HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEKEND ...

GOVT DEFENDS LEGALITY OF EDCA BEFORE SC 

Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement MANILA, Philippines - The government has firmed up its position on the constitutionality of the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US in a 42-page memorandum filed with the Supreme Court. In the memorandum filed last Monday, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay sought the dismissal of the petitions filed by groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada last May seeking to declare EDCA unconstitutional. Hilbay, who represents the Palace in the case, reiterated that the agreement is valid and can stand even without the concurrence of the Senate. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Senate willing to give Noynoy only token powers 

The Senate will only concede to President Aquino’s added authority to defer the Biofuels Act which requires the use of biofuel as an additive to diesel used to run power plants instead of the broad emergency powers that the Palace seeks for Aquino to address a supposed electricity supply crisis looming next year. It’s still a resounding “no” to the grant of special powers to Aquino, as far as the Senate is concerned, despite Palace’s pleas for Congress to immediately pass the bill which will give Aquino broad powers mainly in signing new power contracts and tapping into the P170-billion Malampaya Funds. Rather than arm Aquino with emergency powers or additional authority, “we will give the President the power to exempt, during the period of emergency power shortage, certain generating companies from being forced to use bio-diesel so they can use pure diesel,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the energy committee said yesterday after conducting another hearing on the proposed resolution No. 933. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: No pressure on 3 justices; Palace also surprised by mass resignation  

PHOTO OF PRESIDENTIAL SECRETARY COLOMA-- THE Palace expressed concern Tuesday over the decision of three Sandiganbayan justices to inhibit themselves from trying the plunder and graft cases against Senator Jinggoy Estrada. “The interest of the people is that there should be no delay in the proceedings and the wheels of justice must continue to turn,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. In a letter to the anti-graft court’s presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta of the Sandiganbayan 5th Division all asked to be recused from trying Estrada’s case for “personal reasons.” Both the defense and the prosecution said they were surprised by the move eight months after the trial had started. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Garin not DOH Secretary, yet – Malacañang 

PHOTO: GARIN AND ONA --The Department of Health (DOH) will remain on status quo with Undersecretary Janette L. Garin as officer-in-charge (OIC), following the resignation of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, until President Aquino has appointed a new DOH Secretary, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President has yet to appoint a replacement for Ona. “The President has not yet decided who to appoint (as) the successor to Secretary Ike Ona, so ang mangyayari status quo muna tayo ngayon (so we will remain on status quo). Usec. Janette Garin will be the Acting Secretary of Health until a permanent appointment has been announced,” Lacierda said. The Palace official however remained mum on the contents of Ona’s resignation letter as well as the reason for President Aquino’s acceptance of the resignation.

MALACANANG CHILDREN CHRISTMAS PARTY 
Noy urges youth: Go beyond selfie

President Aquino hosts a Christmas party for children at Malacañang yesterday. WILLY PEREZ  MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday urged the youth to avoid becoming a “selfies” generation but rather a force to reckon with in Philippine society. Aquino said there is so much distraction today compared to before and it is laudable when young people go for “something with meaning, something of value and something that will redound to others’ benefits.”  “Some are busy with ‘Clash of Clans,’ practicing selfie shots,” Aquino told the Youth Summit 2014 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City where he received a lot of cheers and a request for a selfie from a participant from Canada. Aquino told participants that they were probably not familiar with the mimeograph and typewriter, but reminded them to be responsible in the use of modern technology and social media now that freedom of expression could be exercised rather than curtailed. READ FULL REPORT...

2015 budget filled with pork barrel funds – watchdog 

The 2015 budget is still filled with pork barrel funds despite the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, according to a budget watchdog. “Several budget vulnerabilities are apparent,” according to an analysis by Social Watch Philippines (SWP). SWP lead convenor Leonor Briones said the bicameral conference committee report on the budget skirted the SC decision when it raised the PDAF-like funds in at least five agencies to P47.18 billion from the House-approved P37.33 billion. “The executive originally proposed a total of P33.38 billion in the National Expenditure Program; this translates into a total increase of P13.46 billion from the budget proposed by the executive,” Briones said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: BuCor chief confirms Bilibid raid was leaked 

(from left) NBP Supt. Venancio Tesoro, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and BuCor Chief Jesus Bucayu MANILA - The head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed Thursday that relatives of drug lords inside New Bilibid Prison (NBP) had been tipped off about Monday's raid but denied that he was the source of the leak. Speaking to radio DZMM, BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu said that the night before the raid, several officials started receiving text messages from the wives of drug lords inside the jail asking if their husbands would be transferred. "Nung gabi pa, nagtatawagan na yung mga kamag anak ng mga ito at nagtataka kami bakit alam. Mga kamag-anak nagte-text sa amin at tinatanong kung mayroong lipatan," he said. "So yun ang pinagtataka namin, bakit merong ganung impormasyon kamag-anak ng mga involved doon."  He quickly denied leaking information about the raid, saying the operation was planned months in advance with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. READ FULL REPORT...
 


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Gov’t defends legality of EDCA before SC

MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (PHILSTAR) Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement MANILA, Philippines - The government has firmed up its position on the constitutionality of the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US in a 42-page memorandum filed with the Supreme Court.

In the memorandum filed last Monday, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay sought the dismissal of the petitions filed by groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada last May seeking to declare EDCA unconstitutional.

Hilbay, who represents the Palace in the case, reiterated that the agreement is valid and can stand even without the concurrence of the Senate.

The top government lawyer argued that a referral to the Senate could be construed as nullification of the agreement for non-compliance of Article XVIII, Section 25 of the Constitution.

This provision states: “After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

Hilbay explained that a referral, raised by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen during oral arguments last month, would diminish the President’s powers and in turn adversely affect the country’s standing in the international community.

He again stressed that EDCA is not a treaty as claimed by petitioners, but rather an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.

The SolGen also pointed out that executive agreements, which belong to a distinct category of legal instruments subject to judicial review, are allowed by the Constitution.

“Their view flies in the face of the text of the Constitution, the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and the long-standing practice of the Executive Department. In fact, executive agreements are mentioned in the Constitution, in Article VIII, Section 4(2) and Article VIII, Section 5(2),” he argued.

Hilbay also cited the Senate’s silence and non-participation in the petitions as an affirmation of the President’s stance that the EDCA is a valid executive agreement.

“To date, the Senate has not issued a resolution expressing its objection to the EDCA, much less authorized any of its members to file a suit on its behalf,” he said.

Cheapening Constitution

He also called the attention of the SC to petitioner’s overuse of the “transcendental importance” factor, cheapening Constitutional safeguards and turning the high court into a venue for “historical grievances and purely symbolic claim.”

The SolGen likewise reiterated that EDCA is necessary in addressing external and internal security issues confronting the country, including the latter’s territorial dispute with China over islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Nullifying EDCA, he warned, “will bring incalculable damage to our national security.”

Hilbay also rejected the petitioners’ allegation that the EDCA would provide tax exemptions to the US.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Senate willing to give Noynoy only token powers Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 17 December 2014 00:00


AQUINO

The Senate will only concede to President Aquino’s added authority to defer the Biofuels Act which requires the use of biofuel as an additive to diesel used to run power plants instead of the broad emergency powers that the Palace seeks for Aquino to address a supposed electricity supply crisis looming next year.

It’s still a resounding “no” to the grant of special powers to Aquino, as far as the Senate is concerned, despite Palace’s pleas for Congress to immediately pass the bill which will give Aquino broad powers mainly in signing new power contracts and tapping into the P170-billion Malampaya Funds.

Rather than arm Aquino with emergency powers or additional authority, “we will give the President the power to exempt, during the period of emergency power shortage, certain generating companies from being forced to use bio-diesel so they can use pure diesel,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the energy committee said yesterday after conducting another hearing on the proposed resolution No. 933.

The said resolution sought the conduct of hearings, in aid of legislation, to determine the government’s options to alleviate the power shortage in 2015 due to the tightening electric supply situation in the country.

“We’ll have to think about that (“special authority”) because they don’t really need the President’s authority. Maybe we will give him the power to exempt certain establishments from the biofuels act or authorize him to refund Psalm (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.) for the extra cost, that we’ll have to pay for the temporary storage fuel for Ilijan (power plant), which would surely amount to about P40 million. It’s a very small amout for an extra 500 megawatts,” the senator said.

Provisions of the law under the Bio-fuels Act require generating sets to use liquid fuels containing locally-sourced biofuel components.

“We will give the power to exempt, we’ll give the President the power to, for example, to give exemption from bio-fuels act , we will say the President is hereby given the power to exempt, during the period of emergency power shortage, certain power generating companies from being forced to use bio diesel so that they can use pure diesel,” Osmeña said.

The Palace has been lobbying for Congress to grant the special powers to Aquino as a way to address the looming power shortage in Luzon in the summer months of next year.

Osmeña, however, along with business, doubts that the shortage will reach crisis level since the private sector had committed to do its part through their participation in the interruptible load program (ILP).

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Palace is hopeful that Congress could provide a solution to the impending power crisis by reconciling resolutions from both the House or Representatives and the Senate.

Malacañang has certified the legislation as urgent, asking for special powers for the President to effectively come up with a remedy to the possible power shortage.

“Again, the most expensive power is no power. If there is no power, it affects the economy; it affects the convenience of the consumers,” Lacierda said during the daily press briefing.

“What we are trying to do is come up with the solution with the safeguards in mind. I am certain that safeguards will be provided to make sure that we are able to address the power situation in 2015,” he added.

Osmeña discounted the need for a Senate resolution granting President Aquino emergency powers to avert next year’s projected power shortage.

Experts put the power shortage in the Luzon grid from March to July next year at 1,004 megawatts.

Under the House resolution, the ILP, fast-tracking committed projects, and plants for interconnection and rehabilitation could provide the additional generating capacity for Luzon.

Energy Department Secretary Jericho Petilla commitments to the ILP are expected to reach up to 1,000 Megawatts (MWs) from its current 600 MW signed capacity, in preparation for the Luzon reserve deficit for summer of 2015.

“Right now, we have 600 MW of participants, we’d like to raise it to over a thousand,” Petilla told reporters.

He pointed out the signed capacity will not run for a full 600 MW and will only run at 300 MW, since ILP’s cannot run for an entire day. ILP capacity comes from the power generated by the establishments.

Based on DoE records as of Dec. 8, the ILP’s confirmed capacity from the Retail Electricity Suppliers Association (RESA) reaches 401.5 MW, while Meralco’s committed capacity amounts to 195.2 MW for a total of 596.7 MW.

Also, Meralco’s potential captive market amounts to 59.85 MW, while RESA’s potential is at 36.49 MW.

Petilla further said the Department of Energy (DoE) is only considering the capacity from signed participants.

He also lauded the passing of emergency powers, saying it is vital for the stabilization of power rates, since it will subsidize the Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco’s) supposedly pass-on charges.

“The assurance is, the public will not pay for the additional compensation for ILP... So the participating companies will not be scared,” he said.

Moreover, Petilla said the subsidy, approved for the emergency powers, will also increase the number of ILP participants.

For the estimated passing of the conditions for emergency powers, Petilla said the earlier it is approved — the better — adding if it happens on February the DoE will have to deal with it.

Under the current congressional proposal, the Malampaya fund will be used to pay for the ILP charges.

On the other hand, Petilla noted the Senate cannot be blamed for scrutinizing the details of the emergency authority.

The energy head said the DoE wants to change the provision for the conditions of running ILP, so that it can prevent brownouts from occuring.”

In the congressional version, there is room for us to make an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), so that even before brownouts it will run,” he said.

Unlike in the proposed joint resolution on the emergency powers of the President, the senator said what he has in mind will not have any limitations as to the coverage period as he hopes to have it introduced as an enforceable if need be.

“There’s no need (to put specific covered period). There’s no need to put a limit. We will make it permanent – the power to exempt (from Bio-Fuels Act) – etc., whenever needed, so it would be permanent. It would be forever, unless future Congresses amend it again,” he explained.

The senator gave an assurance to arrive at a “solution” on the issue shortly after the Christmas break, just in time before the projected power supply shortage during the summer months of 2015.

“Definitely we will pass this resolution before the end of Jan.,” he said.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

‘No pressure on 3 justices’; Palace also surprised by mass resignation
By Joyce Pangco Panares, Nelson Forte Flores | Dec. 17, 2014 at 12:01am


COLOMA

THE Palace expressed concern Tuesday over the decision of three Sandiganbayan justices to inhibit themselves from trying the plunder and graft cases against Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

“The interest of the people is that there should be no delay in the proceedings and the wheels of justice must continue to turn,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

In a letter to the anti-graft court’s presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta of the Sandiganbayan 5th Division all asked to be recused from trying Estrada’s case for “personal reasons.”

Both the defense and the prosecution said they were surprised by the move eight months after the trial had started.

Coloma said the Palace was surprised as well, and denied suggestions that the justices recused themselves because of pressure from the government.

“There is no basis and there is no truth to that accusation,” Coloma said.

A source in the anti-graft court said the pressure came from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The source declined to divulge details, but the Supreme Court granted last month the request of the BIR to get copies of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of Sandiganbayan justices.

Estrada’s lawyer Stephen David said the inhibition would put their pending motions before the court in limbo.

Fifth Division clerk of court Ma. Teresa Pabulayan said even Estrada’s request for a Christmas and New Year furlough filed last Friday “will not be acted upon.”

Only the Supreme Court can question the motives of the three justices.

Cabotaje-Tang can only transfer the case to another division for trial once she finalizes the three justices’ inhibition, which is legally presumed to be “on just and valid grounds or compelling reasons” even if they are personal.

Other than saying that it was for personal reasons, the three Sandiganbayan justices remained mum over what prompted them to inhibit themselves.

The rules of court allow a judge or justice to inhibit himself from hearing a case in which he or his family has an interest, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree. A judge may also exercise his discretion and disqualify himself from sitting in a case for just and valid reasons.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has ruled that a judge’s decision to inhibit “should be based on his rational and logical assessment of the circumstances prevailing in the case before him”

Estrada, from his detention cell, said he was surprised by the inhibition of the three justices.

“I sincerely hope that this is not a product of political maneuverings from outside forces in an effort to influence the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] cases,” Estrada said in a text message Tuesday. “I hope that the development will not result in further delay in the resolution of my case, especially the bail proceedings.”

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Garin not DOH Secretary, yet – Malacañang by Madel Sabater - Namit December 21, 2014 Share this:


DOH ASST GARIN AND DOH CHIEF ONA

The Department of Health (DOH) will remain on status quo with Undersecretary Janette L. Garin as officer-in-charge (OIC), following the resignation of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, until President Aquino has appointed a new DOH Secretary, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President has yet to appoint a replacement for Ona.

“The President has not yet decided who to appoint (as) the successor to Secretary Ike Ona, so ang mangyayari status quo muna tayo ngayon (so we will remain on status quo). Usec. Janette Garin will be the Acting Secretary of Health until a permanent appointment has been announced,” Lacierda said.

The Palace official however remained mum on the contents of Ona’s resignation letter as well as the reason for President Aquino’s acceptance of the resignation.

“Kung ano ang reason ng pagtanggap ng resignation ni Secretary Ona, we do not have any information in that regard. What we were told and as mentioned by Secretary (Sonny) Coloma yesterday is that the Executive Secretary informed Secretary Ike Ona of the President’s acceptance of his resignation. Other than that statement, we have no information anymore,” he said.

PCV-10

Lacierda also said President Aquino is still reviewing the report by Ona on the pneumococcal conjucate vaccines (PCV-10) vaccines.

“Rest assured to our Filipino citizens na itong trabaho po sa Department of Health, the ongoing projects, patuloy po ‘yan [the work in the DOH, the ongoing projects continue].

Acting Secretary Janette Garin has been tasked to oversee the operations of the Department of Health,” he added.

Secretary Ona went on leave from Oct. 28 to Nov. 27, citing personal and health reasons. Later it was revealed that he had taken a leave to prepare a report on the purchase of the PCV-10 vaccines instead of the supposedly more cost-efficient PCV-13.

NBI INVESTIGATION

President Aquino earlier directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the alleged irregularities in the procurement of the vaccines, following a complaint allegedly filed by the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the WHO, PCV-10 and PCV-13 are licensed for immunization of infants and children from six weeks to five years of age against invasive disease, pneumonia and acute otitis media caused by the respective vaccine serotypes of S. pneumoniae.


FROM PHILSTAR

MALACANANG CHILDREN CHRISTMAS PARTY: Noy urges youth: Go beyond selfie By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


President Aquino hosts a Christmas party for children at Malacañang yesterday. WILLY PEREZ

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday urged the youth to avoid becoming a “selfies” generation but rather a force to reckon with in Philippine society.

Aquino said there is so much distraction today compared to before and it is laudable when young people go for “something with meaning, something of value and something that will redound to others’ benefits.”

“Some are busy with ‘Clash of Clans,’ practicing selfie shots,” Aquino told the Youth Summit 2014 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City where he received a lot of cheers and a request for a selfie from a participant from Canada.

Aquino told participants that they were probably not familiar with the mimeograph and typewriter, but reminded them to be responsible in the use of modern technology and social media now that freedom of expression could be exercised rather than curtailed.

He asked the participants to be discerning when passing information from the Internet, noting that a post was not necessarily true just because it went viral or is trending.

Aquino even joked that he was hearing the word “Dota” for the first time, an online game that was used to criticize him before for supposedly spending time on it rather than working.

“It would be game over for our dreams,” Aquino said, if the youth would not be responsible.

The President said the young people must live their theme – “Fearless” – and be part of nation building.

Aquino said he would retire from politics by 2016 but he has his nephews and nieces as a motivation to make things better rather than offer an unending soap opera.

“Finished or not finished,” Aquino said, reiterating he would like to be able to tell the Lord he did everything he could to effect changes.

Aquino added the public would be surprised at the amount of work that young members were putting in to his administration.

“Now, youth in general I think (are) the primary motive force for change in society. When you are older, when you have certain sets of responsibilities, then you tend to compromise some of the principles or the beliefs that you had when you were younger. The youth, therefore, are the main means to rekindle these principles, this idealism that might have become a little, shall we say – I wouldn’t want to use the word tarnished – but perhaps forgotten by the older set,” he said.

“So when there is unity between the youth who are pushing for the changes that will make society better and the adherence of the same by the older set who get to remember what their idealism was, then that becomes a force that is very difficult to stop and, therefore, the change, the positive changes, can be a route faster to the benefit of everybody – I guess the experience of the older set and the strength and the resiliency and the energy of the youthful set combined becomes a necessary component to effect changes right away.”

A Christmas gift

Aquino also hosted a children’s Christmas party at Malacañang yesterday.

A tight hug was Aquino’s Christmas gift from a little girl when asked what she could give him – a sight that sent the audience gushing: “Awww, that was sweet.”

Four-year-old Joyce Flores from Pasig City was supposed to be one of the children allowed to ask questions, but she may have been too young or too shy to do so and just told Aquino: “ Mr. President, Mr. President…I have a gift for you.”

“Thank you, thank you,” Aquino said as he thought the girl would sing or recite a poem. But the girl just embraced him.

Flores was among the hundreds of children invited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to the Kalayaan grounds of the Palace for the annual Christmas party hosted by Aquino.

The children came from different places in Metro Manila and are given a taste of Christmas at Malacañang, the seat of power.

Dubbed “Pasko ng Batang Pinoy 2014,” Aquino answered questions from the very young crowd, some of whom were running, tumbling and playing on the grounds while others were simply lying down on the grass.

Aquino was asked if he experienced caroling or lighted watusi or piccolo firecrackers during his younger days. He was also asked to sing, but he declined.

“When we were kids, we used watusi and sometimes…what do you call it? Sparkler…you know what a sparkler is? It is forbidden for us to use labintador (firecracker),” Aquino told the children.

The President said he would call on the people again not to use firecrackers in welcoming the New Year because it would be noisy and cause pollution.

But it might take a long time before the use of firecrackers could be taken out of the Filipinos’ culture despite the dangers they were posing, Aquino said, adding law enforcers would make sure the people would obey the rules and regulations on firecrackers.

The other children took the opportunity to tell the President their problems – from the debts of their mothers to one urging him to free her father from prison.

Another boy wanted to see his parents, finish his studies and take care of his family in the future. The President assured them of any possible assistance and had their names listed.

Some asked serious questions, like if he would run again in 2016, to which Aquino replied he was no longer allowed by the Constitution.

Aquino added he wanted to make change permanent in the country.

About martial law imposition during the term of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Aquino recalled that assembly of more than three people was illegal at that time and they were unable to go caroling because they had to abide by the curfew.


FROM PHILSTAR

2015 budget filled with pork barrel funds – watchdog By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The 2015 budget is still filled with pork barrel funds despite the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, according to a budget watchdog.

“Several budget vulnerabilities are apparent,” according to an analysis by Social Watch Philippines (SWP).

SWP lead convenor Leonor Briones said the bicameral conference committee report on the budget skirted the SC decision when it raised the PDAF-like funds in at least five agencies to P47.18 billion from the House-approved P37.33 billion.

“The executive originally proposed a total of P33.38 billion in the National Expenditure Program; this translates into a total increase of P13.46 billion from the budget proposed by the executive,” Briones said.

She said cross-border transfers, which was cited as one of the reasons for the unconstitutionality of the DAP, were also legitimized in the 2015 budget. She cited a special provision in certain special purpose funds which allows the executive to declare them as savings “to augment deficiency” in the budget of the executive, legislative and judiciary, including constitutional commissions and offices.

Briones cited the E-Government Fund, International Commitments Fund, Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, Pension and Gratuity Fund and Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program.

“There are provisions which are very vague in the budget. In Section 69(a)(b), there are no restrictions to deficiencies brought about by ‘justified’ modifications or adjustments for programs, activities and projects. How are ‘justified causes’ identified? There are no guidelines on this,” she said.

She said the meaning and declaration of savings is also not clear. “Though the phrase ‘at any time’ is removed from the original provision…the qualifier ‘during the validity of appropriations’ in Sec. 68 still implies the intention to declare savings at any time of the year,” she said.

“There should be a clear provision on when savings should be declared. Ideally, it should be declared at the end of the year following the usual meaning of ‘savings.’ If ‘savings’ can be declared at any time of the year and realigned whichever way the executive pleases, the 2015 General Appropriations Act becomes superficial and the Congress loses the power of the purse,” said Briones.

The group said the 2015 budget goes against the balance of powers among the branches of government, with the legislative surrendering the power of appropriation to the executive.

“Ironically, it is Congress that is facilitating its loss of power. They are rewording the provisions to skirt around the SC decisions to legitimize what is unconstitutional. It is like saying that if someone is guilty of murder or theft, we simply change what ‘murder’ and ‘theft’ mean so the person is no longer guilty. This change of definition and its implications is nothing short of betrayal to the Filipino people and our interests,” said Briones.


FROM ABS-CBN

BuCor chief confirms Bilibid raid was leaked By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 12/18/2014 9:57 PM | Updated as of 12/19/2014 8:52 AM


(from left) NBP Supt. Venancio Tesoro, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and BuCor Chief Jesus Bucayu

MANILA - The head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed Thursday that relatives of drug lords inside New Bilibid Prison (NBP) had been tipped off about Monday's raid but denied that he was the source of the leak.

Speaking to radio DZMM, BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu said that the night before the raid, several officials started receiving text messages from the wives of drug lords inside the jail asking if their husbands would be transferred.

"Nung gabi pa, nagtatawagan na yung mga kamag anak ng mga ito at nagtataka kami bakit alam. Mga kamag-anak nagte-text sa amin at tinatanong kung mayroong lipatan," he said.

"So yun ang pinagtataka namin, bakit merong ganung impormasyon
kamag-anak ng mga involved doon."

He quickly denied leaking information about the raid, saying the operation was planned months in advance with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Present at the meetings were representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and other units.

"Ang nangyari diyan we had a meeting presided by the secretary. Hindi lang naman ako. This has been planned a long time ago, mga 2-3 months before. Yung exact time e walang ibang nakakaalam niyan kundi kaming nagplano. Hindi lang ako," he said.

Bucayu reiterated that entering the maximum security compound was like entering a maze, with secret doors leading to the alleged luxury villas of high-profile inmates inside the prison.

He also confirmed that the raid raised suspicions that a rival gang might have led police commandos to raid their competitors' villas.

Eric Isidoro, the leader of the NBI raiding team, earlier said BuCor guards "deceived" the team by leading them to a different "kubol" than the one really targeted by the raid.

He said the guards brought them to a small kubol allegedly used by Hans Chua, an ally of drug lord Peter Co.

“When we got inside, even Hans Chua couldn’t breathe. He said he has asthma and couldn’t breathe inside. So logic tells you, the kubol is not his. Then, we checked the clothes and the shoes inside the kubol, they didn’t fit him. We asked him to open his drawer, he didn’t have the key and even asked the BuCor guard for help,” Isidoro said.

He added that the guards looked "happy" when the raiding team found less contraband than what was relayed to them by an informant.

As a result, NBI agents started kicking and knocking down walls that eventually led to a secret room with a jacuzzi, exercise machine and split-type aircon.

Other items found inside the jail include narcotics, sex dolls, a strip bar, Rolex and Patek Philippe watches, Louis Vuitton wallets and stacks of dollar bills.

MORE CONTRABAND

In the interview, Bucayu confirmed more contraband items might be found inside the villas of other inmates.

Asked why the drug lords would have Rolexes, he said: "Obviously, they have money."

He denied that the inmates were allowed to leave the national penitentiary to show off their luxury items, saying they could just be bragging about their luxuries to fellow prisoners.

He also denied that he is taking bribes from the VIP inmates to turn a blind eye to their luxuries.

He said that if he was on the take, reports on the illegal activities inside the prison would not have come out.

"I have not received any bribe. Alam nila hindi tayo ganoong tao. Hindi tayo tumatanggap," he said.

He added: "This raid happened under my watch and not under the terms of my predecessors. They say a lot but what did they do when they were here?"


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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