The latest news stories from the major news organizations in Cebu and Manila in the Philippines, the US and other countries.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March 12, 2010 Major News Stories



Workers ask for wage hike to offset hike in electricity

The price of electricity is still going up as power producers are forced to use costlier fuel such as coal and diesel. Labor unions are now appealing for a wage hike to offset this increase.

Traders warn power problems might pull prices up

Nagbabantang tumaas ang presyo ng canned meat o de latang karne sa Abril dahil sa kakulangan sa suplay ng baboy. Maglalabas naman ang gobyerno ng SRP sa manok para maitama ang presyo nito sa pamilihan. Pero higit na nababahala ang mga negosyante sa napipintong pagtaas sa singil sa kuryente dahil pwede rin nitong hatakin ang presyo ng mga bilihin. 

Arroyo declares state of calamity in Mindanao

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared a state of calamity in Mindanao, but Malacañang has ruled out any price cap on oil prices under such a declaration, officials said Thursday.

City under state of calamity preparedness

Cebu City was recently put under a state of calamity preparedness after the city council carried out last Wednesday the recommendation of the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council for the passage of a resolution declaring Cebu City under State of Calamity due to the El Niño phenomenon.

Emergency purchase of water pumps

CEBU City's 80 barangays are now under a state of calamity preparedness due to the El Niño phenomenon, as barangay and city officials get ready to address the water shortage problem, particularly in the upland areas.

Group says power crisis not due to lack of supply

A consumers group yesterday said the worsening power crisis that is affecting Cebu and other parts of the country is not due to lack of power supply but because of the continuing implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition and their supporters yesterday picketed in front of the Energy Regulatory Commission-7 to denounce the EPIRA law. The same activity was being done simultaneously in different provinces as members of the House Committee on Energy met in Mindanao to discuss the aggravating problem on energy shortage in the region and all over.

 Aaron Pedrosa, secretary general of FDC, pointed out that the government is blaming climate change for the worsening scenario of energy deficiency when in fact the problem has been there for a long time already.

The EPIRA law provides for the privatization of all National Power Corporation power plants and power purchase agreements purposely to reduce power rates.

 However, Pedrosa said that the law has other effects that are more disadvantageous to the Filipinos as it resulted in the increase in power rates.

Lawyers' group to elevate 'oil cartel' case to CA

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - A lawyers' group head said Thursday that they will charge a Manila court judge for grave abuse of discretion before the Court of Appeals for a decision allowing big oil companies to raise pump prices on a weekly basis.

DoH eyes nationwide vaccination against measles

The Department of Health (DoH) is planning to conduct a nationwide anti-measles vaccination of children from six months up to six years old, an official said Thursday.

Suspects in death of altar boy charged

The three suspects in the killing of an altar boy have been committed to the Cebu City Jail following the filing of robbery with homicide charges against them before the Regional Trial Court.


Abducted businessman rescued in Cebu

The 26-year-old Filipino-Chinese businessman who was abducted in Bago City, Negros Occidental last March 5 has been rescued by the Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Group in Cebu early morning last Wednesday.

Maj. Jefferson Descallar, spokesman of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, confirmed that Jordan Chua was rescued 2 a.m. of March 10 in Toledo City. 

As of press time, Descallar cannot confirm whether Chua was already brought to Camp Crame as a standard operating procedure.

As per report from PNP office in Region 7, Descallar said operatives received information that Chua was in Toledo City but the alleged abductors were able to flee before the police came, leaving their victim behind.

He said that the operation was in coordination with Negros Occidental police and the Police Regional Office-6, adding that they have alerted all neighboring PNP offices after receiving reports that the victim was no longer in the province and was brought to a nearby island.

Flyover at first Mandaue-Mactan bridge gets nod from bridge board

The Metro Cebu Bridge Management Board has endorsed to the Regional Development Council 7 the proposed P187 million flyover project at the foot of the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge.

The board made the endorsement through a resolution.

The board passed the resolution after a study conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways showed that more vehicles use the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge compared to the Marcelo Fernan bridge.

It was observed that public utility jeepneys and multicabs for hire use the first bridge with most of the passengers going to the public market of Lapu-Lapu City. Jeepneys and multicabs heading towards Phase 2 of the Mactan Export Processing Zone also use the first bridge.

DPWH subsequently recommended the construction of a flyover at the foot of the first bridge to decongest traffic.

Filinvest pays P72.5M to Cebu City Hall

FILINVEST Land Inc. (FLI) paid an additional P72.5 million to Cebu City Hall yesterday so it can begin the construction of its project in the South Road Properties (SRP) in early May.

Banawa-Englis folk want TRO dissolved

RESIDENTS of Banawa-Englis will ask the court tomorrow to dissolve the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued against the holding of the plebiscite creating a new barangay.

Cuenco challenges TRO vs. plebiscite

The father of the law carving a new barangay out of Guadalupe has challenged the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court which issued a 20-day temporary restraining order against the Commission on Elections to prevent the holding of the plebiscite this coming Saturday.

Cebu City south district Rep. Antonio Cuenco is filing an intervention into the civil case for prohibition filed by Labangon barangay councilman Victor Buendia seeking to declare the Republic Act 9905 the law creating Barangay Banawa-Ingles as null and void.

Cuenco said he has already hired two private lawyers to represent him in the case aside from the Comelec. He asked the Comelec to immediately file a motion for reconsideration on the issuance of the restraining order by RTC Branch 58 judge Gabriel Ingles.

Cuenco said they will move for the immediate lifting of the TRO citing Ingles' lack of jurisdiction to rule on the petition and the petitioner's lack of legal personality to file the said case. He explained that the respondent of the petition was the Comelec which is a quasi-judicial body with the same level of that of the Court of Appeals.

Considering that the Comelec is of the same level of the appellate court it is the Supreme Court that has jurisdiction to rule on the petition. Cuenco added that Buendia has also no legal personality to file the petition.

Kusug bet says armed men stole his posters

Two political supporters of a candidate for councilor of the south district of Cebu City under Kugi Uswag Sugbo claimed that two armed men allegedly allied with the administration's Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan threatened them with guns and seized their election propaganda materials.

Raul Ricaredo "Deo" del Rosario quickly called up a press conference yesterday afternoon to denounce the actions of the men, but he failed to give their identities and only said that one of them is a certain "Ryan".

According to Del Rosario, his supporters John Cabello and Dave Santiago and some of their neighbors, Ryan was the one who sometimes drove the vehicle of Basak-San Nicolas barangay captain George Rama.

Rama was not available for comment yesterday, but one of his staff at the barangay hall said they do not have any personnel in the barangay named Ryan.

Del Rosario said Cabello and Santiago were posting his election propaganda materials in Sitio Panaghiusa in Barangay Basak-San Nicolas when they were approached by the two men who told them to stop their activities in the area.

Those who gave Vidal money 'liable'

CANDIDATES who gave Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal cash or gifts in kind can be held liable for illegal campaigning and violating election laws, an official said.

Gifts and cash donations to religious and civic groups are prohibited during the campaign period.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 Regional Director Ray Rene Buac said the candidates violated section 104 of the Omnibus Election Code and can be accused of illegal campaigning for making cash donations.

However, Buac said it will be difficult to prosecute the erring candidates because the prelate did not name them and did not say when the donations were made.

"If the cardinal will not divulge the names, we can't do anything about it. We also cannot force him to do so... But if the prosecutor's office will have the courage to do it, they can summon the cardinal to reveal the names and execute an affidavit," he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Buac said the prohibition on national candidates took effect at the start of the campaign period last Feb. 9. The same prohibition will also be imposed on local candidates when the official campaign period starts on March 26.

Convicted candidates will be disqualified from public office.

Citing provisions of the Election Code, Buac said the candidates can be held liable for violating the prohibition on any donation or giving of cash or gifts in kind to religious
and civic organizations.

"The cardinal is not liable, but the candidate or his party is," he said, adding that there is no offense on the part of the recipient.

He said that even at this time, Comelec can receive a complaint from anyone who witnessed or heard the archbishop's statement that some candidates gave him cash, but the respondents will have to be John Does since they were not identified.

Section 104 states the prohibited donations by candidates, treasurers of parties or their agents.

Ban

It states that "no candidate, his or her spouse or any relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, or his campaign manager, agent or representative shall during the campaign period, on the day before and on the day of the election, directly or indirectly, make any donation, contribution or gift in cash or in kind, or undertake or contribute to the construction or repair of roads, bridges schoolhouses, puericulture centers, medical clinics and hospitals, churches or chapels, cement pavements, or any structure for public use or for the use of any religious or civic organization."

Buac said the prohibition applies even to non-religious groups like nongovernment organizations engaged in charity work or housing projects for the poor, as well as missions.

Excluded in the prohibition are the normal and customary religious dues or contributions, such as religious stipends, tithes or collections on Sundays or other designated collection days.

Periodic payments for legitimate scholarships established and school contributions habitually made before the prohibited period are also excluded.

Charity

"What the candidates did is considered illegal campaigning.

Donation is part of campaigning but this has no effect kay wala man nganli ni cardinal (because the cardinal didn't name them).

If they were identified, any complainant can file a case but they have to be a witness and should have been present when the cardinal made the statement," he continued.

Last Wednesday, Cardinal Vidal confirmed receiving cash donations from presidential candidates and other politicians who asked for his blessing.

But Vidal said the money is donated to the Archdiocese's charity arm to be used for its projects. He told reporters that some aspirants, particularly the presidential candidates, continue to ask for his support whenever they visit Cebu.

The prelate said that some officials would give him the cash donations themselves. Others would send the donation through a staff member.

However, Vidal refused to reveal the amount of the donations or the names of donors.

More poll machines ready – Smartmatic

More poll machines have passed laboratory tests and are ready for use in the upcoming elections in May, the automation partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Thursday.

All poll machines pass tests with some already awaiting deployment

All voting machines to be used for the Philippines" first-ever automated elections have passed operational and security tests, the company that supplied the equipment announced on Thursday.

Comelec assures all ballots to be printed before May polls

While admitting that the ballot printing has had some delays, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday assured the public that it will be able to print the more than 50 million ballots needed for the national polls that are just two months away.

Lakas-Kampi assures candidates of campaign funds

Executives of the administration party Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) on Thursday said they are trying to rein in senatorial candidates grumbling about the lack of logistical support, promising them that the party's support will be all out at the start of the campaign for local officials late this month.

Gibo became arrogant, says Danding's daughter

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino has found an ally in Lisa Cojuangco Cruz, daughter of business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr.

Erap got most TV news coverage among candidates

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines -  Former president Joseph Estrada was the most covered presidential candidate by TV  news programs during the first three weeks of the campaign, according to a study by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) released this week.

The CMFR study showed Estrada getting a total of 36.29 minutes in total coverage from three major news programs, namely ABS-CBN's TV Patrol (14.17 minutes), GMA-7's 24 Oras (20.7 minutes) and NBN-4's Teledyaryo (1.02 minutes). The study monitored the news programs from February 9 to 27.

The CMFR said that while Estrada did not lead in any of the three news shows in terms of time allotment, he received consistent coverage from all of them.

The second most covered candidate was Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manny Villar, who got a total of 34.51 minutes in airtime. Villar was the most-covered presidential candidate of the news show 24 Oras, with 21.35 minutes, which is higher than Estrada's.

On the other hand, administration candidate Gilbert' "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. of the ruling Lakas-Kampi CMD party was almost-exclusively covered by Teledyaryo, emerging as the third most-covered candidate of the 10 presidential bets.

The CMFR study also noted that Teledyaryo did not give any airtime to half of the 10 presidential aspirants.

The CMFR said only 4 leading presidential contenders received the lion's share of broadcast news airtime for the period. The airtime allotted to Estrada, Villar, Teodoro and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, Jr. totalled 134.5 minutes, or almost half of the combined airtime of the remaining 6 presidential aspirants, at 71.14 minutes.

NP vice-presidential bet Loren Legarda, meanwhile, emerged as the most covered vice-presidential candidate over the 3-week period with 7.14 minutes in total airtime. She is followed by Liberal Party vice-presidential candidate Manuel "Mar" Roxas with 6.12 minutes, and Lakas-Kampi VP bet Edu Manzano with 4.04 minutes.

Resigned Cabinet secretary Silvestre Bello III and detained Col. Ariel Querubin were the most covered senatorial candidates during the 3-week period, logging a total of 5.5 minutes of airtime in all 3 news programs.

Re-electionist Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was the third most covered candidate with 1.75 minutes. The study said Defensor Santiago's speeches during the campaign trail made her a very soundbite-worthy candidate, earning herself special stories such as "Tirada ni Santiago" (24 Oras, February 12) which featured her lambasting the critics of Nacionalista Party presidential bet Manny Villar.

The CMFR study said there was almost no coverage of the party-list process, and very few parties received airtime. There was no discussion of the importance of the party-list elections as an opportunity for the marginalized to receive representation in Congress, or stories on crucial party-list sectors such as those on labor, agricultural workers, women, indigenous peoples.

The CMFR said election coverage was at its peak on February 9, the first day of official the official campaign period, but later tapered off "as the broadcast media outlets focused on other urgent issues such as the El Niño phenomenon, the water shortage, and the threat of brownouts."



Another PMA Class '78 gets key post in armed forces

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Major General Reynaldo Mapagu has been named the new commanding general of the Philippine Army.

VP Noli believes GMA will step down

Nagsalita na si Vice President Noli de Castro kasunod ng pag-ugong ng balita na gagamitin ng pangulo ang militar para manatili sa poder! Pero tiwala rin ang pangalawang pangulo, na kusang bababa sa pwesto ang pangulo. 

Cruise ship bumps cargo vessel in Iloilo port

ILOILO CITY, Philippines - A cruise ship carrying around 200 tourists accidentally bumped a cargo vessel and hit a steel bar while docking at the Iloilo International Port in Loboc, La Paz on Thursday.

Philippine Rebels Kill 11 Soldiers

The battle in Oriental Mindoro Province was the deadliest encounter the military has had with the Communist insurgency so far this year.

Jan deficit at P37-B

The government's budget deficit comes in at a little over P37 billion in January. That's a decrease of 2% from what was recorded in the same month a year ago. The improvement is attributed to the strong performances of the country's tax agencies, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.

Philippines' next leader will have to raise taxes

MANILA, Philippines - The country's next president will have to turn his back on populist promises made during the campaign and raise taxes sooner rather than later to prevent a financial crisis soon after the May elections.

RP repatriates 26 OFWs from Doha

Twenty-six distressed overseas Filipino workers arrived in the Philippines Thursday following their repatriation from Doha in Qatar.

Quake, tsunami alert hit Chile as new leader sworn in

VALPARAISO, Chile (UPDATE 2) - A 7.2-magnitude aftershock and four other tremors rocked disaster-hit Chile Thursday, triggering a tsunami alert just minutes before billionaire Sebastian Pinera was sworn in as the new president.

Aftershocks Rattle Chile Inauguration

Martin Bernetti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, accompanied by his wife, Cecilia Morel, during his inauguration ceremony at the Congress in Valparaiso on Thursday.

Thailand Braces for Political Rallies in Capital

While pledging nonviolence, protest leaders say they will gather mass rallies and blockades of government offices, starting on Friday and building over the following days.


Law bars Burma"s Aung San Suu Kyi from voting

YANGON, Myanmar - Not only is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi effectively barred from upcoming elections, but she will not be allowed to vote - and her opposition party's landslide win at the last polls has been formally invalidated, according to new election laws published Thursday.

Pacquiao: Overconfidence is bad

MOST people believe that this Sunday's boxing extravaganza at the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium will be another easy victory for Manny Pacquiao.

Looking forward to Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey? We'll have a live blog at http://www.ringsidewithmanny.com #RingsideWithManny


Palace roots for Pacquiao; urges him to block out politics

Manny Pacquiao may have junked the administration in favor of Manny Villar in the coming elections, but Malacañang is rooting for the boxing champion just the same in his title defense this Sunday.
Roach says Pacquiao to retire early next year

Clottey holds little fear of Pacquiao's punching power

Joshua Clottey holds little fear of Manny Pacquiao's punching power. Fact is, the Ghanaian is willing to take a few hits just to feel what's in store for him when they collide on March 13 (March 14, Manila time) at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington City.
Clottey to take fight to Pacquiao ...

Pacquiao, Clottey more friends than foes

They were supposed to be combatants, but Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey appeared more like friends when they met at the final press conference of "The Event" at the cavernous $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium Wednesday.
Boxers Manny Pacquiao, center left, and Joshua Clottey, ...

Palace to Pacquiao: Watch out for Clottey's dirty tactics

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Even Malacañang Palace is giving its two cents' worth on Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao's upcoming fight against Ghanaian fighter Joshua Clottey this weekend.
Pacquiao primed for title clash against Clottey

UFC president to root for Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), will be among the spectators at the Dallas Stadium where Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey will trade punches on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
'Champ's got skills, techniques'

Ampatuans will miss Pacquiao-Clottey match

When Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao faces Joshua Clottey of Ghana in the ring on Sunday (Saturday in the U.S.) in Texas to defend his welterweight crown, the Ampatuan clan won"t be in the audience at the Dallas Cowboys stadium to cheer him like in his past fights.

Alaska acquires defense expert for PBA Fiesta

MANILA, Philippines – After a lopsided loss against Purefoods in the finals series of the recently concluded KFC-PBA Philippine Cup, the Alaska Aces has acquired the services of 22-year-old defensive specialist Diamon Simpson.

Gullas receives Perlas Award

For being a valuable educator and purveyor of Cebuano classics whose Halad museum now houses memorabilia from Cebu's legendary musicians as well as paintings by Cebuano artists, Dr. Jose "Dodong" R. Gullas was chosen as one of the awardees of this year's Perlas Award.


If Noynoy has Kris, I've got Pacquiao, Villar says

Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manuel "Manny" Villar Jr. said seeing celebrity Kris Aquino campaigning for her brother in Mindanao was the least of his worries, adding he has just the right star power to match it - boxing champ Manny Pacquiao.

Kris hoping for Danding support for Noynoy

Celebrity Kris Aquino has not lost hope that her uncle, business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr., will support the presidential bid of her brother Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Ruffa on row with Kris: Time to bury hatchet

Controversial actress and TV host Ruffa Gutierrez, who reportedly walked out of gossip show "The Buzz" last week over a comment made by co-host Kris Aquino, said it's now time they bury the hatchet.

Kris Aquino says she'll miss Ruffa Gutierrez

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – All's well that ends well. This was how Kris Aquino described her much talked about misunderstanding with "The Buzz" co-host Ruffa Gutierrez.

Ruffa picks Gretchen Barretto as her replacement

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – If she is given a choice, Ruffa Gutierrez said she wants Gretchen Barretto to replace her on "The Buzz."

Bugoy Drilon releases his second album

by by Fionna Acaba, ABS-CBN.com
MANILA, Philippines - After the success of his debut album, "Paano Na Kaya," Pinoy Dream Academy Season 2 scholar Bugoy Drilon released his second album under Star Records.

Henry Sy is Philippines' richest man: Forbes

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines  - Philippine mall magnate Henry Sy has been named the country's richest man, according to an annual ranking done by Forbes magazine.

Published last March 10, Forbes' list of "The World's Billionaires" estimated Sy and family's networth at $4.2 billion (est. P192 billion), landing him on the 201st slot.

Tan and family, on the other hand, landed on the 582nd slot with estimated net worth of $1.7 billion (est. P78 billion).

Since the magazine's list of The Philippines' Richest 40 published last August, 2009, Sy's wealth has increased 10% from $3.8 billion. Tan's wealth did not change.

Jaime Zobel de Ayala was the third billionaire from the Philippines in the 2009 list, but he was not included in the 2010 cut-off

The 2010 list named 937 billionaires all over the world, with Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, 70, beating Americans Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as the world wealthiest person on earth for the the first time.

Slim's fortune was estimated at $53.5 billion, edging out Bill Gates' $53 billion and Buffett's $47 billion. Gates held the title of the world's richest in 14 of the past 15 years.

Asia's richest

Neither Sy nor Tan made it to Asia's top 25 billionaires whose wealth ranged from $29 billion to $7 billion.

Of the 25 richest Asians, businessmen from Indians stood out as the region's richest. India has 10 out of the top 25, Hong Kong and Japan each have 5, while mainland China has just one.

Businessmen from China, however, have passed India in terms of number of billionaires who made it to the global list

Mukesh Ambani ($29 billion) is the richest in Asia and took the 4th slot in the world's richest list. He owns the conglomerate Reliance Industries, India's most valuable company. 

Following Ambani's trail in Asia's list of richest is controversial Lakshmi Mitta ($28.7 billion). He is the 5th richest in the world. Lakshmi controls Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel maker, and is based in London.

Manila's richest

Sy beat Tan as the Forbes' richest man in the Philippines in 2009.

In the 2008 list of world's billionaires, Forbes ranked Tan at 785th richest with a net worth of $1.5 billion, while Sy was at the 843rd slot with a net worth of $1.4 billion.

Both are of Chinese descent with typical rags-to-riches stories.

Sy started his fortune with a small shoe store in Manila and built it into one of the Philippines' largest retail groups. Sy's son, Hans, currently manages SM Prime, which is the Philippines largest shopping mall developer with 36 malls.

Other assets of the Sy family are Banco de Oro Unibank, run by daughter Teresita Sy-Coson; and SM Investment.

On the other hand, Tan controls Philippine Airlines; Asia Brewery; banks in Manila and China, and property developments in Hong Kong.

Last February, Tan's largest cigarette maker, Fortune Tobacco, inked a joint venture agreementwith multinational cigarette maker Philip Morris involving an undisclosed amount. The deal is considered another indication of Tan's concerns about succession.

Tan, who has several heirs and has had disputes with his most trusted brother and business partner, is considered to be cashing in as his health is rumored to be deteriorating.

The magazine said net worth is determined by tallying "stakes in publicly traded and privately held companies, real estate, paintings, gems, yachts and planes, plus hoards of cash." It said privately held companies are valued by coupling estimates of revenues or profits to valuation metrics for similar public companies.


Mexico's Carlos Slim is world's richest man

by Reuters
NEW YORK – Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim is the world's richest person, knocking Microsoft founder Bill Gates into second spot, as the wealth of the world's billionaires grew by 50 percent over the last year, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.


Media need multiple platforms, revenue streams to thrive

NEW YORK – Multiple platforms and revenue streams are going to be key for media industry players hoping to survive and thrive in the fast-changing digital landscape, top media executives said here Wednesday.

No silver lining in these clouds

Though it has been cloudy in recent days, the weather bureau says there is very little chance of rain.

New Philippine eagle hatched

A new Philippine eagle was hatched Sunday at the breeding facility of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Malagos in Calinan district.

Chief Justice Puno: The Chameleon - Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Excerpts from the book, Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, which will be launched March 16.

Reynato Puno was a smart lawyer in his 30s, just starting his career when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. A graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, where Marcos had obtained his law degree, Puno was then working with the Solicitor General's office, headed by Estelito Mendoza.

Puno had returned from the US years earlier where he finished two post-graduate degrees: Master of Comparative Laws at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and Master of Laws at the University of California in Berkeley. Scholarly, steeped in books and a fast and prolific writer, he was, in Mendoza's words, "analytical, he had a good mind, and a good knowledge of the law."

Mendoza was a brilliant lawyer, one of the fine minds that Marcos tapped to implement his experiment of a "guided democracy." But, in the post-Marcos years, Mendoza was unable to shake off his association with the authoritarian ruler and the dark and painful years that choked our democracy. He argued for martial law in cases brought to the Supreme Court, becoming its most visible defender.

It was an uncertain and perilous time. Asia's first democracy, with its rambunctious press and festive elections, was suddenly silenced. Marcos blamed the communists for fueling protests and instability. He sent his political opponents and activists to prison. Others simply disappeared, snatched by government forces, much like the desaparecidos of Argentina.

Congress was shut down. Marcos ordered the Constitution rewritten and approved in people's assemblies. The judiciary fell under the grip of one man.

Puno was one of Mendoza's second-tier lawyers, his co-defender of martial rule. More than three decades later, when he was Chief Justice, Puno described this regime he helped perpetuate as one of a "slaughter of rights," a period when the 1935 Constitution "was sent to the shredding machine."

In a tribute he paid to the late Gerry Roxas in 2007 (he worked briefly in the Roxas law office), he said that the senator, who was a staunch opponent of martial rule, "showed us the way to deal with tyrants who trample on the civil rights of the people—and that is to strike no deal with them."

But Puno, during eleven years of martial law, stayed on as counsel of the government. He appeared in the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the martial-law cases, including the dreaded Javellana v. Executive Secretary which sealed Marcos's one-man rule. The Court ruled that the Constitution, which was ratified by a show of hands, was valid.

Fernando del Mundo, a journalist who covered one of the oral arguments on the Court remembered Puno as part of Mendoza's panel, appearing in "one tragic hearing four months after martial law was declared in September 1972 on an opposition petition asking the high court to immediately act and stop Marcos from promulgating the decision of a rump plebiscite approving a new Constitution that gave him sweeping powers. In the midst of the debate, news was relayed to the Supreme Court that Marcos—at that very moment—had just issued in Malacañang a decree proclaiming that the plebiscite had approved by viva voce vote the Constitution that he said was now in effect. Caught flatfooted, the Justices looked stunned…. The Court later issued a decision declaring the petition argued by Lorenzo Tañada and the other opposition lights of the time—Jose Diokno, Francisco "Soc" Rodrigo, Jovito Salonga, Sedfrey Ordonez, Joker Arroyo—moot and academic."

Oscar Orbos, who was a UP law student then, used to visit Puno and have discussions with him. They belonged to the same fraternity at the University of the Philippines, Alpha Phi Beta. UP was the most restive campus before martial law. Protests reached a climax during the so-called Diliman Commune of 1971 when police stormed the barricades and lobbed teargas at the students.

Orbos said in an interview, "We talked about his position on martial law. He told me it's his work, that Marcos was doing something new and that they were defining what the law means, what martial law will be."

After the Solicitor General's office, Puno's next stop was the Court of Appeals where Mendoza got him appointed. He stayed for only a year. Mendoza then plucked him out to be his deputy at the justice ministry. Whenever he was out of the country, he designated Puno acting minister. The two worked together for a total of 13 years.

Mendoza and Puno's ties were not only professional; they were also personal. Rosa, Mendoza's wife, was wedding godmother to Puno's daughter, Ruth.

Puno kept a low profile throughout this time. He was barely known to the public, even to the lawyers who were on the opposing side in the martial-law cases. Mendoza was the star and Puno the protégé. Before he led the Supreme Court, he was an unknown figure, as he admitted in an interview in 2007. "Many sectors were complaining about my invisibility. A large segment of the public could not recognize me or did not have an opinion of me."

But to his friends, like businessman Harry Angping, Puno was one of Marcos's "bright legal minds."

Puno effortlessly reconciled his work then with his high-profile advocacy for civil liberties and human rights as Chief Justice. He explained—in his sober voice and furrowed face—that "I don't see any kind of inconsistency. As a solicitor, it is my job to defend the cases of government as best as I could. I go to another branch of government, the judiciary, and I perform the role of a judge or justice."

When the People Power revolt in 1986 cut short his career in the executive branch, Puno returned to the Court of Appeals. He is proud of his record as the youngest, at 40, to be appointed to the appellate court.

Later, his interrupted stint in the Court of Appeals caused controversy when the Supreme Court reinstated him to his old rank in the roster of CA justices. This meant that he jumped over more senior Justices. "From number eleven in rank, he was promoted to number five," wrote Justice Jose Campos in his memoir. Campos and another CA justice complained to the Supreme Court and they won their case.

Puno joined the Supreme Court in 1993 but not without minor difficulty. President Ramos's legal counsel, Antonio Carpio, vetted the nominees, one of whom was Puno. It was his practice to interview preferred candidates to the Court and Puno wasn't one of them. Puno then asked to meet with Carpio—and they did have a brief, forgettable conversation. Still, Carpio didn't recommend him to Ramos because he was convinced that Puno, when on the Court, would vote for Estelito Mendoza's clients, led by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco. Puno, anyway, found a link to Ramos who vouched for his integrity. But as events later showed, Carpio's gut feel was right.

Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, a publication of Public Trust Media Group Inc., will be launched on March 16, Tuesday, 4 p.m., at One Serendra Social Hall, The Fort, Taguig City. Copies will be sold at discounted prices during the launch. To place orders in advance, contact Newsbreak at tel. (+632) 920-0997, fax (+632) 920-3611, email admin@newsbreak.com.ph. Regular prices are P795 hardbound, P475 paperback.

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