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

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 20, 2010 Major News Stories

Independent oil player announces oil price hike

Independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum Philippines has announced a price increase for their diesel and gasoline products effective Tuesday.

Phoenix Petroleum spokesman Atty. Raymond Zorilla said that they will have a 75 centavo increase for their diesel and gasoline products effective 6 am Tuesday.

The latest oil price hike is "in view of the price movements of competitors in the local market and the increase in prices of finished petroleum products in the international market," Zorilla said.

P10-B funds for PAGASA given to other projects?

Luma na ang mga gamit ng PAGASA at mano-mano pa ang pag-taya sa panahon. May pinahiram naman na P10 bilyon ang gobyerno ng France para ipambili ng mas modernong gamit ng PAGASA. Yun nga lang, inilaan ito sa iba.

Damage wrought by Basyang total P200M - Agriculture

Typhoon Basyang wrought damage to an estimated P200 million worth of crops, the Agriculture Department said in a preliminary report Monday.

M/V Princess of the Stars Tragedy: Interpol team back in Cebu to identify skeletal remains

The International Criminal Police Organization is back in Cebu to identify the skeletal remains of the victims recently retrieved from the sunken M/V Princess of the Stars.

ALU denies workers seized firm's vehicles

ALU-TUCP yesterday denied former workers seized vehicles rented by Chagrin Inc., the company in barangay Pagsabungan, Mandaue City that is trying to shake off accusations of unfair labor practices.

Violent deaths for 2 Pinays in Kuwait

Naging malagim ang wakas ng dalawang Pinay na nakabase sa Kuwait. Isa ang pinatay sa saksak ng kanyang asawa. Ang ikalawa naman ay pinahirapan muna bago sinagasaan ng kanyang amo.

Norhaisa Nasa Andao, 32, was stabbed to death by Egyptian husband Attalla Mohammad inside a salon in Jabriya.

According to reports from the Philippine embassy in Kuwait, Andao suffered 31 stabs before the jealous Mohammad fled the scene, leaving behind the knife and his slippers.

An unnamed friend of the victim told ABS-CBN News that Andao recently returned from a trip to the Philippines, where she left their 3 children in the care of relatives in Cotabato.

Mohammad had allegedly beaten Andao, and the latter wanted to leave him behind. 

"Maigting ang aming pakikipagtalastasan sa Chief Prosecutor para maaresto agad ang suspect na si Attalla Mohammad. He is still at large. Nag-isyu na nag warrant of arrest... at nagpadala na rin kami ng communication sa Ministry of Foreign Affairs para mapabilis ang pag-aresto," Rea Oreta, vice-consul of the Philippine embassy, said.

In a separate incident, the mutilated body of Asria Samad Abdul, 34, was found in the Kabd desert area.

Investigation reports revealed that Abdul was tortured to death by an Egyptian couple with Kuwait citizenship.

According to authorities, the couple tortured Abdul and brought her to the desert. They eventually used the car to kill the victim, reports indicated.

The couple was taken in custody after admitting their role in the killing. Abdul came from Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.

"Patuloy naming minomonitor yong status ng kaso... sa ngayon nakafile na sya sa Ahmadi Court... at malakas ang aming pag-asa na ma elevate ito sa Kuwait Court of First Instance lalo't umamin na ang mag-asawa na sila ang pumatay kay Asria," Oreta said.

Filipino nurses taking US licensure exam down by 30%

The number of Filipino nurses seeking to practice their profession in the United States plunged by one-third during the first half of 2010 compared to the same period last year.

Lingam services not in biz permit: City to look into legality of spas

The Cebu City government will look into the legality of spas offering lingam massage as such is not included in the business permits granted to the establishments offering them.

Ombud asks COA: Check MCIAA 'pabaon'

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas instructed the Commission on Audit (COA) 7 to conduct a special audit on the severance pay the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) granted a former member.

Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Santiago confirmed yesterday the MCIAA accountant has not yet submitted documents the ombudsman's office requested, in connection with the release of severance pay to former Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 director Patria Aurora Roa.

The documents were used as basis for the release of about P500,000 to Roa as severance pay. Roa had excused herself when the board deliberated on the matter, and recently said she is ready to return the amount if the airport board tells her to do so.

Apart from the MCIAA and COA, Santiago said her office also subpoenaed several concerned government agencies to help in the investigation.

Santiago said the MCIAA accountant was given 10 days to submit the documents to the anti-graft office.

She hinted her office might cite the basis government auditors used in disallowing severance pay to Carina Sepulveda Valera, a former Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) undersecretary and an ex-officio member of the MCIAA board.

Valera had reportedly received P100,000 from MCIAA when she retired, but COA disallowed this for lack of legal basis.

The MCIAA filed a case, now pending before the Supreme Court.

Several members of the MCIAA board have defended the granting of severance pay to Roa, saying it was based on the airport authority's charter and the Corporate Code of the Philippines.

In a recent interview, Roa said while she respects the ombudsman's investigation, she no longer has any involvement in the case since she retired from government service last year.

Last April 15, the 15-member MCIAA board approved a resolution granting Roa the retirement pay, in recognition of her "invaluable services and contribution" as a member of the board for 15 years.

Rama calls for probe into lost CCMC checks

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama ordered an administrative investigation of personnel of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) involved in the release of 28 missing checks issued to the hospital.

Stolen checks with employee

SIX of the 28 missing checks issued to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) ended up with a Cebu City Hall employee and were deposited in his account last May 14, or 10 days after they were released to an alleged swindler.

Despite this, a city councilor believes the possibility of collusion among city employees, Philhealth and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) in the loss of the checks is "far-fetched."

The city employee, whose family runs a money-changing business, sought the help of the City Attorney's Office, saying he is the victim in the incident. He promised to cooperate in the probe.

He shelled out some P80,000 to replace six of the 28 checks taken by a swindler from Lourdes Archua, credit officer of CCMC's budget and finance department. But when he deposited these in his bank, his account was not credited with the amount and the checks were returned instead.

Councilor Ronald Cuenco, chairman of the City Council committee on health and hospital services, assured yesterday the City Government did not lose anything from the incident.

No less

He said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) replaced the checks that were released to a certain Concha Ruth Adlawan.

"Definitely, there is no loss of money on the part of the City.

Also, I don't think there is collusion among CCMC personnel and the culprits... Everything here in CCMC is in order. If anything, it's just simple negligence on the part of Mrs. Archua, so I will never say there is a collusion. Far-fetched ra na," he said in an interview at CCMC yesterday.

He said that CCMC Chief Dr. Myrna Go is preparing an affidavit to be submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), saying her signature has been forged and she did not authorize anyone to release the checks.

Go declined from commenting on the matter, and let Cuenco speak on her behalf.


City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez said yesterday his office is inclined to impose preventive suspension on those involved in the controversy, but they first have to study carefully who will be suspended.

"As much as possible, those who are involved should be asked to keep their distance from the case so they will not be able to influence the probe. A preventive suspension is not a penalty, it's only a measure taken so the investigating parties can expect that those involved cannot dip their hands into the investigation," he explained.

Last May 4, CCMC's Archua was duped into releasing 28 Philhealth checks to Adlawan, who introduced herself as a Philhealth employee.

Adlawan told Archua the checks had to be returned to Philhealth for stamping as part of the new procedure, otherwise the checks will not be honored by the bank.

Good faith

Bernaldez said they will also invite the city employee who accepted the checks from Adlawan and replaced it with cash in a transaction known as "rediscounting of checks," before depositing them into his bank account.

On the condition of anonymity, the employee showed Sun.Star Cebu the three checks he replaced with cash. These were returned to him by his bank after LBP refused to honor them, due to alterations.

The check was paid to "Cebu City Medical Center" printed in computer ink, and with the line "Chief of Hospital Dr. Myrna Go" added on top in a lighter shade.

The employee, who has been working in City Hall for 20 years now, said he accepted the checks in good faith, after Adlawan presented to him an authorization letter signed by Go, as well as Go's City Hall ID.

"Limpyo gyud ang akong konsensya, ako ang biktima diri kay nakahatag gud kog P80,000 kapin unya wala gyud nako nakuha sa banko ang kwarta kay gi stop payment na man. Perte gyud nakong pagmahay na niilis ko ato, pero unsaon ta man, disgrasya man (My conscience is clear. I am the victim. I gave over P80,000 but never got any money in return)," he said.

He said that his only fault was that he did not verify the authenticity of the
authorization letter with Go.


"Na-convince ko na dawaton ang cheke kay tanan nakong gipangayo nahatag man niya (Adlawan). Naay letter and ID ni Go.

Mu-accommodate man gyud ko basta dakong tawo, CCMC chief gud na. Kinsa may wala nakaila ni Go, diba?" the employee said.

Unlike their other clients, from whom they collect one-percent of the total amount of the check, he said he did not deduct anything from the amount of the Philhealth checks.

In his news conference yesterday, Mayor Michael Rama said he will leave it to the City Attorney's Office and the NBI to conduct the parallel investigation.

The city legal office will take care of the administrative investigation, while the NBI will investigate the criminal aspect of the case.

"They will look into it and they need to abide by certain technical requirements because as I have said, there really will be some people who should be made responsible. There's always a presumption of regularity and that matter has to be established through an investigation. At the same time, those involved should be given due process," Rama said.

In a phone interview yesterday, LBP Regional Manager Ruel Romarate clarified it was not their bank that negotiated and cleared the checks.

Paper trail

In fact, he said, LBP Capitol Branch returned the checks to the employee's depository bank after bank officers noticed irregularities in the check.

"When the checks reached our bank, we returned them because of technical irregularities, that is why Land Bank did not negotiate them. Our employees are scrupulous and were quick to spot the alterations during the verification process.

We did not negotiate them, and we did not debit it from Philhealth's account," Romarate said.

The city employee said his depository bank initially credited the amount of the checks to his account, but when LBP did not clear the checks, the amount previously credited was also debited from his account.

Meanwhile, Atty. Reynan Oliva said the NBI subpoenaed Philhealth to submit the original checks, as well as a certification that the person who got the check from CCMC is not their employee.

"They submitted photocopies only," he said.

NBI also asked for a specimen signature from the CCMC chief, whose signature was forged in the checks.

"Our investigation follows the paper trail," Oliva said.

Rama to sack OBO chief

Mayor Michael Rama yesterday announced his plan to "overhaul" the city's Office of the Building Officials because of several complaints.

The impending revamp makes OBO chief Engineer Josefa Ylanan the number one casualty. The mayor admitted that Ylanan will be relieved but will remain at the Department of Engineering and Public Works.

Ylanan said she is always prepared to leave her office anytime once she receives the order from the mayor. In fact, she already told Rama during their previous meeting that she is willing to give up his post.

The National Building Code of the Philippines provides that no person shall be appointed as a building official unless she or he is a Filipino of good moral character, a registered architect or civil engineer, and with at least five years of professional experience in building design and construction.

The building official shall be primarily responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the building code.

In the performance of her duties, the building official may enter any building or its premises at all reasonable times to inspect and determine compliance with the requirement of the law.

Any deviations from the approved building plans, the building officials can immediately order the work stoppage until the specified plans are complied with.

Rama admitted he was already fed up of the complaints he received against the alleged illegal activities of some OBO personnel.

Some complaints include the delay in the processing of the building permit applications which sometimes prompted applicants to cough up money to speed up the processing of the documents.

The mayor said he might pull out some technical personnel from the various departments of the City Hall and reassigned them to the OBO. Another option that the mayor is looking at is the possibility of hiring new technical personnel to fill up the needs.

Ylanan said she needs at least 32 technical personnel, particularly civil engineers and architects, to review the building plans and to conduct site inspections of building constructions.

At present OBO only have 15 technical personnel making it hard for them to accommodate requests from the City Council to conduct inspections to all boarding and lodging houses during the opening of classes to ensure the safety of students.

Ylanan earlier claimed to have made numerous requests for additional personnel in the past years but these were not acted upon. 

247 houses along rivers, creeks due for demolition

Some 247 houses built along the creeks and rivers within Cebu City have been identified for demolition by the members of the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor.

DWUP chief Danilo Gabiana said the demolition will be done very soon if the owners of these houses will refuse to voluntarily vacate the area.

These houses are located along the rivers and creeks in flood-prone Barangays Cogon Pardo, Tinago, Day-as, Tejero, Basak Pardo, Inayawan, Basak San Nicolas, Sto. Niño, San Roque, Duljo Fatima, Bacayan and Mabolo.

Gabiana said that these structures built along riverbanks pose great danger in the lives of the residents especially during this time of rainy season and the expected La Niña in October.

Gabiana however assured the residents that prior to the demolition the residents will be properly notified through their respective barangay captains.

On Wednesday, councilor Roberto Cabarrubias, head of the city council's Committee on Infrastructure, is set to meet concerned barangay captains to furnish them a copy of the list of houses that need to be removed so they can inform their constituents ahead.

The mayor will be sending notices to the affected families wherein they will be given 10 days to voluntarily vacate the area upon receipt. Refusal to voluntarily vacate their house will compel the city government to use its demolition team.

Gabiana however said they are still awaiting the mayor's notices.

The city will not be providing relocation for the residents to avoid encouraging people to put up illegal structures to be later relocated and acquire their own lot.

"Kana dinhang dapita sa una, mga limpyo kaayo na. After lang sa 1992 nga UDHA (Urban Development and Housing Act) nianha na sila diha og sugod. Dili g'yud ta muhatag og relocation. Lisod man na kay illegal man sila. Maka-encourage lang ta og mu-put up og illegal structure para magkayuta sila," Gabiana said.

The city however is willing to assist them to go back to their home-provinces by providing transportation. Only those living in the province will be assisted. Those who originally live outside Cebu will not be assisted.

Cabarrubias earlier said that there is a need to clear the river banks of houses not only to take them away from danger of flash floods and other untoward incidents but also because it is necessary so the city may start the desilting of rivers.

The city could not bring in desilting equipments to the rivers because these houses are obstructing the passages.

Desilting must be done to improve the drainage system in the whole city because after inspection, the city found out that waterways are heavily silted causing rivers and creeks to immediately overflow every time it rains.

These residents living along the rivers are making the waterways dirty through improper garbage disposal.

Rama bats for electrification of coastal areas

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama asked the Visayan Electric Company and barangays officials to work on plans for the electrification of houses of poor families living in coastal areas in the city.

Rama may ask council to hold special session to pass budgets

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama asked the City Council to approve two supplemental appropriations amounting to P221.1 million to fund the medical assistance program, road repairs, renovation of the City Hall Executive Building and his new office.

Since the council will not have a session this week and can tackle the budget next week yet, Rama said he will try to request the council to hold a special session before Friday so deliberations on the proposed supplemental budget (SB) can start.

SB 3 of the Special Accounts, which amounts to P158,477,831, and SB 4 of the General Fund, amounting to P62,658,989, will fund the projects that Rama wants to accomplish in his first 100 days in office.

In his letter to the council, Rama endorsed his proposed budget to the legislative body and said sources of funds are "the internal revenue allotment (IRA) difference for 2000-2001 and 2004, realignment of continuing appropriations for 2009 and 2010 and reversal of accounts payable for 2007-2008."

"If there is no session this week, perhaps we can request for a special session but I will have to check on that first," he said yesterday.

The biggest allocation in the SB 3 is for the paving and retreading of the city streets and bridges, with a total funding of P31.5 million.

Rama also included P30 million for additional funding for the City's medical assistance program, P30 million for gasoline, oil and lubricants for the City-owned vehicles, P20 million for the repair and maintenance of the garbage and dump trucks and P15 million for the purchase of dredging machines that will be used to clean the waterways in the city.

He also included P20 million for the rehabilitation of the Plaza Independencia and P9 million in additional funding for the City's burial assistance program.

P2M band

A total of P10 million was earmarked for the repair and maintenance of the City Hall Executive Building, which includes the renovation of the ground floor to make way for Rama's new office.

"But the full amount is not just for my office. It includes expenses for the repainting works and connecting the lobbies of the Legislative and Executive buildings," Rama explained.

Another P5 million was allocated for the furniture, fixture and equipment for his new office and other City Hall offices.

Rama is also forming a band and choral group composed of City Hall employees, and has included P2 million in the budget for the expenses for setting up the band and for the purchase of musical instruments.

"It's part of our program for the arts and culture, and we would like our organic personnel to be a part of it," he said.

Mike approves allowance hike

AFTER the Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges, the Cebu City Government is now ready to grant additional allowances to the city prosecutors, but not the same amount as the judges are getting.

Mayor Michael Rama agreed yesterday to increase the allowances of city prosecutors, but he did not specify yet how much the 33 fiscals from the Cebu City Prosecutors' Office will get.

He tasked City Administrator Jose Mari Poblete and City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez to check if the City can also give additional allowances to fiscals of the Regional State Prosecutor's Office.

Unlike the case of judges, however, the City will not match the monthly salary of the fiscals.

The city prosecutors receive P5,000 monthly allowance from the City.

"Yes, we will give them additional allowances but we don't know yet how much.

Our finances can cover it as long as it will not cause an imbalance in the salaries of City Hall personnel. I don't think we can double the fiscals' salary but the amount of the allowance will be given fairly and squarely," Rama told Sun.Star Cebu.

When former mayor Tomas Osmeña approved the increase of the judges' allowances earlier this year, he did not agree to give an increase to the prosecutors.

Four prosecutors led by Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane visited Rama in his office yesterday and formally raised to him the request for an increase in monthly allowances of city fiscals.

Rama said Bernaldez and Poblete, who are both lawyers, will still have to assess how much the prosecutors' allowances should be, considering their functions and workload.

Early last month, Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro said the city prosecutors also want additional allowances from the City, or an increase of as much as P30,000.

But even before they can make a formal request, the city prosecutors changed their mind and said they would just wait for the city officials to initiate the allowance increase.

Their request came after Osmeña increased the allowances of judges from the RTC, Municipal Trial Court in Cities and Court of Appeals by P30,000 to P45,000 each.

Osmeña increased their allowances, believing an increase in their take-home pay minimizes corruption and keeps them away from the temptation to accept money from some parties.

Sanchez presents list of Garcia escorts

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez yesterday presented to the media a list of policemen escorting Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, the governor's son Paolo, 3rd District Representative Pablo John Garcia, and 2nd District Rep. Pablo Garcia.

Sanchez said he wanted to show the media that the Garcias still enjoy escorts while the Provincial Police Office has recalled his.

The list showed that the governor has 16 escorts while his son Paolo has four. Both the governor's brother, Pablo John, and father, Pablo, has one bodyguard each.

"I don't have any complaints ani…wa koy complain nga gi-tangtang ang akong upat ka mga escorts… gipakita lang nako ang kamatuoran sa media," Sanchez said yesterday.

Sanchez described Provincial Police Director Erson Digal as "discourteous" and "not a gentleman" for recalling his escorts.

"Sa tanan nga opisyal sa probinsya, ang ako lang police escorts ang gi-recall," Sanchez lamented.

The four escorts recalled were PO3 Saul Hortelano, Gregorio Licayan, Alvin Velasquez and Alison Esmero.

The vice governor contended it is fine that he does not have escorts, but it is reportedly questionable that the governor has 16 and her son has four. 

Garcia, for her part, denied she has a hand in the recall of Sanchez' escorts, saying she herself does not want to have security personnel tailing her all the time.

"If I had to choose, dili ko gusto og naay security nga magsunod-sunod sa ako. Magpapista ko, dili ko mag drama-drama" Garcia said.

Digal said earlier that politics had nothing to do with the recall. He said the police escorts had to be recalled because of the PNP's Annual General Inspection. 

Security memo 'tied Digal's hands'

POLICE Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez defended Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal yesterday, saying Digal acted on his orders to recall Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez's security escorts.

Nerez showed reporters a copy of Memorandum Circular 2010-009, the "new guidelines and procedures governing the availment of protective security."

Under the new guidelines, all security escorts must come with official orders of the Police Security Protection Group (PSPG).

Nerez said the guidelines were issued last July 8 and they have orders to strictly implement these within 15 days.

He explained Sanchez can have only two of the original four bodyguards, based on the memorandum circular.

He added that if Sanchez writes a letter request to the PSPG through him, he can include the names of his existing bodyguards so they can be reassigned to the PSPG.

Based on the guidelines, only the vice president, Senate president, speaker of the House, chief justice, defense secretary and interior secretary can have security escorts without written requests.

Cabinet secretaries, senators, House representatives and retired star-ranked police officials are also entitled to security escorts, but they should make written requests.

However, they do not need threat assessments.

For governors and mayors, the circular said they have to make written requests and have a maximum of two police escorts "subject to the approval of the Chief PNP, upon the recommendation of the police regional director."

They also have the option to employ up to four private protection agents trained by the police. A threat assessment and a P5,000 processing fee are required for the application.

As for other public officials and private individuals, they can also avail themselves of security escorts but only if they are under actual threat of death or physical harm.

Nerez said the threat must be assessed as "imminent" for their applications to be granted. The guidelines also state the PNP can "withdraw anytime before expiration" the security escorts if the demands of the PNP require it or if the applicant has violated the terms in which the security escorts were granted.

He said only two police escorts can be granted. But in "highly exceptional cases", they are allowed to hire up to four private protection agents. Nerez said Sanchez falls under the last category.

For his part, Digal said he recalled PO1 Alvin Velasquez as Sanchez's security escort because he is designated under the Special Reaction Unit, an elite force tasked to respond to special situations.

As for Sanchez's other bodyguards, PO3 Saul Hortelano, PO2 Allison Esmero and PO2 Gregorio Licayan, they are under the Capitol Detachment, serving as his escorts.

Digal also identified SPO1 Rolando Andales, PO3 Darwin Gonzales, PO2 Daiana Molejon and PO2 Jovelyn Tabalba as the police escorts assigned to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

The rest are considered members of the Capitol detachment and are divided into groups securing the Capitol compound and the Cebu South Bus Terminal, said Digal.

Digal also denied that Governor Garcia's son, Paolo Codilla, has security escorts assigned to him, saying he is not authorized to have security escorts.

Nerez said they will prepare copies of the new guidelines and furnish all local officials so they will be guided accordingly and they can take the necessary steps in applying for protective security.

Without revealing his source, the vice governor distributed yesterday a three-page report that claims the governor has 16 escorts, while her son Paolo has four, her brother Rep. Pablo John Garcia, one, and her father, Rep. Pablo Garcia, also none escort.

Her other brother Byron, who used to be the Capitol's consultant on security, has one escort, Sanchez also said.

The governor clarified that if she had her way, she would not want to have any security escorts, who follow her around.

"But then I can't have my way all the time because I realize that beyond being just Gwen Garcia, I'm also the governor," she said.

She referred to the PNP questions about the number of her and the rest of the Capitol's security detail.

The vice governor, for his part, complained that Digal recalled his police bodyguards without sending him a formal notice.

"He is not showing himself as a gentleman. He has not shown even a little courtesy for the vice governor," Sanchez said.

For now, he said, he is using some members of his office staff as his security.

Manuel Manuel denies attacking Gwen's organic farming program

Manuel T. Manuel, the organic system consultant of Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, yesterday denied "attacking" the organic farming program of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Manuel's alleged attacks are reportedly the reason why his consultancy contract can no longer be renewed.

Manuel did not deny commenting negatively on Garcia's organic farming program, but said he commented only on its implementation. He said Garcia's "Go Organic" program has been allegedly distributing a mislabeled brand because

Manuel did not deny that he had commented negatively on Governor Gwen's organic farming program, but more only on its implementation. Gov. Gwen's "Go Organic" program has allegedly been distributing a mislabeled brand of organic fertilizer, which is reportedly not certifiable as such. This, he said, is taboo in organic farming system.

"Correcting a malpractice is not attacking, but it is giving the public the appropriate information," Manuel said in a press release.

He said the Capitol distributed fertilizer through the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist cannot be certified as an organic fertilizer and Gov. Gwen's organic program has been circulated throughout the province for over a year.

The 10 million granted to the province from the Department of Agriculture last year, which was mainly intended for the purchase of organic fertilizer for distribution to farmers, was reportedly used to purchase processed chicken manure from Bantayan Island that still retained its foul odor, therefore, could not be certified as organic fertilizer.

The purchase of the said fertilizer by the province allegedly violated Executive Order 481 and Republic Act 10068 or the act providing for the development and promotion of organic agriculture in the Philippines. Mixing chemosynthetic inorganic fertilizer will reportedly aggravate green house effect that will result to global warming.

Manuel said the use of partially decomposed processed manure (including chicken manure) promoted the intestinal ailments caused by E. coli, salmonella and carcinogenic aflatoxin that will make manure as its most favorable habitat.

Organic fertilizer is defined as materials coming from bodies and wastes of plants and animals which are thoroughly decomposed that its original state cannot be recognized anymore (physical or odor), and from materials free of chemosynthetic and inorganic substances and free pathogens and toxic substances that is soil-like in appearance.

Manuel added that Garcia was against the organic farming program of Sanchez, which reportedly maintains a demonstration farm training center in aid of legislation.

Meanwhile, Garcia denied politics is behind the assignment of some employees to the different municipalities in the islands of Bantayan, Daanbantayan and Camotes.

Garcia issued the statement in response to alleged insinuations made by Sanchez that politics has something to do with the transfer of some Capitol employees..

Garcia said the reassignment of the employees was based on recommendation of their respective departments. She says the barangays in the island municipalities need immediate attention in terms of delivery of basic services.

Garcia stressed there is a need to tap the expertise of every employee regardless of their political loyalties.

"Ang mga empleyado angayan nga mutan-aw nga sila loyal ngadto sa katawhan ug dili magtan-aw nga sila loyal lamang sa usa ka tawo o politiko," Garcia said.

Capitol board appoints minority floor leader 'for the meantime'

PROVINCIAL Board (PB) Member Arleigh Sitoy's request to be designated minority floor leader provoked questions from other members of the board, who said they need to determine who the minority really is.

Sitoy believes only he and Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. belong to the minority in the PB, but PB Member Agnes Magpale said as far as she is concerned, the parties Bakud and Alayon can also claim to be the minority.

Sitoy, a former mayor of Cordova, said the parties that allied themselves with the One Cebu majority party in the May elections can no longer consider themselves part of the PB minority.

But he also said he would be happy to welcome the PB members who want to join him in the minority bloc.

Magpale, interviewed after the session, said if the minority leader's function is "to criticize constructively," as Sitoy pointed out, then there is no need to designate such an officer.

"If that is the case, we don't need one. Anybody can criticize," she said.

She said the board may consider asking for an opinion from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) so they can define the minority and identify the minority floor leader's functions.

As a member of Bakud, she said she may nominate her colleague from the fifth district, PB Member Jude Thaddeus Sybico, as minority leader.

Sitoy's fellow representative from the sixth district, PB Member Thadeo Ouano, said he agrees there's a need to designate a minority floor leader.

"We are still in a democratic country. Kinahanglan buhi-on ta ang demokrasya (We need to practice democracy)," he said.

In the middle of the heated discussion, Sitoy changed his motion. He requested instead that he be designated minority leader "for the meantime."

The board approved it.

Magpale said "for the meantime" should also be defined.

Earlier in the session, Sitoy said he wanted to change the name of the committee he chairs, from committee on the differently-abled to committee on persons with disabilities, for it to be consistent with the law's terms.

Upon PB Member Peter John Calderon's suggestion, Sitoy said he will prepare the proposed amendment, so his committee can go by a different name.

Soc hires 3 former dads

As promised, Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez has hired three former councilors as consultants.

Fernandez has appointed Arturo Bas, former committee chairman on budget and appropriation and the now defunct Traffic Commission, as the city's first public information officer (PIO).

The old municipal trial court in cities office at the ground floor of the city hall has been converted into an office for Bas.

Earlier, Fernandez assured administration bets and last term councilors of consultancy jobs for them to continue serving the city. 

A consultant at the city hall is paid around P20,000 a month.

Bas was city councilor for three consecutive terms from 2001-2010. His fellow administration councilors, Ben Abatayo and Ronnie Capala, have also been designated as consultants for traffic and slaughterhouse operations, respectively.

Abatayo, who also served for three terms as councilor, was vice chairman of the traffic commission while Capala, who was unsuccessful in his re-election bid last May 10, chaired the council committee on public market and slaughterhouse operations.

Capala and Association of Barangay Councils President Osmundo Manreal Jr. were the only administration candidates who lost in the race for councilor.

Manreal, who is on his last term as barangay chief in Pooc, will however stay in the council for another three months before the next barangay election slated this October.

Bas' appointment, along with those of legal officer Owen Algoso and city administrator Richel Bacaltos, is expected to be concurred in today's regular session of the council as required by RA 8979 or the Local Government Code.

Mandaue marks national disability and rehab week

Mandaue City yesterday gave recognition to three barangays for being "Persons with Disabilities-friendly" as the city marks National Disability and Rehabilitation Week.

Two men shoot dead Indian man in Carcar

An Indian national was killed by two unidentified men yesterday noon at sitio Lumboy, barangay Liboron, Carcar City, Cebu.

Police identified the victim as Dohlinder Comar, 39, from sitio Luan-Luan, barangay Poblacion II, Carcar City.

Police said that Comar went to sitio Lumboy to collect money from his clients leaving his motorcycle by the roadside to go to the interior portion.

When he returned to his motorcycle, two men on board another motorbike went near him and both pulled out guns and shot Comar several times.

The Indian national tried to run for his life, but the assailants chased him and fired another shot.

Victim sustained gun shot wounds on the left side of his head, another on his neck that exited to the other side, and on his back and chest. He died on the spot.

Police theorized that the assailants were hired guns.

They were able to recover seven empty shells of caliber .45 and 9 mm.

Police said that they cannot say that motive of the said killing is robbery since the money that Comar collected amounting to P18,000 that was in his pocket and his jewelry and watch were not taken.

SPO4 Ruben Renes said that one of the angles they are focusing on is personal grudge since last June 26, police responded after Comar's wife asked for help when one Del Harender Singh, also an Indian national, went to their house carrying a firearm looking for Comar.

"Among nadakpan ug napasakaan namo ug kasong Illegal Possession of Firearms si Singh human namo makuha sa iya ang usa ka .45 nga kalibre sa armas," Renes added.

Sr. Supt. Erson Digal, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), ordered Chief Insp. Ali Baron, chief of the Carcar City Police Station to speed up the investigation.

This is the second time a businessman was killed in the said place.

Last July 12, Eric Uraca, 34, owner of a shop selling motor parts and accessories was shot to death by two men, who are allegedly guns for hire.

He was shot in front of his store at J.P. Rizal Street, barangay Poblacion I, Carcar City.

With the help of witnesses, police were able to arrest the two men who killed Uraca. They also identified the mastermind of the killing.

Last Saturday, a businessman was killed in Toledo City also in an apparent robbery.

The victim was identified as Proceso Anonas, owner of a hardware store.

BIR official arrested for failure to show up in court

An official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue who is facing charges for falsification of public documents was arrested yesterday inside the Palace of Justice due to a bench warrant issued against him for failure to appear during his scheduled arraignment in February.

Nieto Racho, chief of the Special Investigation Division of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, went to the court yesterday for his arraignment but ended up being arrested on upon the order of Regional Trial Court Judge Macaundas Hadji Rasul.

Rasul issued a bench warrant against Racho after he failed to show up in his arraignment last February.

A bench warrant is a type of arrest warrant which the court issued when someone fails to comply with an order or requirement. Racho immediately filed a reconsideration of the order which was subsequently granted.

Racho however was made to pay another P24,000 bail for his temporary liberty because his previous bond was already forfeited in favor of the government. The arraignment also proceeded yesterday with Racho entering a plea of not guilty.

Racho failed to appear before the court during the February 14 scheduled arraignment prompting Rasul to order his arrest. The accused, through his counsel Charise Cabatingan, claimed they were not notified of the February schedule.

Racho was charged for falsification of public document because of his untruthful declarations in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. The accused only stated P15,000 cash in bank.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas found out during its investigation that Racho actually has a total of P5,793,801.39 bank deposits distributed in various banks.

In Metropolitan Bank and trust Company-Cebu, Tabunok Branch Racho has P2,932,896.27; He also has Philippine Commercial International Bank-Magallanes Branch deposit amounting to P1,228,702.53; and Bank of the Philippine Islands Cebu- General Maxilom Avenue Branch amounting to P1,632,282.59.

Newspaper executive sued for forgery

The former editor-in-chief of a local business newspaper in Cebu has filed a criminal complaint for forgery against the president of the publishing company before the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office.

German "Armand Brioso Perez, former editor-in-chief of Cebu the Voice newspaper, filed two counts of forgery against Marilyn Ancheta Par, president of PAR Publishing and Marketing Corporation, for allegedly forging his signature.

Perez said he filed a labor case for illegal dismissal against Par after he was dismissed from service on April 30. Prior to the dismissal, however, Perez already prepared a resignation letter because of alleged differences between him and Par.

According to Perez, he did not sign his resignation letter because he wanted to talk to Par's husband, Freddie, first before submitting his letter. But instead of an amicable settlement during his meeting with Par's husband on April 30, he was given his termination paper prompting him to file a case for illegal dismissal before the National Labor Relations Commission.

However, during the NLRC hearing Perez was again shocked to see a copy of his resignation letter already bore his signature. Thus, he filed the complaint for forgery before the prosecutor's office.

Perez said that sometime in July 2009 he was approached by the Pars asking his help to set up the Cebu the Voice newspaper. Perez was hired as editor-in-chief and was promised a monthly salary of P20,000.

According to Perez, even if he was not paid the amount promised because he only received P8,000 a month, he continue his services even to the point of coughing up his own money to support the paper's operation.

Perez said he recommended the hiring of binders to hasten the operation but Par refused prompting him to use his own money to pay the salaries of the binders. Since then, Par has been hostile to him.

The hostility between them was aggravated by his organizing a team building-planning activity in March 2010 which was part of their preparation for the May 10 elections. However, Par reportedly did not want to spend for the activity.

Out of frustrations, Perez said he was planning to tender his courtesy resignation. However, even before he could formally submit his letter he was already terminated and forged his signature to justify his illegal dismissal.

Perez attached in his complaint a certification issued by the PNP Crime Laboratory which confirmed the alleged forgery.

Aquino appoints Batuhan as undersecretary for legal

LAWYER Aristotle Batuhan took his oath of office before President Benigno Aquino III as undersec-retary for legal, administration and comptrollership of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with marching orders to review all the big contracts entered into by the previous administration.

Batuhan, who took his oath in Malacañang at 1 p.m. yesterday, will review in the next 100 days the contracts in 19 government agencies attached to the DOTC.

Among the agencies are Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), Cebu Port Authority (CPA), Manila International Airport and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

"We've received information that several contracts were being fast-tracked without observing the law. There will be an audit of contracts entered into by all the agencies attached to DOTC," Batuhan said.

He said even if the attached agencies have their own charters, they are under DOTC in terms of coordination.

He cited as an example the LTFRB, which has an anti-colorum campaign. The DOTC will review the policy in the issuance of franchises to public utility vehicles.

"We want to make an accounting of all the assets of these government agencies," Batuhan said.

Batuhan, one of the volunteer campaigners for Aquino for the May 10 elections, was also tasked by DOTC Sec. Jose "Ping" de Jesus to review all the midnight appointments issued by President Gloria Arroyo to officials of the 19 agencies.

"We want to make sure that everybody who is on board the Aquino administration will follow policies," Batuhan said, citing the appointments Arroyo made on March 5, 6, 7 and 8, since the prohibition started on March 9.

Batuhan said Cebuanos can expect him to perform well and with honesty and dedication.

He said he will ensure transparency in the DOTC, as instructed by de Jesus, by ensuring all contracts will be available online.

Meanwhile, Batuhan said he is in favor of a mass transport system in Cebu, regardless of whether it is Light Rail Transit (LRT) or a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), as long as it is advantageous to the government and will be approved in a public hearing.

The LRT was proposed by Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) while the BRT is backed by Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south).

The two have been debating the mass transit system since the DOTC, through then undersec-retary Guiling Mamon-diong, conducted a public hearing for the LRT system last year.

Batuhan said he has no problem with either of the two.

Batuhan, who ran but lost twice to Osmeña's ally, former congressman Antonio Cuenco, said he decided not to run for congressman in the last elections because he did want to oppose Osmeña, a partymate in the Liberal Party.

"From the beginning, I had a good relationship with Tomas. I ran against Cuenco and not against him," Batuhan said.

Batuhan is a partner of the Batuhan, Blando and Concepcion Law Office in Makati City and an external counsel of the Ayala Corp. and its subsidiaries, such as Manila Water and Ayala Land Inc.

The DOTC secretary sits as chairman of the MCIAA and CPA, but can also designate an undersecretary or assistant secretary as alternate chairman.

Batuhan said he will accept the additional assignments if he will be designated by de Jesus to see how the two agencies are performing.

"We at the DOTC are eyeing Cebu port modernization and a better management at Mactan airport," Batuhan said.

Aquino insists on review of Trillanes coup case

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is standing by his order to review the coup d' etat case not only of detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV but also of other rebel soldiers involved in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Aquino: Exoneration for Trillanes not being sought

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said he is not seeking the exoneration of detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, even though he thinks the lawmaker may have been a victim of injustice.

Drilon says let court decide on Trillanes' case

Senator Franklin Drilon said Sunday that the freedom of detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV will depend on the decision of the court.

Prosecution has limited options on Trillanes case, De Lima says

As the coup d'etat charges against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV will be soon submitted for decision, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the prosecution may have limited options when it reviews the case.

'Wait for court decision on Trillanes coup case'

Hintayin na lang ang desisyon ng korte at huwag nang manghimasok ang Department of Justice. Ito ang iginiit ni Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon kaugnay sa pagre-review ng DOJ sa kasong coup d'etat laban kay Senador Antonio Trillanes.

Honasan: Amnesty, not bail, for Trillanes

Hindi sang-ayon si Senador Gringo Honasan na pansamantalang pakawalan si Senador Antonio Trillanes para lang makaboto ng Senate president. Pabor siyang mabigyan ng political amnesty  si Trillanes pero huwag lang daw pakialaman ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino ang mga kaso nito.

Review Faeldon's case too, and others, says Aquino

Like Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III also wants a review of the case of another rebel soldier, who recently surrendered to the government.

Ona backs release of 'Morong 43,' health subsidies for poor

Health Secretary Enrique Ona agreed with representatives of cause-oriented groups that the 43 community health workers arrested in February in Morong, Rizal on suspicion of being communist rebels should be released.

Aquino defends appointments of 3 Abads in gov't

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday defended the employment of 3 members of Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad's family in his administration.

In an ambush interview, Aquino said his administration did not violate any law when he appointed the Abads in sensitive positions in government. The elder Abad currently holds the position of Budget Secretary; his daughter, Julia, is Presidential Management Staff chief. His son, Luis, is the chief of staff of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

The elder Abad's wife, Dina, was also elected congressional representative of Batanes.

Aquino said in the case of his budget secretary, the elder Abad had to go through the selection process before he was appointed, despite his status as his mentor and colleague.

"I'm confident they will demonstrate their capability and qualification that made me decide to put them in place," said the President.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Dina Abad is an elected official separate from the workings of the Executive Department where the three other Abads are working. But at a closer look, one would see that the job of each member of  the Abad family is related with one another.

Dina Abad is the vice-chair of the House of Representatives appropriations committee while her husband, Butch, will handle budgetary requests from legislators and government agencies.

As head of the PMS, Julia Abad will be in charge of the President's Social Fund. President Aquino himself announced last week in an ambush interview in Tuguegarao City that they reverted the management of the social fund to the PMS.

Finally, Luis Abad is in charge of sorting out communications, requests, memoranda and papers that require the signature of the Finance Secretary. The younger Abad is a summa cum laude from Ateneo with a degree on Economics.

Lacierda said it is too early to say anything against the Abads.

Julia, according to Lacierda, has been the President's Chief of Staff in the Senate and Secretary Abad was the senior adviser of the President during the campaign. "Let's see in the next few months if they are competent," said Lacierda.

For his part, Aquino gave a parting shot to detractors who questioned his choice of the Abads.

"Palagay ko naman sa tingin nila di pa ko nakapag-asawa, di pa ko nakapag-honeymoon, so di na nila ko bibigyan ng honeymoon. So thank you na lang sa kanila," he said.

Aquino promises no-frills SONA

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's first state of the nation address (SONA) will be without much fanfare but a presentation of the problems that he inherited from the past administration and how he intends to address them.

SWS: Arroyo satisfaction rating rebounds, remains negative

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's net satisfaction ratings rebounded during her last days in office but not enough to overcome her consistently low ratings, according to the latest Social Weather Stations survey released Monday.

The survey, conducted from June 25-28, 2010, showed 35% satisfied and 51% dissatisfied with Arroyo's performance for a net rating of –17.

SWS said Arroyo's last satisfaction rating as President is better that her record-low score of –53 in March 2010.  It said Arroyo's final negative rating "implies that she was steadily unpopular for almost 6 years, from October 2004 to June 2010."

The survey was conducted from June 25-28, 2010 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The survey had sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages and ±6% for area percentages. 

Dissatisfaction eases

Dissatisfaction with Arroyo eased in all areas and all socioeconomic classes during the survey period, with most gains coming from Mindanao and Class E respondents.

It rose by 43 points in Mindanao, from –54 (16% satisfied, 69% dissatisfied) in March to   –11 (38% satisfied, 49% dissatisfied) in June.

Her net satisfaction rating also rose by 47 points in class E, from a very bad –53 (16% satisfied, 70% dissatisfied, correctly rounded) in March, to a neutral –6 (41% satisfied, 46% dissatisfied, correctly rounded) in June.

Rural satisfaction with the President rose from 17% to 37%, while dissatisfaction fell from 66% to 49%, bringing her rural net rating up by 37 points, from –49 to –12.

Compared to the previous quarter, satisfaction with President Arroyo among women rose from 17% to 37%, while dissatisfaction fell from 67% to 49%, bringing her net satisfaction score up by 38 points from a very bad –50 to a poor –12.

Among men, satisfaction with President Arroyo rose from 16% to 32%, while dissatisfaction fell from 71% to 54%, bringing her net rating 34 points up from a very bad –55 to a poor –21.

Sotto dumps Kiko in race for Senate presidency

Even familial relationship doesn't guarantee support in the Senate. Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Monday said he is not inclined to vote for his nephew-in-law, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, who is gunning for the Senate presidency in the 15th Congress.

No sure vote yet for Kiko, Trillanes spokesman says

(Updated 4:11 p.m.) A case review order from President Benigno Aquino III will not mean an automatic vote from detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV for Sen. Francis Pangilinan for the Senate presidency, the spokesman for the former Navy officer said Monday.

Enrile won't preside over opening of Senate

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will not be presiding over the opening of the Senate session on July 26 to dispel speculations that he wants to prolong his stay as the head of the chamber.

Ombudsman Gutierrez dares critics to produce evidence

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Monday maintained her tough stance against her critics by daring them to produce evidence that she didn't act on corruption cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
(If they have evidence, and it seems that they have because they act like I'm really a stumbling block in [the] investigation, then present the evidence to the panel right now.)

Party-list group Akbayan is currently preparing a new impeachment complaint against Gutierrez whom they described as "the single biggest obstacle in the delivery of justice."

Among the recent criticisms hurled against Gutierrez was the inclusion of former Agriculture secretary Luisito "Cito" Lorenzo Jr. on the list of the people being investigated regarding the P728-million fertilizer fund scam after he expressed readinessto testify in the case.

She was also accused of protecting Arroyo and her husband, Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, from the investigations.

During the interview, Gutierrez, who was Mr. Arroyo's batchmate at the Ateneo Law School, defended Lorenzo's inclusion in the fertilizer fund scam investigation.

"Bago pa man lumabas si Cito Lorenzo ay kasama na siya sa iimbestigahan (Even before Cito Lorenzo surfaced, he was already among those to be investigated)," she said.

Lorenzo went to the United States in 2006 supposedly to avoid the Senate investigation on the fertilizer fund issue. He returned to the country recently.

No communication with Arroyo couple

Gutierrez appealed to her critics not to put her office in bad light. 

"Wag niyo namang pasamain ang Office of the Ombudsman sa mata ng ating mga kababayan. Mali ang sinasabi ninyo (Don't put the Office of the Ombudsman in bad light especially when what you are saying is wrong). You are purveyors of wrong information," she said.

Gutierrez said her supposed closeness with the Arroyos should not be taken against her, adding that she has no communication with the couple now. 

She also expressed readiness to face the impeachment complaint that will be filed against her. "Recycled criticism yan. Kung ano ang gusto nilang gawin (whatever they want to do) I'm ready to face the music," Gutierrez said. 

She also reiterated that she would not resign from her post. 

Sandiganbayan defers Abalos arraignment; case to be amended

THE ANTI-GRAFT court has granted the petition to defer the arraignment of former election chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, Sr. in connection with graft charges in the canceled National Broadband Network (NBN) scandal.

SC upholds lifting of sequestration orders vs Marcos firms

The Supreme Court has upheld a ruling by the Sandiganbayan lifting the sequestration orders against corporations allegedly used by the Marcos family and their cronies as repositories for their supposed ill-gotten wealth.
The orders were from the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), a body formed to sequester all assets illegally acquired by the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family and cronies during his 20-year rule. 

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Roberto Abad, the SC's Second Division said no grave abuse of discretion could be attributed to the Sandiganbayan in dismissing the complaint for recovery filed by PCGG against the corporations. 

"For an act to be struck down as having been done with grave abuse of discretion, such abuse must be patent and gross, a screaming aberration, to use a phrase. The Sandiganbayan's dismissal of the complaint against respondent corporations cannot be regarded as falling in this category," part of the 11-page ruling read.

The SC said the anti-graft court merely relied on the high court's own ruling in the previous case of Republic vs. Sandiganbayan wherein it held that "impleading corporations which are alleged to have been capitalized with ill-gotten wealth, is unnecessary since judgment may be rendered against the individual defendants, divesting them of their shares stock." 

Among these corporations are the Philippine Village Hotel, Philroad Construction Corp., Silahis International Hotel, Fantasia Filipina Resorts Inc., Monte Sol Development Corp., Olas del Mar Development Corp., Puerto Azulo Beach and Country Club Inc., and Ternate Development Corp. 

These corporations were listed under the names of several alleged Marcos associates led by Modesto Enriquez, Trinidad Diaz-Enriquez, Rebecco Panlilio, Erlinda Enriquez-Panlilion, Leandro Enriquez, Don Ferry, Roman Cruz Jr., and Gregorio Castillo. 

In upholding the Sandiganbayan's ruling, the Court held that the sequestration orders were issued in violation of Section 26, Article XVIII of the Constitution, which requires prima facie findings that the properties are ill-gotten wealth prior to the issuance of a sequestration order. 

The SC also noted that the sequestration orders issued by the PCGG against Philippine Village, Philroad and Silahis were null and void since it was signed by only one commissioner. 

PCGG rules require the signatures of at least two commissioners on a sequestration order. 

The SC however noted that the lifting of the sequestration orders will not affect the prosecution of the main case since it does mean that the sequestered properties are not ill-gotten. 

"The effect of the lifting of the sequestration simply means that the government may not act as conservator or may not exercise administrative or housekeeping powers over the corporations. Historically, such option has not fared well," it said.

'Plagiarized ruling' prompts comfort women to file SC appeal

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A group of Filipino comfort women survivors on Monday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision turning down their petition that would compel the Philippine government to push for official reparations from the Japanese government.

SC justice denies plagiarizing ruling on comfort women

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, embroiled in allegations of plagiarism, has denied that portions of his ponencia on the Filipino comfort women case were lifted from other sources without proper attribution, the court spokesman said Monday. He said Del Castillo went to Chief Justice Renato Corona's office earlier in the day to clear his name and assure the latter that he would look into the allegations.
At a news briefing, court administrator and spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo voluntarily went to Chief Justice Renato Corona's office to tell him he will prepare a report on the matter. 

"When Justice Del Castillo got wind of what will happen today, that Attorney Harry Roque will file a supplemental motion, he [Del Castillo] saw the chief justice this morning and told the chief justice he will be looking into the allegations and will be giving a report," Marquez said. 

Asked whether the embattled magistrate categorically denied plagiarizing, Marquez replied in the affirmative. 

He also quoted Del Castillo as saying that he made the proper attributions and citations in the April 28, 2010 decision on comfort women. 

"He knows that he cited all the sources that have to be cited, that is why he is looking into the allegations. So, let's wait for the report," said Marquez. 

Earlier in the day, some 17 victims of sexual abuse during the Japanese occupation went to the Supreme Court to file a supplemental motion for reconsideration assailing the ruling. (See: Comfort women decry 'plagiarized' SC ruling)

The controversial decision denied the women's plea to have the Philippine government compel Tokyo to make a public apology and provide compensation for them.

According to the women's motion for reconsideration and a Newsbreak report, portions of the ruling were supposedly borrowed from the following sources:

  • 31 parts of "A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens" by Ivan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, published last year in the Yale Journal of International Law;

  • 24 parts of "Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime" by Mark Ellis, published 2006 in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law; and

  • 4 parts of "Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law" by Christian Tams, published in 2005.

    The women said copyright infringement is punishable under Article 217 of the new Intellectual Property Code or Republic Act 8293.

    If proven guilty, those who committed plagiarism can be imprisoned for one to three years and is required to pay a fine from P50,000 to P100,000 for the first offense.

    However, Marquez on Monday said it is still premature to determine what sanctions may be meted on Del Castillo should he be proven guilty. 

    "That will be speculation at this point," he said.

  • Ranking US official to visit Manila Tuesday

    A top US government official is set to arrive in Manila on Tuesday for a two-day visit. US Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns will be the highest-ranking US official to visit the three-week-old Aquino administration, being the State Department's third-ranking official and senior career diplomat.

    Yusoph son freed, says military official

    Nuraldin Yusoph, the kidnapped son of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Elias Yusoph, has been released by his abductors on Monday afternoon, a military official said.

    No ransom paid for release of Yusoph son

    (UPDATE 2) Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong said no ransom was paid in exchange for the freedom of Nuralden Yusoph, who was kidnapped by armed men last month.

    Comelec welcomes release of Yusoph son

    The Commission on Elections, through its spokesman, James Jimenez, welcomed the release of Nuraldin Yusoph in Cagayan de Oro City on Monday afternoon.

    Trader kidnapped in Tacurong

    Just as kidnappers freed the son of Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph in Cagayan de Oro City on Monday, another trader was attacked and abducted in Tacurong City, police said.
    Senior Supt. Alfredo Dangani, Tacurong City police chief, said Abdul Naser Ayada, 49, of Barangay Damalusay, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, was seized by about four gunmen at 4 p.m. Monday. 

    Dangani said initial investigation revealed that Ayada was driving his van along Malvar St. in Tacurong City when the gunmen on board another vehicle flagged down his car and at gun-point ordered him to alight.

    Dangani, quoting witnesses, said the victim was then forced into a waiting vehicle, which sped toward an unknown direction. 

    He said the motive for the abduction remains unknown but police probers believed it was a case of rido or family feud.

    Dangani could not also say the nature of Ayada's business.

    Leader of kidnap group killed in Zamboanga clash

    (UPDATE) An alleged leader of a notorious kidnapping group operating in Zamboanga Peninsula was killed in a clash with authorities in the province on Sunday, police said on Monday.

    Sulu fisherman killed, 1 hurt by pirates—Coast Guard

    A Sulu fisherman was killed while his companion was wounded by three suspected pirates who attacked them while they were fishing on Friday off Sirum Island in Siasi, Sulu.

    Cholera claims 2 children in Zamboanga

    At least two children died while more than 30 people were hospitalized after suffering symptoms of cholera in Zamboanga City over the weekend, a radio report said Monday.

    Air Force training plane crashes in Tarlac, pilots unhurt

    (UPDATE 2) An Air Force training craft crashed in Tarlac Monday morning, but its pilot and co-pilot were unhurt, the Philippine Air Force said.

    Licuanan takes over CHEd, vows to implement reforms

    Educator Patricia Licuanan formally took over the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Monday morning and vowed to help "reverse the deterioration of Philippine higher education."

    Ex-NTC exec named Pagcor president; new appointees named

    Former National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) commissioner Jorge Sarmiento has been appointed as president of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).
    Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr. confirmed Sarmiento's appointment in an ambush interview with reporters in Malacañang Monday. 

    Sarmiento was NTC deputy commissioner from January 2003 to April 2009. He was also head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) from January 1999 to August 2002, and a postmaster general in 1993.

    Sarmiento is the brother of Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Rene Sarmiento. 

    President Benigno Aquino III had earlier named Cristino "Bong" Naguiat Jr. as Pagcor chairman, replacing Efraim Genuino whose term had been extended by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

    Genuino quit his post before Aquino could name his replacement.

    Ochoa also confirmed that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima will be replacing acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Augusto Santos in the Monetary Board. 

    New government officials who took their oaths of office before Aquino earlier in the day were Department of Justice undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar; Department of Transportation and Communication undersecretaries Aristotle Batuhan, Glicerio Sicat, and Dante Velasco; DOTC acting assistant secretary Ildefonso Patdu Jr.; and acting Toll Regulatory Board executive director Manuel Garay Imperial.

    Others who took their oaths were Maritime Industry Authority Emerson Lorenzo; Philippine Ports Authority general manager Juan Sta. Ana; PPA assistant general manager Raul Santos; Civil Aeronautics Board acting executive director Carmelo Arcilla; Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office board member Mabel Mamba; and Bureau of Internal Revenue deputy commissioner for legal and inspection group Estella Sales.

    Jorge V. Sarmiento, former deputy commissioner of National Telecommunications Commission, was appointed president of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

    His appointment was confirmed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. in a chance interview. He replaced Rafael Butch A. Francisco.

    Thirteen other officials took their oath before President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

    Except for a few familiar names, the appointees are new faces to the government:

    • Manuel G. Imperial, Toll Regulatory Board executive director, was retained in an acting capacity;
    • Jose Vicente V. Salazar, was retained as Justice undersecretary;
    • former Finance undersecretary Estela V. Sales is now deputy commissioner for legal and inspection group at the Bureau of Internal Revenue;
    • Emerson M. Lorenzo of the Maritime Industry Authority-Shipyard Regulation Office replaced Angelo C. Verdan as administrator;
    • lawyer Aristotle B. Batuhan, publicist Dante M. Velasco and investment banker Glicerio V. Sicat were sworn in as undersecretaries of the Department of Transportation and Communications;
    • Ildefonso T. Patdu, Jr., who previously served as communication planning service director at the Department of Science and Technology, was appointed acting assistant secretary of the same department;
    • at the Philippine Ports Authority, Juan C. Sta. Ana, former senior vice-president of F. F. Cruz & Co. and manager of the Port District of Manila, replaced former general manager Oscar M. Sevilla, while Raul T. Santos and engineer Tomas B. Carlos were appointed assistant general managers;
    • Mabel V. Mamba has been appointed member of the Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office board; and
    • Carmelo L. Arcilla is the new Civil Aeronautics Board executive director, replacing Tomas C. Mañalac. He was former deputy executive director.

    Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisma was appointed state representative to the Monetary Board, replacing Augusto B. Santos who reverted to his position as deputy director-general at the National Economic and Development Authority upon the appointment of Cayetano W. Paderanga, Jr. as socioeconomic planning secretary.

    102 active OFW death penalty cases—DFA

    As of July this year, the Department of Foreign Affairs is monitoring 102 active death penalty cases around the world.

    $1: P46.420

    $1: P46.420

    Euro 1: P59.8396

    BIR misses June collection goal

    by Reuters
    MANILA, Philippines  - The country's  main tax agency collected P59.37 billion in June, P3.3 billion  lower than its target, the agency, citing preliminary figures, said in a statement on Monday.  

    BIR to file 2nd big tax evasion case

    MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said it will file its second tax evasion case this Thursday.

    BIR Commissioner Kim Henares did not yet identify the person who will be apprehended.

    "Makikilala nyo na lang sya sa Thursday pagka-file namin," said, adding the person is a large-scale tax evader, though not necessarily a prominent figure.

    "Kaya hindi totoong celebrities lang ang target namin," said Henares.

    The BIR is stepping up its campaign to ferret out tax evaders which President Benigno Aquino III believes will help substantially in shoring up the government's coffers.

    Aquino has instructed the BIR to have a tax evasion case filed every week.

    "Bukod kasi sa criminal aspect, may civil aspect yung case, dun pagbabayarin yung tao dun sa tax na hindi nya binigay," said Henares.

    Malaysian sentenced to death over Indon maid's murder

    KUALA LUMPUR—A Malaysian court Monday sentenced a market trader to death for murdering his Indonesian maid, one of a series of abuse cases that prompted Jakarta to ban domestic helpers working in Malaysia.

    Indian train crash kills 61, injures 165

    SAINTHIA—A speeding express rammed into the back of a stationary passenger train in eastern India on Monday, killing more than 60 people and leaving 165 injured, many seriously.

    Another American boxing champ challenges Pacquiao

    MANILA, Philippines – American Timothy Bradley, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior welterweight champion, is the latest fighter who wants to face up to 7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.

    Mayweather: Pacquiao, boxing not on my mind now

    MANILA, Philippines – While the boxing world is abuzz with the news of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. snubbing the deadline to sign a deal for the super showdown with Manny Pacquiao, the American fighter is just sitting pretty at the moment.

    "I'm not really thinking about boxing right now," Mayweather told Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press during a charity basketball game in Miami, Florida hosted by NBA superstars Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade.

    "I'm just relaxing. I fought about 60 days ago, so I'm just enjoying myself, enjoying life, enjoying my family and enjoying my vacation," he added.

    Mayweather, who defeated fellowman Shane Mosley by unanimous decision in May, refused to comment on the deadline he missed last Saturday.

    "I'm not interested in rushing to do anything," the undefeated fighter with 41 wins (25 knockouts) said.

    Pacquiao and Mayweather were being geared for a possible November 13 clash. They were supposed to fight on March 13 but Pacquiao did not give in to Mayweather's demand for an Olympic-style drug testing.

    The Filipino boxing icon, who has 41 wins (38 KOs), 3 losses and 2 draws, went on to defeat Ghanaian Joshua Clottey by unanimous decision.

    'Drug testing not the problem'

    Pacquiao's promoter, for his part, said that drug testing was not the reason this time for the super fight's failure to take off.

    "I think that issue [drug testing] was resolved," Bob Arum of Top Rank, Inc. told Dan Rafael of "I believe it was resolved and I don't want to go into the details."

    Arum surmised that Mayweather had a valid reason for not committing to the November 13 bout.

    "Now I am speculating, but one of the reasons could be the uncertainly regarding [uncle and trainer] Roger Mayweather. Roger Mayweather is scheduled before a court in Nevada regarding criminal charges. I know how Manny would feel if he had to go into a fight like this without the services of Freddie Roach," he said.

    7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao

    Pacquiao, meantime, remained optimistic about his upcoming bout as well as the Mayweather saga.

    "I'm very disappointed. I wanted to give the fight fans the event they really wanted to see. I'm sorry that Floyd Mayweather Jr. has not come to terms to make this fight," he said in a said in a statement as quoted by Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    "I have told my promoter, Bob Arum, to proceed and make the best fight possible for Nov. 13. I remain hopeful that Floyd Mayweather and I will meet in the ring in the near future," added Pacquiao.

    Arum also mentioned that Team Pacquiao is not closing the door on Mayweather.

    "Even though Mayweather hasn't responded by the deadline my answer is a simple one -- it's dead when we conclude a deal with an opponent for Manny to fight," he told

    "And then we would look to do a fight with Floyd next year. In the interim, while this is going on, if Floyd suddenly emerged, we would not be opposed to doing the fight. While these negotiations are going on [with Cotto and Margarito], if Floyd came to the table, that's the fight we want more than all others."

    Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto and Mexican Antonio Margarito are being eyed to replace Mayweather in the November 13 fight card.

    'Lola' wins Best Film at Rome Asian filmfest

    by by Boy Villasanta,
    MANILA, Philippines - Brillante Mendoza's "Lola" won Best Film anew this time at the 8th edition of the Asian Film Festival held in Rome late last week.

    Meryll Soriano named best actress at 2010 Cinemalaya

    by by Boy Villasanta,
    MANILA, Philippines - Most of the winners came in unexpected turns or so it seemed at the 6th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival awards Sunday night at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

    Heavy - weight winners in the Cinemalaya 2010 awards

    Socially relevant films were big winners at the recently concluded 6th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition.
    Sheron Dayoc's Halaw, Pam Miras' Wag Kang Titingin and Mark Meily's Donor were proclaimed this year's Best Films in their respective categories at Sunday night's awarding rites at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.

    Halaw, which competed in the New Breed Full Length Feature category, focused on the stories of Filipino illegal migrants to Malaysia. Beautifully textured and moving, much like the sea itself against which most of the film was shot, Halaw was cited for "its timely depiction of the rigors and dangers that Filipinos go through in order to reach Sabah in search of greener pastures, its mastery of the elements of filmmaking and meaningful narrative, and its powerful herald that Mindanao cinema has come of age."

    Halaw also won three other awards: Best Direction for Sheron Dayoc, who also wrote and produced the film, Best Performance of an Actor by John Arcilla, and Best Editing by Lester Olager and Chuck Gutierrez.

    Wag Kang Titingin, which topped the Short Feature category, was praised for its "very striking story about a girl's attempt beyond death and destruction to maintain for her younger sister a semblance of peace and order amid so much violence and conflict that seems the lot of today's Filipinos." This is Miras' second Cinemalaya award, having won the Best Short Film Screenplay award in the 2005 Cinemalaya Film Festival and Competition.

    Donor, which won in the Directors Showcase, was cited "for its mastery of nearly all the technical elements of filmmaking, its all-too-real depiction of the compromises and sacrifices that Filipinos go through to get out of the poverty trap, and its engaging portrayal of a woman forced to donate a part of her body in order to discover herself." Meily's film brought home a total of five awards in the Directors Showcase - Best Performance of an Actor by Baron Geisler, Best Performance of an Actress by Meryll Soriano, Best Performance of a Supporting Actress by Karla Pambid, and Best Production Design by Aped Santos.

    There were other notable films, including Francis Xavier Pasion's Sampaguita which won the Special Jury Prize in the New Breed Full Length Category "for its effective and coruscating take on the lives of young sampaguita vendors that dot the urban landscape of poverty and squalor, for its powerful documentary realism, its touching poignancy and its gnawing humanity." 

    In the Short Feature Category, Rommel "Milo" Tolentino's "P", won the Special Jury Prize "for its humorous take on the joys and challenges of childhood, its near-flawless execution of a coming-of-age story, and its wit and charm that somehow approximate the unflagging optimism of youth and promise." "P" also won for Best Direction in this category.

    Two Funerals bagged the Special Jury Prize in the Directors' Showcase, as well as Best Direction for Portes, Best Screenplay by Enrique V. Ramos, and Best Cinematography by Arvin Viola.

    Dan Villegas and Paul Sta. Ana's Mayohan and Ian Dean Loreños' The Leaving also took home several prizes in the New Breed Full Length Category. Mayohan won the Best Screenplay award as well as Best Performance of an Actress, for Lovi Poe. Meanwhile, LJ Reyes won the award for Best Performance of a Supporting actress for her role in The Leaving.

    Mayohan Emerzon Texon won for Best Original Music Score for Mayohan, while Syrel Lopez and Ivan Zaldarriaga won for Best Production Design for The Leaving. The award for Best Cinematography was shared by the films Mayohan (Dan Villegas) andThe Leaving (Rommel Andreo Sales, Jr.).

    Other awards in the New Breed Full Length Feature category were given to Albert Michael Idioma for Best Sound and Emilio Garcia for Best Performance of a Supporting Actor for Rekrut by Danny Añonuevo. 

    In the Short Feature category, Mikhail Red won the Best Screenplay award for his filmHarang.

    In the Directors' Showcase, Tirso Cruz III won the Best Performance of a Supporting Actor for his role in Sigwa by Joel Lamangan while the Best Editing award went to Chuck Gutierrez for Joselito Altarejos' Pink Halo Halo.

    The 2010 Cinemalaya jury was composed of Jose Javier Reyes, Ricky Davao, Joselito Zulueta, Ishizaka Kenji, and Italo Spinelli.

    A total of 24 films were in competition in this year's festival.

    Ai Ai Delas Alas, Kim Chiu unite in 'Maling Akala'

    MANILA, Philippines - Comedy Concert Queen Ai Ai delas Alas and Princess of Primetime Kim Chiu will join forces in sharing a good laugh via the newest offering of "Your Song" titled "Maling Akala" premiering on July 25.

    'Caloy' continues path away from RP

    The second weather disturbance to enter the country in a week has moved farther away from the Philippine coasts and is forecast to be some 670 kilometers west northwest of Subic, Zambales by Tuesday, the weather bureau said Monday.

    Can fruits really cure dengue?

    MANILA, Philippines - Dengue fever patients have begun relying on fruits for their recovery -- from durian to papaya leaf juice.

    Dr. Sanath Hettige, who conducted the research on 70 dengue fever patients, said papaya leaf juice helps increase white blood cells and platelets, normalizes clotting, and repairs the liver.

    Speaking to Sri Lankan news agency Lankapuvath, Hettige said these are the main aspects of the body that are affected by dengue fever.

    There is a condition to this remedy, however.

    According to Hettige, the papaya leaf juice will not be as effective during the final stages of dengue fever since, by then, the patient's organs are already badly affected by the disease.

    Given this, he suggested that patients consume the remedy as early as possible.

    Juice recipe

    Hettige said adults should consume 10 ml of fresh papaya leaf juice (without water, salt or sugar) twice a day, along with their prescribed medication, to get its full effect.

    Kids aged between 5 and 12, meanwhile, were asked to take in 50 ml 2 times a day.

    Here's how to make papaya leaf juice, as told by Hettige to Lankapuvath:

    1. Take fresh, mature leaves from a papaya tree. Leaves from the "Red Lady" papaya (papaw) variety are more effective.

    2. Wash the leaves with clean water.

    3. Crush the leaves in a pestle, without water or salt.

    4. Squeeze the crushed leaves to extract the juice.

    Durian also a cure?

    Durian, known for its distinct taste and odor, is also rumored to be a cure for dengue fever. Like papaya leaves, durian is said to do wonders to a patient's platelet count.

    In a hospital in Davao City, several dengue patients are consuming the fruit in hopes of recovering from the disease, a local newspaper reported over the weekend.

    The Department of Health, however, said that no study has been conducted yet on the efficacy of durian on dengue fever cases.

    "There's no established proof yet," Dr. Jo-anne Lobo, specialist in infectious diseases among children, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

    Dengue fever is an acute illness caused by a bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito. In the Philippines, dengue fever outbreaks usually occur during the rainy season, or from June to September.

    Common symptoms include fever, headache, rashes, severe muscle pain, and a drop in platelet count. In extreme cases, hemorrhaging and death can follow.

    Legal notes on impeaching the Ombudsman

    by By Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Party
    Impeachment is a remedy sanctioned by the Philippine Constitution for removing the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and for purposes of this discussion, the Ombudsman.

    This document seeks to answer the following questions: 1. Whether there is legal basis for the filing of an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez; 2. Whether the same allegations that were filed during 14th Congress can be used as the basis of a new complaint, and; 3. Whether double jeopardy is applicable.

    Impeachment is a remedy sanctioned by the Philippine Constitution for removing the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and for purposes of this discussion, the Ombudsman1. As the protector of the people2, it is the sacred duty of the Ombudsman, to take lead in the investigation and prosecution of erring government officials who have committed graft and corruption. As the vanguard of the trust and faith of the people, the Office of the Ombudsman is expected to take up the cudgels for the citizenry and protect the coffers of the government from the rapacity and abuses committed by government officials or those officers upon whom the welfare and trust of the people have been reposed.  

    When the Ombudsman herself has lost the trust and the confidence of the people whom she is expected to serve, as a result of her failure to perform her mandated functions, the remedy of the people is to remove her from office through the impeachment process.

    Although the process of impeachment has the elements of a criminal process, it is primarily a political process designed to deal with the misconduct by high public officers. The political aspect of this process stems from the fact that the participants (i.e. senator judges, prosecutors) are not ordinary citizens acting as judges but rather are elected officials who serve by virtue of their positions and not because they have been selected by the courts to serve in judgment.

    It can also be argued that the process of impeachment is a method of removing a person from office in order to prevent a greater danger to the people. In a way, what is sought to be achieved in the impeachment exercise is to protect also the office of the person to be impeached in order to avoid eroding or destroying the institution or office being occupied: remedial measure to restore the faith of the people but without the stigma of a criminal prosecution upon the person to be impeached.  Thus, the penalty imposed is only removal from office and disqualification from holding public office. Since public office is a public trust and a privileged granted through the beneficence, such a privilege can also be withdrawn by the people themselves through the impeachment process.

    The Constitution provides the grounds for impeachment namely culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. There are two steps in an impeachment case against the Ombudsman. First, the House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate the impeachment case. Second, the Senate will try and decide the case.

    On March 2, 2009 (during the 14th Congress) an impeachment case was filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. There were two grounds in the impeachment case namely: 1.) Betrayal of Public Trust and 2.) Culpable Violation of the Constitution. "Betrayal of Public Trust" is a new ground introduced by the 1987 Constitution.

    It covers any violation of the oath of office involving loss of popular support even if the violation may not amount to a punishable offense3. On the other hand, "Culpable Violation of the Constitution" is the deliberate and wrongful breach of the Constitution. However, Violation of the Constitution made unintentionally, in good faith, and mere mistakes in the proper construction of the Constitution do not constitute an impeachable offense.  

    The specific factual allegations that constitutes the grounds for impeachment case against Ombudsman Gutierrez involve the following—

    I. For Betrayal of Public Trust

    a.   Disregarding the SC findings and directive on the Mega Pacific graft and corruption case4. SC declared null and void the 1.3 Billion Equipment purchase contract entered by COMELEC thru COMELEC Chair Abalos.  The Supreme Court said that there were "clear violations of law and jurisprudence" and "reckless disregard of COMELEC's bidding rules and procedure" and ordered the Ombudsman to investigate the criminal liability of the public officials and private individuals involved in the nullified and voided contract.

    The irregularities discovered by the Supreme Court were affirmed by the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Senate Blue Ribbon).  However, despite the ruling of the Supreme Court and the affirmation of the irregularities by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, respondent approved the 27 September 2006 Resolution finding no probable cause to hold the COMELEC Commissioners and other officials criminally liable nor did she find substantial evidence to even hold them administratively liable overturning its own earlier 28 June 2006 Resolution.

    b.   Inaction in the collusion scheme entered into by bidders, government officials and public figures on the World Bank financed road projects.  In May 2006, World Bank with an oral briefing on the interim findings of an administrative finding inquiry that the World Bank had conducted into allegations of fraud and corruption in the first phase of the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Project (NRIMP-1), a $150 million project, approved by the World Bank Board in February 2000. In November 2007,

    A Referral Report was submitted to the Ombudsman containing the summary of the investigation's findings. The Referral Report identified private contractors, DPWH officials and Filipino public figures who have allegedly participated in the collusive scheme on the World Bank-financed road projects.  No action was taken by the Ombudsman on either the Oral Briefing or the Referral Report. 

    c.   Late filing of criminal cases and filing of defective Informations against former Department of Justice Secretary Hernando "Nani" Perez for extortion activities against Cong. Mark Jimenez that caused the dismissal of such cases.  In January 2007, the Ombudsman issued a Resolution ordering the filing of graft and extortion charges against former Secretary of Justice Hernando "Nani" Perez based on a complaint filed by former Manila Representative Mark Jimenez for allegedly extorting US $2 million from him. After more than a year, or on 18 April 2008, the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan several cases against Perez, including an information for violation of Section 3(b) of Republic Act 3019 or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," and Robbery.

    However, Ombudsman Gutierrez filed defective and/or late informations (the Information do not constitute the offense charged) which caused the eventual dismissal of the case5.  This shows gross ignorance of the law and manifest incompetence as Ombudsman.

    d.   Gross inexcusable inaction on the graft and corruption cases on the more than 1 Billion pesos Fertilizer Fund Scam to perpetrate massive fraud in the 2004 Presidential elections involving former Department of Agriculture Secretary Jocjoc Bolante. Graft and corruption cases were filed separately in 2004 by Atty. Frank Chavez and journalist Marlene Esperat.

    In the midst of Esperat's exposé of the said fertilizer scam, she was murdered on 24 March 2005 in front of her 10-year old son, James, while they were having lunch.  Reports say that Omnbudsperson Gutierrez just recently resolved these complaints and ordered the filing of graft and corruption cases against Bolante.  We still have to see those orders but even so, this she did after almost six years of inaction despite strong evidence to establish probable cause.

    e.   Failure to promptly resolve the graft and corruption case involving the "Euro-Generals" despite overwhelming evidence, including an admission from Gen. Eliseo dela Paz, constitutes grave dereliction of her Constitutional and statutory duties and unlawful and culpable neglect.  PNP Dir. De la Paz was stopped by customs inspectors at Moscow International Airport from boarding a plane after finding 105,000 euros (P6.93M) in his carry-on baggage, which exceeded the 3,000-euro limit for departing passengers.

    During the Senate hearing on 15 November 2008, De la Paz himself admitted that he was the  one who authorized the release of the amount from the PNP intelligence fund. Airport Customs Collector Teresita Roque expressly admitted that the PNP delegation's hand carried bags were not checked when they left Manila International Airport for Russia. They also did not declare any excess currency. De la Paz openly admitted during the Senate hearing on 15 November 2008 that he knows that there is a requirement to declare the excess amount of money.  Up to this date, no resolution has been made by the Ombudsman despite the evidence and the public admissions.

    f.   Manifest bias in issuing arbitrary dismissal and suspension orders against Iloilo Governor Tupas on 12 January 2007, a day before the start of the May 2007 election period and when Ombudsman Gutierrez issued its 28 October 2008 Order,6 arbitrarily and illegally imposing a six-month preventive suspension against Gov. Garcia for administrative charges supposedly committed during his previous term.

    The suspension of Governor Garcia is contrary to the Supreme Court's rulings in the cases of Aguinaldo vs. Santos7 and Salalima vs. Guingona8 where it upheld the principle that a public official cannot be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a previous term, since his re-election to office operates as a condonation of the officer's previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him therefore. 
    g.   Culpable Violation of the Constitution.  The delays, inaction, and gross negligence as well as denying the parties the right to be heard committed by the Ombudsman violates the Constitutional guarantees on the right to due process, the Constitutional mandate on the speedy disposition of cases, and the mandate of the Ombudsman to be the protector of the people.

    There is no legal substantive and procedural constraint in filing another impeachment case against Ombudsman Gutierrez in the Fifteenth Congress which is scheduled to start its session on July 26, 2010.  Congress need not wait since what was provided in the Constitution was that "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year"9.

    The said impeachment case was dismissed by the Committee on Justice because it was found to be insufficient in substance. Despite the dismissal in the previous Congress, the impeachment case can be filed again because of public policy on public accountability as highlighted by the Constitutional provision-- "Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives." 10 Thus, the people can at all times demand public accountability from all public officers especially those with special Constitutional duty like the Ombudsman.

    Procedurally, the allegations in the previous impeachment case can still be used in case a new case will be filed because the facts were never considered before. "Sufficiency in substance" refers to the recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee11. The decision to dismiss the previous impeachment case was due to the insufficiency in substance which can be remedied with more facts supporting the allegations.

    Although the Rules on Criminal of the Rules of Court procedure generally apply, double jeopardy is not applicable because the nature of an Impeachment case is not criminal but political. There is no re-opening of danger on the life or liberty of the person charged with an impeachable offense. The penalty is limited to removal from office and disqualification to hold office.

    Res judicata has four elements which must be present in order to bar the reopening of a previous case: (1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final; (2) the decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be as between the first and second action, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action12. Res judicata does not attach in this case because there was no judgment on the merits from the previous impeachment case. It was dismissed due to insufficiency of substance which is a mere technicality. Simply stated, the case against the Ombudsman did not prosper not because of lack of evidence but because of the refusal of congress to prosecute or even entertain the case.

    Substantively, the same allegations in the impeachment complaint filed in 14th Congress can be used because they were never proven or disproven in a hearing on the merits. The only prohibition stated by the Constitution with regard to impeachment is the frequency of initiating it which is limited to once a year.

    Initiating an impeachment case, according to the Supreme Court, is the filing of an impeachment complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice. Except the one year ban, there is no other prohibition stated in the Constitution. Since the Constitution is silent then it can be construed in favor of greater accountability of impeachable officials. The framers of the Constitution did not intend to put stringent rules similar to a criminal prosecution. Moreover, the Rules of Court will be liberally construed and cannot be invoked when it will impede accountability from erring public officials.

    Public office is a public trust and a fitting Ombudsman has Constitutional duties which she must fulfill properly and with utmost zeal. Impeachment is the only legal process provided by the Constitution in order to replace an erring and ineffective Ombudsman. The Ombudsman cannot seek solace on mere technicalities nor can she avoid confronting all the issues simply because of procedural lapses.

    The Constitution specifically recognizes the sovereign right and the will of the people to remove from office those who have been found to have failed to live up to the faith and trust reposed upon them. This is precisely why impeachment has been enshrined in the Constitution itself as the sword to be wielded in order to protect the supremacy of the people over and above anyone who claims otherwise.  Salus populi est suprema lex.

    *** A lawyer by profession, AKBAYAN Rep. Kaka Bag-ao was the Convenor of the Alternative Legal Group, a network of NGOs providing legal support to marginalized communities. She was the legal counsel of the Sumilao farmers.

    1 Section 2, Article 11, Philippine Constitution. The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.

    2 Section 12 Article 11, Philippine Constitution.  The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the action taken and the result thereof.

    3 De Leon, Philippine Constitutional Law, 1999, Rex Printing Company, Inc., p757

    4 Info Technology Foundation vs COMELEC, G.R. No. 159139, January 13, 2004.

    5 Ombudsman Gutierrez's inordinate filing of the complaint has caused the dismissal of another case involving former Secretary of Justice Perez, which was expressly stated in Sandiganbayan Resolution dated 20 November 2008; People of the Philippines vs. Hernando Perez, Crim. Case No. SB-08-CRM-0266.

    6 In Administrative Case No. OMB-L-A-08-0039-A.

    7 G.R. No. 94115, 21 August 1992.

    8 G.R. Nos. 117589-92, 22 May 1996.

    9 Section 3, paragraph 5, Article 11, Philippine Constitution.

    10 Section 1, Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution.

    11 House Rules and Procedures in Impeachment Proceedings, adopted August 1, 2005.

    12 Republic of the Philippines vs Yu (G.R. No. 157557, March 10, 2006)

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