HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEKEND ...

HOUSE TO REMOVE UNCONSTITUTIONAL BBL PROVISIONS 

Leaders of the House of Representatives yesterday vowed to pass by March the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but not before removing what the chamber considers as unconstitutional provisions. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee deliberating on the BBL, issued the statement after Malacañang appealed to Congress to approve the measure that will create a new autonomous region in Mindanao before the election fever sets in. “We assure the administration we aim to finalize the committee report (of the BBL) by February and present it to the plenary for deliberations, and approve it in plenary early March so the President can sign it by March 30,” Rodriguez told The STAR. The ad hoc panel, composed of 75 lawmakers, has conducted 34 public hearings mostly in Mindanao. Two more public hearings will be held at the House when Congress resumes session on Jan. 19 before the panel holds a few executive sessions to finalize the committee report that will be submitted to the plenary. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Aquino had tough time parrying ‘pork’ brickbats 

THE controversies surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the “selective justice” on the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the corruption issue involving suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and the traffic congestion at the Port of Manila were among the toughest challenges that President Benigno Aquino 3rd hurdled in 2014, according to a Palace spokesman.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DAP topped these challenges because it even dragged down the President’s ratings. “The Supreme Court [SC] ruling on the [DAP] was one of the most difficult challenges for the President in 2014. This also brought on the President’s lowest performance and trust ratings since mid-2010,” he explained. Coloma was referring to the downtrend in Aquino’s ratings since the SC ruling. He noted that in the fourth quarter, however, the numbers rebounded. The High Tribunal’s decision declaring the DAP unconstitutional can also be blamed for the uncertainty in government spending, which slowed down the country’s economic growth. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Mar to catch up; Binay hopes graft accusations over 

He has been topping all pre-election polls despite the many corruption allegations being leveled against him through the Senate blue ribbon subcom-mittee made up of three senators whose goal is to demonize Vice President Jejomar Binay and make him lose in the presidential race.
But the VP’s spirits have been lifted as he continues to lead in the polls and is looking at 2015 with hopes that the worst is over, although he said in an interview that he is not that optimistic, knowing that the lies being spewed in the Senate subcommittee will continue. “Let’s hope and pray (that this will be over),” Binay said, “but there is doubt that these allegations will stop. Binay, who has repeatedly de-nied the accu-sations against him, said he will exert more effort to explain his side. The Liberal Party stalwarts are also in high spiirts, after Interior Secretary and the reported party standard bearer. Mar Roxas obtained a double digit rating in the “top of the mind” best leaders to succeed President Aquino. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Palace withholds action on Lacson resignation

Malacañang said it is not acting yet and is still reviewing a proposal of Office of the Presidential Assistant on Recovery and Rehabilitation (OPARR) Secretary Panfilo Lacson to transfer the functions of his office to the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), a transition phase that included Lacson’s resignation as rehabilitation czar. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Lacson’s transition proposal will be looked into by the Palace, as the oversight review of the OPARR due to typhoon “Yolanda” has been deemed completed. Coloma said Lacson views that it is about time to put up a permanent agency tasked to respond on the needs for rehabilitation and recovery. “According to his suggestion, the function of recovery and rehabilitation currently in the OPARR according to Executive Order 62 should be included in the functions of the NDRRMC, which is only currently tasked to undertake emergency alert and preparedness and immediate relief work and preparation of relief agencies,” Coloma said. “What he is saying is the last component, which is rehabilitation and recovery, should be included in the regular functions of the NDRRMC. From that concept, in his view and statement too, once the concept is accepted, the OPARR concept will be folded in the structure of the NDRRMC,” he added. Coloma, on the other hand, noted that it is only a suggestion as yet from Secretary Lacson, saying that the review and vetting process at the Cabinet level with regard to recommendations will first be done. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Solons reject, Palace justifies train fare hike

Senators yesterday raised a howl over what they noted as “gargantuan” increase, some 50 to 87 percent, in the fare rates of Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) due to be implemented on Jan. 4. Sen. Sergio Osmeña III expressed belief that regardless of the amount of increase, it would not be enough to cover the needed rehabilitation of the mass railway system. “Even at P27, the operator loses money. So government subsidy would still be needed,” he noted. “There should be an upgrade first before the fare adjustment,” acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said.
Calling it unnecessary and untimely, Sen. Grace Poe, who has led the Senate investigation into the operations of MRT, questioned the fare increase even as she called for its deferment. “The (Senate public services) sub-committee (on public services) in the last four months, conducted three public hearings on the MRT issues. Almost all issues from the basic maintenance concerns to ownership of the kind of trains that we will procure in the coming years were all discussed. Considering that they have a date already to implement a new fare system, they should have volunteered it in the last hearing. But they did not. How could they be so insensitive to the millions of commuters and MRT, LRT riders?” she asked. Poe and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III also noted that the announcement on the fare increase came on the heels of Congress’ approval of a substantial government assistance in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2015 which provides P4.65 billion subsidy for MRT 3 and LRT Lines 1 and 2. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL: No Merry Christmas for them 

What is really difficult to understand in the Philippine justice system is why government officials insist on treating detainees as convicts, when they are still presumed to be innocent — until of course, proven guilty in a court of law. It also difficult to understand why the Justice chief, along with the Ombudsman, insist on filing charges against the indicted and accused when the evidence is weak. Why the accused are being denied their temporary liberty, especially when jail cells are too overcrowded and being treated like animals in crowded cells where sanitation is virtually inexistent, and where jail wardens don’t even bother to get those detainees who need medical attention examined by competent doctors is puzzling. There are of course detainees and detainees — not all are the same. Some have been in and out of jail and are repeat offenders. Others have their cases hanging, but have to stay in jail, simply because they don’t have the bail money to gain their temporary liberty. Worse, it takes to long a time for the courts to resolve these cases.
Others suffer under worse conditions, as they don’t have lawyers and have to rely on public defenders who sometimes just don’t have the time and patience to fight for their pro-bono clients. READ FULL COMMENTARY...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

House to remove unconstitutional BBL provisions

MANILA, DECEMBER 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Paolo Romero - Leaders of the House of Representatives yesterday vowed to pass by March the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but not before removing what the chamber considers as unconstitutional provisions.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee deliberating on the BBL, issued the statement after Malacañang appealed to Congress to approve the measure that will create a new autonomous region in Mindanao before the election fever sets in.

“We assure the administration we aim to finalize the committee report (of the BBL) by February and present it to the plenary for deliberations, and approve it in plenary early March so the President can sign it by March 30,” Rodriguez told The STAR.

The ad hoc panel, composed of 75 lawmakers, has conducted 34 public hearings mostly in Mindanao.

Two more public hearings will be held at the House when Congress resumes session on Jan. 19 before the panel holds a few executive sessions to finalize the committee report that will be submitted to the plenary.

Rodriguez said the Senate is also doing what it can to hasten discussions and approval of the measure, and that the Senate and the House plan to hold the bicameral conference committee meetings to reconcile possible conflicting provisions by March.

Doubtful constitutionality

However, Rodriguez admitted that the panel saw some unconstitutional provisions, including the creation of new offices in the envisioned autonomous region whose functions should remain with the national government.

“I think there are some provisions of doubtful constitutionality and they’ll be removed,” he said.

Among the provisions that are expected to be scrapped are those creating a separate Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the proposed autonomous region.

Rodriguez said the COA, CSC, and Comelec “should continue to have power and jurisdiction” over the envisioned Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The ad hoc committee will also delete the provision that removes the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman over officials of the autonomous region.

The provision that allows 10 percent of the population of contiguous areas to seek inclusion in the autonomous region will likely be scrapped as the section may cause instability, the lawmaker explained.

But some contested provisions on security, particularly on the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the proposed autonomous government, will be retained.

“We see no constitutional issues because there is only one Armed Forces, one PNP, and the President remains the commander-in-chief,” Rodriguez explained.

He said the proposed autonomous government would have its own police force for internal security but it would still be under the PNP.

The Philippine Constitution Association has also expressed concerns over the BBL. The group questioned the nature of the relationship between the national government and the Bangsamoro government and the inclusion of areas that do not want to become part of the new region like Cotabato City and Isabela City.

The Senate Tax Study and Research Office, for its part, said the BBL draft has tax and policy provisions that may not be compatible with the Constitution.

The BBL grants full political autonomy to the proposed autonomous region. But Rodriguez said the panel is still discussing the constitutional implications of the provision that has the proposed autonomous government in a parliamentary form.

“The new autonomous region will have 14 concurrent powers and 58 exclusive powers, including those of health, social services, social welfare, infrastructure, these are already devolved anyway and they know better,” Rodriguez said.

MILF open to changes in BBL

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it is open to improvements of the proposed BBL but cited the need for cooperation to ensure that they would benefit all stakeholders.

In an editorial posted on its website luwaran.com, MILF said the BBL draft is not an ordinary legislation and has passed through rigorous and lengthy processes.

“Bearing all these factors in mind, the MILF’s position is clear: We welcome an improvement of the BBL. Who does not want an improvement?” the editorial read.

“But a reminder has to be earnestly said: an improvement to one group may not necessarily be so, to another group. To plug the gap, this is where the spirit of partnership and cooperation between parties works best,” it added.

But the MILF could not say whether it is willing to accept a watered-down version of the BBL from Congress.

“The answer to this question cannot be straight and blunt because it entails a lot of sensitivity and reality. We know for a fact that in this country, plenary power over legislation is lodged with Congress,” the group said.

“Our answer has been very consistent that the MILF trusts the collective wisdom of Congress to pass a good legislation,” it added. – With Alexis Romero


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Aquino had tough time parrying ‘pork’ brickbats  December 28, 2014 10:25 pm
by JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER


THE controversies surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the “selective justice” on the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the corruption issue involving suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and the traffic congestion at the Port of Manila were among the toughest challenges that President Benigno Aquino 3rd hurdled in 2014, according to a Palace spokesman.

In an interview with The Manila Times, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DAP topped these challenges because it even dragged down the President’s ratings.

“The Supreme Court [SC] ruling on the [DAP] was one of the most difficult challenges for the President in 2014. This also brought on the President’s lowest performance and trust ratings since mid-2010,” he explained. Coloma was referring to the downtrend in Aquino’s ratings since the SC ruling. He noted that in the fourth quarter, however, the numbers rebounded.

The High Tribunal’s decision declaring the DAP unconstitutional can also be blamed for the uncertainty in government spending, which slowed down the country’s economic growth.

The Times earlier reported that the SC was bound to uphold its earlier decision and junk the motion for reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General. The voting on the matter, however, was deferred until the resumption of en banc sessions in January.

Besides the DAP, Coloma said President Aquino was also affected by the negative public opinion brought by his supposed continuing defense of the PNP chief, who was ordered suspended for six months by the Office of the Ombudsman over a contract he signed with a delivery firm.

“In regaining his lofty approval ratings in the fourth quarter, the President also overcame criticism on how he responded to negative publicity surrounding PNP Director General Alan Purisima,” Coloma said.

“There were also attempts to discredit the administration on account of alleged ‘selective justice’ in the investigation and prosecution of legislators said to be involved in anomalies related to the disbursement of PDAF or ‘pork barrel’ funds but these were eventually hurdled, too. The serious port congestion in Manila was addressed through a broad-based, multi-stakeholder approach,” he added.

Greatest achievements

On the other hand, Coloma said among the government’s greatest achievements in 2014 was the sharp drop in unemployment, which meant that nearly two million people found new jobs.

“Before the end of the year, the DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment] reported that unemployment has been reduced to 6 percent from 6.4 percent, on the back of the creation of more than 1.6 million new jobs,” he noted.

Coloma said the country’s investment grade ratings were affirmed during the year and the deleterious effects of the disasters, including Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, were overcome by the middle of 2014.

“The President sailed through the mid-point of his six-year tenure with flying colors. The extensive European and US tour he conducted also contributed significantly to building goodwill for the Philippines as well as enhanced support for its rules-based approach to the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea maritime entitlements dispute.

Asean centrality and the adoption of a legally binding Code of Conduct—issues which the President almost single-handedly advocated until late 2012—have gained traction and broad-based acceptance among regional leaders,” he added.

Despite the challenges facing the administration in its last years in power, the Palace official was optimistic that Aquino will deliver in 2015 on the promises he made during the campaign and his last four years in office.

“In 2015, President Aquino wants to demonstrate the full fruition of the promises he made to the people in terms of making them believe that it is possible to dream about and realize a better future for themselves and their country,” Coloma said.

“He believes that the foundations for inclusive growth have been established, especially in terms of sound macroeconomic fundamentals that have earned the country investment grade ratings. Hence, there has been a significant change in the country’s image from being the ‘sick man of Asia’ to being ‘Asia’s rising star,’” he added.

Among Aquino’s top priorities in 2015 are the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the visit of Pope Francis in January and the hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

“He [Aquino] is determined to implement the key programs and reforms that will ensure sustainability of the gains already achieved in terms of reducing poverty; increasing social protection [universal education and health care, socialized shelter]; mitigating the ill effects of calamities and drastic climate change; and delivering justice for all without fear or favor,”
Coloma said.

“By actions and deeds, the President has led the way in showing that government has the political will to do the right things and do things right,” he added.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Mar to catch up; Binay hopes graft accusations over Written by Tribune Wires Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00


MAR, BINAY

He has been topping all pre-election polls despite the many corruption allegations being leveled against him through the Senate blue ribbon subcom-mittee made up of three senators whose goal is to demonize Vice President Jejomar Binay and make him lose in the presidential race.

But the VP’s spirits have been lifted as he continues to lead in the polls and is looking at 2015 with hopes that the worst is over, although he said in an interview that he is not that optimistic, knowing that the lies being spewed in the Senate subcommittee will continue.

“Let’s hope and pray (that this will be over),” Binay said, “but there is doubt that these allegations will stop.

Binay, who has repeatedly de-nied the accu-sations against him, said he will exert more effort to explain his side. The Liberal Party stalwarts are also in high spiirts, after Interior Secretary and the reported party standard bearer. Mar Roxas obtained a double digit rating in the “top of the mind” best leaders to succeed President Aquino.

In the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, respondents were allowed to name three of their choices for best leaders and the numbers may not be that reflective of the voters’ sentiments, although the three choices were focused on the VP, Sen. Grace Poe and Roxas.
Poe is being seen by the LP as its vice presidential candidate.

Roxas can still catch up in pre-election presidential surveys, LP stalwart and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said Tuesday.

In an interview with reporters after the signing of the 2015 national budget, Abad said Roxas’ current survey figures are already “good,” with over a year before the next national polls, and stressed that it will be better definitely when Roxas decides to run and the party selects him.

Abad also pointed out to reporters that the sentimental favorite, Roxas, can also expect a rise in his poll figures if he formalizes his presidential bid.

He said the ratings of Roxas will get a further boost should Aquino anoint him.

The LPs expect Aquino, who is the LP chairman, to endorse Roxas.

Roxas was promised by Aquino in 2009 to be his successor, for Roxas’ giving way to him in the presidential race of 2010.

“There is always a bump upwards when candidates declare themselves available, even more if he is endorsed by a sititing president,” Abad added.

The budhet secretary pointed out said these pre-election surveys are “still erratic,” as it is only Binay who has declared his intention to vie for the top post in 2016.

“There’s only one candidate who has declared himself as a candidate in 2016. All the others have not. I think people don’t have any basis yet to make a firmer judgment as to who they should vote for,” the LP stalwart said.

“I think people have not yet sat down to think about these things. These are really just top of mind responses,” he added.

“The number one-ranked has 37 percent. In other words, those who may not vote, based on that survey, for him is about 63 percent and eventually this thing will simplify into two or three candidates.

So in that sense, that number, at this stage (for Roxas), is I think is good but will definitely be better if eventually he decides to run and the party selects him because there is always a bump upwards when candidates declare themselves available and even more so if they are endorsed by the sitting president,” Abad told reporters.

“So there are more positive sides, upsides I should say, that he (Roxas) will enjoy once those declarations are made.”

Abad however said “many things can still happen” ahead of the elections, stressing that “You can plan to be a congressman, a governor or even a senator but to run for president, there are many variables that are involved,” Abad said.

Binay for his part, also was upbeat on the findings of SWS, but said that the polls are still far away, and that he would rather focus on the tasks ahead.

On the accusations being leveled against him, he said again that these are all part of an operation to diminish his chances of winning in the 2016 elections, where he is set to run for president.

“One of the reasons we dropped in ratings for a time even as we maintained the lead stems from the perception that was created by our opponents. It came to a point however, that the public now sees all these allegations as lies and that these are all politically motivated, so the numbers are back for me,” the VP said.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian yesterday said the latest SWS survey showing Vice President Binay as still the top contender for the presidential post is a form of vindication for the presidential front runner after several months of being at the receiving end of media attacks.

“There is no doubt that the SWS survey is a vindication of sorts for VP Binay. This only means that he has a solid base among the masses and more and more Filipinos are convinced that the allegations on the vice president are devoid of truth and politically motivated,” said Gatchalian, whose NPC is allied with the administration.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Palace withholds action on Lacson resignation Written by Joshua L. Labonera Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00


LACSON

Malacañang said it is not acting yet and is still reviewing a proposal of Office of the Presidential Assistant on Recovery and Rehabilitation (OPARR) Secretary Panfilo Lacson to transfer the functions of his office to the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), a transition phase that included Lacson’s resignation as rehabilitation czar.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Lacson’s transition proposal will be looked into by the Palace, as the oversight review of the OPARR due to typhoon “Yolanda” has been deemed completed. Coloma said Lacson views that it is about time to put up a permanent agency tasked to respond on the needs for rehabilitation and recovery. “According to his suggestion, the function of recovery and rehabilitation currently in the OPARR according to Executive Order 62 should be included in the functions of the NDRRMC, which is only currently tasked to undertake emergency alert and preparedness and immediate relief work and preparation of relief agencies,” Coloma said.

“What he is saying is the last component, which is rehabilitation and recovery, should be included in the regular functions of the NDRRMC. From that concept, in his view and statement too, once the concept is accepted, the OPARR concept will be folded in the structure of the NDRRMC,” he added.

Coloma, on the other hand, noted that it is only a suggestion as yet from Secretary Lacson, saying that the review and vetting process at the Cabinet level with regard to recommendations will first be done.

He noted that departments such as Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of National Defense (DND), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) are also part of the OPARR efforts.

Coloma said Lacson’s proposal will be first submitted to different Cabinet departments that are directly involved or are also stakeholders in the process. Inputs will be asked from the departments and a meeting will be held for a more comprehensive view on the matter.

 “We accept that such structure for disaster and risk reduction management is important, since our experience with Yolanda or Haiyan. We have seen it in ‘Ruby,’ that if there is good coordination and aid from different agencies, and if connected in the actions of the national to the local governments, it will bear good results,” Coloma said.

Meanwhile, the Palace official did not offer any comment on President Aquino accepting Lacson’s resignation, although he said it is part of Lacson’s “transition proposal.” “I have no feedback on what response there is on specific items there since it was transmitted last Friday, and we know, that today the President is in Eastern Samar,” Coloma said.

Lacson, the other day, submitted an irrevocable resignation to Aquino but said he is open to being assigned to an anti-crime related agency including for starters, leading a probe body into the illegal practices in the country’s penitentiaries.

Lacson said his resignation will take effect by February next year, as soon as his office completes the transfer of its post-Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation duties to the NDRRMC. Lacson said on radio that he considers the office he has been handling as having served its purpose of coordinating different government agencies in undertaking reconstruction efforts in areas hit by super Typhoon Yolanda last year.

The resignation may take effect either on Feb. 10 or by mid-February at the latest. Lacson proposed the transfer of Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery’s (OPARR) duties to Aquino.

Lacson admitted though that he has not yet talked to Aquino about his plans. “I asked the President for a one-month transition period to lay out the mechanics for the transfer of (the functions of) OPARR to a more permanent body, which is the NDRRMC. (The transition) will commence on the first working day of January,” Lacson said.

“My irrevocable resignation will be effective at the latest by the middle of February. I can’t be always on the spotlight. Slowly I will have to fade away from the scene,” he added. When asked what he would do if Aquino asks him to stay on as rehabilitation czar, Lacson said, “I’d like to believe he (President Aquino) will see the wisdom for the transition of responsibilities of OPARR to a permanent agency.”

While he is satisfied with the work OPARR has done in the Yolanda-devastated areas, Lacson said it is only fitting for the NDRRMC to take over OPARR’s duties. “I don’t have any frustrations or hangups because we have already achieved what we intended to do.

There is an existing law that created the NDRRMC and it is only appropriate to return to (the council) the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts because that’s what the law intended,” Lacson said.

Lacson, who was appointed by Aquino in December 2013 as presidential assistant to oversee the reconstruction of areas affected by the super typhoon, earlier said it is the “perfect time” to expand the NDRRMC’s functions in 2015 because the law creating the council, Republic Act 10121, is set for review next year.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Solons reject, Palace justifies train fare hike Written by Tribune Wires Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00

Senators yesterday raised a howl over what they noted as “gargantuan” increase, some 50 to 87 percent, in the fare rates of Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) due to be implemented on Jan. 4.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III expressed belief that regardless of the amount of increase, it would not be enough to cover the needed rehabilitation of the mass railway system.

“Even at P27, the operator loses money. So government subsidy would still be needed,” he noted.

“There should be an upgrade first before the fare adjustment,” acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said.

Calling it unnecessary and untimely, Sen. Grace Poe, who has led the Senate investigation into the operations of MRT, questioned the fare increase even as she called for its deferment.

“The (Senate public services) sub-committee (on public services) in the last four months, conducted three public hearings on the MRT issues. Almost all issues from the basic maintenance concerns to ownership of the kind of trains that we will procure in the coming years were all discussed.

Considering that they have a date already to implement a new fare system, they should have volunteered it in the last hearing. But they did not. How could they be so insensitive to the millions of commuters and MRT, LRT riders?” she asked.

Poe and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III also noted that the announcement on the fare increase came on the heels of Congress’ approval of a substantial government assistance in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2015 which provides P4.65 billion subsidy for MRT 3 and LRT Lines 1 and 2.

At least P7.94 billion has been allocated for MRT rehabilitation and P4.67 in unpaid MRT taxes.

Poe further noted that the newly-approved bicameral version of the supplemental budget, which will be immediately carried out in 2015, has the following items: P1.21 billion for MRT rehabilitation and capacity extension and P728-million rehabilitation fund for LRT 1 and 2.

“We just approved the budget. The government is to spend for LRT and MRT, so why such a gargantuan fare hike? Who is intending to recover what?” Pimentel asked.

A minimal symbolic fare increase, he said, can be justified to relay the message to the users that their travel is being subsidized by the government.

“Maybe a 10- to 20-percent increase could be justified. The government and Congress should ask and get to the bottom of these questions: Why is the use of LRT and MRT that expensive?

How did it get that way? What contracts are onerous to and against the government and the people? Who signed them on behalf of the government? How can we extricate ourselves from such onerous disadvantageous unfair and possibly corrupt contracts?” Pimentel further asked.

Poe said the DoTC should put off for the meantime the fare increase amid failed public expectations to improve even the basic facilities of the train system.

“We must remember that a mass transport system such as the MRT is an essential government service. The fare increase is an added insult and an injustice to the suffering riding public whose very lives are put on the line everyday,” she added.

“The sorry state of the MRT brought about to a large extent by government mismanagement and ineptitude cannot justify an increase. The government is obligated to maintain the subsidy until the system’s services and safety are upgraded,” the senator stressed.

Based on the new fare matrices issued by the DoTC last Saturday, rates for end-to-end trips in MRT-3 will increase to P28 from P15 (from North Avenue to Taft Avenue and vice versa); P30 from P20 in LRT-1 (from Baclaran to Roosevelt and vice versa); and P25 from P15 in LRT-2 (from Recto to Santolan and vice versa).

“While the MRT and LRT are in Metro Manila, the riders of these trains are mostly wage earners whose contribution to the national economy is far reaching and impacts productivity,”

Poe stressed.

A member of the House of Representatives also opposed the upcoming fare increases.

“Instead of raising MRT and LRT fares, the government should first improve the services of the mass transport system amid frequent glitches,” Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian stressed.

The fare increases are aimed at reducing the P12 billion in annual subsidies by about P2 billion, according to the DoTC.

It said the government was subsidizing about 60 percent of the fares for LRT 1 and 2, and about 75 of the fares for MRT 3. The LRT 1 fares were last increased in 2003, while LRT 2’s fares have not been adjusted. MRT 3 fares were lowered from P17 to P34 in 1999 to P12 to P20 in 2000. The current fares range from P10 to P15.

Gatchalian noted that the impending MRT and LRT fare hike will wipe out whatever benefits ordinary Filipinos were able to reap with the continuous drop in prices of gasoline and petroleum products and the recent rollback in electricity rates.

“The government did not even wait for the holiday season to pass before announcing the the planned increase for MRT and LRT fares.

This will definitely neutralize the positive effects of the recent jeepney fare rollback as well as the impending rollback in taxi and bus fares,” he pointed out. By Angie M. Rosalesand Joshua L. Labonera


TRIBUNE Editorial

No Merry Christmas for them Written by Ninez Cacho-Olivares Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00

What is really difficult to understand in the Philippine justice system is why government officials insist on treating detainees as convicts, when they are still presumed to be innocent — until of course, proven guilty in a court of law.

It also difficult to understand why the Justice chief, along with the Ombudsman, insist on filing charges against the indicted and accused when the evidence is weak.

Why the accused are being denied their temporary liberty, especially when jail cells are too overcrowded and being treated like animals in crowded cells where sanitation is virtually inexistent, and where jail wardens don’t even bother to get those detainees who need medical attention examined by competent doctors is puzzling.

There are of course detainees and detainees — not all are the same. Some have been in and out of jail and are repeat offenders. Others have their cases hanging, but have to stay in jail, simply because they don’t have the bail money to gain their temporary liberty. Worse, it takes to long a time for the courts to resolve these cases.

Others suffer under worse conditions, as they don’t have lawyers and have to rely on public defenders who sometimes just don’t have the time and patience to fight for their pro-bono clients.

This is not to say that public defenders can’t be relied upon as good lawyers, but as there are just too many detainees in jail that they have to defend, some of these public defenders simply can’t be expected to do the best for their non-paying detainee-clients.

Why can’t our courts, for instance, suspend sentences for the accused who have been convicted for the first time for petty crimes or give them a lighter sentence, after a plea bargain deal?

Or why can’t those who have been denied bail be placed under house arrest instead of detaining them in jail?

As for those in cells today but have been granted bail they can’t afford, why doesn’t the government invest in leg braces that can easily trace the accused should they try to escape?

Those rotting in jail today are, instead of being rehabilitated, tend to become hardened criminals, which situation adds to the number of criminals in this country who are on the loose.

They should have been rehabilitated instead.

Then there are other detainees who should be granted bail by the courts, mainly because they certainly are not flight risks.

Take the case of former President Gloria Arroyo. She is suffering from a serious ailment and has been languishing in her detention quarters, even if she is currently being detained in a hospital. Yet she has been denied bail, even when clearly she needs not only the medical attention that perhaps can be found abroad.

She is clearly a victim of political persecution by the Aquino presidency, which appears to be killing her slowly. It is only now that she has been granted a three-day Christmas furlough, and it was only because of the Pope’s arrival.

The evidence against Gloria is much too weak, and all her other co-accused have been granted bail. She is certainly not a flight risk.

Surely, since the case is based on a conspiracy charge in plunder, and she is the only one left in detention, what is the justification in denying her temporary liberty? It surely can’t be a case of a conspiracy of one!

In much the same way, the three senators remain in detention with even their Christmas furlough pleas denied.

Sen. Bong Revilla’s plea for bail has been denied with the court saying that the evidence against Revilla is strong, giving in too much weight on hearsay evidence from Benhur Luy and his polluted digital files which even the prosecution witness, a National Bureau of Investigation forensic investigator had already stated in open court that he could not vouch for the integrity of the Luy files.

Yet the court went by Luy’s hearsay evidence.

In the case of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the prosecution has been delaying the bail hearings which have no longer become summary hearings.

He too, has been denied his petition for Christmas furlough, which means he will be denied the joy of being with his family and relatives and live normally for a few days at least.

Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile is old and suffers from a lot of ailments, yet the Supreme Court has not acted on his petition at all.

None of these personalities now detained are flight risks, yet they are not being given any quarter by this administration, and all because they are victims of political vendetta.

They can’t possibly have a happy Christmas. Neither can all the detainees who continue to languish in their cells.

There is no compassion under this administration — only political vendetta drives it.

Perhaps one day, Noynoy too, will experience the same hardship and sadness and loss of liberty that these detainees, officials and non-officials are experiencing today.

And only then will he realize how wrong he has been to have been so vindictive.

To all our readers — a better and compassionate Christmas to all.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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