[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 17 August Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Wed Aug 17 10:11:07 PHT 2005

Newsbriefs 17 August Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan


Gas up P3.50, diesel P2 in coming weeks (manilastandardtoday.com)


The price of gasoline will increase by a total of P3.50 per liter and diesel by P2 in the coming weeks in the light of surging world crude prices, an official of a small oil company said yesterday. 


Eastern Petroleum president Fernando Martinez said the public could expect an oil price adjustment of 50 centavos per liter on a weekly basis to reflect increases in world oil prices. 


"With under-recoveries of almost P2 for diesel and P3.50 for gasoline, based on MOPS (Means of Platt's Singapore) as of Aug. 10, we can expect 50 centavos on a weekly basis," Martinez said. The MOPS serves as the benchmark price for imported petroleum products. 


Oil prices have gone up 14 times since January this year and three times in July alone. 


Gasoline prices have risen a total of P4 per liter in the last seven months while diesel have gone up by about P6 per liter. 


AFP 'Garci' officers submit to probe (Philippine Star)


Most of the senior military officers mentioned in the so-called "Hello Garci" wiretapped recordings have submitted themselves to the military's fact-finding board for investigation into possible involvement in alleged cheating in the May 2004 elections. 

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Ivan Earl Pabalan said the ranking officials implicated in the controversy have all submitted signed statements denying any participation in the alleged cheating committed in last year's vote in Mindanao. 

Pabalan said among those who had already submitted their affidavits before the fact-finding board were Marines chief Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon and incoming Army chief Maj. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. 

11 senators file resolution restoring EVAT exemption for power (Philippine Star)

Eleven senators have filed a resolution seeking to restore the power sector's exemption from paying value-added tax in a bid to soften the impact of the expanded VAT law on consumers. 

Senate Resolution 280 seeks the exemption of generation, distribution and supply of power from paying VAT as stipulated in the EVAT law and deleting the limit on credible input VAT. It also seeks to impose the two-percent franchise tax on electricity. 

House to bypass Senate on Cha-cha (Philippine Star)

The House of Representatives, in what the opposition described as a "desperate move," intends to ignore the Senate and go it alone on Cha-cha (Charter change). 

The decision to exclude senators from the initiative to amend the Constitution was made yesterday by the committee on constitutional amendments, which also took an unusual vote to ratify three Cha-cha resolutions that it had already approved last February and May. 

Two of the resolutions seek to convert the Senate and the House into a constituent assembly (con-ass) to propose Charter amendments. The third measure contains proposed amendments, the most important of which calls for shifting the presidential system to a parliamentary-federal type of government. 

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula, constitutional amendments committee chairman, told reporters after his panel's meeting that based on the "reformatted" con-ass resolutions, "we will again invite senators to sit down and discuss Cha-cha." 

"But failing that, we will not be shackled on Cha-cha. We will resort to other options," he said. 

Pressed to be more specific, Jaraula said there is a growing consensus among congressmen that they can propose constitutional amendments alone without input from the Senate on their proposals. 

He explained that under the Constitution, Congress, which is composed of the Senate and the House, may suggest constitutional amendments with a combined three-fourths vote of all its members. 

"The Constitution does not say that the two chambers should vote separately. It is our contention that Congress should vote as one. So since there are 236 House members and 24 senators or a total of 260, all we need to do in the House is to obtain 195 votes to approve amendments. We don't need the cooperation of the Senate," he said. 

He said the House legal department supports this interpretation of the Charter. 

Senators have been obstinate in their refusal to join their House colleagues in backing Cha-cha initiatives. Thus, attempts to revise the constitution since the Ramos administration have always been frustrated. 

Impeachment bid in limbo (www.inq7.net)

PUNCTUATED by four hours of constant quibbling over procedures, the second hearing of the House justice committee on the impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ended without accomplishing anything.

This prompted opposition and administration lawmakers to say that the committee had merely wasted its time. The committee is tasked with determining whether the complaints accusing the President of vote-rigging and other charges are sufficient in form and substance.

Sparking heated debates were the motion seeking the inhibition of Maguindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong as chairman of the committee, the agenda prioritizing the motion of Ms Arroyo's lawyer Pedro Ferrer to dismiss the impeachment complaints except the one filed by Oliver Lozano, and the questions raised by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

The hearing was off to a bad start when Datumanong refused to inhibit himself as committee chairman despite the accusation of Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez that he had prejudged the impeachment complaints in an interview over the ANC cable channel on Thursday.

Raising a parliamentary inquiry, Golez said Datumanong had commented on ANC's "Viewpoint" that the three impeachment complaints filed by Lozano, Roy Lopez and 41 members of the House of Representatives should be treated separately, and that the "Hello Garci" tapes were inadmissible as evidence in the impeachment proceedings.

An impeachment complaint must get 79 votes, or one-third of the 236-membership of the House, for it to be transmitted to the Senate for trial.

The "Hello Garci" tapes refer to the wiretapped conversations between Ms Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in which the President allegedly ordered the rigging of the May 2004 elections.

"It gives me the impression that the chair has prejudged the case. (Datumanong said) this committee is an impeachment committee and (he) defined it as a very different committee. Is that not a ground for inhibition?" asked Golez.

Datumanong demanded that Golez first produce the tape or a "faithful reproduction" of the statements he issued over ANC.

Play the tape

At this point, Agusan del Sur Representative Rodolfo Plaza asked the committee to play the tape, prompting Datumanong to suspend the hearing to pacify restive members.

When the hearing resumed at 12:53 p.m., Datumanong stood his ground, saying he was not inhibiting himself from presiding over the proceedings.

He said the chairmanship was a "political position" which he had been directed by the House in plenary to occupy.

Administration lawmakers also defended Datumanong, saying only the plenary could take him out of the position.

"The office of the chairman is a position of power vested not by the committee, not by any member, so any request for inhibition is a matter of personal decision," said Iloilo Representative Arthur Defensor.

Negros Oriental Representative Jacinto Paras insisted that Datumanong, who previously served as public works secretary and justice secretary under the present administration, should ascertain if he would not be biased in his rulings despite his links to Ms Arroyo.

Quoting the rules of criminal proceedings, Valenzuela Representative Antonio Serapio, a former trial judge, said Datumanong was "well aware that as chair of the committee, he's acting like a judge. As far as possible, he should not comment on what he believes in, so that it will not look like he's biased."

Tensions subsided when House Minority Leader Francis Escudero moved to defer action on the Golez motion so that the committee could move on to "major or more substantive matters."

A semblance of order occurred only at about 2:30 p.m. when the committee resumed the hearing following a long break.

Prejudicial issue

Leaders of the majority and minority then debated which route to take: Settle first the seven prejudicial issues raised by Lagman, or go straight to the determination of form and substance.

Lagman defined a prejudicial question as a threshold question "which has to be resolved as an anterior or antecedent issue," like which of the three complaints should be taken cognizance of by the committee.

"So we will have to resolve that," he said.

Some of the issues that Lagman wanted resolved were the following:

. Is the opposition's amended complaint proper or a prohibited pleading?

. Under what standard or rule should the amended complaint be assessed considering that it was filed on July 25, 2005, before the adoption of impeachment rules?

. Did the amended complaint supersede the original Lozano complaint?

. When does the one-year rule ban start?

Better standard

Under the Constitution, only one impeachment complaint could be filed against Ms Arroyo in a year.

Bataan Representative Antonio Roman said that in reality the committee was "free to choose any one of the complaints."

"The better standard is to adopt the complaint which should give credibility to this process. It should not be seen as having been selected because it's the weaker complaint," he said.

Aside from the issue of when the impeachment complaint is deemed initiated, he said the committee should first rule on the motion to strike and manifestation-motion filed by Alagad party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta.

Marcoleta wants to hold the impeachment proceedings in abeyance until the Supreme Court shall have ruled on which complaint the committee should recognize.

Twenty-minute gap

Ilocos Sur Representative Salacnib Baterina said that the Constitution mandates that the complaint is deemed initiated from the time of its filing up to and until its referral to the justice committee. He said the time that separated the first and second complaints was only 20 minutes."

Since the Constitution imposes a one-year prohibition, no other complaint can be filed within the year against the same impeachable official.

In response, impeachment prosecutor San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora said the debate over the prejudicial or "threshold questions" was unwarranted. "The so-called prejudicial questions are not prejudicial as much as they are premature," he said.

He said the impeachment rules and the rules of criminal procedure, which are suppletory to the impeachment proceedings, "neither allowed the motion to strike which is really a motion to dismiss," the latter being a prohibitive pleading in this stage of the impeachment process.

To end credibility crisis

Zamora maintained that the amended complaint was sufficient in both form and substance because "all of the requisites are present" and the grounds cited -- culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery and betrayal of public trust -- were clearly impeachable offenses.

Lagman, a House deputy majority leader, said that to go straight to the determination of form and substance was like "putting the horse before the cart," which was "not in accordance with the rules."

Escudero, Deputy Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Zamora appealed to the justice committee to go straight to the complaints, particularly the amended case filed by the opposition.

"This is the complaint that gives the President her day in court and the chance to vindicate herself and her governance. The majority should recognize the true import of the impeachment process. The President's main avenue for putting an end to the credibility crisis she faces (will be) to throw the strongest possible case against her," said Zamora.

Chance to explain

"If she survives the stronger case, then she could finally put the crisis behind her. This is the closure that all of us want. I suspect even the President wants (this). Only then can we move forward," he added.

Escudero said the opposition should be allowed to lay down the charges this time, and not a year from now.

To establish her innocence or guilt, the President "can't choose which charges to be answered. She owes it to the people to give answers and we owe it to her to give her a chance to explain," he said.

Administration Representative Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said the majority would want to fast-track the process but not at the expense of the rule of law.

"We want to speed up the hearings according to hierarchy and priority of issues. The respondent has the right to be protected (from malicious prosecution). We can't prolong the anguish of an accused," said Villafuerte, stressing that it was the opposition that had prejudged the case.

Out of order

Despite repeated assurances of a fair impeachment process, the majority-dominated justice committee came up with an agenda that made no mention of the committee's task of ascertaining whether the complaints were sufficient in form and substance.

"That agenda is out of order," insisted Cayetano, spokesperson for the minority impeachment team, as the minority bloc vigorously protested the "glaring attempt" to derail the whole process.

Cayetano noted that following the roll call, approval of minutes and the preliminary remarks of Datumanong, first on the agenda was the motion to strike.

He said that in effect the motion sought to dismiss the amended complaint lodged by the opposition and Roy Lopez and other supplemental impeachment complaints.

Iloilo Representative Rolex Suplico also objected to the inclusion in the agenda of the manifestation filed by Marcoleta.

"Paikot-ikot tayo (We're running around in circles)," said Cayetano.

"The question is simple: Did the President lie, cheat and steal?" asked Cayetano, but Datumanong proceeded to follow the agenda, calling on Lagman to explain "antecedent or prejudicial questions."

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