GOVT RESPONSE TO YOLANDA IS CENTER OF SENATE VERSION OF BUDGET 2014
In fulfillment of a promise made by some lawmakers to come up with a rehabilitation fund for calamity-stricken areas, the Senate has introduced a P20-billion Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund (DRRF) as an amendment in the 2014 budget.
ALSO: Typhoon survivors rally city: 'We shall overcome'
The marchers sang "We shall overcome" as they toured parts of Tacloban, at one point skirting some unburied corpses in bags by the roadside. The Rev. Robert Reyes, an activist priest known for running long distances across country to draw attention to social issues, said the marchers were living in a church and a sports stadium.
ALSO: Justice looks for evidence that Aquino OKd DAP
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday looked for evidence that President Aquino had authorized Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to create the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—a little-known mechanism that impounded government savings and allegedly juggled among various departments. During the five-hour hearing, Carpio said he had seen no official document that showed Aquino had realigned government savings for the DAP and authorized the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to do it.
ALSO: Roxas-Romualdez standoff remains unresolved
In an interview over Radyo Inquirer from the Leyte capital on Tuesday, Romualdez said Roxas had instructed him to write: “I am not able to discharge the functions of the city government or even as mayor.” Sought by the Inquirer for comment, a visibly agitated Roxas said: “That’s not true."
ALSO: Romualdez confirms, but Roxas denies bid to ‘legally’ kick him out
ALSO: Palace mum on Roxas-Romualdez tiff
Senate focuses on gov’t response to calamities By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 20, 2013 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0
MANILA, NOVEMBER 20, 2013 (PHILSTAR) The government’s response to the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas and other calamities that hit the country this year were the center of the Senate’s version of the 2014 national budget.
In yesterday’s deliberation, the Senate approved the budget for the Departments of Finance (DOF), Justice (DOJ), and Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the National Economic and Development Authority.
When the House of Representatives approved its version of the budget in October, the 7.2 magnitude quake that hit Bohol and Typhoon Yolanda were not yet taken into consideration.
The level of destruction brought by these two calamities alone prompted Congress to respond by making appropriate adjustments in the proposed P2.268-trillion budget submitted by the President in July.
Apart from the response to the calamities, the Senate’s version of the budget also takes into account the position of the senators on their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations, or pork barrel fund.
Fifteen senators have said that they would each forgo their P200 million in PDAF allocations and that the amount should be deleted from the total budget.
With a similar decision by Vice President Jejomar Binay to forego his P200-million fund, the total proposed national budget for 2014 that the Senate is currently working on is P2.264.702 trillion.
“The P3.2-billion cut was deducted from the four agencies where the House of Representatives decided to temporarily ‘park’ the pork allocation for the senators. These were the Commission on Higher Education, DOH, DOLE, and Social Welfare and Development,” Senate committee on finance chair Francis Escudero said in his speech.
Escudero said the decision of the senators is still subject to amendments later on during the budget deliberation.
He said the nation is interested to know Congress’ next move on the PDAF.
“We will have to answer these questions individually, then collectively as an institution. In these times of turmoil and political discord, we face the herculean task of rebuilding, not just the damage wrought by the natural disasters, but also the shattered image of the Senate,” Escudero said.
In fulfillment of a promise made by some lawmakers to come up with a rehabilitation fund for calamity-stricken areas, the Senate has introduced a P20-billion Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund (DRRF) as an amendment in the 2014 budget.
Typhoon survivors rally city: 'We shall overcome' By Teresa Cerojano (Associated Press) | Updated November 20, 2013 - 5:08am 0 4 googleplus0 0
People march in the rain Tacloban, Philippines during a procession to call for courage and resilience among their Typhoon Haiyan survivors on Tuesday Nov. 19, 2013. Countless families lost loved ones to the typhoon. Hundreds of thousands of survivors have endured unimaginable suffering. Tacloban was filled with hopeless, fear-filled faces. Even now, blackened bodies with peeling skin still lay by the roads, or are trapped under the rubble. But as the crisis eases and aid begins to flow, hope is flickering. People smile, if only briefly, and joke, if only in passing. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
TACLOBAN — A Roman Catholic priest led dozens of displaced typhoon survivors on a march through this shattered city on yesterday, seeking to boost its spirits.
The marchers sang "We shall overcome" as they toured parts of Tacloban, at one point skirting some unburied corpses in bags by the roadside.
The Rev. Robert Reyes, an activist priest known for running long distances across country to draw attention to social issues, said the marchers were living in a church and a sports stadium.
"This is not an ordinary march. We call it the walk to overcome," said Reyes. "This is part of what we call psycho-social therapy where you listen to the victims of the disaster but you also make them believe that they can actually heal themselves."
Typhoon Haiyan cut a path across eastern and central Philippines on Nov. 8, with some of fastest wind speeds on record. It killed or has left missing more than 5,000 people and displaced an estimated 4 million people. A major international relief mission is underway to help the survivors, many of whom will be dependent on aid for months to come.
The airport in Tacloban, which was almost entirely destroyed in the storm, has emerged as relief hub, with scores of aid flights arriving each day carrying food, water, medicine, generators and heavy lifting equipment. The pace has picked up markedly in recent days compared to the chaos in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
"It looks completely different to when I came in last week," said Valerie Amos, the United Nation's humanitarian chief. "I'm really delighted that so much progress has been made, so much more aid is going out, and the people are getting the vital supplies that they need."
FROM THE INQUIRER
Justice looks for evidence that Aquino OKd DAP By Christine O. Avendaño, Jerome Aning Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday looked for evidence that President Aquino had authorized Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to create the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—a little-known mechanism that impounded government savings and allegedly juggled among various departments.
Moments after the Supreme Court announced that it had declared unconstitutional the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the high tribunal opened arguments questioning the legality of the so-called presidential pork barrel.
During the five-hour hearing, Carpio said he had seen no official document that showed Aquino had realigned government savings for the DAP and authorized the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to do it.
Questioning Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of six lawyers representing nine anti-DAP petitioners, Carpio noted that there was no written document on the creation of the DAP in 2011 although he observed that there was a realignment of savings to that facility.
“No written document that there is the DAP and no written document that said the President realigned. So Secretary Abad realigned it,” Carpio said, adding that under the law, the President himself could realign savings. “It cannot be delegated,” he said.
Carpio noted that the DBM came out with a National Budget Circular No. 541 in 2012 “which regularized what was done in 2011 and 2012.”
But Carpio said while there was no document for the DAP this year, Malacañang still continued the program.
“So the secretary realigned but there was no presidential approval, which was even worse because they admitted they realigned in 2013 but there was no written directive from the President,” Carpio said.
He also maintained that the funds where the DAP was sourced by the DBM could not qualify as savings as defined under the law.
Carpio noted that under the Constitution, in order for the President to transfer funds from an office to another, he could realign savings from completed and discontinued projects.
But Carpio said the sources of savings stated by the DBM for the DAP could not be considered as savings as defined in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). These included unobligated allotments, dividends of government-owned and -controlled corporations, proceeds from sales of assets, and unprogrammed funds in the GAA.
“These are all sources of the DAP according to the DBM. But these do not qualify as definition of savings,” Carpio said.
Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernade also questioned Zarate on presidential authorization for the DAP. Zarate said that he had “not seen any circular that proves realignment of funds except a statement on a website that the DAP had been approved by the President.”
Raymond Fortun, another lawyer for the petitioners, pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order for the DAP’s implementation, saying that “taxpayers were entitled to relief.”
Fortun asked the high court to stop the “haemorrhaging” of public funds through the DAP, noting that the DBM had listed 50 new projects amounting to P30.4 billion which was 279 percent more than the pork barrel allocations to senators.
He asked the high court “not to wait for the DAP to bare its fangs … or strike down another member of this court,” referring to claims that the Palace used the facility to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Both Justice Marvic Leonen and Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno questioned Pacifico Agabin, on how he thought the high court should deal with the DAP case, whether there was an exercise of grave abuse of discretion by the President.
When Agabin referred to the privilege speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that hinted that the DAP was used to bribe some senators to convict Corona in 2012, Leonen asked whether the court should rely on what one senator said.
Leonen also asked Agabin and Zarate whether the court should first wait for the Commission on Audit to examine how spending was done under the DAP. He also asked whether the court would become a trier of facts by having had to examine the projects funded by the DAP one by one.
“So many facts have to be established here,” Sereno said, adding that many incidents and issues raised by the petitioners were based on newspaper accounts.
Agabin said that grave abuse of discretion involved factual context. “I believe the new definition of the power of judicial review now makes this court a trier of facts,” he said.
“This court has been designated the checker and balancer of the power between the three branches of government,” Agabin said, adding that the Constitution provided so in response to the “traumatic experience” suffered by the people during the martial law years.
Leonen also pointed out that the Circular No. 541 was dated 2012 and so no longer pertained to the current budget. He also asked if there was anything wrong with the President’s desire to improve the economy, reallocate unobligated funds to other projects rather than just be bound by what the GAA states.
Zarate, however, stuck to the petitioners’ stand, saying, “unobligated funds cannot be taken out; if they’re not spent, they should revert back to the general fund, and they may only be spent if there is legislative authorization.”
Roxas-Romualdez standoff remains unresolved By Jamie Elona, Michael Lim Ubac INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:35 am | Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
ROMUALDEZ IN RED T-SHIRT, AQUINO AND ROXAS
Mayor Alfred Romualdez of the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban said he had not written a letter to President Aquino, which was sought by Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, viewing it as “one form of resignation.”
In an interview over Radyo Inquirer from the Leyte capital on Tuesday, Romualdez said Roxas had instructed him to write: “I am not able to discharge the functions of the city government or even as mayor.”
Sought by the Inquirer for comment, a visibly agitated Roxas said: “That’s not true. That’s foolishness (kalokohan ‘yan) if that’s your story. It has no basis.”
“I have no side—it never happened,” he said in Tacloban. He warned the Inquirer reporter of getting “a bum steer.”
Malacañang on Tuesday warned of a “day of reckoning” for local officials who allegedly failed to prepare their people for the onslaught of “Yolanda,” which had so far claimed nearly 4,000 lives.
Romualdez said he was told by his legal counsel, Alex Avisado, to be careful as it might be a letter similar to what then President Joseph Estrada wrote during the so-called Edsa Tres in 2001, which was interpreted by the Supreme Court “as one form of resignation.”
“And so I was advised not to do that,” said Romualdez, who won a third term as the Nacionalista Party candidate against former An Waray Rep. Bem Noel, who was fielded by the Liberal Party (LP) in the 2013 elections.
Roxas, who is also the LP president, and the Tacloban mayor are reportedly not on speaking terms because of disagreements over relief efforts and the initiative of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to take over the devastated city.
Roxas acknowledged that he did ask the mayor, himself a victim of the storm surges that flattened the city and central Philippines, to provide the national government with a “document” to legitimize the presence of law enforcement and security forces in the city.
Curfew has been imposed on the city from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Avisado said Roxas even wanted the Tacloban City council to pass a resolution stating that the mayor could no longer function and surrender authority to Roxas.
“He wants the city council … to pass a resolution to the same effect, but no one wants to do it. Only one member of the council came when they were called,” the lawyer claimed.
But Roxas said these were all lies.
“What we asked from them was a document on the ordinance that they promised us but did not materialize,” he said.
“I told them that if you can’t convene the (city) council, could you just write the President. Second, the President himself wanted to be clear on the capability and obligation of the (local officials), so that he, too, could plan what we should do and what’s the obligation of the national government,” Roxas said.
The secretary made it clear to the mayor that the local government should be forthright with its remaining resources so that the national government could come in and fill the gap.
Roxas said he was looking for a “clear apportionment of resources.”
“At no point was he asked to resign. At no point was there any contemplation or intent of a takeover. It was simply a management team. What are you doing, what is the national government going to do? So there’s a malice if politics is imputed into this, or given a spin, when there’s none,” he said.
When asked what Romualdez’s reply to his request was, Roxas said: “He said the (resolution) would come tomorrow but it never came.”
Roxas said some city officials had wanted to impose a curfew, and even asked the national government to place the city under martial law after hungry victims of Yolanda started looting groceries and department stores.
He said he was adamant against imposing a curfew without the backing of the city council in a resolution.
When the local officials complained that they could not do so because of a lack of quorum, Roxas replied: “I understand, but can you just put it down on paper so the President has something to hold on to (when asked about) the basis for such a declaration?”
But a week after, nothing was provided by the mayor and the city council.
“The point here. Whether there’s a piece of paper or not, we’re just doing what we think we can do,” he said.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the inquiry into local officials who failed to prepare for disaster would come after the “rehabilitation process has set in,” insisting that the focus now was “ramping up the relief operations.”
“There are prevailing laws and there is a prevailing process that can be used when the day of reckoning [araw ng pagtutuos] arrives,” he said in Filipino in a media briefing.
“There will be [a] time, after the rehabilitation process has set in, when the officials responsible for these efforts are no longer under severe challenge,” he added. “There will be a time where inquiry processes can be activated, so that the needed corrective, preventive, and improvement measures can be adopted.”
Saying that his primary concern is the welfare of the people of Tacloban, Romualdez said in the interview that he even asked Roxas if he was becoming a hindrance to relief efforts. “I asked the secretary, ‘Am I a hindrance? Am I hindering the support or help of the national government?’ He said no,” the mayor said.
“So what’s the use of that letter? My point is if the local government is not hindering the efforts of the national government, why is it so complicated? It’s like so much red tape in times of a crisis like this,” Romualdez said.
The mayor said he could have discussed the matter with the President, who flew to Tacloban on Monday but didn’t do so as the issue concerned only himself and was not his priority.
“Because my concern is really the people. And that’s what I want them to attend to—Tacloban City and the people,” Romualdez said.
Aquino, Roxas and Romualdez met behind closed doors on Sunday night.
Coloma was visibly more diplomatic than the President, who had been assailing local officials for allegedly reneging on their responsibility.
“When you’re told that you will be hit [by the typhoon], what else will you do? You’ll act,” he told officials in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province, on Sunday, sounding sarcastic. “But…. I’ll just keep it to myself.”
Coloma sought to put his boss’ comments in “context,” saying: “In the course of his inspection tour, he gathers impressions on what he has observed directly on the ground.”
“We will grant that it is fair commentary on the part of the President to make known his observations,” he added.
Asked if Aquino’s close friend, Roxas, would also be the subject of an inquiry by virtue of his position as interior secretary, Coloma said “accountability is embedded” in the government’s “responsibility structure.”
“No government employee is exempt,” he said. “All our actions are subject to scrutiny, to accountability measures.”
In a separate interview, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said that right at the outset, there was a “disconnect” between City Hall and the DILG.
However, he said, Mayor Romualdez, his cousin, was banking on the President’s public pronouncement that the local government unit (LGU) should spearhead relief and recovery efforts in times of calamities, with the national government only augmenting local resources.—With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
FROM INTERAKSYON.COM NEWS 5
Romualdez confirms, but Roxas denies bid to ‘legally’ kick him out By: Jaime Sinapit, InterAksyon.com November 19, 2013 3:34 PM
MANILA - Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Tuesday confirmed the alleged legal scheme, supposedly initiated by Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, to boot him out as chief executive of the capital city in the wake of the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda.
The mayor said in a radio interview that a day after Yolanda struck, he asked Roxas to send in people to help in the cleanup and restoration, collect thousands of corpses, and stop the widespread looting. Roxas allegedly replied by telling him to write a letter to the President formalizing the request for help, but couched in these words: “I am not able to discharge the functions of the city government or even as mayor”.
As he wanted to ensure the advice would not compromise him as LGU chief, he consulted his lawyer Alex Avisado, who cautioned him against doing that. Avisado warned him he will find himself in the same shoes as deposed president and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, whose similar letter was deemed later by the Supreme Court as a “form of resignation.”
In the May 2012 election, Romualdez defeated Liberal Party candidate Florencio “Bem” Noel, former An-Waray representativeand close friend of President Aquino.
Roxas blasts ‘intrigue’
But in a statement, Roxas denied trying to push Romualdez into a legal trap, and said it was part of and “intrigue” against him. “Kalokohan. Walang ganung napag-usapan. Mag-ingat-ingat sila sa pagpapakalat ng kasinungalingan,” Roxas said.
“Walang naging usapan na takeover ng DILG o national government sa Tacloban City Hall. This is absolute nonsense and there was a roomful of people in the command center at the city who can attest to this,” he added. Roxas said he has 10 witnesses to prove he did not suggest such wordings of the letter.
“One day two after Yolanda's exit, they asked the same from the President and got the same reply that an ordinance was needed. Nonetheless, at their pleading, the PNP imposed a curfew on their representation that they will pass the said ordinance,” Roxas explained. “After four days of inability to pass the ordinance because the local council cannot constitute a quorum, I asked them to write a letter so that the President has a basis for ordering said curfew,” he added.
Besides the curfew topic, they also tackled the proposal of “martial law”.
Roxas explained: “There are various laws that address the situation of an ineffective LGU official especially in emergencies. We never undermined them. Kaya lang, kung 'pilay' ang LGUs dahil biktima din sila, then we need to act.”
The DILG chief claimed they had “bent over backwards to be sensitive and courteous and this is the response we get? Grabe talaga ang intrigahan [This intriguing is too much].”
On Sunday night, Romualdez said he met with Roxas behind closed doors to talk about relief operations. “I asked the Secretary. Am I a hindrance? Am I hindering the support or help of the national government? He said no,” Romualdez said of Roxas.
“So what’s the use of that letter? My point is if the local government is not hindering the efforts of the national government, why is it so complicated? It’s like so much red tape in times of crisis like this,” he added. “Because my concern is really the people. And that’s what I want them to attend to. Tacloban City and the people,” he added.
FROM THE INQUIRER
Palace mum on Roxas-Romualdez tiff By Nestor Corrales
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday kept mum on the issue between Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas III but said proper accountability process will take place.
“It is better to focus now on relief efforts and rehabilitation. There is time for accountability,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on a televised press conference Monday.
Coloma said the national government including Local Government Units (LGUs) has a big responsibility in the rehabilitation of Visayas. “Relief and rehabilitation is our priority now,” said Coloma.
Asked if Roxas as Interior Secretary would be also included in the probe, Coloma said there is no need to isolate particular officials.
“Accountability is embedded with responsibility. Accountability process will take place. At the proper time, this will be set in motion,” said Coloma. He added that all public officials would be subjected to public scrutiny.
Asked about President Benigno Aquino III taking swipe at other local executives regarding typhoon preparations, Coloma said: “It is a fair commentary.”
Coloma said the President for now is busy spearheading the relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government referring to Aquino as “team” captain.”
Romualdez: Letter form of resignation By Jamie Elona INQUIRER.net 12:27 pm | Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez hands goods to his employee infront of the ruin Tacloban Airport after typhoon yolanda hit the city. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines – Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Tuesday that the letter Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II had asked him to write may be “one form of resignation” and was advised by his lawyer not to write it.
In an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM Tuesday, Romualdez said that in the letter that would be addressed to President Benigno Aquino III, Roxas instructed him to write: “I am not able to discharge the fucntions of the city government or even as mayor”.
Romualdez said that when he asked the opinion of his legal counsel, Alex Avisado, he was told to be careful as it might be a letter similar to what former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada wrote, which was interpreted by the Supreme Court “as one form of resignation.”
“And so I was advised not to do that,” said Romualdez, who won a third term opposite Liberal Party candidate Bem Noel, the former An-Waray representative, in the May 2012 polls.
Romualdez and Roxas were reported not to be on speaking terms because of disagreements over relief efforts and the interior department’s initiative to take over the devastated city.
Aquino Roxas and Romualdez met in Taclobanon Sunday night behind closed doors, quietly sealing a partnership between Task Force Yolanda and the leadership of the local government that could bolster relief efforts for typhoon survivors.
Saying that his primary concern is the welfare of the people of Tacloban, Romualdez said he even asked Roxas if he was becoming a hindrance to relief efforts for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda”.
“I asked the Secretary. Am I a hindrance? Am I hindering the support or help of the national government? He said no,” Romualdez said.
“So what’s the use of that letter? My point is if the local government is not hindering the efforts of the national government, why is it so complicated? It’s like so much red tape in times of crisis like this,” said Romualdez.
Romualdez said he could have discussed the matter with Aquino when he flew to Tacloban Monday, but didn’t as the issue concerned only himself and was not his priority.
“Because my concern is really the people. And that’s what I want them to attend to. The Tacloban City and the people,” Romualdez said.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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