PHILSTAR EDITORIAL: NOW FOR A SPEEDY TRIAL

It took six years to prosecute Joseph Estrada for plunder following his ouster as president in 2001. Denied bail, he spent all those years in detention until his conviction and pardon. This time several lawmakers are expected to face arrest, possibly next week, following their indictment for plunder yesterday before the Sandiganbayan. If the Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the charges, gives weight to truckloads of documents submitted by the Commission on Audit in connection with the use of the congressional pork barrel, about 200 other lawmakers will also be indicted for plunder. That’s more than the number of defendants in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, and this multiple murder case is crawling along. How long will it take to resolve the cases involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya Fund? Concerned authorities should make sure it would be early enough to deliver a powerful warning to the corrupt that those who betray public trust will get appropriate punishment. As the formal charges were filed in court yesterday by the Office of the Ombudsman, it also proposed the creation of two special divisions in the Sandiganbayan to handle exclusively the PDAF and Malampaya cases. The special courts will be tasked to speed up the trial, discouraging dilatory legal tactics. The defendants themselves, if they are innocent as they profess, should want a speedy trial, particularly if they are denied bail. Public sentiment is generally against giving VIP treatment to detained lawmakers. Even if regular detention facilities are refurbished to accommodate VIP prisoners, those facilities are not going to be comfortable. People want to see these plunder cases resolved within their lifetime, preferably in less than six years. For their part, lawmakers who insist on their innocence should want to clear their names ASAP. The courts should not disappoint; these cases cannot be subjected to the usual snail’s pace of Philippine justice. THIS IS THE FULL COPY.

BULLETIN COLUMN: Overcoming denial

The other day, I read this anguished description of our country’s plight: “The Philippines is a land of traumatic contrasts. Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched elite who controls politics and business in the country. Here is a land of privilege and rank, a republic dedicated to equality but mired in a system of social class. Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. Here is a land where freedom and its blessings are a reality for the minority and an illusion for the many. “Here is a land where the government is morally bankrupt, its agencies ridden by debts and honeycombed with graft and corruption. There is no overall economic planning but only haphazard attempts to modernize. “Today, Filipinos are dispirited and depressed, going about their daily chores without purpose, enthusiasm, or discipline, bereft of confidence, hope and will.” These words were uttered more than 50 years ago by Ninoy Aquino, quoted by Stanely Karnov in his book In Our Image. Ninoy must be turning in his grave, knowing that little has changed in our country, despite the fact that his wife and son were given the singular opportunity to achieve his dream for a renewed Philippines. I wonder if President Noynoy had ever read his father’s words. The President repeatedly talks about the GDP growth and the country’s rising economy inflated by frenzied consumer spending and foreign investment. But the poor are not applauding because their everyday reality seems worse than during Ninoy’s time. READ MORE...

GMA Network Column: Bangsamoro Basic Law — In limbo?

A dark cloud seems to hover over the future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). There seems to be a big debate and uncertainty on the final shape of its draft. After the review of the draft BBL, the Office of the President (OP) has come up with a REVISED draft that departs from the original draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). How far or close is the "departure," no one seems to know, since no one has either the original draft made by the BTC or the revised draft made by the OP. What appears to be clear is the fact that the OP removes from the original BTC draft any provision that is contrary or NOT allowed by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. In short, the OP is making sure that the draft BBL to be submitted to Congress for enactment into law is constitutionally compliant. Here lies the debate and gathering of dark cloud over the whole process. On the one hand, the OP would submit to Congress as priority bill only a draft BBL that is compliant with the Constitution. The Palace seems to aver any possibility of the draft BBL or the final BBL to be questioned before the Supreme Court. The OP is making sure that the draft BBL is defensible by the standard of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) believes that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)—that is, actually, an enumeration of ALL signed agreements (12) between the GPH and the MILF from 1997 to the present—is the STANDARD and MEASURE of the Basic Law to be enacted by Congress. In short, the BBL appears simply to be a work of ‘cut and paste’ from the 12 signed agreements. Here lies the dilemma. When all things are said and done, we should be able to distinguish the reality from propaganda; truth from press releases; and difficulties and divergences. READ MORE...

Philstar Column: The 2nd Cold War

Amidst all the PDAF scandals, it is important to remember that the Philippines is literally in the eye of a geopolitical storm that could be the beginning of another Cold War. It began as territorial disputes between China on one side and Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines on the other. However, aggressive moves by China to assert territorial sovereignty have escalated the tensions. The latest is the placement of a $1 billion oil rig off the Vietnamese coast line. Vietnam did not back down. Instead Vietnamese boats stood their ground against superior Chinese naval forces. The Philippines also decided to resupply its Marine station in the Ayungin shoals by outmanuevering a Chinese cruiser. In a recent Asian Security Forum in Singapore, United States Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that China “has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.” In the same forum, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged countries to respect the rule of law. In the same forum, the deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Armed Forces reacted aggressively, saying he was incensed by both statements. Chinese officials have issued statements saying China is prepared to be the enemy if that is what the United States wants. But in a matter of days, the American and Japanese statements drew public support from top officials from Australia, United Kingdom and Germany. READ MORE...

Standard Column: Jailing Noynoy

Here’s a surefire way for President Noynoy Aquino to land in jail soon after the end of his term: He only needs to cut corners and force the implementation while he is still in office of any or all of the 10 projects worth P62.3 billion that his government green-lighted last week. With two years left into his woefully underachieving term, Aquino seems at least half-heartedly convinced that he will have to complete some of the needful projects that multilateral funding agencies have long been egging him to build, to jumpstart the economy and make some headway in eliminating the nationwide infrastructure backlog. But no one needs a crystal ball to predict that none of these “last two minutes” projects involving massive government spending will even be halfway completed by the time Aquino steps down. “Massive,” after all, is relative. As former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has pointed out, the P62.3 billion funding package for the 10 projects “is a drop in a bucket, only one-tenth of what international funding agencies consider to be what the administration is supposed to spend annually—repeat, annually – which is approximately 5 percent of GDP or about P625 billion.” The way government works, it needs at least six years—or one presidential term—to see a major infrastructure project through from approval to actual completion. The rule of thumb for infrastructure projects (whether publicly or privately funded) states that two years are needed to complete the required feasibility and other studies and to source funding, two years more are set aside for bidding and securing regulatory approvals and finally two years will be given over for actual construction and implementation. READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL - Now for a speedy trial

MANILA, JUNE 9, 2014 (PHILSTAR) It took six years to prosecute Joseph Estrada for plunder following his ouster as president in 2001. Denied bail, he spent all those years in detention until his conviction and pardon.

This time several lawmakers are expected to face arrest, possibly next week, following their indictment for plunder yesterday before the Sandiganbayan. If the Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the charges, gives weight to truckloads of documents submitted by the Commission on Audit in connection with the use of the congressional pork barrel, about 200 other lawmakers will also be indicted for plunder.

That’s more than the number of defendants in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, and this multiple murder case is crawling along. How long will it take to resolve the cases involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya Fund? Concerned authorities should make sure it would be early enough to deliver a powerful warning to the corrupt that those who betray public trust will get appropriate punishment.

As the formal charges were filed in court yesterday by the Office of the Ombudsman, it also proposed the creation of two special divisions in the Sandiganbayan to handle exclusively the PDAF and Malampaya cases. The special courts will be tasked to speed up the trial, discouraging dilatory legal tactics.

The defendants themselves, if they are innocent as they profess, should want a speedy trial, particularly if they are denied bail. Public sentiment is generally against giving VIP treatment to detained lawmakers. Even if regular detention facilities are refurbished to accommodate VIP prisoners, those facilities are not going to be comfortable.

People want to see these plunder cases resolved within their lifetime, preferably in less than six years. For their part, lawmakers who insist on their innocence should want to clear their names ASAP. The courts should not disappoint; these cases cannot be subjected to the usual snail’s pace of Philippine justice.

MANILA BULLETIN COLUMN

Overcoming denial by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP June 7, 2014


THE PRESIDENT'S FATHER: NINOY AQUINO

The other day, I read this anguished description of our country’s plight:

“The Philippines is a land of traumatic contrasts. Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched elite who controls politics and business in the country. Here is a land of privilege and rank, a republic dedicated to equality but mired in a system of social class. Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. Here is a land where freedom and its blessings are a reality for the minority and an illusion for the many.

“Here is a land where the government is morally bankrupt, its agencies ridden by debts and honeycombed with graft and corruption. There is no overall economic planning but only haphazard attempts to modernize.

“Today, Filipinos are dispirited and depressed, going about their daily chores without purpose, enthusiasm, or discipline, bereft of confidence, hope and will.”

These words were uttered more than 50 years ago by Ninoy Aquino, quoted by Stanely Karnov in his book In Our Image.

Ninoy must be turning in his grave, knowing that little has changed in our country, despite the fact that his wife and son were given the singular opportunity to achieve his dream for a renewed Philippines.

I wonder if President Noynoy had ever read his father’s words. The President repeatedly talks about the GDP growth and the country’s rising economy inflated by frenzied consumer spending and foreign investment.

But the poor are not applauding because their everyday reality seems worse than during Ninoy’s time.

The MRT and LRT coaches groan under the weight of thousands of passengers who had to queue under the sun and the rain before they could board the train.

Thousands of students are crammed in small, dilapidated classrooms in public schools, while many more are roasting in tents and makeshift “educational centers”.

Corruption cases involving government officials and other crimes that cry to heaven for justice remain unresolved. Rich prisoners enjoy free days and other benefits by bribing officials.

Many Overseas Filipino Workers who continue to prop our economy by their stable remittances are raped, abused, even killed, but seldom get government assistance.

To get a steady supply of foreign currency, the government is pimping our best human and natural resource to the highest bidders.

Ninoy did not blink when he made that grim prognosis about our country.

He saw that it was teetering from gloom to a terrible catastrophe. He saw that the main problem of our country is not only economic but moral as well. He died trying to effect the much needed moral reforms that our society needed.

Overcoming denial is a major step towards real progress.

The President still has time to complete what his father and mother had dreamed of. But first, he must stop making cheesy pronouncements about our economy, and start firing those habitual liars around him who consider him too naïve to notice the falsehood they peddle.


THE WRITER, MANILA BULLETIN: Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Bangsamoro Basic Law — In limbo? By FR. JUN MERCADO, OMIJune 6, 2014 2:21pm
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By FR. JUN MERCADO

A dark cloud seems to hover over the future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). There seems to be a big debate and uncertainty on the final shape of its draft.

After the review of the draft BBL, the Office of the President (OP) has come up with a REVISED draft that departs from the original draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). How far or close is the "departure," no one seems to know, since no one has either the original draft made by the BTC or the revised draft made by the OP.

What appears to be clear is the fact that the OP removes from the original BTC draft any provision that is contrary or NOT allowed by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. In short, the OP is making sure that the draft BBL to be submitted to Congress for enactment into law is constitutionally compliant. Here lies the debate and gathering of dark cloud over the whole process.

On the one hand, the OP would submit to Congress as priority bill only a draft BBL that is compliant with the Constitution. The Palace seems to aver any possibility of the draft BBL or the final BBL to be questioned before the Supreme Court. The OP is making sure that the draft BBL is defensible by the standard of the 1987 Constitution.

On the other hand, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) believes that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)—that is, actually, an enumeration of ALL signed agreements (12) between the GPH and the MILF from 1997 to the present—is the STANDARD and MEASURE of the Basic Law to be enacted by Congress. In short, the BBL appears simply to be a work of ‘cut and paste’ from the 12 signed agreements.

Here lies the dilemma. When all things are said and done, we should be able to distinguish the reality from propaganda; truth from press releases; and difficulties and divergences.

For one, until the 1987 Philippine Constitution is revised or changed, it remains the STANDARD and MEASURE of all or anything that is legal and binding in the Republic. Any law passed by Congress has to be Constitutionally compliant with it—no ifs and no buts. Anything that goes beyond the 1987 Constitution is illegal and NOT binding.

Any departure from it can only go by way of AMENDING the Constitution. But amending or revising the Constitution entails another process that is not only long and tedious but also contentious, especially toward the end of the term of an existing administration.

The second reality on the ground is the seeming inadequate debates, conversations and consensus on basic issues that should be contained in the BBL. The mere fact that NO ONE seems to have the original draft BBL and the Revised draft of the BBL is a clear indicator that the general public is NOT in the loop or simply blind to contentious issues between the original and the revised drafts.

The third reality is the fact that only the duly ratified BBL (NOT the CAB) is the real LEGAL TENDER that would establish and create the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) and subsequently the Bangsamoro Government (BG) after the first elections in the Bangsamoro areas. In the same way, it is the duly ratified BBL that would define the territory, government structures and the powers of the BTA and the BG.

With all the ambiguity and uncertainty about the BBL, a dark cloud gathers anew around the peace process in Southern Mindanao.

What are the options available?

The first option is to submit to Congress the original draft BBL ‘as is’ and let Congress buckle down to the task of LEGISLATING the final Basic Law for the President’s signature. Then let the people in concerned areas be the final arbiter to approve or disapprove the law in the plebiscite called for the purpose.

The second option is to submit to Congress the constitutionally compliant revised draft BBL. The President certifies it for immediate legislation before yearend and calls a plebiscite to approve the law by the first quarter of 2015.

The third option is for Congress to enact a BBL that is constitutionally compliant BUT NOT CAB compliant. Notwithstanding objections, the said law is submitted to a plebiscite by the first quarter of 2015.

The options above may seem like deju vu scenarios. But what options are there left for the government but to LEGISLATE a constitutionally compliant Organic Act or BBL? If people promise you heavens… They may have good intentions but they are not telling you the TRUTH. The only ‘deliverables’ by government, at this stage, are the deliverables under the 1987 Constitution. The 1987 Constitution can be ‘flexible’ here and there, but when ‘push comes to shove’ the limits of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court defines or says.

FROM PHILSTAR

The 2nd Cold War BREAKTHROUGH By Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 8, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Elfren S. Cruz

Amidst all the PDAF scandals, it is important to remember that the Philippines is literally in the eye of a geopolitical storm that could be the beginning of another Cold War. It began as territorial disputes between China on one side and Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines on the other.

However, aggressive moves by China to assert territorial sovereignty have escalated the tensions. The latest is the placement of a $1 billion oil rig off the Vietnamese coast line. Vietnam did not back down. Instead Vietnamese boats stood their ground against superior Chinese naval forces. The Philippines also decided to resupply its Marine station in the Ayungin shoals by outmanuevering a Chinese cruiser.

In a recent Asian Security Forum in Singapore, United States Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that China “has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.” In the same forum, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged countries to respect the rule of law.

In the same forum, the deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Armed Forces reacted aggressively, saying he was incensed by both statements. Chinese officials have issued statements saying China is prepared to be the enemy if that is what the United States wants.

But in a matter of days, the American and Japanese statements drew public support from top officials from Australia, United Kingdom and Germany.

In Eastern Europe, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support of Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine has caused NATO to impose economic and business sanctions against Russia. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949 composed of the United States, Canada and Western European countries. It was part of a strategy to contain and prevent the territorial expansion of Russia and its allies.

It was the American columnist Walter Lippman who, in 1947, begun to popularize the term “cold war,” which was meant to describe a situation where two nations weighed each other carefully and warily. This is like two boxers circling each other in the ring before the real fight begins. Fortunately, the cold war never erupted into another world war.

In 1989, the Soviet Union abandoned its empire in Eastern Europe. The largest state was Russia. Among the other states were Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia has invaded Georgia and Ukraine. The three Baltic states are concerned about a possible Russian invasion. The fear is that Putin wants to revive the old Soviet Union and become a superpower once more.

Recently, Russia and China have signed a multibillion dollar agreement for a natural gas pipeline from Russia to China. This will ensure China of guaranteed energy supply. It will also revive the old Russia-China alliance during the cold war.

There are now very strong indications that in Europe and Asia, relationships between the old Western alliance led by the United States and its previous challengers, Russia and China, are transcending territorial disputes and escalating into another potential Cold War.

The question is whether the second cold war will turn into a “hot war.” During the first Cold War, the only direct conflict between the superpowers was the war between China and the United States in the Korean Peninsula. But there were many other wars fought by allies of the two sides. There were wars in Vietnam, Angola, Congo, Afghanistan and Nicaragua.

The superpowers — United States, UK, Russia and China — also supported rebel or guerrilla movements to undermine governments who were allies of their opponents. The Communist guerrillas in the Philippines received material support from China during that period. This strategy will again surface in the new Cold War. Already in Syria, Russia and China are supporting Assad while the USA and NATO are opposing him.

After every major war, there are calls for peace and justice. Unfortunately, after a short period of “non-war,” another major war seems to take place again. After the First World War (1914-1918) and an interlude of 21 years, the Second World War engulfed the world (1939-1945). After a short three-year period, the First Cold War started. It ended in 1989, but 25 years later are we now seeing the beginning of the Second Cold War?

The question has often been asked, is war the biological destiny of mankind? After all, history tells us that even Popes have called on their followers to go to war, such as in the times of the Crusades. As the ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Surprisingly successful Phl President

The internationally respected London-based magazine, Economist, devoted a full page column to President Benigno Aquino III in its recent issue. The magazine is must reading for almost all world leaders in business, government and the academe.

The title of the article is “The Impossible Dream: The surprisingly successful president of the Philippines.” It talks of P-Noy’s character and his capacity to remain level headed and calm and never be impulsive even when provoked.

The column also talked of the transformation of Philippine politics since the people power revolution and the strengthening of democratic institutions. It says: “The Philippines is not Thailand.”

It also cites the three biggest achievements of the Aquino administration. The first is the acceleration in the country’s economic growth to 7.2% in 2013 and not much less in 2014. Southeast Asia’s tortoise has become its hare. In the coming the economy might even grow faster than China. The government finances and banking system are sound.

The second achievement is maintaining a clean image and to punish corruption elsewhere. The third is bringing a long and bloody Islamist insurgency in Mindanao closer to its end.

However, the article ends on both a sober and hopeful note:

“The president has done better than many expected but must know that he cannot safeguard any of his reforms from a future government that chooses to be profligate or corrupt.”

The article does say that the future is really in the hands of the Filipino people.

It says: “He hopes to count as his legacy a change from the Filipino mindset from ‘don’t dream, it will never happen’ to one in which they believe their dreams will come true. But maybe the Filipinos will aim higher and demand more from their leaders.”

Write Away!

For those making inquiries about the program offerings of the Where the Write Things Are writing center, please contact writethingsph@gmail.com or 0917-6240196.

These contact information details were omitted in my last column. My apologies.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Jailing Noynoy By Jojo Robles | Jun. 04, 2014 at 12:01am

Here’s a surefire way for President Noynoy Aquino to land in jail soon after the end of his term: He only needs to cut corners and force the implementation while he is still in office of any or all of the 10 projects worth P62.3 billion that his government green-lighted last week.

With two years left into his woefully underachieving term, Aquino seems at least half-heartedly convinced that he will have to complete some of the needful projects that multilateral funding agencies have long been egging him to build, to jumpstart the economy and make some headway in eliminating the nationwide infrastructure backlog. But no one needs a crystal ball to predict that none of these “last two minutes” projects involving massive government spending will even be halfway completed by the time Aquino steps down.

“Massive,” after all, is relative. As former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has pointed out, the P62.3 billion funding package for the 10 projects “is a drop in a bucket, only one-tenth of what international funding agencies consider to be what the administration is supposed to spend annually—repeat, annually – which is approximately 5 percent of GDP or about P625 billion.”

The way government works, it needs at least six years—or one presidential term—to see a major infrastructure project through from approval to actual completion. The rule of thumb for infrastructure projects (whether publicly or privately funded) states that two years are needed to complete the required feasibility and other studies and to source funding, two years more are set aside for bidding and securing regulatory approvals and finally two years will be given over for actual construction and implementation.

“Concrete reblocking” on Edsa does not qualify as a new infrastructure project, by the way. And all those projects like seedling and fertilizer purchases favored by Janet Lim Napoles are precisely classified as “soft” because there is no hard infrastructure left behind after all the money has been spent —which makes the funding for them very easy to steal.

Four of the 10 projects approved by the National Economic Development Authority last Thursday are publicly funded. The rest are supposed to be paid for by private investors who are likely willing to wait out the remaining years of Aquino’s term instead of plunking down money for a dodgy Public-Private Partnership project.

Or Aquino can act out of character and get at least some of the projects done while he is still in office. But that will probably mean serious legal issues down the road—and perhaps land him in jail.

* * *

All of this, if there is any justice, should land Aquino in jail anyway for throwing away the first four years of his term doing other stuff that he believed was more important. Had Aquino fulfilled his promise to “hit the ground running,” as they used to say right after the 2010 elections, and spent public funds for infrastructure projects instead of hoarding savings for questionable programs like his Disbursement Acceleration Program, he wouldn’t have to act like a student cramming for his final exams.

The truth is, Aquino will probably keep talking about the anti-corruption reforms that he has supposedly put in place simply because he will have precious little else to show for being President. And the lack of much-needed infrastructure makes all the economic growth that this administration was supposed to have accomplished nothing but exquisitely painful irony.

But the government’s abject failure to build infrastructure we needed yesterday and which all of us could already be using today is not the only loss. As Diokno said: “Think of the foregone benefits, including the jobs that could have been created, had Aquino been more aggressive, focused and resolute on building more and better airports, seaports, roads and bridges, urban transit systems, irrigation canals, water systems, small power projects and so on.”

How will Aquino’s government justify not building and completing the just-approved P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project, the P5.8-billion Angat Dam improvement project, the P2.7 billion Local Water Utilities Administration project to rehabilitate and expand its distribution networks, the P16.5-billion LRT 2 operations and maintenance concession contract, the P10.6-billion bus rapid transit project in Cebu City, the P653-million Malinao Dam project in Bohol, the P4.1-billion upgrade of the Busuanga airport in Palawan, the P1.18-billion Laoag Bypass Link Road project, the P2-billion Department of Health project to expand the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and the master plan for the Clark Green City project of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in all in the time it threw away?

How can it do all of these in the time it has left?

It can’t. It’s that simple.

Whoever replaces Aquino in 2016 will know what to do, if he wants to get things done. He simply has to work and help us forget the nightmare of the previous six years of nothing being done.

I don’t know if some people are serious in seeking a new term for Aquino. From where I sit, the only new term he should get is a jail term, for wasting the nation’s time, resources and opportunities.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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