THE ISSUE IS PUBLIC FUND MISUSE - PALACE

PHILSTAR -The main issue in Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s privilege speech should be the proper use of public funds, and not “accusations and insinuations,” Malacañang said yesterday. Reacting to issues raised by Revilla, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Revilla is accountable for the proper use of public funds. “It is his duty to start explaining to our people how his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) allocation was actually spent,” Coloma said in a press briefing at the Palace. He added it would be best for Revilla to answer charges against him on the pork barrel scam.

ALSO: Aquino, churchmen storm heavens with prayers

INQUIRER -NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER. President Aquino leads the National Day of Prayer in the grounds of Malacañan Palace. Beside him are, from left, Isaias Samson Jr. of the INC, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Imam Ebra Moxsir and Bishop Jonel Milan of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. LYN RILLON As heavy rains pounded Mindanao on Monday, President Aquino led an interfaith prayer gathering, imploring heaven for strength, resilience and guidance in the face of calamities. With fellow government officials, religious leaders and representatives from various sectors, Aquino prayed for God’s blessing “now and forever,” especially with several areas still recovering from disasters that hit the Philippines last year. These tragedies—the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu in October and Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which devastated Eastern Visayas the following month—“measure our strength as a nation,” he said. Among the nine people, Aquino included, who read prayers during the televised gathering was Idris Lim, a survivor of the siege of Zamboanga City by rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari in September.

ALSO: Revilla gets personal; hits Aquino, Roxas

YAHOO ASIA NEWSROOM -He started by denying links to the P10-billion pork barrel scandal, but Senator Bong Revilla’s privilege speech soon became a personal tirade against his political foes. The senator on Monday hit back at the pork scam whistleblowers, but also struck President Benigno Aquino III and his possible presidential rival Mar Roxas. “Lahat ng ito ay palabas lamang ng isang gobyerno na nagkukunwaring may malasakit sa bayan (All of this is staged by a government that is feigning concern for the people),” Revilla said of the pork barrel scam drama. This, as he hit the Aquino government for what he said was disappointing response to national issues, including the looming energy rate hike and typhoon “Yolanda”. “Pangulong Aquino, ikaw ang ama ng bayan. Ang kailangan ng bayan ay puso ng isang magulang. Puso, Mr. President, puso! (President Aquino, you are the father of the nation. What we need is the heart of a parent. Heart, Mr. President, heart!)” Revilla said. The embattled senator is the first official implicated in the pork barrel scandal to directly address and challenge Aquino in response to accusations against him. He said he President is betraying the “tuwid na daan” (righteous path) he promised in his presidential campaign and advancing instead the interests of allies.


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The issue is public fund misuse - Palace

MANILA, JANUARY 21, 2013 (PHILSTAR) The main issue in Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s privilege speech should be the proper use of public funds, and not “accusations and insinuations,” Malacañang said yesterday.

Reacting to issues raised by Revilla, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.(photo) said Revilla is accountable for the proper use of public funds.

“It is his duty to start explaining to our people how his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) allocation was actually spent,” Coloma said in a press briefing at the Palace.

He added it would be best for Revilla to answer charges against him on the pork barrel scam.

“Notice that this (issue) does not involve just a few pesos but hundreds of millions… the Filipinos have the right to know how public funds under Senator Revilla’s PDAF were utilized,” Coloma said.

Corona impeachment

The Palace confirmed the meeting between the President and Revilla in the official presidential residence but denied exerting pressure on the lawmaker and the Senate, as an impeachment court, to convict then chief justice Renato Corona.

Coloma noted that Aquino never told Revilla to vote for Corona’s conviction.

“There’s nothing like that,” he said in Filipino.

He said that since there were “forces” moving to get Corona acquitted, the President sought to find out who were behind such moves.

He said the President’s decision was understandable as he only saw the need to find who were these forces and decided it was best to speak with Revilla.

“Since impeachment is a political process, there were forces that moved and the President ‘decides and acts’ on his duties not in a vacuum but within the context of political events and political dynamics.”

Based on the recollection of the President, Coloma said the senator did not give any categorical assurance that he would grant Aquino’s supposed request, thus there was no agreement sealed that would show Aquino managed to influence the senator-judges.

Coloma said nothing was offered to Revilla during the meeting and that Aquino was acting based on the country’s political dynamics.

“The President met with Senator Revilla to verify persistent reports that the senators were being pressured by interest groups to influence the outcome of the impeachment trial, and he asked the senator to decide on the basis of its merits. The senator said that he will do what is right and he voted to convict then chief justice Corona,” Coloma said.

Asked if he could identify the other senators that the President spoke with, Coloma said he would ask Aquino.

On those supposedly pressuring senators to acquit Corona, Coloma said the impeachment being a political and not just a legal process was recognized, and the President was acting based on these circumstances.

He said without the President directly seeking to have Corona convicted, there was no way he could be accused of influencing another branch of government to obscure justice in his favor.

He said it would be up to the House of Representatives to see if the President could be held liable for what he did, such as subjecting him to impeachment.

Insinuations

Coloma also said the President deplored the unfair insinuation made by Revilla against his sister, Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, and her husband Eldon.

Czech ambassador Josef Rychtar clearly stated that they were not in any way involved in the Metro Rail Transit project, wherein Filipino officials allegedly asked huge sums from a Czech firm for it to win in the bidding, he said.

On Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II being called “Boy Pick-up” by Revilla, Coloma said the Cabinet official would have a separate statement.

“Boy Pick-up” is a popular character of singer-comedian Ogie Alcasid in the gag show Bubble Gang.

Coloma said there was nothing clandestine about the meeting at the Bahay Pangarap as it is the President’s official residence.

There had been other instances when the senator met with Aquino, he added.

De Lima: Evidence vs Bong strong

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday maintained that the evidence against Sen. Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. was enough basis to file charges against him before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the multi-million pork barrel scam.

Reacting to Revilla’s privilege speech wherein he belittled the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)’s “truckload” of evidence against him, she said it could be part of the strategy of the lawmaker to insult the efforts of those who investigated the case. – Edu Punay

FROM THE INQUIRER

Aquino, churchmen storm heavens with prayers By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:14 am | Tuesday, January 21st, 2014



NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER. President Aquino leads the National Day of Prayer in the grounds of Malacañan Palace. Beside him are, from left, Isaias Samson Jr. of the INC, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Imam Ebra Moxsir and Bishop Jonel Milan of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. LYN RILLON

As heavy rains pounded Mindanao on Monday, President Aquino led an interfaith prayer gathering, imploring heaven for strength, resilience and guidance in the face of calamities.

With fellow government officials, religious leaders and representatives from various sectors, Aquino prayed for God’s blessing “now and forever,” especially with several areas still recovering from disasters that hit the Philippines last year.

These tragedies—the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu in October and Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which devastated Eastern Visayas the following month—“measure our strength as a nation,” he said.

Among the nine people, Aquino included, who read prayers during the televised gathering was Idris Lim, a survivor of the siege of Zamboanga City by rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari in September.

Dioscoro Robles represented victims of the Bohol earthquake and Rowena Borines, those who survived the monster typhoon in Leyte.

Citing Tropical Depression Agaton, which killed at least 41 people in Mindanao, the President said it seemed that calamities were “trying to keep us from the peace, prosperity and good future that are already within our reach.”

Filipinos unfazed

“But even if tragedies put us down on our knees, the Filipino is unfazed,” he said, reading from a prepared prayer in Filipino during the event in Malacañang dubbed “One Nation in Prayer.”

“The whole world marveled at the extraordinary strength of our character, the strength of our solidarity and the depth of our faith. We drew strength from Your love. We calmly face whatever challenges that may come, never surrendering and never losing hope, because we know that You are always by our side, guiding us, watching over us, and helping us with our problems.”

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who was seated beside the President on the makeshift stage on the Palace grounds, asked God “to lead us into becoming blessings to our fellowmen.”

Tagle cited the text in Mark 15:34 in which Jesus asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Though the verse might have reverberated among many calamity victims, he said it was a “supplication” from people who had “no one to turn to but You.”

The monster typhoon that hit Leyte and Samar provinces and cut a wide swath of devastation across the Visayas on Nov. 8 killed more than 6,000 people and displaced millions of others, leaving the government with massive rehabilitation job that could extend beyond the end of the President’s term in 2016.

The devastation caused by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to make landfall on record, prompted a massive aid response from the global community.

In his prayer, Aquino asked God to “teach us to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.”

“Help us to continue loving even those who have forgotten to follow your great commandments,” he said.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “Despite this, we will face this with trust and hope because we know that whatever happens, it will be according to Your good plan.”

The interfaith prayer brought together lawmakers led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Cabinet officials, leading businessmen, students and members of civil society.

Also present was Vice President Jejomar Binay who, on Sunday, asked the country to “pray for those who perished in the calamities that hit our nation last year and for healing for our beloved Philippines.”

“Once again, let our faith in the Almighty guide us toward a better, more secure future for our countrymen whose lives may have been altered yet remain steadfast and unconquered in spirit,” Binay said in a statement.

The Visayas pray

Churches in the Archdiocese of Palo, in Leyte province, a church in Bacolod City and a town in Iloilo province also prayed for the thousands who perished in disasters in 2013.

Fr. Amadeo Alvero, spokesman for the Palo archdiocese, said the Masses at 5:30 a.m. and at 5 p.m. were offered for all the victims of calamities.

“Let us always be one in remembering and praying for all those who died during the past calamities in our country. And let us together pray as one nation to be united in helping those who were really affected,” Alvero said.

“And we pray that those who lost their homes will be given [new homes] where they can live with dignity. Let us pray that the financial help from our generous donors will not be pocketed but be used to really help the victims of the recent calamities,” he said, in a dig on the Aquino administration’s bunkhouse plan for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda that international observers had found to be substandard and overpriced.

The Archdiocese of Palo covers the dioceses of Calbayog in Samar, Borongan in Eastern Samar, Naval in Biliran and Catarman in Northern Samar.

Praying for recovery

In Carles town in Iloilo province, local government officials and employees prayed for recovery from the devastation wrought by Yolanda.

Carles Mayor Arnold Betita led the prayer for recovery, which followed the flag-raising ceremony at the municipal hall in the morning.

Betita said at least 21 of the 33 village chiefs in the town took part in the prayer.

“We are praying for the quick recovery of our town from the massive devastation,” he said.

Carles, a coastal town on the northeastern tip of Panay Island, 146 kilometers from Iloilo City, was hit hard by Yolanda.

The island villages, 18 of the town’s 33 villages, took the heaviest damage.

Betita said bad weather caused by Tropical Depression Agaton worsened the plight of the survivors on the islands.

“They cannot fish, especially those left with only small boats, because of the rough seas,” Betita said.

He said the municipal government had requested food aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the residents of the islands, who had nothing to eat because they could not go out to sea and fish.

The Diocese of Bacolod prayed for the victims of calamities as part of its celebration of the Feast of Saint Sebastian, its patron saint, Bacolod Bishops Vicente Navarra said.

Leading the prayers, Navarra called on the congregants to bear witness to their faith by showing their love for God, neighbor and country, amid the calamities and the many challenges faced by the nation.

In Mati City, Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon led government employees in the national prayer at the provincial capitol gymnasium in the afternoon.

“We will pray that our people will have the patience to endure everything, and that God will give me wisdom to lead our province during these trying times,” Malanyaon told the Inquirer on the phone.

Several towns in Davao Oriental remain isolated after floodwaters destroyed bridges last week.

In December 2012, the towns of Boston, Cateel and Baganga were hit hard by Typhoon “Pablo,” leaving thousands of residents homeless.

In Zamboanga City, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar called on all government employees and residents to join the National Day of Prayer to empathize with other cities and provinces devastated by man-made and natural calamities.

“Let us build better,” Salazar said during the flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall yesterday morning.

It won’t help

But for Muhmar Dalawis, 38, an evacuee at Don Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, the national day of prayer would not help the situation of the survivors of the MNLF siege.

“What we need is real help,” Dalawis said.

Professor Alih Aiyub of Western Mindanao State University, who is also secretary general of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, said the prayers would not help ease the burden of the internally displaced families in different evacuation centers.

“What they need is immediate intervention and it’s been quite a long time already. They have waited so long,” Aiyub said.

Dr. Rodelin Agbulos, Zamboanga City health officer, confirmed that at least 65 people have died in the evacuation centers.

Twenty-three of the victims died from dengue.—With reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Joey Gabieta and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Nico Alconaba and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

FROM YAHOO ASIA NEWS

Revilla gets personal; hits Aquino, Roxas By Kim Arveen Patria Kim Arveen Patria PostsEmailBy Kim Arveen Patria | Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom – 15 hours ago


NPPA - MANILA, Philippines - Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. delivers his privilege speech at the Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, on 20 January 2014. Senator Revilla reiterates that he is not involve in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. (Voltaire Domingo/NPPA IMAGES)

He started by denying links to the P10-billion pork barrel scandal, but Senator Bong Revilla’s privilege speech soon became a personal tirade against his political foes.

The senator on Monday hit back at the pork scam whistleblowers, but also struck President Benigno Aquino III and his possible presidential rival Mar Roxas.

“Lahat ng ito ay palabas lamang ng isang gobyerno na nagkukunwaring may malasakit sa bayan (All of this is staged by a government that is feigning concern for the people),” Revilla said of the pork barrel scam drama.

This, as he hit the Aquino government for what he said was disappointing response to national issues, including the looming energy rate hike and typhoon “Yolanda”.

“Pangulong Aquino, ikaw ang ama ng bayan. Ang kailangan ng bayan ay puso ng isang magulang. Puso, Mr. President, puso! (President Aquino, you are the father of the nation. What we need is the heart of a parent. Heart, Mr. President, heart!)” Revilla said.

The embattled senator is the first official implicated in the pork barrel scandal to directly address and challenge Aquino in response to accusations against him.

He said he President is betraying the “tuwid na daan” (righteous path) he promised in his presidential campaign and advancing instead the interests of allies.

“Kapag kapartido ang akusado, bibigyan ng pampiyansa. Pero kapag kalaban ka, bibigwasan ka hanggang masira ang pangalan mo (An accused party-made will be bailed out. But if you are a rival, you will be attacked until you are ruined),” Revilla said.

The senator was referring to the President’s decision to bail out Grace Padaca, who Aquino appointed poll commissioner despite a pending case.

He also recalled how the administration shrugged off a scandal which implicated presidential sister Ballsy Aquino and her husband in alleged extortion attempt.

“Sigurado akong nararamdamn mo rin ang sakit ng maisangkot ang kapatid at bayaw mo sa katiwalian (I am sure you know the pain of having a sister and an in-law dragged into a scandal),” Revilla said.

Revilla also slung mud against Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, accusing the Cabinet official of doing the President’s dirty work.

Roxas, arguably Aquino’s strongest ally, is expected to bid for the presidency in 2016, a position Revilla is also said to be eyeing under an opposition party.

Calling Roxas “Boy Pick-up”, the senator claimed the DILG chief was the one who arranged a meeting between him and Aquino during the Corona impeachment.

Roxas invited him to his house in Quezon City, Revilla said, but soon drove him to Malacanang where Aquino and Budget Chief Butch Abad had been waiting.

Revilla quoted the President as telling him, “Pare, parang awa mo na. Ibalato mo na sa akin ito,” convincing him to vote in favor of the chief justice’s impeachment.

“Kung nagawa ito ni PNoy kay Corona, baka impluwensiyahan rin niya ang Sandiganbayan laban sa amin (If PNoy was able to do it to Corona, he could have influenced the Sandiganbayan too against us),” the senator said further.

The alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla claimed is “a calibrated plan aimed to create a bandwagon of hatred” against Aquino’s political rivals.

“I have already accepted this political persecution. Tanggap ko na kung anuman ang naka-tadhana sakin (I know what is destined for me. I am not afraid,” Revilla said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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