[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 1 August Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Tue Aug 1 11:39:50 PHT 2006

Newsbriefs 1 August Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan



Bolante attends immigration hearing in LA (abs-cbnNEWS.com) 

"Former agriculture official Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante faced a Los Angeles immigration judge for the first hearing in the removal proceedings against him, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau reported Tuesday. 

Bureau chief Ging Reyes said Bolante, sporting a navy blue jumpsuit used by level 1 detainees, faced the judge Monday afternoon. 

Bolante's lawyer, Christian Smith, was not present at the hearing but spoke to the court through speaker phone. 

Smith filed a motion before the court for a continuance to allow him more time to prepare for Bolante's case. He also asked that the hearings continue behind closed doors. Both motions were granted by the judge. 

All reporters including a representative from the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, Edwin Carajos, were escorted outside the courtroom. 

Bolante's next court hearing is scheduled on August 24, Reyes said." 

Palace officials snub probe of OWWA funds (Inquirer)

"EXECUTIVE Secretary Eduardo Ermita and other top officials yesterday snubbed a Senate inquiry into the government's "piece-meal" repatriation of Filipino workers trapped in Lebanon, fueling speculations they were covering up a shortage of evacuation funds held by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Al Francis Bichara, the country's ambassador to Lebanon, testified by phone patch on the pressing need for the embassy to have a stand-by fund to evacuate at least half of the estimated 40,000 workers before the borders are closed. Earlier estimates put the number of Filipinos at 30,000.

In his hour-long testimony, Bichara repeated his earlier statements that he had not received any funds from Manila even after Ambassador Roy Cimatu and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis reduced his earlier request for $1.1 million for 10,000 workers to $465,000 for 5,000 workers.

"It is strongly advisable for all Filipinos to leave Lebanon," Bichara told the investigating labor committee chaired by Senator Jinggoy Estrada. "It's going to be difficult if we are trapped here."

Following a resolution filed by Senator Richard Gordon, Estrada called the inquiry because of the perception that the government's calibrated contingency plan in evacuating the workers out of Lebanon "was grossly inadequate."

"While other countries were pouring in resources, the country has adopted a piece-meal approach. Is that because of lack of policy, lack of funds? These are the questions we have to answer," Estrada said."

OWWA: Funds intact in banks (The Manila Times) 

"Malacañang on Monday reiterated its position that the Senate investigation into the disbursement of funds for overseas Filipino workers is self-defeating.

Palace spokesman Ignacio Bunye's words explained the nonappearance of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Department of Foreign Affairs officials and other representatives of government agencies invited by opposition Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, supposedly to shed light on the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA) fund.

Bunye also noted that even as its officials ignored the Senate investigation into the OFW funds the controversial funds are being used "judiciously and effectively."

Bunye appealed to its critics to let the crisis team tapped by Mrs. Arroyo to concentrate on its job and not give it political distractions.

"The funds are there and are being used judiciously and effectively to extend relief and take our nationals in Lebanon out of harm's way. The continuous stream of overseas Filipino workers returning home is proof enough of this," he added."

P500M sought for evacuation of OFWs from Lebanon (Inquirer)

"WITH THE controversy surrounding the lack of funds simmering to a boil, Malacañang has loosened its purse-strings to pour in up to P1 billion and unveiled a plan to evacuate all the more than 30,000 Filipinos before the bombing escalates in Lebanon.

Representative Joey Salceda said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was seeking urgent congressional approval of a supplemental emergency budget of P500 million for the Lebanon evacuation. It will be added to the proposed P46.4-billion supplemental budget the Albay representative and a key presidential adviser filed yesterday.

"Every single minute that a single Filipino stays there, our national interest is put at risk," said Salceda of the current effort to carry out a voluntary repatriation mission that has sent home around 1,300 overseas Filipino workers.

"We cannot afford to have another Angelo de la Cruz," Salceda said. He was referring to the Filipino truck driver who was kidnapped in Iraq in 2004 and was subsequently released after the government withdrew its small military contingent from the area, straining relations with the United States.

"The appropriate policy response here is a comprehensive and coercive repatriation just like what the other countries are doing," he added."

Datumanong urged: Stay out of impeach case (www.philstar.com)

"The chairman of the House committee on justice, which is set to begin hearing eight impeachment complaints against President Arroyo next Tuesday, was urged yesterday to inhibit himself from the impeachment process. 

In making the appeal, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos said Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong "has already prejudged the new complaints when he declared that the complainants cannot muster the required 79 votes to send their complaints to the Senate for trial." 

"We already saw what happened last year. They massacred the three complaints in the committee level. I advise him to inhibit himself as chairman of the committee as propriety calls, and for the interest of the Filipino people," she said. 

"It is my hope that Congressman Datumanong consider inhibiting himself. Let the case stand on its merits, let it take its course. But please, don't prejudge it because you are being pressured by Malacañang to kill it again," Marcos said." 

3 assassinations in a day; 2 militant leaders, lensman shot dead (Inquirer)

"STRIKING with impunity, assassins yesterday gunned down a political activist riding in the family SUV, a student militant aboard a passenger bus and a news photographer on his way to work.

At least three other people were wounded in the "Bloody Monday" attacks which occurred a week after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her State of the Nation Address (SONA), condemned political killings and urged witnesses to come forward.

Killed were Bayan Muna coordinator Alice Omengan-Claver, who was shot dead in Kalinga; League of Filipino Students provincial spokesperson Rei Mon Guran, who was slain in Sorsogon, and Tanod tabloid photographer Prudencio "Dick" Melendres, who was gunned down in Malabon City.

All the assassins escaped.

Yesterday's killings brought to five the number of militants killed in the week that has passed since Ms Arroyo's SONA, militant groups said.

The latest killings also brought to 244 the number of political militants murdered since Ms Arroyo took office in 2001, and to 47 the number of media members slain during the same period."

MILF does not see peace pact this year (www.philstar.com)
"The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front fears that a peace agreement would not be signed this year due to two stumbling blocks, an MILF official said yesterday. 

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said in a statement in the MILF's Internet website that they are apprehensive over the government's lack of response to their proposed territory in the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity that will be under MILF control. 

Mantawil also noted that President Arroyo only made a passing mention about the talks with the MILF in her recent State of the Nation Address. 

"This means that she does not consider the peace process as an important policy in her administration," he said. 

Malacañang had earlier admitted that the government needs to pursue the negotiations more vigorously although Mrs. Arroyo wants a settlement concluded by the end of the year. 

The MILF and the government had earlier discussed the thorny subject of territorial concessions that would comprise the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. This is aside from claims on lands as part of ancestral domain that date back to the Spanish colonial era." 

Foreign lenders will bankroll Sona plans (www.manilastandardtoday.com) 

"INTERNATIONAL lenders have committed $7.4 billion over the next three years to bankroll the government's program to stimulate the economy, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said yesterday. 

Among the lenders, the China Export Import Bank has committed low-interest loans of $2 billion a year for the next three years to finance some of the projects that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo mentioned in her State-of- the-Nation Address, Neri said. 

The loans carry an interest rate of 3 percent per year and are payable in 20 years. 

"This is one of the biggest [loan commitments] from China," Neri said. 

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation has committed $1 billion for its 27th Yen Loan Package to the Philippines. 

The loan from the Japanese government is payable in 40 years and carries an annual interest of 1 percent to 2 percent. 

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have promised to provide $200 million each for the coming years. 

In a separate interview, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the Arroyo administration would spend as much as P290 billion on infrastructure projects until 2010 to stimulate the economy." 

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