6-M SIGNATURE DRIVE HIGHLIGHTS ANTI-PORK PROTEST AUG 25 

 A sign-up drive for the People’s Initiative against the pork barrel system will highlight the
first anniversary of the Million People March at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday. “This time, there will be a protest program and a sign up drive happening at the same time… The People’s Initiative, a sign up campaign to introduce a new law banning the pork barrel system, will be a new component of the the Luneta action,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement. The People’s Initiative targets to collect about 5.4 million up to six million signatures nationwide. On August 23, the anti-pork groups will be converging in Cebu City to attend the People’s Congress which will approve the draft bill. The signature campaign will be formally launched there.

Under the initiative and referendum law, the signatures of at least 10 percent of registered voters nationwide, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent of the registered voters, are needed for the initiative to succeed. Once the Commission on Elections certifies that enough signatures have been gathered, it will have to schedule a referendum not later than 90 days. If the initiative gets the approval of the majority of the voters, it will become a law. #abolishpork, Scrap Pork Network, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Concerned Citizens Movement, Youth ACT Now!, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, Church People’s Alliance Against Pork Barrel, Nationalist Movement, Bayan, and groups from other sectors will lead the mass action in Luneta on Monday. Other participating groups are the Integrated Bar of the Philippines who will be gathering in front of the Supreme Court, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Church at forefront of anti-pork drive; rally at Manila Rizal Park today, Monday

Thousands of students and members of religious and civic groups demanding an
end to all types of pork barrel will converge today at Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) to show their opposition to the attempt of the Aquino administration to continue implementing programs under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP). The program was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court lat month.
Today’s anti-pork rally is expected to be bigger than last year’s because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines have thrown their support behind the gathering. Several groups will convene at Luneta for the “Stand Up! Sign Up!: The People’s Initiative against Pork Barrel.” Organizers are aiming to gather six million signatures that they hope will lead to the holding of a People’s Initiative, one of three modes allowed by the Constitution to effect a law.

The CBCP said it supports “all measures our citizens take, provided these are moral, peaceful and lawful, aimed at curbing corruption and the irresponsible use of public funds.” In a statement, CBCP President Socrates Villegas said the people are justified in taking matters into their own hands to stop the illegal use of state funds. “Rightly appalled by what they take to be the unjust use of public funds through the pork barrel system, some citizens have taken the step the Constitution allows of legislating anti-pork barrel measures through People’s Initiative,” the CBCP statement said. “Since it seems that despite the widespread perception that pork barrel funds have occasioned unconscionable irresponsibility on the part of those who had access to them and a definitive ruling by the Supreme Court that such funds are unconstitutional, we have been informed of attempts to perpetuate the system through the appropriation of lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts. We therefore fully endorse the People’s Initiative aimed at legislating the proscription of funds made available to officials and subject to their discretion alone. We likewise look with displeasure at the practice of classifying as ‘intelligence funds’ — and therefore beyond the scope of audit and accountability–sizeable amounts of public money,” it added. “You cannot serve both God and money. We choose to serve God and we cannot countenance the idolization of money, especially when it takes the form of unfettered access to the money of the people,” Villegas said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Jeepney ‘pope mobile’ planned for Francis’ visit  

Pope Francis could be riding around in a jeepney-inspired “pope mobile” when he visits the Philippines in January. Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta De Villa said on Friday there are suggestions that the official vehicle for Francis be a converted jeepney. De Villa said the suggestion came up after the pope rode in a Kia Soul and a Hyundai Santa Fe during his trip to South Korea earlier this month. Kia and Hyundai are South Korean auto brands. “I think they are thinking about that. I think they are thinking about something like that [a jepney turned into a pope mobile],” de Villa said in an interview. The Kia Soul was a dark gray car, and the Hyundai Santa Fe was a white unit, the report said. If the proposal is adopted, the roof of the pope mobile will be removed so that the vehicle will resemble a jeepney, the most common form of public transport in the Philippines. * READ MORE...

ALSO: How Tacloban is preparing for Pope Francis   

PHOTO: Tacloban prepares for Pope's visit in 2015. Gravel and soil are dumped on a grassy area near the Tacloban City Airport on Saturday, August 16, in preparation for the concreting of the site where Pope Francis will hold Mass for the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda on January 17, 2015. Six hectares of the planned 15-hectare site have been concreted to accommodate an estimated two million devotees. Ver Noveno The Pope Francis Center, a facility in Typhoon Yolanda-hit Leyte that will have an orphanage, a home for the aged and a clinic, may be up and running two weeks before Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines in January. Palo Archbishop John Du said they are aiming to complete the construction of the center by the Christmas holidays, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said Tuesday. TACLOBAN CITY - In just a few months from now, the Philippines will welcome the leader of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis will visit Tacloban City and the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda." But with all the complexities in welcoming Pope Francis, is Tacloban prepared?

According to Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, the city is 80 percent prepared for the milestone event. The mayor said the Pope will spend most or all of his time at the Tacloban airport on January 17 to 18 next year. Pope Francis is said to be staying in the city for about six to seven hours. Romualdez said the Holy Father will also try to visit other places. "We are fast-tracking the airport kasi sa tarmac gagawin ang misa. Ang gusto ng Pope ay mismo sa ground zero at gusto niya open air. So the most convenient ay sa tarmac area. By that time it should be able to accommodate 700,000 to 750,000 people," he said in an ambush interview. "We are also careful in security. Pero flexible pa yan dahil pagdating ng January tag-ulan talaga sa Tacloban. So we are careful and we are praying that we have a window na magandang weather during the visit," he said. Aside from the airport, the Tacloban local government unit is also busy preparing the sites around it. "Nagwa-widen ng road, tumutulong ang DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) -- they are widening the road. That's one. Pangalawa, sige ang linis namin ng mga debris. Pinapaspasan din namin ang mga debris na makakasagabal sa daan at tao. We are trying our best. We are doing it as fast as we can," the mayor said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Let history judge--- Jardeleza’s appointment to SC—IBP head  

Let history be the judge. The president of the 60,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) had this to say on Thursday when asked about his take on President Aquino’s appointment of former Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza as the new associate justice to complete the roll of magistrates in the Supreme Court. “Let us respect his (the President’s) decision and his choice because, under the Constitution, it’s really his prerogative,” said IBP president Vicente Joyas said when reached by phone on Thursday.

“As to whether or not the choice was wise, let history be the judge. We cannot question the motive and wisdom of the President because it’s his prerogative,” he said. President Aquino appointed Jardeleza as the high court’s 173rd associate justice and the 15th magistrate under the watch of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno late Tuesday. He made his choice out of five nominees shortly after the Supreme Court ordered the former chief government counsel’s inclusion on the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) short list of nominees. Jardeleza was initially excluded from the list after Sereno, the JBC chair, through a testimony from Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, raised an integrity issue against him. The magistrates apparently doubted Jardeleza’s loyalty to the country for his handling of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China before the United Nations. The high court junked such opposition on Tuesday when it ordered Jardeleza’s inclusion on the list with a vote of 7-4. At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jardeleza took his oath of office before no less than Sereno in a cordial meeting at the Supreme Court’s dignitaries lounge. rEAD MORE...

ALSO: Palace denies pressuring JBC to appoint Jardeleza   

There was no pressure involved in the appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as Supreme Court associate justice, Malacañang said Wednesday. “We did not exert any pressure, especially on the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council),” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told Palace reporters. He said that President Benigno Aquino III respects the processes of the Supreme Court, which ruled to include Jardeleza on the short list of nominees to fill the post vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

Jardeleza’s bid to become part of the SC has been controversial, with Malacañang being accused of pushing for his nomination to have more allies in the judiciary. Such allegations came amid continued tension between the two branches of government because of the SC’s decision to declare parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional. Even if the SC did not rule in favor of Jardeleza, Lacierda said Aquino would still appoint someone to the post because the deadline for the appointment was Wednesday. “It just so happens that the President felt that the right person for the job is Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. And so, we congratulate Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza in his new assumption as Associate Justice Jardeleza,” Lacierda said. Lacierda dismissed reports questioning the integrity of Jardeleza amid allegations that he deleted an important passage of the Philippine government’s memorial against China before the United Nations Tribunal. He said the supposed deleted passage discussing Itu Aba, the largest island in Spratlys, was still included in the pleading. “So there was no issue with respect to the integrity (of Jardeleza),” Lacierda said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Visayan bloc to push amendments to 2015 budget 

The Visayan bloc of lawmakers in the House of Representatives will push
for amendments to the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, particularly on what they called “questionable” lump sum provisions they said are prone to corruption. Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, leader of the 33-member bloc, cited in particular the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) that was increased by more than 100 percent, or from just P53.5 billion this year to P118.1 billion for 2015, eating up nearly five percent of the proposed expenditure program.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) referred to the MBPF as “authorized salaries, associated premiums and other singular benefits of the employees of national government in constitutional offices enjoying fiscal autonomy.”  This means that salaries of employees of the said independent bodies that have not yet been disbursed – particularly for still unfilled positions – are withheld by the DBM to prevent the said offices from using it as savings for capital outlay or other benefits at the end of year. The figure is reached based on the proposed staffing or hiring program for the fiscal year. DBM Secretary Florencio Abad earlier admitted the MBPF and Pension and Gratuity Fund were among the funding sources for Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court ruled to be unconstitutional. * READ MORE...

ALSO Manila Standard Editorial: Taking a risk    

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza—after a bruised ego and a few wrinkles on his suit— has a new appellation: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The controversy that hounded his appointment to the highest court of the land could be a blessing or a bane, depending on which side of the political fence it is viewed. People who take interest on our legal system rue the heavy political undertones associated with Jardeleza’s appointment. Politics has a corrosive effect on the integrity of the court. It poisons people’s minds and affects their attitudes. Jardeleza sued Malacañang, so he could be considered a nominee to the vacancy. When he became a nominee, Aquino promptly appointed him to the position despite the swirling questions about his motives and competence.

As Solicitor General, Jardeleza deleted the island of Itu Aba from the Philippine claim over the Spratley Islands, which met strong opposition from international lawyers because it would hurt the Philippine position. Aquino ordered the restoration of Itu Aba in the legal brief submitted by the Philippines to the United Nations. The Judicial and Bar Council, which recommended the candidates for appointment to the vacancy, used the issue to strike down Jardeleza. But he was Aquino’s choice. Aquino’s political allies welcomed the appointment. But several lawmakers said Jardeleza weakened the court. A party-list representative called Jardeleza a mole planted by Aquino in the court. “Justice Jardeleza owes Aquino big time,” said Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon. Opinions, for and against Jardeleza’s appointment, may appear innocuous. But his presence will be felt when the court starts deliberating cases that affect people’s welfare. These cases include the coconut levy fund, where he was at the opposite side of the coconut farmers fighting to get back their money from a former crony of strongman Ferdinand Marcos. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

6-M signature drive highlights anti-pork protest on Aug. 25
 

MANILA, AUGUST 25, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Julliane Love De Jesus — A sign-up drive for the People’s Initiative against the pork barrel system will highlight the first anniversary of the Million People March at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday.

“This time, there will be a protest program and a sign up drive happening at the same time… The People’s Initiative, a sign up campaign to introduce a new law banning the pork barrel system, will be a new component of the the Luneta action,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement.

The People’s Initiative targets to collect about 5.4 million up to six million signatures nationwide.

On August 23, the anti-pork groups will be converging in Cebu City to attend the People’s Congress which will approve the draft bill. The signature campaign will be formally launched there.

Under the initiative and referendum law, the signatures of at least 10 percent of registered voters nationwide, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3 percent of the registered voters, are needed for the initiative to succeed.

Once the Commission on Elections certifies that enough signatures have been gathered, it will have to schedule a referendum not later than 90 days. If the initiative gets the approval of the majority of the voters, it will become a law.

#abolishpork, Scrap Pork Network, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Concerned Citizens Movement, Youth ACT Now!, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, Church People’s Alliance Against Pork Barrel, Nationalist Movement, Bayan, and groups from other sectors will lead the mass action in Luneta on Monday.

Other participating groups are the Integrated Bar of the Philippines who will be gathering in front of the Supreme Court, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.

* Expected to attend the rally are progressive, religious, and personalities including beauty queens Maria Isabel Lopez, Joyce Burton Titular, musician Monet Silvestre, and actor Bernardo Bernardo.

“The August 25 event marks a major advance in our fight against pork and for accountability in the PDAF and DAP scams.

We have a main protest program and we have a sign up drive reaching out to all cities, municipalities and congressional districts here in Manila. Our people are demanding an end to a corrupt pork system, and accountability of our national leaders, especially the President,” Silvestre said.

For Bayan, the protest will serve as an occasion to denounce Charter change and the extension of President Benigno Aquino III’s term and his attacks against the judiciary on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (Dap).

“The issue of Charter change and term extension is linked to the pork barrel issue. Aquino wants to escape accountability.

He wants to pressure the SC to change its decision on DAP. He wants to control Congress through the perpetuation of the pork barrel system. Ironic that the lessons of the Marcos dictatorship seem all but lost on Aquino,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. in the same statement.

“We call on the people nationwide to mobilize on August 25 and beyond. Bring your pens and placards and let the voice of the “bosses” be heard,” Reyes added.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Church at forefront of anti-pork drive August 24, 2014 11:56 pm by JAIME PILAPIL AND CATHERINE VALENTE  REPORTERS

Thousands of students and members of religious and civic groups demanding an end to all types of pork barrel will converge today at Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) to show their opposition to the attempt of the Aquino administration to continue implementing programs under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP). The program was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court lat month.

Today’s anti-pork rally is expected to be bigger than last year’s because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines have thrown their support behind the gathering.

Several groups will convene at Luneta for the “Stand Up! Sign Up!: The People’s Initiative against Pork Barrel.” Organizers are aiming to gather six million signatures that they hope will lead to the holding of a People’s Initiative, one of three modes allowed by the Constitution to effect a law.

The CBCP said it supports “all measures our citizens take, provided these are moral, peaceful and lawful, aimed at curbing corruption and the irresponsible use of public funds.”

In a statement, CBCP President Socrates Villegas said the people are justified in taking matters into their own hands to stop the illegal use of state funds.

“Rightly appalled by what they take to be the unjust use of public funds through the pork barrel system, some citizens have taken the step the Constitution allows of legislating anti-pork barrel measures through People’s Initiative,” the CBCP statement said.

“Since it seems that despite the widespread perception that pork barrel funds have occasioned unconscionable irresponsibility on the part of those who had access to them and a definitive ruling by the Supreme Court that such funds are unconstitutional, we have been informed of attempts to perpetuate the system through the appropriation of lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts. We therefore fully endorse the People’s Initiative aimed at legislating the proscription of funds made available to officials and subject to their discretion alone. We likewise look with displeasure at the practice of classifying as ‘intelligence funds’ — and therefore beyond the scope of audit and accountability–sizeable amounts of public money,” it added.

“You cannot serve both God and money. We choose to serve God and we cannot countenance the idolization of money, especially when it takes the form of unfettered access to the money of the people,” Villegas said.

* Scrap pork

Also joining the rally is the Scrap Pork Network, whose signature-gathering campaign kicked off in Cebu City on Saturday.
Scrap Pork Network leader Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña said the group hopes to gather the six million signatures by December or the first two months of 2015.

Bretaña added that they will go around the country to convince Filipinos to participate in the People’s Initiative.

Meanwhile, militant groups will also troop to Luneta to express their opposition to all forms of DAP and pork barrel, which in the past had been abused by lawmakers, government officials and non-government organizations.

But Malacanang is not keen on supporting today’s rally against pork barrel.

In a radio interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the public is free to launch a People’s Initiative to abolish the pork barrel system in the government.

She, however, reminded the public that the “end goal” of this initiative will not be easy to achieve.

“We are guided by pertinent laws, [in the] Constitution, [in the decided cases of the Supreme Court on what the parameters of the People’s Initiative should be],” Valte said.

She noted that such initiative and the possible referendum that may follow will go through a long process.

“Even if you, if that [gathering of six million signatures] is achieved, it is the Commission on Elections that will have to check the validity of the signatures,” Valte said.

Under Republic Act 6735, a People’s Initiative needs the support of at least 10 percent of the total number of registered voters, and at least three percent of the registered voters in each congressional district.

The poll body will then have to verify the form and substance of such initiative.

Valte said Malacanang will not comment further until the results are in.

Public outrage has risen against the pork barrel system on account of the revelation that billions in lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel went to ghost projects of non-government organizations.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada were charged with plunder in connection with the pork scam, along with alleged pork barrel brains Janet Lim-Napoles.

Valte also noted that allocations for PDAF had been taken out from the 2015 budget.

She, however, said President Benigno Aquino 3rd had given instructions to make sure that the needs of those benefiting from PDAF, including scholars, are met.

Jeepney ‘pope mobile’ planned for Francis’ visit August 22, 2014 11:55 pm
by ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ REPORTER


A converted jeepney is being proposed as the official vehicle of Pope francis, (here shown during his general audience at the vatican on august 20) when he visits the country in January. AFP PHoto

Pope Francis could be riding around in a jeepney-inspired “pope mobile” when he visits the Philippines in January.
Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta De Villa said on Friday there are suggestions that the official vehicle for Francis be a converted jeepney.

De Villa said the suggestion came up after the pope rode in a Kia Soul and a Hyundai Santa Fe during his trip to South Korea earlier this month.

Kia and Hyundai are South Korean auto brands.

“I think they are thinking about that. I think they are thinking about something like that [a jepney turned into a pope mobile],” de Villa said in an interview.

The Kia Soul was a dark gray car, and the Hyundai Santa Fe was a white unit, the report said.


POPE JOHN PAUL 2: Pope Mobile..Baguio '81

If the proposal is adopted, the roof of the pope mobile will be removed so that the vehicle will resemble a jeepney, the most common form of public transport in the Philippines.

* De Villa clarified that they have not decided on the type of transportation that the Pope will be using during his four-day visit to the Philippines in 2015.

She said the Vatican has not indicated his vehicle preference to the Filipino community.

Francis will be in the country from January 15 to 19.

De Villa said a set of Vatican officials will be going back to the Philippines in November to wrap up arrangements for the papal visit, which includes a trip to areas in Central Visayas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

She added that the Church would have ample time in preparing for the visit even if the itinerary was determined in November, only more than a month before Francis sets foot on Philippine soil for the first time.

“I don’t think that [itinerary] will be a problem. If ever, we have two full months to make it,” de Villa said.

FROM ABS-CBN

How Tacloban is preparing for Pope Francis By Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 08/22/2014 9:44 PM | Updated as of 08/22/2014 9:44 PM


Tacloban prepares for Pope's visit in 2015. Gravel and soil are dumped on a grassy area near the Tacloban City Airport on Saturday, August 16, in preparation for the concreting of the site where Pope Francis will hold Mass for the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda on January 17, 2015. Six hectares of the planned 15-hectare site have been concreted to accommodate an estimated two million devotees. Ver Noveno The Pope Francis Center, a facility in Typhoon Yolanda-hit Leyte that will have an orphanage, a home for the aged and a clinic, may be up and running two weeks before Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines in January. Palo Archbishop John Du said they are aiming to complete the construction of the center by the Christmas holidays, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said Tuesday.

TACLOBAN CITY - In just a few months from now, the Philippines will welcome the leader of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis will visit Tacloban City and the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda."

But with all the complexities in welcoming Pope Francis, is Tacloban prepared?

According to Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, the city is 80 percent prepared for the milestone event.

The mayor said the Pope will spend most or all of his time at the Tacloban airport on January 17 to 18 next year.

Pope Francis is said to be staying in the city for about six to seven hours.

Romualdez said the Holy Father will also try to visit other places.

"We are fast-tracking the airport kasi sa tarmac gagawin ang misa. Ang gusto ng Pope ay mismo sa ground zero at gusto niya open air. So the most convenient ay sa tarmac area. By that time it should be able to accommodate 700,000 to 750,000 people," he said in an ambush interview.

"We are also careful in security. Pero flexible pa yan dahil pagdating ng January tag-ulan talaga sa Tacloban. So we are careful and we are praying that we have a window na magandang weather during the visit," he said.

Aside from the airport, the Tacloban local government unit is also busy preparing the sites around it.

"Nagwa-widen ng road, tumutulong ang DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) -- they are widening the road. That's one. Pangalawa, sige ang linis namin ng mga debris. Pinapaspasan din namin ang mga debris na makakasagabal sa daan at tao. We are trying our best. We are doing it as fast as we can," the mayor said.

* Romualdez admitted that there is only so much that they could do.

He added he is not at all worried if Tacloban will not be in tip-top shape by the time Pope Francis arrives.

"Ang pagkakaalam ko the Pope is very down to earth. He is mainly there to give hope and to uplift spirits of people... Ayaw niya magarbo. He really wants to be with the victims and with the poor."

FULLY BOOKED HOTELS

One good thing about the papal visit is more people are visiting Tacloban now.

The mayor said hotels are already fully booked months before the scheduled arrival of the Pope.

This means people will have to find other means of accommodation when the Holy Father arrives.

"As of today, puno na ang mga hotels and di pa nga dumadating ang Pope eh. Yung regular days lang puno na ang hotel sa dami ng bumibisita. So by the time the pope comes in, it will be much more. And I will not be surprised kung may magpi-pitch ng tent," he said.

The mayor said Tacloban residents are looking forward to Pope Francis' visit.

"Very enthusiastic sila because of course the spiritual uplifting that they are looking forward to...and sa mga na-experience nila. Siyempre marami sa kanila ang nawalan ng mahal sa buhay... It's a very big thing for them."

He also said it is possible that the Pope will not grant an audience to rich and influential families but will instead spend time with the poor.

"I think kailangan naman maintidihan natin... His main focus really are to the victims, the ones who really need him most," Romualdez said.

"I think we have to understand that. Not only political leaders, government officials and other families na pagbigyan na po natin ang mga mahihirap kasi alam niyo walang wala na sila and they really cling to hope. And they want something tangible na makikita nila. And seeing the pope I think is a very big step," he added.

TACLOBAN TODAY

With the first anniversary of Yolanda looming, Romualdez said Tacloban is still reeling from the super typhoon's effects.

"With all resources fino-focus natin, I believe mapapabilis naman ang pagbangon ng Tacloban. And right now we are more or less hitting 40 percent, and I can see medyo nagpi-pick up naman at ang pinakamaganda dito, people are determined to stay."

While help is still flowing in, the biggest challenge is still providing shelter to residents.

"May mga tulong naman sa livelihood, may ilang ahensyang tumutulong naman doon. Pagdating sa DPWH, mga infrastructure tumutulong naman doon. Ang malaking kulang lang talaga ay sa shelter. When it comes to DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and helping us to build shelters because we have to relocate at least 14,500 families, ang ginagawa ng siyudad ay lahat ng mga resources namin tinatayuan namin ng temporary shelters, at pinapaliwanag namin sa mga tao na di pwedeng tumira sa mga coastal areas. That is really a no-no."

But the Tacloban mayor admitted there are still some who reside on danger zones.

"'Pag nakita naman na may malilipatan. Siyempre, di naman pwede ipilit na umalis sila doon kung wala naman silang paglilipatan," he said.

Romualdez feels the national government should institute reforms right away, such as creating a new agency similar to the one in the United States.

"Medyo ineffective na ang NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). Nakikita natin na ina-activate lang three days before a storm. That should be activated 24/7. When we do this, marami tayong makukuhang mga data galing sa mga scientist."

"Dapat may bago tayong ahensya tulad ng Federal Emergency Management Agency ng US, and fino-focus talaga nila ay mga natural disasters. Ako naman, parang nahihirapan ako dahil di naman magtatagal ay magkakaroon ng eleksyon, maraming pulitika. Pero kailan pa natin haharapin ang mga isyung ito... Kailangan na po natin i-prepare ang next generation," he said.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Let history judge Jardeleza’s appointment to SC—IBP head By Tarra Quismundo |Philippine Daily Inquirer10:55 pm | Thursday, August 21st, 2014


Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza takes oath as the new Supreme Court Associate Justice held at Supreme Court Building, Manila on Wednesday. NINO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines—Let history be the judge.

The president of the 60,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had this to say on Thursday when asked about his take on President Aquino’s appointment of former Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza as the new associate justice to complete the roll of magistrates in the Supreme Court.

“Let us respect his (the President’s) decision and his choice because, under the Constitution, it’s really his prerogative,” said IBP president Vicente Joyas said when reached by phone on Thursday.

“As to whether or not the choice was wise, let history be the judge. We cannot question the motive and wisdom of the President because it’s his prerogative,” he said.

President Aquino appointed Jardeleza as the high court’s 173rd associate justice and the 15th magistrate under the watch of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno late Tuesday. He made his choice out of five nominees shortly after the Supreme Court ordered the former chief government counsel’s inclusion on the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) short list of nominees.

Jardeleza was initially excluded from the list after Sereno, the JBC chair, through a testimony from Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, raised an integrity issue against him. The magistrates apparently doubted Jardeleza’s loyalty to the country for his handling of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China before the United Nations.

The high court junked such opposition on Tuesday when it ordered Jardeleza’s inclusion on the list with a vote of 7-4. At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jardeleza took his oath of office before no less than Sereno in a cordial meeting at the Supreme Court’s dignitaries lounge.

* Sereno also gave Jardeleza a tour of the Supreme Court.

Amid concerns over how Jardeleza’s presence in the Supreme Court might unduly influence cases he had himself filed on behalf of the government, Joyas said he trusted Jardeleza would not participate.

As Solicitor-General, Jardeleza led the defense of the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) before the high court, losing on July 1 in a unanimous decision that struck the program down as unconstitutional. He later asked the court to reconsider this ruling on the government’s behalf — a pleading still pending until now.

“My advice is for him to inhibit from his cases especially DAP, because if not, that would create a perception among the public that the Supreme Court is not impartial,” said Joyas.

He said Jardeleza’s appointment “would not make a big impact on the Supreme Court as a whole,” as each of the members makes his or her own independent decision on every issue raised before the court.

“Members of the Supreme Court have their own personal conclusions, depending on the case. Let us be satisfied about the choice and trust that our Supreme Court is impartial and independent,” he said.

Palace denies pressuring JBC to appoint Jardeleza By Kristine Angeli Sabillo |INQUIRER.net2:00 pm | Wednesday, August 20th, 2014


Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – There was no pressure involved in the appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as Supreme Court associate justice, Malacañang said Wednesday.

“We did not exert any pressure, especially on the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council),” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told Palace reporters.

He said that President Benigno Aquino III respects the processes of the Supreme Court, which ruled to include Jardeleza on the short list of nominees to fill the post vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

Jardeleza’s bid to become part of the SC has been controversial, with Malacañang being accused of pushing for his nomination to have more allies in the judiciary. Such allegations came amid continued tension between the two branches of government because of the SC’s decision to declare parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.

Even if the SC did not rule in favor of Jardeleza, Lacierda said Aquino would still appoint someone to the post because the deadline for the appointment was Wednesday.

“It just so happens that the President felt that the right person for the job is Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. And so, we congratulate Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza in his new assumption as Associate Justice Jardeleza,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda dismissed reports questioning the integrity of Jardeleza amid allegations that he deleted an important passage of the Philippine government’s memorial against China before the United Nations Tribunal.

He said the supposed deleted passage discussing Itu Aba, the largest island in Spratlys, was still included in the pleading.

“So there was no issue with respect to the integrity (of Jardeleza),” Lacierda said.

* He said that in the end, it was the SC that decided to include Jardeleza in the shortlist.

Lacierda said the reason why Aquino chose the solicitor general over the other nominees was because they were able to work together and Jardeleza “has shown integrity and competence required in the position that he has assumed.”
He added that Jardeleza was qualified for the position based on his credentials.

Asked if Jardeleza will serve as an independent voice in the Supreme Court, Lacierda said, “When you speak of independence, I think the appointees of the President have proven that. So there should be no issue with respect to independence.”

He said it was not sure how Jardeleza would vote in relation to the government’s motion for reconsideration on the DAP case.

“Let us just wait for his action whatever it will be. So it (is) far from us to speculate or to tell him what to do,” he said.
Jardeleza, as solicitor general, defended the DAP in behalf of the government before the high court.

FROM PHILSTAR

Visayan bloc to push amendments to 2015 budget By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2014 - 12:00am 1 70 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Visayan bloc of lawmakers in the House of Representatives will push for amendments to the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015, particularly on what they called “questionable” lump sum provisions they said are prone to corruption.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, leader of the 33-member bloc, cited in particular the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) that was increased by more than 100 percent, or from just P53.5 billion this year to P118.1 billion for 2015, eating up nearly five percent of the proposed expenditure program.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) referred to the MBPF as “authorized salaries, associated premiums and other singular benefits of the employees of national government in constitutional offices enjoying fiscal autonomy.”

This means that salaries of employees of the said independent bodies that have not yet been disbursed – particularly for still unfilled positions – are withheld by the DBM to prevent the said offices from using it as savings for capital outlay or other benefits at the end of year.

The figure is reached based on the proposed staffing or hiring program for the fiscal year.

DBM Secretary Florencio Abad earlier admitted the MBPF and Pension and Gratuity Fund were among the funding sources for Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court ruled to be unconstitutional.

* The DBM was not clear on how much of the two appropriations for 2014 had actually been used for hiring personnel and paying retirement benefits, and how much had been diverted to DAP.

“Why was the allocation for MBPF more than doubled? Are we going to really hire or fill up all these positions? That has not been the track record of the government. I hope this (MBPF) is not again to justify ‘savings’,” Benitez said.

Benitez said the bloc will also push for amendments to increase the allocations for the Visayas and Mindanao in the proposed national budget, which he said remained lopsided in favor of Luzon.

“The government has not prioritized or given equitable share for the people of the Visayas and even Mindanao who are also Filipinos,” Benitez said.

MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

Taking a risk By Manila Standard Today | Aug. 23, 2014 at 12:01am

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza—after a bruised ego and a few wrinkles on his suit— has a new appellation: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The controversy that hounded his appointment to the highest court of the land could be a blessing or a bane, depending on which side of the political fence it is viewed.

People who take interest on our legal system rue the heavy political undertones associated with Jardeleza’s appointment. Politics has a corrosive effect on the integrity of the court. It poisons people’s minds and affects their attitudes.

Jardeleza sued Malacañang, so he could be considered a nominee to the vacancy. When he became a nominee, Aquino promptly appointed him to the position despite the swirling questions about his motives and competence.

As Solicitor General, Jardeleza deleted the island of Itu Aba from the Philippine claim over the Spratley Islands, which met strong opposition from international lawyers because it would hurt the Philippine position. Aquino ordered the restoration of Itu Aba in the legal brief submitted by the Philippines to the United Nations. The Judicial and Bar Council, which recommended the candidates for appointment to the vacancy, used the issue to strike down Jardeleza. But he was Aquino’s choice.

Aquino’s political allies welcomed the appointment. But several lawmakers said Jardeleza weakened the court. A party-list representative called Jardeleza a mole planted by Aquino in the court. “Justice Jardeleza owes Aquino big time,” said Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

Opinions, for and against Jardeleza’s appointment, may appear innocuous. But his presence will be felt when the court starts deliberating cases that affect people’s welfare. These cases include the coconut levy fund, where he was at the opposite side of the coconut farmers fighting to get back their money from a former crony of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

* Jardeleza said he would inhibit from the pork barrel fund case, which is under appeal after the court has declared it unconstitutional. But his detractors were not appeased.

A petitioner said his appointment was inappropriate. “Pending a decision on the appeal, which (Jardeleza) made in his capacity as Solicitor General, it would not be right to have him appointed as associate justice,” said Greco Belgica.

Some people believe Jardeleza’s appointment is not intended to strengthen the court and improve the delivery of justice in our country. They said Aquino merely widened his influence in the 15-member body with the appointment of Jardeleza.

Aquino can ignore his critics and dismiss acerbic comments as ratings of the opposition. But people are listening. He can ignore the vitriol at his own risk.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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