Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: November 2017
MANILA — The testimony of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro at the House of Representatives Justice Committee hearing is sufficient to prove the allegations against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, impeachment complainant lawyer Larry Gadon said.


De Castro testified against Sereno after she and other personnel were allowed by the SC to appear before the House hearing on the impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice.


Gadon said de Castro’s statements backed by documentary proofs were “uncontrovertible evidence”.


“The testimony of Justice Teresita de Castro is more than enough and sufficient to impeach Sereno. Her testimony, aside from being supported with documentary evidence, is tremendously strong since the issues under question are matters precisely within her knowledge as she herself was a direct participant in those matters of administrative orders and TRO (temporary restraining order) resolutions — a firsthand knowledge by direct participation,” he said.


Gadon claimed that the testimony of de Castro showed Sereno’s alleged culpable violation of the Constitution.


The lawyer admitted that he felt vindicated by the statements of the senior magistrate that validated most of his allegations in the impeachment complaint.
De Castro specifically cited Sereno’s AO issued on Nov. 27, 2012 creating the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and reopening the Regional Court Administrative Office (RCAO) in Region 7 in Cebu.


De Castro also testified on the TRO in the case involving the disqualification case of the Senior Citizens party-list group in the May 2016 elections.


She also testified on the merits of the decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan.


De Castro has also been authorized by the Court to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the JBC’s decision not to include the name of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza on the shortlist of nominees for SC justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.


Gadon said with the charges against Sereno now based on solid evidence he reiterated his call for the chief magistrate to resign from her post to avoid further humiliation.


He said that if Sereno does not resign, he would file graft and corruption charges in connection with the hiring of IT consultants, found to be illegal.


“If she does not resign by Monday (Dec. 4), I am going to file graft and corruption cases against her and some of her minions in SC over the issue of the hiring of IT consultants which was found to be illegal,” he explained.


Gadon said he plans to file the cases next week if Sereno refuses to step down from her post.


He cited a fact-finding report submitted to the SC, which recommended that the contract amounting to about PHP10 million for the services of IT consultant Helen Perez – Macasaet be voided for “lapses in the procurement process”.


Weak complaint
Meanwhile, Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President Abdeil Dan Elijah Fajardo said that he found the impeachment complaint filed by Gadon against Sereno weak and lacking in substance.


Fajardo likened Gadon to a “summary writer” whom he said was really lacking personal knowledge as to the workings or the antecedents leading to decisions taken by the SC or its internal workings.


“At first, we wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to Atty. Gadon because he might really have something there.


But as it is turning out now, the complaint appears to be just a summary of what has been publicized either through newspaper reports or through blind items or rumors about the inner workings of the Supreme Court,” Fajardo said in a TV interview.


He cited Gadon’s claim that he received information against Sereno from Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, who supposedly got the same from de Castro.


Both de Castro and Canlas have denied such claim.


He said Gadon did not even appear as counsel or party to the cases heard by the high court that he is now talking about in his impeachment complaint against Sereno.


Fajardo reiterated his earlier stand that the impeachment process should be utilized judiciously, adding that using it too often might affect the independence required of the Judiciary.


He said the Chief Justice, whoever is sitting on the post, is just a human being, who because of the threat of impeachment, might not be able to comply with his or her constitutional duty due to the threat hanging over his or her head.


“If the highest member of the judiciary, no less than the chief justice, is threatened with impeachment in each decision and in each administrative matter, there might creep into that fear that he or she might displease the political powers and that therefore cannot comply with the constitutional duty to decide on cases based on the evidence of law,” the IBP chief said.


The 55,000-strong IBP last September said that while impeachment is allowed under the Constitution to exact accountability of impeachable officials, such as the President, Vice President, Chief Justice and the head of constitutional commissions such as the Comelec, it should be used sparingly so as not to dilute its power.


Confident Sereno
For her part, Sereno said those who stand with the truth should not be oppressed as she expressed confidence that God’s plan would prevail as she faces impeachment complaint over allegations on her wealth, living a lavish lifestyle, and falsifying the high court’s resolutions.


“I’m sure, as the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, that God’s plan will prevail. Indeed, I have seen with my own eyes how the Lord superintends everything so that the lies are uncovered, the truth is revealed, people are taking more courage and there is unity among brethren at last. There is an awakening in the Church and among our ordinary citizens,” Sereno said Thursday after the Mass at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice offered by her supporters at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.


The top magistrate admitted she did not expect that her fight would be the fight of every citizen, saying it inspired her not to give up.


“Sa akin pong mga kababayan na nagmamasid sa nangyayari ngayon, maraming maraming salamat po, pagkat nakita ko po, at kayo na rin po ang nagsabi na paulitulit, ‘Ang laban mo ay laban namin.’ Kaya paano po ako bibitiw, paano po ako manghihina ang loob, paano po ako lilisan at tatalikuran ang aking pananagutan sa bayan? (To my fellow Filipinos who are following recent events, thank you very much. I have seen how all of you are saying repeatedly that my fight is your fight, too. How can I quit then? How can I be faint of heart? How can I afford to leave and abandon my responsibility to the country?)” Sereno said.


“Ako po ay niluklok para pangalagaan ang hustisya, bantayan ang independensya ng hudikatura, pangalagaan ang mga kawaning hudikatura at ilatag ang sunod-sunod na reporma sa hudikatura. Ako ay nahirang na maging pinuno, hindi lamang sa hudikatura mismo ng unit, dahil sa ehemplong hudikatura ay ang mabilis at tamang pag-inog ng hustisya, (I was designated to protect justice, preserve the judiciary’s independence, take care of its employees, and implement a series of reforms. I was chosen to be a leader of a judiciary that must ensure a fast and proper delivery of justice.)” she said. (PNA)
Published in News
Thursday, 30 November 2017 09:52

Duterte: Nothing to fear, I’m no dictator

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has allayed fears he would become a dictator, saying he was just after a new Constitution that would address corruption.
“These communists, calling me a dictator, an executioner, somebody corrupt…[but I say to you], do not be afraid of dictatorship. I am not aiming for it. I do not ask [for]it and I do not like it,” Duterte said in his speech during the birthday celebration of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) President Alfredo Lim on Tuesday night.


The President was referring to comments about him by the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after the breakdown of peace talks.


“In the event that Congress comes up with an anti-corruption Constitution, I will step down at the end of the year. That is a commitment, a guarantee. Make me a Constitution that would do away with a long suffering corruption-ridden country and I would be willing to just step out so you won’t be afraid that I am just after being a dictator,” Duterte said.


The President, however, did not take the communists’ tirades sitting down, tagging the insurgents as terrorists amid the spate of attacks launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) against government troops (see story on A7).
NPA is the armed wing of the CPP.


“If I am a fascist that you [communists]say I am, [then]why [did you]talk to me? If that is the way, how you view me, then do not talk to me. Wait for a leader that would be to your liking your predilections. I am not that kind,” Duterte said.


After four rounds of talks between the government and the NDF, Duterte formally ended peace talks with the communist rebels this month, branding them as “terrorists,” amid the spate of NPA attacks.


Communist leaders, led by CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, countered by calling Duterte a “bully” and a “dictator.”
Published in News
Thursday, 30 November 2017 08:14

The final solution?

THE title does not refer to the Jewish pogroms that started in the Middle Ages in Europe which culminated in the Nazi extermination policies that brought on the Holocaust. It refers to an attempt at a “final solution” to the exasperation of the Filipino people with the slow pace of change promised by DU30’s battlecry “Pagbabago.” By the time this column comes out today, November 30, the Philippines could be in the cusp of another upheaval, a revolutionary government (“revgov”), that the DDS and the fist-pumpers have been working for weeks to entice PRRD to declare. I don’t think this will happen today. The Deegong is much wiser and more politically astute than his partisans who assume that the 16 million people who voted for him and the core of the 80 percent that has sustained PRRD’s popularity – that all have one prescription to solve this country’s ills.


Many of us who support DU30 agree on the causes of the pervasive frustration resulting in our government’s perceived stasis. But we differ in the solutions. As a blue-blooded parliamentary-federalist, I am also aghast at the recalcitrance of the Congress to work on the revision of the 1987 Constitution, this oligarch-influenced document that has reinforced the systemic perversions of the unitary system of governance in the lives of the Filipinos for a hundred years.


PRRD mentioned “revgov” as simply a threat, a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the “yellows,” the CPP-NPA-NDF and the Islamic radicals who are suspected of plotting to topple his government. But he toned down this language when the Armed Forces itself disputed this statement. But the zealots have picked this up as a clarion call to gather the true believers for a show of force today, November 30. Assuming that PRRD were to declare a “revgov,” would he telegraph his punches and join the mob today?


He is the undisputed constitutional leader of this country; although elected by a mere plurality, he has gained majority support to date. So, the zealots introduced another argument: declare a revGov similar to what President Cory did in 1986. Their argument goes this way: President Corg was elected President and sworn in by CJ Davide but she subsequently declared a revolutionary government. This could be the template for PRRD.


Columnist John Nery in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (“Newsstand,” November 21, 2017) pointed out that that the Deegong had already raised this question in August 2015 – long before he declared his candidacy; and reiterated the same in August 2017. Nery proceeded to argue that PRRD then and his cohorts now have a faulty reading of history. I quote: “Corazon Aquino was brought to power by a revolution…that repudiated the rigged election results called under the 1973 (Marcos) Constitution; she replaced it with (the 1987 Constitution). That’s why – and how – in her first year in office she presided over a revolutionary government.”


Senate President Koko Pimentel opined further: “Marcos was also sworn in at the same time as Cory. But because of the Edsa People Power Revolution booting out Marcos, Cory won. The 1973 Marcos Constitution was in effect null and void.” Cory issued Proclamation No. 3 establishing a revolutionary government and promulgated the provisional 1986 Freedom Constitution. She exercised powers until the 1987 Constitution was ratified.


But in an article in the Mindanao Times on November 24, columnist Chito Gavino, claiming superior political knowhow but alien to the nuances of other alternatives, offers the argument that revgov could be “done in a democratic way, meaning ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’.” Enchained to a linear progression of “problems-frustrations-therefore, revgov,” he employs tired old clichés as a backdrop for another upheaval, one that will inveigle the President into declaring a coup d’état against himself.


In short, he claims that the November 30 gathering calling for a revgov is “vox populi, vox dei”; condemning the people to yet another protracted “vox silentium,” akin to the earlier years of the Marcos dictatorship.


The President is a good lawyer and recognizes that Cory’s was not a precedent and will not declare a “revgov” under these circumstances. Yet, his devotees would have him stake his neck and the harsh judgment of history in an illegal and irresponsible adventure. I am myself exasperated, but the proposed “revgov” cure can be deadlier than the disease. We need to help the President see his way clear through this and not pander to his vulnerable passions and rhetoric. So, what then are our alternatives?


Let’s put the problems squarely where they are now. The onus for the revision of the 1987 Constitution rests on the two houses of Congress, but more so the Senate; and the futility of the mode of changing the Constitution – by Congress deciding to vote as one, or separately, to get the three-fourths for a constitutional amendment or revision. The math in favor of constitutional revisions is indeed formidable. The Senate, headed by PDP Laban party-mate Koko Pimentel boasts of its support for PRRD. Yet, the committee on constitutional revisions is chaired by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the LP president, the protector of the 1987 Constitution. He is holding hostage the future of this Republic and the next few generations. With him are Senators Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros. This is unacceptable. There has to be a constitutional and legal way to break the impasse and crack the hold of an impudent minority on the body politic. In a democratic system, negotiations are the norm to arrive at an agreement and a win-win solution between parties with divergent and oftentimes contradictory interests. Surely, we do not need a “revgov” to have these august members of the Senate see the Deegong’s way through?


But where is the vaunted political will of PRRD? The kind of sense of purpose that allowed “tokhang” to arrest the proliferation of the illegal drug menace and stop in their tracks the Parojinogs, the Espinosas etc.? But have we exhausted all efforts at negotiation? Have we closed the avenues for compromise, and the application of threats and pressure as legitimate tools, when necessary?


Do we need to spill blood that is sure to ensue in a “revgov” because of the obduracy of a few people? Why involve the whole country? Do you use a hammer to exterminate a fly? Can the President not do a surgical operation? These are templates worth looking into. Let’s all think through these alternatives and crowdsource specific solutions in social media where truly the “vox populi” can be heard.
Published in LML Polettiques
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government is now one big step closer to reforming the country’s tax system for the first time in over two decades–and providing a steady revenue stream to its ambitious infrastructure buildup–with the Senate’s approval of its version of the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN).


Thanking the Senate for approving its version of TRAIN on third and final reading, Dominguez expressed hopes that both chambers could wrap up bicameral deliberations on the first of the government’s five tax reform packages in time for the submission of the final version to President Duterte by December–so that a new law to this effect could be signed and implemented as scheduled by January 2018.


Dominguez said “the Senate’s timely approval of its TRAIN version moves the government one big step closer to overhauling the tax system for the first time in two decades with the primary benefit going to 99 percent of the country’s taxpayers who are to get higher take-home pay as a result of substantial cuts in their personal income tax rates or–better yet–outright exemption from income taxation.”


The Senate on Tuesday night voted 17-1 to pass the TRAIN on final reading.
Senate Bill (SB) No. 1592, the chamber’s version of the TRAIN, was sponsored by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, who chairs the Senate ways and means committee.


According to Angara, “under the Senate-approved tax reform package, 60 percent of the incremental revenues will go to infrastructure programs, 27 percent will be allocated to social protection programs including the unconditional cash transfer to the poorest 10 million Filipino families and health, nutrition and anti-hunger programs, while 13 percent will be allocated to military modernization programs.”


“We thank the Senate for its vote on its version of the tax reform bill. We hope that with the Senate’s swift action on the measure, the two chambers of the Congress can soon sit down in the bicameral conference committee to thresh out a reconciled version of the bill that would provide the most benefit for the majority of the Filipinos while raising additional revenues to support our infrastructure modernization program,” Dominguez said.


“We are hoping that a final congressional version of the TRAIN could be sent to the President’s desk by December, so the tax reform bill could then be signed into law and implemented as scheduled by January next year,” he said.


House Bill (HB) No. 5636, the TRAIN version approved by the House of Representatives last May 31.


The Senate version provides additional revenue-generating measures that are not in the House version of TRAIN. But both Senate and House versions provide for tax exemptions for those earning P25o,ooo and below.


Among the additional TRAIN measures approved by the Senate on third and final reading are the doubling of the prevailing documentary stamp tax (DST) rates, except for property, which will remain as is, and loans, which will increase by 50 percent.


The DST increases include those on bank checks that will double from P1.50 to P3; on original issue of shares of stock, P1 to P2; and sales or transfer of shares of stock, P0.75 to P1.50.


Last May, President Duterte certified as an urgent and priority measure for congressional approval the TRAIN, which, he said, is crucial to the financial sustainability of the government’s ambitious agenda to sustain the country’s growth momentum and accelerate poverty reduction via a massive spending on infrastructure, human capital and social protection for the poor and vulnerable sectors.


In separate letters sent to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the President said: “The benefits to be derived from this tax reform measure will sustainably finance the Government’s envisioned massive investments in infrastructure thereby encouraging economic activity and job creation, as well as fund the desired increase in the public budget for health, education and social programs to alleviate poverty.”


The DOF submitted to the House of Representatives its original TRAIN proposal in September last year, which was later modified and introduced in the chamber by Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua as HB 4774 and later consolidated with other tax reform-related measures as HB 5636.


This House version was finally approved by the House before the adjournment of the first regular session of the 17th Congress last May.


The Senate ways and means committee began the deliberations on the TRAIN, which was filed in the chamber by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III as Senate Bill (SB) No. 1408, last March 22.


The Senate began conducting plenary debates on the revised measure, SB 1592, on Nov. 22 and finally approved it with substantial amendments last Nov. 28.
Dominguez earlier said that, “To sustainably finance these massive investments in infrastructure and in the people, tax policy reform will be crucial alongside tax administration and budget reforms.”


“The tax reform bill seeks to achieve a simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system characterized by lower rates and a broader base, to encourage investment, job creation, and poverty reduction,” Dominguez said.


According to Dominguez, the TRAIN bill is “expected to help reduce poverty rate from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent in 2022, lifting some six million Filipinos out of poverty, and helping the country achieve upper middle-income country status where per capita gross national income increases from $3,500 in 2015 to at least $4,100 by 2022.” | DOF-PR
Published in News
Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, November 27, that he will ask Congress to hold a special session to discuss the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).


President Duterte issued the statement during the first Bangsamoro Assembly held at the Old Provincial Capitol here attended by government peace process officials and leaders of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other concerned stakeholders.


“I will work very hard for it. I will ask Congress to a special session just to hear you talk about this in Congress,” Duterte said.


“Ang akin, it must be inclusive. Lahat. Walang maiwan dito sa peace talks na ito. The MILF, the MNLF, lahat na, Lumad, kailangan kasali,” he added.


The Chief Executive vowed to support the BBL noting that he would try to “work out” the disagreements in the proposals that will be discussed in Congress.


He, meanwhile, asked the public for more patience as the passage of the proposed BBL could encounter some delays due to the complexity of the issue.
“Of course it entails delays. Alam niyo, it takes forever to move. Somebody has to push it because there are thousands of concerns. But I will impress upon them that you have to devote even one day or two days. Hear them out, hear us from Mindanao,” he said.


The President noted that the discussions must be geared towards correcting the social injustice suffered by the Moro people and then crafting something that would preserve the Republic.


“I will only work with one thing in mind: There must be one nation for all and one republic for all. A Republic of the Philippines for all of us, Moro and Christians alike,” he said.


“I am doing everything to avoid a breakage or a fissure somehow in Mindanao. I’m going to walk the hundreds of miles, not the mile, as a first step, but there has to be a condition that is for all,” he added.


He said any agreement must contain the basics of a truly autonomous region, with the Mindanaoans enjoying all their natural resources but still sharing a portion to the national government.


Finding a solution to the Mindanao problem is crucial, he said, noting that failing to do so may lead to a renewed eruption of a worse regional conflict.
“The Republic of the Philippines must be one and the preservation of all Filipinos, Christian, Muslims, and all, must be there to unite us,” he said. (PND)
Published in News
Two senators have warned of a constitutional crisis on the issue of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s continued refusal to attend the impeachment proceedings against her at the House of Representatives.

This following Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali’s reported statement that the House committee on justice, which he chairs, might  be compelled to issue a  subpoena, and subsequently, a warrant of arrest if Sereno refuses to testify before the panel.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out that the power of Congress to issue a subpoena and order the detention of a witness who refuses to obey the subpoena is only available in investigations in aid of legislation.

“It is not available in an impeachment proceeding,” Drilon said in a text message to reporters. “In effect, a subpoena will compel Sereno in an impeachment complaint to testify against herself.”

“I therefore urge Cong. Umali to exercise extreme caution in using the coercive powers of Congress to issue a subpoena against Sereno as there is no basis and will provoke a needless constitutional crisis,” the minority leader added.

Senator Francis Escudero also cautioned that, “It may result in a constitutional crisis if the CJ refuses to attend.”

In a text message, Escudero likewise explained: “But if I remember correctly, the attendance/participation of the respondent in an impeachment case, or in any case for that matter, cannot be compelled to give evidence vs himself/herself even if he/she attends.”

Umali, in a radio   interview over the weekend, said the committee might have to issue a subpoena to the Chief Justice is there’s really a need for her to testify on the complaint against her.

“Kung hindi sinunod, ma-oobliga na tayo na mag-isyu ng warrant,” the lawmaker was quoted in the report as saying.       /kga

Published in News
The House committee on government reorganization chaired by Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin) and the committee on science and technology chaired by Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol) jointly approved an amended substitute bill seeking to provide a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework to protect public health and safety


The approval of the unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill Nos. 25, 1691, 2732, 2977, 3651, 4369, 4785 and 4878 authored by Reps. Francis Gerald Abaya (1st District, Cavite), Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Gary Alejano (Party-list, MAGDALO), Divina Grace Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur), Aumentado and Seth Frederick Jalosjos (1st District, Zamboanga del Norte), Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) and Ron Salo (Party-list, KABAYAN), respectively, came days after the Philippines and Russia signed an agreement to develop nuclear energy.


During the joint hearing, Romualdo said the initiative to pass a law creating an independent and effective nuclear regulatory body on the peaceful uses and application of nuclear energy started in the 15th Congress.


“This is a clear indication of the necessity to create a regulatory government entity for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he said.


Romualdo said the Philippines is a signatory to many applicable international conventions and treaties and it is imperative for it to establish an independent and effective regulatory body to comply with its obligations under these treaties and conventions.


“In the 2004 Radiation Safety Infrastructure Appraisal mission report, one of the recommendations was the creation of a single and independent nuclear regulatory body for the control of ionizing radiation from radioactive sources and electrical devices for the Philippines to comply with international standards and best practices,” he said.


Rep. Jesse Allen Mangaoang (Lone District, Kalinga), acting chairman of the science and technology committee, said the proposal is a vital piece of legislation as the country embarks on a renewed effort to strengthen science and technology and boost industrial growth.


“The time has come for us to provide a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework. It aims to harness the peaceful uses of nuclear energy that will benefit various fields such as health and medicine, energy production, science, research, agriculture industry and education,” Mangaoang said.


The bill calls for the creation of the the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission (PNRC) which shall exercise authority over all aspects of safety, security and safeguards involving nuclear, materials and other radioactive materials, facilities and radiation generating equipment.


In issuing authorizations and other regulations under the Act, the PNRC shall impose the minimum requirements to protect the health and safety of the public and the environment and ensure the security of ionizing radiation sources.


It shall prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism consistent with the obligations of the Philippines under relevant international standards and best practices.


The PNRC shall ensure that operators are technically and financially qualified to engage in the proposed activities in accordance with the requirements of the Act and the PNRC’s regulations and has financial protection to fulfill obligations on liability for nuclear and radiation damage.


Among the functions of the PNRC are: 1) Define, formulate, develop and issue policies, regulations, standards, and other issuances necessary for the implementation of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations consistent with international agreements, standards and best practices; 2) Issue, amend, and revoke rules, regulations and orders pertaining to the financial capability of operators to cover liability for nuclear damage; 3) Establish and implement a system of authorization in the form of notification, registration, and licensing, including modifications, amendments, suspension, and revocation of such authorizations; and 4) Review and assess submissions on safety assessment and security plans form the facility operators prior to authorization and periodically thereafter, as required.


It shall also: Inspect, monitor, and assess activities and practices to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and the terms and conditions for authorizations; Define exemptions and exclusions from regulatory control; Establish and maintain a national register of radiation sources; and Ensure the application of safety, safeguard and security requirements consistent with national and international commitments.


According to Dr. Carlo Arcilla of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, one of the problems of the Philippines is that it is running out of natural gas in five years and the country is importing a lot of fuel.


“One can understand why the imperative for nuclear power is being considered,” he said. (CONGRESS-PR)
Published in News
Thursday, 23 November 2017 09:23

Cha-cha is running out of time

LOOKING back these past 16 months, the euphoria of the 16 million or so voters that catapulted DU30 to power shows some signs of fading. Those who are in social media will see the deepening divide between the exuberant “DDS and the Yellows,” and the Duterte fist pumpers vs the PNoy loyalists.


Normally, after every national election there is a healing process that allows tempers to subside, the licking of wounds and the grudging acceptance of the ascendant winning brand, thereby letting the rest of the populace go on with their ordinary lives.


Sixteen months into his presidency, DU30’s projection of his alpha-male personality, his earthy language and the variation of the same cantata—“I will kill you if you destroy my people”—has morphed into a tedious broken-record of a sonata. These are reinforced by the heightened anxiety of the citizenry: over the daily killings brought about by “tokhang”; the worsening traffic in the capital; the disruptions of the MRT that of late have turned bizarre with the loss of a passenger’s limb; televised exchange of insults by the “august members of the Senate”; endless congressional hearings on corruption. The list goes on.


President Duterte’s actuations and exceptional performance in the Asean and APEC summits are mitigating factors, if indeed sustainable. But judging by his past attempts at being presidential, I have my doubts. So, I arrive at some conclusions which are personal assessments based on decades of experience in several levels of governance with four administrations.


My first hypothesis is, the ways things are going now—there will be no political reforms.


From the time the Deegong assumed power, he has been glued to his first election promise of eliminating illegal drugs that for him comprises the end-all of his peace and order agenda – on which he made himself an expert as mayor of Davao City. But early on, he had to confess that the problem was actually much bigger than he thought.


The economy admirably showed robust growth and the stock market has seen new heights, but these don’t matter with the greater masses of our poor. The trickle-down effect will have to be given time to reach the masses.


Commendably, the Deegong has reoriented our foreign relations and exacted rewards from China, Japan and our other rich neighbors with loans hopefully to be used for infrastructure – critical basic ingredients for the country’s industrialization.


But the economic growth and foreign sorties putting the Deegong in the international limelight are at best fickle as shown by the siege in Marawi.


The Marawi siege is but one of the many symptoms of the systemic problems hounding the country for centuries that needs attention; social justice, good governance, political reforms and the longing of a people for autonomy and self-governance. But some of our policymakers have been deluded enough to declare its immediate cause as “illegal drugs driven”.


The resolution to the multi-faceted problems of the country is very much contingent on the solution to the Moro problem in Mindanao, with the passing of the BBL being merely the first step to a sustainable peace. Muslim autonomy and the revision of the Constitution are the sine qua non for genuine systemic and systematic political reforms. But we are no longer sure what is happening to these initiatives.


My second hypothesis is—the lingering perception that DU30 has “dropped the ball on federalism.”


A major part of the exuberance of the 30 percent that propelled Duterte to power was his vaunted agenda for federalism, the system change that will emancipate the periphery from the center and allow their development as they see fit. Many of the federalists gathered round his banner and with only their enthusiasm propelling them, went to the provinces spreading the gospel of federalism—but in many tongues and sometimes contradictory nuances. Fortunately, a few groups like the president’s political party, the PDP Laban, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) and some adherents codified the important concepts and are now being debated in a more disciplined manner in and outside of Congress.


Therein lies the complexity. While the House has slowly started public hearings and has come up with its own proposals, some of which are self-serving (making all provinces federal states; protecting political dynasties), the Senate, with their constant bickering and TV-driven public inquiries, has not taken the first step on Charter revisions. Without the Senate’s concurrence, Charter change will not happen!


The President, whose political party nominally controls both houses, has not been able to move the debate. Last December, an executive order was issued establishing a 25-man commission to study and propose political changes in the constitution. A year has passed. It has not been constituted.


The President has declared that passing the BBL should come first before the creation of the commission, and he wants the two major Muslim insurgencies, the MILF and MNLF, to agree on the final structure of their desired autonomous state or territory. On the other hand, the Senate leadership has intimated that the commission must first be constituted so they can assess the thrust of the President’s agenda on the shift to a parliamentary-federal system. This chicken and egg scenario is what stymies the revision of the Constitution. And this is further complicated by the alliances and substructure within Senate itself. The committee on constitutional revisions is headed by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the Liberal Party leader who has shown disdain for amending the Constitution.


The President’s party is dominant in both houses of Congress, and he wields enormous power. Yet the administration agenda is not moving at a desired pace. There is definitely something wrong here. And the growing frustration of the President’s allies may entice them to inject their own dangerous agenda into these dynamics to break the impasse – either legitimately or otherwise.


Next week: A final solution?
Published in LML Polettiques
Malacañang on Tuesday, November 21, reiterated the Duterte administration’s strong commitment to go after erring government officials who failed in their duty of delivering government services to the Filipino people.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced in a Malacanang press briefing that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed plunder complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman against former officials involved in the alleged anomalous Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) maintenance service contract.


“We must stress that the great suffering of the riding public as a result of the failure to deliver on the responsibilities of public office, such as the case of the current state of the MRT-3 system, carries consequences and that those accountable will be held liable,” Roque said.


Complaints were filed against former Cabinet members in the Aquino administration, including former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and former Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, for allegedly rigging the bidding for MRT-3 contracts in favor of maintenance contractor Busan Universal Railways Inc. (BURI).


Roque said the move to award the contracts to an inexperienced and unworthy contractor led to systemic problems in the train system.


The Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed before the Office of the Ombudsman a Plunder complaint, and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Reform Act, against former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya and former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas for the alleged anomalous multi-billion peso MRT-3 maintenance service contract. (Photo Courtesy: DOTr)


“‘Yang mga breakdown pong ‘yan hindi nangyayari kung tinutupad nung BURI ‘yung kanyang contractual undertakings… [B]akit tinanggal doon sa isang service provider na malaki, may reputasyon at napakatagal naman ng track record sa DOTC dati at pinalitan ng hindi kakilalang kumpanya na nag-resulta ngayon sa napakasamang serbisyo ng MRT,” Roque noted.


Nevertheless, the Palace Spokesperson assured the public that under the Duterte administration, Filipinos can expect better solutions to their long-standing MRT woes.


Roque said he had discussed the matter with DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, who gave his assurance that there would be positive steps taken to revamp the MRT-3.


“He assured me number one, that they are going to procure a reliable maintenance contractor; number two, they’re building new rails. They’re buying new train cars and new signaling system,” Roque reported.


A safety audit is also currently being conducted to ensure the security of the riding public, Roque added.


Roque for his part expressed hope in the DOTr’s ability to address the problem. He even offered to take the MRT once a week so he could personally inspect its services.


“I think Secretary Tugade knows that we’re looking up to him for a solution. [W]e’re crying for a quick solution and I’m sure that Secretary Tugade and Usec. [Cesar] Chavez are really taking all the necessary steps,” he said.


Palace to work with DOJ in filing cases vs Maute group
During the same press briefing, Spokesperson Roque announced that the Palace would be working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in building cases against members of the Maute Group for violations of the international humanitarian law.


“Someone has to take up the cudgels for the victims of war crimes in domestic armed conflicts,” Roque said.


“We will do this knowing that the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) will not be [of] any help in according victims of the Maute terrorist group justice,” he added.


Roque decried the Commission’s failure to conduct a probe on the atrocities committed by the terror group in Mindanao. He said the CHR had been too preoccupied with its investigations on the alleged human rights violations of the government.


“It is always atrocities allegedly committed by state agents. And their position has been consistent, the role is to document abuses of human rights committed by state agents which is wrong, because international humanitarian law punishes everyone even non-state actors,” Roque cited. (PCO-Content)
Published in News
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 14:41

Duterte to end telecoms duopoly

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced on Monday, November 20, that the dominance of two major players in the local telecommunications industry is about to end during a Malacanang press briefing.


“During the bilateral talks between President Duterte and the Chinese Premier, President Duterte offered to the People’s Republic of China the privilege to operate the third telecom’s carrier in the country,” the Spokesperson said.


Roque added that PRRD is serious about the entry of the third telecommunications carrier as he gave instructions that all applications be filed and acted upon directly by the Office of the Executive Secretary.


This came after the Philippine government officially sealed a deal with a Facebook affiliate to build the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure project.


“Consumers can look forward now to better telecommunications, not just in terms of cellular technology, but also in terms of internet speed as well as access,” the Presidential Spokesperson underscored.


Bohol’s new airport conducts first test flight; CDO coastal road launched
In the same press briefing, Spokesperson Roque reported that the government successfully conducted the first test flight of the New Bohol Airport last November 6.


“It’s on track to be finished by June 2018. The P7.8-billion airport can accommodate seven aircrafts, both domestic and international,” Roque said.
The airport project is designed to be the Philippines’ first eco-airport and “Green Gateway to the World.”


Meanwhile, Roque also announced that the Cagayan de Oro Coastal Road is now open after 20 years.


“The Cagayan de Oro Coastal Road is expected to lessen the travel time by 20 minutes from Laguindingan [Airport] to Cagayan de Oro City,” he said.


PH ASEAN hosting produces results
Spokesperson Roque likewise mentioned the country had garnered multi-million dollar assistance and entered into important agreements with various countries as a result of its hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.


The United States gave US$14.3 million for the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City and US$2 million to support the country’s ongoing war on illegal drugs.


“We were likewise able to push mutual interests such as Generalized System of Preferences with the United States and to start exploring talks on a Philippines-US Free Trade Agreement,” Roque disclosed.


The Philippines signed 14 cooperation agreements with China, inked eight (8) bilateral agreements with Russia and committed three (3) agreements with New Zealand.


The Japanese government, on the other hand, will provide P46 billion for the construction of the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway and P4 billion for a bypass road along the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway in Plaridel, Bulacan.


Japan further committed an additional billion pesos for the procurement of equipment for counterterrorism and reconstruction of Marawi.


Canada provided $17.8-million for the sexual health and empowerment projects for women in the Philippines.


Australia pushed for cooperation against sea piracy threat in Sulu. Also, the country was able to improve market access for Philippine bananas in Australia, Japan, and Korea.


As for India, “We had talks on producing cheaper medicines with India and talks with pharmaceutical companies to set-up in the Philippines,” the Spokesperson said. (PCO-Content)
Published in News
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