MAR won't be asked to drop 2010 protest vs binay / MAR TO OUST BELMONTE?

MANILA, MAY 23, 2011 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Former Sen. Manuel Roxas II will be in Malacañang by June and there is no need for him to drop his electoral protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay before he assumes office, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

In an interview over radio dzRB, Valte said President Aquino and Roxas met on Friday but details of their meeting could not be disclosed.

Valte said the President had announced that the Administrative Order (AO) delineating the functions of Roxas would be out in two weeks.

She said given such timetable, Roxas would be at the Palace by June.

Valte also said that there was no reason to ask Roxas to drop his electoral protest against Binay because there were no personal differences between the two.

“We’re all in the same team and we’re willing to work for the reform agenda of the President. Maybe it should stop there,” she said.

Valte stressed it would be “unfair to equate, to predict or to assume” that Roxas’ position would overlap with the functions of the other officials at Palace.

“Again, this is precisely the reason why we are working to prevent any overlapping of functions. I think we’ve said it before, it’s better to wait for the contents of the AO and these fears (of factionalism and power struggle) should just be laid to rest with the commitment from the officials concerned that we all play for the same team, we work for the same President and because of that we push the same (agenda),” she said.

Valte said the President had decided on the functions of Roxas but the AO would have to be fine-tuned and checked with the roles of the executive secretary and the Presidential Management Staff chief.

The one-year ban on the appointment of candidates who ran and lost in the 2010 elections lapsed last May 10.

Discord in the making

However, the opposition in the House of Representatives has urged President Aquino to rethink his decision to appoint Roxas as his chief of staff.

Minority leader Edcel Lagman said that although Roxas is qualified for the post the President intends to create for him, his entry in Malacañang could promote discord rather than unity among its officials.

“But it’s the Chief Executive’s own lookout if he wants his defeated vice presidential running mate to be one of his principal Palace aides,” he said.

Another opposition congressman, Marc Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur, said Roxas’ appointment “will surely worsen the turf war between the Balay and Samar groups of supporters of the President.”

“We all know that these two factions have been fighting for turf as could be gleaned from the number of appointees to juicy positions that each group has been able to wangle from their Palace boss,” he said.

Roxas heads the Balay group composed mostly of members of the ruling Liberal Party, while Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. leads the Samar group, comprised of lawyers who helped then Sen. Benigno Aquino III in his campaign for the presidency.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, who served as executive secretary during the term of the President’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, has said there would be confusion if Roxas were named chief of staff.

He said there is no chief of staff position in the Palace and the Administrative Code provides only for the post of executive secretary.

Plan unclear

Arroyo said if the President proceeds with his plan to appoint Roxas, it would be unclear if he would be under Ochoa, who is supposed to be the second-in-command in Malacañang and in the government after the chief executive.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, who once served as chief of staff of then President Arroyo, agreed with Sen. Arroyo.

Salceda said during his Palace days, he reported and deferred to then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. –With Jess Diaz

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Mar seen moving to oust Belmonte By Charlie V. Manalo 05/23/2011

Troubleshooter and Chief of Staff in waiting Manuel Roxas II has Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s ouster as his first project when he officially assumes his Malacañang post early next month, a House source said.

This could explain the mysterious delays in the release of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of some members of the House of Representatives.

A highly reliable source in the Lower Chamber yesterday told The Tribune the withholding of the congressmen’s PDAF is not incidental to the administration’s attempt to manage the budget deficit, but the very heart and soul of a grand design allegedly hatched by losing Liberal Party vice presidential bet, and now-to-be-appointed chief of staff of President Aquino, Mar Roxas.

The Tribune source, a member of the majority bloc in the House, alleged Roxas, through his cohorts in the Aquino administration, particularly Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, both

identified Roxas’ Balay Group, has been deliberately withholding the release of the PDAF for the solons to project Speaker Sonny Belmonte as a weak leader in the House of Representatives.

As lawmakers are measured by their constituents on the amount of projects they bring to their districts, a prolonged delay in the release of their PDAFs would force the lawmakers to “rise up in arms” against Belmonte.

With this tactic, Belmonte would either be forced to relinquish his post as Speaker or face ouster from his own colleagues, the Tribune source averred.

“Even if we are lawmakers, our constituents look up to us in terms of concrete projects we deliver to them. No matter the number of bills we craft and enact into laws, we are, to our constituents, still only as good as far the concrete projects we have delivered which they can actually see and feel,” said the Tribune source.

“When you return to your district, your constituents won’t ask you on the bills Congress is deliberating. They will ask you on the projects you have promised them: the roads, bridges, classrooms, hospital and hospital facilities, barangay halls and others. Some would even ask you for assistance for hospitalization, education and sometimes even for burial,” the source added.

“So, without your PDAF, what would you tell them?”

Accordingly, Roxas has long been at odds with Belmonte after the former lost heavily in Quezon City where the Speaker had a mayor for nine years. Aggravating the matters is the fact that Belmonte is said to identified with the Samar Group which is alleged to have supported Roxas’ chief rival, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay.

The Tribune source added that the plot has long been executed with the first phase commencing on the impeachment case against then Chief Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas “Merci” Gutierrez.

According to the source, Aquino was becoming frustrated with Belmonte on his “weak” handling of the Merci impeachment case. This became more glaring after Belmonte announced he would let the members of the House decide on their own on the plenary vote on Merci impeachment case.

Sensing the opportunity, the Tribune source alleged Roxas quickly jumped on the gun and commissioned LP spokesperson, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, whom the source said Roxas is eyeing to replace Belmonte, to disseminate text messages to House members threatening them that their PDAFs would be withheld if they vote against the Merci impeachment case. On the other hand, those who would vote in the affirmative would be given additional P20 million in pork, the text message further stated.

The Tribune source avers that the said text message was meant to send a strong signal to Belmonte that the Palace is becoming frustrated with him and that Abaya, a low-profile LP spokesperson, is now out to challenge him. like Abad and Purisima, abaya is also identified with the Balay Group.

While the text message was eventually denied by some House members, the rumors still persist today on its validity as those who voted against the Merci impeachment case claim they have yet to receive their PDAF.

And now, with Roxas set to assume his post as Aquino’s chief of staff anytime this week, the source claims the losing LP vice presidential candidate would take his Belmonte ouster campaign a notch higher.

“From what I’ve heard Sepaker Belmonte is to be removed from office before President Aquino delivers his state of the nation address (SONA) on July 25,” said the source. “I think it could be on the SONA day itself when we hold our session in the morning.”

“So, we expect Roxas to start calling us once he assumes his new position as chief of staff to gather our support in ousting (Speaker) Belmonte,” he added.

However, the Tribune source said that if there is anyone to blame on the delay in the release of the congressmen’s PDAF, it should be Aquino himself and not Roxas nor Belmonte.

“At the end of the day, it should e (President) Aquino who should be blamed for the failure of the government to deliver basic services to the people by delaying the release of our PDAF and not Roxas nor Belmonte because it is him (Aquino) who had given in to the whims of Roxas,” said the source.

“It’s his (Aquino) call and nobody else’s.”

Ranking members of the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives insisted Roxas will be a big addition to the Aquino government’s “straight path” program.

According to Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Roxas’ entry would perk up the economic efforts of the government.

“Mar Roxas would be a huge asset to the Aquino administration. With his vast experience in government as former cabinet secretary and former senator with expertise in the economy, he would be a welcome addition to the administration’s ‘straight path’ program,” Tupas said yesterday. Tupas is the chairman of the House committee on justice.

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte has announced that Roxas is expected to assume his post as Presidential Chief of Staff in the first week of June shortly after President Aquino signs an administrative order restoring the defunct Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff.

The creation of the office, described by critics as a purely political accommodation for Roxas who gave way to Aquino’s presidential bid, is expected to ruin the post of Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, a ranking source from a coalition partner said yesterday.

The same source said that Roxas, who has been “targeting” Ochoa’s post since the establishment of the Aquino government, could meddle into the executive secretary’s official task and “piss him off.”

“This could lead to the resignation of Ochoa,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

“Ochoa is not the type who would quarrel for his post,” the source said, adding that the former senator and current Liberal Party president has been flexing his muscles in the Aquino government.

The source said that Roxas even dabbles in public relations work for the president even as he cited the recent reunion concert of the Hotdogs where President Aquino was present with a new date.

“That concert was the handiwork of Roxas,” the source said.

Roxas and his close allies particularly the members of the so-called “Hyatt 10” have been at loggerheads with another group of Aquino allies – “Samar group” – which includes the so-called Pinoy lawyers led by Sen. Francis Escudero and former Quezon City Mayor and now House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and his bloc in the Liberal party.

Opposition stalwart Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay partly agrees with Tupas that Roxas could be an asset in the Aquino government and a burden at the same time.

Magsaysay said that Roxas also carries with him problem of partisan politics that could ruin the “good intentions” of the Aquino administration.

“Through wisdom he could carry, and even problem of partisan politics as well,” Magsaysay said.

She said that Roxas entry in government could also adversely affect the implementation of government policies.

“There might be a push and pull in government policies which may result in non-implementation of such policies to discredit the other camp,” Magsaysay said apparently referring to the “Samar group” who are also in government.

She said that President Aquino should reign in his people to let them tow the government line.

“Hope P-Noy has the guts to reign in his people to tow his line and not theirs,” she said.

Lagman says no debate, only conversation with Pacquiao By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) Updated May 22, 2011 12:00 AM

Manila, Philippines - House minority leader Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday that the much-awaited debate with Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill turned out to be just a mere conversation between two lawmakers.

“It was not a debate, it was a conversation,” Lagman told reporters during the weekly forum at Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City yesterday.

The Albay lawmaker was referring to the barrage of prepared questioned posed by Pacquiao during the plenary deliberation of the RH bill.

He said that although the questions posed by the Sarangani congressman had previously been answered and fully explained, he repeated his arguments on the proposed measure, which included the issue on the constitutional provision on the protection of the unborn child.

Lagman said the use of contraceptives will not violate the Constitution because the issue on the unborn child cannot be applied since contraception will prevent pregnancy.

The minority leader said the redundant question posed by Pacquiao had given him the opportunity to fully explain the issues that have been raised against the proposed measure.

He said he was ready to engage opponents in a discussion on the proposed measure, including veteran lawmakers like Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, who is among the anti-RH bill advocates in the House of Representatives.

Lagman said he was prepared to have a heated debate with Garcia but when Pacquiao took over, he realized that the confrontation was no longer a debate but just a mere conversation.

“There are other amendments that would not affect the essence of the bill. We will be open minded,” he said, emphasizing that they are trying to codify all the measures on reproductive health and responsible parenthood under one law.

Lagman said there is a need to provide marginalized women access to contraceptives, which has been denied them for a very long time.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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