[PHOTO - Shamcey meets Noy. President Aquino is all smiles as he congratulates 2011 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Shamcey Supsup in a courtesy call at the East Asia Royale Hotel in General Santos City. Supsup, a magna cum laude at UP, is the Philippines’ delegate to 2011 Ms. Universe pageant in Sao Paolo, Brazil on September 12.]

MANILA, APRIL 16, 2011 (MALAYA) PRESIDENT Aquino is willing to teach prosecutors, especially those handling high profile cases, how to use and shoot a gun in the face of imminent danger.

The President, in addressing the 23rd National Convention of the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines (PLP) held at the KCC Convention Center in General Santos City, said he is concerned about the welfare and safety of the prosecutors.

"We cannot allow mere intimidation to stop us from doing our jobs. This is why, last February, the European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme, together with the Department of Justice, conducted a Security Orientation, which was attended by fifty prosecutors from Region I, and we are hoping to conduct more in the coming months," he said.

[EARLIER PHOTO: Sen Noynoy Aquino shooting Stage 3 in Mamang Pulis All Glock Challenge facebook-3d.com]

"Likewise, the DOJ (Department of Justice), the PNP (Philippine National Police), and the PLP have signed a Memorandum of Agreement that will prioritize the firearms license applications of our prosecutors. And, may I add, since I am now the foremost prosecutor, if you need a so-so instructor, I am also willing to volunteer," he added.

Aquino urged the prosecutors to remain true to their sworn duty to uphold the law without fear or favor.

"I have the mandate of the people because they placed their trust in me but all of you should remember that this mandate extends to all of you as well. It is your responsibility, as much as it is mine, to do what the Filipino people expect of you," he said.

"As we go about fixing what needs to be fixed, our administration is making it a point to allow you to do your jobs to the fullest of your capacities. Hindi po kayo pinababayaan ng inyong gobyerno. In fact, we have increased the Department of Justice’s allotment for prosecution service by more than P260 million in the General Appropriations Act of 2011," he said.

Aquino said the government is also ensuring the protection of state witnesses and whistleblowers, who he said are "exposed to similar dangers" experienced by prosecutors, citing their importance in establishing a case.

He said one way of doing this is by increasing the budget of the Witness Protection Program by almost 80 percent or from P84 million to P151 million to "allow us to protect a total of 640 witnesses and whistleblowers."

"We have likewise prioritized two bills in the 11th Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council that pertain to whistleblowers and witnesses: acts that will improve their production and benefits. These projects and initiatives are meant to show you that the government considers your role integral in our reform agenda," he said.

The President also lauded the prosecutors for their efforts in convicting 22 of 23 charged with human trafficking, noting that the improved conviction rate jumped from 14 percent in July 2010 to 25 percent at present.

"You have performed well in the past year with limited resources and now that we have added resources, we hope that you can perform better," Aquino said. – Jocelyn Montemayor


Try again next time, P-Noy

The University of the Philippines has decided to give President Noynoy Aquino a doctor of laws degree, honoris causa. Old hands at Diliman wryly commented that perhaps UP wanted to be first again—or at least to beat Noynoy’s beloved Ateneo to the “honor” of giving the President an award that not even his old school has given him yet.

There was a time when people believed UP was hard-wired to oppose any President simply because it had been doing so for so long. If Mother Teresa had become President, UP would find a way to oppose her, the thinking went.

Well, not anymore, apparently. The premiere university, we’ve been told, is now on full mendicancy mode and will do anything to get more funds from the state—and a doctorate degree does seem a small price to pay for that.

On the other hand, it’s not the first time UP has tried to confer academic awards to Presidents with such callow motives. We recall that Joseph Estrada, when he was in Malacañang, was also offered such an honor—but Erap, even if he never finished college, wisely declined his honorary UP degree.

The official Diliman UPDate Online site said the award will be given to Aquino “for providing leadership in rallying the people to stamp out corruption, campaigning for institutional reforms and creating an environment for agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to act with dispatch on malfeasance in government, promote the rule of law, and respect people’s constitutional rights.” Law Dean Marvic Leonen, an Aquino booster who has joined the administration, could not have written a better citation.

* * *

President Noynoy Aquino has long been known to be, as one fawning newspaper calls him, laid-back. But he probably broke a personal record of sorts when it took him 10 months to remember that he had an aunt holding down an appointive public office—and that he needed to ask her to quit because he didn’t want to be accused having relatives in government.

Aquino didn’t appoint former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco as president of the Philippine Public Safety College, an agency of the Department of Interior and Local Government that she’s headed for the past six years. Cojuangco was given the position by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Cojuangco would probably have quietly served out her term at PPSC, had she not gone public about her opposition to a pet campaign of her nephew-in-law. But when she started to challenge Aquino’s plan to reset the holding of the regional elections in Muslim Mindanao and to put officers-in-charge to replace the officials there who hold elected positions, she might as well have filed a resignation letter.

Cojuangco has always been involved in Mindanao affairs. Immediately after this administration took over, it was widely believed that she was lobbying, through her husband, former Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., for a post in the presidential peace process office, something that would put her at the forefront of the government’s on-again, off-again negotiations with Muslim rebel groups.

Of course, both Cojuangco and Malacañang have been trying to convince everyone that the former resigned of her own volition. And that Cojuangco’s opposition to the postponement of the ARMM elections had nothing to do with her leaving PPSC.

We’ve been told otherwise. Furthermore, our informants say that now that Aquino has invoked his self-imposed ban on appointing his relatives to public office, there is no chance that Cojuangco will ever get a job in the peace process office.

Why Aquino only recalled that his aunt was at PPSC right after she opposed his ARMM scheme, only he can really explain. But one thing’s for certain: Nobody can be as laid-back as that.

* * *

Speaking of the Malacañang-sponsored plan to postpone the ARMM polls scheduled in August, we hear that the Senate may just have thrown the monkey wrench that may lead to its scuttling. And that the elections are now likely to proceed as the law dictates, despite Aquino’s plans.

The chairman of the Senate local government committee, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a leading opponent of Aquino’s scheme, may soon preside over the death of the proposal, also known in that chamber as Senate Bill 2756. Marcos’ committee has been holding marathon hearings on the proposal even after Congress went on recess, since the senator believes that Malacañang should not be able to accuse the Senate of sitting on what it considers an urgent measure.

Marcos is now of the opinion that there will not be enough time to pass the proposal to postpone the ARMM elections, despite the palace’s efforts. And the opposition to the plan in the chamber—led by Senators Joker Arroyo, Edgardo Angara and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, among others—will see to it that the measure is dead.

Marcos’ committee has already heard from both the Commission on Elections and the National Movement for Free Elections that preparations are well underway for the holding of the scheduled electoral exercise. Comelec, in fact, has already undertaken a registration of new voters and is now in the process of cleansing the existing list of voters.

But the palace hasn’t given up on its plan to postpone the polls. In fact, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, the designated “salesman” of Aquino’s proposal, is mounting a last-ditch effort to convince the Senate to synchronize the elections with the mid-term polls in 2013.

In the Senate, Robredo is peddling the line that the polls have to reset because the Commission on Audit is scheduled to complete its audit of alleged irregularities in ARMM next month. Charges may have to be filed against current regional officials after the audit report’s release, Robredo added.

But the DILG secretary’s argument was shot down by another resource person called by Marcos’ panel, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., himself a former DILG boss and the acknowledged father of the ARMM and the Local Government Code. Pimentel said he fails to understand what postponing the ARMM elections has to do with a CoA audit, since the government may file any charges it wants against current ARMM officials even before the scheduled August elections.

The Aquino administration said it wanted to postpone the polls to reform ARMM and to replace its current officials with OICs so that these reforms would take place. Funny, but we never thought that was ever the true reason.

And now the Marcos committee and the Senate seem to agree that you can’t put in reforms by violating the law. Or, as Marcos explains, the Senate should not pass an unconstitutional law that will just be shot down in court.

Try again next time, Noy.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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