PH TROOPS TO CONTINUE PEACEKEEPING MISSION  

Despite the danger they faced when they came under attack from Syrian rebels, Filipino troops in Golan Heights will continue doing their peacekeeping work, Malacanang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Sunday. Malacañang said the Filipino soldiers will not be pulled out before their tour of duty ends. Armed Forces chief Pio Catapang was all praises for the Philippine troops who were able to move to a safer location in the dead of night. “It was, maybe we may call it the greatest escape,” Catapang said as he narrated how the 40 Filipino peacekeepers in Position 68, where the fiercest firefight took place, got out of harm’s way in the dead of the night, aided by other allied UN forces. According to Catapang, more than 100 rebels on board three pick-up trucks mounted with Russian-made ZPU anti-aircraft guns attacked the Filipinos on Position 68 on Saturday morning. “Although they were surrounded and outnumbered, they held their ground,” he told reporters. “Our troops fought back bravely and successfully held their positions after a seven-hour firefight. This prompted the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) to reposition our troops to a more secure position within the mission area,” Catapang said. The Syrian and Israeli governments, along with an armored unit of the Irish contingent in the Undof, as well as the United States and Qatar, helped the Filipino peacekeepers move out of their besieged area.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Sereno away, Carpio presides as SC tackles MR on DAP today  

It would be Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who will preside tomorrow’s en banc session of the Supreme Court (SC) that may take up the motion filed by Malacanang appealing the tribunal’s decision declaring Palace acts creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is on a 15-day leave from September 1 to 15. As the most senior associate Justice, Carpio has been designated acting Chief Justice until Sereno’s return on September 16. Carpio will also preside the SC’s full court session on September 9. It is July 1, 2014 decision handed down in a unanimous 13-0 vote, the SC ruled that the acts and practices under the DAP violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the provision prohibiting inter-branch transfer of appropriations. Specifically, the SC struck down the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of a fiscal year, cross-border transfers of savings of the Executive Branch to augment funds of agencies outside the department, and funding of projects and programs not covered by the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

At the same time, the SC voided the use of unprogrammed funds despite the absence of a certification by the national treasurer that the revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets for non-compliance with conditions in the GAA. Its ruling on DAP also applied on National Budget Circular 541 and related executive issuances. The SC decision also declared that executive officials may be held liable for the funds under the DAP. It explained that while recipients cannot be held liable for benefitting from programs, activities and projects (PAPs) under the DAP in good faith, the executive branch cannot be instantly cleared of culpabilities. In his separate opinion, Carpio said:
“In short, the President under the DAP and NBC 541 usurps the power of the purse of Congress, making Congress inutile and a surplusage. It is surprising the majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives support the DAP and NBC 541 when these Executive acts actually castrate the power of the purse of Congress. This Court cannot allow a castration of a vital part of the checks-and-balances enshrined in the Constitution, even if the branch adversely affected suicidally consents to it. The solemn duty of this Court is to uphold the Constitution and to strike down the DAP and NBC 541.” *READ MORE...

ALSO: Tribunal won’t play ball with Palace, House — CJ   

NOY INSISTENT ON CLIPPING HIGH COURT REVIEW POWERS --President Aquino once again made it clear that he would use the sword to defeat the pen through charter change (cha-cha) and clip the review powers of the Supreme Court, along with squeezing dry the high court’s 2015 budget. Again threatening to dance the cha-cha and punish the SC for ruling against certain Palace acts stemming from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the “good faith” proviso that has to be proven in many of the acts, Aquino, in an exclusive interview yesterday morning with Radyo Bombo, slammed the SC, saying the court’s power to interfere in all issues brought before it is already too much and needs to be clipped and that it is the unlimited judicial (over)reach” is the reason he wants charter change.

In an afternoon and rare press conference, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno locked horns with Aquino, saying that the judiciary will defend the Constitution even at the “inconvenience” to other parties. “The Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design the judiciary must rule as it should, even when and inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries,” Sereno said at a press briefing, in an indirect reply to Aquino’s barb against the SC’s interference in all issues, especially on the DAP. “Now the repurcussions and reactions of such pronouncements are already beyond the control of the judiciary, meaning it should not shirk from its constitutionally sworn duty even if it may result in inconvenience,” the chief magistrate added when asked whether the judiciary intends to mend ties with the two branches of the government. She however appealed to the Palace and Congress not to cut the judiciary budget, which was already trimmed too much by the Palace. Malacañang’s allies have made public their plan to rewrite the Constitution to clip the Judiciary’s peers following the SC’s decision to declare unconstitutional the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or the pork barrel fund as well as the Executive’s DAP. “Does it (judiciary) have therefore the duty to mend ties with whatever party the inconvenience had surfaced? I think you already know the answer to that when you are upholding a constitutional duty then you will stop at upholding it, to add on to, is something else,” Sereno said during her press conference. *READ MORE...

(ALSO) Joker: Palace tactics meant to legalize DAP  

CHA-CHA, TERM EXTENSION INTENDED TO CONFUSE PUBLIC --The Palace, alternatively through the different mouthpieces of President Aquino, has been intentionally sending confusing signals on Aquino’s position on term extension, charter change as part of a campaign to intimidate the Supreme Court into giving in and grant the Palace bid to legalize the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), former Sen. Joker Arroyo warned yesterday.
He cited what he described as clandestine and insidious moves of Malacañang to drum up charter change (cha-cha) and efforts to overturn an adverse Supreme Court (SC) decision and legalize the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) through legislation.

“If that is what (presidential spokesman Edwin) Lacierda says, if that is what (presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail) Valte says, what (Communications Secretary Herminio) Coloma says, don’t ever think that those are not without the knowledge of the President. All of what they say are known to the President. What is being done is that they are purposely shuffled as in the game of mahjong... to confuse us, one speaks another view, the second one another view, third one another view. Those constitutes deception. No spokesman can speak without clearance from the President,” the former lawmaker said.

Arroyo was speaking about issues now hounding President Aquino concerning his apparent vague position over term extension, the no election scenario, as well as the effort to legalize theDAP by coming up with so-called “curative measure” and the efforts to induce a clash with the Judiciary by seeking amendments in the 1987 Constitution to clip some of its powers. Arroyo said on radio the President is not really seeking term extension but he expressed belief all the simultaneous moves all boils down to the issue on DAP and his continuing defense of the Palace money pool and those so-called brains behind it primarily Budget Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) strategist Florencio Abad.
“Of course, that’s what the presidency is all about. You can imagine if the spokesman are free to interpret the President’s mind. No spokesman can interpret the President’s mind. They’re only the spokesman, the word is spokesman, they speak what the President wants,” he added. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Blue Ribbon loses dignity for being a biased forum - Joker Arroyo 

The recent proceedings of the Senate blue ribbon committee trying to pin down Vice President
Jejomar Binay on al-leged irregular-ities including a supposedly overpriced construction of the Makati City hall parking building that started during Binay’s term as city mayor are proving to be biased. The assessment came from no less than a former chairman of the chamber’s panel, former Sen. Joker Arroyo as he questioned the process by which the committee is currently being handled as well as some of its questionable rules.

“The blue ribbon committee, it’s not the blue ribbon as it was before. When you appear before the blue ribbon now, Binay or anyone else, is turning out to be one-sided,” he said, referring to the issue being demanded on the Vice President to submit himself to the sub-committee chaired by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, which is hearing the issue on the Makati building. Despite two hearings, the Senate body still has not produced any concrete proof of the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, meanwhile, said. “The witnesses they presented to supposedly prove that Building 2 is overpriced turned out to be duds. For one, the data they cited from the National Statistics Office were based on the building permit applications and not the actual construction cost,” Remulla said. “Even the expert they invited gave a market appraisal value of a hypothetical building. How do compare a hypothetical, non-existent building to one that has already been built? And in the first place, is that even a fair comparison?” Remulla added.
“Speaking of comparison, the law explicitly states that in order to prove overpricing, a comparison of similar items has to be made, which is done through an actual canvass of the materials and equipment used in the construction of the building. Was any canvass done? No,” the Vice President’s spokesman further said. *READ  MORE...

ALSO: Palace defends 'Mar-Abad-Drilon' faction  (MAD faction)

Malacanang downplayed accusations that the talk of charter change (Cha-cha) allegedly by the faction of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Senate President Franklin Drilon is hurting the economy. In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed to gains in the Philippine economy. "The best gauge is the 6.4 percent GDP growth rate for the second quarter,” he said, adding that several agencies have also highlighted the country’s bullish economy. "Also, the prognosis of respected international agencies such as Moody’s Analytics and the Development Bank of Singapore is that our economy will continue to grow and our economic performance will continue to surpass most of our neighbors," he said. United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Toby Tiangco earlier coined the acronym MAD to refer to Roxas, Abad and Drilon. Tiangco said the MAD faction has “started all the talks about term extensions, impeachment of the judiciary, removals from office and many other amazing stories. They have somehow succeeded, and evidently, their plot has impacted on the economy” to advance an agenda.

(ALSO) Tiangco: Let NY Times editorial serve as warning vs PNoy admin  

The New York Times' editorial criticizing the idea of allowing President Benigno Aquino III to seek another term clearly shows the "growing frustration" over the current administration, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said on Saturday. "The world is watching us, and the editorial piece of the NY Times is a clear gauge. Let this be a warning to the MAD (Mar, Abad, Drilon) group of the Liberal Party to stop playing politics for their own benefit," UNA secretary general and Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco said in a statement. The New York Times editorial, titled "Political Mischief in the Philippines," said Aquino hinting at a new term in office and clipping the powers of the Supreme Court threaten Philippine democracy. "Mr. Aquino should uphold the Constitution of a fragile democracy if only out of respect for his father, who was assassinated in the struggle against Marcos, and for his mother, who died in 2009 after leading the 'people power' that triumphed over the excesses and abuses of the presidency," it said. According to Tiangco, the country is getting "negative vibes" because of the MAD faction of the Liberal Party, pertaining to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon. "To advance their personal agenda, MAD started all the talks about term extensions, impeachment of the judiciary, removals from office and many other amazing stories. They have somehow succeeded, and evidently, their plot has impacted on the economy," he said. *READ MORE...

ALSO Standard Editorial: The danger remains   

NOBODY should take too much comfort in President Aquino’s assurances last week that he is not interested in a second term. A lot of political mischief can still be wrought in his remaining time at the Palace—and this is one President who has on many occasions failed to deliver on his promises. One year and 10 months from now when he steps down from office, Mr. Aquino told a radio interview, he will be enjoying a good meal with two of his aides in front of a streamer bearing the word “freedom.” He added that he was not masochistic enough to want a second term, and insisted that the call for him to extend his stay did not emanate from him, but from “ordinary Filipinos” with whom he talked—one at an inauguration of a bridge, and another at a wake.

Mr. Aquino obviously did not have enough time to mention all the other people egging him to amend the Constitution to lift term limits for elected officials, including Cabinet secretaries who could go to jail after 2016 for their budgetary shenanigans, Liberal Party members who know they have nobody capable of winning election as president in 2016, or lawmakers who are bumping up against the constitutional limit of their third term. We are sure these “ordinary Filipinos” also had a hand in the President’s recent statements suggesting that he was open to Charter change. Just as worrisome as the lifting of term limits is the move to clip the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, a theme the President has returned to again and again, after the Court struck down parts of his Disbursement Acceleration Program as unconstitutional. In his interview last week, Mr. Aquino again hammered home this point, saying that not only he, but members of Congress and retired justices, felt that the Supreme Court had overreached its authority on several recent occasions, including its ruling on DAP. The power of judicial review, he insisted, should be used “with restraint,” and not with the frequency with which the current Court was exercising it. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

PH troops to continue peacekeeping mission


Military officials at the Defense department headquarters led by Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang (seated center), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (seated left center), Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Roasario (standing second left) smile after hearing news that the Filipino peacekeepers besieged by Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights were safely pulled out. AFP Photo

MANILA, SEPTMEBR 1, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) by WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL REPORTER AND JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER - Despite the danger they faced when they came under attack from Syrian rebels, Filipino troops in Golan Heights will continue doing their peacekeeping work, Malacanang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Sunday.

Malacañang said the Filipino soldiers will not be pulled out before their tour of duty ends.

Armed Forces chief Pio Catapang was all praises for the Philippine troops who were able to move to a safer location in the dead of night.

“It was, maybe we may call it the greatest escape,” Catapang said as he narrated how the 40 Filipino peacekeepers in Position 68, where the fiercest firefight took place, got out of harm’s way in the dead of the night, aided by other allied UN forces.

According to Catapang, more than 100 rebels on board three pick-up trucks mounted with Russian-made ZPU anti-aircraft guns attacked the Filipinos on Position 68 on Saturday morning.

“Although they were surrounded and outnumbered, they held their ground,” he told reporters.

“Our troops fought back bravely and successfully held their positions after a seven-hour firefight. This prompted the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) to reposition our troops to a more secure position within the mission area,” Catapang said.

The Syrian and Israeli governments, along with an armored unit of the Irish contingent in the Undof, as well as the United States and Qatar, helped the Filipino peacekeepers move out of their besieged area.

* AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said now that the Filipino soldiers have been moved to a more secure position, they can continue doing their peacekeeping jobs.

“As a troop-contributing country, we can tell the United Nations that this is our caveat: We just need to reposition, but we can still perform our mandate,’’ Zagala said.

When asked what the Filipino peacekeepers would do now, he replied: “We continue our mission. Our commitment is still there.”

The Filipino contingent in the Golan Heights is scheduled to end its tour of duty in October.

According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the Filipino peacekeepers will come home when their tour of duty ends.

“President [Aquino] has not indicated any change as of yet,” Coloma also on Sunday said in a text message to The Manila Times, adding that the Filipino troops will remain in the Golan Heights until October as part of the country’s commitment to the United Nations.

The official said the soldiers will be “flown back home” when their mission ends.

Coloma thanked the UN force as well as Syria, Israel, Qatar and the US for their assistance in the crisis.

“It is in our nation’s interest to give priority to [the soldiers’] safety but we will not turn our backs on our commitment to global security particularly in the Golan Heights and the Middle East,” he said.

Safe

Catapang said all 75 soldiers serving with a UN peacekeeping force in the Middle East flashpoint zone reached safety.

An initial group of 35 Filipino troops were picked up from their position by Irish UN soldiers in armored vehicles on Saturday after Syrian rebels attacked their comrades positioned about four kilometers away.

The remaining 40 soldiers engaged in a “seven-hour firefight” with the rebels who tried to ram the gates with pick-up trucks carrying anti-aircraft guns.

The soldiers, who were armed only with machine-guns and rifles, held off the rebels who even used a mortar to shell their positions, Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center, said.

The troops later walked to safety to a UN position just over two kilometers away.

In a statement, the UN said the 40 Filipino peacekeepers withdrew shortly after midnight “during a ceasefire agreed with the armed elements.”

They later moved to Camp Ziouani behind UN lines.

Ancan said Syrian forces fired on the rebels, preventing them from further closing in and later forcing them to retreat.

In March 2013, Syrian rebels held 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers for four days and then in May, they held four Filipino peacekeepers for five days before releasing them.

A Filipino peacekeeper was wounded by shrapnel on June 6, 2013 amid fighting between the rebels and Syrian forces.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Carpio presides as SC tackles MR on DAP Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00


CARPIO

It would be Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who will preside tomorrow’s en banc session of the Supreme Court (SC) that may take up the motion filed by Malacanang appealing the tribunal’s decision declaring Palace acts creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is on a 15-day leave from September 1 to 15. As the most senior associate Justice, Carpio has been designated acting Chief Justice until Sereno’s return on September 16. Carpio will also preside the SC’s full court session on September 9.

It is July 1, 2014 decision handed down in a unanimous 13-0 vote, the SC ruled that the acts and practices under the DAP violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers and the provision prohibiting inter-branch transfer of appropriations.

Specifically, the SC struck down the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to the end of a fiscal year, cross-border transfers of savings of the Executive Branch to augment funds of agencies outside the department, and funding of projects and programs not covered by the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

At the same time, the SC voided the use of unprogrammed funds despite the absence of a certification by the national treasurer that the revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets for non-compliance with conditions in the GAA.
Its ruling on DAP also applied on National Budget Circular 541 and related executive issuances.

The SC decision also declared that executive officials may be held liable for the funds under the DAP. It explained that while recipients cannot be held liable for benefitting from programs, activities and projects (PAPs) under the DAP in good faith, the executive branch cannot be instantly cleared of culpabilities.

In his separate opinion, Carpio said:
“In short, the President under the DAP and NBC 541 usurps the power of the purse of Congress, making Congress inutile and a surplusage. It is surprising the majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives support the DAP and NBC 541 when these Executive acts actually castrate the power of the purse of Congress. This Court cannot allow a castration of a vital part of the checks-and-balances enshrined in the Constitution, even if the branch adversely affected suicidally consents to it. The solemn duty of this Court is to uphold the Constitution and to strike down the DAP and NBC 541.”

* Aside from the OP, other parties in the DAP cases have filed their motions for reconsideration.

Their motions were in the SC’s August 26, 2014 full court agenda. But sources said the motions were not taken up because several justices were not present during the session.

Expected to be discussed in tomorrow’s full court session are the oppositions to the OP’s motion for reconsideration filed the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Maria Carolina P. Araullo as chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others, and Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica and his group.

President Aquino has criticized the SC severely on its DAP decision. Several legislators have also assailed the SC and the House of Representatives under its Committee on Justice has started to look into the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) which they likened to the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that had also been declared unconstitutional.

Despite public criticisms, however, the SC had refused to comment.

In last week’s Meet the Press 2014, Sereno reiterated the SC and the Office of the Chief Justice’s loyalty to the Constitution alone.

In its motion for reconsideration, Malacanang urged the SC to declare that withdrawn obligated allotments and unreleased appropriations under the DAP are savings; cross-border transfers under the DAP are constitutional; the President augmented items with appropriation cover under the DAP; the use of the Unprogrammed Fund under the DAP complied with the conditions provided in the relevant General Appropriations Acts (GAAs).

Lastly the Palace is asking that “regardless of the nullification of certain acts and practices under the DAP and/or National Budget Circular 541, the operative fact doctrine does not operate to impute bad faith to authors, proponents and implementers who continue to enjoy the presumption of innocence and regularity in the performance of official functions and duties.”

At the same time, the OP like the SC to apply other “fundamental norms of constitutional litigation and basic fairness in resolving the government’s appeal, such as the recognition of institutional competence and the value of bureaucratic practices, the understanding of the constitutional role of the Executive in managing the economy, the acknowledgment of the constitutional authority of Congress to define savings, the shared role of the political departments in preparing the budget and the constitutionally-designed minimal role of the Supreme Court on these matters.”

Several petitioners against DAP have asked the SC to also declare unconstitutional the funds that were used for programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) beyond the budget originally allocated under the GAA.

In a motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners led by Belgica, the SC was told that President Aquino, in many occasions, augmented or added funds from government savings for PAPs in amounts that exceeded many times their original funding under the GAA.

“To do so would mean giving the President more money for a project that he failed to properly assess and evaluate how much it would cost to implement. To allow him to use more money than he initially determined would be required for a certain project would be to disregard the process of budgeting required to be observed under the law,” the petitioners said.

They said they said they were not satisfied with the SC ruling that only prohibited withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies and their use as savings prior to end of fiscal year, cross-border transfers of savings of the executive to augment funds of agencies outside the department, and funding of PAPs not covered by the GAA.

The other petitioners against DAP were former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr., the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), lawyers Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. and Manuelito Luna; and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Tribunal won’t play ball with Palace, House — CJ
Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00



NOY INSISTENT ON CLIPPING HIGH COURT REVIEW POWERS

President Aquino once again made it clear that he would use the sword to defeat the pen through charter change (cha-cha) and clip the review powers of the Supreme Court, along with squeezing dry the high court’s 2015 budget.

Again threatening to dance the cha-cha and punish the SC for ruling against certain Palace acts stemming from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the “good faith” proviso that has to be proven in many of the acts, Aquino, in an exclusive interview yesterday morning with Radyo Bombo, slammed the SC, saying the court’s power to interfere in all issues brought before it is already too much and needs to be clipped and that it is the unlimited judicial (over)reach” is the reason he wants charter change.

In an afternoon and rare press conference, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno locked horns with Aquino, saying that the judiciary will defend the Constitution even at the “inconvenience” to other parties.

“The Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design the judiciary must rule as it should, even when and inevitably have to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries,” Sereno said at a press briefing, in an indirect reply to Aquino’s barb against the SC’s interference in all issues, especially on the DAP.

“Now the repurcussions and reactions of such pronouncements are already beyond the control of the judiciary, meaning it should not shirk from its constitutionally sworn duty even if it may result in inconvenience,” the chief magistrate added when asked whether the judiciary intends to mend ties with the two branches of the government. She however appealed to the Palace and Congress not to cut the judiciary budget, which was already trimmed too much by the Palace.

Malacañang’s allies have made public their plan to rewrite the Constitution to clip the Judiciary’s peers following the SC’s decision to declare unconstitutional the legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or the pork barrel fund as well as the Executive’s DAP.

“Does it (judiciary) have therefore the duty to mend ties with whatever party the inconvenience had surfaced? I think you already know the answer to that when you are upholding a constitutional duty then you will stop at upholding it, to add on to, is something else,” Sereno said during her press conference.

* She stressed that she does not want to preempt the issue of judicial overreach, which is partly political and partly an interpretation of the Constitution’s definition of the judiciary’s jurisdiction and the issue may be brought before it.

Sereno stressed she has “enormous” respect for the President and that she believes Aquino also has respect for her office.

“I cannot give an opinion on another person’s opinion even if it is the President’s, out of respect for this important public official...,” Sereno said.

In Aquino’s interview, he went on and on, focusing on the “unfair” judicial overreach.

“Am I open to Charter change? This is really where the DAP issue comes in. There are our allies in Congress, for instance, among others. There are also members of the Juidiciary, especially those retired asking about judicial (overreach). During the time of Martial Law, when somebody askss whether Martial Law is correct, he goes to the SC and the Supreme Court says, this is a political question. We cannot interfere in this.’”

In the 1987 Charter, Aquino went on, it says that the judiciary has the power of review that has to do with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

“But the retired justices told me, that power should be used sparingly. Use with restraint. What is happpening now is that the SC is using this power too much,” Aquino complained.

To this, Sereno said: “the Constitution designed the order of things and by constitutional design, the Judiciary must rule as it should even when and inevitably has to say what acts transgress constitutional boundaries.”

But she also said that she does not read anything into the President’s statement, despite Aquino’s direct attacks on the high court and its ruling against some of the acts from the DAP.

Sereno had a difficult time replying to a question asking her whether the high court is supreme, but said that the Constitution ranks first followed by devotion to duty and loyalty to country.

Aquino also brought up in his interview the appointment of the Chief Justice, Renato Corona, saying what the high court ruled did not follow the Constitution.

He said he asked whether then President Arroyo had the right to appoint the Chief Justice, since Chief Justice Puno (Reynato Puno) had retired. The Constitution is clear on the ban to appoint days before the election, or two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments, he said quoting the Charter.

“Justice Corona was appointed one week after elections,” intimating the high court misused its powers by ruling the appointment as constitutional.

Aquino, however, during the 2013 election period, also appointed a lot of judges and promoted others in the judiciary during the banned period.

He again returned to the DAP issue, especially on the two paragraphs before the dispositive portion. “What we have is Article 3 of the Constitution Bill of Rights on the presumption of innocence.

“In that paragraph, it states that I, Secretary (Butch) Abad, other implementors, authors, etc, need to prove our innocence and the presumption is that we are guilty.

“In Article 3 of the Bill of Rights, (it says) presumed innocent until proven guilty. Here there was this change by the SC: ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

“The Supreme Court interferes too much and what is difficult is that the rules are always being changed. How do you follow the rules?

“I have one more thing to add: The law that says it is prospective.

When you come up with a law, from now to the future is what it is. This is valid. The law cannot be valid then but now can be invalidated and the person is penalized for something he did yesterday or the year before.”

Aquino used up virtually all his time in the interview to focus on the SC and its ruling on the DAP issue.

The Chief Justice went on to other issues, saying that the Court’s denial of the request of Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares for copies of the SALNs of the SC justices as well as those from the Court of Appeals and the Court of Tax Appeals should not be misconstrued as lack of transparency on their part.

Sereno likewise said that the SALNs they are submitting are not summary of their assets and liabilities but a complete and detailed list of their net worth.

She also pointed out that the current system of releasing SALNs which are governed by a guidelines issued by the SC in 2012 following the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona is a big step and improvement compared to the previous administration.

“This is a major improvement over the previous regime that prohibited the release of SALNs except in exemptional cases,” she said.She added that the conduct of a lifestyle would be needing the consensus of the justices.

The acts from DAP that were ruled unconstitutional are the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act; the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and the funding of projects, activities and programs that were not covered by any appropriation in the GAA.

The SC said these acts violated Section 25 (5) Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the doctrines of separation of powers.

Joker: Palace tactics meant to legalize DAP Written by Angie M. Rosales Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00


ABAD

CHA-CHA, TERM EXTENSION INTENDED TO CONFUSE PUBLIC

The Palace, alternatively through the different mouthpieces of President Aquino, has been intentionally sending confusing signals on Aquino’s position on term extension, charter change as part of a campaign to intimidate the Supreme Court into giving in and grant the Palace bid to legalize the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), former Sen. Joker Arroyo warned yesterday.

He cited what he described as clandestine and insidious moves of Malacañang to drum up charter change (cha-cha) and efforts to overturn an adverse Supreme Court (SC) decision and legalize the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) through legislation.

“If that is what (presidential spokesman Edwin) Lacierda says, if that is what (presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail) Valte says, what (Communications Secretary Herminio) Coloma says, don’t ever think that those are not without the knowledge of the President. All of what they say are known to the President. What is being done is that they are purposely shuffled as in the game of mahjong... to confuse us, one speaks another view, the second one another view, third one another view. Those contitutes deception. No spokesman can speak without clearance from the President,” the former lawmaker said.

Arroyo was speaking about issues now hounding President Aquino concerning his apparent vague position over term extension, the no election scenario, as well as the effort to legalize theDAP by coming up with so-called “curative measure” and the efforts to induce a clash with the Judiciary by seeking amendments in the 1987 Constitution to clip some of its powers.

Arroyo said on radio the President is not really seeking term extension but he expressed belief all the simultaneous moves all boils down to the issue on DAP and his continuing defense of the Palace money pool and those so-called brains behind it primarily Budget Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) strategist Florencio Abad.

“Of course, that’s what the presidency is all about. You can imagine if the spokesman are free to interpret the President’s mind. No spokesman can interpret the President’s mind. They’re only the spokesman, the word is spokesman, they speak what the President wants,” he added.

* Citing information that one senator allegedly received a whopping P1 billion from the controversial DAP, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Toby Tiangco, meanwhile, again pressed Abad to submit copies of all letters received by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in relation to the P10.08 billion DAP funds released to legislators.

“We want to verify the information we received that one senator reportedly got over P1 billion from DAP. That’s why it is important that the list Sec. Abad will be presenting anytime this month before the finance committee should reflect every peso requested by lawmakers,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco, in his August 26 letter to Abad, requested a more detailed report on the DAP funds that benefited projects of select members of congress.

“Sec. Abad should be able to submit all the letter-requests of legislators with all the necessary details, and sealed with a kiss,” he said.

In the last budget briefing, Abad reasoned that “it would take time to match” the letter recommendations of lawmakers and that there is a possibility that not all solons were accommodated.

Arroyo said the Palace is into a campaign to confuse the public about the DAP.

“I don’t really know but it seems that it has been routine for the Palace to confuse the people. You can imagine in one building (there are) three voices (speaking for the President),” he added.

“He had tolerated, that’s the worst that can be said, and he did not punish (the brains behind the DAP). If (Pres.) Noynoy (Aquino) now oust those involved in DAP, that will be a good legacy for him,” he said.

“Pres. Noynoy (Aquino) can recover before 2016. All he has to do is get rid of all of those people,” he pointed out.

It will be unfair, Arroyo said, for Aquino to claim that the efforts he is currently engaged in are tied with the sacrifices made by his late parents as the President himself underscored the fact, when he assumed the presidency in 2010 that he intended to reform the government, meaning that his contract with the people is six years which end in 2016.

“All of what are happening revolves around the DAP. When the nation was made aware of the DAP, that was when all the tribulations of Aquino started and he started complaining about judicial overreach and his change of heart about cha-cha and everything what is going on in Congress all revoles around the DAP,” he said.

With the decision rendered by the high court and voting of the magistrates, Arroyo expressed doubts whether the SC will overturn its ruling based on the appeal the Executive filed on the DAP.

Even the matter of the appointment of former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as associate justice will not have any effect as the presidential appointee is expected to inhibit from the deliberations, he said.

“But they are not sure that the SC will favor their motion for reconsideration, so they make a fallback position which is the amendments to the Constitution. Their basic fear is that come 2016 Aquino’s term is not extended and the one who succeeds him may pursue cases against them. So, these are the steps they are taking now,” Arroyo added.

“Now, there is a judicial confrontation with the Executive. The Executive and the Judiciary can’t have a dispute. That is not good, when you are the President, you are supposed to unite the people, that is the objective,” he added.

“At the height of the civil war in the United States, north and South, but (US) President (Abraham) Lincoln worked to bind the people, to unite,” he added.

UNA’s Tiangco also added that he believes that Liberal Party (LP) lawmakers received bigger slices of the DAP compared to their counterparts in other political parties.

“It is important that Sec. Abad produces the original or true copy of the letter-requests to clear everything and hopefully he will not give us a ‘sanitized’ list,” he noted.

During the August 6 budget briefing in Congress, Abad promised to “go back to the letters sent by legislators to determine the particular projects nominated by each legislator”.

Tiangco said that “since the letters are the basis for determining the nature and amounts of the projects that went to each legislator, kindly include ALL of the letter-requests sent by each legislator.”

Tiangco likewise requested Abad to submit an itemized list of the releases of funds under the DAP that were coursed through senators and congressmen, number and date of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), the amount per legislator and implementing agencies. Based on the transcript of the budget briefing, it is on record that Sec. Abad, promised to do so, before the start of the Budget deliberation in Plenary.

Citing a report prepared by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) detailing the distribution of over P11-billion DAP funds to provinces and congressional districts, Tiangco said most of the DAP money went to legislators closely identified with the LP.

The online PCIJ report showed a juicy slice of the DAP releases to legislators were mostly for the bailiwicks or hometowns of legislators and local officials who are closely identified with the Administration and allies under the LP-led ruling coalition.

Blue Ribbon loses dignity for being a biased forum Written by Angie M. Rosales Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00


JOKER ARROYO

The recent proceedings of the Senate blue ribbon committee trying to pin down Vice President Jejomar Binay on al-leged irregular-ities including a supposedly overpriced construction of the Makati City hall parking building that started during Binay’s term as city mayor are proving to be biased.

The assessment came from no less than a former chairman of the chamber’s panel, former Sen. Joker Arroyo as he questioned the process by which the committee is currently being handled as well as some of its questionable rules.

“The blue ribbon committee, it’s not the blue ribbon as it was before. When you appear before the blue ribbon now, Binay or anyone else, is turning out to be one-sided,” he said, referring to the issue being demanded on the Vice President to submit himself to the sub-committee chaired by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, which is hearing the issue on the Makati building.

Despite two hearings, the Senate body still has not produced any concrete proof of the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, meanwhile, said.

“The witnesses they presented to supposedly prove that Building 2 is overpriced turned out to be duds. For one, the data they cited from the National Statistics Office were based on the building permit applications and not the actual construction cost,” Remulla said.

“Even the expert they invited gave a market appraisal value of a hypothetical building. How do compare a hypothetical, non-existent building to one that has already been built? And in the first place, is that even a fair comparison?” Remulla added.

“Speaking of comparison, the law explicitly states that in order to prove overpricing, a comparison of similar items has to be made, which is done through an actual canvass of the materials and equipment used in the construction of the building. Was any canvass done? No,” the Vice President’s spokesman further said.

* The Cavite governor also belittled the handbook presented by Sen. Alan Cayetano, saying assumptions made in the handbook do not constitute a comparison of similar items when applied to Building 2.

“The handbook states that ‘[a]ll buildings are assumed to have no basement (except otherwise stated) and are built on flat ground, with normal soil conditions, and minimal external work.’ The mere fact that Building 2 was built on soft soil already means the handbook cannot be used for comparison,” he said.

Remulla said he was wondering why Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was trying to block the testimony of Hilmarc’s Construction, the building’s contractor.

“I thought they wanted to get to the bottom of the truth? Why then did Senator Trillanes threaten to include the contractor in the plunder charge? To prevent him from confirming that there was no overprice? Or was it to prevent the contractor from saying they also contracted projects of their allies from Taguig?” he said.

“If Senator Trillanes wants to get to the truth, then he must allow all resource persons to speak freely and not threaten or bully them just because what they say is not what the senator wants to hear,” he added.

“Cursing, threatening, or bullying people is not the? behavior of an officer and a gentleman. But then again, Sen. Trillanes is no longer an officer. ?And ?based on how he behaved in the Blue Ribbon hearings, sadly, it looks like he is? also no longer a gentleman,” Remulla quipped.

“I think that they should take a good look, second look about how they conduct the proceedings now because the dignity of the panel is gone including that of the Senate as a whole. The ratings on the Senate in surveys is going down. It’s not good,” Arroyo said in a radio interview.

“We have to reform first the rules. Of course (President Aquino) PNoy has nothing to do with it, but under the banner of daang matuwid (straight path) and all his allies, they must follow it and if they have to follow it then they have to revise these rules and make it fair. Straight path is not all about honesty it’s also doing the correct thing, the right thing,” he said.

Arroyo then went on to enumerate some of what he observed as questionable rules governing the proceedings of the committee such as the issue of quorum, non-submission of panel reports, utter disregard on the rules on affidavit, encroachment of its mandate and redundancy of proceedings involving issues pending in court.

“There are 17 regular members including ex-officio members equals 21 members. But under the present rule, [even] only two can constitute a quorum. That is the rule. Think about it, two out of 21 members will constitute a quorum,” he said.

The senator also pointed out that under the present rule, any legislative proceeding cannot be stopped by any parallel investigation conducted or pending before the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The matter of the Makati building is already pending before the Ombudsman and what Arroyo was questioning was the fact that the committee still entertained the resolution introduced by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, worse, even allowed the creation of a sub-committee to handle the inquiry.

“The reason for the sub-committee is because the committee is full or loaded with work. But in this case, there’s no pending issue before the blue ribbon committee, so why create a sub-committee? They created a sub-committee, why? Because they could not get a bigger or full committee,” he pointed out.

Arroyo could not help but compare the proceedings against Binay to that of former Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. over the controversy of his alleged funding of the construction of the C-5 extension road some two years before the 2010 elections, which only proved to be a tactic to discredit him in the presidential polls.

Under the then thics and privileges committee, the charges against Villar ended up being a full-blown investigation by the Senate Committee of the Whole.

The issue hounded Villar even until the 2010 presidential polls and was widely believed to have been attributed to his defeat in the elections where he initially was the frontrunner candidate.

Arroyo also assailed what he noted as apparent and repeated disregard in observing the rules on affidavit which he introduced when he was still the panel chairman.

“There is a rule that an affidavit must be given in advance, whenever possible in three days. The purpose is to enable [committee members to know what] participants are going to state in writing,” he said.

The objective of which is to prevent the witnesses or resource person from modifying or changing their statements from their written testimony.

Arroyo also observed that the committee appeared to have dispensed with the rights of the witness and counsel to cross-examine their accusers.

“The witness and counsel shall not have the right to examine or cross-examine witnesses.. Imagine that, someone says you’re a crook, but that accuser cannot be cross-examined,” he emphasized.

Recent investigations by the panel show that it has not been coming up with a report, case in point was the issue on the pork barrel scam where the committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III presented to the public a “draft” report that to this day is yet to be formally submitted to the plenary.

Arroyo cited a time when Gordon took over the chairmanship of the blue ribbon from Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and steered the completion of the inquiry on the $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) project the government entered into with China’s ZTE Corp. in 2007 as well as the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, when the issue was re-investigated in 2009.

“That is a draft committee report so that is not a committee report. The committee report was not even released. Why only the draft? When was it completed? On the DAP inquiry, there was not even a committee report,” Arroyo said in apparent reference to the panel under the chairmanship of Guingona.

“The process that is what I’m attacking. We have to reform the first the rules,” he said.

As to the matter of Binay appearing before the committee, Arroyo expressed misgivings despite Pimentel assuring that the panel will afford the Vice President the respect he deserves.

FROM ABS-CBN

Palace defends 'Mar-Abad-Drilon' faction ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 08/31/2014 6:08 PM | Updated as of 08/31/2014 6:08 PM

MANILA - Malacanang downplayed accusations that the talk of charter change (Cha-cha) allegedly by the faction of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Senate President Franklin Drilon is hurting the economy.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed to gains in the Philippine economy. "The best gauge is the 6.4 percent GDP growth rate for the second quarter,” he said, adding that several agencies have also highlighted the country’s bullish economy.

"Also, the prognosis of respected international agencies such as Moody’s Analytics and the Development Bank of Singapore is that our economy will continue to grow and our economic performance will continue to surpass most of our neighbors," he said.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Toby Tiangco earlier coined the acronym MAD to refer to Roxas, Abad and Drilon.

Tiangco said the MAD faction has “started all the talks about term extensions, impeachment of the judiciary, removals from office and many other amazing stories. They have somehow succeeded, and evidently, their plot has impacted on the economy” to advance an agenda.

* According to Tiangco, this strategy has brought down the confidence of businessmen in the economy.

"It is quite sad that the administration has tolerated the main agenda of the MAD faction within the Liberal Party, which is to stay in power beyond 2016 in order to continue their happy days, cover up for their criminal liability because of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program and also to get back at the Supreme Court, by clipping their powers,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III already clarified that he will step down when his term ends in 2016.

Tiangco: Let NY Times editorial serve as warning vs PNoy admin ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 08/30/2014 4:36 PM | Updated as of 08/30/2014 4:36 PM

MANILA - The New York Times' editorial criticizing the idea of allowing President Benigno Aquino III to seek another term clearly shows the "growing frustration" over the current administration, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said on Saturday.

"The world is watching us, and the editorial piece of the NY Times is a clear gauge. Let this be a warning to the MAD (Mar, Abad, Drilon) group of the Liberal Party to stop playing politics for their own benefit," UNA secretary general and Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco said in a statement.

The New York Times editorial, titled "Political Mischief in the Philippines," said Aquino hinting at a new term in office and clipping the powers of the Supreme Court threaten Philippine democracy.

"Mr. Aquino should uphold the Constitution of a fragile democracy if only out of respect for his father, who was assassinated in the struggle against Marcos, and for his mother, who died in 2009 after leading the 'people power' that triumphed over the excesses and abuses of the presidency," it said.

According to Tiangco, the country is getting "negative vibes" because of the MAD faction of the Liberal Party, pertaining to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

"To advance their personal agenda, MAD started all the talks about term extensions, impeachment of the judiciary, removals from office and many other amazing stories. They have somehow succeeded, and evidently, their plot has impacted on the economy," he said.

* He said the administration's "political noises" have resulted in loss of business confidence in the Philippines, citing the sharp drop in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) business confidence index to a three-year low.

"With too much politicking, it is no longer a surprise that the Administration has generated a noticeable political instability that continues to dent on the long-term growth prospects of the Philippine economy," Tiangco said.

"It is quite sad that the Administration has tolerated the main agenda of the MAD faction within the Liberal Party, which is to stay in power beyond 2016 in order to continue their happy days, cover up for their criminal liability because of the SC's ruling on the DAP and also to get back at the Supreme Court, by clipping their powers. This has left the country on an uncertain path. Saan nga ba tayo papunta ngayon?" he added.

Tiangco said the Aquino administration should instead focus on critical issues such as shelter and rehabilitation, security, power, infrastructure, transportation, and jobs generation.

MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

The danger remains  By Manila Standard Today | Sep. 01, 2014 at 12:01am

NOBODY should take too much comfort in President Aquino’s assurances last week that he is not interested in a second term. A lot of political mischief can still be wrought in his remaining time at the Palace—and this is one President who has on many occasions failed to deliver on his promises.

One year and 10 months from now when he steps down from office, Mr. Aquino told a radio interview, he will be enjoying a good meal with two of his aides in front of a streamer bearing the word “freedom.” He added that he was not masochistic enough to want a second term, and insisted that the call for him to extend his stay did not emanate from him, but from “ordinary Filipinos” with whom he talked—one at an inauguration of a bridge, and another at a wake.

Mr. Aquino obviously did not have enough time to mention all the other people egging him to amend the Constitution to lift term limits for elected officials, including Cabinet secretaries who could go to jail after 2016 for their budgetary shenanigans, Liberal Party members who know they have nobody capable of winning election as president in 2016, or lawmakers who are bumping up against the constitutional limit of their third term. We are sure these “ordinary Filipinos” also had a hand in the President’s recent statements suggesting that he was open to Charter change.

Just as worrisome as the lifting of term limits is the move to clip the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, a theme the President has returned to again and again, after the Court struck down parts of his Disbursement Acceleration Program as unconstitutional.

In his interview last week, Mr. Aquino again hammered home this point, saying that not only he, but members of Congress and retired justices, felt that the Supreme Court had overreached its authority on several recent occasions, including its ruling on DAP. The power of judicial review, he insisted, should be used “with restraint,” and not with the frequency with which the current Court was exercising it.

* The problem for Mr. Aquino is that our Constitution expressly vests the Judiciary with the power of judicial review under Section 1, Article VIII, which reads: “Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”

This safeguard was written into the 1987 Constitution precisely to prevent abuses by a strong executive department—including the establishment of a dictatorship through martial law.

Now Mr. Aquino would have us free him from these restraints by amending the Constitution. That is a dangerous proposal indeed, whether or not he eventually tries for a second term.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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