EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM TRIBUNE:

MAR: POLITICAL DEAD MEAT


Having committed so many blunders — from the Mamasapano debacle, along with Mar and Noynoy’s lies that have created a crisis not just in leadership but also in credibility — to the current Makati City Hall standoff, Aquino and Roxas have become political dead meat which will play out in the 2016 polls.  It was Mar, and no doubt with the approval of Noynoy, who has deepened the crisis in Makati, what with his insistence that Makati Mayor Junjun Binay remains suspended, despite the Court of Appeals ruling that issued a temporary restraining order, intimating that the CA TRO is useless, since there is no longer anything to restrain, as the vice mayor, Kid Peña, an LP, has already been sworn in as acting mayor.  One wonders how Mar ever made it to Wharton, given his highly illogical arguments in insisting that Binay remains suspended, since the TRO came after Peña was sworn in as acting mayor. But then again, it was said before that while Roxas went to Wharton, he never took up the leadership course.   For Mar and his Department of the Interior and Local Government, the official who interprets the law is not the court, but his bosom buddy, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is a certified lackey of Noynoy and who has defied orders from the Supreme Court (SC) itself!   CONTINUE READING...

ALSO By N. Cacho-Olivares: TRO in Makati City - Binay  1, Mar 0


Makati Mayor Junjun Binay won a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA), a few hours after Interior chief Mar Roxas sent four battalions of policemen in the wee hours of the morning to serve the suspension order for the mayor. Mar also made sure that the vice mayor, a Liberal Party ally, would be immediately sworn in as acting Makati mayor. His acts and orders were intended to get Binay out of his elected seat, clearly to ensure that the LPs, naturally with the assistance of Noynoy and Mar’s lapdog in the Office of the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, would be in full control of Makati City in time for the presidential polls. It is almost certain, however, that the Ombudsman will still come up with a framed-up charge against Junjun for him to be placed under arrest, especially since the TRO is now in place. Going by their acts, the LP, headed by Noynoy and his anointed Mar, has been targeting the political bailiwicks of the Binays, as well as those of former President now Manila mayor, Joseph “Erap” Estrada. Recall that the Commission on Elections (Comelec), then headed by another Palace lackey, now retired Sixto Brillantes Jr., ordered the disqualification of then Laguna Gov. Emilio Ejercito, a nephew of Estrada, which the Supreme Court (SC) upheld. Neither Brillantes nor his commissioners then ever disqualified other candidates who had supposedly overspent. READ MORE...

ALSO: Binay’s loss, Erap’s gain


.............In any event, as we had already noted in a previous column, the most obvious beneficiary of Binay’s troubles with the Ombudsman is former President and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, co-founder of the oppositionist United Nationalist Alliance, who had openly indicated that he would be willing to contest the presidency against anybody the administration can put up if the veep is rendered incapable of doing so. And at the rate things are fast shaping up in the Ombudsman, that possibility is looming large on the horizon. Estrada, despite his plunder conviction in 2007 by the Sandiganbayan, remains one of the most popular figures in the local political firmament owing to his tinseltown background. Remember that in the 2010 presidential elections, he placed second (with 9.5 million votes credited to his name) to Mr. Aquino (15.2 million).And thanks to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Estrada is free again to seek the presidency should he so desire.Last January, the SC dismissed a long-pending disqualification case filed by lawyer Alicia Vidal which in effect cemented his mayoral victory in the 2013 Manila local elections. In doing so, the high tribunal ruled that the pardon granted to Estrada by former President Arroyo also in 2007, on the heels of his conviction by the anti-graft court whereby he didn’t get to spend even a single day inside the national penitentiary, was “absolute” which restored all his civil and political rights, more importantly to vote and be voted upon.READ FULL COLUMN FROM BEGINNING...

ALSO: As nuclear deadline nears, fears Saudi may try to match Iran


Appended by PHNO: Nuclear Explosion cartoon 6 --GOOGLE IMAGES   Fears that Shiite Iran will remain a potential nuclear threat under a mooted international deal have raised concerns that Tehran’s Sunni rival Saudi Arabia could seek its own atomic capability.As the March 31 deadline for talks between Tehran and world powers approaches, an influential Saudi prince has suggested his country will respond in kind if a final deal leaves open the possibility of a nuclear Iran.Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal warned this month that a deal between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 powers (Britain, France, China, Russia, the United States plus Germany) could spark a nuclear race in the region. “I’ve always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same,” Prince Turki, the kingdom’s former intelligence chief and former envoy to Washington, told the BBC. “So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that. “The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition, and that’s my main objection to this P5+1 process,” he said. CONTINUE READING....

ALSO: Malacañang backs off from catfight with Amal Alamuddin


.........Some 80 congressmen have already signed the proposed resolution after being told this could help improve her life-threatening ailment and allow her to live longer. Apart from experiencing pain in her cervical area and lower extremities, Mrs. Arroyo is said to have lost a lot of weight from esophageal stenosis or the narrowing of the esophagus resulting in recurrent dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing of solid food. In her petition, Alamuddin claimed the Aquino government is persecuting the former president, underscoring persistent efforts by authorities in “pressuring the Judiciary” to railroad her conviction. DOJ CHIEF De Lima quoted as saying: “The Aquino administration is not responsible for the fact that the Judiciary does not subscribe to her (Arroyo) claim that her continued detention is a result of political persecution. The Judiciary remains independent of the executive and it continues to decide cases not on the basis of politics, from which it is insulated, but on the merits,” she was quoted in published reports as saying. READ FROM THE BEGINNING...


ALSO EDITORIAL: De Lima's two wrongs and a partisan aim


Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is using the excuse of having ignored a temporary retraining order issued on a travel ban against former President Gloria Arroyo to justify a repeat on the Court of Appeals’ (CA) TRO on the Ombudsman’s suspension order on Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. Her rationale goes this way: If she did it before why can’t she do it again? To which the obvious answer is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The argument being used on the Makati issue is very similar to that in the case of Arroyo. On November, 2011, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled 8-5 granting Arroyo’s petition for a temporary restraining order against travel restrictions imposed by De Lima, calling the TRO “in full force and in effect.” De Lima refused to implement the TRO that would have allowed the former President, who now represents Pampanga in Congress, to have traveled out of the country for medical treatment. The SC ruling basically stated that since Arroyo and former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo were not, at that time, charged of any crime it would be an injustice to deny them their right to travel. De Lima pretended that she had received the SC order when the Arroyo couple attempted to leave the country and they were prevented at the airport from traveling despite the SC ruling. De Lima, in effect, pretended not to be aware of the SC order despite the decision being splashed in all newspapers on that day.

The CA order on Binay was described as moot by De Lima and co-accused in the contempt charges Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas based on the presumption that Binay was already served the suspension order.  The order for Binay’s suspension, however, was merely posted outside the Makati City Hall building and not personally delivered to the mayor who was inside the building. The contempt charges on those who defied the CA ruling thus is a needed test case on the supremacy of the court over partisan interests which was indeed at work on the two instances involving Arroyo and Binay.CONTINUE READING...

ALSO EDITORIAL: No economic miracle happening


Notwithstanding all the Palace drumbeating about good governance boosting business confidence and the attainment of an investment grade from the three chief rating agencies, the Aquino administration failed to deliver on its promise to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) into the country.The tepid flow of foreign investments into the country resulted in the paradox of strong growth and increasing poverty in the country. The government reported attaining a record $6.2-billion FDI for last year which is a pittance compared to the FDIs of its neighbors get. In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), it is the Philippines that is at the bottom in terms of pulling in foreign capital.Data provided by University of the Philippines School of Economics professor and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno showed that although FDIs last year reached a record high, the Philippines still pales in comparison with those of the other big economies in the Asean. From 2010 to 2013, FDIs were at $9.6 billion for the Philippines, $47.3 billion for Malaysia, $75.8 billion for Indonesia, $41.6 billion for Thailand and a whopping $220.9 billion for Singapore. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Mar: Political dead meat

MANILA, MARCH 23, 2015 (TRIBUNE) Written by Ninez Cacho-Olivares Wednesday, 18 March 2015 00:00 - Having committed so many blunders — from the Mamasapano debacle, along with Mar and Noynoy’s lies that have created a crisis not just in leadership but also in credibility — to the current Makati City Hall standoff, Aquino and Roxas have become political dead meat which will play out in the 2016 polls.

It was Mar, and no doubt with the approval of Noynoy, who has deepened the crisis in Makati, what with his insistence that Makati Mayor Junjun Binay remains suspended, despite the Court of Appeals ruling that issued a temporary restraining order, intimating that the CA TRO is useless, since there is no longer anything to restrain, as the vice mayor, Kid Peña, an LP, has already been sworn in as acting mayor.

One wonders how Mar ever made it to Wharton, given his highly illogical arguments in insisting that Binay remains suspended, since the TRO came after Peña was sworn in as acting mayor. But then again, it was said before that while Roxas went to Wharton, he never took up the leadership course.

For Mar and his Department of the Interior and Local Government, the official who interprets the law is not the court, but his bosom buddy, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is a certified lackey of Noynoy and who has defied orders from the Supreme Court (SC) itself!

Calling the Integrated Bar of the Philippines! Disbar Leila as she is giving not just the law but also justice a bad name!

It is most stupid of Mar to claim that as the vice mayor has been sworn in as acting mayor before the appellate court’s TRO was handed down, the TRO is no longer in effect.

It really is a case of dumb and dumber, applicable to Noynoy and Mar and if both think that they can score media points with such a stupid partisan act, they would belong to the category of dumbest!

The general public sees through their moves. There is no doubt at all that the Palace and Mar had known early enough that the CA was going to grant Binay the TRO he sought, which is why Mar had his 2,500 armalite carrying police forces at 4 in the morning and posted the suspension order quickly and just as quickly swore in Peña.

This was the reason for the troops to be in the Makati City Hall area to post the suspension order, and why Peña rushed to have himself sworn in.

That’s called bad faith — definitely — on the part of Mar and yes, the Ombudsman.

They refused to wait for the court’s TRO that they knew was coming and wanted to have the excuse of the TRO no longer being in effect.

In fact the DILG came out publicly to claim that as there is a controversy (which Mar, his DILG and the Ombudsman started, by the way), it will seek from the Justice department a ruling which naturally, knowing how much of a lackey Leila is, will rule in favor of the DILG’s illegal acts.

After all, it is fact that Leila ignored the SC’s order to allow former President Gloria Arroyo to leave the country for her medical treatment, yet Leila stopped her from taking any flight, based on her illegal hold departure order which she intimated is higher than that of the highest court in the land.

What more when a TRO comes from an appellate court?

The prime role of Leila is to protect Noynoy, Mar, the Liberal Party officials and all allies and to absolve them all of every criminal act and violation of the Constitution, of which, incidentally, she herself has violated too many times, especially when she deliberately frames the political foes of Noynoy and his LPs.

It is time for the courts to do something to stop this usurpation of mandates given to the Judiciary by the Executive branch headed by Noynoy and his Cabinet members.

Perhaps, with Makati Mayor Binay moving to have the court cite Roxas in contempt, as clearly Mar has shown his contempt for the appellate court, they may just learn their lesson in putting it into their thick heads that the law is interpreted by the courts, not the Justice Secretary, not the Ombudsman who is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court but the courts.


Junjun Binay 1, Mar Roxas 0 Written by Ninez Cacho-Olivares Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

Makati Mayor Junjun Binay won a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA), a few hours after Interior chief Mar Roxas sent four battalions of policemen in the wee hours of the morning to serve the suspension order for the mayor.

Mar also made sure that the vice mayor, a Liberal Party ally, would be immediately sworn in as acting Makati mayor.

His acts and orders were intended to get Binay out of his elected seat, clearly to ensure that the LPs, naturally with the assistance of Noynoy and Mar’s lapdog in the Office of the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, would be in full control of Makati City in time for the presidential polls.

It is almost certain, however, that the Ombudsman will still come up with a framed-up charge against Junjun for him to be placed under arrest, especially since the TRO is now in place.

Going by their acts, the LP, headed by Noynoy and his anointed Mar, has been targeting the political bailiwicks of the Binays, as well as those of former President now Manila mayor, Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

Recall that the Commission on Elections (Comelec), then headed by another Palace lackey, now retired Sixto Brillantes Jr., ordered the disqualification of then Laguna Gov. Emilio Ejercito, a nephew of Estrada, which the Supreme Court (SC) upheld.

Neither Brillantes nor his commissioners then ever disqualified other candidates who had supposedly overspent.

READ MORE...
At least none of the LP allied candidates was disqualified by the Comelec and upheld by the high court. Noynoy and his LPs also tried to have Erap disqualified as mayor of Manila, as Manila, under Estrada, has become the opposition’s bailiwick

Unfortunately for the LPs and former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Alicia Rios, the SC ruled that the pardon granted Estrada by then President Gloria Arroyo, was absolute, as all of Estrada’s political and civil rights have been restored, which means Estrada can vote and be voted upon by the electorate.

It might be a bit difficult for the LPs to suspend and charge San Juan city Mayor Guia as there has been no scandal attached to the San Juan City government. San Juan is also the bailiwick of Estrada.

But it should also be mentioned that in 2010, Estrada, then running for the presidency in 2010, lost in Laguna, where all the Ejercitos won and in San Juan, which is an impossibility, but trust the PCOS and of course the US to do their job of defrauding Estrada of his votes in his bailiwicks.

Today, Noynoy and Mar — and don’t think it is just Mar as Noynoy is also behind this wrecking crew, in demolishing the Binays, whether through their lackeys and attack dogs in the Senate, Sonny Trillanes, Koko Pimentel and Alan Cayetano, and through their puppet, Morales, along with Frank Drilon (who insisted that Junjun stop resisting the suspension order) -- want control of Makati City, but has so far — at least for the next 60 days — has been stopped by the CA.

But this is hardly going to stop Noynoy and the LPs, who will no doubt do all the lobbying they can with the CA to get that TRO lifted — just as they lobbied the SC for months, to have the justices overturn their ruling on “the no-good faith” proviso.

The Binays have always said that which they did by way of seeking a TRO from the courts, is a legal recourse and has proved it, but Mar and Noynoy’s Ombudsman apparently believe that they are the law, and not the courts.

The real problem with Noynoy, Mar and their LPs is the fact that they all apply their selective justice — and always only against the political opposition. The allies are coddled and protected.

As pointed out, and these are verified facts, some LP allies, such as Recom Echiverri and Ayong Maliksi while in office, had been slapped with suspension orders, yet those suspension orders were never implemented because they are their allies.

Even in the case of the pork barrel where it is alleged by government’s suborned perjurers that funds from the pork barrel were diverted to the private pockets of legislators, only the three opposition senators were charged for plunder and detained.

Not one single senator-ally and congressman has been so charged for plunder by Leila de Lima (who shamelessly covers up for Noynoy with her idiotic claim of his not being a commander in chief of the PNP).

Frankly, the LP is done for, just as Noynoy and his anointed Mar are politically done for. Mar has proven himself to be a liar, and a protector of the corrupt, as he follows his leader, Noynoy. Who wants a Noynoy double in Mar as the next president of the Philippines?


Binay’s loss, Erap’s gain Written by Louie Logarta Thursday, 12 March 2015 00:00


by Louie Logarta

Slowly but surely and with such fine finesse, Malacañang is tightening the noose around the neck of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the presumptive presidential candidate of the opposition, as part of a grand plan to scuttle his plan to run for the presidency next year when Mr. Aquino steps down from office.

VP Binay, as everybody knows by now, is widely expected to lock horns in May 2016 with Aquino’s ruling party colleague Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. In 2010, Roxas upon the advice of party handlers placed on the backburner his own presidential ambitions in favor of his more popular colleague with the assurance he (Roxas) would be anointed as the Liberals’ standard bearer in the next polls.

Last Friday, the first broadside against Binay, whose popularity among the masses has hardly been diminished despite the massive ongoing demolition campaign being conducted against him by administration allies as borne out in the various popularity surveys commissioned in recent months by certain interested parties to test the waters, was fired with the filing of criminal and administrative charges against him and his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay in connection with the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II.

Binay is already saddled with two plunder complaints – which he had described as “lies” being peddled by parties who merely wish to scuttle his presidential ambitions - filed by lawyer Renato Bondal and a certain Narciso Enciso who is supposedly related to a top-ranking official of the Bureau of Customs intelligence office which is under the umbrella of the Office of the Finance Secretary, Cesar Purisima.

Said plunder complaints stem from the allegedly overpriced construction of two public structures (the Makati City Hall Building II and the Makati City Science High School) amounting to several billions of pesos, both of which were done while the elder Binay was still sitting as Makati mayor.

The Ombudsman filed charges of graft, malversation and violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act against the Binays as well as 22 other Makati government officials.

Binay’s spokesmen said the current allegations against the vice president are frivolous and have no factual basis, motivated as they are by partisan politics, and they expect the charges to be dismissed immediately by a fair and impartial tribunal.

Last month, staunch critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes said VP Binay could be facing a third plunder charge with regard to the allegedly anomalous land deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) and real estate developer Alphaland Corp., which allegedly netted him some P200 million.

The allegedly illicit relationship between Alphaland, which is owned by billionaire businessman Roberto Ongpin, and the BSP was “exposed” recently during the long-running investigation of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee headed by Senators Koko Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano and Trillanes.

Aside from Binay, Sen. Trillanes disclosed that certain Alphaland officials and the BSP national executive board would also be included in the plunder case being prepared by whistle-blower former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado who has been the star witness and main resource person in the sub-committee probe.

“Kapag nailatag na natin ‘yung iba’t ibang anomalya ni Binay, maaari na tayong mag-request sa Pangulo na sibakin na siya sa Gabinete dahil naganap ang mga ito habang siya’y nakaupo bilang pinuno ng HUDCC.”

(When we are able to present his anomalies, we will request the President to fire him from the Cabinet as these were committed while he was already chairman of the HUDCC, and not before.)

In any event, as we had already noted in a previous column, the most obvious beneficiary of Binay’s troubles with the Ombudsman is former President and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, co-founder of the oppositionist United Nationalist Alliance, who had openly indicated that he would be willing to contest the presidency against anybody the administration can put up if the veep is rendered incapable of doing so. And at the rate things are fast shaping up in the Ombudsman, that possibility is looming large on the horizon.

Estrada, despite his plunder conviction in 2007 by the Sandiganbayan, remains one of the most popular figures in the local political firmament owing to his tinseltown background. Remember that in the 2010 presidential elections, he placed second (with 9.5 million votes credited to his name) to Mr. Aquino (15.2 million).

And thanks to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Estrada is free again to seek the presidency should he so desire.

Last January, the SC dismissed a long-pending disqualification case filed by lawyer Alicia Vidal which in effect cemented his mayoral victory in the 2013 Manila local elections.

In doing so, the high tribunal ruled that the pardon granted to Estrada by former President Arroyo also in 2007, on the heels of his conviction by the anti-graft court whereby he didn’t get to spend even a single day inside the national penitentiary, was “absolute” which restored all his civil and political rights, more importantly to vote and be voted upon.


As nuclear deadline nears, fears Saudi may try to match Iran
Written by AFP and Tribune Wires Friday, 20 March 2015 00:00


Appended by PHNO: Nuclear Explosion cartoon 6 --GOOGLE IMAGES

Fears that Shiite Iran will remain a potential nuclear threat under a mooted international deal have raised concerns that Tehran’s Sunni rival Saudi Arabia could seek its own atomic capability.

As the March 31 deadline for talks between Tehran and world powers approaches, an influential Saudi prince has suggested his country will respond in kind if a final deal leaves open the possibility of a nuclear Iran.

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal warned this month that a deal between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 powers (Britain, France, China, Russia, the United States plus Germany) could spark a nuclear race in the region.

“I’ve always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same,” Prince Turki, the kingdom’s former intelligence chief and former envoy to Washington, told the BBC.

“So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that.
“The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition, and that’s my main objection to this P5+1 process,” he said.

CONTINUE READING...
Negotiators are trying this week in Switzerland to reach a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is peaceful but which world powers fear will give the Islamic republic a nuclear weapon.

Under a landmark November 2013 interim deal, Tehran stopped expanding its nuclear activities in return for minor relief from sanctions which have crippled its economy.

Tehran and the international group are still far apart on key issues including the future size of Iran’s capacity for uranium enrichment, a process which can make nuclear fuel but also the ingredients for a bomb.

As the deadline nears, Washington appears to have abandoned demands that Iran completely dismantle its nuclear activities, raising fears in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia has long vied with Iran for regional influence.

“There is a concern that Saudi Arabia and perhaps other states in the region may now seek similar capabilities” to Iran’s, said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Seeing how costly this has been for Iran, however, I expect the kingdom will think twice about going down such a route.”

The oil-rich region is already looking to diversify its energy sources with nuclear power. The first of four reactors being built for the United Arab Emirates by a South Korea-led consortium is to come online in 2017.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, this month signed a preliminary deal for technical and other nuclear cooperation with South Korea.

Still, experts said that even if Arab Gulf states develop atomic energy, they would be a long way from possessing nuclear weapons.

With most lacking technology for nuclear enrichment, if they wanted to quickly acquire weapons-grade material they would have to buy it, said Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Then the only way they could turn it into weapons, given their technology base, would be to have access to the weapons designs of a country like Pakistan,” he said.

Asaad al-Shamlan, a political science professor at Riyadh’s Institute of Diplomatic Studies, said he sees no basis for “speculation” that Riyadh is pursuing nuclear power as a way of countering Iran.

“I don’t think it’s geared towards that,” he said, adding that the economic case for nuclear power is forceful in a country which consumes much of its own petroleum resources for electricity.

Still, he said a nuclear deal that leaves Iran with “latent capability” — the potential to quickly develop nuclear weapons from a peaceful program — would raise concerns among Gulf countries.

“One of the options is for the GCC countries to try to acquire at least an equal capacity for such latent capability,” Shamlan said, referring to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

But politically that would be far from simple.

“It’s very easy to say ‘Oh, let’s go for a latent capability,’” Shamlan said.

“But I think that has to be addressed within the framework of the strategic relationship with the West, how to address this question without jeopardizing the close relationship with United States.”


Malacañang backs off from catfight with Amal Alamuddin Written by Louie Logarta  Sunday, 22 March 2015 00:00



After years of procrastinating, the House of Representatives is suddenly pushing for the approval of a resolution calling for the house arrest of former President and incumbent Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

BS Aquino’s allies in the legislature, sources claimed, had been directed to adopt this new tack in order to immediately rid themselves of the “Gloria problem” in a bid to diffuse the brewing international public relations nightmare which the administration can ill-afford at this critical juncture over the arrest of the stricken former chief executive and her indefinite hospital incarceration.

Gloria’s case was accorded worldwide publicity after it was formally raised before the United Nations Human Right Commission (UNHCR)’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention by celebrity lawyer Amal Alamuddin, the wife of Oscar winning actor George Clooney who is nicknamed “the lord of Hollywood” due to his tremendous influence among his peers.

Mrs. Arroyo, who is saddled with a rare bone disease, has been detained in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City for the past four years for the crime of plunder. She stands accused before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for allegedly pocketing some P366 million in intelligence funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), an attached agency directly under the Office of the President, while she was still in power.

Authored by Representative Silvestre Bello III, former secretary of the Department of Justice, House Resolution 1908 seeks to allow the granting of house arrest to Mrs. Arroyo due to her debilitating medical condition as certified by qualified doctors.

Bello said he was spurred into filing the resolution after seeing Mrs. Arroyo literally wasting away on her sickbed, with her weight dropping to an alarming 80 pounds. Due to her delicate condition, he appealed to colleagues to give permission for her to recuperate in the comfort of her La Vista home with her family and friends around, and may then be she’d get better.

Even the normally prickly Rep. Niel Tupas, chairman of the House justice committee, seemed to be overly agreeable in accommodating the long-denied request by lawyers of Mrs. Arroyo for house arrest citing humanitarian considerations.

Some 80 congressmen have already signed the proposed resolution after being told this could help improve her life-threatening ailment and allow her to live longer.

Apart from experiencing pain in her cervical area and lower extremities, Mrs. Arroyo is said to have lost a lot of weight from esophageal stenosis or the narrowing of the esophagus resulting in recurrent dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing of solid food.

In her petition, Alamuddin claimed the Aquino government is persecuting the former president, underscoring persistent efforts by authorities in “pressuring the Judiciary” to railroad her conviction.
The last Philippine president to have been convicted of plunder by the anti-graft court was Joseph Estrada in 2007, but he was immediately pardoned by Mrs. Arroyo and never got to spend a single day in the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa.

“The criminal prosecutions against Mrs. Arroyo are politically motivated and persecutory in nature. The presumption of innocence was violated when public officials made inappropriate comments suggesting Mrs. Arroyo was guilty while she was on trial…Mrs. Arroyo has become the victim of President Aquino’s politically-motivated campaign to have her tried and detained so that she can effectively be neutralized as a political opponent,” Alamuddin, was quoted as saying in the document which was prepared with the aid of Arroyo’s Filipino lawyers.

The petition asked the UNHRC to order the release of Mrs. Arroyo from detention in the VMMC, to allow her to seek urgent medical treatment abroad.

“There is no reasoning by the courts showing why Mrs. Arroyo, an ailing former President of the nation with no previous convictions, could not have had reporting requirements, sureties or limits on certain activities imposed on her instead of detention. Instead, the court’s decisions have focused entirely on the question of evidence-strength. Mrs. Arroyo’s requests for less-restrictive conditions of detention, such as house arrest, have simply been ignored or else automatically denied.”

The UNHCR provides that detention should be the last option when there is less invasive or restrictive means such as reporting requirements or bonds.

Last January 2013, a key prosecution witness in the plunder trial identified as Aleta Tolentino who currently sits on the PCSO board admitted in open court that there is no paper trail whatsoever linking Mrs. Arroyo to the allegedly malversed intelligence funds.

It is important to note that while her other “more guilty” co-accused in the plunder case have already been allowed to post bail, Arroyo questionably remains caged up by the police in VMMC, allegedly upon orders of Malacanang.

Alamuddin, who was recently hired by Arroyo’s family out of sheer desperation, is a formidable lawyer, having represented various clients before the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights as well as courts in the US and UK.

Aside from being a legal adviser of the King of Bahrain, she advises governments on international law; assisted in the trial of accused Serbian mass murderer Slobodan Milosevic; acts as adviser on Syria to The UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan; acts as counsel to the Inquiry into the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations; and represented WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in his battle against extradition to Sweden.

On the side of the Philippine government, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Alamuddin should have first tried to exhaust all domestic legal remedies before going to the UNHCR.

De Lima said it is quite unfair that the government is being pilloried abroad for Mrs. Arroyo’s continued detention which is allegedly in violation of her civil and political rights, when this is a purely judicial matter that must be addressed by the courts.

She said that the Philippines adheres to international human rights standards, and a detention order issued against an accused is in accordance with the state’s independent judicial processes and recognized as a valid cause of restraining one’s liberty.

“The Aquino administration is not responsible for the fact that the Judiciary does not subscribe to her claim that her continued detention is a result of political persecution. The Judiciary remains independent of the executive and it continues to decide cases not on the basis of politics, from which it is insulated, but on the merits,” she was quoted in published reports as saying.

***


Amante E. Bigornia NPC President 1966-1967

Amante Bigornia, a longtime journalist and former president of the National Press Club, died last week. He was 98.

Amang, as he is known to close friends, had the distinction of covering Malacañang or the presidential beat for several decades, from the time of Ramon Magsaysay to Joseph Estrada.
He was also a World War II veteran, having seen action in the historic Battle of Bessang Pass together with his fellow Ilocano Ferdie Marcos who later on drafted him to serve in the Office of the Press Secretary.

I was able to rub elbows with Amang during my stint in the old Manila Standard in the “Bistro Cipriano” which was lorded over by former editor in chief Zip Roxas, where he would pop up every so often for a snifter or two of prime Hennessy or Remy XO cognac.

On a number of occasions — together with Lilia Andolong (aka “Mommy Tiger”), the late columnist Butch del Castillo as well as his late daughter Amanda — I also got to visit Amang in his home in BF Parañaque for pot luck and a bit of mahjjong.

At the time of his death, Amang is said to have been the oldest living journalist in the country, retired or otherwise.


Two wrongs and a partisan aim Written by Tribune Editorial Sunday, 22 March 2015 00:00

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is using the excuse of having ignored a temporary retraining order issued on a travel ban against former President Gloria Arroyo to justify a repeat on the Court of Appeals’ (CA) TRO on the Ombudsman’s suspension order on Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

Her rationale goes this way: If she did it before why can’t she do it again? To which the obvious answer is that two wrongs don’t make a right.

The argument being used on the Makati issue is very similar to that in the case of Arroyo.

On November, 2011, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled 8-5 granting Arroyo’s petition for a temporary restraining order against travel restrictions imposed by De Lima, calling the TRO “in full force and in effect.”

De Lima refused to implement the TRO that would have allowed the former President, who now represents Pampanga in Congress, to have traveled out of the country for medical treatment.

The SC ruling basically stated that since Arroyo and former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo were not, at that time, charged of any crime it would be an injustice to deny them their right to travel.

De Lima pretended that she had received the SC order when the Arroyo couple attempted to leave the country and they were prevented at the airport from traveling despite the SC ruling.

De Lima, in effect, pretended not to be aware of the SC order despite the decision being splashed in all newspapers on that day.

The CA order on Binay was described as moot by De Lima and co-accused in the contempt charges Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas based on the presumption that Binay was already served the suspension order.

The order for Binay’s suspension, however, was merely posted outside the Makati City Hall building and not personally delivered to the mayor who was inside the building.

The contempt charges on those who defied the CA ruling thus is a needed test case on the supremacy of the court over partisan interests which was indeed at work on the two instances involving Arroyo and Binay.

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It is also an issue that many have raised against the administration of Noynoy which is its preponderance to impose its will on the Judiciary to the extent of violating the law.

That was Noynoy’s approach to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy in which the President even threatened to change the Constitution to clip the powers of the Judiciary amid its decision declaring illegal the forming of the Palace money pool.

The pressure continued on the SC after the filing of a motion for reconsideration that resulted in the decision being diluted but still had Noynoy and DAP brains Budget Secretary Butch Abad being held accountable.

The attitude displayed thus is that the courts ruling is only followed whenever it favors the administration and its allies but is dismissed as moot if it does not conform to the desires of the Palace.

The partisan aim of the Ombudsman’s suspension ruling on Binay is undeniable since it was an offshoot of the brazen Senate inquisition on Vice President Jojo Binay and members of his family.

Nobody can also overlook the fact that 2016 is just around the corner and up to this time, Binay remains the frontrunner in presidential surveys with his detractors shamelessly admitting that efforts against Binay are intended to bring down his survey numbers.

Nobody would dare believe De Lima, Carpio-Morales, Roxas and company that everything being done in Makati City is only to comply with the law.

A ruling of the court, which interprets the law, however, is the one being violated.

The dictatorial tendency and at the same time, the desperation of those in power are only revealed in the standoff in Makati City.


No economic miracle happening Written by Tribune Editorial Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:00

Notwithstanding all the Palace drumbeating about good governance boosting business confidence and the attainment of an investment grade from the three chief rating agencies, the Aquino administration failed to deliver on its promise to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) into the country.

The tepid flow of foreign investments into the country resulted in the paradox of strong growth and increasing poverty in the country.

The government reported attaining a record $6.2-billion FDI for last year which is a pittance compared to the FDIs of its neighbors get.

In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), it is the Philippines that is at the bottom in terms of pulling in foreign capital.

Data provided by University of the Philippines School of Economics professor and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno showed that although FDIs last year reached a record high, the Philippines still pales in comparison with those of the other big economies in the Asean.

From 2010 to 2013, FDIs were at $9.6 billion for the Philippines, $47.3 billion for Malaysia, $75.8 billion for Indonesia, $41.6 billion for Thailand and a whopping $220.9 billion for Singapore.

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For comparative purposes, in the first three quarters in 2014, the Philippines had $4.875 billion FDIs, Malaysia had $8.13 billion, Indonesia had $19.219 billion, Thailand had $7.97 billion and Singapore had $58.202 billion, the data showed.

A few days ago, Fitch Ratings affirmed the investments grade on the country which the Palace expectedly trumpeted as another feather in Noynoy’s cap.

The upgrades, aside from not necessarily translating into foreign capital infusions, are also becoming a liability to many local businesses.

The backlash of the investment grades given to the country primarily is on the peso which appears to be the only currency in the world that had strengthened against the dollar.

That is far from being an economic benefit at all since it hits hard on exporters and overseas and Filipino workers (OFW) whose combined remittances are the primary reason for the robust economy.

The peso had appreciated also mainly because of hot money which is out for quick profit in the local market, mainly in the bourse.

The fact that remittances from overseas workers remain as the main growth driver was reflected in the third quarter slackening of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year which slipped 5.3 percent as a result of gross underspending of the administration of Noynoy.

The main cause of the growth skid was a drop in the dollar remittances coupled with the anemic government spending during the period.

Moody’s when it upgraded the country’s rating advised the administration “to do more if it wants to achieve the official growth target.”

“Although we expect the restoration of a fiscal impulse in the first half of 2015, the government’s ambitious growth target may be difficult to achieve in the absence of a meaningful improvement in budget execution,” Moody’s said.

In affirming the country’s investments grade, Fitch nonetheless, noted the weak governance standards and low per capita incomes in the country. “Governance standards as measured by international organizations, such as the World Bank, remain below the ‘BBB’ median. Governance standards have strengthened under the Aquino administration since 2010.

However, the Philippines continues to score especially low on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business and Political Stability metrics, at levels that are far below the ‘BBB’ median. The Philippines’ per capita income was low at USD2,836 in 2014 compared with the ‘BBB’ median of USD10,654,” the credit watchdog said.

The fact remains that the economy is making headway not because of the administration that has miserably failed to even pull in needed investments but due largely to OFWs whose remittances continue to prop the economy.

The claim for good governance is good economics under Noynoy is pure myth.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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