

Both said it was “highly questionable” whether the “contingency fund” for the delegation was allowed by the Commission on Audit.

The leftist lawmakers also cited an INQUIRER.net report that the National Police Commission allotted P283,512 each for the eight police officials who went to Russia, or a total of P2.3 million, way below the money found in De La Paz’s possession.

Aside from Dela Paza, the police officials who made up the delegation are Deputy Director General Emmanuel Carta, deputy chief for administration; Deputy Director General Ismael Rafanan, deputy chief for operations; Director Romeo Ricardo, directorate for plans; Director German Doria, directorate for human resources and doctrine development; Zamboanga regional director Jaime Caringal; Director Silverio Alarcio, Jr., directorate for operations; Superintendent Elmer Pellobello.

Dela Paz retired on October 9, while he was in Russia.

SC asks Senate to disclose Bolante inquiry

October 4, 2008

THE Supreme Court wants a full disclosure on the result of the Senate’s inquiry on the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam, which pointed to former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante as the scam’s alleged chief architect.

In a resolution, the High Court en banc resolved to “require the parties to manifest the status of the Senate inquiry within a non-extendible period of seven days.”

The High Court said it needs to know first the status of the Senate inquiry for it to act on the petition filed by Bolante in 2006, which seeks to nullify the arrest warrants issued against him by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Bolante was cited in contempt by the Senate agriculture committee and the Senate ordered his arrest on December 12, 2005 after he failed to attend the joint committee hearings scheduled on October 6, 26 and November 17, 24, and December 12, of the same year, despite subpoenas sent to him.

In his petition, through counsel Antonio Zulueta in January 2006, Bolante asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order with prayer for preliminary injunction to set aside the Senate’s warrant of arrest, on grounds it is unconstitutional.

The petition was executed on January 4, 2006 before Roberto Bernardo, Philippine vice consul for State of Illinois, Chicago, USA. Named respondents in the suit were Senators Joker Arroyo and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former chairmen of the Senate Blue- Ribbon and Committee on Agriculture and Food, respectively and their members, as well as Senate Sergeant At Arms Jose Balajadia.

Records show the P728-million fertilizer fund was distributed before the 2004 national elections among lawmakers, including congressmen whose areas they represented had no farmlands.

Investigation at the House of Representatives later revealed that many of the congressmen who were on the list of among those who benefited from the fund did not actually received the amount purported to them. Among those on the list who received nothing was Rep. Teodoro Locsin of Makati City.

Government critics expressed belief that the P728 million was diverted to President Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 election campaign fund.

Bolante is currently jailed at the Kenosha County Detention Center in Wisconsin for an immigration case and appealed the decision of the US Court of Appeals that junked his petition for political asylum.

The Senate had also recommended Bolante’s prosecution before the Office of the Ombudsman. The case, however, remains pending.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Bolante will remain a freeman if he is deported, as there were no criminal charges filed against him nor a pending warrant, except for the one earlier issued by the Senate.

“So if he arrives I don’t think we can arrest him unless the Senate can enforce its order to arrest him,” he said.
— William B.Depasupil (ManilaTimes)

Editorial Cartoon: CA Controversy

August 19, 2008

Direct hit to the Judiciary.

Groups Slam Upholding of Secrecy on JPEPA

July 21, 2008

In its decision, the Supreme Court (SC) recently upheld the secrecy of the negotiations on the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

An anti-JPEPA coalition and an environmental group said the decision sets a dangerous precedent on future economic agreements entered into by the Philippine government.

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

In its decision, the Supreme Court (SC) recently upheld the secrecy of the negotiations on the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Penned by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the decision said that the respondents’ claim of executive privilege is valid. It states, “Diplomatic negotiations have been recognized as privileged…the reasons proffered by the petitioners against the application of this ruling has not persuaded the Court.”

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno dissented with the majority, arguing that the public’s right to information is more important amid controversies surrounding the JPEPA. Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Alicia Austria-Martinez and Adolfo S. Azcuna agreed with the chief justice.

Dangerous precedent

In a statement, the NO DEAL! Movement said that the SC ruling sets a dangerous precedent on future economic pacts that the Philippines will enter into.

The NO DEAL! said, “This will embolden the executive branch to enter into more trade and investment agreements and make commitments without due regard to their harsh effects on various sectors, especially the poor and marginalized.”

The Philippines has pending negotiations with the European Union (EU), the United States, China for economic pacts.

It added, “In effect, the SC is legitimizing the marginalization of ordinary Filipinos from having access to pertinent information on economic treaties such as the JPEPA that will have a deep impact on their interest and livelihood, said the anti-JPEPA coalition.”

The group maintained that diplomatic concerns should be secondary only to the ‘paramount concerns of the people about their interest and livelihood and of the country’s national patrimony and sovereignty.’

Right to know

The NO DEAL! also deemed that SC ruling undermined the fundamental right of the people to know the “compromises” that the executive department is making on their behalf.  “Many of the questionable and controversial provisions of the JPEPA stemmed precisely from the lack of transparency and prior consultation with the concerned sectors,” the coalition noted.

In a statement, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE), also a member of the NO DEAL!, branded the ruling as a sheer mockery of Philippine democracy, patrimony and sovereignty.

The group was among the first to oppose the JPEPA.

Bautista said, “If the bilateral trade is as good as its proponents claim it is, why the secrecy and lack of transparency? And why would the people believe and trust the very institutions and people who have a notorious record for selling the country’s patrimony and sovereignty.”

Déjà vu

The KPNE said that the recent ruling is reminiscent of the SC decision upholding the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995.

On December 1, 2004, the High Court reversed its earlier decision and declared all provisions o the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as constitutional.

Bautista lashed out at the government’s reasons for pushing for the ratification of the JPEPA. He said the government also said that mining is the answer to the country’s economic crisis.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of KPNE, said, “More than a decade has passed but the act has yet to deliver its promise of sustainable mining and huge economic gains.  What we have witnessed are countless tragedies and human rights violations in mining areas like Marinduque, Rapu Rapu Island and Nueva Vizcaya basically because of the ‘executive privilege’ that is supposedly exercised on behalf of the Filipino people.”

KPNE said that in spite of increase in mining production and income, its contribution to national economy remains insignificant. The mining sector’s contribution to country’s gross domestic product in 2007 is $1.77 or just 1.2 percent.

Bautista said, “The SC ruling is close to asking the Filipinos to trust that the current administration will act with the interest of the Filipinos at heart. Not only is this ironic, it is downright insulting.” Bulatlat

Pinoy ‘healing’ priest barred from saying Mass in Toronto

July 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Take:

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

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

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

July 4, 2008

By Edu Punay
Friday, July 4, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Huge bribes’ delayed $503-M Northrail project, says lawyer

July 4, 2008

By Jess Diaz
Friday, July 4, 2008

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The Chinese contractor of the $503-million North Rail project wants out because of the “huge bribe” paid to Filipino officials, causing a five-year delay in the project, according to a lawyer familiar with the case.

Speaking at the Serye Café news forum in Quezon City, lawyer Harry Roque said China National Machinery and Equipment Group (CNMEG), a state-owned corporation, spent most of the $150 million advanced by the government under its contract paying bribes.

“The contractor is backing out of the project because of the huge cost of corruption,” he said.

“They have paid big bribes to Philippine officials, and they want to recover those big amounts first before they proceed.”

Roque said one official involved in the project had at least P500 million in his bank account.

“The Chinese contractor reported the bribes to President Arroyo last Monday when she met with them in Clark,” he said.

Chinese embassy officials know about the bribe or “tongpats,” but they “are not speaking about it, at least not publicly,” he added.

Roque said CNMEG wants the government to advance an additional $200 million to recover the cost of alleged corruption, but that Malacañang has refused.

“This is the story that Palace officials are not telling the public,” he said.

Roque, who challenged the legality of the Northrail contract, said the Makati Regional Trial Court has ruled that since the contract is not a treaty, it is covered by the Procurement Law and should be subjected to public bidding.

“The court declared it as a commercial contract because it did not involve the exercise of sovereign functions,” he said.

Roque said CNMEG has questioned the decision before the Court of Appeals, where the case is pending.

“They are claiming that it is a treaty and should not go through the requirement of public bidding, and that they are immune from suit because they are a Chinese state corporation,” he said.

Roque said administration officials are speaking “with discordant voices to hide the corruption involved in Northrail and the fact that the $150 million advanced by the government is already gone without an inch of railway being built.”

“One official claimed the project has been terminated, while another asserted that it’s still on,” he said.

Edgardo Pamintuan, whom Mrs. Arroyo has reportedly named to head North Luzon Railways Corp., said CNMEG has “demobilized” from the project, leaving it in limbo.

However, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the railways project will continue despite issues involving its contractor.

A similar Chinese-funded project, the plan to build a national broadband network (NBN) for the government, has been derailed by allegations of corruption.

The awarding of the NBN contract to Chinese firm ZTE Corp. was witnessed by Mrs. Arroyo herself on April 21, 2007, just days after her husband went through life-threatening heart surgery.

The First Gentleman was still recuperating when Mrs. Arroyo left his bedside for China for the signing ceremonies between ZTE officials and Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

There were claims that at least $130 million in commissions and kickbacks were to be made from the $329-million ZTE contract. There were even allegations of advances amounting to $41 million.(PhilStar)

CA freezes accounts tied to fertilizer scam

July 4, 2008

By Mike Frialde
Friday, July 4, 2008

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the freezing of the bank accounts of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante and several others for their alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

In a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Pampio Abarintos, the CA granted the ex-parte petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for a 20-day freeze on 70 bank accounts and other monetary instruments under the names of Bolante and others.

“We have yet to receive a copy of the ruling but we will follow what the court says,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in reaction to the CA order.

The appellate court granted the AMLC’s petition after finding probable cause that the accounts are related to the fertilizer fund scam.

Covered by the freeze order are the accounts in AIG Philam Savings Bank Inc., Banco de Oro Universal Bank, Citibank N.A., East-West Bank, Equitable PCI Bank, Maybank Phils. Inc., Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., Philippine National Bank, Philippine Savings Bank, Planters Development Bank, Philippine Business Bank, Union Bank, Insular Life Assurance Co., Pru-Life Insurance Corp. of UK, Manufacturers Life Insurance Co., Standard Insurance Co., BPI/MS Insurance Corp., Performance Foreign Exchange Corp., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Union Bank of the Philippines, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., and Standard Chartered Bank.

The appellate court directed the monetary institutions “to desist from and not allow any transaction, withdrawal, deposit, transfer, removal, conversion, other movement or concealment of the accounts.”

Aside from Bolante, the AMLC identified the other account holders as Molugan Foundation, the Assembly of Gracious Samaritans Foundation Inc., One Accord Christian Community Endeavor for Salvation & Success through Poverty Alleviation Inc., Society’s Multi-Purpose Foundation Inc., Alliance for the Conservation of the Environment of Pangasinan Inc., Sta. Lucia Education Association of Bulacan Inc., Livelihood Corp., Ariel C. Panganiban, Donnie Ray G. Panganiban, Jaypee G. Panganiban, spouses Samuel and Katherine Samuel Bombeo and Eduardo F. Suerez.

The CA also ordered the AMLC to submit within 24 hours from receipt of the resolution, documents detailing the amounts of the monetary instruments, properties or related web accounts as of the time they were frozen.

The AMLC was also directed to submit to the CA relevant information as to the nature of the monetary instruments and related web accounts pertaining to the monetary instruments or properties subject of the freeze order.

“The Court finds that petitioner AMLC was able to establish probable cause that an unlawful activity had been committed by the aforementioned individuals and entities and that the subject accounts are related to such an unlawful activity,” the appellate court said in its resolution.

The CA has set a hearing on July 8 to determine whether to extend, modify, or lift the freeze order.

The Chicago Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have denied Bolante’s appeal for political asylum in the US.

US immigration officials said Bolante failed to prove that he would be politically persecuted if he returns to the Philippines.

Bolante fled the country after the Senate announced that it wanted him to testify on the alleged use of the P726-million fertilizer fund to beef up the campaign kitty of President Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

Bolante was arrested and jailed in the US after he tried to enter Los Angeles, California on July 7, 2006 when his non-immigrant visa had already been revoked by the US State Department.(PhilStar)

Binmaley mayor deplores sub-standard materials

June 20, 2008

BINMALEY–Upon seeing that substandard materials are being used to repair schools here damaged by Typhoon Cosme, Mayor Simplicio Rosario has immediately ordered a halt to the ongoing reconstruction work in two schools

Rosario, an engineer and a contractor prior to entering public service, said he personally saw, while he was distributing free school bags and notebooks to school children in his town, that the steel being used by the contractor of the Department of Education (DepEd) is only 9 millimeters in size which is not enough to hold trusses.

“This is not fit for building construction,” an angry mayor said, adding that it puts the children and the school staff at risk in the event another natural calamity, especially an earthquake, hit the town.

Stopped by the mayor were the rehabilitation of Binmaley Central Elementary School and Binmaley North Central School, two of the most heavily-damaged schools.

Rosario asked the contractor to present to him the design for the repairs, and he was told that the reconstruction blueprint came from the DepEd central office and no coordination was undertaken with the town’s engineer.

The mayor also stressed that while the town is grateful to the DepEd’s immediate assistance in the aftermath of the calamity, the department must not compromise safety of the schoolchildren.

Meanwhile, the school opening here went smoothly on Tuesday, June 10, despite the extensive damage brought by the typhoon on May 17.

Eduviges de Vera, principal of the Binmaley North Elementary School, told The PUNCH that they have adopted two shifts for the classes to accommodate all students owing to the lack of classrooms.

It was the school’s Gabaldon building that houses eight classrooms, the principal’s office, and the school clinic that was badly damaged.

De Vera expressed optimism that the rehabilitation will be finished soon. #

Gov’t looking at possibility of rehabilitating BNPP – Reyes

June 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Take:

This is bullshit!

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

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

tayo ang kawawa dito.  tutulan natin ito!

Even Negros Occidental gov puzzled by fertilizer subsidy

June 7, 2008

THE SOUTHERN BEAT By Rolly Espina
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco is himself at a loss on the guidelines of the fertilizer subsidies to farmers to help boost rice production and help push down the price of the staple in the province.

Local government units will reportedly identify the small farmers who can avail themselves of the rice subsidy.

The puzzle, according to Zayco, is that Negros Occidental is due to receive a total of P80 million in IRA differentials. But he does not know how the amount will be released.

“Earlier we were told that if we want to get the whole amount at once, it would be less 30 percent or only P56 million. But we would get the entire amount if we agree to avail ourselves of yearly releases over seven years,” Zayco explained.

In short, the Negros executive wants to clarify the source of funds for the LGUs for the rice subsidy program.

The question is, where will the 30 percent deduction of the lump sum go to?

That’s one thing which top government officials must answer. The Department of Agriculture, under the LGU fertilizer program, sets aside P500 from the DA and P1,000 from the LGU for the farmers.

These will be in terms of P250 coupons for each bag of fertilizer the farmers buy, he said.

Lucille Gaveolna said the LGUs will identify the prospective recipients. Some 11,500 small farmers in the province have availed themselves of subsidized fertilized seeds from the DA.

The fertilizer coupons will be released for the wet cropping season from May to October this year.

The LGU counterpart fund, according to Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, is from the P12.5-billion IRA differentials from 2001 to 2004 which the President had ordered released.

Cops have their hands full

The police force of Negros Occidental has its hands full trying to unravel the torching of three delivery trucks of Tanduay Distillery Inc. at the Barcelona Port in Barangay Old Poblacion, Escalante City last Wednesday night.

Initial reports said 30 suspected New People’s Army rebels burned the delivery trucks because of the distillery’s failure to pay revolutionary taxes to the insurgents.

While the police seemed sure that the arsonists were NPA rebels, Col. Honorato de los Reyes, 303rd Infantry Brigade chief, wondered why some of the suspects wore bonnets. This is not the usual trademark of rebels, especially CPP-NPA members.

That threw a monkey’s wrench into the torching incident. If they were not NPA rebels, then the whole thing is a police matter.

Usually rebels do not wear bonnets when they are committing atrocities, Reyes pointed out.

The delivery trucks were reportedly en route to Cebu to transport Tanduay products when they were torched at the port owned by the Barcelona family. Among the owners of the small port is Escalante Vice Mayor May-May Barcelona, although it is managed by a brother.

The raiders, according to the police, mostly came on foot, while others were on board a pumpboat.

Escalante police chief Leonardo Angcon said some of the armed suspects withdrew from the scene on board a pumpboat.

Earlier, suspected rebels also torched two Tanduay delivery trucks in upland areas of Vallehermoso and Guihulngan in Negros Oriental. Two months ago, rebels also burned two transloading stations of the Victorias Milling Co. and Lopez Sugar Corp. in Toboso town, just adjacent to Escalante City.

Again the reason for that was the refusal of both firms to pay revolutionary taxes.

De los Reyes admitted the presence of legal fronts of the CPP-NPA in the coastal areas of Escalante.

The sequence of events tends to confirm suspicions that the group of 30 well-armed raiders must have been NPA members.

The question, however, is whether insurgents or not, the latest incident poses a challenge to both the police and the military to run the armed groups to the ground.

Escalante and its environs in northern Negros Occidental have been rocked by a series of violent incidents that seems to convince people in these areas that the NPA is still around and not yet contained by the military and the police. That presents a climate of uncertainty among the civilian population of the towns of Toboso and Calatrava and Escalante City as well as the upland areas of Sagay City.

But there is another side to the story. The Negros police has been tasked to be on the lookout for the two suspected killers of Ajuy, Iloilo Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas.

A P200,000 reward has been put up by the family and friends of Rojas for the arrest of the suspects who were last reported to have fled to northern Negros. The two guns-for-hire have been identified as Edgar Cordero and Dennis Cartagena.

Rojas was jogging with barangay chairman Ferdinand Nacional when he was gunned down. Nacional survived the ambush.

Iloilo police chief Ricardo de la Paz, who heads Task Force Rojas, was, prior to his new post, the police chief of San Carlos City.

Regional police chief Isagani Cuevas said police are still validating if the killing of Rojas was related to the intense political rivalry in Ajuy.

ADDENDUM: The provincial government, according to Gov. Zayco, is distributing rice to 57,513 day-care children throughout Negros Occidental under the food-for-school hunger mitigation program. Social welfare officer Liane Garcia said 402,591 kilograms of rice are to be given out to children in 25 towns and cities of the province. Kabankalan City tops the list with 51,051 kgs of rice for 7,293 children in day-care centers daily.

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

June 7, 2008

By  Katherine Adraneda
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three-pronged approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ombudsman approves filing of charges vs Jocjoc

June 7, 2008

By Edu Punay
Saturday, June 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolante prosecution doubted

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: The Cold Threat

June 1, 2008

Singahan na!

NEWS: TXTPower welcomes zero texting charges, bats for refund

May 24, 2008

PRESS STATEMENT
May 24, 2008

TXTPower welcomes the calls by the DOTC secretary and several members
of Congress, for the removal of text messaging charges.

At the moment, we hope the DOTC secretary has ordered his staff to
calculate how much the telcos owe consumers since they started
charging for text messaging. All these illegal charges must be
refunded. The refunds should also cover the VAT illegally levied on
text messaging, not just the illegal telco charges.

The NTC and the BIR should work together to find out how much the
telcos and the government owe the consumers and to find out the
quickest and most fair way of undertaking a refund.

We have long argued that text messaging is a built-in service of the
GSM standard used by telcos and should thus be provided for free but
government refuses to listen. We are thus surprised by the sudden turn
around of the DOTC secretary and members of Congress. We expect them
to uphold the law regarding franchises and to correct their oversight
that allowed the telcos to fleece consumers up to now.

We are prepared to face the telcos, the NTC and the BIR before any
forum because we have long waited for this chance to expose the
highway robbery on consumers: the mislabeling of text messaging as a
value-added service, the NTC’s assent, the illegal charging and the
illegal slapping of VAT and the long silence over these by the
government.

We have friends who are experts in the fields of mobile telephony and
electronics and communications engineering who back us up and would
surely sound advice to the DOTC secretary and Congress on the
technological basis for removing text messaging charges. ###

Reference:
Anthony Ian Cruz “Tonyo”
President
0917-8128827

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Credit-Card Scam in Malls Bared; 9 Ways to Protect Yourself

May 24, 2008

They usually approach you in shopping malls and ask you if you already have a credit card. If you tell them that you don’t have one, they would then shove a paper in your hand, asking you to fill it up so you can enjoy the benefit of having a credit card. The banks have been increasingly using such a marketing tactic to encourage people to sign up for credit cards, which perhaps partly explains the explosion of credit-card use in the Philippines.

But the next time one of these agents approach you, know this: a scam may have developed out of this aggressive marketing strategy by the banks.

According to this report in the Inquirer, the National Bureau of Investigation is investigating whether these sales agents provide personal information gathered from such forms to credit-card fraud syndicates. This after a woman complained that another person applied a credit card using her identity.

Here are several things to keep in mind to protect yourself from identity theft and credit-card fraud:

1) If you must apply for a credit card, do it personally at the bank or on the bank’s website.

2) We Filipinos often give out personal information carelessly, like when we fill up raffle forms, etc. Do not give out personal information such a date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, your SSS number, your TIN, etc. unless you absolutely have to. Keep in mind that often, when you call up your bank, all they need to verify that it’s really you is any two of these bits of information.

3) Do not just throw away your old credit-card receipts and bank or financial records. Burn them if you can or soak them wet, but don’t just throw them in the trash. A bit paranoid, you might think, but we’re talking about your money in the bank.

4) Check your statement of account regularly. If a purchase is listed there that you did not make, verify with the bank immediately.

5) If someone calls you asking information about your account, do not give it out immediately. Verify whether the caller is indeed from the bank. Ask him to give you a number that you can call and the name of his supervisor. Then call that number. This may be cumbersome but, since we’re talking about your life savings, it should be worth the trouble. If he can’t, tell him that you’d just go to a branch to give the information he wanted.

6) Avoid using your credit card in places (restaurants, etc.) where you cannot see the cashier who is processing your card or the waiter that just took your card. There have been reports of establishments swiping your card on gadgets to steal the card’s data.

7) If you buy stuff online regularly, try to have a separate card for such purchases, one that has a lower credit limit. Or use a debit-card (such as Unionbank’s Eon) with a limited amount in it. Or use PayPal.

8) Never transact on a website whose URL does not have the https prefix. The “S” stands for secured.

9) Banks and financial institutions do not, as a rule, solicit personal information via email. If you received an email that asks you to update your account by logging on to a website, it’s a phishing email and you should never, under any circumstances, click it or log on to the website. Delete the email immediately. (CC Hidalgo/pinoypress.net) (PinoyPress)