[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 28 July Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Fri Jul 28 11:21:32 PHT 2006

Newsbriefs 28 July Afternoon

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan



UP lawyers to contest Bolante's asylum bid (Philippine Daily Inquirer) 

"LEGAL ACADEMICS from the University of the Philippines are preparing to fight the request for asylum of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante before US immigration courts.

 "In the United States, you can ask for leave to file an amicus brief to tell the court why an applicant for asylum should not be [granted]," Roque told the Inquirer over the phone.

He said Bolante's request was a "mockery" of the basic human right to seek protection abroad from genuine political persecution and threat of personal harm.

Briefly detailing the contents of the document his group was to submit to US immigration courts, Roque said: "He (Bolante) is not being persecuted. He's wanted for a nonpolitical crime, which is graft and corruption.

"Second, the threat of the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army] is not real. Since he is close to the present administration, he can afford to have additional security."

Tide has turned for Charter change, says De Venecia (Philippine Daily Inquirer) 

"House Speaker Jose de Venecia noted the "historic turn in public opinion" in the latest Pulse Asia survey showing that 40 percent of the public now favored Charter change.

Previous survey results showed that Charter change support stood only at 23 percent.

"We have seen the turning of the tide. There is no turning back," the Speaker said in a statement.

De Venecia said the poll results were a rejection of opposition claims that Charter reform was not necessary.

"No further poisonous debate is necessary, and we ask those opposed to reform to accept the challenge of amending the Constitution and ending the historic failure of a divided bicameral presidential system," he said.

For the first time since Charter reform became the highest political priority of the Arroyo administration, support for constitutional amendment has "edged steadily upward while opposition to it dwindled as shown" in the latest Pulse Asia survey released last Wednesday, said De Venecia.

The Pulse Asia survey showed that 40 percent of Filipinos now favored Charter change, and that 48 percent preferred a people's initiative.

Along with the House-initiated constituent assembly, the people's initiative is part of the administration's dual-track move to amend the Constitution to prepare for a shift to parliamentary-federal system.

The Speaker said support for Charter reform has climbed steadily because Filipinos favored "a return to stability, growth and expansion of the economy through a reform of the political and economic provisions of the Constitution."

But while administration officials and legislators saw the survey as a cause for celebration, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. declared that "Cha-cha (Charter change) is dead, fit for burial."

Pimentel said that even if the Sigaw ng Bayan, the chief proponent of a people's initiative, were to gather the required signatures to file a petition for amendment with the Commission on Elections, it has to hurdle the tough task of getting a law passed to back the initiative."

Abalos gives up on Mega Pacific refund (The Manila Times)

"Despite the Supreme Court's decision voiding the Commission on Elections-Mega Pacific contract to automate election-results counting and ordering the poll body to get back the money paid to the consortium, the poll body cannot take the first step of making Mega Pacific take back the counting machines it delivered.

"How can we compel [Mega Pacific] to take back the [machines] when in the first place we qualified them, entered into a bidding and they were the best complying bidder?" COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos said Thursday.

Abalos said the COMELEC has no choice but to keep and maintain the machines, hoping that the Court would reverse its ruling and allow the machines to be used in the 2007 elections.

"We have investments here. We have to take care of these machines," he said, adding that the machines were manufactured according to COMELEC specifications and had passed the accuracy test. The high court, however, saw that the so-called accuracy test was flawed or was not even administered.

As to the money paid for the machines, Abalos said the issue is still pending in court.

The COMELEC had already paid P850 million of the P1.2-billion deal with Mega Pacific before the Court voided the contract in January 2004."

P46-B additional budget draws fire (The Manila Times)

"Malacañan on Thursday proposed to Congress a P46.426-billion supplemental budget for 2006, which contained items it considered "nonpostponable."

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., however, served notice that the proposed budget will be in for a rough sailing in the Senate. 

The budget will also test the relationship between the new Senate president, Manuel Villar, and the palace.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said the 14 items lined up as "urgent projects" should be implemented this year and not in 2007. Among the items listed as "nonpostponable":

. P 4.593-billion fund for the Department of Agrarian Reform, which will finance the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that would help 87,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries to benefit from 230,000 hectares of land to be distributed

. P8.581 billion for the Department of Education where the annualized salary of 10,000 teachers hired in 2005 is included as well as the salaries of the 10,000 new additional teachers that the department will employ this year

. P1.420 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the salary upgrading of jail guards, firemen and cadets and benefits of disabled policemen

. P539 million for the Social Welfare Department

. P3.250 billion for the Transportation and Communications Department, where its budget would cover the MRT 3 subsidy

. P1.560 billion for the modernization of election and preparations of 2007 national and local elections"

Amnesty program for Reds unveiled (www.manilastandardtoday) 

"PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday offered amnesty to New People's Army rebels who are willing to surrender as part of a "left-handed" approach to ending the communist insurgency. 

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the program of reconciliation-a far cry from the government's "all-out war" policy-sought to encourage more rebels to return to the fold of the law. 

Even Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. had dropped the term "all-out-war" in referring to the government's three-year timetable for crushing the insurgency. 

"We do not use that term anymore," Cruz said. 

Leftist leaders swiftly rejected the amnesty offer, calling it a part of the government's divide-and-conquer strategy. 

"For as long as the government offers a selective, not general, amnesty, it would be deemed a divide-and-rule ploy and rejected by the NDF-CPP-NPA," said Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna Party. He was referring to the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the NPA. 

Ground commanders of the rebel group also wanted to know the specifics of the amnesty offer and said a solution to the causes of the 27-year-old insurgency must also be addressed. 

"That's nothing new," said Salvador del Pueblo, NPA spokesman for Northeast Luzon. "It's the same call for surrender and amnesty without a comprehensive peace plan to address the root causes of the rebellion. That hasn't worked." 

Piatco execs face criminal charges (www.manilastandardtoday.com)

"For allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to monopolize services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3 almost a decade ago, top executives of German firm Fraport AG and shareholders of the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. have been charged before a Manila City court. 

In a two-page criminal complaint, Piatco shareholders were accused of claiming for themselves "the exclusive right to provide ground handling, catering and fueling services and to operate a warehouse for air cargo handling and related services" within the terminal by modifying the Piatco Shareholders Agreement on July 6, 1999. 

The complaint stemmed from a case filed by lawyer Jose Bernas against Piatco's shareholders where he claimed that while it was the company's exclusive responsibility to finance, construct, manage and operate the terminal, there was nothing in the Amended Restated Concession Agreement that expressly granted the firm the sole and exclusive right to provide airport-related services. 

In a four-page resolution recommending the filing of the criminal complaint, Manila City prosecutors said Section 2.03 of the amended agreement clearly enumerated the rights of Piatco in relation to calling for tenders, awarding and entering into contracts, purchasing materials, appointing staff, and entering into tenant agreements, or acts necessary to complete the facility. 

"Plainly, Piatco was only granted the exclusive right to operate the place where the ancillary services shall be rendered but not the right to render such services itself," the resolution said. "

RP faces UN blacklist over rights record, says CHR chair (Philippine Daily Inquirer) 

"THE PHILIPPINES faces the prospect of being blacklisted by the United Nations since the country has failed to report its human rights status in the last 14 years, warned Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Purificacion Quisumbing.

She said the government had yet to submit 14 "overdue reports" dating as far back as 1992 to various treaty bodies.

The reports are part of the country's obligations to the UN under the six international human rights treaties it has entered into.

"Under the United Nations human rights system, if you do not report on time, we might be listed as violators of the treaty obligations," Quisumbing told a symposium held at the military general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday.

She said the UN might also decide to place the country in its human rights blacklist since authorities failed to stop the spate of killings and abductions of activists.

 "A second reason (for the blacklisting) is, given the number of killings and disappearances of activists wherein no one is brought to justice, these are possible basis for being blacklisted in the human rights system of the United Nations," Quisumbing said.

She said she did not know why the government has failed to submit the human rights reports on time.

She said this was not the work of the CHR, which is mandated to monitor the government's compliance with international treaties on human rights. While it can investigate cases of human rights abuses, it has no prosecutorial powers."

Senate to investigate where OFW fees went (Philippine Daily Inquirer) 

"AMID BICKERING between the Philippine ambassador in Beirut and the home office on the alleged lack of money for the evacuation of Filipinos from Lebanon, the Senate announced an inquiry into the funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said he would conduct an investigation into claims OWWA lacked funds to repatriate besieged Filipinos out of Lebanon.

"Where is the P7.6-billion OWWA fund? Why does Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo only allocate P150 million to repatriate our compatriots from Lebanon? I want to have a full accounting of the OWWA fund," said Estrada, who chairs the Senate oversight committee on labor and employment.

Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Alfrancis Bichara said Tuesday that he was running out of money for the OFWs in Lebanon and had yet to receive fresh funds from Manila. Despite a rebuke from the home office, Bichara said on Wednesday he was standing by his earlier statement."

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