MARCH 26, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives accused the so-called People’s Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands of being biased against her.

Majority Leader Prospero Nograles and Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier said they would not be surprised if the tribunal convicts President Arroyo in the cases of hundreds of unexplained killings here.

The tribunal was expected to hand down its verdict yesterday.

Nograles and Javier said the people’s court’s witnesses are mostly critics of Mrs. Arroyo, including opposition Sen. Jamby Madrigal, who testified last Friday.

"Her testimony was part of the intensified opposition black propaganda against the President. The hearing was suspect and its apparent intent was to magnify the human rights issues against the government brought about by the extrajudicial killings," they said.

They said a guilty verdict on the President would be most unfair since the government has been doing all it can to solve the killings and continues to cooperate with their international community in their inquiries.

"The government has always been transparent as it extends all available assistance to those who may want to look into the human rights situation here. Amid these inquiries, there is an apparent attempt to undermine government efforts to address alleged abuses," they added.

European nations, including the Netherlands, were among the first countries to express serious concern about human rights violations and the unchecked killing spree here.

Human rights groups have counted more than 800 dead since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office in 2001. – Jess Diaz

GMA is now a senior citizen COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva The Philippine Star 03/26/2007

President Arroyo is set to host a Lenten retreat to all members of her official family in Baguio City on April 5 to 6. She has asked Fr. Corsie Legaspi, who is known as the "healing priest," to be their spiritual retreat master. Mrs. Arroyo and the First Family will also be spending their annual Holy Week break in the City of Pines. It is also her 60th birthday on April 5 which coincidentally falls on Holy Thursday. She is now a certified senior citizen.

At her age, the President is already a full-time "lola" to her four grandchildren. She has Mika and Monique by son Mikey and Angelica; Eve and new-born first grandson Diggy by son Dato and Kakai. But the ravages of mounting problems in the country that she has to deal with, everyday have obviously taken a toll on her natural age. That is the least of her worries though right now. Her personal make-up artist Gener Miranda takes care of that concern.

For the many Filipino senior citizens, they have no better voice in government than the President now. As Chief Executive of the land, she could perhaps take the matter into her hands in the specific complaint over the effective reduction of the 20 percent senior citizen’s discount through the effectivity of the 12 percent revised value added tax (RVAT).

Mrs. Arroyo does not need to turn 60 years old just to realize this is a valid and legitimate plaint of our senior citizens.

By simple mathematics, obviously the 12 percent RVAT cut the 20 percent senior citizen’s discount to just eight percent. Losing this much from the discount privilege is a big deal to most of our senior citizens. The government could not afford a chief advocate of the repeal of RVAT, like this former senator from the Opposition running in the May 14 elections, to ride on these sentiments of our senior citizens.

A remedial legislation by Congress can legally cure this injustice done to our senior citizens. However, I don’t think the 13th Congress have still time to pass this kind of remedial legislation which is not even included in the priority legislative agenda of both chambers. But the more practical and faster way to remedy the situation is through amendments of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the RVAT by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The BIR, which is under the Finance Department, is well within the Executive Branch.

The revenue impact of this remedial executive action on RVAT’s IRR would not dent the government coffers. Our lawmakers in the 13th Congress have deprived our senior citizens of whatever small relief of discount they can get from the high prices of goods and services during their twilight years. The least they can do is to undo it.

In the meantime, the younger generations are taking over. Scanning the names of candidates who have so far filed their certificates of candidacy at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and those who have indicated their plans to run for various elective posts, the names are literally very familiar.

In the absence of a law that bans political dynasty, Mrs. Arroyo’s sons are among those running for Congressional seats in the coming May 14 elections. But even within the family, the two Arroyos belong to two different political parties. Mikey, who is turning 38 next month, and is seeking second term in his congressional district in Pampanga, belongs to the Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (CMD). Dato, meanwhile, is the official candidate in the congressional race in Camarines Sur under Mrs. Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMPI).

Over lunch with several editors of The STAR last Friday, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who is the chairman of KAMPI, disclosed to us that they are fielding Dato to run as unopposed candidate in the congressional district in Naga. The uncle of the two Arroyo boys, Bacolod Rep. Iggy Arroyo, who is currently embroiled in marital/child custody feud with his estranged wife, is also running for his second term under KAMPI.

Former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor is the youngest senatorial candidate in the administration’s Team Unity. His father, Quezon City Rep. Matt Defensor is seeking a second term in Congress.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, who is on his third and last term in office, is fielding his son, Ali Atienza in the mayoralty race in Manila with an equally young leader, Don Bagatsing as his vice mayoral running mate. The young Bagatsing is the son of former Rep. Ramon "Dondon" Bagatsing who is also making a comeback in Congress as the official candidate of Atienza’s Liberal Party wing for the fourth district of Manila. More of these familiar names could crop up within the next few days as they file their certificates of candidacy at the Comelec until the March 29 (Thursday) deadline for all those running in the local elections. But if you will ask Mayor Atienza about this political dynasty issue, he puts forward the argument that this is promoting "continuity" of policies and programs and not a matter of putting up a political dynasty.

For whatever reasons there maybe, the voters will be the ones to decide on this continuity of leadership. If history will be kind to her, the Chief Executive would be the second-longest serving President of the Republic next to the late President Ferdinand Marcos. The late dictator ruled the country for almost two decades, more than half of which were due to his extension in office after imposing martial law. Mrs. Arroyo, who first took office on Jan. 20,2001, still has a term to serve until June 30, 2010. That is, if no new impeachment attempt or another power grab plot succeeds against her.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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