Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winners and losers

By Francisco S. Tatad 

IF we were to award prizes at this stage to those who have performed beyond measure in the worst humanitarian disaster  ever to hit the country,  the runaway winners would be the various foreign governments, the United Nations,  the Swedish furniture maker Ikea, (the biggest private donor), the Buddhist Foundation Tzu Chi, which was the first to offer “cash for work” in Tacloban, and the nameless little children to whom no gift for the Yolanda typhoon victims was ever too small.

I was hoping to see high-up on the list the names of some of the world’s richest who have been actively campaigning for the “health” of women and children through contraception and abortion. But I suppose they were much too busy with their usual concerns.  Digging for survivors under the rubble  would apparently contradict their mission; natural calamities are fortuitous instruments of population control. 

Were awards to be given also to the non-performers, the honors would most probably go, hands down, to President B. S. Aquino III and his Secretary of  Interior and Local Government Manuel Roxas II whose most creative response after a half-eternity of indifference and inaction was the appointment of an unvetted rehabilitation czar without a clearly defined operational program,  budget or structure.  

Without any fanfare, the foreign governments came in with their cash, ships, planes, troops,  engineering equipment, food, medicines, blankets, tarpaulin, etc. and mounted their rescue and relief operations unfazed by the blazing absence of government leadership or participation.

Armed with all the powers of government on the other hand, Aquino and Roxas played small-town politics with the city government of Tacloban under the watchful eye of CNN, BBC,  Al Jazeera, ABS-CBN, and GMA-7. They were  as slow and niggardly in their response to the death and destruction wrought by the super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan as they were as quick and extravagant in their uncalled-for and hilarious appearance at SM North EDSA last Sunday after a jewelry store was robbed of some P5 million worth of merchandise by the so-called “Martilyo Gang.”

The biggest aid contingent came from the United States, commanded by Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery of the USS George Washington carrier strike group, homeported in Yokosuka, Japan. It  included several warships, Hercules transport aircraft, P-3 surveillance aircraft, C-2 Greyhounds with a payload of 10,000 each, Seahawk helicopters and Osprey tiltrotors with a payload of 20,000 pounds each, and 13,400 troops to do the actual rescue, relief and rehabilitation work.

President Barack Obama had been scheduled to visit Manila after the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders  summit in Jakarta last October, but had to cancel both Jakarta and Manila because of the US government “shutdown.” Secretary of State John Kerry was supposed to take Obama’s place instead, but also had to cancel because of early forecast of bad weather. 

Apparently, these cancellations made the White House even more watchful of what was happening in the Philippines.  So when Yolanda struck, Obama was among the first to mobilize relief operations for Eastern Visayas.

On top of that, Congressmen Christopher Smith (R, New Jersey) and Trent Franks (R, Arizona), whom I had the privilege of receiving in my home  after their flying trip to Tacloban on Nov. 25, said  the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance is always on standby,  ever-ready to rush rescue and relief assistance to victims of natural disaster. 

Kerry has since come to Manila, and reinforced US commitment of assistance to the country’s recovery and defense program. This has undoubtedly strengthened America’s position in the consciousness of many Filipinos who at heart remain “pro-American.”

A recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center in the US is reported to have shown that  of 10 nationalities  polled, Filipinos  led the Israelis 85 to 82 percent) and all the other US-friendly nationalities in expressing continued admiration and support for the US.    

Unquestionably, this record will be very difficult to top or match at this point, among the Philippines’ close allies. But coming close to the US, to the surprise of only a few, is Japan.  Japan was the enemy in the last war.  Filipinos who cooperated with Japan during its brief occupation of the Philippines and the formation of the KALIBAPI and the Japanese puppet republic were called “collaborators.”

But since then Japan has behaved impeccably as a neighbor, trading partner, and  member of the international community.  The increased tempo of official cooperation in economic and security matters, to which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Aquino have sought to contribute during the former’s visit to Manila  and the latter’s visit to Tokyo for the 40th commemorative ASEAN and Japan Summit, is proof of the growing long-term interdependence between the two. 

It was with genuine affection that the typhoon victims welcomed the members of the Japanese Self Defense Force that came to bring relief, without any hint of what happened during the war.
This state of friendship has been achieved after much work on both sides, not the least of which by the ambassadors of the two countries.  To the long line of highly effective Japanese ambassadors posted in Manila,  Toshinao Urabe, the present ambassador, is a worthy addition, with a keen sense of what Japan and the Philippines can do together to help build an Asia Pacific region we all want to see. 

The ambassador’s father, Toshio Urabe, was a highly respected figure in the diplomatic community during the Marcos years.   As minister of information then, I had the privilege of enjoying his friendship.  I could say without any reservation that he was a great friend of the Philippines.  The present Ambassador Urabe is not a lesser friend of the country.

Adversity has obviously strengthened beyond measure our bonds of friendship  with the US, Japan and other like-minded countries. Is there anything we can do now to make sure this does not  create any insecurity in any other part of the Asia Pacific region?

Editorial: Poor and jobless

The results of two surveys released last week highlight the structural imbalance in the Philippine economy and underscore the fact that the economic boom under the Aquino administration remains wanting in alleviating poverty or generating jobs.

The National Statistical Coordination Board reported that the number of poor families as a percentage of the total number of families fell to 19.7 percent in 2012 from 20.5 percent in 2009. This means that the number of poor persons as a proportion of the total population fell to 25.2 percent in 2012 from 26.3 percent in 2009. Simply put, one in four Filipinos is poor. In fact, the marginal improvement in poverty alleviation was attributed to the increase in the number of beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer program (under which monthly cash subsidies are given to the poorest of the poor in exchange for ensuring that children are kept in school and mothers avail themselves of healthcare) and the adjustment in the salaries of government employees. From about 300,000 families in 2009, the number of families covered by the CCT program rose to 3 million in 2012.

The National Economic and Development Authority acknowledged that the decline in the poverty rate was slow. Worse, the ranks of the poor are forecast to swell because Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and other natural calamities that struck the Philippines this year can heighten “transient” poverty—meaning people who were previously not poor have been suddenly pushed below the poverty line because of natural calamities and other unwanted circumstances.

There has been little change in the percentage of Filipinos living below the poverty line in the past six years. The 25.2-percent poverty incidence for 2012 was only slightly less than the 28.8 percent recorded in the first half of 2006 and the 28.6 percent in the first half of 2009 and 2011. 

A family of five is considered extremely poor if it is earning P5,458 a month, or just enough to put food on the table. This is about P36 a day per person, or less than $1. In contrast, the World Bank’s extreme poverty line is $1.25. The same family of five has to earn at least P7,821 if it wants to satisfy nonfood needs such as clothing. This is equivalent to about P52 a day per person, or less than $2, the average poverty line in developing countries and another common measurement of deep deprivation, according to the World Bank.

Meanwhile, the National Statistics Office reported that the unemployment rate as of October 2013 eased slightly to 6.5 percent from 6.8 percent in the same period last year. The improvement was traced to the wholesale and retail trade (for example, shopping malls) in the services sector, which more than offset the decline in the agriculture sector. The services sector employs more than half of the workers in the country at 53.4 percent, followed by the agriculture sector with 31.4 percent, and industry with 15.2 percent.

The poverty and unemployment survey results indicate that while the Philippine economy with its stellar growth rates is the envy of many of its neighbors, the expansion is not addressing the basic problems of poverty and unemployment. In short, the economic boom remains “exclusive” to the usual contributors to the growth in gross domestic product, namely real estate, retail and business process outsourcing, and not the manufacturing or industry sectors that provide lasting employment.

The Aquino administration knows the problem and is actually not lacking in plans to address it. As Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said: “The Philippine Development Plan Midterm Update puts emphasis on the reduction of underemployment in agriculture and the creation of conditions for the emergence of new drivers of growth that will generate high-quality jobs and strengthen the competitiveness of different regions in the country. Linking the manufacturing sector with agriculture is one of the means to create quality employment.”

The administration can blame poverty and unemployment problems on its predecessor’s failed policies, but it must remember that it is now in a position to take charge and implement structural reforms that will reverse the situation. Giving more attention to the vanishing manufacturing sector is a good starting point to address the issue of joblessness and, consequently, poverty. Hopefully, this will ultimately make economic growth “inclusive.”

Shattered image

A lot of people who supported and voted for P-Noy in the 2010 elections are indeed greatly disillusioned with his kind of governance and leadership as head of the ship of state. He is certainly not the same person he was pictured to be when he was running for the Presidency and right after he assumed office.

He was elected in the belief that he inherited the traits of his parents whom Filipinos admire and idolize for their heroism in restoring democracy to our country and for their noble and unselfish deeds in promoting the common good of our countrymen especially the poor and the oppressed. But, after more than three years in office this image seems to have been completely shattered. Alas, even the reputations of his parents are now placed in doubt by social media as pure myths and factually inaccurate.

The peoples’ disillusionment has even turned into shocking disgust and dismay because of his actions, inactions and/or reactions to crises situations particularly those occurring in recent months starting from the Zamboanga siege, to the Bohol earthquake and the disastrous super- typhoon hitting Central Visayas that caused so much loss of lives and destruction of property.

Most noticeable here is his unexplained “disappearance” or temporary absence at the height of the crises when people needed a “father figure” who would at least console them in their sufferings and a “leader” giving orders to provide immediate rescue and relief in the midst of the disaster. Believe it or not but there is already a growing public perception that he and his yellow cohorts would only emerge later on to survey the damage and distribute relief goods more for “photo ops” purposes.

Further shattering P-Noy’s image as an able and caring leader of our country is his stand aired even outside the country, in Tokyo, Japan, on the recently exposed tiff between his DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez. He fully agreed and even defended Roxas’ bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo outburst after Romualdez refused his demand to submit a city council resolution or “letter” authorizing the national government to step in and render aid to the disaster victims immediately after the typhoon.

Such kind of stand undeniably and clearly created the impression that his government will not do anything until and unless the rules are followed and everything is in “legal order” even if disaster victims are already dying or in danger of death. This is really so revolting and deplorable more so because there is definitely no such law requiring authorization from the local government unit before the national government can step in, give aid and/or save the lives of the people. Worst is that he would like to appear that he is a stickler for the rules when he himself has disregarded the rules especially in the use of the PDAF and the DAP to advance his own personal and socio-political agenda.

It must be pointed out in this connection that Alfred Romualdez has certain connections with the the Marcoses as he is related to Imelda Marcos the other half of the conjugal dictatorship whose oppressive and rapacious regime somehow created a stigma on other relatives like him. So most people expected that in this latest tussle between him who is a “Romualdez” and the President “who is an Aquino” and the son of the hero and heroine of the people power revolution that toppled Marcos, people will side with B.S. Aquino III and consider him as more credible.

Obviously this is not what happened. B.S. Aquino III and his sidekick Mar Roxas appear to be getting more flaks than Alfred Romualdez who appears to be drawing more sympathy. It now appears that a relative of the conjugal dictatorship is more credible than an Aquino who is the President of the country and whose family was most instrumental in toppling that conjugal dictatorship. Twenty seven years ago, after the people power revolution, this kind of situation was beyond any stretch of the imagination especially because the people at that time firmly resolved to never again allow a dictatorial regime in our country.

Hopefully P-Noy realizes that he alone can show to our countrymen his good and desirable image as President. His image makers and spin doctors can only do so much in creating a good reputation for him. There is still time for him to leave a legacy of public service with “utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, efficiency, patriotism and justice” as called for in our Constitution (Article XI Section 1).

He and his officials must first of all change their style of governance. They should not insist on being always right even if their actions appear to be wrong or clearly call for a lot more of improvement. The prevailing public impression right now is their seeming lack of humility in admitting their mistakes and resolving to subsequently correct them. It is not good to be self-righteous all the time and continue blaming others for their own bungling and shortcomings.
Perhaps if P-Noy had only adopted this trait at the start of his term, he would have immediately abolished the pork barrel and avoid the trouble and the embarrassment of suffering a legal setback in court and another impending one in case of the DAP.
Secondly, they should be more compassionate and understanding in dealing with others especially their constituency whom they consider as their “boss” It is always good to listen to them sometimes and not just ignore them and leave them in the Lord’s hands (“bahala na si Lord sa kanila”) especially those they consider as critics. There are also critics whose motive in criticizing is just to see them succeed as public officials.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Why you should start investing

MANILA, Philippines – Planning where to invest your 13th month pay should begin by knowing why you are investing in the first place, financial experts said.

Registered financial planner Ricky So said setting goals should be the first step in determining which investment tool best suits your need.

“For a young person, he should set realistic and achievable goals first then eventually to ideal goals, which is retirement, because eventually you will go there,” he told ANC’s “On The Money.”

Salve Duplito, ANC’s resident financial advisor, said realistic goals can be as simple as buying a gadget.

“When I work with young people, I start them off with gadgets, little things, because they feel more empowered. 

They realize that when they can do this, they can also do the more difficult stuff. If you start them off with retirement, they get turned off, it’s so far away,” she said.

Duplito added that knowing when you will need your money is key determining where to invest it.

“If you need it by next year, put it in bond funds or money market funds…If late next year, put it in a few, good stocks,” she said.

World Bank: Corruption is 'enemy no. 1' in Philippines


Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (rightmost) joined World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim (not in photo), World Bank President James Wolfensohn (leftmost), Transparency International chief Huguette Labelle and US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
MANILA, Philippines - The World Bank declared war against corruption, calling it "public enemy number one" in developing countries which include the Philippines.
On Thursday (Washington time), World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said that the financial institution has called on the private sector and officials in the developing world to step up their game against the lack of integrity in governance and businesses.
"In the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one ... We will never tolerate corruption, and I pledge to do all in our power to build upon our strong fight against it," Kim said.
"Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care; or from a girl or a boy who deserves an education," the World Bank executive added.
Kim invited Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima at a forum in the American capital hosted by the Integrity Vice President, the World Bank's anti-corruption investigative arm.
Purisima, who joined World Bank President James Wolfensohn and US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker in the panel, called corruption the country's "cancer."
"Filipinos are actively taking part in helping the government fight corruption," Purisima said.
The Philippine government and the public sector garnered a lowly score of 36 in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index this year. The scale ranged from 0 to 100 or from highly corrupt to very clean.
Kim said the elimination of corruption is vital in eliminating world poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity.
He also encouraged the establishment of institutions with greater integrity joined by the empowerment of citizens with tools and measurements to urge government to become more accountable.
"We need to build a global movement to prevail over corruption," Kim said.

Mexican drug cartel working with Chinese groups

Report by Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Philippine authorities warned that a Mexican drug cartel is working with Chinese drug lords to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

This, amid an 800 percent increase in the volume of seized narcotics this year compared to 2012.

The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency earlier confirmed that the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most feared and most powerful drug cartels in the world, was trying to establish operations in the Philippines.

It said the discovery of a shabu storage facility at a farm in Lipa, Batangas and the subsequent arrests of three suspected drug traffickers confirmed the entry of the cartel. The three were identified as Argay Argenos, Rochelle Argenos and David Tan.

Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, Philippine National Police - Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF) chief, said Tan was a big-time drug trafficker operating in Metro Manila and nearby regions.

"Reports further disclosed Tan worked with a certain Jorge Torres, a Filipino American with a US passport. Both are accordingly affiliated with the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel," he said.

Benedicto Orense, property administrator of LPL Ranch, said he was surprised when policemen and anti-narcotics operatives raided the one-hectare farm that was leased to Torres.

Orense said Torres had leased a hectare of the ranch for 14,000 pesos a month, and turned it into a game fowl farm. He said Torres is a businessman and known cock breeder in the Philippines.

The contract of lease identifies LBJ Development Corporation as the lessor of the property. Torres personally signed the contract, good for one year.

Orense said that under the contract, their tenants cannot conduct illegal activities. He said property owners can also make unannounced inspections.

The PNP-AIDSOTF, meanwhile, said Torres' cockbreeding activities could be a front for the drug operation.

Roque Merdeguia, head of the legal and investigation division of the PNP-AIDSOTF, said an AIDSOTF agent was able to work as Torres' driver after authorities were tipped off about the alleged narcotics operation in the farm.

The AIDSOTF said that aside from Torres, two other Mexicans also frequented the farm.
"Ayon sa ating foreign counterpart, connected sila sa Sinaloa drug cartel, the most powerful drug organization sa Mexico region at US. Kilala ang Sinaloa sa mga pagpatay," Merdeguia said.

Authorities said they also received information that Chinese drug lords and the Mexican cartel have joined forces.

"This includes finances and sharing of technology," Merdeguia said.

The AIDSOTF said the cartel is eyeing the Philippines as a potential market as well as a transshipment point for drugs in Asia.

Merdeguia said among the factors being considered by the cartel is the Philippines' strategic location, lack of death penalty and corruption.

"Nag-e-establish na sila ng merkado at contact dito," he said.

Authorities are still investigation how the cartel was able to ship in 84 kilos of shabu with a street value of over P420 million.

The AIDSOTF also warned that the volume of seized narcotics this year increased 800%, from an estimated 100 kilograms in 2012 to an estimated 800 kilograms this year.

Leviste not involved

Meanwhile, the camp of former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste washed their hands of the illegal drug operations of the Sinaloa cartel.

Leviste said his twin, Conrad, owns LPL Ranch. He also noted that many cock breeders have leased portions of the more than 100-hectare property to breed game fowls.

Some of the prominent personalities that have houses inside the ranch are Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The Department of Justice is set to summon Leviste to explain how Torres and his companions were able to set up a shabu facility in the farm.

Diabetes killed MNLF commander wanted for Zamboanga battle–military


An image of Khabier Malik posted at the main entrance of Central Police Station in Zamboanga City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / EDWIN BACASMAS
MANILA, Philippines – It was not bullets but his uncontrolled high blood sugar level that killed commander Habier Malik of the Moro National Liberation Front, the Philippine Daily Inquirer was told Friday.

In separate interviews, two sources gave two different versions of Malik’s death but both traced his eventual demise to his diabetes.
But his death last November confirmed one thing: that Malik escaped from the heavy fighting between a group of MNLF guerrillas which he led and government security forces in Zamboanga City last September.

Malik led some 300 fighters MNLF fighters loyal to founding chairman Nur Misuari in what the military claims was an attempt to take over Zamboanga City on grounds that the government had abrogated a 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF to be replaced with a deal the government is negotiating with Moro Islamic Liberation Front, one a faction of the MNLF.

“We know Malik has died. It is a matter of recovering his body,” the Inquirer’s military source said, requesting anonymity.

The source said that Malik was wounded in the Zamboanga fighting. He tried to recuperate in Talipao, Sulu but because he was diabetic, his wounds did not heal. 

Apparently, the wounds became infected, eventually killing Malik, the source said.

The other source said that Malik escaped to Tawi-Tawi. “After fasting, he supposedly overate and suffered a stroke,” the source said, also on condition of anonymity.

“Malik was diabetic. He tried to take insulin shots to control his sugar level but the medicines didn’t work. He died soon after,” the source said.

The source said that before fleeing the fighting in Zamboanga, Malik left his mobile phone on the body of a slain guerrilla to mislead authorities into believing that the corpse was his.

Malik’s fate after the fighting remained under question, with some Zamboanga City officials saying that knowing what had happened to the rebel leader would put closure to the three-week siege.

In early November, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expressed confidence that Malik had died because he had not surfaced since the end of the Zamboanga siege.

As for Misuari, the Inquirer sources said that the MNLF founding chairman remained in hiding in Sulu.

The military has given out more than 2,000 combat medals to the officers and men who took part in repelling the MNLF fighters, with the rescue of some 200 hostages as their main mission.

Read more:

NBI probe confirms fake SAROs from DBM

 (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) now has a clearer picture of the scheme involving the falsification of special allotment release orders (SAROs) or documents issued by the budget department for the actual release of funds.
In a press conference yesterday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said NBI probers have verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces were falsified and that several personnel of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) were involved in the process.
De Lima said NBI agents had found out that the group kept specimen signatures of approving authorities, which they had superimposed on unsigned, photocopied SAROs.
“They would photocopy advanced copies of the unsigned SAROs and then they superimpose signatures on them before photocopying the documents again. After the SAROs were reproduced several times, the fake signatures would seem to appear authentic already,” she said, explaining the modus operandi of the scam.
Of the 12 SAROs being probed by the NBI, she said the two from Regions I and VI involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were indeed fake.
The other questionable SAROs involved projects in Calabarzon (Region 4A) and Soccsksargen (Region 12).
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

“The reason why they send advance copies of the SARO is to heads up the contractors so they could already arrange deals, including the commissions,” she said.
De Lima said those involved in the scheme were DBM personnel led by a certain “Supremo” and staff of several congressmen. They have been identified by the NBI, but she refused to reveal the names pending further validation.
She only hinted that among them were the secretary, driver and janitor of DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
“That Supremo – who turns out to be a woman – was identified by some insiders,” De Lima said.
The justice chief also revealed that the NBI probe had initially pointed to a consultant of Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco as source of the two fake SAROs. Before being elected congressional representative, Haresco was a party-list representative.
“The NBI is now looking at which office these fake signatures were kept: Was it in the DBM or an office outside it?” she added.
De Lima said the probers are also determining if higher officials are involved in the scheme.
“So far, there is no indication that the congressmen are aware of this. The NBI only established so far the involvement of congressional staff,” she said.
She has given the NBI until the end of next month to complete the probe and submit a report.
Except for differences in font styles, the fake SAROs contained the same SARO numbers, codes, amount of money, dates and name of signatories as the authentic ones.
The fake SAROs were discovered only last November at the height of the pork barrel fund mess involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly used nonexistent foundations to divert Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya funds with the help of several lawmakers and implementing government agencies. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

MIAA general manager urged to resign

From a report by Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – The former head of the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG) is blaming Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado for the bloody shooting at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)-Terminal 3.

Napoleon Cuaton, who is now mayor of Saint Bernard, Southern Lyte, said Honrado should resign after the failed security measures at the airport cost the lives of four people.
The gunman who opened fire on Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur Mayor Ukol Talumpa at the arrival area last week went through an inspection, which Cuaton claimed lacked police presence.

"Inalis na ng GM ng airport ang responsibilities ng PNP-Aviation diyan sa checkpoint. In-allow lang niya ang private security na mag-man ng checkpoint,” said Cuaton.

The gunman who breezed through the checkpoint was in police uniform.

Cuaton said if police officers were there, they would have followed protocol by asking a fellow officer to surrender his firearm.

"Kapag pumasok ka sa airport lalo na kung naka-uniporme ka, sinisita ka kaagad ng PNP-Aviation, lalo na kung may dala kang baril. Saan ka pupunta? Ano ang purpose mo? Kung sasalubong ka, itu-turnover ang firearms mo,” he said.

Cuaton also lamented airport management's decision to discontinue deploying police patrol around the terminals.

"Kung may pulis sa paligid ng ASG, ‘di sana nagka-ganon. Kung nangyari man, ‘yung suspect ay automatic nahuli o napatay ‘yun," he said.

Cuaton is asking the League of Municipalities to petition Honrado's resignation.

“Kasi ang ordinaryong simpleng police commander nga eh kapag nagkaroon ng problema sa jurisdiction niya ay nare-relieve, bakit hindi natin bigyan ng focus ito, lalo na international airport,” he said.

Honrado, meanwhile, said that while he takes full responsibility for the unfortunate incident, he will not resign.

Honrado also alleged that Cuaton is lying.

“I hate to say this but he's lying. There was never a checkpoint na naglalagay ng baril diyan. Kahit na pagdating ko dito, wala ‘yan," said Honrado.

Honrado added that there was no security lapse.

"Because it is a public area, there’s no way we can detect somebody carrying a firearm. The only prevention is police visibility that should preempt any crime… You can’t prevent a determined assassin," he said.

But NAIA stands ready to change the way it secures the airport to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Davao: A city of many 'No-nos’

DAVAO CITY -- If drinking binges, smoking and fireworks are your ideas of entertainment, then Davao City is not the best place to be unless you want to end up in jail -- the city’s executive and legislative departments have mostly prohibited these activities.

A top “no-no” for the Christmas season is the manufacture, use, sale or distribution of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices in the city as mandated by City Ordinance No, 060-02 which was enacted in 2002. The firecracker ban in Davao is still strongly enforced 11 years after it became a law.

Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte has again warned Dabawenyos and visitors not to challenge the ordinance and has reiterated that even expensive electronic devices that emit noise are included in the prohibition.

“Every year we put at least 50 people behind bars for violating the firecracker ban, but I am happy with that for as long as we maintain the zero casualty or injury rate every year,” he said. 

Mr. Duterte, however, assured Dabawenyos that he will feed the family of those jailed for violating the firecracker ban.

With the holiday season come parties and merrymaking but this is not a license to go on drinking binges in the city after the clock strikes one in the morning. 

In August this year, Mr. Duterte signed City Ordinance No. 004-13, amending the 1994 Ordinance No. 1627 (also known as “An ordinance regulating the operation of business establishments selling liquors, coconut wine and other nature wine and other alcoholic beverages in the City of Davao.”)

The ordinance prohibits the serving, selling and drinking of intoxicating drinks along city streets, parking areas, and uninhabited places between 1 and 8 a.m. Violators will be meted a fine of up to P5,000 or one year imprisonment, and the revocation of the business permit of the establishment concerned.

“I don't think it will adversely affect the city’s tourism because people do not go here primarily for drinking binges but for other attractions,” Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre, chairperson of the committee on tourism, said. City Tourism Officer Maria Felisa C. Marques said she is confident that the liquor ban will not make Davao a less attractive place for tourists although she said there is a need to offer more tourism products.

If there is one thing that residents and visitors should be wary of when in Davao, it would be the New Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance which became effective on May 31 of this year and amended the 2002 no-smoking ordinance. Davao is a tough place for smokers so residents who cannot lick the habit are better off smoking inside their residences.

The new ordinance prohibits smoking in “public conveyances, government-owned vehicles, accommodation and entertainment establishments, workplaces, enclosed or partially enclosed public places, public buildings and public outdoor spaces including cemetery, markets, and terminals and areas 10 meters away from entrance and exits of establishments.”

Dr. Domilyn C. Villareiz, chief of the Davao City anti-smoking task force, warned both residents and visitors about the strict implementation of the ordinance. She said there are closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) everywhere and violators will not only pay a penalty of P500-P5,000 (first time and subsequent violations) but they will also be required to attend a smoking cessation counseling session and spend up to four months in prison. Police stations have already been issued pads of violation citation tickets. 

“The new ordinance is not stricter than the previous one but it has made the prohibited smoking areas a lot clearer and it has a no-contest provision,” she said. The ordinance also requires establishments to put up outdoor smoking areas following the task force specifications or face the same penalties.

Of the three ordinances, it is the anti-smoking and the firecracker ban ordinances, which have been successfully implemented by the city for 11 years now. The liquor ban is fairly new and still has to pass the test of time. -- Carmencita A. Carillo

Stop playing shadow boxing

By Rod Kapunan
Department of Justice Secretary Lilia de Lima should stop that nonsense of playing shadow boxing by claiming her department is looking into the possibility of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) violating the “anti-trust law” by colluding with the independent power producers (IPPs).   That statement came in the wake of the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court stopping Meralco from imposing an additional P4.15 per kilowatt hour to the electric bills paid by consumers.   
Secretary de Lima should have known that House Bill No. 3434 or the proposed Anti-Trust Bill filed by Quezon 4th District Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III has yet to be approved by Congress, which unfortunately is lorded over by the very class engaged in the monopoly of trade, cartel to control the price and distribution of goods, oligopoly to limit business competition, and other forms of unfair trade and business practices.   As observed, the Electricity and Power Industry Reform Law otherwise known as the Epira Law ended up as a total fiasco.  Collusion was bound to take place because the Epira Law allowed the private sector to operate and compete with the government-owned National Power Corps (Napocor) in the supply of electricity to private utility operators.  The law failed to anticipate that the privatization of the industry would require the modalities of assuring the IPP operators a free hand to dictate their own price per kilowatt hour.  
Since the cost for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a power plant would entail huge capital, the government had to assure them of their profit.   First, since many of the IPP operators had to borrow from foreign banks to build their own IPPs, they demanded a sovereign guarantee, meaning that if the business operations go down, the state would have to guarantee their debt obligation.  That was on top of the currency exchange rate agreement (CERA), meaning that payment could be based on the current value of the peso to the dollar, and so with the interest to the paid with the principal.   
Second, should there be a surplus in power production, the government will have to pay the difference to avoid losses.   That concept was called the power purchase agreement (PPA).  That became unpopular that they were compelled to itemize their cost called unbundling, while effectively jacking their cost in other items to make it appear they already scrapped the hated IPP. 
Third, to deter the government from increasing its tax, including the franchise tax, franchised utility operators were allowed to pass them on to the consumers.  Because the economy was constantly battered by inflation and an increasing cost in the price of fuel, VAT had to be introduced into our electric bills.   For a time, public utility operators were even allowed to pass on their corporate income tax to the consumers.    
Fourth, country’s oligarchs and their foreign business partners began to destroy the credibility of Napocor, branding it as the nesting ground for government corruption.   They alleged that the huge debt of Napocor was the result of corruption committed during the Marcos administration.  To settle that, they sought to subdivide Napocor.  For that the Epira Law created the Private Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) to handle its debt obligations but that after 10 years instead increased to $16.63.  Yet, not one from the oligarch-controlled yellow government pointed inexplicably at the mothballing by Mrs. Aquino of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant as the principal reason for the swelling in the debt of Napocor. 
The second stage was to destroy the monopsony practice observed by Napocor, which is for the government-owned power plant to monopolize the supply of electricity to the various public utility operators.   However, they failed to anticipate that giant public utility operators such as Meralco and the Aboitiz, and such giant firms as San Miguel, Pangilinans’s First Pacific, DMCI, and those Japanese-owned etc. were willing to put up their own power generation plants provided they were given a free hand to dictate rate of the electricity per kwh, and they needed a law that would guarantee their investment and profit.   
Worse, completion did not work to bring down the price of electricity much that the supplies of electricity are often sealed in a contract to supply agreement between the IPP operator and the public utility operator.  Often, the two happened to be owned by one and the same family though cloaked as different corporations.  Some foreign IPPs are even suspected of underselling the cost of their electricity to some public utility operators to purposely deprive Napocor of its own clients, thus making it dimmer for the state-owned corporation to pay its obligations. 
To fully realize the concept of competition in the power industry, the Epira Law sought to privatize the transmission grid which was co-axial to its operation of the various power plants operated by Napocor.    The privatization of the transmission grid means that it would be open to all IPP operators to connect them to the various public utility operators provided the pay the so-called wheeling fees, an additional burden that was passed on to the consumers. That was how the National Grid Corp of the Philippines came into being.  They envisioned the idea that it would not only hasten competition among IPP operators to allegedly sell power at the lowest cost to public utility operators, but could even allow IPPs to directly hooked up with its  various clients identified as heavy users of electricity. 
As if that was not enough, the Epira Law allowed the trading of electricity, hoping that trade competition could bring down the cost of electricity.    Again, competition will never work in a market where there are few players.   Most likely they would only end up in forming a cartel, and fixing in the cost of electricity which is what happened.  Moreover, the trading of electricity ended in higher cost to the consumers much that traders were more interested in getting their commission than in selling the commodity at the lower price per kWh.

DOJ probe on JPE to cover CEZA firms

By Edu Punay 
The Philippine Star 
Juan-Ponce-Enrile.10MANILA, Philippines – The investigation on the accusations of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile would cover several private companies operating inside the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.
De Lima issued a two-page order directing the special task force chaired by Undersecretary Jose Justiniano to look into operations of First Cagayan License and Resort Corp., Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. and San Jose Lumber (SJL).
First Cagayan and Meridien were allegedly involved in illegal gambling, according to De Lima.
First Cagayan has been operating under a “master license” issued by the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) allowing foreign firms to operate online gambling in the economic zone for seven years, it was alleged.
Meridien was also issued a license by the CSEZFP “authorizing it to conduct gaming operations, including jai-alai, in the Cagayan Freeport and to set up betting stations in connection thereto,” the justice department bared.
Meridien – reportedly owned by Charlie “Atong” Ang – came into play in 2011 after it was accused of being a front for illegal gambling operations.
As for SJL, De Lima said the firm has allegedly been involved in illegal logging operations under a license that expired in 2007.
“The special task force is mandated to evaluate the evidence gathered and recommend possible courses of action or legal processes including, but not limited to, the filing of the appropriate criminal complaints as the evidence may warrant for purposes of the conduct of the corresponding preliminary investigation, and request for investigation by the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” read the order.
De Lima also directed the task force to regularly report and submit their final report within three months.
De Lima earlier created the probe team to look into the alleged involvement of Enrile in illegal gambling, illegal logging and illegal importation in the CEZA.
CEZA is under the administration of Jose Mari Ponce, a distant relative of Enrile. The senator’s son-in-law James Kocher also runs the automobile importing operation inside the free port.
Apart from these allegations, De Lima also ordered the task force to look into Enrile’s alleged submission of assets, liabilities and net worth and “other related acts constituting criminal offenses under existing criminal statures.”
De Lima said she saw the need to order an investigation due to the seriousness of the allegations and also upon request of Sen. Santiago.
But she stressed the probe would not cover allegations on alleged human rights violations committed by Enrile when he was defense minister of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
“It might not be feasible to look into that because (the alleged crimes) happened a long time ago and had already prescribed. And it would really be difficult to gather evidence on those charges,” she explained.
With regard to Santiago’s claim that Enrile masterminded the pork barrel scam reportedly perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, De Lima explained this case is already undergoing preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a privilege speech, Santiago linked Enrile to various crimes including smuggling, illegal logging, and gambling in CEZA, and plunder.
Enrile, who sat in front of the fuming Santiago, was seen playing a video game as Santiago was giving her speech. He was also seen laughing at certain points.

Palace, allies firm up JDF scrutiny bid

Source: The Daily Tribune Tribune 
Malacanang-logoSupreme Court.3Both President Aquino’s House allies and the Palace confirmed yesterday legislative efforts to inquire into the use of the controversial Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and Special Allowance of the Judiciary (SAJ) which is believed part of a broader campaign to pressure the Supreme Court (SC) into submitting to Aquino’s wish to retain the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the constitutionality of which is under SC deliberation.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., an administration ally, said the Legislative is just doing the Judiciary a favor by proving to the public that no one is above the law.
“The Supreme Court cannot evade the issue by invoking fiscal autonomy. Fiscal autonomy must be subservient to fiscal accountability and responsibility,” he stressed.
Barzaga admitted that the House investigation could lead to the filing of impeachment complaints against justices.
Press Secretary Herminio Coloma justified the probe and said the Palace would support it.
Coloma said legislators have the power to conduct an investigation on the JDF based on the provisions of the approved national budget which included allocations to the Supreme Court and the judiciary.
“It has been stated in the provisions of the approved General Appropriations Act including the so-called oversight process about the off-budget funds such as the JDF,” Coloma said.
“That is what the law says, so we will follow,” Coloma said.
Barzaga added the inquiry into the judiciary funds is in line with the High Court’s call for transparency and accountability in government spending which the Tribunal underscored in its recent decision declaring the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” unconstitutional.
“Actually this is not a ‘resbak’ (revenge). As a matter of fact, we are doing the Supreme Court a favor since in its ruling on the PDAF that it wanted possible sources of corruption in the budget to be removed,” he said on radio.
The JDF is also a lump sum fund of the judiciary like the PDAF for legislators which the SC declared illegal amid protests against its alleged misuse by lawmakers linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in the controversial P10-billion pork barrel scam case.
In the same way that lawmakers accepted the High Court’s decision, Barzaga said the magistrates have no reason to be onion-skinned.
“We adhere to the SC as the final arbiter of all conflicts but it should also show in the spirit of transparency and accountability, that it can reveal to the nation particularly to employees of the tribunal how the JDF is spent,” he added.
Barzaga, a representative from Dasmarinas City and member of the House committee on justice, was one of the public prosecutors in the impeachment trial of then SC Chief Justice Renato Corona who was convicted and removed from office last year by the Senate acting as an Impeachment Court.
“We know the SC decision on PDAF, in spite of the fact that it hurts most of our constituents, we gladly accepted the decision, we did not protest, we accepted it. In the same vein, if we conduct an investigation pursuant to our constitutional duty as provided for under the Constitution, I think the Supreme Court as the final interpreter of the Constitution, must also respect our mandate in making legislation,” Barzaga said.
The veteran lawyer and accountant said the public is not convinced with the claim of transparency in the use of the JDF, especially since he has personally sifted through the details that the Court provided on its website.
Barzaga said the SC must make public the specific amount of Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) taken from the JDF to clerks, interpreters, clerk of courts, sheriffs, judges and justices.
“Well of course, it could be an impeachable offense, most especially if there would be evidence showing graft,” he said of possible impeachment cases filed against unnamed SC Justices.
In 2003, an impeachment complaint was filed against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide who has been accused of misusing the JDF for the renovation of the SC’s vacation cottages in Baguio City.
The JDF was created Under PD 1949 issued by President Marcos on July 18,1984.
The fund shall come from the docket and other legal fees paid by party litigants.
Under the decree, at least 80 percent of the funds shall be given to employees of the Judiciary by way of COLA and not more than 20 percent of the JDF shall be used for office equipment and other facilities.
Barzaga noted that as of December 31 last year, the balance of 20 percent of the JDF, which under the decree shall be used for office equipment and other facilities, was pegged at P1,190,328,840.84 (P1.1 billion) and P1,775,597,431.11 (P1.7 billion) as of June 30, 2013.
While these balances are accumulated collections over the years, the lawmaker said the SC has not spent the money amid complaints from court employees that they lack computers, stationaries, and other office needs.
For the year 2012, the total collections of the SC from the cases brought before it was P32,241,383.21 (P32.2 million).
However, Barzaga said the SC spent P65,674,014.79 for the COLA of the employees and justices of the SC and P108, 787,980.47 for office equipments and other facilities of the SC or a total expenditure of P172, 482, 595.25.
The expenditure, he noted, is much above the SC collection of P32.2 million.
“Dapat naman siguro sabihin ng Korte Suprema magkano ba ang COLA ng ordinary employee ng Judiciary based on their salary grade. Baka ang lumabas nito, katulad tayo ng ng government corporations natin na ang mga direktor at high-ranking officials ay masyadong malaki ang tinanggap na COLA,” he said.
“Ang nakakapagtaka nga rito, bakit P32 million lamang ang collection ng Supreme Court pero ang ginastos nila ay P172 million? And of course ang P172 million ay hindi sa kanilang collection lahat at kinuha nila sa collections from other courts and the bulk ng collections ay those coming from the lower courts,” Barzaga added.
The congressman also asked the Judiciary to explain how the Court of Appeals’ disbursements reached P42 million when its collections is just P5 million.
“Iyung P42 million hindi nila ini-specify, iyun ang nakakapagtaka. Sa Supreme Court, iyung 80 percent specified nila ‘yung COLA na 20 percent, ini-specify nila, but for the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals at lower courts hindi ini-specify ng Supreme Court kung ano ang kanilang gastos,” he said.
Barzaga said Congress’ investigation may lead to amendments to PD 1499.
“Hindi naman puwedeng sabihin ng Korte Suprema na itong batas na applicable sa kanila would be permanent and Congress could no longer touch this law or decree, under these circumstances, may karapatan talaga kami,” he said.
Barzaga said the Commission on Audit (CoA), which is mandated to scrutinize the use of the JDF under PD 1499, should also reveal its findings.
“We want to also find our ano ba ng resulta ng CoA audit, sinabi ba sa CoA audit kung magkano ang tinatangap ng bawat ordinary clerk ng judiciary, kung magkano ang Cost of Living Allowance ng ating court interpreter, ng ating mga sheriff, including ating judges and justices of CA and SC at iba pa,” he said.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, who heads the Justice Committee, earlier disclosed that some members of his panel have been egging him to investigate the use of the JDF to restore “balance” among the three co-equal branches of government.
On July 18, 1984, then President Ferdinand Marcos, in the exercise of his legislative power, had issued Presidential Decree No. 1949, that paved way for the JDF to exist in the yearly budget.
“The independence of the Judiciary must be maintained by the State,” the law said.
In its whereas clauses, it said ” the economic conditions of the members and personnel of the Judiciary must be periodically reviewed and upgraded in order to preserve and enhance the independence of the Judiciary at all times and safeguard the integrity of its members”.
Marcos, who topped the 1939 bar examination, also penned that,”the Judiciary, in the discharge of its functions and duties, can generate its own funds and resources to help augment its budgetary requirements and ensure the uplift of its members and personnel”.
Last August, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda denied that Malaca├▒ang was launching an attempt to control the JDF.
“We’re not trying to assert control. This is all under the control of the Supreme Court. This is pursuant to fiscal autonomy,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda also denied Malacanang’s alleged requirement for the Supreme Court to submit a quarterly report to Aquino on the status and use of the JDF and other funds. Lacierda then cited that the requirements were not imposed by Malacanang but of the Marcos’ PD 1949.
“This is not a new provision that just came out of nowhere. This is a word-for-word adoption of PD no. 1949… enacted during the time of Mr. Marcos,” Lacierda said.
The law provided that, “at least 80 percent of the fund shall be used for cost of living allowances and not more than 20 percent of the said fund shall be used for office equipment and facilities of the courts located wherever the legal fees are collected.”
It also stated that “the Commission on Audit through the auditor of the Supreme Court or his duly authorized representative shall quarterly audit the receipts, revenues, uses, disbursements, and expenditures of the fund.”
Lacierda said,”it has not been amended or repealed by Congress”. “This is a presidential decree (that) has a force and effect of law. During the time of Marcos, he also had the lawmaking powers, and so this particular PD can only be repealed by Congress—by an act of Congress,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said that, “this is not something new. This provision is also found in the expenditure program fit for Fiscal Year 2014 or the budget proposal, the proposed budget,” Lacierda said.
By Gerry Baldo and Paul Atienza