PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

NEDA: POVERTY WORSENED IN 2014 DUE TO YOLANDA, FOOD INFLATION


Residents of the garbage dumpsite of Payatas partake of a "pagpag" or recycled meal to celebrate Thursday's visit of Pope Francis Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez 
Poverty incidence among Filipino individuals and families went up in the first half of 2014 due to the rapid rise in food prices and the lingering effects of Typhoon Yolanda, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Friday.   Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority's Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, NEDA said poverty incidence among Filipino individuals rose to 25.8 percent in the first semester of 2014 from the 24.6 percent registered in the first half of 2013.    Among Filipino families, poverty incidence also increased to 20 percent in the first six months of 2014 from 18.8 percent in the same period in 2013.    NEDA attributed the elevated poverty incidence to the rapid rise in food prices, particularly rice, which posted a growth of 11.9 percent in the first semester of 2014 from only 1.7 percent in the first half of 2013. READ MORE...

ALSO UK analyst: Philippine gov't corruption heightens disaster risk


An elderly lady carries a child suffering from cerebral palsy while selling water late at night in the streets of M.L. Quezon National Highway Pusok, Lapu Lapu City. Scoopshot/Ralph Piezas for Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is more at risk from natural hazards not only due to its geography, but due to high levels of corruption and poverty, an environmental analyst said.  Citing the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas, James Allan, head of environment at global risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft, said the political and economic factors make the country more vulnerable to effects of cyclones, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges, volcanoes and landslides.   "Countries with higher levels of corruption and poverty typically suffer more fatalities per disaster event, so both factors are likely to heighten risk for the Philippines from the regular natural hazards that affect the country," Allan said in an e-mail exchange with Philstar.com.   The international study identified that eight of the top ten cities most at risk globally is in the Philippines, namely Tuguegarao (2nd), Lucena (3rd), Manila (4th), San Fernando (5th) and Cabantuan (6th).  READ MORE...

ALSO: Prince of Order of Malta turns over 350 houses to typhoon victims


Grand Master Fra Matthew Festing.STAR/File photo 
CATBALOGAN CITY, Philippines – The head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta visited yesterday the municipality of Basey in Samar province to turn over 350 permanent shelters to families affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.   The 79th Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing arrived past 11 a.m. yesterday at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City, Leyte and flew in a government helicopter to the nearby town of Basey, some 27 kilometers east of Tacloban City.  In Basey, the prince attended mass at the San Antonio Church as well as the consecration to Our Lady of Philerme and the blessing of 350 framed icons of Our Lady of Philerme.  Festing had lunch with San Antonio community folk then turned over the 350 permanent shelters to homeless families in Sitio Gin-utdan.   Festing left the town at around 3:45 p.m. en route to Manila, with only two days left in his official visit in the country.  Earlier, Festing paid a courtesy call on Malacañang and turned over a symbolic key to 700 houses to President Aquino. READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace wages all-out war vs VP; Ombudsman tasked to charge Binay with graft, malversation


BINAY --
The honeymoon between President Aquino and Vice President Jojo Binay appears to be over, as Malacañang and the Liberal Party are now throwing everything at the Vice President, including not just the kitchen sink, but also the Ombudsman and her press releases, and later, it is is expected, the courts, in a bid to bury him and his presidential run in 2016.   That this is being done to destroy the VP politically seems evident, as even a mere preliminary investigation conducted by the Ombudsman’s Office’s special panel of investigators is claiming that it has charged him criminally on several counts of graft and malversation charges, among other criminal charges, has been made public. It is a rule that preliminary investigations’ findings done by the Ombudsman are not bared publicly, as such findings are preliminary, apart from the fact that also bared was the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council seeking from the Court of Appeals permission for AMLC to have the bank accounts of Binay opened and investigated. Joey Salgado, the Vice President’s Office’s media affairs head, sent the Tribune a text statng that “the Ombudsman’s Press Release is misleading.  “Either they are careless or simply want to create the impression that a case has been filed when such is not the case.
CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Alejandro Del Rosario: BBL --The Frankenstein Aquino created


It’s becoming quite clear that President Aquino has created a Frankenstein when his government panel signed the framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that laid the basis for the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.  MILF chief negotiator and spokesman Mohagher Iqbal, in a tone befitting an official of a belligerent state, said that watering down the BBL is unacceptable even as Congress wants to review it to conform to the Constitution. Iqbal said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the chairman of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, cannot set conditions for its passage.  Why would the MILF give up what was already provided in the Ferrer-Deles framework agreement—like having its own seaport, share in local revenues, defined territory that government forces cannot enter without MILF approval ?   But what can you expect ? The politically savvy Iqbal knows the bumbling Aquino government accorded the MILF belligerent status of a state when it internationalized an internal problem by enlisting the help of foreign governments like Malaysia to mediate.  Poor PNoy! How can he soar like an eagle when he’s surrounded by turkeys? The MILF at least has legal eagles like Iqbal advising it. READ MORE...

ALSO: House, peace panel squabble over BBL
[Another constitutionally flawed provision, Marcos said, is Article 11, Section 15 which deals with the Bangsamoro Command. The provision mandates that the command will defend only the Bangsamoro. Marcos also said Articles 16, section 5 and 11 of Section 17 of the BBL contains coordination protocols with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are actually restrictions on the movement and deployment of military personnel.]


BELMONTE  SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. took strong exception Friday to remarks by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who told a public forum she would rather have no Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) than have Congress pass a watered down version with some provisions removed. “No BBL is better than a mangled BBL, because that is repeating history, and it is stupid to repeat history. That’s not the kind of difference that we wanted to make here,” Ferrer said at a forum in Makati City Thursday. Belmonte, however, insisted that the House of  Representatives will not be a party to a constitutionally flawed BBL being pushed by the government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  “Our obligation is to the Constitution. As long as we have a Constitution we have to abide by it,” Belmonte said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Muslims hold torch parade in Taguig to light the way for peace


SCREENGRAB GMA NEWS  Thousands of torches, symbolic of the need to dispel the darkness brought by violence and war, lit the night in Maharlika Village in Taguig City on Friday to mark the 40th day since the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.  According to a report on "24 Oras" on Friday, most of the marchers were children, many of whom are from areas in Mindanao that have been affected by conflict. They said they are weary of war and want peace. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

NEDA: Poverty worsened in 2014 due to Yolanda, food inflation


Residents of the garbage dumpsite of Payatas partake of a "pagpag" or recycled meal to celebrate Thursday's visit of Pope Francis Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, MARCH 9, 2015 (PHILSTAR)  By Louis Bacani - Poverty incidence among Filipino individuals and families went up in the first half of 2014 due to the rapid rise in food prices and the lingering effects of Typhoon Yolanda, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Friday.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority's Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, NEDA said poverty incidence among Filipino individuals rose to 25.8 percent in the first semester of 2014 from the 24.6 percent registered in the first half of 2013.

Among Filipino families, poverty incidence also increased to 20 percent in the first six months of 2014 from 18.8 percent in the same period in 2013.

NEDA attributed the elevated poverty incidence to the rapid rise in food prices, particularly rice, which posted a growth of 11.9 percent in the first semester of 2014 from only 1.7 percent in the first half of 2013.

The agency added that higher food prices resulted in a huge increase in poverty thresholds. From January to June 2014, food poverty threshold rose by 9.5 percent year-on-year while overall poverty threshold increased by 9.4 percent.

Of the country's 17 regions, 10 experienced double-digit increases in their poverty thresholds, with the highest being observed in Eastern Visayas at 14.2 percent. The NEDA said this was possibly due to the effects of Yolanda, which devastated the region in November 2013.

Metro Manila had the second highest increase in poverty threshold with 13.5 percent as it had to face the highest price of rice in the first half of 2014.

NEDA: Rise of food prices negated benefits for the poor

Poverty incidence increased despite the higher per capita incomes recorded in the first six months of 2014. NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan said per capita income in the said period was higher by 6.4 percent than in 2013.

Among the bottom 30 percent of income-earners, per capita income increased by about 7.3 percent in the same period in the previous year. The fastest growth rate was observed among those in the fifth income decile (8.5 percent) and the slowest increase was experienced by the top income decile (4 percent).

"Per capita income data in 2014 show that economic growth has benefitted the lower income groups, including the poor. This means that the twin strategies of encouraging investments and production alongside the implementation of a large-scale income redistribution program have worked," said Balisacan, who is also the socioeconomic planning secretary.

NEDA noted, however, that high prices eroded the growth in per capita income of Filipinos, with the country's inflation rate hovering near the higher-end of the inflation target in the first half of 2014. In the said period, the consumer price index for food went up to 6.5 percent and 2.7 percent for the non-food items.

"The very high prices of food wiped out the gains in per capita income. This situation could have been avoided especially in the case of rice, which is a staple food for low-income and vulnerable families, usually accounting for 20 percent of their budget. Just at the time when the world price of rice was declining, the domestic price of rice was skyrocketing," Balisacan said.

'Rice sector, CCT program need to be revisited'

NEDA pointed out that inflation tempered in the latter part of 2014 after measures to address supply constraints were implemented.

Despite this development, Balisacan called on the government to revisit its grains sector policy, particularly the quantitative restrictions policy on rice to achieve rice self-sufficiency goal, taking into consideration its broader impact on food prices and poverty.

He also cited the need to update the budget components of government poverty reduction programs to balance the movement of prices and incomes of the poor.

"The government's social development programs, particularly the Conditional Cash Transfer provided through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, may have provided additional support to temper the rise in poverty but could have contributed more towards reducing poverty had the value of the grants increased with inflation," Balisacan said.

"It is also important to ensure the timely disbursement of the budget to maximize the impact of programs and projects," he added. ..


PHILSTAR

UK analyst: Philippine gov't corruption heightens disaster risk By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated March 6, 2015 - 12:19pm


An elderly lady carries a child suffering from cerebral palsy while selling water late at night in the streets of M.L. Quezon National Highway Pusok, Lapu Lapu City. Scoopshot/Ralph Piezas for Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is more at risk from natural hazards not only due to its geography, but due to high levels of corruption and poverty, an environmental analyst said.

Citing the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas, James Allan, head of environment at global risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft, said the political and economic factors make the country more vulnerable to effects of cyclones, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges, volcanoes and landslides.

"Countries with higher levels of corruption and poverty typically suffer more fatalities per disaster event, so both factors are likely to heighten risk for the Philippines from the regular natural hazards that affect the country," Allan said in an e-mail exchange with Philstar.com.

The international study identified that eight of the top ten cities most at risk globally is in the Philippines, namely Tuguegarao (2nd), Lucena (3rd), Manila (4th), San Fernando (5th) and Cabantuan (6th).

Moreover, 13 other areas in the Philippines figure in the top 100 of over 1,300 cities with the greatest exposure to natural hazards, the report said.

Allan said, however, that the situation in the Philippines is "slowly improving" but more needs to be done in the part of government.

"If the government can do more to tackle corruption and make sure that everyone benefits from economic growth then the country should be better able to withstand future natural hazards," he said.

Lead environmental analyst Richard Hewston said, meanwhile, that the Philippines also has to clip corruption and minimize effects of natural hazards to sustain its rapid economic growth.

He said the risks are even more observable in the aftermath of the 2013 super typhoon that ripped through central Philippines.

"As Typhoon Haiyan (Super Typhoon Yolanda) in the Philippines and the tsunami in Japan showed us, natural hazard events can have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on supply chains, business and economies," Hewston said.

"With foreign investment continuing to flow into countries highly exposed to natural hazards, those which are unable to demonstrate robust resilience may lose an element of their competitiveness," he added.

The full report of the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas is available on maplecroft.com .. 


PHILSTAR

Prince of Order of Malta turns over 350 houses to typhoon victims By Ricky Bautista (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2015 - 12:00am


Grand Master Fra Matthew Festing.STAR/File photo

CATBALOGAN CITY, Philippines – The head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta visited yesterday the municipality of Basey in Samar province to turn over 350 permanent shelters to families affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

The 79th Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing arrived past 11 a.m. yesterday at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City, Leyte and flew in a government helicopter to the nearby town of Basey, some 27 kilometers east of Tacloban City.

In Basey, the prince attended mass at the San Antonio Church as well as the consecration to Our Lady of Philerme and the blessing of 350 framed icons of Our Lady of Philerme.

Festing had lunch with San Antonio community folk then turned over the 350 permanent shelters to homeless families in Sitio Gin-utdan.

Festing left the town at around 3:45 p.m. en route to Manila, with only two days left in his official visit in the country.

Earlier, Festing paid a courtesy call on Malacañang and turned over a symbolic key to 700 houses to President Aquino.

The 700 houses, 350 of which were constructed in Basey, were donated to Yolanda survivors in Basey, Samar and in Bantayan Island, Cebu.

In return, Aquino conferred on Festing the Order of Sikatuna (Rank of Raja), the highest order of diplomatic merit the Philippines can bestow on a head of state or government.

Festing also conferred on Aquino the Order of Malta’s highest award, the Pro Merito Melitensi. Aquino accepted the award “on behalf of the Filipino people, as a symbol of our shared commitment to serve the poor.”

In his visit, Festing noted that the bilateral relationship between his order and the Philippines was not like that shared between donor and beneficiary but one of partners working hand-in-hand to provide relief and assistance to the needy, including victims of natural disasters.

Festing is the second leader of the Order of Malta to visit the country, the first being the late Angelo de Mojana di Cologna in 1979.

The order’s main activities in the Philippines focus on post-emergency interventions, which include rehabilitation and disaster-preparedness programs for communities affected by typhoons in recent years. ..


TRIBUNE

Palace wages all-out war vs VP; Ombudsman tasked to charge Binay with graft, malversation  Written by Alvin Murcia Saturday, 07 March 2015 00:00


BINAY

The honeymoon between President Aquino and Vice President Jojo Binay appears to be over, as Malacañang and the Liberal Party are now throwing everything at the Vice President, including not just the kitchen sink, but also the Ombudsman and her press releases, and later, it is is expected, the courts, in a bid to bury him and his presidential run in 2016.

That this is being done to destroy the VP politically seems evident, as even a mere preliminary investigation conducted by the Ombudsman’s Office’s special panel of investigators is claiming that it has charged him criminally on several counts of graft and malversation charges, among other criminal charges, has been made public.

It is a rule that preliminary investigations’ findings done by the Ombudsman are not bared publicly, as such findings are preliminary, apart from the fact that also bared was the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council seeking from the Court of Appeals permission for AMLC to have the bank accounts of Binay opened and investigated.

Joey Salgado, the Vice President’s Office’s media affairs head, sent the Tribune a text stating that “the Ombudsman’s Press Release is misleading.

“Either they are careless or simply want to create the impression that a case has been filed when such is not the case.

“What the Ombudsman Special Panel did was to start its preliminary investigation into the allegations, which means all parties will be asked to submit their formal comments.

“It is no different from a preliminary investigation conducted by the fiscal’s office.”

Sources told The Tribune yesterday it is obvious that it is not just the Liberal Party clique of President Aquino that is behind this move to have the VP charged criminally, but that the President himself is directly involved in destroying VP Binay.

“Who else can order the Ombudsman, whom everybody knows is an appointee of President Noynoy to charge VP Binay criminally, except him (Aquino). And who else can have the AMLC move to get the bank accounts of the VP opened for inspection by the AMLC, if not the President himself?,” the source, who asked not to be identified, said.

Another Tribune source added that they (Palace and LPs) must be so desperate to have charges filed against the VP, since the VP, being an impeachable officer, is, like the President and all other impeachable officers, immune from suits while in office.

“Why charge him when he cannot be sued as VP? And even if the charges are based on his (Binay’s) term as the Mayor of the City of Makati, there is a principle that once elected, that official is freed from such charges,” the source stressed, adding that making public a preliminary investigation is not done.

A source from the Binay camp pointed out that all this publicity against Binay is yet another diversonary tactic of the Palace and the presidential allies, to divert the public attention from the cover-up being done on the role of President Aquino and his security aides on their mishanding of the Mamasapano massacre of the 44 Special Action Force commandos, which has hogged the headlines of all newspapers for over a month.

“They (Palace) despertely need to divert the public focus from the incompetent Noynoy, who is trying to evade accountability for his major role in the bungled Mamasapano mission and the ongoing cover up,” the source said.

Lawyer Rico Quicho, Vice Presidential Spokesman for political affairs commented on the Ombudsman’s publicized complaint regarding the alleged irregularities in the procurement and awarding of contacts in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2.

Quicho said: “While we have not received a copy of the recommendation of the Special Panel of the Ombudsman, any charge of impropriety against the Vice President regarding the Makati City Hall Building 2 is clearly frivolous and has no basis in fact and in law.

“We are optimistic that the complaint will be ultimately dismissed by a fair and impartial tribunal.

“This is again a glimpse of how desperate the critics of the Vice President have become in order to fuel their own personal interests. Politics has indeed really turned to its worst form.”

Yesterday, the Office of the Ombudsman special panel of investigators quickly bared in a press release that it had charged former Makati City mayor and now VP Binay, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and 22 others with malversation, falsification, violations of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act and violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act in connection with the alleged irregularities in the construction of the Makati City Hall Parking Building.

The complaint was filed for the alleged violation of the law in connection with several alleged irregularities in the procurement and award of the contracts for the design/architectural services and the construction of the Makati City Hall Parking Building.

The others who were charged are are:
-- former City Administrator Marjorie De Veyra,
-- City Legal Officer Pio Kenneth Dasal,
-- City Budget Officer Lorenza Amores,
-- former Central Planning Management Office (CPMO) Chief Virginia Hernandez,
-- former City Engineer Mario Badillo,
-- former City Accountant Leonila Querijero,
-- former Acting City Accountant Raydes Pestaño,
-- City Accountant Cecilio Lim III,
-- Acting City Accountant Eleno Mendoza,
-- City Treasurer Nelia Barlis,
-- CPMO Engineers Arnel Cadangan,
-- Emerito Magat and Connie Consulta,
-- CPMO Chief Line Dela Peña,
-- Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Secretariat Heads Giovanni Condes and Manolito Uyaco,   --- Technical Working Group (TWG) Chairman Rodel Nayve,
-- BAC member Ulysses Orienza, 
-- General Services Department (GSD) OIC Gerardo San Gabriel,
-- GSD staff member Norman Flores,
as well as private respondents Orlando Mateo of MANA Architecture & Interior Design Company (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. (Hilmarc).

Aside from the criminal charges the public respondents, except Vice President Binay, face administrative charges for Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

With the charges the Special Panel of Investigators also prays for the issuance of an order of preventive suspension pending administrative adjudication.

The complaint was filed following months of case build-up and evidence gathering by the Special Panel composed of field investigators.

The allegations against the respondents are that they caused the awarding of P11,974,900.00 contract for the design/architectural services to MANA without public bidding, and that periodic payments were released to MANA without its corresponding deliverables under the contract.

Also it alleged the bidding and the construction for Phases I and II (out of five phases) of the carpark building proceeded without a detailed engineering plan from MANA, contrary to procurement laws and regulations.

The Ombudsman in its complaint further alleged that the procurement and award of the construction contract to Hilmarc were marred by irregularities including the use of falsified documents showing the purported publications of Notices to Bid and the supposed participation of two losing bidders/companies, one of which categorically denied participation while the existence of the other cannot be established.

The Tribune two days ago, received from the Ombudsman a subpoena duces Testficandum for The Tribune to produce proof of publication of an invitation to bid for a Makati Building project, perhaps believing that, as the panel’s charge of the use of falsified docuements “showing the purported publications of Notices to Bid,” the Tribune could claim that this invitation to bid was never publisehd as stated.

Hower, yesterday, The Tribune answered the subpoena, with a certification that indeed such an invitation to bid, stated in the Ombudsman’s subpoena was published as specified on such date given by the Ombudsman.

Positive proof was presented by The Tribune enclosing the 12 pages of the published newspaper on the date mentioned, where the ad was published, as well as the notarized certification from The Tribune on the notice of publication.

This was delivered to the Ombudsman yesterday in compliance to the subpoena.

Evidently, however, even without evidence of falsification of notice of bdding, the charges were already made by the special panel.

The source told The Tribune: “So what else is new? Every move to destroy the VP’s chances at victory in 2016, have been done on a ‘special basis.’ There was a Commission on Audit (CoA) |special audit just on the Makati Parking Building 2, a ‘special probe’ in the Senate by a ‘special subcommitee panel, a ‘special AMLC probe on the VP’s bank accounts, amd now, a ‘special panel of investigators’ charging, preliminary the Vice President.” the source pointed out.”

“The Vice President, is however unfazed by all these ‘trial by publicity’ against him,” the source added.

The source also pointed out that if the VP can be charged criminally even as he sits as the second highest official in land, this means then that the plunder, treason as well as all the complaints earlier filed against Aquino will have to apply.

But will Ombdusman Conchita Carpio-Morales charge the President with these serious criminal complaints leveled against him that have been filed before her office?,” the source said.


MANILA STANDARD

BBL --The Frankenstein Aquino created By Alejandro Del Rosario | Mar. 07, 2015 at 12:01am

It’s becoming quite clear that President Aquino has created a Frankenstein when his government panel signed the framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that laid the basis for the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

MILF chief negotiator and spokesman Mohagher Iqbal, in a tone befitting an official of a belligerent state, said that watering down the BBL is unacceptable even as Congress wants to review it to conform to the Constitution. Iqbal said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the chairman of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, cannot set conditions for its passage.

Why would the MILF give up what was already provided in the Ferrer-Deles framework agreement—like having its own seaport, share in local revenues, defined territory that government forces cannot enter without MILF approval ?

But what can you expect ? The politically savvy Iqbal knows the bumbling Aquino government accorded the MILF belligerent status of a state when it internationalized an internal problem by enlisting the help of foreign governments like Malaysia to mediate.

Poor PNoy! How can he soar like an eagle when he’s surrounded by turkeys? The MILF at least has legal eagles like Iqbal advising it.

The Armed Forces which is on an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group fears that the two would blend with the MILF and the civilian population to elude government troops. It is a natural recourse for both BIFF and the ASG to seek sanctuary within the MILF where they have relatives and friends.

BIFF insurgents continue to wage war against government troops while the MILF poses as a “partner in peace.” Iqbal himself has stated that the MILF remains a revolutionary group even as it negotiates peace.

He has made clear to the clueless Aquino government that it should have no illusion as to whom it is dealing with. It’s the Frankenstein Aquino himself has created.

The Muslims have a strong distaste for pork.

They recoil at seeing it served on their plates. But our lawmakers who have an unabashed appetite for pork (the type that comes in a barrel) claim that creating the BBL and providing it with a startup P75-billion budget is actually allocating pork barrel funds for the proposed Bangsamoro.

Rep. Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) wants these funds subject to scrutiny by Congress and auditing by the Commission on Audit. He said the MILF cannot be allowed to have its own audit body.

If Aquino wants to leave a legacy before he bows out in 2016, he could call for a constitutional convention to amend the charter now.

To use his language, “NOW na!”

But that may be expecting too much of Aquino who still has to appoint replacements for Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes and COA chair Grace Pulido Tan.

Instead of electing a President, Vice President, senators and congressmen in 2016, calling for a constitutional convention to elect delegates seems the better option. It should not take too long for a transitional government to take charge since only relevant provisions of the charter are to be amended if and when it happens.

Foremost of any amendment that should be undertaken is the change to a parliamentary form of government.

The Supreme Court should be able to oversee a seamless transition should Congress be abolished after June 30, 2016. Local governments can continue to function while the Constitution is being amended.

But alas, this is all a pipe dream.

Congress won’t abolish itself unless prodded by People Power and a military that withdraws its support for the present leadership. Aquino could make a graceful exit and the people might forgive his lapses if he himself calls for a Constitutional Convention to amend the charter.

We can start with a clean slate by letting him ride into the sunset without the baggage of being prosecuted after his term.

The same treatment could be accorded to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who are old and sickly.

They can be better remembered for the service they rendered to the country and not for the plunder charges that are still to be proven in a court of law. We cannot say the same of the other accused whose record for public service is dubious, to say the least.

This is still a free country despite its many flaws.

Vice President Jejomar Binay could run as Prime Minister under a parliamentary setup. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi was elected Prime Minister despite a slew of corruption charges against him.

If Binay is the one whom the people’s representatives choose to lead the country (and not because of what the conscript poll surveys say), so be it.

At least, under a parliamentary system, there is no fixed term for the Prime Minister who can be easily replaced on a no-confidence by majority vote of MPs.


MANILA STANDARD

House, peace panel squabble By Maricel Cruz, Macon Ramos Araneta | Mar. 07, 2015 at 12:01am


Belmonte

SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. took strong exception Friday to remarks by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who told a public forum she would rather have no Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) than have Congress pass a watered down version with some provisions removed.

“No BBL is better than a mangled BBL, because that is repeating history, and it is stupid to repeat history. That’s not the kind of difference that we wanted to make here,” Ferrer said at a forum in Makati City Thursday.

Belmonte, however, insisted that the House of Representatives will not be a party to a constitutionally flawed BBL being pushed by the government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair, listens to Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace Panel Chair during the ceremonial opening of the first meeting of the transition commission which is tasked to draft the basic law of the Bangsamoro entity in Crowne Plaza,Ortigas, Pasig. INQUIRER PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA AUGUST 2013 PHOTO

“Our obligation is to the Constitution. As long as we have a Constitution we have to abide by it,” Belmonte said.

He said congressmen were carefully considering the BBL and were also studying similar situations in other countries where autonomous regions were created.

“They are not dummies who can be led around,” Belmonte said of his colleagues in the House.

Later Friday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles issued a statement saying the Executive branch fully respects Congress’ powers on deciding the final version of the proposed BBL.


DELES

Belmonte said the proposed peace agreement submitted by the Palace to Congress cannot be passed as it is due to some provisions that were deemed unconstitutional.

“We want to accommodate [them] but not at the cost of violating our Constitution,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte also played down the pronouncement by Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, that Congress should not set conditions for the passage of the BBL.

Earlier, the chairman of the 75-man ad hoc committee on the BBL, said Congress would not vote on the law until the MILF had surrendered its fighters who were involved in the killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, returned weapons and personal effects of the slain policemen, and surrendered Abdul Basit Usman, a wanted Filipino bomber who has taken refuge in MILF-controlled areas.

Congressen said problematic provisions of the BBL include those on national defense and security, the police force, foreign relations, revenue sharing, the justice system and the legislature.

Rodriguez said his panel would remove provisions that it deemed unconstitutional.

He said these included the creation of the Bangsamoro’s own internal audit body similar to the Commission on Audit; disciplining public officials, which is the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman, the establishment of another civil service, and human rights body, and the creation of a Bangsamoro police force.

Belmonte said the BBL would certainly face rough sailing.

He also said a June target date for the passage of the law did not mean it would be rammed through Congress.

“We have to put a target. We cannot have a floating target. That’s the most generous target we can think of this moment,” Belmonte said.

He said any attempt to pass an unconstitutional law on the Bangsamoro would reignite public outrage over the Mamasapano massacre.

“It looked like a good working target. But nobody can guarantee anything because people’s emotion over the SAF 44 has not settled down,” Belmonte said.

In her statement, Deles also denied that the Palace was trying to railroad the BBL’s passage.

“As I have always been saying, the fate of the passage of the proposed BBL is in the hands of our lawmakers. The proposed Bangsamoro law was submitted to them in recognition of their legislative power. They have the power to improve and strengthen the BBL in accordance with the Constitution that provides for the grant of meaningful autonomy to Muslim Mindanao,” Deles said.

In the Senate, the BBL also faced rough sailing over provisions that some senators felt violated the Constitution.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said it is mind boggling that MILF members who took part in the Mamasapano massacre could later become policemen themselves.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said this is a possibility under Article 10 of the BBL, which provides for two police forces, one regional force to protect the Bangsamoro territory, and the Philippine National Police.

Marcos added that it was strange that the chief of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority, who has the power to choose the head of the Bangsamoro police force, is also the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who said the SAF was to blame for the Mamasapano massacre.

“Where will Iqbal get his police force? Obviously, he will do so from the ranks of the MILF. Members of this rebel group will now be policemen under the Bangsamoro police. And being members of the PNP, these former MILF fighters will be trained, possibly even by the SAF,” Marcos said.

Another constitutionally flawed provision, Marcos said, is Article 11, Section 15 which deals with the Bangsamoro Command. The provision mandates that the command will defend only the Bangsamoro since its members are not required to take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

He also said Articles 16, section 5 and 11 of Section 17 of the BBL contains coordination protocols with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are actually restrictions on the movement and deployment of military personnel.

Senator Grace Poe also considered this to be constitutionally infirm.

“If our AFP will go to their territory, they need prior coordination. It would seem that we have a different country here that you still need to talk [to them],” she said.

Senator Francis Escudero said the provision in the draft law that declares as final and executory the decision of the Shari’a High Court as unconstitutional.

“This is totally in violation of the Constitution which provides that the country’s Supreme Court has the final say and has the sole right to review all cases,” Escdero said.

Escudero also scored a provision that says that the Judicial Bar Council created under the BBL has the authority to discipline a Shari’a judge.

“The rule of judicial procedure solely lies within the power of Supreme Court, as provided by the Constitution. Not even Congress can pass a law to interfere with the Constitution,” he said.

Senators have also questioned the creation of a Bangsamoro commission on audit and the automatic appropriation of the Bangsamoro’s yearly budget, which would come to about P75 billion in the first year, without passing congressional scrutiny.


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Muslims hold torch parade in Taguig to light the way for peace March 6, 2015 9:38pm


SCREENGRAB GMANEWS

Thousands of torches, symbolic of the need to dispel the darkness brought by violence and war, lit the night in Maharlika Village in Taguig City on Friday to mark the 40th day since the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

According to a report on "24 Oras" on Friday, most of the marchers were children, many of whom are from areas in Mindanao that have been affected by conflict. They said they are weary of war and want peace.

Many chanted "Allahu Akhbar", an Arabic phrase meaning "God is greater", during the march as a demonstration of their faith that God will help bring peace.

Sultan Panangan Pangandaman from Taguig and other leaders held the march at Maharlika Village, which has communities from the various ethnic groups in Mindanao.

Taguig City officials, ulama or religious scholars, and community leaders also attended the march. — RT/JDS, GMA News

Activists mark 40th day after Mamasapano clash Uploaded on 11:11AM Mar 6


Student activists put black veils on their heads in front of the Far Eastern University campus in Manila on Friday, March 6, to mark the 40th day after the Mamasapano clash. They are protesting the alleged injustice done to the 44 Special Action Force commandos who died in Mamasapano. Danny Pata


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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