[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 9 November Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Wed Nov 9 11:32:21 PHT 2005

Newsbriefs 9 November Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan


DOJ puts heat on rape van's driver (The Manila Times)

Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez on Tuesday warned the driver of the van where six US Marines allegedly raped a Filipina that he faces charges of perjury if he withdraws or changes his testimony.

Gonzalez said Timoteo Soriano can be held as an accomplice if he recants his earlier statement of what happened in the van on November 1.

Six US Marines have been charged by the Olongapo City prosecutor with raping a 22-year-old woman whom they met in a karaoke bar in Subic. The woman was later found unconscious on the roadside.

Nationalist groups and militant women's organizations denounced the alleged rape. At least one senator demanded the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides the legal framework for cases involving US servicemen taking part in training exercises in the Philippines.

A news report said Soriano had withdrawn his statement, but Jose Calimlim, vice president for operations of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), denied the report.

Gonzalez issued the warning after learning that Soriano had issued two conflicting statements.


Secret witness to testify at Citizens Congress (inq7.net)

A WITNESS to alleged election fraud who could not be named as a security measure will testify today at the Citizens Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA), according to human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong.

The congress convened to hear charges contained in the dismissed impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo opened yesterday as scheduled at the cavernous University of the Philippines Theater in Quezon City.

However, the proceedings were marked, not by new disclosures, but by the near-mauling of members of the pro-Arroyo Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) shouting Red-baiting slogans.

The witness, whose identity was being kept under wraps by Capulong, was to have taken the "witness stand" yesterday. But there was no time for him to do so.

"This witness can't be identified right now because of a matter of security," Capulong told the Inquirer after the session wound up before 1 p.m.

Capulong had requested that the "presidium" chaired by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona allow the witness to be presented in the session scheduled this morning.

"There will be four to five witnesses in the charge of electoral fraud, and all of them can be named except for this one," he said.

He identified the other witnesses as Frank Chavez, a former solicitor general, and Danilo Ramos, chair of the militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, who, he said, would both testify on the P728-million fertilizer fund that was allegedly diverted to Ms Arroyo's campaign kitty in 2004.

DOLE lays groundwork for grant of wage hike (www.philstar.com)

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is calling for discussions on a possible wage hike by regional wage boards after President Arroyo backpedaled on her earlier call for a legislated salary increase. 

Explaining Mrs. Arroyo's decision, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye conceded yesterday that a legislated wage increase at this time would be unrealistic and instead sought non-wage benefits for workers to cope with cost of living increases. 

However, a senior lawmaker in the House of Representatives said the legislature would still tackle a pending bill seeking a P125 across-the-board wage increase. 

Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said the department is arranging talks among business, labor and concerned government agencies. 

"We are holding a tripartite dialogue or even a quadripartite dialogue. If representatives of Congress would like they can join us any time this week so we can assess the situation and come out with a recommendation that will address the issues on the salary hike," Cruz said in an interview. 

A wage hike mandated by Congress may still be possible but that would depend on the outcome of the talks, he added. 

"A legislated wage hike is still possible but not necessarily P125. It could be any amount, not across-the-board, and based on regional conditions and not for the whole country." 

MILF raring to talk peace (The Manila Times)

The Philippines' largest Muslim separatist rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is ready to resume peace talks with Manila in an effort to sign fresh agreements that will put an end to more than three decades of fighting in Mindanao.

Mohagher Iqbal, the chief MILF peace negotiator, said, "The MILF is ready to resume the peace talks and we are optimistic about them. We hope we can sign fresh agreements that would further hasten the peace process," Iqbal told The Times.

Peace talks are expected to resume either this month or in December in Malaysia, which is brokering the political settlement of one of the world's longest-running Muslim insurgency problem. The negotiators hope to finalize an agreement on the proposed homeland for more than 3 million Muslims on Mindanao.

In September rebel and government peace negotiators signed several agreements centered on the ancestral domain -- its concept, territories and resources, and 

how the MILF shall govern these places.

Ancestral domain refers to the MILF's demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland. For the rebel group it is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before it can reach a political settlement.

Both sides agreed on several crucial issues, including the coverage of a proposed ancestral domain in the five Muslim autonomous provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, which have large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes.

Peso forecast: Sizzling (Inquirer News Service)

THE PESO is expected to continue its sizzling climb next year because of the implementation of the expanded value-added tax, according to a leading European investment bank.

In a report dated Nov. 3, Swiss financial services giant UBS said it had junked its old forecast of the peso plunging to 56 to the US dollar by the end of the year and the next.

UBS now sees the peso hitting 54 by the end of the year and 53 by the end of 2006.

The last time the peso touched the 53 level was in May 2003.

The peso gained 3 percent against the dollar in the past month and hit a five-month peak of 54.55 against the greenback last week. It is on course to end the year as Asia's best performing currency, according to analysts.

Yesterday, the peso closed at 54.65 against the dollar.

Besides the implementation of the expanded VAT on Nov. 1, remittances by overseas Filipino workers and higher interest rates have strengthened the local currency.

The new tax law lifted the VAT exemption of petroleum products and electricity, and jacked up the corporate tax rate from 32 percent to 35 percent.

UBS is also projecting a significant drop in the country's borrowing costs. It expects the interest rates on Philippine 10-year bonds to fall to 10.5 percent by the end of next year from just under 12 percent at present.
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