Monday, September 30, 2013

‘No bonus for CJ ouster’

By Jess Diaz and Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star  
Additional PDAF released months after conviction
Ex Chief Justice Renato Corona
Ex Chief Justice Renato Corona
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang had never promised to reward senators with P50 million each for the ouster of then chief justice Renato Corona in 2012, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday.
“Not true. There was no promise (of additional funds) or reward to them. I am sure of that. In fact, we were careful not to make PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) releases before, during or after the trial,” Abad said in a text message, denying an allegation raised by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in a privilege speech last Wednesday.
Estrada said he himself received the P50 million as additional fund for “infrastructure projects.” He said a memo on the offer was issued in August.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also said a senators’ caucus on the issue was called but he did not avail himself of the offer of additional PDAF allotments.
Abad said it was strange that on questioning by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Estrada denied there was bribery in the Corona trial.
The Senate, convened as an impeachment court, found Corona guilty of failing to declare all his wealth in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Estrada voted for Corona’s conviction in the trial presided over by then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Enrile also voted for conviction.
The two are now part of the Senate minority led by Enrile and are respondents in plunder and malversation complaints filed with the Office of the Ombudsman by the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with the pork barrel fund scam.
Also charged was Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.
According to the complaint, the three senators pocketed P581 million in kickbacks from bogus foundations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
PDAF is the official name of the congressional pork barrel. It allocates P200 million for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.
“I must emphasize that we in the Aquino administration do not and will not bribe any group or individual – whether these ‘bribes’ are offered officially or otherwise – all for the sake of getting our way, or for the sake of gaining political leverage over parties that may oppose us,” Abad later said in a statement.
He said the President, his officials, as well as his political allies “worked long and hard” to lobby for vital measures and advocacies “and in no way or manner did we resort to extra-legal or dishonest means to ensure the success of our causes.”
He said these included the impeachment of Corona and the passage of two controversial legislations – the responsible parenthood bill and the sin tax measure.
For his part, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, spokesman for the House prosecution panel in Corona’s impeachment, said Estrada himself had declared that he voted to convict the former chief justice “based on evidence and not on any incentive.”
He said Corona could not claim that Estrada’s revelation was a vindication for him or that his ouster was against the Constitution.
Abad also denied sending text messages to House members in 2011 warning them that they would not get their PDAF if they did not vote for the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
“I never did that. If you recall that time, there was a representative who was accused of doing that. Certainly, it wasn’t me,” Abad said.
He was referring to Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, who revealed then that he had received from an administration congressman a text message about Abad’s supposed warning.
The House impeached Gutierrez, who resigned before the Senate could begin her trial.
During the Gutierrez impeachment, Tiangco said the release of his PDAF was often delayed until he complained about it in the media.
“But there was no problem with my releases during the Corona impeachment,” he said.
Tiangco was the only congressman who testified for Corona’s defense in the latter’s Senate trial.
As for the P50-million “reward” claimed by Estrada, Tiangco said, “I haven’t heard about it. I go by the documents, and I haven’t seen it.”
Check the records
Like Abad, Secretary Ricky Carandang, a member of the Palace communications group, denied Estrada’s allegation.
“There was no P50 million given to senators for impeachment. As a matter of fact, the DBM withheld PDAF releases so it could not be misconstrued that the funds are precisely for Mr. Corona’s impeachment,” Carandang said.
“You can check the records yourself. Several months after the impeachment, there were PDAF releases both for senators who voted to convict or acquit Mr. Corona. The records will bear that out,” he said.
Carandang said it was also not true that House members who voted against Corona’s impeachment were not given pork barrel.
He said the records would speak for themselves and the public may check them out.
Estrada said on Wednesday lawmakers were assured of PDAF releases if they would vote for the RH and sin tax bills, negating praises for Congress for its having finally found the courage to act on two sensitive measures.
The Corona ouster was also hailed as one of the triumphs against corruption.
Abad also rebuffed Estrada for his claim that the administration had asked legislators to refrain from putting the proposed 2014 budget under any real scrutiny, just so the budget would be passed on time.
“We cannot do that. To suggest this is an insult to the country’s lawmakers, as well as to Congress as an autonomous branch of government,” Abad said.
“It is no secret, in fact, that budget deliberations in the Lower and Upper Houses are an exhaustive, meticulous, and time-consuming process, as evidenced by the long hours that the DBM and Congress have consistently devoted to each budget hearing.”
Abad said it was with much amusement that he watched Estrada deliver his privilege speech.
He said it was unfair for Estrada to implicate him and the Aquino administration in supposed irregularities.
“Let me say this for the record: Sen. Estrada’s allegations against me and the administration are completely baseless and untrue, and his statements smack of an irresponsibility that has no place in our pursuit of truth and justice,” Abad said.
“In his speech, he portrayed the administration as a sly and coercive force that imposed undue influence over Congress, so that lawmakers were ‘bribed’ or offered rewards in exchange for their support for President Aquino’s own priority legislation,” Abad said.
No special instructions
On Estrada’s claim of special instructions from Malacañang for lawmakers to railroad budget approval, Abad said the executive’s only directive was to ensure the budget was not reenacted.
“All we have requested of them is to make sure that the budget hearings proceed as scheduled, and that we meet our deadline for the timely passage of the national budget,” Abad said.
In his speech, Estrada also challenged Abad to produce PDAF documents that the DBM was unable to furnish the Commission on Audit (COA).
“I must stress that these releases were made in the previous administration, and that it has proven difficult for us to trace the provenance of some of these fund releases, the channels they passed through in the course of their utilization, or the parties or groups that they ultimately benefited,” Abad said.
He noted that Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson explained that these releases were particularly hard to track down, as they were made directly to the agency’s district engineering and regional offices and not to the DPWH Central Office.
“Nonetheless, we have been working actively to secure the documents that COA needs from us, and we continue to pledge our cooperation in the audit body’s efforts to get to the truth of the matter,” Abad said.
Some senators, meanwhile, admitted having received largesse from the executive but whether it was an “incentive” for Corona’s ouster was not clear.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said that he was not aware of the “private and confidential letter memorandum” that was supposedly issued by Senate President Franklin Drilon when he was still chairman of the committee on finance regarding the allotment of an additional P50 million.
“I don’t know anything about that letter and if the issue is was there any offer for our votes in any of those mentioned issues, then there is none,” Guingona said.
Guingona did confirm though having received an additional allocation of P50 million in 2012.
“At some point, later on. Very, very much later on. We checked our records, it was December,” Guingona said.
Enrile also confirmed that there was a P50-million additional PDAF allotment last year, but it was “done long after (the trial).” Enrile said that he did not receive any such letter from Drilon.
Former senator Panfilo Lacson also confirmed the P50-million additional allotment but clarified that he did not avail of it.
“I had no regular PDAF. I didn’t partake of any extra fund in whatever form and for whatever purpose,” said Lacson, who had never availed of his PDAF entitlement.
Lacson said he recalled an announcement made about additional allotment during a caucus of the senators.
“I need not decline because Drilon and the others knew I would not avail. But I remember declining openly in that caucus,” Lacson said.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said that he could not recall anything about the memorandum or the P50 million in additional funds.
“It was not given for the vote (to convict Corona) if indeed something was given. Jinggoy himself said that it was not a bribe to convict,” Cayetano said.
“Personally, I never received a single centavo in consideration of my vote,” he said.
He said that he could not recall if there were releases immediately after the impeachment vote.
Sen. Ralph Recto said that he did not get any additional funds.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, said that he has to check his records to determine if there was such an allotment for his office.
Interviewed by reporters over the phone yesterday, Estrada said that the memo was issued in August last year, three months after the trial of Corona.
Estrada admitted that he availed of the additional funding for “infrastructure projects.”
“So the senators who claim that they don’t remember should check their files and see if they received the letter, if they availed of the projects or not. On my part, I availed of it,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Not a bribe
But contrary to what he insinuated in his privilege speech, Estrada said that the funds were not a bribe to ensure the conviction of Corona.
“That was not a bribe because that came after the fact or after the conviction,” Estrada said. “You may call it as an incentive. Reward or incentive, whatever you want to call it. The timing is suspect.”
For Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, she said that Enrile was most likely the mastermind in the distribution of the P50 million.
“Again the mastermind in the P50-million bribe could have been Enrile because he was Senate President, and blatantly pro-impeachment at that time,” Santiago said.
Santiago said that each senator who allegedly received P50 million, including Enrile and Estrada, should return the money to the government.
“Since the crime has been admitted, the money should be returned to the government. We have to apply the concept of restitution, meaning the compensation paid by a criminal to the government as the victim of plunder, usually as part of a criminal sentence,” she said. With Marvin Sy

CJ Puno: Pork scam could be the worst to hit gov’t

By Ira Pedrasa
CJ Puno rallies people to march vs pork
MANILA — Among the many faces leading the protests against corruption in government, an old voice is reemerging to rally the people toward a moral revolution.
On September 21, former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno again showed his brand of activism by rallying members of the Methodist churches in the Philippines to join those seeking justice against the perpetrators of the pork scam.
Puno is the chairman of the Puno Memorial United Methodist Church’s administrative council.
“The [priority development assistance fund] scam is the sad story repeated again and again in the history of governments. But the PDAF scam is more than the story of how our people’s money was pocketed by some lowlifes among our legislators,” Puno said during a gathering at the Good Samaritan Church in Quezon City.
He believes the scam could develop into the “worst to hit our government as trillions of pesos misused by our public officials can still be unearthed by the Commission on Audit. “
Puno said it is disquieting to think of how the public funds were used against the public interest, noting that people’s money were “misused for political patronage; to buy the loyalty of people whose politics is for sale; to corrupt our system of making laws; to corrupt our systems of enforcing our laws; to corrupt our system of election; to perpetuate poverty; in other words, to violate the dignity of our people, to demean our democracy, and worse of all, to defy the sovereignty of God.”
Back when he was Chief Justice, Puno had set goals in attaining justice for the oppressed with his court embedding in the legal system the rights of protection such as the writs of amparo and habeas data.
He would later lead the Moral Force Movement that sought a “transformational leadership” in the 2010 polls.
Today, as a church leader foremost, Puno said the religious should not be fence-sitters in the fight against the abuse of governmental power.
As Methodists, for example, Puno said, “We maintain that the only reason for the existence of government is to serve the people, the only rationale of government is to maintain order by promoting good and not evil, and above all, government must be an instrument of God, hence, no government can subvert the sovereignty of God.”
According to Puno, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible provide records on how people have used the sovereignty of God to thwart evil governments, noting that throughout history, Christians have influenced governments towards the outlawing of infanticides during the Roman Empire; human sacrifices among the Irish, Prussians and Lithuanians; the burning of widows in India; and the binding of women’s feet in China.
He said it is the duty of everyone to exert ethical influence.
“As a church, our duty is to exert a strong ethical influence upon the state. The Christian ethics is written all over our Constitution. The Preamble of our 1987 Constitution demands the establishment of a “regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace,” he said.
“This is not surprising for our Constitution was written by Christians and approved by a Christian nation,” he added.

What are transition councils for?

By Carmen N. Pedrosa
The Philippine Star 
With Noynoy Aquino fast developing into a lame duck president, the talk among responsible Filipinos is how to move on — what do we do to make sure the country does not deteriorate beyond repair.
We have been let down so grievously by those to whom we have entrusted the running of our country.
We need to tackle national problems strewn in the wake of the latest government crises – the Napoles expose of pork barrel scam and the fighting in Zamboanga that has cost dozens of lives and with no prospect of ending. Letting it just fester will be our doom.
More and more are thinking of seizing hold of the situation instead of letting matters just drift. There are various scenarios to consider — the most crucial of which is to create a transition government and get the most able, experienced and patriotic Filipinos with unsullied reputations whether in or out of government to keep the country’s institutions running properly.
It may be ironic but the first task of preserving our chosen democratic way of life is to create a revolutionary government acting as a transition council. The test of revolutionary government would be to write a new Constitution and overhaul the entire system of governance.
We must keep repeating that to ourselves that any other solution will fall short of stopping pork barrel scams and public moneys being filched by politicians to the detriment of the country. Neither do we have the luxury of time.
* * *
To those with reservations and hope that something can still be done to save the country from utter perdition should be reminded that at present all officials elected in 2010 and 2013 are illegally occupying their posts. The government acting through the Comelec is stonewalling all questions regarding this election so the duty falls on the citizenry to pick up the gauntlet.
These elections were failed elections and remain unresolved to this day.
How can an illegal government try the criminals of the Napoles pork barrel scams when it does not have the mandate from the people?
Moreover, the investigation is being made by people who took part in the crime either by actual commission or neglect in doing something about it. We have a government claiming to be against corruption and yet abets the very same corruption. We are deceived.
If we are to create a new society it must be founded on moral principles of government. The revelations of the pork barrel scams leave us no options unless we meet the challenge now of creating a new system that follows the democratic principle of government that is for the people by the people and of the people.
That task should have begun with the election failures of 2010 and 2013. We are not the first country that had had to confront the task of making the leap of change through revolution peacefully if possible and violently if necessary. Only then can we secure the future of our country.
For this we will need to move fast or events will overtake us end up with the status quo, stuck in the oligarchic society we had tried to reform in the first EDSA that fooled so many reformers, some of whom gave up their lives and fortunes for the cause.
* * *
The military is mandated by the Constitution as protector of the state when it is threatened either internally or externally. But it can only act if there is a transition council under the principle that civic authority is supreme at all times. That can happen only if there is a civil transition council that the military can support. Without the transition council the military has no choice but support the existing government under the dictum of civilian supremacy.
Therefore reform-minded Filipinos must create a transition council, empowered to forge a new constitution, punish all government officials who were part of the scam and preside over new elections. All stolen moneys by politicians and officials alike should be returned to the national treasury under pain of being charged with crimes without bail. These moneys could instead be by the state for a new government set up by real ballots and a true counting.
* * *
It is unacceptable that the very same persons who committed the Napoles pork barrel crimes are allowed and continue to be in charge of investigating the crimes.
Only a transition government can work out a juridical procedure to punish those who had shamelessly stolen the moneys intended for infrastructure and social services.
We must pursue this line while the issues are hot and burning and the people have awakened with a new energy to set the country right.
If we don’t seize the moment then we may revert to business as usual with unscrupulous politicians feasting on public moneys with impunity.
* * *
The transition council follows the practice of “provisional government” that has been used in other parts of the world when a country is devoid of government. The Smartmatic PCOS elections combined with the Napoles pork barrel leaves us very little choice but confront the fact that we do not have government – only a seizure by thugs elected by pre-programmed machines only to steal public moneys.
Thieves have broken down our electoral system, violated the Constitution and are helping themselves to public moneys. If that is not an indication that no one is charge, I wonder what else will.
* * *
There are provisional governments, transition councils, interim councils of every kind and hue in most countries after a revolution peaceful or otherwise. We had one after Cory Aquino’s EDSA but it ultimately failed to carry out the reforms envisioned by the revolution. This time we must proceed more carefully as we move to what can be considered a God-given opportunity to try again.
* * *
It is good news to Filipinos in London that Philippine Airlines returns to this central hub after 15 years of absence. Despite that long absence Filipinos have hoped that the national airline would fly this route again. Going home in PAL makes them feel at home the moment they are in the plane with Filipino stewardesses and a choice of Filipino dishes in the menu. Its biggest come on is that it will be a direct flight cutting down travel time when they take indirect flights with stopovers. Manila-London is the busiest route for linking the Philippines to Europe. With Filipinos in every major city in Europe the national carrier has made the right move with great potential.

Beware of the ‘fourth monkey’

By Archbishop Oscar V.Cruz
Pangasinan Republic
Three-MonkeysCall it an allegory or a fable, a parable or a proverb or whatever. Its key feature is the realistic thought or practical lesson is forwarded by the known saying in the realm of what is right and proper what is true and real. And this is exactly the content and intent of the famous — or infamous — story of “The Three Monkeys.”
The story goes that there were these three monkeys sitting down in a row — each one making a gesture as a sign of what everyone of them is all about.
The first one has his hands covering his two eyes to mean that he sees nothing — nothing good, nothing bad. The second monkey has his two hands covering his two ears to convey the message that he hears nothing — nothing right, nothing wrong. The third money has his both hands covering his mouth to signify that he is saying nothing — nothing true, nothing false. So it is that three monkeys represent the stance of people who see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing. These are wherefore portrayed as individuals pretending to be not only blind, but also deaf and dumb — exactly like the three monkeys.
Needless to say, the likes of the three monkeys are big liabilities of society — in terms of people living in these difficult and trying times. When men are killed everyday in many places and in many ways; when women are customarily violated in their inherent dignity and physical integrity; when children are abducted for whatever evil reason — people who play blind, deaf and dumb become social liabilities themselves.
When politicians rob the citizens of the continuous taxes the latter pay, assiduously serve themselves instead of others, abuse their authority and power against the very individuals who put them in office and shoulder the costs of all their luxurious expenses — people who pretend to be blind, deaf and dumb lose their right to have honest and sincere public servants.
When the government is precisely either really incapable of serving or in fact incapacitated from ruling — people who act as if they are blind, deaf and dumb deserve the pathetic government they thus have.
But wait! These trying times have even brought about a fourth monkey: One that does nothing. Yes! This fourth monkey can see, hear, and talk. But act he does not. Lo and behold! He sits comfortably, has his hands cozily folded as he listens to what is taking place, merely looks at what people are doing — and that’s it! But when the right time comes, when the right occasion and opportunity are present, this monkey jumps to action — denouncing what is wrong, etc. and eventually announcing his availability to serve the people, to save the country, etc.
Call this fourth monkey an astute one, a smart aleck, a good opportunist or whatever. But the advisory is the same: Beware of the “fourth monkey!”

Sunday, September 29, 2013

‘We Are Migrant Trees’

By Evangeline Ragus Hinnenkamp*
Speech given at Eskwela Natin’s graduation ceremonies on September 22, 2013.
Dinarangal na mga kapwa-Pilipino, kapwa-tagapagturo, mga mag-aaral sa sekundarya nagprisintang tumulong sa pagtuturo, mga kabataang magtatapos sa unang klase ng Eskwela Natin, mga kaibigan, magandang hapon.
Honored fellow-Filipinos, fellow educators, student volunteers, graduates of Eskwela Natin’s first session, friends, good afternoon.
I’ve got the whole world in my classroom. Sort of.
I teach English learners – children who have come to America from all over the world with different reasons, with varying levels of English language fluency and skills – from early beginning to advanced levels, and with varying degrees of emotional, social and cultural adjustment capabilities.
Regardless of their reasons, English language proficiency levels or maturity levels, they all deal with culture shock. Daily during the school year, I witness students deal with issues of identity, language and culture. Some who have very strong family ties are able to cope with the changes quite remarkably. Others, however, seem to have difficulty and often struggle to either maintain or create a new one.
I empathize with them and it is through working with them that I ponder on my identity and heritage, our own, yours and mine as Filipinos who have come, have grown, or were born here in America. To establish a unique identity while fitting in and adapting to a multicultural and multilingual society is a never-ending struggle.
Our struggle is often like that of migrant trees. First generation immigrants such as I are like plants uprooted from the home soil and transplanted into foreign soil. They get uprooted at varying stages of growth (mature, sapling, seedling). Others are grafted into foreign stems and many are fruits of the transplanted or grafted trees. Whatever stage they get uprooted or whatever conditions they happen to be here, they strive to adapt in order to flourish. It is then essential that the tree stays connected to a healthy root system in order to grow, blossom and bear fruit.
In a similar way, whether we came to America as adults, youngsters or babies, been grafted into other ethnic families, or born of mixed ethnicities, we need to stay connected to our roots in order to thrive. We need our roots to preserve and enrich our identities.
These reflections and the desire to uphold the Filipino legacy prompted me to say yes when Dolores Diaz asked me to teach at Eskwela Natin, our very own Filipino School. Eskwela Natin is here to ensure that all of us, especially our children who have been uprooted, grafted or born from these grafts can stay connected to our Filipino roots. Here they learn our language, history, geography, culture, traditions, music and cuisine. What they learn here at Eskwela Natin will help sustain the essence of their being a Filipino and influence them to care and carry on our heritage. They will go out into the community taking pride in their Filipino identity and fortified by their culture and heritage. America will behold and will be enriched by the value and integrity of the Filipino people.
I am proud to be part of this undertaking to fulfill Eskwela Natin’s vision. The trees have been transplanted; the branches have been grafted; the seeds have been sown. The nurture is in our hands – yours and mine. May the fruits be good.
Mabuhay ang Pilipino!
*Evangeline Ragus Hinnenkamp is the Head Teacher of Eskwela Natin, the first Filipino school of its kind in the United States.  She teaches English at the Inderkum High School at Natomas Unified School District in Sacramento, California.

Speaker Belmonte: ‘Pork’ probe to include P-Noy allies

Source: Vox Bikol
MANILA, Philippines – The pork barrel scam investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not spare administration allies, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.
Belmonte said the fear of opposition Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that President Aquino’s supporters who have been linked to the scam might be treated as sacred cows is premature.
“Justice Secretary (Leila) de Lima has made statements several times that there will be a second and even a third wave of filing (of charges). It is premature for him to even assume that allies of the President would be spared,” he said.
“The President has made a strong position that those who have been implicated, regardless of political affiliation, would be made to answer and be held accountable for their actions,” he added.
Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. are reportedly planning to deliver privilege speeches this week to claim that the DOJ is targeting opposition senators in its pork barrel scam investigation.
Estrada is expected to name some of his own Senate colleagues and possibly some congressmen who were mentioned in the special Commission on Audit (COA) report on the use of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations from 2007 to 2009, but were not included in the first batch of criminal charges filed with the Office of the Ombudsman last week.
Charged with plunder were Estrada, Revilla and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
According to the complaint, the three received P581 million in kickbacks from bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) associated with alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.
Charged with them was Napoles.
The senators’ chiefs of staff are also facing criminal cases for allegedly receiving commissions and facilitating the flow of funds to the Napoles NGOs.
Belmonte said he would give senators and members of the House of Representatives mentioned in the COA report as having given funds to NGOs only once or twice the benefit of good faith.
They could claim that they did not know the questionable activities of the NGOs or that they were victimized, he said.
But if they repeatedly gave their funds to bogus foundations, it would be hard for these lawmakers to claim good faith, he said.
“I’m really concerned about people who repeatedly do it because they cannot claim good faith. One of the persons involved put virtually all of his disposable PDAF on it. If they do it repeatedly, you come to a different conclusion,” he said.
Other House leaders have urged Estrada and Revilla to just prepare to defend themselves before the Ombudsman instead of resorting to mud throwing.
As this developed, the DOJ has passed to the Office of the Ombudsman the decision on whether to allow whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing today.
“I am inclined to reserve my consent to the appearance of all the whistle-blowers in the next scheduled hearing of the committee, in deference to the primary role the ombudsman now plays on the matter of publicizing the testimonies of the whistle-blowers in a public hearing after the complaints have already been filed with her office,” De Lima said in a two-page letter to committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.
De Lima said the ombudsman should decide whether “a public exposition of the testimonies of all the whistle-blowers would be detrimental to a just and fair evaluation of the evidence before it.”
She said the ombudsman has already assumed jurisdiction over the plunder cases filed against 38 individuals, including three senators.
Thus, she said anything related to the complaints filed against the accused is within the power and authority of the ombudsman, including the release of information gathered from the evidence submitted.
However, De Lima assured the committee that the DOJ would provide “support and assistance” to the Senate investigation to the extent of their mandate and authority.
Senate President Franklin Drilon also tossed to the ombudsman the issue whether the Senate should issue a subpoena to force the appearance of Napoles on Thursday.
Drilon declined to sign the subpoena for Napoles and referred the issue to Senate secretary Oscar Yabes, who in turn recommended that the Office of the Senate President request comment from the ombudsman.
“We sought the advice of the ombudsman given the fact that under their law, publicity is to be avoided or prohibited where, in her judgment, it can prejudice the case,“ he said.
When asked if the Senate had historically subpoenaed resource persons with complaints before the ombudsman, Drilon said “the law is there and the rules are there.”
“I don’t express my opinion. She is supreme in interpreting her Charter, the Ombudsman Law,” he added, reiterating that the ombudsman has primary jurisdiction over Napoles.
Drilon and his wife, Mila, were shown in photographs partying with Napoles and her husband at a mausoleum in Heritage Park. Reports also revealed that Napoles gave the senator an expensive sign pen but he denied this.
Earlier in the day, the Blue Ribbon committee forwarded to Drilon’s office a copy of the draft subpoena addressed to PNP-SAF commander Carmelo Valmoria.
“The appearance of Ms. Napoles in the Blue Ribbon hearing is important to our investigation as the Filipinos are looking for answers that may shed light to some issues at hand,” Guingona said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee will resume its hearing today.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bam Aquino believes that Napoles should be called to the Senate to reveal what she knows about the pork barrel scam.

Scourge of our times

By Perry Diaz
Anti-pork-barrel-rally-Cebu-credit-Tonee-DespojoLately, the people have been asking, “What’s going on with our country?”   First, the Ballsy Aquino-Cruz alleged extortion followed by the Bureau of Customs smuggling scandal.  Then the pork barrel scandal erupted. Then, on September 9, 2013, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari attacked Zamboanga City and took more than 300 hostages. That’s too much for P-Noy to take.
Four days later, P-Noy took his cue from the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  He then flew to Zamboanga, far from the madding crowd that has been pestering him for not giving up his presidential pork barrel.  
Zamboanga-govt-forces.3Holed up in an undisclosed “command post,” he stayed out of public view and avoided the media.  On September 21, after eight days of isolation, he emerged from his hideout and held a press conference at the Zamboanga Airport.  He told the media that he had to go to Zamboanga because as the commander-in-chief, command responsibility rests in him. He said that he plans to stay there until the crisis was over.   But, criticized for micro-managing the military operation, he flew back to Manila the following day.
It’s interesting to note that during P-Noy’s extended stay in Zamboanga, reporters asked Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during a press briefing in Malacañangwhy P-Noy had not made any statement on other national issues, Lacierda said that the President had no access to Manila newspapers. “You know, the problem in Zamboanga is that no planes are flying there. They’re not getting news there. No newspapers are being flown there,” he told the reporters.  Whoa!  Since when did the President not able to access the news when he was away?  He has access to the Internet, has he not?  And can’t Lacierda or his deputy Abigail Valte or the two other Cabinet-level “communications” secretaries – Ricky Carandang and Sonny Coloma — update P-Noy with what’s happening in Manila?   They’re just a phone call away, aren’t they?  And, oh! how about the online news? They’re accessible at the tip of P-Noy’s fingers, aren’t they?  And if there is no electricity in the city, P-Noy should be able to get a generator.  Simply put, there is no excuse for failure to communicate. 
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.
Foremost among the national issues is P-Noy’s stand on the filing of plunder and malversation charges against 38 individuals, which include Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. And then there are the pressing issues of the postponement of theSangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and the prioritizing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill as “urgent.”  With these issues lingering in limbo, it makes one feel that the whole country is at a standstill.
But granted that Lacierda was telling the truth that nobody outside Zamboanga City could reach P-Noy; then it would be the same the other way around: P-Noy wouldn’t be able to reach anybody in Manila, particularly his boys in Malacañang.   P-Noy’s return to Manila provided a sigh of relief to his boys in Malacañang.  
Meanwhile, it was reported that six of the 35 individuals charged with plunder on the Bureau of Immigration’s “lookout list” have left the country!  And, listen to this: Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima said that the government has practically “no recourse” against the six.
With more and more lawmakers being investigated for plunder and malversation, the list could grow.  And what would happen then?  Could it be that the country is heading towards an anarchic order?  Heaven forbid!  Or, is another “people power” revolution in the offing? Indeed, the specter of another “people power” revolution sends shivers down the spine of every lawmaker… and the President, too. 
For the love of pork
This brings to mind P-Noy’s controversial P1.3-trillion presidential pork barrel. Yes, we’re talking trillions here! That’s 1,300 billion!  Compare that to the P25 billion allocated to all the lawmakers in 2013, that’s like comparing a mouse to an elephant!  And what is really sad is that P-Noy may have planted, wittingly or unwittingly, the seeds of corruption by substantially increasing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations or pork barrel of the lawmakers beginning in 2011.  
Pork-Barrel-figures-2008-2014In my article, “P-Noy chops pork, keeps the bacon”(August 26, 2013), I wrote: “P-Noy should stop blaming Gloria for all his problems. While it may be true that the pork barrel scam ran by Janet Lim-Napoles started during Gloria’s time, it did not end when P-Noy ascended to the presidency. In fact, the COA report shows that the pork barrel scam increased in volume and more lawmakers – 12 senators and 180 congressmen – were involved in raiding the PDAF funds and splitting the funds 70-30 with the lawmakers getting the lion’s share.“But blaming Gloria is not going to work this time around. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records show that in 2010, Gloria’s last budget year, PDAF was P6.9 billion. The following year, with P-Noy having full control of the budget, he could have pared down the PDAF allocations. But instead, PDAF allocations took a quantum leap. In 2011, PDAF more than tripled from 2010’s P6.9 billion to P22.3 billion! In 2012, it was increased to P24.89 billion. It was for the same amount in 2013. But in 2014, PDAF will increase to a record P27 billion!”
Open letter to P-Noy to abolish presidential pork barrel
Open letter to P-Noy to abolish presidential pork barrel
But due to the heat created by the pork barrel scandal, lawmakers from both chambers of Congress decided to forego their PDAF allocations in favor of earmarking these allocations directly to government departments needing them.  In other words, they couldn’t dip their dirty hands into the cookie jar anymore.  It remains to be seen, though, if this “reform” would work.  The greedy always find ways to beat the system.
But how about P-Noy’s P1.3-trillion pork?  That’s a lot ofmoolah under his absolute control.  In essence, he can move or redirect all or part of these lump sum allocations to projects of his choice and Congress couldn’t do anything about it.  In other words, Congress no longer has the “power of the purse.”  P-Noy usurped it. 
It comes as no surprise then that the national uproar over the humongous presidential pork barrel is growing fast and could reach critical mass any time soon. But so far, P-Noy is resisting calls for him to let go of his pork.  But how long can he hold on?
Ultimately, P-Noy has to deal with the scourge of our times: war in Mindanao and plunder in the government. That’s the price of leadership.  It’s called command responsibility.

The Putin Doctrine: ushering in a new cold war

By Yehuda Lukacs
McClatchy-Tribune News Service 
Vladimir-Putin.7The civil war in Syria has ushered a new cold war between Russia and the United States. President Vladimir Putin is now challenging President Barack Obama in the heart of the Middle East, a region the United States has considered as its own sphere of influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian president perceives an America in decline and believes Russia ought to be considered at least as equal to the United States, and China.
For Russia, Syria today is similar to what the countries of the Warsaw Pact were during the old Cold War; Syria has been a loyal client state since the 1950s, and maintaining the Assad regime in power has become a top national security interest. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Russia stands by its friends, unlike the United States, which abandoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in 2011.
The recent op-ed article by Putin in The New York Times introduces the Putin Doctrine, which shrewdly calls for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and opposes any outside intervention in civil wars without the U.N. Security Council’s approval. It presents Russia as the guardian angel of international law and order — “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
Putin also directs a spotlight on the United States to which “military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace.” Indeed, turning the table on America with its self-image as the “shining city on the hill” underlies Putin’s new cold war rhetoric and actions.
Yet, in reality, it is Russia, which has enabled Bashar al-Assad to butcher more than 100,000 Syrian citizens by supplying Syria with lethal weapons and other military equipment to suppress the uprising. Without Russia’s active support, the Assad ruling family would have been long gone.
The Obama administration, however, has refrained from pointing a finger at Russia for its culpability in the civil war. Putin, the new convert to international law, ought to be reminded that he could be subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity for his assistance to the Syrian regime.
Unfortunately, after the massacre of 1,400 Syrians using poison gas by Assad’s army, President Obama has chosen to focus his attention only on one aspect of the crisis, the use of chemical weapons by the regime. Without a doubt, the use of poison gas constitutes a horrible war crime for which Assad must pay a price, but it has also deflected attention from the systematic genocide that has been taking place in the last two-and-half years in Syria.
The Geneva meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov focuses only on the surrender of Syria’s chemical weapons. It leaves all other issues surrounding the civil war in abeyance. This approach will guarantee an eventual victory to Russia’s client state, Syria.
After all, allowing the United Nations to act as a watchdog over Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons pales in comparison with losing power. In other words, the Obama administration has provided Assad a lifeline, which is exactly the type of victory Russia was hoping for in this climate of the new cold war, vindicating its guardianship over Syria and return to global prominence.
The United States has yet to determine what are its core national interests in Syria and the Middle East as a whole. The events of the last two weeks demonstrate clearly that the administration is confused and lacks a clear direction.
Putin perceives Obama’s United States as an inward looking, dithering and confused nation, unable to determine its true interests and role in the world.
Putin, a former KGB officer during the old Cold War era, well versed in the game of realpolitik — the exercise of power politics — is determined to re-establish the old Soviet power in the Middle East and elsewhere. Obama, on the other hand, seems unable to respond to Putin’s raw challenge. The president, however, must realize the new cold war is here to stay and the United States must change course and begin to stand up forcefully to Russia which is contesting America’s global leadership once again.
— Yehuda Lukacs is associate provost for international programs and director of the Center for Global Education at George Mason University .