Monday, November 26, 2012

MMDA to Reduce Traffic in Manila

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is giving trucker groups until Wednesday to come up with a modified truck ban as a way to reduce traffic congestion this coming Yuletide season.

MMDA assistant general manager Emerson Carlos said the agency had already presented several proposals to the Metro Manila Council (MMC) to modify or expand the existing truck ban in the metropolis but the truckers organizations expressed opposition to the proposed measures.

Among the measures proposed by the MMDA is the adoption of a similar scheme implemented during the 45th Asian Development Bank Board of Governors Conference held in Manila last May.

The ADB "formula" implemented a total truck ban in the daytime hours, with trucks being allowed to ply the metropolis' roadways only at night.

Another is a complete ban on trucks along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) when the traditional "Simbang Gabi" starts on Dec. 16.

2013 Philippine Elections Preparation

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be saving millions of pesos once the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) grant their request to re-use the 60,000 ballot boxes.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said if the PET would allow them to re-use the ballot boxes, which are part of the election protest filed by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas against Vice-President Jejomar Binay in 2010, they would be saving a lot of money.

"That's 80,000 (ballot boxes) worth P200 million. What we proposed is that we will take out the contents of three ballot boxes and put in just one box. If we do that we would be able to free about three-fourths or about 60,000," he said.

Brillantes noted that if the request would be granted they would only have to bid out 20,000 ballot boxes for the May 2013 polls.

"We're going to save a lot of money because we only need to bid 20,000 new ballot boxes," he said.

The PET is expected to come out with a resolution on Tuesday regarding the poll body's request.

The poll body chief said that who ever wins in the bidding for the ballot boxes, they need to get the copy of the module from Smartmatic Corp., the manufacturer of the old ballot boxes, for their guide.

He also said that the winning bidder would have to pay a royalty fee to Smartmatic.

"But they (Smartmatic) can also participate in the bidding -- either way Smartmatic won't be short-changed because if they win in the bidding they won't need to pay the royalty fee. If they lose, they'll get a royalty fee from the winning bidder," he said.

Reproductive Health Bill Voting in Congress

By Lilybeth G. Ison

Malacanang Monday said the position taken by legislators or any candidate on the Reproductive Health Bill should be respected by everybody including the Catholic church.

"If the position taken by any politician, any candidate is based on his own appreciation of his conscience, I think that has to be respected by anybody including the Church," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told a press briefing.

He cited the statement by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, which stated that "every politician, every legislator has to examine his conscience and, at the end of the day, if his conscience points him to this or that vote, I think we have to respect that and not threaten that particular candidate with dire political consequences."

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life Vice Chairman and Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles earlier said it is high time Filipinos used their religious beliefs in rejecting candidates who are not following the Church's teachings.

He said elective officials have long been snubbing the so-called "Catholic vote," which he believes is still a force to be reckoned with.

"Kaya kapag mayroong kandidato na hindi sumusunod sa utos ng Diyos, dapat tanggihan yung mga 'yun. At kailangan na magkaroon ngayon ng Catholic vote. Dapat ipakita natin ang pagiging tunay na Katoliko. Marami diyan ay mga pekeng Katoliko, yun ang naghahari sa atin," said Arguelles.

Abad, however, stressed that Congress is a legislative assembly and it succeeds when there is an interplay or competition of ideas.

"If you try to suppress contrary ideas, then you will not get the best policy out of a deliberative assembly like Congress. So I don't think that's fair to do because in a democracy, it's the competition in a marketplace of ideas that brings out the best," he noted.

Abad said every policymaker "should examine his conscience not threats, not rewards."

But ultimately, he said, "I think what is best for which this policy has been introduced which is really to address the very poor who have no means -- information as well as resources -- to be able to plan in a responsible way the size and number of his family."

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the proponents of the controversial RH Bill at the House Representatives, said that 71percent of Catholics favor the enactment of thr said measure into law.

Lagman said that even the Social Weather Station survey also revealed that among registered voters surveyed, "most will vote for pro-RH bill candidates," with 38 percent of Filipino voters choosing to vote for candidates who support the RH bill while only 6 percent said they will not vote for candidates supportive of the measure.

Pulse Asia also reported that 93 percent of Filipinos consider it important to have the ability to plan their families and 82 percent believe government should inform couples about all methods of family planning.

"This is consistently validated and documented in all nationwide surveys for many years now," he said.

Lagman said that "RH advocates should not fear a negative Catholic vote because the alleged backlash has no empirical basis."

Filipino-American Kevin Bryan Hills Denies Charges

Filipino-American Kevin Bryan Hills has vehemently denied owning P50-million worth of shabu which were allegedly seized from him by the operatives of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF) in Makati City on Nov. 20, 2012.

In his counter-affidavit, Hills said that the PNP-AIDSOTF mistook him as their target because their real target was a certain "Phil".

Hills said that no "test buy" was conducted between him and the PNP-AIDSOTF on Nov. 7, 2012 at 9 p.m.

According to Hills' counsel Atty. Raymond Palad, on Nov. 7, 2012 between 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Hills was in a restaurant in Baclaran, Paranaque City, together with his relatives.

Hills further argued that the Mitsubishi Pajero was registered with the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and that he did not know how it was parked at the 5th Floor parking lot of the Column Tower 2 in Makati City.

The said Pajero was lent by the Napocor to Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo in 2008, which was used by one of his staff with the name of Atty. Antonio Mariano Almeda.

Likewise, Prosecution Atty. Ana Doreen Devanadera, the one handling the case, conducted an occular inspection Monday on the Pajero, which was brought by the PNP-AIDSOTF to the DOJ.

During the preliminary investigation at the DOJ Monday, Palad said that his client had never used the Mitsubishi Pajero where the suspected shabu was confiscated.

The next hearing will be on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 wherein the PNP-AIDSOTF will submit their reply-affidavit.

Judge Benjamin Pozon Candidate for CTA Position

The judge who convicted an American soldier in the Subic rape case is included in the shortlist of nominees for the post of Associate Justice of the Court of Tax Appeals.

Makati City Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon earned seven votes while candidates Lovell Bautista and Roman Del Rosario got eight votes each.

The vacancy at the CTA is due to the compulsory retirement of CTA Presiding Justice Ernesto Acosta, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Dec. 21, 2012.

On Dec. 4, 2006, Pozon convicted Lance Corporal Daniel Smith for raping a Filipina.

In his ruling, Pozon said the victim was "severely intoxicated that night and was deprived of reason to consent to sex and incapable of sensing or fighting off danger."

The JBC also intended to fill up the vacancy at the Court of Appeals.

The CA narrowed down its short list of nominees, including Edward Contreras with seven votes, Ruben Reynaldo Roxas and Joselito Vibandor with six votes each while Makati City RTC Judge Sela Alaras, Jonel Sebastian Mercado and Edgar Santos garnered five votes each.

The JBC has submitted the names to President Benigno S. Aquino III who has 90 days within which to make the necessary appointment.

Philippine Government 2013 National Budget

By Jelly Musico

The Senate Monday approved at the plenary the proposed P1.312-billion budget of the Presidential Communication Operations Office for 2013 even as Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada urged the government to address concerns of over 200 retrenched employees of RPN Channel 9.

The PCOO's budget is 25 percent higher as compared to the current P1.047-billion appropriation with the Bureau of Broadcast Services to get biggest share amounting to P336.6 million followed by Philippine Information Agency (PIA) with P274.3 million budget.

The Presidential Broadcast Staff will get the third highest budget amounting to P202.2 million followed by PCOO proper with P172.1 million, National Printing Office with P165.79 million, News and Information Bureau which has PNA as one attached office with P115 million and Bureau of Communication Services with P45.9 million.

Assisted by PCOO Secretary Herminio Coloma, Senate committee on finance chairman Sen. Franklin Drilon said the government's three channels including PTV-4 have not been getting subsidy from the government.

"They have not been getting (a) single cent of subsidy from the government. They depend on their (respective) revenues," Drilon answered Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Drilon said Senators Loren Legarda and Gregorio Honasan have filed bills allotting P5 billion 'makeover' of the PTV 4.

He said the IBC Channel 13 relies heavily on the revenues from block timer AKTV of Manny V. Pangilinan while RPN Channel 9 is 34 percent owned by Solar, 32 percent by Benedicto Group, 20 percent by government and 16 percent by stockholders.

"Channel 13 is expected to generate about P50 million this year. PTV 4 is not earning money while Channel 9 is incurring losses," Drilon revealed.

Drilon said that based on the 2011 financial statement, RPN 9 suffered financial losses of more than P120 million "and therefore, incurring a capital deficiency of more than P2 billion."

With this, Estrada urged the government to address the concerns of 213 retrenched employees and workers of RPN 9 who held rally outside the Senate compound in Pasay City.

"I'm really concerned about the plight of the retrenched workers of RPN 9. I hope the governent can do something with regards to the balance of what they should have accepted that was put in the CBA. That's all Mr. President. I do not have any objection with regard to the budget of PCOO," Estrada said.

Drilon admitted that the separation benefits of the retrenched RPN 9 employees remain not fully paid due to 'financial constraint'.

Human Rights Cases in the Philippines Probed

President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered the creation of special teams to investigate human rights abuses by state and non-state forces and ensure a focused probe and speedy resolution of all unsolved and new cases, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said Monday.

Ochoa said the special teams would form part of the inter-agency committee and will exclusively handle cases of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations.

"This presidential directive reinforces the Aquino administration's resolve to uphold and protect the rights of the people," Ochoa said.

"We believe that the creation of this high-level committee will be a more effective mechanism in handling and monitoring cases of human rights violations," Ochoa explained.

According to Ochoa, AO 35 takes effect immediately and replaces AO No. 211 issued in 2007 that created the Task Force Against Political Violence.

The presidential directive directs the task force to turn over all documents, data, reports, supplies, resources and its remaining budget to the IAC.

"The President envisions the administrative order to harmonize and standardize the government's policies and action plan for resolving human rights abuses. This way we can have a focused investigation and speedy resolution of all the cases," Ochoa added.

One of the first tasks of the IAC is to organize special teams and a technical working group to carry out the immediate inventory of all alleged human rights violations committed by state and non-state forces; monitor the development of cases which are pending in courts or under investigation, and conduct an investigation into unsolved and new cases, as well as prosecute the perpetrators.

Under AO 35, the secretary of the Department of Justice serves as chairperson of the IAC, which members include the head of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Local Government and the National Defense, the presidential advisers of the Peace Process and Political Affairs, chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National police chief and the National Bureau of Investigation director.

The chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman sit as observers and resource persons in the IAC.

The IAC is required to submit to the President every six months a progress report, a detailed inventory of pending human rights abuse cases, and accomplishment and recommendations, among others.

The President has asked all other government agencies and local government units to give their full support and cooperation to the IAC to make sure that the AO 35's objectives and the committee's mandate are achieved.

Modernization of Armed Forces of the Philippines

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez declined to issue any statement regarding Chinese carrier Liaoning's first ever successful flight deck operations but stressed that the country's modernization program is still on go.

"We wish to refrain from answering to avoid any misinterpretation of statements. As for us, we continue to work double time to achieve the targets in our modernization efforts," he said.

In the pipeline for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' modernization program are two "Maestrale" class missile-firing frigates, two anti-submarine helicopters, 12 South Korean fighter aircraft, to name a few.

The Chinese-made J-15 fighter successfully landed on their first ever aircraft carrier during a recent fleet exercise.

The Liaoning went into service in September in a symbolic milestone for China's growing military muscle.

The J-15 is a Chinese designed multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet based on Russia's Sukhoi 33, equipped with high-powered engines and capable of carrying precision-guided bombs and air-to-air missiles.

China bought the stripped-down 300-meter aircraft carrier from Ukraine nearly 10 years ago and refurbished it at the north-eastern port of Dalian.

Rizal Park Guards Shoots Park Attendant

A security guard detailed at the Rizal Park accidentally shot and wounded a park attendant inside the National Parks Development Committee office on Sunday.

NPDC spokesman Kenneth Montegrande, in a statement Monday, said that the shooting transpired as they were cleaning up Rizal Park for the coming Christmas holidays.

He identified the security guard as Roderick Lustina, an employee of Variance Security Agency.

The victim, identified as park attendant Danilo Lasala, was wounded in the right shoulder and was operated on at the Philippine General Hospital Sunday night, he said.

Montegrande said Lasala's family plans to pursue charges against Lustina for what happened.

He said Lustina was turned over to the Manila Police District Station 5.

Philippine Army Arrests Lawless Group in Agusan del Norte

Troopers from the 4th Infantry Division's 7th Special Forces Company have arrested six members of a lawless group during operations in Purok 5, San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan Del Norte Saturday morning.

Belated reports from Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio C. Osias IV, the unit's spokesperson, said that they were assisted in this endeavor by the Santiago municipal police.

Osias identified the suspects as Kevin Badajos, Dennis Badajos, Rolly Samora, William Samora, Jerry Pitao, and Remark Alburo, all of legal ages and are residents of Poblacion 1, Santiago, Agusan Del Norte.

The troops confiscated from the group two homemade shotguns with six live ammunition, one caliber .357 revolver, a .38 caliber revolver, a .45 caliber handgun, and one Mk-2 fragmentation grenade. They were suspected to be members of a criminal group operating in the eastern part of Agusan Del Norte.

Osias said that the six were immediately turned over and detained at Santiago Municipal Police Station for proper disposition.