Monday, December 31, 2012

Analysis on Impeachment of Chief Justice Corona

By Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr.

The Supreme Court, the country's highest judicial tribunal, was very much in the news in 2012 -- both in print and broadcast -- because of several significant events, topped by the impeachment trial and conviction from January to May of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

After 43 trial days and hundreds of grueling hours of hearing, the Senate, sitting as impeachment court, declared Corona guilty as charged in three articles of impeachment filed by 188 members of the House of Representatives.

An overwhelming majority of senators, 20-3, voted for the removal of Corona from office, most of them noting that the top magistrate no longer deserved his post.

This made Corona the first government official and the first chief justice to be convicted by an impeachment court.

Two months before the end of 2012, the Supreme Court dismissed all the petitions questioning the validity of the impeachment complaint against Corona.

This was done through a three-page en banc resolution, where the SC said that there was no need anymore to discuss the constitutional issues as to the case, including the surrounding questions as to the legality of the signatures of the 188 congressmen who filed the impeachment complaint.

The SC said that since the new chief justice has been installed and Corona is no longer in power, thus, it is sound to dismiss the case on the ground the petitions have become moot.

"Indeed, the recent turn of events, including the appointment of a new chief justice, has rendered the petitions before us moot. Wherefore, we dismiss the consolidated petitions on the ground of mootness," the SC said.

Corona was convicted of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust on May 29, 2012 by the Senate Impeachment Court.

The SC noted Corona immediately accepted the verdict and without any protest vacated his office.

President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed on Aug. 24, 2012 SC Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal Sereno as the 24th Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sereno is the first woman chief justice of the highest court of the land and will be the longest-serving one because her term will expire on Aug. 16, 2030.

Sereno was born on July 2, 1960. She was the first appointee of President Aquino in the Judiciary on Aug. 16, 2010.

She finished her A.B. from the Ateneo De Manila University in 1980, LL.B. from the University of the Philippines as valedictorian and cum laude in 1984 and LL.M. from the University of Michigan (United States) in 1993.

She was an associate professor of the U.P. College of Law from 1986 to 2006 and executive director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center from 2009 to 2010.

Sereno has so far maintained the policy of "dignified silence," stressing the justices will be known through the decisions they are writing.

In fact, she has declined all media interviews.

Other significant events that took place in the SC during the year include:

* SC stops Cybercrime Law implementation

On Oct. 9, 2012, the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known as the "Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012," after it received several petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law.

After the regular en banc session of the justices, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against R.A. 10175.

With a unanimous voting, 14 justices decided to vote in favor of the issuance of the TRO.

The petitioners are the National Press Club (NPC), Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teddy Casino.

They argued the provision of the law on cyber libel is unconstitutional because it allegedly infringes on the right of the people to express their sentiment.

They questioned Sections 4 to 8 and Sections 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Cybercrime Law.

They further argued that the said provisions are criminalizing libel on the internet, empowering the authorities to collect, examine, confiscate and block computer data, as well as authorizing the Department of Justice to block access to computer data with prima facie or with blatant violation of the provision of the law.

The SC has set the oral arguments on the case on Jan. 13, 2013.

* SC affirms the validity of Comelec's purchase of P1.8-B PCOS machines

On Oct. 23, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed with finality the validity of the Commission on Elections' purchase of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines worth P1.8 billion to be used for the May 13, 2013 synchronized automated mid-term elections.

With a vote of eight justices out of 11 present, the SC affirmed the court's June 13 ruling and dismissed the appeal filed by the Automated Election System Watch.

Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta wrote the decision which was concurred in by Chief Justice Sereno, Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas C. Bersamin, Roberto A. Abad, Jose C. Mendoza and Bienvenido L. Reyes.

Associate Justices Arturo D. Brion and Estela Perlas-Bernabe joined Martin S. Villarama Jr. in the dissent.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo and Jose P. Perez were absent during the deliberations. Carpio and Perez are on wellness leave, while Del Castillo is on personal leave.

* Aquino names Leonen as 172nd SC justice

On Nov. 21, 2012, President Aquino appointed government chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the 172nd in the country's history.

With his appointment, Leonen takes the record as being the youngest to be appointed to the SC in the 21st century.

Leonen turns 50 on Dec. 29, 2012.

Prior to his appointment, the youngest to be appointed Associate Justice of the SC was Sereno, who was appointed in 2010 when she was 50.

Leonen filled up the position vacated by Sereno after Aquino appointed her as the Philippines' 24th Chief Justice.

He was credited for crafting the framework peace agreement between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Leonen is a law professor known in environmental activism and community organizing.

In 2008, he was selected as the Dean of the U.P. College of Law by the Board of Regents, serving as Dean until the appointment of incumbent Dean Danilo L. Concepcion in June 2011.

Leonen has inhibited himself from the petitions pending before the SC questioning the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

However, he was assigned as the ponente or the writer of the decision in the case involving the P366-milion plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials now pending before the SC.

* SC affirms junking of multiple murder raps vs. Lacson

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court exonerating former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Panfilo Lacson of multiple murder charges pertaining to the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case.

In a ruling dated Nov. 13, 2012 but released only on Dec. 5, the SC said it agreed with Quezon City RTC Branch 81 Presiding Judge Ma. Theresa Yadao when she dismissed the murder case on Nov. 12, 2003 because documentary records, including the affidavits of the policemen-witnesses, failed to establish probable cause against Lacson and other police officials implicated in the case.

The RTC noted the police officers who stood as witnesses "took no part in the operations against the Kuratong Baleleng Gang members."

In its ruling written by Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad, the SC affirmed the Quezon City RTC's observation that witness Sr. Insp. Abelardo Ramos issued conflicting statements before the RTC and the Office of the Ombudsman, which originally heard the case before it got transferred to the Quezon City RTC Branch 81.

In his testimony before the Ombudsman, Ramos said he was not present during the arrest of Kuratong Baleleng gang members in Parañaque City and the succeeding shootout in Quezon City.

He added he was in Bulacan on the day of the shooting and was at his home the following day.

However, in his separate testimony before the Quezon City RTC, Ramos reversed his story and said that he belonged to the team that both arrested and "executed the plan to gun down" the Kuratong Baleleng gang members.

"The Court cannot be less skeptical than Judge Yadao was in doubting the sudden reversal after six years of testimony of these witnesses," the SC said.

The SC also noted how the prosecution "skipped" the Court of Appeals when it directly filed its petition for certiorari before the SC to question Judge Yadao's dismissal of the case.

* Gov't wins coconut levy funds case vs. Cojuangco

On Dec. 10, 2012, the government won its case against businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. in connection with the coconut levy funds case.

This, after the Supreme Court ruled that subject shares in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) are government-owned.

In a ruling of the SC en banc written by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. dated Nov. 27, 2012, the SC denied the petition of Cojuangco questioning the ruling of the Sandiganbayan in July 2003 which declared that the subject shares as part of assets were illegally acquired from coconut levy funds.

With a vote of eight justices and six inhibitions, the government won its case.

"The UCPB shares transferred to defendant Cojuangco are hereby declared conclusively owned by the Republic of the Philippines to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry, and ordered reconveyed to the government," the SC ruling said.

The government won the case, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), after the SC argued that by using the word "conclusively," the SC has declared incontrovertible the evidence presented in the case.

The SC said that the Sandiganbayan's ruling was tenable in nullifying the May 25, 1975 deal of the Philippine Coconut Administration (PCA), which transferred to Cojuangco by way of compensation 10% of the 72.2% First United Bank (now UCPB) shares of stocks that the PCA purchased from his uncle, Pedro Cojuangco, using the coconut levy funds.

Philippine Economy Excellent Despite Natural Calamities

The year 2012 saw Central Luzon hit by calamity when torrential monsoon rains triggered widespread flooding that destroyed crops, infrastructures and disrupted the lives of thousands of residents.

But the region's economy has proven its strength and resilience once again as boosted by vibrant tourism and industry sector that generated more employment opportunities and the continuous influx of foreign and local tourists.

Although the economic performance in the agriculture and fishery sectors slowed down due to the devastation brought by the monsoon rains last August, it managed to cope up with the challenges through the full support of the government.

Data from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Central Luzon showed that total damages to agriculture was pegged at P1.095 billion; palay and corn, P371.36 million, livestock, P10.25 million; high-value crops, P22.27 million and fisheries, P691.63 million.

Central Luzon' economy has always exhibited resiliency despite devastating weather disturbance, NEDA regional director Severino Santos said.

Santos said government rehabilitation and recovery programs have been successful particularly for crop production.

Andrew Villacorta, regional director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the Central Luzon has played big part in the country's improved palay production.

"We have increased palay harvest in Central Luzon this year despite being hit by torrential rains," Villacorta said.

Records from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed that palay and corn production in Central Luzon in the third quarter of the year increased to 211,306 and 15,755 metric tons, respectively, which is higher compared to the same period last year with 171,334 and 12,212 metric tons, respectively.

Santos was confident that the continued collaboration between the private and government sector will continue its sustainable and moderate growth in 2013.

Investments/Job Opportunities

The impressive performance of the three freeports in the region, namely Subic, Clark and Freeport Area of Bataan stimulated the local economy.

Subic has grown into a premier logistics, tourism and investments hub, with over 1,500 locators doing their business in the Freeport and generating close to 90,000 jobs.

"Subic Bay Freeport is vibrant, a very exciting place especially now that a lot of attention has been focused on the Philippines because of reforms initiated by the administration," SBMA chairman and administrator Roberto Garcia said.

The number of workers inside the Clark Freeport continued to rise with more than 70,000 this year.

Clark Development Corporation (CDC) chair and officer-in-charge Eduardo Oban, Jr. said the improvement on the employment in Clark was an indication that the freeport zone is becoming an investment haven for multi-national firms.

Oban has expressed hope that the opening of other tourism-related projects in Clark will also increase employment opportunities, not only for the residents of the Metro Clark area, but also in the adjacent provinces of Tarlac and Pampanga.

Meanwhile, the Authority Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), has increased the number of its registered locators from 35 in 2010 to 73 in November this year.


Improved infrastructures, specifically the modern North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway led to hefty growth rates in tourist arrivals in Central Luzon.

Ronnie Tiotuico, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said the two expressways have contributed substantially to the growth of travel and tourism in the region.

Likewise, he said the SBMA and CDC have been strengthening their bid to become premier tourist destinations in the region.

The SBMA and CDC have been vigorously pursuing the tourism market due to numerous natural attractions to offer, aside from the modern amenities that are uniquely placed inside a peaceful and well-maintained environment, he said.

A phenomenal increase in the passenger volume at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) was also noted this year.

Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano said the DMIA has achieved for the first time an unprecedented one million passengers in just 10 months of 2012.

Luciano said he expected "an increase and steady flow of travelers, tourists, balikbayans and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) this December in time for the holidays."

"At the rate we sre going, we expect to service close to 1.4 million passengers by year end," he added.

Peace and Order

Another significant aspect that the public and private sectors in the region feel proud of was the generally peaceful and orderly situation in the region.

Chief Supt. Edgardo Ladao, Central Luzon police director, described the overall peace and order condition prevailing in the seven provinces as conducive to development efforts.

Crime statistics from the Regional Investigation and Detection Management Division (RIDMD) showed the crime volume from January to October this year decreased by about 39.09 percent.

This was greatly attributed to the strong partnership among the police, the community and the local government units (LGUs).

Economic Outlook for 2013

The NEDA and the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham) agreed that 2013 would be a good year for the region's economy.

The NEDA's forecast was due to an increase in investors' confidence as well as a rebound in agricultural production.

Jim Jimenez, PamCham president, said the anti-corruption efforts of the administration have boosted the confidence of investors in the government.

Likewise, PamCham vice chairman Rene Romero said the local economy is now getting healthier as projected.

LPG Price in Philippines Reduced in 2013

Despite the price increases on petroleum products, independent refillers grouped under the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers' Association (LPG-MA) are rolling back their prices of the cooking fuel by P2 per kilo effective midnight.

"Owing to the sustained drop in the international contract price of LPG, we are further reducing prices by P2 per kilo, or by P22 for every 11-kilogram cylinder," the LPG-MA said on Monday.

"We see softer LPG prices in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, this will just be the first of our price cutbacks for 2013," the group said.

Independent refillers not aligned with the big oil companies tend to sell LPG at prices up to 20 percent lower than branded cooking gas.

LPG-MA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty said the international contract price of LPG has been steadily declining on account of weaker demand from the slowing economies of the United States and Europe.

"The stronger peso has also made it somewhat cheaper for Philippine importers to buy LPG in dollars overseas," he noted.

The peso-dollar exchange rate closed at P41.19 to a US dollar on the last trading day of 2012, up 6.21 percent from P43.92 a year ago.

Meanwhile, amid the rash of accidental fires, Ty renewed his appeal for the swift passage of a bill proposing to establish a one-time exchange program for the benefit of consumers possessing dilapidated LPG cylinders.

The 55-member of the House of Representatives' committee on trade and industry previously endorsed the bill for floor debate and approval.

"The bill is in the public's best interest, as it will surely promote the safe consumption of LPG," said Ty.

He said the LPG Cylinder Exchange, Swapping and Rehabilitation Program contained in House Bill 3976 would systematically remove and replace all defective and substandard drums in the open market.

"This will definitely minimize the risk of accidental fires that may be caused by unsafe cylinders," he added.

Ty said the cylinder exchange scheme is just one of the features of the bill, which basically sets the minimum fair standards of business conduct for all LPG industry participants, from importers and refiners down to neighborhood dealers.

The proposed measure ensures that every LPG cylinder coming out of a refilling plant has gone through rigorous safety tests. Cylinders damaged from normal wear and tear would be promptly detected, repaired and re-qualified, or scrapped, as the case may be.

Strong Philippine Economy No Longer Sick Man of Asia

President Benigno S. Aquino III called on Filipinos to continue fostering the spirit of "bayanihan" (cooperation) to improve the image of the Philippines as the former "Sick Man of Asia" into the revitalized tiger it is today.

In his New Year's message delivered Monday, the President said that only after two and a half years in Office, his Administration was able to achieve historic feats.

These included, the President said, building lasting peace through the signing of a Framework Agreement with the MILF, attaining rice sufficiency by plugging leaks and properly managing rice production in the agriculture sector, bridging the classroom gap, alleviating poverty by investing in social and infrastructure endeavors, bringing electricity to far-flung sitios and improving the economy which has now grown 7.1 percent to be the best performer in Asia.

He added by implementing reforms in the judiciary and improving the country's ability to respond to natural calamities, the Philippines has shown to the entire world the readiness of Filipinos to sacrifice and dedicate his entire self to achieve his dreams and ambitions.

The President's New year's message (full text):

"Kay bilis po talaga ng panahon: Ito na po ang ikatlong bagong taon na ipagdiriwang ng sambayanan sa tuwid na daan. At hindi po maikakaila na sinasalubong natin ang bawat pagpapalit ng taon nang may matibay na pag-asa at kompiyansang mas magiging makabuluhan, at higit na makahulugan ang mga susunod pang taon sa landas ng tapat at mabuting pamamahala.

"Kung dati, milyun-milyong tonelada ng bigas ang nabubulok sa mga warehouse dahil sa maling pamamalakad, ngayon, dahil sa tamang pamamahala, hindi na lamang rice self-sufficiency, kundi ang pag-e-export ng matataas na klase ng bigas ang habol natin pagdating ng 2013.

"Ang minana natin mula sa ating sinundan ---66, 800 na kakulangan sa silid aralan. Ang pamana ng tuwid na landas sa mga kabataan---sapat na classroom, sapat na mesa't upuan, sapat na aklat, para sa kanilang mas mayamang kinabukasan.

"Matagal rin po tayong binansagang 'Sick Man of Asia.' Subalit dahil sa pambihirang arangkada ng ating ekonomiya, sunud-sunod ang mga namumuhunan sa ating bansa. At mukhang magpapatuloy ang ganitong kompiyansa ng mundo sa atin ---ang 7.1 percent na pag-angat ng GDP nitong 3rd quarter, ay higit sa inaasahang target ng mga dalubhasa, at siyang pinakamataas sa buong Timog Silangang Asya.

"Hindi lang po rito nagtatapos ang pagbuhos ng mabubuting balita, tagumpay at biyaya sa bansa.

"Mula sa patuloy na pag-angat ng all time high ng Philippine Stock Exchange, hanggang sa pagpapanday ng pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa Bangsamoro; mula sa pagliwanag ng libu-libong mga sitio, hanggang sa pagkakapasa ng ilang makasaysayang batas; mula sa pagpapantay sa timbangan ng katarungan hanggang sa kahandaan at bayanihan ng sambayanan sa harap ng mga pagsusungit ng kalikasan, pinapatunayan natin sa buong mundo ---basta't handa tayong gawin ang tama't magsakripisyo para sa ating kapwa, basta't sumasagwan tayo nang sabay sa ngalan ng sambayanan, walang pangarap na hindi kayang abutin ang ating bansa.

"Simula lamang po ito. Sa totoo lang po, ang kaisa-isang limitasyon sa tayog ng ating mararating ay ang ating ambisyon.

"Nasa pagtutulungan at tiwala natin sa isa't isa ang susi ng tagumpay. Ang 2013 ay kritikal na yugto sa ating krusada ng pangmatagalang kaunlaran at tuwid na pamamahala. Ngayong bagong taon, mas maigting na pagkakaisa ang kailangan.

"Umaasa akong magiging mapanuri ang taumbayan sa pagkilatis ng mga itatalagang pinuno.

"Ang mga pinunong ito ang tutugon sa panawagan nating isulong ang dangal at katapatan sa paglilingkod-bayan. Ang mga pinunong ito ang aasahan nating didilig sa mga repormang ating ipinunla.

"Kaya naman mahalaga ang ating paninindigan at pagtitimbang kung saang direksyon tutungo ang ating bansa. Sabay-sabay ba tayong sasagwan patungo sa landas kung saan nangingibabaw ang kapakanan ng Pilipino, o hahayaan lang natin na muling matangay ang Pilipinas sa mga daluyong ng panlalamang, pagkakanya-kanya't kurapsyon?

"Ang aking hiling ngayong 2013 ---ituloy lang natin ang bayanihan. Kapit-bisig tayong humakbang tungo sa maliwanag at masaganang kinabukasan ng ating bayan.

Plane Crash in the Philippines Changes Government Leadership

By Jelly Musico

A plane crash that killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo last August 18 has led to a change of leadership at the Dept. of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

But this hardly affected the reforms implemented by former DOTC chief Mar Roxas for year 2012.

New Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya lived up to his promise to continue the plans and programs that Roxas started in the DOTC to assure efficient, safe and convenient transportation throughout the country.

Before replacing Robredo in the DILG, Roxas launched major infrastructure projects in the DOTC in line with the 'Tuwid na Daan' (straight path) slogan of President Benigno Aquino III.

Topping the list of the major infra projects the DOTC bidded out was the much-awaited P60-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Extension to Cavite.

Once the Cavite extension is completed, the LRT Line 1 will increase the train's span from 20.7 kms to 32.4 kms, with approximately 10.5 kms of the extension elevated and 1.2 kms at grade.

Another P30 billion will be used to acquire up to 39 new light rail vehicles to avoid the need for raising fares.

Every day, more than 500,000 commuters use the existing Line 1 from Baclaran in Pasay City to Roosevelt in Quezon City.

The southern part of Metro Manila and neighboring Cavite province are home to nearly four million people.

Four companies have passed pre-qualification bidding.

These are DMCI Holdings Inc, Light Rail Manila Consortium, MTD-Samsung Consortium and San Miguel Infrastructure Resources Inc.

Abaya said the DOTC will announce the winning bidder by April next year.

Aside from the 39 new LRT Line 1 vehicles, the DOTC will also acquire additional 26 MRT 3 trains as part of the MRT to improve its services in line with the pending fare increase next year.

The DOTC also expects to bid out in the first quarter of next year another project extending the P9.76 billion LRT Line 2 Extension to Antipolo, according to Abaya.

The LRT 2 Extension Project involves adding 4.2 kms to the railway from the existing Santolan station at Marcos Highway, Pasig City, all the way to the intersection of Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway at Masinag, Cainta.

The project, which will serve an additional 130,000 passengers from the current 240,000, is scheduled for completion before the end of President Benigno Aquino III's term in 2016.

The existing LRT 2 is a 13.8-km mass transit line that cuts across five cities in Metro Manila, namely Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila, and passes the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda Street and Recto Avenue.

To reduce deaths due to road accidents involving motorcycles, the Land Transportation Office, in partnership with the Dept, of Trade and Industry, has finalized the implementation rules and guidelines of the Helmet Law.

Motorcycle riders have until December 31 to get their helmets validated with the proper sticker from the DTI.

In line with Aquino administration's effort to improve air transportation and to increase tourist arrivals, the DOTC has also bid out rehabilitation and construction of seven airports worth P303 million including one in San Vicente near the world famous Puerto Princesa Underground River.

The DOTC will also spend P341 million to construct and rehabilitate more than a thousand toilets in airports, seaports and train stations.

A total 111 toilets will be built in facilities managed by the Manila International Airport Authority; 63 in MRT3 stations; 63 in LRT stations; 54 in Land Transportation Office units; and 36 in Philippine National Railways stations – all in the National Capital Region.

Recently, the DOTC and DTI approved the Air Passenger Bill of Rights after series of public consultations with all stakeholders including airline companies.

The Air Passenger Bill of Rights aims to protect travelers from what are perceived to be abusive practices by local and foreign airlines.

It provides guidelines on several airline practices, including overbooking, rebooking, ticket refunds, cancelled and delayed flights, lost luggage and misleading advertisements on fares.

The untimely death of Robredo has prompted Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to clean its house after some CAAP officers have been suspended for supposed conniving with Robredo's plane pilot Capt. Jessup Bahinting for issuance of a certificate of airworthiness without proper tests.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Philippine Trade Surplus 2012

The Philippines registered a US$ 8.6 billion balance of payment surplus in the first 11 months of 2012, boosted by the surplus of nearly US$ 2.2 billion for November alone.

By Joann Santiago

Data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Wednesday showed the surplus last November is more than thrice the US$ 604 million surplus in the previous month and way higher than the US$ 364 million same period in 2011.

The surplus from January to November this year is, on the other hand, lower than the US$ 10.3 billion registered same period last year.

It is, however, higher than the revised US$ 6.8 billion surplus target for this year.

"Main drivers for BOP surplus in November were capital inflows, loan proceeds of the national government and investment income of BSP," BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message to reporters.

Last Nov 9, the Philippine government sold a total of P30.8 billion (US$ 750 million) worth of 10-year Peso Global Bond.

The freshly-issued peso denominated global note fetched a coupon rate of 3.90 percent and were priced at 100 percent, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.

The third global peso note issuance brings to nearly P229 billion the total amount of Peso Global Bond that the government has issued since September 2010.

It is denominated in peso but is settled in US dollars.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Filipino Christmas

By Lilybeth G. Ison

With barely a week before Christmas day, President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said if only all Filipinos are united, it would make his job easier.

"Well, it makes my job that much easier if we are united in whatever endeavor we have to face. There are problems affecting the world where we cannot be isolated, and we, as a people, we really march forward as one, and then that helps," the President said during the "Bulong Pulungan Forum" held at the Hotel Sofitel, when asked what is his Christmas wish.

He cited the recent passage by Congress of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

The President said the pros and anti-RH should not treat each other as enemies, but rather "as people united by so many ways, amongst them belong to the same race, it should be addressing the concerns of those who have less in life."

"Let us not treat people who have divergent opinions as the enemy. There are no enemies within the country. Between Filipinos, we shouldn't treat each other as the enemy. This (RH) was not a battle where there are victors and losers. This is a battle where the country can be, especially the women and the children, can be victors. We have to work to ensure that everybody is committed to doing that," he stressed.

"Let us move on… to ensure that all the positive attributes of the bill is what happens," he said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma, meanwhile, called on anti-RH advocates to work with the government to improve the country's economy and in its poverty alleviation programs.

Philippine National Police (PNP) New Director Chief

By Lilybeth G. Ison

President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday challenged the newly appointed chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure a peaceful and orderly elections in 2013.

"Sa pag-upo naman po ni Deputy Director General Alan Purisima bilang bagong Hepe ng PNP, mag-uumpisa ang panibagong yugto ng isa na namang makasaysayang pamumuno sa ating kapulisan," the President said.

He was speaking at the change of command ceremony at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

"Ang hangad natin: magsilbing bantayog ng dangal at integridad ang buong kapulisan, at matagumpay ninyong mapanatili ang kapayapaan at katahimikan, lalo na sa darating na halalan. Ito nga marahil ang unang hamon sa inyong bagong liderato," he said.

He added: "Umaasa ang taumbayan na maitataguyod natin ang kaayusan mula sa kasagsagan ng kampanya hanggang maidaos ang halalan.

"Ito ang layunin ng Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE 2013) na pinamumunuan mismo ni Deputy Director General Purisima.

"Batid nating sa pamamagitan lamang ng malayang pagboto, malalaman ang totoong pasya ng sambayanan."

Aquino said he has known the new PNP chief since 1987 as an officer of the Presidential Security Group during his mother's administration.

He said: "Marami tayong pinagdaanang mga pagsubok. Nandiyan 'yong mga coup ng panahon ng nanay ko. Nandiyan 'yong pareho na tayong nasa serbisyo-publiko, at humaharap at tumutugon sa problema ng bayan.

"Kumbaga nagkakilala na tayo, siguro… buong balahibo natin ay kilalang kilala na sa isa't isa.

"Kaya ganoon nalang ang aking tiwala na hindi tayo ni minsan nagkahiwalay sa pananaw sa kung anong tama dito sa bansa natin, na ngayon na nabigyang ng pagkakataon ay talaga namang maipapatupad na natin 'yong mga pinanaginip natin at inaasam-asam sa ating pong bansa."

At the same time, the President warned policemen involved in corruption and illegal activities, saying jail time awaits delinquent cops.

"Mulat tayong sa kabila ng mga reporma, may mga kabaro pa rin kayong nagbabahid ng mantsa sa inyong ahensya. Hindi po tayo makakapayag na ang mga inaasahang maglingkod sa bayan, ay sila pang pasimuno ng katiwalian," he noted.

The President said: "Sa tuwid na landas, bawal ang mga parak na nagsisiga-sigaan; bawal ang mga unipormadong pulis na nagmamaneho nang walang helmet o lisensya pa; bawal ang mga utak wang-wang na sagabal sa isinusulong nating reporma.

"Kung pulis kang tumatanggap ng suhol upang ipagkanulo ang kalikasan; kung pulis kang nagbubulag-bulagan sa ilegal na pagtotroso; kung pulis kang humihithit ng droga, o nagbebenta pa, o sangkot sa pagnanakaw at pangongotong, bilang na ang mga araw ninyo.

"Malinaw ang atas ko, at hindi optional ang pagsunod sa batas. Oras na magkrus ang landas natin, hindi lang n'yo isu-surrender ang inyong tsapa't uniporme.

"Papalitan pa natin iyan ng t-shirt na kulay orange at may malaking letrang 'P' sa likuran."

Meanwhile, Aquino thanked outgoing PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome, who retired Tuesday, for his invaluable service to all Filipinos and to the country.

"Para kay Nic: Maraming salamat sa pagmamalasakit at pagkukusang pagsilbihan ang atin pong bayan. Mabuhay ka, Nic," he said.

The President conferred on Bartolome the Philippine Legion of honor with the rank of commander.

Bartolome, for his part, said he is retiring with a heavy heart as he could have done more but nevertheless decided to retire early to allow the new PNP chief to prepare in securing the 2013 mid-term polls.

"The whole 15 months may not have been enough to achieve all that I have set out to do. I now stand before you fulfilled and happy with the thought that I have done my best, but with a heart made heavy with the fact that I could have done more," he said.

Bartolome said he opted to retire early to enable the incoming PNP chief "to get his four stars soon and -- with the full authority and the power that go with the rank and position -- immediately get down to work particularly in overseeing the preparations for the coming local and national elections of 2013."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Holiday in Pasay City, Philippines

The city governments of Pasay and Taguig have stepped up security measures in preparation for possible spike in criminal activities, accidents or disturbances during the Christmas season.

In Pasay, Mayor Antonino "Tony" Calixto ordered new Pasay City Police Chief Sr. Supt. Rodolfo Llorca to increase police visibility in the City's strategic areas to prevent criminals from taking advantage of the approaching Christmas season.

Calixto issued the order to Llorca to ensure that there will be more foot patrols roving in the areas of Pasay–Rotonda, Libertad-Taft, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Mall of Asia, Resorts World Manila, hotels like Marriot Hotel Mania, Hotel Sofitel, Heritage Hotel, Midas Hotel among others where the public, including local and foreign tourists tend to congregate.

"We should secure our balikbayans and tourists arriving at Terminal 1 and 3. There should be round-the clock patrol team in the vicinity of the airports so that the criminals will not prey on them," Calixto said as he also reminded business establishment owners to comply with the Ordinance No. 4532, s. 2011, requiring them to install closed- circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

The mayor reminded Pasay business owners that CCTV cameras are proven measures to deter crimes so all establishments must comply otherwise their business permits may be withheld.

"Policemen should be vigilant during this times especially that we are nearing the holiday season for this is the time that criminals are preying on the public. Let us continue to be vigilant because in these uncertain times, many people are concerned about the threat of rising crime in their communities… With our law enforcement agencies being stretched to their limits, it has never been more important for citizens to work together to prevent crime," Calixto said.

The local chief executive said he had also directed Llorca to coordinate closely with security chiefs of business establishments in the city, including shopping malls as well as other places where people tend to congregate at this time of the year to ensure a crime-free Holiday season.

Aside from being a shopping mecca (Pasay hosts the Mall of Asia, one of the largest shopping malls in the country), Pasay is also a major transportation hub with the presence of bus terminals and the Light Rail Transit and the Metro Rail Transit stations.

To ensure the security of these transportation hubs, the city government has required the posting of bomb sniffing dogs in all bus terminals and stations within its jurisdiction for the protection and security of all commuters.

Calixto stressed that historically, all types of crimes usually registered an upsurge during the Christmas season.

In Taguig City, upon instruction of Mayor Lani Cayetano, Taguig Police chief, Sr. Supt. Tomas Apolinario Jr., issued instructions to his men to secure crowded areas such as shopping malls, commercial areas, markets, churches, amusement areas, as well as bus and jeepney terminals.

"We will enhance police visibility and install police assistance centers in malls and bus terminals to immediately respond to any call for assistance. We will also do 'target hardening' so that criminals cannot perpetrate their deeds," he added.

Apolinario is confident that the local police can effectively carry out security measures with the continued support of the local government led by Mayor Cayetano.

He noted that based on past incidents, crowded areas are the usual prowling grounds of target of unscrupulous individuals preying on shoppers out to spend their Christmas bonus on gifts and other personal items.

Aside from this, the Taguig police joined hands with the barangay tanod and homeowners' associations to conduct patrols for the protection of the community from robbers, like the notorious "Akyat Bahay" gang.

"Apart from crime-busting, we are also monitoring the flow of traffic, street children, and even Christmas parties where there are alcohol drinks. We will also monitor firecracker stalls, as well as citizens who may fire guns during the New Year celebrations," said Apolinario.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Philippines Wants North Korea to Stop Rocket Launch

By Michaela del Callar

The Philippine government on Monday joined the international community in urging North Korea to abandon its second attempt to launch a rocket carrying a satellite between Dec. 12 and 22 and to abide by United Nations resolutions forbidding it from testing ballistic missile technology.

"We strongly urge North Korea not to proceed with its planned launch and abide by the UN Security Council Resolutions which call for the abandonment of its ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner," Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing.

Manila has said it would continue to work with international partners to ensure peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.

The Philippines has been singled out along with Indonesia as among Southeast Asian countries where possible debris from the rocket may fall.

Defying a U.N. moratorium, North Korea, also known by its official name Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), proceeded with its first rocket launch on April, which was a failure.

In the face of worldwide criticisms and fears, the communist nation had defended its rocket launch, saying it was intended for peaceful purposes.

But the United States suspects it's a cover to test a nuclear missile that can reach its nearby military bases in Asia-Pacific, and its allies like South Korea and Japan, two countries in close proximity to the isolated communist nation.

Human Rights Consciousness Week

As the country celebrates Human Rights Consciousness Week from Dec. 4 to 10, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reaffirmed its commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights during Monday's flag-raising ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo's canopy area.

Anchored with the theme "My Voice Counts in Ending Impunity: I work for human rights-based governance," Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos Jr., AFP spokesperson, said that this week's event enjoins all government agencies to observe Human Rights Consciousness Week through simple and appropriate activities.

During the week-long celebration, the AFP, through its Human Rights Office (HRO), will be conducting activities to heighten the soldiers' commitment and responsibilities as human rights advocates.

On Tuesday, around 50 soldiers will participate in the Bike Run and Fun Run which will start at the EDSA People Power Monument in White Plains, Quezon City.

On Dec. 6, senior officers holding key positions in the AFP will join the Commission on Human Rights led by Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales in a roundtable discussion at the La Breza Hotel, Quezon City.

This will be followed by a top-level dialogue between the two parties.

On Dec. 9, the AFP will partake in the HR Music Fest at the Quezon Memorial Circle, with the GHQ Band and GHQ Choral performing together with other Filipino artists.

The AFPHRO will also attend the 2nd International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Summit on Dec. 11.

"The AFP remains firm and unyielding in its commitment as Human Rights advocate as we draw our strength from the desire and conviction that human rights must be adhered, respected and protected –- in order for our country to truly attain a lasting peace and sustainable development," AFPHRO head Brig. Gen. Domingo J. Tutaan Jr. said.

Recently, President and AFP Commander-in-Chief Benigno S. Aquino III signed a directive creating a nine-member inter-agency committee on human rights which include the AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa as member. This is in time for the celebration of the National Human Rights Consciousness Month amplifying the military's role on the advocacy towards Human Rights protection.

Juan Ponce Enrile's Stand on RH Bill

By Jelly F. Musico

Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile may have contrasting stand on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill but the former strongly believed that the controversial measure is not enough to oust Enrile.

"I have no question on his leadership. He handles well the Senate. Even Senate employees are happy with Senate President Enrile. So, one RH bill is not enough to remove a Senate President like Enrile," Lacson told the media.

Last Sunday, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago warned that Enrile's firm stand against RH bill could lead to a coup.

"I don't think it's reason enough to oust Senate President. I'm against his (Enrile's) stand on RH bill and Sin Tax bill but I would not vote for his ouster. I would support his leadership," Lacson said.

Lacson said anybody who would want to oust Enrile should show first their numbers.

"It's always a question of numbers. If they (are) 13, then remove but if none, then they better salivate instead. RH should not be the basis," Lacson said.

Enrile, meanwhile, remains unfazed by the frequent coup rumors, saying: "I'm at the disposal of my peers."

"As I've said, I have no torrens title over the position of Senate president but at anytime, one like me could lose a seat if your peers do not agree with you and they have the numbers to unseat you," the 88-year-old lawmaker said.

Enrile said that he never imagined that his peers who elected him president late in 2009 would continue to support him in all the issues in the Senate.

VFA Agreement and the Philippines

The House of Representatives Monday passed on third and final reading a joint resolution expanding the coverage of the Legislative Oversight Committee.

This means expansion to monitor and oversee the implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States to include defense and Status of Forces Agreements with other countries.

House Joint Resolution No. 37 not only expands the coverage of the Legislative Oversight Committee to cover the VFA agreement between the Philippines and the U.S. and also that with the government of Australia.

But this would also task the LOC to oversee and monitor future defense and Status of Forces Agreements with other countries concurred in by the Senate.

The VFA is essentially a framework to promote the common security interests of the Philippines and the United States and to strengthen the bilateral defense partnership under the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty concurred with by the Senate on May 27, 1999.

Meanwhile, the Senate, voting 17-1, ratified the RP-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement on July 24, 2012.

Sin Tax Bill Violates General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago asked on Monday the Senate panel on bicameral conference committee to require the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to comment on her opinion that a Sin Tax bill provision will violate General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Santiago made this appeal to the Senate panel members composed of Senators Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Sergio Osmena III, Ralph Recto, Ferdinand 'Bong-bong' Marcos Jr., Pia Cayetano and Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

"I humbly but strongly recommend that our Senate panel should require the secretary of DTI to appear before the panel and explain whether my humble opinion, based on DTI experience with the WTO, should be a valid concern of the bicam," Santiago said in her privilege speech.

Santiago was particularly alarmed by the "local content requirement" or LCR that is included in the recently-passed Sin Tax bill.

"I particularly refer to the Senate version, Sec. 145, on Cigars and Cigarettes, stating: "Of the total volume of cigarettes sold in the country, any manufacturer and/or seller of tobacco products must source at least fifteen (15) percent of its Virginia leaf raw materials locally," she said.

She recommended to the Senate panel that the local content requirement or LCR should be reviewed first before the bicam meeting on Wednesday.

"In my humble opinion, the Philippines might be brought before the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, on the ground that it violates GATT 1994 Article 3, which deals with the topic of National Treatment on Internal Taxation and Regulation," Santiago explained.

Santiago said Article 3 provides in paragraphs 1 and 5, as follows:

"1. The contracting parties recognize that internal taxes and other internal charges, and laws, regulations and requirements affecting the internal sale, offering for sale, purchase, transportation, distribution or use of products, and internal quantitative regulations requiring the mixture, processing or use of products in specific amounts or proportions, should not be applied to imported or domestic products so as to afford protection to domestic production."

"5. No contracting party shall establish or maintain any internal quantitative regulation relating to the mixture, processing or use of products in specified amounts or proportions which requires, directly or indirectly, that any specified amount or proportion of any product which is the subject of the regulation must be supplied from domestic sources. Moreover, no contracting party shall like likewise apply internal quantitative regulations in a manner contrary to the principles set forth in paragraph 1."

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Braces for Storm Pablo

Power transmission operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said Monday it is prepared to face the brunt of Typhoon 'Pablo', which is expected to bring strong winds and rains all over the country.

In a statement, the NGCP said it has implemented the necessary preparations and precautions to minimize the impact of Typhoon Pablo on NGCP operations and facilities.

Among the preparations include ensuring the reliability of communications equipment, availability of hardware materials and supplies necessary for the repair of damages to facilities, and the positioning of line crews in strategic areas to facilitate immediate restoration work.

"NGCP's Integrated Disaster Action Plan (IDAP) prescribes these and other procedures to ensure the readiness of all power transmission facilities which are expected to be affected by the passage of the typhoon," the statement read.

Meanwhile, NGCP's Overall Disaster Command Center has been tasked to monitor all power restoration activities, reports and updates from the Regional Command Centers in North Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, whichever is directly affected by the weather disturbance.

Activated to full technical capacity last August, the Overall Disaster Command Center operates 24 hours a day. It is located in Quezon City.

The NGCP will also closely coordinate and communicate with the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), other government offices, local and national media agencies.

Philippine Reproductive Health (RH) Bill Faces Congress Voting

By Cielito M. Reganit

Lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Monday finally started considering individual amendments to the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill but only after several delays that pushed the formal deliberations on the controversial bill past 6 p.m.

Monday's session began with palpable anticipation as 210 lawmakers came in attendance in what was expected to be a "showdown" on the contentious bill.

Pro-RH legislators, led by its main proponent, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, are pushing for the bill's passage before December 22 when sessions go on recess whereas the bill's detractors have vowed to either block its passage or to insert "killer provisions."

But before considerations on the substitute version of House Bill 4244 could even begin, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez gave a lengthy privilege speech questioning China's move to board and expel ships from the West Philippine Sea.

When the RH Bill was finally opened to deliberations, Palawan Rep. Dennis Socrates stood on a personal and collective privilege questioning the acceptance of the measure's substitute version.

This was followed by another lengthy delay when lawmakers on both camps deliberated on whether to allow Socrates to extend his speech which eventually led to nominal voting that wasted another hour.

When deliberations finally started, Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia and Rodriguez suggested line by line amendments on initial sections of the proposed measure.

Among the amendments Garcia proposed for Section 2 of the substitute bill was to insert a constitutional provision wherein the State shall protect the mother and the unborn, to delete the term "universal" on reproductive health being a universal human right, and to replace "all persons" with "married persons" in terms of the beneficiaries of the RH Bill.

Lagman allowed the insertion of the constitutional provision, but initially rejected the deletion of the word "universal" saying it should stay as the Philippines is a signatory on several international conventions recognizing reproductive health as a universal human right.

However, when Garcia suggested that nominal voting be conducted on his proposed amendment, Lagman relented and allowed for its deletion to save time.

But when Garcia again invoked another round of nominal voting when his amendment limiting the RH Bill only to married couples was rejected, Lagman was adamant.

Lagman used his right to explain his "no" vote to lash out at anti-RH lawmakers and urged them not to abuse nominal voting as part of their strategy to hinder the measure's developments on the floor.

Philippine Navy Gets Ready for Typhoon Pablo

With typhoon 'Pablo' threatening most of Mindanao and the Visayas, the Philippine Navy (PN) on Monday activated its "Navy Battle Staff" to closely monitor the effects of the weather disturbance and deploy available naval units to areas needing support.

Col. Omar Tonsay, PN spokesperson, said the "Navy Battle Staff" is headed by Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Edgar Abogado and chief-of-naval staff Commodore Jesus Millan.

The "Navy Battle Staff" is now doing its duty at PN headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Tonsay said that the formation would use to monitor areas needing PN support and assistance.

Earlier, the PN announced that all of its available naval units were placed on alert in anticipation of possible disaster response missions that may be triggered by typhoon "Pablo", including its disaster response task units (DRTUs).

Naval units in alert include Naval Forces Southern Luzon, which is based in Legazpi City, Albay and has two DRTUs and five ships in its roster -- the BRP Apollo Tiano (PG-851), BRP Gen. Antonio Luna (PG-141), BRP Simeon Castro, BRP Hilario Ruiz (PG-378), and DF-338;

Naval Forces Northern Luzon, which is based in San Fernando City, La Union with two DRTUs and three ships -- DF-317, BRP Manuel Gomez (PG-388), and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15);

Naval Forces West, which is headquartered in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, with three DRTUs and 11 vessels in commission, namely BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), BRP Rizal (PS-74), BRP Ismael Lumibao (PG-383), BRP Juan Magluyan (PG-392), BRP Federico Martir (PG-385), BRP Filipino Flojo (PG-386), DF-342, BA-484, BRP Mangyan (AS-71), and BRP Benguet (LT-507);

Naval Forces Central, based in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, which will deploy five DRTUs and eight ships -- BRP Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (PG-140); BRP Abraham Campo (PG-396), BRP Jose Andrada (PG-370); BRP Carlos Albert (PG-375), DF-352, DF-353, DF-354, and DF-339;

Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, which is located in Panacan, Davao City and will deploy two DRTUs and 10 ships -- BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), BRP Iloilo (PS-32), BRP Salvador Abcede (PG-114), BU-471, BRP Enrique Jurado (PG-371), BRP Felix Apolinario (PG-395), DF-350, AT-291, BRP Teotimo Figuracion (PG-389), and DF-322.

Philippine Party-list Groups Must Be Banned by Comelec

Binhi party-list group on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to nullify the ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying them from participating in the May 13, 2013 mid-term elections.

In their petition filed through their legal counsel Charita Agdon, Binhi said that the Comelec's ruling is "whimsical and abusive" when its accreditation has been cancelled despite compliance with the requirement set under the law.

The Comelec issued the resolution disqualifying Binhi as a party-list group on Nov. 28, 2012.

In their petition, Binhi also asked the SC to stop the implementation of the Comelec's Nov. 28, 2012 resolution and allow them to participate in next year's elections.

Binhi said that Comelec acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion.

It cited a resolution dated Nov. 19, 2009 where the Comelec granted the accreditation and registration of the group as a sectoral party duly representing the peasants, farmers and farm tillers, which are sectors covered under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7941, otherwise known as the "Party-list System Act."

"It is a manifest abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent Comelec to cancel the registration based on the pretext that the Petitioner is not among the marginalized and underrepresented and in doing so removing any chance on the part of these small farmers to be part of the legislative body so they can have a chance in promoting their interests in law making," the petitioner said.

"The respondent commission whimsically and capriciously cancelled the registration of the petitioner with a very shallow and very unacceptable reason that it is not among the marginalized and underrepresented while a clear reading of the law and jurisprudence concerned would readily reveal that there is no reason to consider the petitioner as not being part of those marginalized and underrepresented," it added.

Binhi said that the Comelec abused its discretion when it declared the party- list as not marginalized despite the absence of any motion questioning its accreditation and registration.

"The said Resolution (Nov. 19, 2009) has become final and executory, in fact the petitioner herein was allowed to participate in the 2010 elections. No other pleadings were filed before the Respondent or before any other courts questioning the findings in the said Resolution suffice it to say that the same attained finality already as early as 2009," it said.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Philippine Weather Forecast December 2012

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Friday said that warm weather will continue to prevail in many parts the country until weekend despite a storm spotted hovering near the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).

Weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said that even if the storm (international name: Bopha) enters the country "either Sunday evening or Monday morning," it is still too far to affect any part of the country.

"Kung sakaling pumasok itong bagyo sa loob ng PAR ng Sunday evening, mararamdaman natin ito Lunes ng umaga but if it enters Monday morning would likely felt in the evening," he noted.

Once it enters Philippine territory, Aurelio said the storm will be locally named "Pablo" – the first in December and the 16th tropical cyclone to enter the country this year.

For the month of December, he said one to two tropical cyclones may still enter the country.

Aurelio asked the public to prepare as the storm might intensify into a typhoon and has a "high chance" to make landfall in eastern Visayas or eastern Mindanao.

Until Sunday, Aurelio said that, aside from possible light passing rains mostly in the afternoon or evening due to localized convection, it would still be generally sunny in most parts of Visayas and Luzon including Metro Manila.

However, he said that many areas in Mindanao will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with light to moderate rains due to the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ).

Meanwhile, the coldest morning in Metro Manila for this month was recorded Thursday with 19.7 degree Celsius at around 6 a.m. at the PAGASA's Science Garden in Quezon City.

Aurelio said that morning temperatures in the metropolis usually ranges from 21 degrees to 26 degrees Celsius.

Mendoza attributed the drop in temperature to the effects of the northeast monsoon or "hanging amihan," the cold winds associated with the Christmas season.

It starts blowing into the country from Siberia every mid-October and strengthens every mid-December.

The northeast monsoon usually peaks from early January to mid-February. The coldest morning recorded in Quezon City was on February 4, 1987 at 15 degrees Celsius.

In its advisory, PAGASA said the Davao Region and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani will have cloudy skies with occasional light to moderate rainshowers or thunderstorms.

Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with isolated brief rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast to east will prevail over Luzon and coming from the northeast over Eastern Visayas and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough.

First Bisaya Martyr San Pedro Calungsod

By Eddie O. Barrita

The 27-hectare site for the national thanksgiving mass for the first Visayan martyr San Pedro Calungsod at the South Road Properties (SRP) in Cebu City on Friday afternoon is turning into a sea of multi-colored umbrellas.

Organizers expected some one million devotees from all over Cebu and other parts of the country to attend the national celebration for the country's second saint.

The mass site, however, can accommodate only a little over half a million people, with a maximum of two persons per square meter of available space.

Organizers said the other devotees may spill over to other parts of the 300-hectare SRP.

Devotees loaded in buses from both the city's southern and northern part started pouring in at the mass site early morning Friday.

Many devotees wanted to enter the mass site early dawn Friday but were refused entry because of strict security measures.

By noon, the mass site has turned into a sea of umbrellas as devotees tried to protect themselves from the scorching heat of the noonday sun in the treeless mass site.

Organizers earlier urged devotees to bring umbrellas to prepare either for rain or the sun.

But as correctly forecast by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Mactan, Cebu is enjoying fine weather Friday.

PAGASA Mactan Station Chief Oscar Tabada, in a special forecast for Cebu this week, said there is no tropical cyclone within the Philippine area of responsibility and there will be sunny skies during the whole day Friday with less chance of rain.

Among those expected at the event, which is spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Cebu, are high-ranking church officials, including Vatican City-based Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation of Saints and newly installed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

President Benigno Aquino III has arrived in Cebu at mid-morning Friday.

He is expected to deliver a speech after the 5 p.m. national thanksgiving mass to be officiated by Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

More devotees are joining two foot processions from the city's northern and southern districts and a fluvial procession at 1 p.m. that will bring the image of San Pedro Calungsod from the Ouano wharf in Mandaue City to the SRP for the 5 p.m. mass.

Calungsod worked as a catechist in Guam with Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores.

Elephantiasis or filariasis disease in Negros Occidental and Guimaras

By George M. dela Cruz

The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 6 is verifying suspected cases of elephantiasis or filariasis disease in the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras.

At the Sugarland Hotel here Thursday, Ana Maria Luz Hibionada, DOH's regional coordinator for Lymphatic Filariasis Education Program, said the suspected cases are still to be validated through laboratory tests and inspection of the affected areas to confirm whether these provinces are "positive or negative of the disease."

"There are four of them being suspected as a case of elephantiasis or filariasis in Negros Occidental," Hibionada said.

The cases in Negros are in Bago City, Bacolod City (in Barangay Bata), and two other areas in southern Negros which are still under surveillance.

Except for the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras, she said the rest of Panay areas are endemic to filariasis which causes "irreversible bodily deformity."

Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms which can be transmitted through a night-biting female mosquito called, Aedes poecilus, which thrive in bananas and water lilies.

An infected person is characterized with enlarged elephant-like extremities, commonly manifested in the legs and may even affect the scrotum and breast of inflicted women. The parasite penetrates the lymph nodes of the armpit, groin, and legs, Hibionada said.

The disease has three stages -- asymptomatic (without or absence of symptoms) stage; acute stage; and chronic stage. She said filariasis is controllable and can be managed through drug administration by deworming affected persons once or twice a year. Filariasis can stay in a person's lymphatic system from 5 to 15 years, or even more, she said.

Up to now, no immunization can be given or vaccines available for filariasis, Hibionada said but only through massive drug administration, as preventive measure.

"As a public health problem, filariasis is a neglected tropical disease that the government through the DOH is targeting to eliminate," Hibionada said.

The person with filariasis may exhibit psychological, social and economic problems, said Hibionada, because of the enlargement or deformity that can be traumatizing

On a larger scope, the disease penetrated 83 countries affecting at least 120 million people as it poses a big threat to 1.1 billion persons worldwide who are at risk of infection, Hibionada said. In the Philippines, it is the second leading cause of permanent disability.

First found in 1907 in the Philippines, filariasis is endemic in 44 out of 80 provinces in the country wherein 76 percent of the endemic areas belong to 4th-6th class municipalities, she said.

A total of 645,232 Filipinos are infected already and 30 million are at risk, according to a study of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health.

Specifically, among the clinical symptoms include increase in the size of head for children, inflammation of the scrotum, fever, infection of the lymph nodes, among others.

"We are roaming around the region for a continued massive information campaign in the control and prevention of filariasis in response to the call of the government at eliminating the disease in the Philippines by 2018," Hibionada said.

Office of the President Christmas Tree in Malacañang

Despite being the season for merry-making and cheer, President Benigno S. Aquino III said Thursday the focus of Christmas time is the birth of Jesus Christ, brought into this world to save man from his sins.

In his speech after leading the ceremonial switching on of the Office of the President Christmas Tree in Malacañang, the President said the birth of Christ and the following visit of three kings to the Child King stood as constant reminder to him and to those in government of the importance of humility, faith and devotion.

The President said: "Sa likod po ng mga paghahanda natin sa darating na Kapaskuhan; sa pagsasabit man ng mga parol at makukulay na dekorasyon, o sa pagsisindi ng Christmas lights, batid po natin ang bukal ng ating pagdiriwang.

"Ito po ang pagsilang ni Hesukristo, hindi sa harap ng luho't karangyaan, kundi sa munting sabsaban.

"Nariyan din ang tatlong haring sinuyod ang mahabang paglalakbay, upang bigyang pugay ang pagdating ni Hesukristong tutubos sa ating mga kasalanan.

"Lagi't lagi po nitong ipinapaalala sa atin ang halaga ng pagpapakumbaba, at taimtim na pananampalataya."

The Holy Bible narrates the story on the birth of Jesus Christ who was visited by three kings: Melchor, Gaspar and Balthazar.

The trio travelled far and long to bring their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, who was born to Joseph and Mary in a manger in Bethlehem.

The President said this story serves as an inspiration to those in government about good governance as it shows the importance of serving the people.

Aquino said: "Ito po ang diwang gumagabay at nagbibigay inspirasyon sa ating mabuting pamamahala. Narito ang ating gobyerno upang paglingkuran ang nangangailangan, at hindi para maghari-harian."

"Anuman pong hirap ng mga pagsubok ang ating pinagdaanan, nalampasan natin dahil sa pakikibalikat ng masisipag na kawani ng Office of the President," the President added, acknowledging the role employees of the OP play in the day-to-day running of the government.

"Kayo po ang frontliners sa pagtataguyod ng pagbabago, at nagbubunsod ng pag-asa at higit na pagkakataon para sa mas nakakarami. Hindi po ako magsasawang magpasalamat sa ipinapamalas ninyong sipag at sigasig," the President said.

He pointed out the symbolism attached to the ceremonial lighting of the gigantic Christmas Tree that stands 43 feet and is festooned with 2,500 white Christmas lanterns with individual incandescent bulbs within.

He said the Christmas Tree stands for the ability of every Filipino to become a source of light and, once this light is gathered as one, can become a source of good.

"Kaakibat po ng tradisyon natin ng pagsisindi sa ating Christmas lights, ang pagpapa-ningas ng isa pang simbolo ---ang paghahandog ng liwanag para sa ating kapwa at bansa. Tandaan po nating may kanya-kanya tayong tungkulin at kakayahang magtanglaw ng liwanag, hindi lang para sa sarili, kundi upang makatulong sa mas nangangailangan," the President said.

President Benigno S. Aquino III Arrives in Cebu for Liberal Party Candidates

President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived in Cebu at mid-morning Friday to meet with local Liberal Party (LP) leaders and attend the national thanksgiving mass for the country's second saint, San Pedro Calungsod.

Immediately after arrival, the President and his party went to a mall in Mandaue City where he held a closed-door meeting with LP leaders in Cebu after a photo session with some of the local candidates.

Lawyer Hilario Davide III, LP gubernatorial candidate for Cebu who attended the meeting, said the President assured them that Cebu will not be declared a "free zone" in the 2013 elections.

"We are happy with the President's statement," Davide said.

That means, he said, that President Aquino will actively campaign for local LP candidates in next year's elections.

President Aquino will also attend the 5 p.m. national thanksgiving mass for the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod at the South Road Properties in Cebu City.

National Christmas Tree of the Philippines

By Lilybeth G. Ison

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday evening led the ceremonial switching-on of the National Christmas Tree held at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacanang.

"Kaakibat po ng tradisyon natin ng pagsisindi sa ating Christmas lights, ang pagpapaningas ng isa pang simbolo -- ang paghahandog ng liwanag para sa ating kapwa at bansa," the President said in his speech.

"Tandaan po nating may kanya-kanya tayong tungkulin at kakayahang magtanglaw ng liwanag, hindi lang para sa sarili, kundi upang makatulong sa mas nangangailangan," he added.

President Aquino told the members of his Cabinet who attended the event and other government workers gathered that as public servants, they are there to give service to the Filipino people and to the country.

"Narito tayo para maglingkod, hindi para makasilaw at manlamang. Gaano man kaliit, basta tama ang ating ginagawa, ay magdudulot ng dambuhalang ambag sa ating pag-unlad," he stressed.

"Tingnan na lang po natin ang pambihirang liwanag na idinudulot ng sama-samang pagningas ng mga munting ilaw ng ating sinindihan. Tunay nga pong kapag sama-sama, kaya nating makabuo ng liwanag na tatanglaw sa kahit anong kadiliman," he added.

President Aquino urged everyone to continue to contribute in bringing the light of hope for the good of the country.

"Huwag po nating ipagdamot ang liwanag na maaari nating iambag para matanglawan ng pag-asa ang direksyong tinatahak ng ating bayan. Patuloy po sana nating isabuhay ang aral ng Maykapal at tumutok sa kapakanan ng isa't isa tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga mithiin," he said.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Latest Update on Aman Scam Investment Scandal

The Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday filed before the Dept. of Justice a criminal complaint for violation of Securities Regulation Code against the Aman Futures Group Phils., Inc. and seven of its officials.

Charged were Manuel Amalilio, Fernando Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, William Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez and Lurix Lopez.

The respondents were charged after an investigation of the SEC showed they did not have a license to operate in their investment contract.

The SEC received on Oct. 15, 2012 an endorsement letter from the Dept. of Trade and Industry about the request of Serafin Barreto to investigate the alleged operation of Aman Futures in Pagadian City of offering 30% to 60% interest in investment.

British American Tobacco Supports Sin Tax in Philippines

By Joann Santiago

British American Tobacco (BAT) continued to support moves to increase sin taxes in the Philippines but raised some issues on the Senate version of the bill, which it said does not provide a level playing field to market players.

BAT Philippines Corporate and Regulatory Affairs chief Robert Eugenio stressed they are not questioning the Senate's sin tax bill measure, approved last Nov 20.

The Senate's version provides for P40 billion additional revenues in the first year of implementation once the bill has been made into law.

Eugenio, however, said although the approved bill provides for higher tax rates it still follows the tiered system similar to the 1996 prices and the tax rates are based on how much the companies paid this year.

"Taken together those two provisions, in effect, they create a new annex, which is, the list of brands that are in 2012 and then all new brands since they have to be based on 1996 pricing levels," he said.

Based on these provisions, Eugenio said there will still be no level playing field because new entrants will still be taxed higher rates even if their retail price is lower than the higher priced brands.

"From the very beginning we have emphasized that that is our goal, that that should be one of the pillars of the sin tax reform bill, the level playing field. So we hope that the bicam will be able to clarify that," he said.

The Bicameral committee has scheduled to tackle the sin tax reform measure next week.

Under Senate Bill 3299 cigarettes packed by hand, which is taxed this year of less than P7.56 will need to pay P6 per pack effective May 1, 2013.

For those that are taxed this year between P7.56 but less than P12 they will be taxed P10 per pack while those that are paying P12 or more this year will pay P14 per pact next year.

The bill said brands that will join the market from March 1, 2013 to Feb 28, 2015 will be collected "an excise tax in accordance with the net retail price (excluding the excise tax and the value-added tax) per pack..."

The bill provides for a unitary rates by 2017and Eugenio said the almost four-year leeway until the tax becomes unitary provides "preferential treatments for existing brands."

Under the House version, tobacco products will be taxed based on two tiers - those that have net retail price of below P11.50 and those above P11.50.

""The beauty there is that for new brands, the net retail price threshold is P11.50. It is updated to current prices," Eugenio said noting that the House version has a "cleaner and clearer" rules.

BAT, which produces Lucky Strike that are currently sold at 7/11 stores, re-established its Philippine operations early this year and bids to expand once the sin tax issues has been resolved.

Story of Cancer-survivor Photographer Wendell Rupert Alinea

The country's sports patrons continue to help sports development programs including the travel expenses of a cancer-survivor, one of the photographers granted accreditation to cover Chapter IV of the storied Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez rivalry on December 8 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photographer Wendell Rupert Alinea became probably the first cancer-survivor to cover a world championship match when Magda Media International, the outfit who handles media requirements of all fights held at the MGM Grand, granted him credentials to do the Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout last June.

This time, Alinea is out to captivate the images and human drama of the storied rivalry to finally determine who among the two boxing greats are more superior come fight night.

Alinea will contribute photographs for the People's Journal and People's Tonight, Manila Standard, Philippines News Agency (PNA) and He will work in tandem anew with his father, veteran sportswriter Eddie Alinea.

The young Alinea's trip to the United States was made possible with the assistance of Pacquiao himself, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) under chairperson Margarita Juico and businessman-sportsman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Pangilinan, MVP to the sports and business worlds and owner of the Talk 'N Text and Meralco teams in the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), and Pacquiao, also shared resources in sending Wendell to the US last June.

"Wendell, in surviving the dreaded leukemia, had shown extraordinary will to live, reason why I am helping him to serve as inspiration to others with the same predicament na sa tulong ng Maykapal at sa pamamagitan ng panalangin, may pagkakataon pa ring mabuhay," Pacquiao, who, actually, is virtually shouldering Alinea's treatment, said.

"Wendell showed proof that miracles, indeed, happen. His unstained belief in the Almighty carried him through the sufferings for six long years," said MVP, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and chair of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP). "I hope that the lesson in his determination to survive will drive others to do the same."

Chair Juico shared the same sentiment, saying, "In God, everything is possible and this our Creator showed through Wendell."

Wendell was pronounced by his physician, Dr. Francisco Lopez, cancer-free early this year but still has to undergo chemotherapy until January 2013 to ensure that his ailment won't relapse.

In January 2007, Wendell was diagnosed with the very rare Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia and had been in and out of the hospital, undergoing several cycles of chemotherapy.