Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jesus Verzosa Sued for Graft and Corruption

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has given the "go signal" for the filing of graft charges against retired Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa and seven others before the Sandiganbayan for the anomalous purchase of 75 defective police rubber boats in 2008.

In a 34-page order signed Feb. 12, 2013, Morales denied the motions for reconsideration and upheld the earlier resolution signed Sept. 26, 2012 finding probable cause to indict:

Verzosa, Deputy Director Generals Jefferson Soriano and Benjamin Belarmino, Jr.; Directors Luizo Ticman, Ronald Roderos and Romeo Hilomen; Chief Supts. Herold Ubalde and Villamor Bumanglag for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

All respondents, except Roderos, filed separate motions for reconsideration.

The order said the arguments presented by the respondents in their motions "are a mere rehash of their initial arguments set forth in their counter-affidavits which we already considered, weighed and resolved before we rendered the resolution sought to be considered."

The case arose from the complaint and supplemental complaint dated Nov. 15, 2011 and Feb. 17, 2012, respectively, filed by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.

Records showed the PNP entered into four separate supply contracts all dated Dec. 18, 2009 with the following:

-- Enviroaire for the supply of 93 units of outboard motors with a total contract price of P44,175,000;

-- Enviroaire for the supply of 10 units of police rubber boats (PRBs) with a total contract price of P11,650,000;

-- Geneve for the supply of 41 units of PRB with a total contract price of P47,765,000; and

-- Bay Industrial for the supply of 10 units of PRB with a total contract price of P11,650,000.

Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) in Manila

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed Monday the members of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) as he expressed hope that their activities in the Philippines will give them additional knowledge and experience for the benefit of their respective countries.

"I am sure that you, as members of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, understand just how important this kind of transparency is: every single peso—every yen, ringgit, or baht—must be accounted for, as we are spending this money on behalf of our people," the President said in his speech before the ASOSAI members Malacanang.

"And since we are all in public service, each and every expenditure must have a corresponding value—a value that redounds to the benefit of our people," he said.

The President noted that over the next few days, he expects the participants to have ample opportunity to talk about both their success stories and the challenges they have encountered.

The President also cited the unity of the organization in its desire to foster integrity in governance.

During his speech, the President underscored the importance of treading the "straight path" that his administration champions adding that by doing the right thing the government could immediately uplift the condition of the people and attain inclusive growth.

"This path is one we cannot tread alone: for the nation to move forward as a whole, everyone must do their part, from those of us in government to the private sector," he stressed.

The Commission on Audit (COA) helped the administration correct excesses in the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which gave exorbitant bonuses and allowances.

The discovery of the anomaly allowed the government to make important changes in the way that these corporations were run to ensure integrity, accountability, and transparency in government agencies.

Crising Slams Mindanao

Nineteen provinces in Mindanao were put under Signal No. 1 as tropical depression Crising further strengthened and continued to threaten Mindanao Tuesday morning.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) latest weather forecast said the following provinces were placed under Signal No. 1 (45-60 kph winds):Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Samal Island, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, southern part of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.

It advised residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals to be alert against possible flash floods and landslides.

Estimated rainfall amount within the 300-km diameter of the tropical depression is from five to 15 millimeters per hour, which is classified as "moderate to heavy."

Weather Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said as of 4 a.m. Tuesday, Crising was spotted some 310 km east of General Santos City (6.1°N, 128.2°E) with maximum sustained winds of 45 kph near the center and is forecast to move west northwest at 22 kph.

With this speed, Aurelio said Crising is expected to make a landfall by Tuesday afternoon in the southern tip of Davao Oriental then by evening in Davao del Sur, and on Wednesday morning, it will make a landfall in Zamboanga Peninsula.

Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) Scandal

A senator blaming Gov. Joey Salceda for what ails Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) is floating a dud insinuation, according to a lawyer here who once headed Aleco's board of directors (BOD).

Recently, over dzMM Radio/TV, Sen. Serge Osmeña blamed Salceda for what ails Aleco as he announced that the Senate has approved an amendment to PD269, to authorize the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to replace the erring directors or governing boards of electric cooperatives, in lieu of the existing practice of "self-regulation."

"Obviously, Osmeña is unaware of Congress' failure to oversee the electrification program in the country. When it passed RA9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or Epira) in 2001, the electric cooperatives owed the government (through NEA) P18.1 billion in loans," said lawyer Oliver Olaybal, who once led the fight for the survival of the presently cash-strapped cooperative as head of its elected board members.

Instead of allowing the subscribers to bail out their cooperatives through stock issuance, it (Congress) decided to let the government assume the liability through Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM), he added.

Hence, the government lost P18.1 billion in taxpayers' money through erroneous legislation, Olaybal recalled.

The new "amendment" to PD269 that Osmeña announced, according to him, is redundant, because PD1645 has already authorized NEA since 1979 to replace the governing boards of electric cooperatives, including the designation of acting managers and project supervisors, he added. "And, this has worked against the interest of electric cooperatives like Aleco because outgoing NEA managers and supervisors do not render exit reports or accounting reports," the lawyer said.

Due to this, he added, Aleco's financial position deteriorated and operating deficits escalated, for lack of accountability by NEA.

Alternative source of income of OFWs

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who left their agricultural lands behind when they decided to pursue "greener pastures" abroad to come back home after finishing their contracts and pursue agriculture and related enterprises as alternative source of income to overseas or local wage employment.

"Returning OFWs, OFWs who had been displaced, or OFWs who had become victims of abuse should not be afraid to come home to the Philippines, particularly if they have idle farmlands. Their lands are a source of income security," said Baldoz.

"You should not be worried. You can develop your farms through organic farming, or start your own agribusiness and expand it with the assistance of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs through loan from the P2-billion national reintegration loan fund," Baldoz said.

Baldoz issued the challenge after Philippine Labor Attache to Hong Kong Manuel Roldan reported about the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

According to Roldan, Secretary Alcala met with the Filipino community in Hong Kong and attended a seminar on organic farming and chicken-and-rabbit-raising conducted by one Dr. Rey Itchon of the Spread Organic in the Philippines (SOAP) for Hong Kong OFWs.

The seminar, attended by 100 OFWs, is part of the regular agricultural livelihood training conducted every Sunday at the Filipino Workers Resource Center.

Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the $ 5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining Inc. (SMI) in Southern Mindanao.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, however, said the grant of ECC to SMI was "subject to certain conditions," and failure to comply may result in the cancellation of the ECC.

Paje said an environmental permit was issued to SMI upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency attached to the DENR which reviewed the ECC application.

According to Paje, the ECC covers the project located in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

"The EMB has reviewed the requirements of the application for the project and has recommended the issuance of the ECC subject to the implementation of certain conditions presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment," Paje pointed out.

The environment chief directed the EMB to strictly monitor SMI's compliance with the conditions stipulated in the ECC to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated in all phases and aspects of the Tampakan project.

"SMI should make public the feasibility of the project, ensure that the area does not cover those where mining is prohibited, and ensure social acceptability through consultation with stakeholders," Paje said.

He also clarified that SMI could only proceed with the implementation of the project after submitting all other necessary government permits and clearances to the EMB, particularly those involving indigenous peoples, the agriculture and agrarian reform departments, and local government units.

Under the ECC, SMI is directed to conform to the provisions involving toxic and solid wastes of several laws on clean air and water and mining. SMI must observe appropriate practices on vegetative restoration, engineering structure, land use, and soil and water management, as well as ensuring proper stockpiling and disposal of generated waste materials and erosion control, the ECC stated.

The mining company is also instructed to protect headwaters, implement an efficient water management system to ensure sustainable use of water, and provide the community with alternative sources of potable water supply, if needed.

Citing provisions of the Philippine Mining Act, the DENR directed the SMI to set up a Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) that would integrate a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan for when the project is terminated or completed. This includes the setting up of contingent and trust funds that would address future concerns for mine rehabilitation, wastes and tailings, and final decommissioning.

Classes in Davao Suspended, Storm Crising Raging

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio ordered the suspension of classes from pre-school to high school on Tuesday due to bad weather brought about by tropical depression "Crising."

She also placed all rescue units run by the Emergency Response Center Central 911 and the barangay rescue groups on heightened alert due to the possible swelling of Davao River and other tributaries in the city and landslide on the highland areas.

"Per Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Heavy Rainfall Yellow Advisory No. 1 issued at 8:53 p.m. Monday, Davao City is expected to experience moderate to heavy rainfall due to the weather system, so classes will be suspended from pre-school to high school on February 19, 2013," Duterte-Carpio said.

She said the suspension of classes for college and post-graduate levels and work in private sector will be left to the discretion of school administrators and employers, respectively.

Genelito Atillo, spokesperson of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao Region affirmed the suspension of classes in pre-school and high school in all areas under tropical storm signal No. 1 in Davao Region namely Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley.

Commander Jose Luspo, chief of the Sta. Ana Wharf Detachment of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ordered the suspension of sea travel from Davao City to Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal and Talikud Island which are also placed under tropical storm signal No. 1.

He said travelling towards these destinations takes one-hour and will surely expose people to rough sea.

Luspo said the ferry service and the sea travel between Kilometer 11 Sasa, Davao City and Villa Rica, Island Garden City of Samal will continue in order not to totally isolate the access of residents to the main land.

China Steals Island from Japan

Chinese government ships were in waters around disputed East China Sea islands Monday, Japan's coastguard said, as a senior Japanese diplomat prepared for meetings in Beijing aimed at mending frayed ties.

Three state-run Maritime Surveillance vessels were clocked in seas off the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, and claims as its own, around 00.00 GMT, the coastguard said.

Kyodo News Agency reported that Japan had made a formal protest to China about what it believes is an incursion into its sovereign waters.

It was the latest in a series of incidents at sea that have also included confrontations between warships, with Japan claiming Chinese vessels locked their weapons-targeting radar onto a ship and a helicopter.

Beijing has denied the charge, which rang alarm bells for commentators already warning of the growing possibility of a military exchange that could have disastrous consequences for the region.

The row between Asia's two largest economies blistered in September when Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain, in what it said was a mere administrative change of ownership.

Months of angry exchanges followed, with the diplomatic temperature rising all the time.

But North Korea's nuclear test last week somewhat dampened the rhetoric, with the international community keen for China to come onboard a broad move to pressure its sometimes-irksome ally.

The Japanese foreign ministry is planning to dispatch Shinsuke Sugiyama, in charge of Asian and Oceanian affairs, on Tuesday for talks with Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, local media said.

Typhoon Crising Sparks Flight Cancellation

A total of 23 flights have been cancelled due to bad weather as tropical depression "Crising" accelerated on Tuesday and the weather bureau put 19 provinces in Mindanao under storm signal No. 1.

According to the media advisory of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), flag carrier Philippine Airlines cancelled two round-trip flights PR 173-174 and PR 175-176 from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Tagbilaran.

Cebu Pacific Airlines, the country's premier budget airlines, also cancelled five round-trip flights and a flight 5J 382 from Cagayan de Oro to Manila.

The Cebu Pacific's cancelled round-trip flights 5Js 771-772 from Manila to Pagadian; 5Js 617-618 Manila-Tagbilaran; 5Js 625-626 Manila-Dumaguete; and, 5Js 383-384 and 395-396 Manila-Cagayan.

Air Phil Express also aborted its own round-trip flights 2P 959-960 from Manila to Cotabato; 2Ps 545-546 Manila-Dumaguete; and 2Ps 939-940 from Manila to Ozamis.

Economic Growth of Mindanao

Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan is optimistic on economic growth of Mindanao by saying it may still surpass other local economies in the country if the island's economic potentials are fully maximized.

"Mindanao has the capacity to surpass local economies of Luzon if the region can harness its potentials to the fullest," said Balisacan, Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in a news conference Sunday in Davao City.

He cited the case of Caraga region which was the fastest growing region with an accelerated growth rate of 9.6 percent in 2011. It surpassed two other growing economies in the country with Central Visayas having 7.9 percent and Central Luzon with 7.5 perecent growth in the same period.

Caraga region, located in the northeastern Mindanao is composed of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, and the six cities of Bayugan, Bislig, Butuan, Cabadbaran, Surigao and Tandag.

During the first Mindanao Development Forum (MDF) held in Davao City recently where Balisacan was the guest of honor, he said that among Mindanao's strong potentials rest in the agri-industry sector, particularly in the export of rubber, pineapple, banana, coffee and organic agriculture products, which command high demand in the global market.

In the same forum, Mindanao Development Authority chair Secretary Luwalhati Antonino presented the Mindanao Development Report where she said Mindanao had recorded 94% self sufficiency on staple food with rice domestic output of 66.91 percent, while other staples, which include corn and other root crops posting at 27.13 percent.

Growth rate in the export of coconut-based products was also recorded at 39.11 percent, while bananas registered a growth rate of 42.22 percent.

Other agricultural products such as pineapples and tuna marked steady increases at 55.33 percent and 3.46 percent, respectively.

Also in 2011, Mindanao's foreign trade had expanded by 69.5 percent which translated to increased export earnings by 74.48 percent. The US remains as the region's top export market cornering 33.31 percent of Mindanao's total exports, followed by China with 17.56 percent; the Netherlands 17.46 percent and Japan 17.23 percent.

Balisacan said Mindanao's resources remain awesome and must be tapped to its maximum.

"Mindanao has so much economic potential that could spur higher growth for our country and contribute immensely in the attainment of the inclusive development agenda," he said.

To achieve this, Mindanao must identify new players in the region in order to increase and spread growth more equitably.

Filipinos' voting preference

Two local incumbents believe Filipinos' voting preference is changing with political party affiliation becoming less of a consideration when choosing who to elect.

"People are now increasingly looking at what individual candidates can do to serve the public well once elected," Bulacan Vice-Gov. and former actor Daniel Fernando said during State-run PTV 4's 'Hatol ng Bayan' program for the 2013 mid-term polls.

The ball game was different in previous decades when voters generally backed political parties and not individual candidates, he recalled.

Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco 'Isko Moreno' Domagoso had the same observations, noting increasing election of both pro- and anti-administration candidates proves Filipino voters are already looking beyond party affiliation of those seeking public office.

Such change is particularly noticeable in polls following the Catholic Church-backed 1986 people's revolution that ended the 20-year administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos, he said.

He noted poll dominance of the anti-Marcos political bloc then waned in decades following that revolution.

Domagoso cited the youth as helping drive changing voting patterns in the country.

"The youth sector is increasingly becoming involved in shaping our nation's destiny," he said.

He noted advances in communication technology and rise of social media are facilitating the youth's activities in helping voters make informed poll choices.

Fernando and Domagoso earlier cited governance track record and platform as essential in a candidate's electoral bid.

They acknowledged the pressure to have both is particularly more for show business personalities eyeing public posts.

"People are skeptical when they learn a candidate is from show business - we must exert extra effort in proving our capability to serve in government," said Fernando, star of Regal Film's 1985 hit erotic film 'Scorpio Nights.'

Domagoso said showbiz personalities are generally famous that, in terms of name recall, they have an advantage over candidates who are not from the entertainment industry.

"It's important to be known but fame has its disadvantage as people tend to keep an eye on us more, however," he said.

Software Used in Philippine Election

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr on Monday reiterated the software that will be used in the May 13 polls are genuine.

Brillantes belied the accusations of automated election critics CENPEG and AES Watch that the precinct optical count scan (PCOS) software is pirated.

"Contrary to this lie, the Republic of the Philippines is the legal and true owner of the PCOS machines including the software installed therein," Brillantes said.

The poll chief said the purchase of the PCOS was made last March 30, 2012, while the cancellation of Smartmatic's contract by Dominion happened on May 23, 2012.

"Under the law, contractual obligations that have accrued prior to cancellation bind all parties, in this case both Dominion and Smartmatic," he said.

"In other words, we became the legal owners of the machines and software even before cancellation and we remain as such even after. This is a basic rule on contracts that our non-lawyer critics don't care to understand or which their lawyers did not explain to them," he added.

Brillantes hit at the critics and said that the "continued assertion of falsehood aims nothing but to sow public mistrust and sabotage the upcoming elections."

Socioeconomic Report (SER): 2010-2012 of NEDA

The first two years of the Aquino administration saw a healthier and stronger financial sector, and the government will be more aggressive in expanding access by Filipinos to these services in succeeding years, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Citing the Socioeconomic Report (SER): 2010-2012 recently released by NEDA, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that the financial sector has done very well in terms of attaining its targets as set out in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP): 2011-2016.

"In fact, some of the major targets that were planned to be attained in 2016 had already been achieved before the end of 2012. For example, the number of bank offices per city or municipality now averages at six, and we still see it expanding. The amount of microfinance services, already at P7.6 billion, is above the 2016 target," said Balisacan.

The Cabinet official, who is also NEDA Director-General, said that the government will now focus on aggressively expanding people's access to financial services.

"According to the SER, only about 41 out of 100,000 Filipinos own a deposit account, and this is still far from the target of 750 by 2016. To further expand client reach in the countryside, market participants and regulators alike have to innovate and foster strategic partnerships," he said.

Despite the global economic slowdown, Balisacan noted that the Philippine banking system continues to be on its growth trajectory because of sustained implementation of financial sector reforms and banks' prudent risk-taking activities.

"The SER details the situation of the country's banking sector, with stronger bank balance sheets, higher core earnings, leaner bank structure, and wider service network. Strong asset growth was also noted in our cooperatives," said Balisacan. National Economic and Development Authority NEDA sa Pasig, 12 Saint Josemariá Escrivá Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1605 P.O. Box 419, Greenhills ● Tels. 631-0945 to 64 http://www.neda.gov.ph MEDIA RELEASE