MANILA, MARCH 24, 2008 (STAR) President Arroyo has bolstered the authority of the Presidential Council on Values Formation (PCVF) in the pursuit of “a just and moral Philippine society,” a Malacañang order said.

Mrs. Arroyo has issued Executive Order (EO) No. 713 amending Executive Orders 314 and 347 and renaming the Ad Hoc Council on Values Formation as the PCVF.

Under EO 713, the PCVF will be the lead government agency that will work and coordinate with the non-government sector in pursuing the goal of establishing a strong foundation for just and moral governance.

She pointed out that the “establishment and institutionalization of just and moral governance is a long-term undertaking founded on the establishment of a just and moral Philippine society.”

She added that previous organizations set up to pursue programs to establish just and moral governance required better coordination to achieve optimal effect.

EO 713 stressed that the “pursuit of just and moral governance in Philippine society is an undertaking that requires an institutional response that is equipped with sufficient authority beyond that provided” by the ad hoc council on values formation.

The President will chair the PCVF, with the Secretary of Education as vice-chairman. A maximum of nine leaders from various religious groups would be invited as members of the PCVF but without government remuneration.

The PCVF is tasked to inculcate and strengthen existing values formation programs not just for the bureaucracy but Philippine society in general.

Included among its function is to make recommendation to the President and act as complainant in any case filed against incorrigible and undesirable government personnel. – Paolo Romero

New potato variety named ‘Gloria’ By Artemio Dumlao Sunday, March 23, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – A new potato variety of Benguet has been named after President Arroyo.

The variety, whose original planting material was sourced from the Centro Internacionale de la Papa (International Potato Center) in Lima, Peru, was named “Gloria Kamaptengan” after the root word “mapteng” which means “good” in both the Ibaloi and Pangasinan dialects.

“Gloria was chosen as the name of the new potato variety in honor of Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her commitment to the development of the agriculture industry in the country,” a flyer from the state-run Benguet State University said.

“Kamaptengan” means ‘the best of all’,” explained Dr. Rogelio Colting, president of the BSU which developed “Gloria Kamaptengan” over two years of research.

President Arroyo came to know about the new potato variety when she visited the vegetable trading post in Barangay Betag here yesterday to see off trucks laden with local vegetable produce bound for the metropolis.

Dressed in leafy-green long-sleeved blouse and brown pants, the President nodded approvingly as Colting showed her the first-generation tubers of the potato variety named after her.

Mrs. Arroyo “baptized” the new variety, earlier codenamed “13.1.1” as “Gloria Kamaptengan” and approved its propagation.

Selected from 55 clones from 2005-2007, Gloria Kamaptengan “can produce 109.83 grams of tubers per plant, or 10-11 tons per hectare.”

Resistant to late blight, a disease that causes serious damage to potato leaves, stems and tubers in the field, Gloria Kamaptengan can produce “large, uniform and oval-shaped, light-brown and smooth-skinned tubers with dry matter content of 20-21 percent.”

“Gloria Kamaptengan has a high return of investment. This means that for every peso of investment, the farmer will gain fifty centavos,” BSU’s Northern Philippines Root Crops Research Training Center (NPRCRTC) claimed.

The NPRCRTC has recommended the new potato variety as the “best” for organic or non-chemical fertilizer-pesticide production.

Palace to abide by SC ruling on Neri – Ermita Sunday, March 23, 2008

Malacañang has reiterated that it would abide by whatever ruling the Supreme Court (SC) makes on the executive privilege issue raised by Commission on Higher Education Chairman Romulo Neri.

The SC has yet to come out with its ruling on whether a government official can be compelled to testify before the Senate on matters “in aid of legislation.”

Neri earlier refused to testify for the second time before the Senate on the national broadband network-ZTE deal, saying that he had said everything that had to be said on the case.

But some senators wanted him to provide information on his conversations with President Arroyo on the deal.

“If it means that Neri would have to attend the Senate hearings on the controversial NBN-ZTE deal, Malacañang would not prevent him from doing so,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

“I suppose Secretary Neri would have to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court, and for as long as the usual invocation of whatever it is that is needed to be invoked during the hearing in the Senate should he attend would have to be resorted to by Secretary Neri,” Ermita said.

In his previous testimony, Neri told the Senate that he had informed the President about the alleged bribe offered to him by former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos when he was the director general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

The bribe was supposed to be for Neri’s favorable endorsement of the deal as NEDA head.

He said he was told by the President not to accept the bribe. But several senators insisted that Neri disclose what else the Chief Executive told him.

He said the conversation between him and the President was covered by executive privilege and could not be revealed to the public.

With the SC still deliberating on the issue, Neri opted to wait for the ruling on executive privilege before making any decision to reappear before the Senate.

“It’s a matter between Secretary Neri and the Supreme Court. I recall Secretary Neri said that he would have to await the final ruling,” Ermita said.

Meanwhile, critics of the President have questioned the appointment of Labor Secretary Arturo Brion to the SC as associate justice when the issue of executive privilege is being deliberated on.

They doubted the timing of the appointment, considering that Brion could possibly have an impact on the vote for the executive privilege decision.

Ermita, however, stressed that the timing of Brion’s appointment in relation to the issue of executive privilege was not intentional.

“It so happened that there is this issue before the Supreme Court which came out at a time when the President would wish to fill up the vacancy,” he said.

“I don’t think we should give any malice to this appointment because, first of all, the appointee is qualified and there are many important issues that need to be addressed with a full membership of the highest court of the land,” he said. – Marvin Sy

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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