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NAPOLES' REQUEST FOR BAIL GRANTED


APRIL 14 -THE Sandiganbayan has granted the request for bail of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete in connection with the plunder case filed against them for their alleged involvement in the theft of millions of pesos in congressional project funds.
The court’s action drew sharp responses in the Senate, which protested the granting of bail to Napoles even if she will remain in detention because of her conviction on a separate charge of illegal detention. The anti-graft court found that the evidence of guilt presented against the two accused “is not strong” in its 77-page ruling written by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg and concurred with by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Jose Hernandez, all of the fourth division. Weak evidence. This file photo shows alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles attending a court hearing prior to her conviction on charges of illegally detaining whistleblower Benhur Luy.  Plunder is a non-bailable offense, but the anti-graft court can grant bail plea if the accused proves that the evidence is weak. After posting bail in the amount of P500,000, Lanete can leave Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, where she is currently detained. But Napoles, who was also asked to post a similar amount for her temporary freedom, would have to remain at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City. This is because of her conviction on the serious illegal detention charge filed by her cousin, whistleblower Benhur Luy, who is also the principal witness in the P10-billion plunder scam involving Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. The anti-graft court’s first and fifth divisions earlier denied Napoles’ bail petitions in the plunder case involving Revilla and Estrada. Enrile’s plea for bail, however, was granted by the Supreme Court for humanitarian reasons. The court ruled that the prosecution failed to show how Lanete participated in the theft of Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations and that the total amount she allegedly amassed for the years 2007-2010 reached the threshold of P50 million for the crime of plunder. READ MORE...RELATED, LP, De Lima hit over Napoles bail...  ALSO, Napoles claims she gave Cayetano, Escudero campaign funds...

ALSO: PNoy adviser Neric Acosta, mom appeal graft (PDAF) conviction


APRIL 15 -MOTHER, SON CONVICTED – Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection and concurrent General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority Nereus ' ...MB FILE PHOTO Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) general manager Nereus Acosta and his mother, former Manolo Fortich mayor Socorro Acosta, have asked the Sandiganbayan to reverse its ruling convicting them of graft. In a 31-page joint motion for reconsideration, Acosta and his mother maintained that there was nothing irregular with the allocation of P5.5-million worth of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to the non-government organization Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC) in 2002 during his term as Bukidnon representative. "The judgement of the Honorable Court is based on misapprehension of facts and an incorrect application of the Local Government Code to the allocation and release of the P5.5 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of accused Nereus to BVPC," the motion read. In its ruling promulgated on March 28, the Fourth Division found the younger Acosta, who is also the presidential adviser on environmental concerns, guilty of graft for allegedly giving undue preference and advantage to BVPC as the beneficiary of his PDAF given that his mother was its director and cooperator. The Fourth Division, meanwhile, hold the Acosta matriarch guilty of graft for her sole approval of the release to BVPC of her son’s PDAF, which was initially coursed through Manolo Fortich municipality as a financial assistance fund. The court pointed out that under Section 36 of the Local Government Code (LGC), a local government unit may release assistance fund to an NGO upon the concurrence of the local council concerned. The Acostas were sentenced to a minimum of six years to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and were ordered perpetually disqualified from holding public office. In their motion for reconsideration, however, the Acostas maintained that Section 36 of LGC must not be applied in their case as the fund released to BVPC came from discretionary fund of a congressman and not from the own fund of an LGU. “That the P5.5 million PDAF was coursed through the LGU of Manolo Fortich did not convert it into a local fund, over which the LGU, through its Sangguniang Bayan, may exercise discretion as to who its beneficiary may be,” the motion read. The younger Acosta further maintained that his P5.5 million PDAF was disbursed to Manalo Fortich as a trust fund and not as assistance fund with explicit stamp in the disbursement voucher that it is for “financial assistance to the Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC).” READ MORE...

ALSO: Budget watchdog urged Aquino successor to reform fiscal sector


APRIL 17 -Budget watchdogs have sought sweeping reforms in the fiscal sector to prevent the misuse of public funds which under the Aquino administration took the form underspending of the budget and politically-motivated allocations of public funds. Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones (photo) said the next president, for instance, should consider merging the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Finance (DoF) to ensure sound fiscal policy and administration, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said. Briones, also lead convenor of budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines (SWP), said a restructuring of the fiscal agencies will have “powerful implications” on the efficient use of public funds. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), meanwhile, said that the next administration should veer away from debt dependence similar to what has inflicted President Aquino. “It is true that the country’s capacity to pay is improving but the “power of the purse”remains hijacked and public coffers are bled by continuing payments for what FDC consider as illegitimate debts,” FDC president Ed Tadem said. Tadem said at the end of year 2016, the national government’s actual outstanding debt will reach P6.42-Trillion or P62,235.26 per capita if Aquino’s planned borrowings for 2016 pushes through. FDC data said that out of the total P214.5-billion scheduled debt servicing in 2016 for foreign liabilities of the national government, at least P3.7 billion will go to interest and principal payments of five questionable and illegitimate loans. “This huge amount could have been redirected to inadequately-funded social protection programs such as education, health, and housing. Many more would probably be uncovered if all loans contracted by the government are closely scrutinized,” FDC said. FDC identified the questionable loans which funded programs marred by corruption, bloated budget, violation of legal procedures, lack or insufficient public consultation and used as lender’s conditionality for privatization of public utilities which are the Power Sector Development Program, Tullahan (Sixth) Road, Pampanga Development Flood Control Project, Bohol Irrigation Project Stage II, and the Angat Water Supply Optimization. “Who really runs the fiscal chamber, is it the DBM or the DOF?” Briones asked during the 2016 Public Lectures on the Philippine Presidency and Administration organized by the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance. “The problem is there are two powerful and separate departments — one prepares the budget and distributes it, and the other one is tasked with the burden of looking for money,” she said. READ MORE...

ALSO: VERA FILES REPORT - Kidapawan tragedy; Spotlight on climate change, local governance
[Two weeks before the violent encounter between the police and the farmers in Kidapawan happened, Cotabato Gov.Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza delivered her State of the Province Address where she proudly said that the province is “surviving the drought” brought by El Niño. Local daily Sunstar reported that Mendoza described 2016 as a “breakthrough year” for the province because they were able to respond to the challenge of El Niño, which started in 2015. “After being hit, we bounced back," she said.]


APRIL 18 -There are another set of officials from 20 provinces most vulnerable to the effects of climate change that can face problems of flooding, displacement, loss of income and, as what the Kidapawan incident showed, deadly conflict. The question is – how ready are they to handle these? Philstar.com/File photo 
Two weeks before the violent encounter between the police and the farmers in Kidapawan happened, Cotabato Gov.Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza delivered her State of the Province Address where she proudly said that the province is “surviving the drought” brought by El Niño.
Local daily Sunstar reported that Mendoza described 2016 as a “breakthrough year” for the province because they were able to respond to the challenge of El Niño, which started in 2015. “After being hit, we bounced back," she said. The lives that were lost in the Kidapawan encounter between the farmers and the police tell a different story. On April 1, at least five people who were part of a protest demanding drought assistance from the provincial government were shot dead. Tension erupted after police tried to drive away some 5,000 farmers who held a blockade starting on March 29 to demand 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government. Aside from the five people who died, another 116 were injured both from the side of the police and those who joined the blockade. READ MORE...

ALSO WORLD: ‘POPE Francis gave us a new life’: Syrian refugees taken in by Vatican


APRIL 18 -Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016 AFP
ROME: The Syrian refugees taken in by Pope Francis following his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos have hailed the Pontiff as a “savior” for offering them a new life. In a hugely symbolic move seen as a lesson in solidarity for Europe, Francis, who is himself the son of Italian migrants in Argentina, on Saturday took 12 Syrians from three families — all Muslims — home with him from Lesbos to the Vatican. “All refugees are children of God,” the 79-year-old pope said on the flight back to Rome referring to their religion, adding that though his gesture was “a drop in the ocean” he hoped “the ocean will never be the same again.” In an interview with Italian daily La Stampa, the families, who spent their first night in Rome at a Catholic charity, expressed their gratitude to the Pontiff for his “gesture of hope.” “We saw friends and relatives die in the rubble, we fled Syria because we no longer had any hope,” said Hasan, an engineer from Damascus, who arrived in Italy with his wife Nour and two-year-old son. After fleeing to Turkey, Hasan and his family joined the migrant trail to Europe, piling into a rubber dinghy that set out from the Turkish coast for Greece. “But it was overloaded,” said Hasan, recalling the pitch black of the sea at night and the waves rocking the vessel. Escape from Lesbos ‘prison’ “In Lesbos, we understood that we were stuck in a place that we could not leave, (we were) in a trap, a prison”, he said describing the pope as “our savior” for whisking them off the island, where thousands of migrants risk being sent back to Turkey under a new EU-Turkey deportation deal. Wafa, who was also on the papal flight from Lesbos with her husband Osama, eight-year-old daughter Masa and six-year-old son Omar, together with her husband, described the “constant bombardments” in recent months around their home. READ MORE...RELATED, Pope on US Presidential bet Sanders meeting: No politics, just good manners...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Napoles’ request for bail granted


NAPOLES

MANILA, APRIL 18, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted April 14, 2016 at 12:01 am by Rio N. Araja, Macon Ramos- Araneta and Sandy Araneta - THE Sandiganbayan has granted the request for bail of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete in connection with the plunder case filed against them for their alleged involvement in the theft of millions of pesos in congressional project funds.

The court’s action drew sharp responses in the Senate, which protested the granting of bail to Napoles even if she will remain in detention because of her conviction on a separate charge of illegal detention.

The anti-graft court found that the evidence of guilt presented against the two accused “is not strong” in its 77-page ruling written by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg and concurred with by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Jose Hernandez, all of the fourth division.

Weak evidence.

This file photo shows alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles attending a court hearing prior to her conviction on charges of illegally detaining whistleblower Benhur Luy.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense, but the anti-graft court can grant bail plea if the accused proves that the evidence is weak.

After posting bail in the amount of P500,000, Lanete can leave Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, where she is currently detained.

But Napoles, who was also asked to post a similar amount for her temporary freedom, would have to remain at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City.

This is because of her conviction on the serious illegal detention charge filed by her cousin, whistleblower Benhur Luy, who is also the principal witness in the P10-billion plunder scam involving Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

The anti-graft court’s first and fifth divisions earlier denied Napoles’ bail petitions in the plunder case involving Revilla and Estrada. Enrile’s plea for bail, however, was granted by the Supreme Court for humanitarian reasons.

The court ruled that the prosecution failed to show how Lanete participated in the theft of Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations and that the total amount she allegedly amassed for the years 2007-2010 reached the threshold of P50 million for the crime of plunder.

READ MORE...

Other plunder and graft charges have been filed against Napoles and Lanete before the fourth division for alleged misuse of the latter’s pork barrel fund when she was still a congressman.

The Office of the Ombudsman indicted Lanete for allegedly pocketing P108.4 million in kickbacks from her PDAF from 2004 to 2010 using fake beneficiary-foundations put up by Napoles.

In the Senate, Senator Teofisto Guingona, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee which investigated the alleged theft of P10 billion in pork funds using an elaborate scam involving senators, congressmen and bogus non-government organizations and foundations set up by Napoles, said the court’s ruling could enrage the public.

“The people’s frustration and fear are understandable,” said Guingona.

Guingona’s panel recommended the filing of plunder charges against Napoles and three of his own colleagues in the Senate—Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

“While we respect the decision of the Sandiganbayan, at this juncture, we strongly urge the prosecution to be diligent in presenting sufficient evidence and the court to exercise due caution in its proceedings. After all, this is the people’s money and the public trust that we are talking about,” Guingona said.

Vice presidential candidate Senator Chiz Escudero said he was surprised by the Sandiganbayan’s decision.

“We have seen the evidence against Napoles in the Senate. To say the least, I was surprised and I didn’t expect this decision of the Sandiganbayan,” he said.


ESCUDERO

Escudero said it was “sad” that Napoles has been granted bail, while 76 starving farmers who were arrested by policemen in Kidapawan City last April 1 for demanding rice from the government remain in detention and cannot post bail.

Malacañang on Wednesday noted that the Sandiganbayan is an independent body under the judiciary and that Napoles will still remain in jail.

“The Sandiganbayan [is] a separate branch of government under the judiciary,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. “However, it should be emphasized that Ms. Napoles was convicted in April 2015 by the Makati RTC for serious illegal detention. Accordingly, she cannot be released due to such conviction and the several other cases for plunder pending against her.”

In its ruling, the court pointed out that the prosecution admitted during the bail proceedings that Napoles and Lanete never actually met to discuss the latter’s supposed percentage of kickbacks from the projects to be funded by her PDAF.

The court also noted the prosecution’s admission that Lanete never visited the office of Napoles nor attended any of the latter’s parties.

The court also said that primary state witness Luy, during the bail hearing, admitted he never personally handed money to Lanete.

Lastly, the court said the evidence presented by the prosecution indicated that “some projects were not ‘ghost’ projects at all.” 

------------------------

RELATED FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK (FLASHBACK FROM MAY 2014)

Napoles claims she gave Cayetano, Escudero campaign funds Published May 26, 2014 8:47pm By ANDREO CALONZO, GMA News


Janet Lim-Napoles

NEWS REPORT MAY 20, 2014: Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles has claimed she personally met Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, on separate occasions, to give them campaign funds.

In her sworn statement, obtained by the Senate blue ribbon committee on Monday, Napoles said she personally gave money to Cayetano. The money was allegedly used during the last elections.

Napoles did not specify the amount, but said the transaction took place at Slice, a restaurant in Taguig City. The restaurant is owned by Cayetano's sister, Senator Pia Cayetano.

The controversial businesswoman also said that she met Escudero in 2010 through Rodolfo Plaza, who was Agusan del Sur representative at that time.

Napoles claimed she was convinced to fund Escudero's presidential bid during this meeting. Escudero, however, did not run for president in 2010.

Napoles also said she met with Escudero again months after the 2010 elections at Taste of LA restaurant in Quezon City.

The alleged pork barrel mastermind claimed she handed Escudero money for a project that never pushed through.

"Pinag-usapan namin ang mga proyektong na maaari niyang ibigay sa akin. Nag-abot ulit ako sa kanya ng pera ng hapong iyon, ngunit walang proyektong natuloy," Napoles said in her sworn statement.

Escudero has denied Napoles' allegations. "Not true po," he said in a text message to GMA News Online.

He earlier said that he met Napoles once, but denied having transactions with her involving his pork barrel funds.

In her sworn statement, Napoles also tagged 18 past and incumbent senators as supposed recipients of pork barrel kickbacks. — JDS, GMA News -


MANILA STANDARD

LP, De Lima hit over Napoles bail posted April 15, 2016 at 12:01 am by Christine F. Herrera


Indignant. Members of labor groups hold an indignation rally in front of the Department of Justice after the Sandiganbayan granted bail to alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon Lanete and former Apec party-list representative Edgar Valdez. DANNY PATA

DIPOLOG CITY­—United Nationalist Alliance presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday assailed President Benigno Aquino III and Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II for giving suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles continued special treatment while persecuting their opponents and his allies.

On the other hand, the workers group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and multi-sectoral coalition Sanlakas blamed former Justice secretary Leila de Lima for the bungled handling of the plunder cases against Napoles, Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon Lanete and former Apec party-list congressman Edgar Valdez, after they were allowed to post bail.

Members of the BMP Sanlakas held an indignation rally at the Justice department after the Sandiganbayan granted bail to alleged pork barrel mastermind Napoles, Lanete and Valdez last Wednesday.

Though the granting of bail is not indicative that Napoles, Lanete and Valdez are guiltless, the Sandiganbayan ruling gives us a sneak preview of the final verdict of their plunder cases. This as well is a revelation of how lethargic and negligent De Lima and her staff were in their performance of their duties, h De Guzman estimated.

Leila De Lima is now the people fs dilemma. Because of her the chances of recovering the loot has dimmed further. Her gross incompetence makes her deserving to be cellmates with Napoles, h said BMP leader Leody de Guzman.

De Guzman argued that if the court fs ruling is indeed reflective of De Lima fs performance then the Filipino people stands to lose a total of P166.19 million for the 11 counts of graft cases filed against Lanete and the seven counts of graft against Valdez alone.

At the same time, Binay said he believed the granting of bail on Napoles’ plunder case was the handiwork of Malacañang and the ruling Liberal Party.

On the other hand, Binay said the President, through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., had UNA candidates reelectionists Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, and 12 city councilors suspended over the release of P20,000 calamity fund for city hall workers who were among those seriously hit by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013.

READ MORE...

Rama is pitted against Palace and LP-backed former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, head of Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan, a Liberal Party ally.

“What I know is, Mr. Roxas calls Napoles Ma’am Jenny. Just like Mr. Roxas, [Budget Secretary Florencio] Abad also calls her Ma’am Jenny and in fact, he was the teacher of Napoles,” said Binay, referring to Napoles’ Senate testimony that it was Abad who told her to create nongovernment organizations and use them as conduits of the pork barrel funds allocated for lawmakers.

“Teacher nila Mr. Roxas and Abad yan si Napoles kaya tawag nila Ma’am Jenny,” Binay said, recalling that Aquino even received Napoles in the Palace when she supposedly “surfaced” after weeks of being declared a “fugitive” and an arrest warrant issued against her.

“Napoles was even escorted,” Binay stressed, referring to Roxas, who served as her advance party when she was brought to Camp Crame without handcuffs.

“Selective justice is their brand of justice. Up to the end of their term, they still showed the kind of justice they mete out to their allies and their opponents,” Binay said.

In December 2015, Binay said Rama was slapped by Malacanang with a 60-day preventive suspension in connection with the dismantling of a 28-meter illegal structure in a barangay in Cebu City.

Rama was a member of the ruling Liberal Party until he bolted and joined Binay in 2012. Rama is now UNA’s regional coordinator in Cebu.

Binay said Rama’s suspension was the Palace’s bid to take control of Cebu City a month to go before the May polls.

Binay assailed the suspension order issued by Ochoa and described the act of desperation “patently illegal, excessive, vicious and relentless.”

The suspension order against Rama was signed by Ochoa on behalf of President Aquino, Liberal Party chairman.

UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan said Malacanang’s second suspension on Rama was meant to take a “political squeeze to control city hall and Cebu City.”

Ilagan said the suspension order from Ochoa is illegal and forbidden by the Commission on Elections.

He said Malacanang also defied a Comelec ruling, prompting the poll body to remind the Palace that the suspension of elective local officials is prohibited during the campaign period from January 10 to June 8, 2016.

According to Comelec, whoever violates acts prohibited during the election period is not only guilty of election offenses but could be a ground for disqualification if the offender is running for an elective post.

“What Malacanang and the Liberal Party are doing against Mayor Rama and the entire city council of Cebu City is patently illegal, excessive, vicious and relentless. The administration seems to have an unusually high interest on Mayor Rama that they need to suspend him twice over, and this time for giving P20,000 calamity assistance for employees of city hall,” Ilagan said.


GMA NEWS NETWORK

PNoy adviser Neric Acosta, mom appeal graft conviction Published April 15, 2016 8:30pm By ELIZABETH MARCELO, GMA News


MOTHER, SON CONVICTED – Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection and concurrent General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority Nereus ' ...MB FILE PHOTO

Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) general manager Nereus Acosta and his mother, former Manolo Fortich mayor Socorro Acosta, have asked the Sandiganbayan to reverse its ruling convicting them of graft.

In a 31-page joint motion for reconsideration, Acosta and his mother maintained that there was nothing irregular with the allocation of P5.5-million worth of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to the non-government organization Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC) in 2002 during his term as Bukidnon representative.

"The judgement of the Honorable Court is based on misapprehension of facts and an incorrect application of the Local Government Code to the allocation and release of the P5.5 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of accused Nereus to BVPC," the motion read.

In its ruling promulgated on March 28, the Fourth Division found the younger Acosta, who is also the presidential adviser on environmental concerns, guilty of graft for allegedly giving undue preference and advantage to BVPC as the beneficiary of his PDAF given that his mother was its director and cooperator.

The Fourth Division, meanwhile, hold the Acosta matriarch guilty of graft for her sole approval of the release to BVPC of her son’s PDAF, which was initially coursed through Manolo Fortich municipality as a financial assistance fund.

The court pointed out that under Section 36 of the Local Government Code (LGC), a local government unit may release assistance fund to an NGO upon the concurrence of the local council concerned.

The Acostas were sentenced to a minimum of six years to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and were ordered perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

In their motion for reconsideration, however, the Acostas maintained that Section 36 of LGC must not be applied in their case as the fund released to BVPC came from discretionary fund of a congressman and not from the own fund of an LGU.

“That the P5.5 million PDAF was coursed through the LGU of Manolo Fortich did not convert it into a local fund, over which the LGU, through its Sangguniang Bayan, may exercise discretion as to who its beneficiary may be,” the motion read.

The younger Acosta further maintained that his P5.5 million PDAF was disbursed to Manalo Fortich as a trust fund and not as assistance fund with explicit stamp in the disbursement voucher that it is for “financial assistance to the Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC).”

READ MORE...

The former lawmaker said he only coursed his PDAF to Manalo Fortich as the BVPC was based in that municipality.

“In the case at bar, (a) the P5.5 million financial assistance came from accused Nereus’ PDAF, and not from the municipality of Manolo Fortich (b) the aid was intended for BVPC, a cooperative, and NGO composed of farmers and women of Manolo Fortich, (c) accused Nereus was not a local chief executive but a Congressman of the First District of Bukidnon, and (d) over which there is no sanggunian (council),” the motion read.

Further, the younger Acosta said the prosecution also failed to prove that he gave undue preference and benefit to BVPC as there is no evidence showing that his mother still has pecuniary and financial interest with the NGO when his PDAF was allocated to it in July 2002.

“To reiterate, the prosecution failed to show beyond any cavil of doubt that accused Socorro possessed any interest in BVPC when the P5.5 million PDAF was granted and spent by BVPC to justify the conclusion that accused Nereus deliberately appropriated his congressional funds to benefit his mother directly as the chairman, director or officer of the cooperative,” the joint motion read.

The Acosta matriarch pointed out that the fact that she was an orginal cooperator and one of the founders of the BVPC does not mean that she still has financial and pecuniary interest with the NGO.

On the contrary, Mrs. Acosta said she ceased to become the chairman, director or incorporator of BVPC when she became the mayor of Manolo Fortich in 2001 as the by-laws of the cooperative automatically disqualifies a member who is holding public office from holding position in the cooperative.

“There was no basis to pierce the corporate veil, as there was no evidence that the cooperative was being used for fraud, or functioned as a corporate shell or alter ego for the Acosta family,” the joint motion read. —KBK, GMA News


TRIBUNE

Aquino successor urged to reform fiscal sector Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 17 April 2016 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print 2 comments



Budget watchdogs have sought sweeping reforms in the fiscal sector to prevent the misuse of public funds which under the Aquino administration took the form underspending of the budget and politically-motivated allocations of public funds.

Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones (photo) said the next president, for instance, should consider merging the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Finance (DoF) to ensure sound fiscal policy and administration, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said.

Briones, also lead convenor of budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines (SWP), said a restructuring of the fiscal agencies will have “powerful implications” on the efficient use of public funds.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), meanwhile, said that the next administration should veer away from debt dependence similar to what has inflicted President Aquino.

“It is true that the country’s capacity to pay is improving but the “power of the purse”remains hijacked and public coffers are bled by continuing payments for what FDC consider as illegitimate debts,” FDC president Ed Tadem said.

Tadem said at the end of year 2016, the national government’s actual outstanding debt will reach P6.42-Trillion or P62,235.26 per capita if Aquino’s planned borrowings for 2016 pushes through.

FDC data said that out of the total P214.5-billion scheduled debt servicing in 2016 for foreign liabilities of the national government, at least P3.7 billion will go to interest and principal payments of five questionable and illegitimate loans.

“This huge amount could have been redirected to inadequately-funded social protection programs such as education, health, and housing. Many more would probably be uncovered if all loans contracted by the government are closely scrutinized,” FDC said.

FDC identified the questionable loans which funded programs marred by corruption, bloated budget, violation of legal procedures, lack or insufficient public consultation and used as lender’s conditionality for privatization of public utilities which are the Power Sector Development Program, Tullahan (Sixth) Road, Pampanga Development Flood Control Project, Bohol Irrigation Project Stage II, and the Angat Water Supply Optimization.

“Who really runs the fiscal chamber, is it the DBM or the DOF?” Briones asked during the 2016 Public Lectures on the Philippine Presidency and Administration organized by the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance.

“The problem is there are two powerful and separate departments — one prepares the budget and distributes it, and the other one is tasked with the burden of looking for money,” she said.

READ MORE...

Briones noted that in other countries, the DoF or its equivalent is primus inter pares (first among equals).

“In many countries, the Ministry of Finance and Budget are together because if you are the one raising the money, you have to have a say on how it will be spent,” Briones added.

Panama papers attest to reform need

FDC added that amidst the global controversy on the Panama Papers on potential illegal financial activities that allegedly implicated Filipino politicians, business moguls and political candidates now running for office, FDC also reminded candidates of the adverse impact of the continuing debt dependence of the country and weak taxation policy.


FDC President Eduardo C. Tadem

“The Panama Papers shows the rampant illicit financial flows which is a global phenomenon that implicates Filipino politicians and may only be the tip of the iceberg since there are many tax havens and the full disclosure of the Panama Papers will only be done on May,” Tadem said.

“The phenomenon of illicit financial flows represent resources that could have been used meaningfully in the country for essential programs and projects and even for investments that should reduce if not free us from our dependence on foreign and domestic debt,” he added.

“Only a progressive and accountable fiscal policy and just taxation, where revenues really go to government expenditures to better social services, will eventually liberate the Philippines from continued borrowings that push further the country to perpetual indebtedness,” Tadem said.

“While the balance of government debt now consists mainly of domestic debt than external debt, the Philippine debt problem is far from over. It deserves closer scrutiny and critique,” Tadem added.

FDC said the change in the country’s debt profile may have reduced the transfer of its resources to foreign capitalists but expanded the space for the local elites who are the only ones with idle savings to invest in government securities, to profit from the national government’s continued dependence on new borrowings to amortize existing loans and to plug budget deficits.

“In the first 100 days, along with the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill, the next president should call for a debt audit of these illegitimate debts or the debts that violated the common principles of human rights and sustainable human development, justice and fairness, accountability and responsibility, sovereignty of peoples and nations, and democracy, Tadem added.

FDC said it has repeatedly called for the cancellation of illegitimate debts and the repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Law (AAL) on debt servicing that severely compromises the legislative’s “power of the purse” principle. Since Congress cannot increase the budgetary ceiling, only a little amount of the budget is left for Congressional reallocation.

Tadem said that, “for almost four decades, upholding the AAL has enabled debt interest payments and amortization to get the first cut of the budget before appropriations are made for other vital public expenditures such as social services.”

The Aquino government’s pride of its ‘successful’ liability management strategy pales in comparison to the prevalence of poverty and inequality in the country, overshadows the issues of illegitimate debts, accountability of both lenders and borrowers in onerous loans and its recurring failure to arrest the growth of its social debt or its obligation to its citizens to deliver better social services because of prioritization of debt servicing.

“This ‘liability management strategy’ or the government’s ability to pay its debt, do not correct the oppression and negligence and the accumulated social debt that the Filipino people are made to suffer for decades now,” Tadem added.


FROM PHILSTAR/VERA FILES REPORT

Kidapawan tragedy: Spotlight on climate change and local governance By Purple Romero (Vera Files) | Updated April 18, 2016 - 7:47pm 13 3 googleplus0 0


There are another set of officials from 20 provinces most vulnerable to the effects of climate change that can face problems of flooding, displacement, loss of income and, as what the Kidapawan incident showed, deadly conflict. The question is – how ready are they to handle these? Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Two weeks before the violent encounter between the police and the farmers in Kidapawan happened, Cotabato Gov.Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza delivered her State of the Province Address where she proudly said that the province is “surviving the drought” brought by El Niño.

Local daily Sunstar reported that Mendoza described 2016 as a “breakthrough year” for the province because they were able to respond to the challenge of El Niño, which started in 2015.

“After being hit, we bounced back," she said.

The lives that were lost in the Kidapawan encounter between the farmers and the police tell a different story.

On April 1, at least five people who were part of a protest demanding drought assistance from the provincial government were shot dead. Tension erupted after police tried to drive away some 5,000 farmers who held a blockade starting on March 29 to demand 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government. Aside from the five people who died, another 116 were injured both from the side of the police and those who joined the blockade.

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The farmers sought help from the provincial government after an almost year-long El Niño caused a massive dry spell, destroying their sources of income and consequently driving them and their families to hunger. Data from the Department of Agriculture showed that El Niño has affected production in some 15,706 hectares of land in North Cotabato, incurring damages worth P405.73 million.


North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño Mendoza. Photo by Ferdh Cabrera/Rappler

Mendoza is now under fire for failing to urgently address the needs of the farmers and for failing to stop the protest from turning deadly. But she is not alone.

In 2013, Mayor Alfred Romualdez in Tacloban saw the deaths of at least 2,000 people under his term due to Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), the strongest storm to make landfall in recent history. The local government unit (LGU) prepared for the disaster, but lapses in communicating the scale and magnitude of the effects of the super typhoon to the people proved costly.

Politics also entered the picture as Romualdez and then Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II engaged each other in a blame game over the catastrophe.

Romualdez’s wife Cristina, an incumbent councilor, is seeking to replace her husband as mayor.

His cousin, Martin, on the other hand, is seeking a Senate seat and has been using his relief operations for the victims Yolanda in his campaign ad, much to the consternation of students from Leyte.

There are another set of officials from 20 provinces most vulnerable to the effects of climate change that can face problems of flooding, displacement, loss of income and, as what the Kidapawan incident showed, deadly conflict.

The question is – how ready are they to handle these?

Part of mandate

The tragedy in Kidapawan came a week after jingles and proclamation rallies signaled the start of the campaign period for candidates gunning for local posts.

The two events – contrasting in mood but complementary in message – raise the reality for the voting public that natural disasters, extreme weather events and the causes of climate change constitute a critical election issue.

Mendoza is running unopposed in the upcoming elections on May 9 – and hence will remain governor for another three years, but the dry spell caused by El Niño will not be the last disaster she could face.

The next three years of her term will be a period of facing accountability for her constituents who can experience hunger, loss of employment, sickness and other potential effects of climate change.

The same goes for other LGUs which are at the frontlines of disasters and other impacts of climate change; since they are the first to experience the problem, they should also be, with ample help from the national government, the first to provide solutions.

Grizelda Mayo-Anda, founder of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center and who has trained LGUs on mitigating climate change, said that Philippine laws are clear about the duties of LGU officials in addressing climate change and disaster risks.

“We have the Climate Change law and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) law. These two laws provide that LGUs are supposed to formulate climate change action plans (LCCAP) and local DRRM plans,” she said.

Local climate change action plans must contain the LGU’s programs and strategies for mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change, while adaptation includes steps to be taken to adjust to the effects of climate change. These include switching to more drought-resistant crops, elevating dikes, and purchasing flood insurance.

DRRM plans, on the other hand, cover programs for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.

These plans address the links between climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction and management. Climate change, which is caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to intensify extreme weather events such as El Niño and bring more disasters that have the force of Yolanda, or even stronger. LGUs must then be able to address these links when planning their programs.

Data from the Department of the Interior and Local Government showed, however, that out of 782 provinces, cities and municipalities that have been trained in formulating the LCCAP, there are only 160 LGUs (1 province, 24 cities, and 135 municipalities) that have actually developed their respective local climate change action plans as of December 2015.

But it’s not just about the numbers – the quality of the plans itself is under question.

“Some local DRRM plans are “copy-paste,” Ivy Panganiban from the Caucus of Code of Development-NGO said. Panganiban, who earlier this year reviewed the government’s efforts to meet its DRRM targets under the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan, said the local plans “were not based on risk assessment.”

Reactive measures are not enough

Aaron Pedrosa, an environmental lawyer, pointed out that LGU officials are responsible not only for handling disasters and for preparing their constituencies for the effects of climate change, they also have the responsibility to address the root causes of climate change itself.

This is part of their mandate under the LGU code. “We ask them to be consistent with what is provided of them under the LGU code na general welfare powers – that is to protect and advance a balance and healthful ecology. Kasama yan sa kanilang kapangyarihan,” the secretary-general of the Sanlakas party-list group said.

He said this should remind LGUs that they have the power to approve or reject projects that could contribute to climate change itself, such as the establishment of coal-fired power plants (CFPPs). CFPPs emit greenhouse gases that do not only pollute the air and cause climate change, they also have impacts on the health of communities.

The LGUs in Palawan and Subic opposed the construction of coal-fired power plants in their areas. The municipal councils in Narra and Aborlan in Palawan issued separate resolutions opposing the establishment of a DMCI coal power plant in their respective areas.

In Subic, the city council passed two resolutions in 2013 rejecting the establishment of a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc.


Lipa archbishop Arguelles:

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who led the campaign against CFPPs in Batangas, said the LGUs must be more mindful of their role in climate change mitigation. “The LGUs are at the frontline of this endeavor. They must not support coal plants, which contribute to climate change. Climate change affects the welfare of the community and harms the poorest.”

Money is there, but…

LGUs have access to resources for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management.

They are mandated to set aside five percent of their budget for their DRRM fund, 30 percent of which can be used as Quick Response Fund for relief and recovery efforts. The remaining 70 percent can be used for disaster preparedness initiatives such as capacity-building.

Prior to 2010, the DRRM fund, then known as the calamity fund, can only be used for rescue and relief operations or disaster response. The passage of the Philippine Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Act or Republic Act 10121 in 2010 changed this and LGUs were authorized to use their DRRM fund to also prepare for disasters.

LGUs do not get to truly maximize this improved allocation design of DRRM funds, however, as the fund distribution is still lopsided. It has been reported that the Commission on Audit assessed the use of DRRM funds after Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and found out that there is an “imbalance between available resources and risk exposure,” which means provinces that are more disaster-prone do not necessarily get more funds for calamities.

There are some LGUs which also experienced confusion on how the DRRM funds can be used.

According to a report by The Daily Guardian, Iloilo realigned P3.4 million in unspent DRRM funds in 2010 to the allowances of judges, prosecutors, and other government agencies. COA disallowed it.

RA 10121 states that unspent funds must be put in a trust fund that can be tapped to minimize the effects of disasters by training LGU officials on DRRM or procuring necessary equipment.

COA has issued guidelines in 2012 on the use of DRRM funds to ensure its proper utilization.

LGUs can also seek calamity assistance from the national government. This budget can be released upon the approval of the president and with the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC).

Other funds that can be accessed are the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) for climate change adaptation. One of the requirements in accessing the PSF is the local climate action plan. The CCC said that 39 proposals are now being assessed. Other proposals have been rejected outright though because they lacked audited financial statements, an executive order creating a project implementation unit for the PSF and even a work plan.

LGUs need community and national gov't

North Cotabato declared a state of calamity due to El Niño in January this year. By that time, affected lands covered 27,558 hectares while damage has reached P238 million.

The Department of Agriculture has also started cloud-seeding operations that month not only in North Cotabato but also in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the DA allotted P6 million for the cloud-seeding operations. The operations were stopped in March, however after clashes erupted between the military and members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group.

The Kidapawan City Council, on the other hand, declared a state of calamity in February. This allowed them to use part of their P4 million LDRRM fund to provide assistance to 11,000 families affected by El Niño. A month after, the city government implemented a food-for-work program where heads of families were paid with 15 kilos of rice if they worked on projects ranging from the cleanup of canals to the rat tail and anti-black bug campaign.

The assistance had not been adequate, however, and farmers trooped to the provincial government to demand more. In cases like this, Mayo-Anda said LGUs must go beyond just complying with the DRRM laws or releasing funds – it requires treating the community as partners in dealing with climate change.

“Another concern is on dealing with a disgruntled, suffering yet aggressive farmer community. Strategies for dialogue and other approaches should have been explored,” she said.dialogue and other approaches should have been explored,” she said.

“Local communities such as farmers must be part of the process so local officials are enlightened about the nature and extent of hardships faced as well as the urgent responses needed.”

Jonathan Ong, lead researcher of the study “Who’s Listening? Accountability to Affected People in the Haiyan Response,” said that the Kidapawan tragedy, just like Yolanda, also showed gaps and loopholes in the procedures undertaken by the national government and the LGUs in providing relief to victims of calamities.

Ong said that while the Kidapawan tragedy clearly showed that LGUs “don’t handle relief distribution very well,” the national government has also to revisit its procedures in providing relief assistance.

Comparing it to what happened in Yolanda, Ong said that the local officials not only in Tacloban but other areas affected by the typhoon then “were critical of national government protocols and complain of being overburdened by rules and regulation without [the] capacity to be truly flexible and adaptable to local concerns and issues.”

Hence, Ong said that LGUs and the national government must seriously work on revamping the existing aid system. “National and local government should recognize that their aid distribution procedures deal further indignities to the victims of [a] calamity. There needs to be an overhaul of the process that emphasizes flexibility and adaptability to local community concerns.”Ong said that LGUs and the national government must seriously work on revamping the existing aid system. “National and local government should recognize that their aid distribution procedures deal further indignities to the victims of [a] calamity. There needs to be an overhaul of the process that emphasizes flexibility and adaptability to local community concerns.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


MANNILA TIMES

‘POPE Francis gave us a new life’: Syrian refugees taken in by Vatican April 17, 2016 9:14 pm


Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016 AFP

ROME: The Syrian refugees taken in by Pope Francis following his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos have hailed the Pontiff as a “savior” for offering them a new life.

In a hugely symbolic move seen as a lesson in solidarity for Europe, Francis, who is himself the son of Italian migrants in Argentina, on Saturday took 12 Syrians from three families — all Muslims — home with him from Lesbos to the Vatican.

“All refugees are children of God,” the 79-year-old pope said on the flight back to Rome referring to their religion, adding that though his gesture was “a drop in the ocean” he hoped “the ocean will never be the same again.”

In an interview with Italian daily La Stampa, the families, who spent their first night in Rome at a Catholic charity, expressed their gratitude to the Pontiff for his “gesture of hope.”

“We saw friends and relatives die in the rubble, we fled Syria because we no longer had any hope,” said Hasan, an engineer from Damascus, who arrived in Italy with his wife Nour and two-year-old son.

After fleeing to Turkey, Hasan and his family joined the migrant trail to Europe, piling into a rubber dinghy that set out from the Turkish coast for Greece. “But it was overloaded,” said Hasan, recalling the pitch black of the sea at night and the waves rocking the vessel.

Escape from Lesbos ‘prison’

“In Lesbos, we understood that we were stuck in a place that we could not leave, (we were) in a trap, a prison”, he said describing the pope as “our savior” for whisking them off the island, where thousands of migrants risk being sent back to Turkey under a new EU-Turkey deportation deal.

Wafa, who was also on the papal flight from Lesbos with her husband Osama, eight-year-old daughter Masa and six-year-old son Omar, together with her husband, described the “constant bombardments” in recent months around their home.

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“Since then (my son) has barely spoken… he is locked in an impenetrable silence,” she said. “Even today, he wakes up every night crying and we cannot get him to play with his sister.”

Wafa said she and her husband, who are from Damascus suburb of Zamalka, had opted to cut ties with the past.

“But we know we took the right decision,” she said. After their stay on Lesbos, which seemed interminable, “Francis gave us a new life,” she said.

Ramy, a 51-year-old teacher from the eastern Islamic State-occupied city of Deir Ezzor, fled Syria with his wife Suhila and three children — sons Rashid, 18 and Abdelmajid, 16, and seven-year-old daughter Al Quds — after their home was destroyed in the war.

“We discuss a lot and find it hard to imagine what life will be like in the future: we don’t know whether we will start over in Europe or whether, one day, we will be able to return to a Syria free of war and violence,” he told La Stampa.

Vatican leading by example

“We are grateful to the Pope, we will prove ourselves worthy of this opportunity and the gift he gave us,” he told La Stampa, while adding he did not know whether he would remain in Europe for the long-term or “one day, return to a Syria that is free of war and violence.”

The three families, who had initially set their sights on reaching Germany or another European country, are now expected to seek asylum in Italy.

Their arrival brings to around 20 the number of refugees living in the Vatican, which has under 1,000 inhabitants.

A similar intake across Europe would see 6 million people given asylum on the continent of 300 million.

Last year, the Pope had appealed to every Catholic diocese in Europe to take in a refugee family — an appeal that fell on deaf ears in most parts of the continent.

Migrant arrivals in Greece have drastically fallen since Turkey agreed to take back all irregular migrants landing on the Greek islands in return for billions in EU cash and other concessions.

Over 1.1 million people have crossed clandestinely from Turkey to Greece since the start of 2015, with hundreds drowning en route. AFP

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Pope on Sanders meeting: No politics, just good manners (Associated Press) | Updated April 18, 2016 - 12:00am 1 1 googleplus0 1


Pope Francis said his brief encounter Saturday with US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was a sign of good manners, “nothing more.” RP Ocampo, file

ROME – Pope Francis said his brief encounter Saturday with US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was a sign of good manners, “nothing more,” and hardly evidence of interfering in American politics.

The White House hopeful called it a “real honor” to meet “one of the extraordinary figures” in the world, a kindred spirit on economic inequality, which is a main Sanders’ campaign theme.

Francis was on his way to Greece to highlight the plight of refugees and Sanders was wrapping up his trip to Rome when they met in the lobby of the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens. The Vermont senator had attended a Vatican conference Friday on economic inequality and climate change, and flew back to New York for campaign events on Saturday.

“This morning when I left, Sen. Sanders was there ... He knew I was leaving at that time and I had the kindness to greet him and his wife and another couple who were with them,” the pope told reporters traveling back with him to the Vatican.

“When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist,” the pope said.

Earlier, Sanders said in an The Associated Press interview that he told the pope that he appreciated the message that Francis was sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said that was a message he, too, has tried to convey.


COMPOSITE PHOTO FROM ABC NEWS USA--
Pope Francis may have some anti-capitalist views which compare with Bernie Sanders but the pope is also pro-life which aligns him with every single Republican running for president.

“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,” Sanders said. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”

Sanders said he had the chance to tell the pope that “I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.”

Sanders and his wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the hotel, on the same floor as the pope. Francis noted to reporters that members of the Vatican conference that Sanders had attended also were staying at the hotel.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Sanders foreign policy adviser, said there were no photographs taken of the pope and Sanders together. Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs, said Francis was “100 percent correct that this was not a political meeting,” thanking the pope’s staff making the arrangements. He said Sanders and his wife “were advised the night before to be ready to meet the pope at 6 a.m.”

The Vatican is loath to get involved in electoral campaigns, and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship as far as the pope is concerned, although Francis in February rebuked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over Trump’s stand on immigration.

Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo opportunity with the sitting head of state can be exploited for political ends.

But Francis has been known to flout Vatican protocol, and the meeting with Sanders was evidence that his personal desires often trump Vatican diplomacy.

“His message is resonating with every religion on earth with people who have no religion and it is a message that says we have got to inject morality and justice into the global economy,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the meeting should not be viewed as the pope injecting himself into the campaign.

“The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life,” Sanders said in the interview. “And I am just very much appreciated the fact that the pope in many ways has been raising these issues in a global way in the sense that I have been trying to raise them in the United States.”

Sachs said Sanders saw the pope in the foyer of the domus, and that the encounter lasted about five minutes. Sanders later joined his family, including some of his grandchildren, for a walking tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic shrines.

The trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, putting him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents at the Vatican conference.

Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against rival Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy. But Sanders was peppered with questions from academics and ecclesiastics during Vatican conference in a manner that might have been afforded a head of state.

The invitation to Sanders to address that session raised eyebrows when it was announced and touched off allegations that the senator lobbied for the invitation.


Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

But the chancellor for the pontifical academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, said he invited Sanders because he was the only US presidential candidate who showed deep interest in the teachings of Francis.

Once back home, Sanders was set to refocus on Tuesday’s pivotal presidential contest in New York, a state with a significant number of Catholic voters. Clinton holds a lead among the delegates who will determine the Democratic nominee, and Sanders is trying to string together a series of victories in upcoming contests to draw closer.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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