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

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 27, 2010 Major News Stories



Cebu will continue to experience rotational brownouts - DOE executive

An official of the regional office of the Department of Energy admitted yesterday that Metro Cebu will continue experiencing rotating brownouts.

Engr. Rey Maliza, supervisor of DOE-7, relayed this information to reporters after a briefing with members of the provincial board about the power situation in Cebu.

Maliza said the power supply in Metro Cebu is short of 72 megawatts at present, thus, the rotating brownouts are expected to continue.

He further said it is ideal for the power industry to have reserve to keep the power supply stable in case one power plant shuts down.

He said that since 2001, no power plant has reportedly been utilized to answer the needs of power especially in Metro Cebu.

Maliza believes there is a need for more power plants here to answer the power shortage in the next five years.

Although the two 84-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Toledo City have already been tested, they still cannot supply power to the grid because they have yet to be turned over by the contractor, Formosa Heavy Industries Inc., to the Cebu Energy Development Corp. (CEDC).

The power plant in Naga City is not yet operational.   For her part, Ethel Natera of the Visayan Electric Company, said they are now intensifying their campaign for power conservation.

Natera said one way for customers to help in the present power shortage is to conserve electricity. Members of the Provincial Board agree to this sentiment. 

60 families homeless in Kamputhaw fire

Sixty families were left homeless after a fire destroyed 30 houses in Sitio Ker, Barangay Kamputhaw, early morning yesterday.

Rama explains the concept of one-side vending policy

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday clarified that his "one-side vending policy" does not mean that vendors will no longer be allowed to sell their wares in the sidewalks.

But Citom Chairman Jack Jakosalem said Rama explained that the one side vending policy is that the vendors are still allowed to sell their wares on both sides of the road, but only one side of each sidewalk.

"Ang order sa mayor mao nga usa ra ka bahin sa aseras ang patindahan nga mao ang kilid sa establishments. Dili na pabaligyaan sa mga vendors ang kilid sa karsada," Jakosalem explained.

Itemize allocation for fuel, band, chorale

CEBU City councilors want the executive department to explain today why it is asking so much for fuel allocation and for the renovation of the City Hall building, which will cost the City P30 million and P15 million, respectively.

Councilor Jose Daluz III, chairman of the council committee on budget and finance, said he will ask the department heads to explain their proposed budget.

He will also ask them for details on the expenditures they submitted for funding, since most of the items in Mayor Michael Rama's P221-million Supplemental Budget (SB) 3 and 4 are not itemized.

For fuel, oil and lubricants alone, the General Services Office is asking for P30 million, which Daluz finds too much.

"We will ask for the breakdown of the proposed items in the budget. For the P30 million, pila ani ang sa fuel, pila ang sa lubricants (how much is for fuel and how much for the lubricants)? Ang funding sa gasoline, I think ato ning ma-slash gamay (We can slash the funding for gasoline a little bit). I made my own computation and I don't think we need that much," he said yesterday.

The fuel, oil and lubricants are for the City's 1,273 vehicles from October to December.

Renovation

Councilor Margarita Osmeña wants the executive department to itemize the expenses for the renovation of the City Hall Executive Building. She wants to know why it needs P2 million to set up a band and choral group.

In SB 3, P10 million was included for the repairs and maintenance of various sections of the executive building. Another P5 million was set aside for additional furniture and fixtures for the City Hall building.

A bulk of the amount will be used to renovate the ground floor, which Mayor Rama will use as his primary office, while the mayor's office on the eighth floor will be used for courtesy calls.

"I understand that is for the renovation of the mayor's office. But let's find out the specifics. What offices will be renovated and how much will each office cost? There is P2 million for a band, but how do you know it costs P2 million? I wish they can itemize everything," Osmeña said.

City councilors will hold a special session this morning to tackle the SB. After the session, department heads are scheduled to appear during the budget hearing to answer questions regarding their budget.

Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young said most of the items in the budget are not new projects, but are just a replenishment of the City's existing projects, such as the P30 million for the medical aid program and P9 million for the burial assistance program.

The largest appropriation in the SB is the P31.5 million for the retreading and paving of streets and bridges.

A total of P20 million will also be used for the rehabilitation of Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro, another P20 million for the purchase of garbage and dump trucks and P15 million for dredging machines.

The SB will be funded by realigned appropriations from the Local Development Fund, internal revenue allotment share difference from previous years and continuing appropriations for 2009 and 2010, such as the P20-million unused money from the City's P100-million scholarship fund.

Cuenco wants city to allot more medicine for brgys

Instead of allotting more money for the City's Hospitalization Assistance and Medicine Program (CHAMP), Councilor Ronald Cuenco wants the city to buy more medicines to be placed in the different barangay health centers to make free medicines more accessible to the people.

CCMC sets measures to stop check fraud

The Cebu City Medical Center Board of Directors has started implementing remedial measures to avoid the incident where 28 checks issued to CCMC by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. were lost to fraud last May.

CCMC checks CTO employee seeks to clear name in crime

The employee of the City Treasurers Office said to be the one who released the 28 PhilHealth checks worth over P240,000 to a swindler yesterday told the National Bureau of Investigation she is willing to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

Mary Grace Lopez went to the NBI regional office yesterday morning after her name was mentioned by Lourdes Archua, the Credit and Billing Section head of the Cebu City Medical Center, as the one who released the checks to a woman who claimed to be Concha Ruth Adlawan.

Pending Resolution: Court asked to stop province from taking over DA compound

The city government is asking the court to restrain the provincial government from taking over the possession of the lot where the Department of Agriculture 7 stands.

Capitol, city start "talks" on 93-1

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama have already started talking about the possible renegotiation on the 93-1 issue by telephone.

PB alerted on plaint vs. Capitol officials

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has called the attention of the members of the Provincial Board over the complaint filed against Capitol officials regarding the alleged free use by the father and brother of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia of the facilities at the legislative building.

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. informed members of the PB that on January 7, 2009, the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas forwarded to them the anonymous complaints filed against representatives Pablo Garcia and his son Pablo John Garcia regarding the alleged free use of water at the legislative building.

The complaints also cited the CFI Cooperative managed by the governor's mother, Esperanza.

Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago was the one who called the attention of Sanchez and members of the provincial board.

Santiago, in her letter to Sanchez, said that sufficient time has already elapsed since their first referral letter dated January 7, 2009, which was sent to his office.

Santiago said that the last communication they received from them was dated March 5, 2009, where Sanchez forwarded the said complaint to the Secretary of the PB. Sanchez said he was surprised that for more than a year the complaint was not included in the agenda.

When asked for comment, PB secretary Anecita Pasaylo admitted her mistake and asked for forgiveness.

Sanchez wants the Committee on Complaints and Investigation headed by PB member Joven Mondigo Jr. to conduct the investigation but Mondigo reasoned out that his committee is tasked only to conduct investigations on municipal and city officials and he does not have jurisdiction over the issue.

But Sanchez said that there is a need for them to act on the matter because their attention was called by the ombudsman.

Sanchez objects to 'slow' reply to request for docs

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez yesterday raised a concern over the alleged slow response to his request for documents of the controversial Cebu International Convention Center.

Sanchez said it has been 14 days since he sent a letter request to the Provincial Engineer's Office, but he reportedly did not receive any response. He said he sent a request three times.

But Capitol spokesperson Atty. Rory John Sepulveda said Sanchez should follow the right process by submitting the request to the governor's office. Sepulveda admitted it takes a long time before the documents can be released and advised that if Sanchez is in a hurry, he better ask for the documents from the Commission on Audit.

Sepulveda spoke with Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre who told him that Sanchez' letter request has already been forwarded to the governor's office.

Sanchez said he has the legislative right to get copies of the documents and reiterated that he will not stop from getting documents from departments of the provincial government now that he and Governor Gwendolyn Garcia are starting fresh terms in office.

Sanchez said he will just follow what Garcia herself said about her administration - that the provincial government would be transparent with its affairs.

Consumers paying for mismanagement of Napocor - Aquino

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Consumers continue to bear the brunt of long years of mismanagement of the state-run National Power Corp.(Napocor),President Benigno Aquino III said in his first state of the nation address on Monday.

Over importation of rice bloated NFA's debts, says Aquino

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The National Food Authority's (NFA) policy of importing rice has resulted in the agency's debts swelling to P171.6 billion in May.

Aquino: Rice rotted in NFA warehouses

NFA debts amounting to P171.6 billion could have been used to strengthen social infrastructure, President Aquino said in his first State of the Nation Address Monday. The money was used to buy rice that rotted in warehouses.

MWSS employees get up to 30mos worth of pay-Aquino

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III said he discovered several anomalies in the funds of regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

First Aquino SONA brings up litany of Arroyo 'excesses'

Rice stocks rotting in warehouses, P108 million spent in Pampanga, excessive perks for water district officials - these are only some of the alleged corrupt deals and practices during the previous administration that President Aquino unveiled in his first State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa on Monday.
With the budget deficit at a staggering P196.7 billion, Aquino said only 1 percent of the P1.54-trillion budget for 2010 can be spent every month for the rest of the year.

While the nation is suffering from limited funds, some government agencies are swimming in it, Aquino said.

Among them are the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), whose officials received P211.5 million in salaries and additional allowances and benefits alone.

Aquino said the MWSS's Board of Trustees only receive P14,000 salary each but they get grocery incentives that amount to P80,000 a year; mid-year bonus; productivity bonus; anniversary bonus; year-end bonus; Christmas bonus; additional Christmas package; and financial assistance.

Each MWSS Trustee receives P2.5 million a year, Aquino revealed. This does not include car benefits, technical assistance, and loans, he added.

"Kamakailan lamang, pumipila ang mga tao para lang makakuha ng tubig. Sa kabila nito, minabuti pa ng liderato ng MWSS na magbigay ng gantimpala sa sarili kahit hindi pa nababayaran ang pensyon ng mga retiradong empleyado," said Aquino.

"Pati po ang La Mesa Watershed ay hindi nila pinatawad. Para magkaroon ng tamang supply ng tubig, kailangang alagaan ang mga watershed. Sa watershed, puno ang kailangan. Pati po iyon na dapat puno ang nakatayo, tinayuan nila ng bahay para sa matataas na opisyal ng MWSS," he added.

Aquino said his government is investigating the MWSS officials involved, who cannot immediately be removed from their posts as they are among former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's "midnight appointees."

"Iniimbestigahan na natin ang lahat nang ito. Kung mayroon pa silang kahit kaunting hiya na natitira – sana kusa na lang silang magbitiw sa puwesto," he said. This statement received the first round of applause in his 36-minute speech.

Aquino also revealed that there was massive surplus in the rice imported by the National Food Authority.

"Hindi po ba krimen ito, na hinahayaan nilang mabulok ang bigas, sa kabila ng apat na milyong Pilipinong hindi kumakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw?" he said.

Aquino also revealed that out of the P2 billion Calamity Fund this year, 70 per cent has been spent even though the typhoon season has just begun. He said P108 million went to Arroyo's home province of Pampanga, which did not suffer from any calamity this year, and compared this to the P5 million given to the province of Pangasinan that was ravaged by typhoon Pepeng last year.

Arroyo is representing the second district of Pampanga in the House of Representatives.

Aquino said the Arroyo administration also instructed the government-owned Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines to buy out the MRT after forcing the train operator to keep fares low, thereby failing to fulfill a guarantee that the train operator could recoup its investment.

"Ang pera ng taumbayan, ipinagpalit sa isang naluluging operasyon," he said.

"Walang tongpats"

Aquino said his government, only three weeks old so far, is hard at work at fixing the problems left behind by the Arroyo administration. 

"Sa administrasyon po natin, walang kota-kota, walang tongpats, ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin para sa taumbayan lamang," (In this administration, there will be no quota, no bribes. The funds of the public will be used for the public only) he vowed.

As an example of his administration's immediate actions, Aquino said Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson was able to stop the implementation of P3.5 billion worth of projects for last year's cyclone victims without public bidding.

"Ngayon po ay dadaan na ang kabuuan ng 3.5 billion pesos sa tapat na bidding, at magagamit na ang pondo na ito sa pagbibigay ng lingap sa mga nawalan ng tahanan dahil kina Ondoy at Pepeng (Now these P3.5 billion worth of projects will go through proper bidding, and the funds will be used to give aid to those who lost their homes because of Ondoy and Pepeng)," he said.

The president said Singson and other government officials also worked swiftly to address the recent water shortage in Metro Manila.

Aquino reiterated that his government is serious in going against tax evaders, citing charges filed against pawnshop owner William Villarica.

He also maintained that his administration will use a zero-based approach to budgeting, with government departments identifying what programs need to be continued or scrapped instead of merely providing a budget that is bigger than the previous year.


Listen to President Benigno S. Aquino III's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) here. Click here to download (10mb)



What about agrarian reform?

Militant lawmakers, however, were not impressed with Aquino's speech and pointed out that Aquino did not touch on issues like agrarian reform. Aquino's maternal side of the family, the Cojuangco clan, is caught up in the controversial Hacienda Luisita issue because the vast sugar estate has not been distributed to farmer beneficiaries despite the existence of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

"The Filipino peasantry is expecting a clear declaration on land distribution and the release of political prisoners on the President's Sona. Unfortunately, there's none," said Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, who chairs the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said Aquino's presentation was "very weak" if his objective is to be the opposite of Mrs. Arroyo.

"Bukod sa pangako na pananagutin ang mga corrupt at ipapatupad nang tama ang mga batas laban sa katiwalian, hindi ko nakikita ang makabuluhang pagbabago sa patakarang pang-ekonomiya, human rights, at usapang pangkapayapaan (Aside from the promise to make the corrupt accountable and to implement the laws against corruption, I do not see meaningful change in his policies on the economy, human rights, and peace talks)," said Casino.

Applauded 32 times

As promised, the SONA was no-frills and straightforward. Aquino delivered the speech smoothly and deliberately, without any awkward pauses to be filled in with applause, whether polite or genuine. Still, this did not stop the audience from clapping at certain points, which caused the President to pause for a while until the applause would die down.

Aquino's speech did not only dwell on the inherited problems from the last administration, but also offered solutions. Most of the applause came at those points when solutions were offered, and at points when PNoy would promise a change. 

Such instances included Aquino's promise that the country's money will be spent for Filipinos, extravagant spending will be stopped, justice will be served for victims of extrajudicial killings, red tape will be eliminated, a whistle-blowers' bill will be enacted, and public consultation will be held.

The audience also burst into applause when Aquino said investigation on the previous administration's midnight appointments is underway, and if those midnight appointees have an ounce of decency left, they should take it upon themselves to resign.

Aquino's speech enjoyed a lot less applause than those of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose last SONA was applauded 126 times or almost three times more than Aquino's 32. However, Aquino's trust ratings are considerably higher -- Pulse Asia's survey placed it at 85 percent while the Social Weather Stations pegged it at 88 percent.

Get involved, PNoy tells Pinoys 

Towards the end of his speech, President Aquino exhorted Filipinos to strive for fairness instead of selfishness, and to get involved in governance instead of complaining about the officials that they have elected.

"Ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon," he said.

"Napakatagal na pong namamayani ang pananaw na ang susi sa asenso ay ang intindihin ang sarili kaysa intindihin ang kapwa," he lamented. "Ngunit kung babaliktarin natin ang pananaw—kung iisipin nating 'Dadagdagan ko ang kakayahan ng aking kapwa'—magbubunga po ito, at ang lahat ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon."

Aquino concluded his speech by reiterating his campaign promise of bringing about change.

"Ang mandato nating nakuha sa huling eleksyon ay patunay na umaasa pa rin ang Pilipino sa pagbabago. Iba na talaga ang situwasyon. Puwede na muling mangarap. Tayo nang tumungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pinangarap (The mandate that we received in the last election is proof that Filipinos hope for change. The situation is now different. We can dream again. Let us move in the direction of the fulfillment of our dreams)," said the president.

Aquino to sign EO creating Truth Commission this week

President Benigno Aquino III will sign the executive order creating the Truth Commission - the independent body that will investigate alleged corruption under the Arroyo administration - this week.

Aquino to Congress: Protect whistle-blowers, witnesses

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday ordered Congress to strengthen laws protecting whistleblowers and witnesses in crimes during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Ex-Arroyo men balk at Aquino accusations

Quickly parrying allegations that they have dried up the national coffers, Cabinet members of ex-president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said President Benigno Aquino III should review the figures presented to him and interpret them correctly.

Estrada: Wrongdoers must be punished

Former President Joseph Estrada welcomed the statements raised by President Benigno Aquino III on his first State of the Nation Address on Monday and stressed that Aquino should punish wrongdoers and remove them from government.

'Contra-SONA' will be 'tulong-SONA' Cayetano

Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano assured President Benigno Aquino III of the Senate minority's full support in the President's plans of solving the problems facing the country.

Gov't ready to call for ceasefire to start peace talks

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said he is ready to call for an immediate ceasefire and return to the negotiating table with the communist rebels so longs as they agree to find solutions to the problems instead of finger-pointing.

Aquino ready to talk peace with MILF, CPP-NPA-NDF

President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III declared in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday his willingness to talk peace with Moro secessionist rebels and communist insurgents.

Aquino to journalists: Monitor your own ranks

President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), asked journalists to monitor their own ranks to put an end to the spate of media killings since June.

Noynoy's first SONA applauded 32 times

Judging by the loud applause of the crowd, it seems that President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III has made good on his promise to make the State of the Nation Address (SONA) "memorable."
The audience at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, applauded the President's SONA 32 times.

The last SONA of his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was applauded 126 times in 2009.

Although his SONA received less applause, Aquino's trust ratings are considerably higher than those of his predecessor. 

Pulse Asia's survey says that PNoy's trust rating is at 85 percent. The Social Weather Station, on the other hand, pegs PNoy's trust rating at 88 percent.

Pulse Asia says this is the highest trust rating ever recorded by any individual included in their trust probes since 1999.

The Palace earlier announced that Aquino's SONA will have no frills and will be straightforward. 


Listen to President Noynoy Aquino's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) here. Click here to download (10mb)



Aquino delivered his speech smoothly and deliberately, without any awkward pauses. He only paused to wait for the crowd's applause to die down.

His speech did not only dwell on the problems he inherited from the previous administration but it also offered solutions, as presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced earlier.

Most of the applause that Aquino received came when the President offered solutions to the country's problems. 

The President was applauded when he promised that the country's money will be spent for Filipinos and extravagant spending will be stopped.

The crowd also lauded him when he said justice will be served for the media persons and activists who have become victims of extrajudicial killings. 

The audience also burst into applause when Aquino said the previous administration's midnight appointments are already being investigated. 

"We cannot remove them from their positions quickly because they are among the midnight appointees of former president Arroyo. We are investigating all of these things. But if they have any shame left, they should voluntarily relinquish their positions," Aquino said in Filipino. 

9 out of 10 Filipinos trust Aquino, says Pulse Asia

A huge majority of adult Filipinos—around nine out of every 10 or 85 percent—expressed trust in President Benigno Aquino III, the highest rating recorded since Pulse Asia Inc. started its trust surveys in 1999.

Pinoys want PNoy to prioritize jobs, price control, solving corruption - poll

Jobs, price control and addressing corruption are among the issues the public wants the government to immediately address during the first six months of the Aquino administration, a recent Pulse Asia survey said.

LP gets powerful Senate committees

After electing its officers, the Senate has started the distribution of committee chairmanships, with allies of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in the Liberal Party getting the lion's share of the major and powerful bodies.

Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the LP, will head the finance committee while Senator Ralph Recto, an LP member, will chair the ways and means committee, re-elected Senate President Juan Ponce-Ernile told reporters on Monday.

Another LP member, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, will temporarily chair the powerful blue ribbon on committee, which investigates all corruption allegations involving public officials.

"Nobody has been appointed to chair the blue ribbon committee although I think there's a request by Senator Pangilinan that he would handle it for the meantime until we get the chairman of the committee," said Enrile.

Aside from the blue ribbon committee, Pangilinan will also serve as head of the committee on agriculture.

Enrile said another LP member, Teofisto Guingona III, was vying the chairmanship of the energy committee but Senator Loren Legarda was also interested to get the post.

All four LP members – Drilon, Pangilinan, Recto and Guingona III, voted for Enrile in the Senate presidency race.

Senator Sergio Osmena III will head the committee on banks while two committees – education and science and technology –will go to Senator Edgardo Angara.

Senators Miriam Santiago and Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, on the other hand, will continue to head the committees on foreign affairs and national defense, respectively.

The committee on rules, by tradition, will automatically be headed by Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III after he got elected Majority Floor Leader of the Senate.

Mikey Arroyo wants trike drivers to issue receipts

Rep. Juan Miguel 'Mikey' Arroyo, who represents security guards and tricycle drivers in Congress, expressed his readiness to help the government implement its proposal to make tricycle drivers issue receipts.

Chavit's son could get P29.7M fine, life imprisonment

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines -  The son of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson could be fined up to P29.7 million and suffer a prison term of 3 years to life if he is proven guilty of bringing illegal drugs to Hong Kong.

5-8 years in HK jail possible for Rep. Singson

Lima hanggang walong taong kulong! Ito ang haharapin ni Congressman Ronald Singson kapag napatunayang "guilty " sa kasong pagpuslit ng cocaine at sedative sa Hong Kong. Hindi pwedeng magpiyansa ang kongresista habang nililitis ang kaso. 

DFA: Chavit's son declined help offer in drug case

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday broke its silence on the case of Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson, who was arrested for alleged drug trafficking in Hong Kong early this month, by ensuring that the lawmaker's rights will be respected.

US orders pullout of all Pinoy workers in Iraq

by By Dindo Amparo, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau Chief
Thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq are on the brink of losing their jobs after the US government ordered all its military contractors to send home expatriate workers whose country imposes a travel ban in Iraq.

Peso up after Aquino's State of the Nation Address

The peso climbed 17 centavos on Monday, following the delivery by President Benigno Aquino III of his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), which some traders said somewhat boosted market confidence in the Philippine economy.

$1: P46.145

$1: P46.145

Euro 1: P59.9083


Aquino underscores private, public sector harmony in SONA

The never-ending horror story in business registration is a now a thing of the past, as the Aquino administration is pushing for a harmonious relationship between the private and public sectors to attract more investments to spur economic growth.

DFA: Thai conglomerate to invest $45M in RP

One of the biggest conglomerates in Thailand is investing $45 million in the Philippine animal feed industry, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday.

Outrage over huge leak of Afghan war files

WASHINGTON—The leak of some 90,000 secret US military files triggered outrage Monday from nations fighting in Afghanistan, amid fears it could endanger the lives of international forces battling the Taliban.

The documents cover much of what the public already knows about the troubled nine-year conflict: U.S. spec-ops forces have targeted militants without trial, Afghans have been killed by accident, and U.S. officials have been infuriated by alleged Pakistani intelligence cooperation with the very insurgent groups bent on killing Americans.

WikiLeaks posted the documents Sunday. The New York Times, London's Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel were given early access to the records.

The release was instantly condemned by U.S. and Pakistani officials as both potentially harmful and irrelevant.

White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones said the release "put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk." In a statement, he then took pains to point out that the documents describe a period from January 2004 to December 2009, mostly during the administration of President George W. Bush. And, Jones added, before President Obama announced a new strategy.

Pakistan's Ambassador Husain Haqqani agreed, saying the documents "do not reflect the current on-ground realities," in which his country and Washington are "jointly endeavoring to defeat al-Qaida and its Taliban allies."

The U.S. and Pakistan assigned teams of analysts to read the records online to assess whether sources or locations were at risk.

The New York Times said the documents reveal that only a short time ago, there was far less harmony in U.S. and Pakistani exchanges.

The Times says the "raw intelligence assessments" by lower level military officers suggest that Pakistan "allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders."

The Guardian, however, interpreted the documents differently, saying they "fail to provide a convincing smoking gun" for complicity between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban.

The leaked records include detailed descriptions of raids carried out by a secretive U.S. special operations unit called Task Force 373 against what U.S. officials considered high-value insurgent and terrorist targets. Some of the raids resulted in unintended killings of Afghan civilians, according to the documentation.

During the targeting and killing of Libyan fighter Abu Laith al-Libi, described in the documents as a senior al-Qaida military commander, the death tally was reported as six enemy fighters and seven noncombatants — all children.

Task Force 373 selected its targets from 2,000 senior Taliban and al-Qaida figures posted on a "kill or capture" list, known as JPEL, the Joint Prioritized Effects List, the Guardian said.

WikiLeaks said the release Sunday "did not generally include top-secret organizations," and that it had "delayed the release of some 15,000 reports" as part of what it called "a harm minimization process demanded by our source," but said it would release the documents later, possibly with material redacted.

U.S. government agencies have been bracing for a deluge of thousands more classified documents since the leak of helicopter cockpit video of a 2007 firefight in Baghdad. That was blamed on a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Spc. Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Md. He was charged with releasing classified information earlier this month. Manning had bragged on line that he downloaded 260,000 classified U.S. cables and transmitted them to Wikileaks.org.

Iraq car bombs in holy Shiite city kill 19

KARBALA—Twin car bombs killed 19 people in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq on Monday, while four people died in a suicide attack on a Saudi-funded television channel in Baghdad.

Be it in Vegas or Mexico : Pacquiao ready to face Margarito

Manny Pacquiao is ready to mix it up with his new challenger Antonio Margarito -- be it in the United States or in Mexico.

Sugar Ray sees Pacquiao victory

Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard predicts an easy win by Manny Pacquiao over Antonio Margarito in their planned November 13 showdown.

"He'll just overwhelm Margarito," Leonard told Fanhouse, noting that Pacquiao's speed and power will be too much for the Mexican to handle. "It's not a mismatch, but Pacquiao dominates (this fight)."

Leonard is also a multi-division titleholder like the seven-division champion Filipino, having been world champion at welterweight, super-welter, middle, super-middle and light-heavy.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum is in the process of finalizing all the details in connection with the fight that will be for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) super-welterweight crown.

Not even Pacquiao's demand that they clash at a catch weight of 150 lbs is an issue, according to Arum, who said Margarito will not oppose it. The super-welter division has a limit of 154 lbs.

The venue remains the only thing that is keeping Arum and Pacquiao's Canadian adviser Mike Koncz busy these days.

Arum continues to bat for Las Vegas as site, but oil-rich Abu Dhabi is very keen as well. The wealthy Mexican city of Monterrey and Dallas are also in the running to play host to Pacquao's much-awaited ring return.

Still, Leonard said it is a showdown between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather that tickles his fancy.

"I want to see and the world wants to see Pacquiao-Mayweather, without question," said the 54-year-old Leonard, who wound up his sterling career with a 36-3-1 card with 25 knockouts.

"Even me, as a fight fan now, would love to see the fight take place and hopefully it comes into fruition pretty soon," added Leonard, best known for his memorable battles with Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler.

POC eyes one secretariat on RP participation in international games

The Philippine Olympic Committee took the first step in strengthening its ties with the Philippine Sports Commission by proposing a permanent secretariat tasked to handle preparations of the national team in major international competitions.

'It was Ninoy talking,' says Locsin on Noy's SONA

by By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III delivered a no-frills State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, and he sounded like his late father, "Ninoy," according to former Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Aquino's SONA: A visualization

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - A visualization of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III made through Wordle.net.

Hearing impaired not left out in ANC's SONA coverage

by By Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - John Baliza, a sign language interpreter, conveys President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's message to Filipinos who are deaf, or have hearing impairments.

Pinoys online hopeful despite Noy's gloomy SONA

MANILA, Philippines - Despite painting a picture of the bankrupt government he inherited, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's State of the Nation Address (SONA) galvanized public opinion into a wave of optimism for some 20,000 Filipinos who monitored his speech online on Monday.

Even lunch was from Filipino-owned fastfood chain

Down to the food, the day President Benigno Aquino III delivered his State of the Nation Address was all about being Filipino.

Red carpet fashion in first Aquino SONA is not all yellow

The color of the day during President Noynoy Aquino's first state of the nation address wasn't all yellow. As legislators and guests arrived at the North Wing of the Batasang Pambansa, the red carpet glittered with all colors of the rainbow.
Just like the previous year's SONAs, the politicians, their wives and guests wore various interpretations of the barong, baro't saya and Maria Clara. Some matched their gowns with designer accoutrements while some chose to make bold fashion statements.

You hardly notice the men who all seem to look the same during events like these. After all, they don't have many fashion choices other than the traditional barong. But party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño decided to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with his barong, which had a red and black symbol of a dead body superimposed with a bulls' eye sign in front. Underneath the image was the word "STOP" in big bold letters and the message: "Stop the killings in the Philippines."

Among the first to sashay down the red carpet was former senator Nikki Coseteng, who wore a green gown with a glittering alampay. She accented her look with a gray pearl necklace, silver slingbacks, and a Ferragamo clutch.


Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos was swarmed with photographers as she made her way to the plenary hall. With her unceasing royal aura, Marcos posed in front of the camera wearing a purple Maria Clara adorned with black and silver flowers.

Aurora Representative Sonny Angara's wife Tootsie was a vision in beige with a simple yet eye-catching Maria Clara. Her elegant outfit was shirred at the shoulder and adorned with glittering silver flowers, a beautiful piece made by designer Cary Santiago.

Former actress and now Cavite Congresswoman Lani Mercado arrived arm in arm with dashing husband, Senator Bong Revilla. Her hair coiffed in a classic bun, Mercado wore a simple pink Maria Clara with jewel embellishments paired with a silver Chanel clutch.

Pasay City Congresswoman Emi Calixto Rubiano was also pretty in fuschia, wearing a conservative long-sleeved gown accented with golden embroidery designed by Thelma Daquioag.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kim Bernardo Lokin from the Citizen's Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) wore a hybrid terno designed by Paul Cabral. A standout from the terno-wearing crowd, her outfit was an interesting mix of an off-shoulder silver and orange top paired with an orange saya and draped with a lime green, orange and fuschiatapis.

For some solons, fashion runs in the family. San Jose Del Monte City Rep. Arthur Robes, his wife Rida and son Gabriel all came in matching black and white outfits. The congressman and his son wore off-white barongs with black collars and cuffs while the pregnant Mrs. Robes wore an elegant embroidered gown with black trimmings.

Quizon et al reminisce good old days with Redford

by by Boy Villasanta, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - It's true, according to Sister Elena Cermeño, the widow of the late Redford White, she had to hide the real health condition of her husband from the public because, as scriptwriter Woodrow Serafin would also say, "ayaw namin siyang pagpistahan ng media."

State of the Nation Address of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III (English translation)

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
The English translation of the State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps;

My beloved countrymen:

Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant's sworn oath to serve the country honestly.

This is the straight path.

On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation. 
This is the crooked path.

For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by (since I became President), the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.

In the first three weeks of our administration, we discovered many things, and I will report to you some of the problems we have uncovered, and the steps we are taking to solve them.

This report is merely a glimpse of our situation. It is not the entire picture of the crises we are facing. The reality was hidden from our people, who seem to have been deliberately obfuscated on the real state of our nation.

In the first six years of this year, government expenditure exceeded our revenues. Our deficit further increased to PhP196.7 billion. Our collection targets, which lack PhP23.8 billion, were not fully met, while we went beyond our spending by PhP45.1 billion.

Our budget for 2010 is PhP1.54 trillion. Of this, only PhP100 billion - or 6.5% of the total budget – can be used for the remaining six months of the current year. Roughly 1% of the total budget is left for each of the remaining month.

Where did the funds go? 

A calamity fund worth PhP2 billion was reserved in preparation for anticipated calamities. Of this already miniscule amount, at a time when the rainy season has yet to set in, PhP1.4 billion or 70% was already spent.

The entire province of Pampanga received PhP108 million. Of this, PhP105 million went to only one district. On the other hand, the province of Pangasinan, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pepeng, received a mere PhP5 million, which had to be used to fix damages inflicted not even by Pepeng, but by a previous typhoon, Cosme. 
The funds were released on election month, which was seven months after the typhoon. What will happen if a typhoon arrives tomorrow? The fund has been used up to repair damage from typhoons that hit us last year. Our future will pay for the greed of yesterday.

This is also what happened to the funds of the MWSS. Just recently, people lined up for water while the leadership of the MWSS rewarded itself even though the pensions of retired employees remain unpaid.

The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to 51.4 million pesos annually. But this isn't the full extent of what they receive: they receive additional allowances and benefits amounting to 81.1 million pesos. In short, they receive 211.5 million pesos annually. Twenty four percent of this is for normal salaries, and sixty six percent is added on.

The average worker receives up to 13th month pay plus a cash gift. In the MWSS, they receive the equivalent of over thirty months pay if you include all their additional bonuses and allowances.

What we discovered in the case of the salaries of their board of trustees is even more shocking. Let's take a look at the allowances they receive:
Attending board of trustees and board committee meetings, and you get fourteen thousands pesos. This totals ninety eight thousand pesos a month. They also get an annual grocery incentive of eighty thousand pesos.

And that's not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, and financial assistance. They not only get a Christmas bonus, but an additional Christmas package as well. Each of these amounts to eighty thousand pesos. All in all, each member of the board receives two and a half million pesos a year exclusive of car service, technical assistance, and loans. Let me repeat. They award themselves all of these while being in arrears for the pensions of their retired employees.

Even the La Mesa watershed wasn't spared. In order to ensure an adequate supply of water, we need to protect our watersheds. In watersheds, trees are needed. Where there should be trees, they built homes for the top officials of the MWSS.

We cannot remove them from their positions quickly because they are among the midnight appointees of former president Arroyo. We are investigating all of these things. But if they have any shame left, they should voluntarily relinquish their positions.

Now let's discuss funds for infrastructure. The DPWH identified two hundred forty six priority safety projects to be funded by the motor vehicle user's charge. This needs a budget of 425 million pesos. What they ended up funding were only 28 projects. They disregarded 218 projects and replaced these with seventy projects that weren't in the plans. The 425 million pesos originally asked for became 480 million pesos, increasing because of projects allocated for a favored few.

These projects make no sense: unstudied and unprepared for, sprouting like mushrooms.

The era of such projects is at an end. Under our administration, there will be no quotas, there will be no overpricing, the funds of the people will be spent for the people.
There's more. Five days before the term of the previous administration ended, they ordered 3.5 billion pesos to be released for the rehabilitation of those affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. This was supposed to fund eighty-nine projects. But nineteen of these projects amounting to 981 million pesos didn't go through public bidding. Special Allotment Release Orders hadn't even been released and yet the contracts were already signed. It's a good thing Secretary Rogelio Singson spotted and stopped them. Instead, they will all go through the proper bidding, and the funds will be used to provide relief to those who lost their homes due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Let's discuss what happened in Napocor. From 2001 to 2004, the government forced Napocor to sell electricity at a loss to prevent increases in electricity rates. The real motivation for this is that they were preparing for the election.

As a result, in 2004, NAPOCOR slumped deeply in debt. The government was obligated to shoulder the 200 billion pesos it owed.

What the public thought they saved from electricity, we are now paying for using public coffers. Not only are we paying for the cost of electricity; we are also paying for the interest arising from the debt.

If the money we borrowed was used properly, then there would be added assurance that constant supply of electricity is available. However, this decision was based on bad politics, not on the true needs of the people. The people, after having to sacrifice, suffered even more.

This is also what happened to the MRT. The government tried again to buy the people's love. The operator was forced to keep the rates low.

In effect, the guarantee given to the operator that he will still be able to recoup his investment was not fulfilled. Because of this, Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines were ordered to purchase the MRT.

The money of the people was used in exchange for an operation that was losing money.

Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.

In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.

What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.

Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?

The result is NFA's current debt of 177 billion pesos.

This money that was wasted could have funded the following: 
-         The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year. 
-         The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos. 
-         All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.

This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted.

You have heard how the public coffers were squandered. This is what is clear to me now: change can only come from our determination to stamp out this extravagance and profligacy.

That is why starting now: we will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong. 

This is the point of what we call the zero-based approach in our budget. What used to be the norm was every year, the budget merely gets re-enacted without plugging the holes.

Next month we will be submitting a budget that accurately identifies the problem and gives much attention on the right solution.

Those that I have mentioned were only some of the problems we have discovered. Here now are examples of the steps we are undertaking to solve them.

There is a case of one pawnshop owner. He purchased a vehicle at an estimated cost of 26 million pesos.

If he can afford to buy a Lamborghini, why can't he pay his taxes?

A case has already been filed against him. Through the leadership of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, every week we have new cases filed against smugglers and against those who do not pay the right taxes.

We have also already identified the suspects of the cases of Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio and Miguel Belen, 3 of the 6 incidents of extralegal killings since we assumed the Presidency.

Fifty percent (50%) of these incidents of extralegal killings are now on their way to being resolved.

We will not stop the pursuit of the remaining half of these killings until justice has been achieved.

We will hold murderers accountable. We will also hold those who are corrupt that work in government accountable for their actions.

We have begun forming our Truth Commission, through the leadership of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. We will search for the truth on the alleged wrongdoing committed in the last nine years.

This week, I will sign the first ever Executive Order on the formation of this Truth Commission.

If the answer to justice is accountability, the answer to the dearth in funds is a new and creative approach to our long-standing problems.

We have so many needs: from education, infrastructure, health, military, police and more. Our funds will not be enough to meet them.

No matter how massive the deficit is that may keep us from paying for this list of needs, I am heartened because many have already expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines.

Our solution: public-private partnerships. Although no contract has been signed yet, I can say that ongoing talks with interested investors will yield fruitful outcomes.

There are some who have already shown interest and want to build an expressway from Manila that will pass through Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, until the end of Cagayan Valley, without the government having to spend a single peso.

On national defense:

We have 36,000 nautical miles of shoreline, but we only have 32 boats. These boats are as old as the time of (US General Douglas) MacArthur.

Some had this proposition: they will rent the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard and the Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio.

They will take care of the funding necessary to transfer the Navy Headquarters to Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately, we will be given 100 million dollars. Furthermore, they will give us a portion of their profits from their businesses that would occupy the land they will rent.

In short, we will meet our needs without spending, and we will also earn.

There have already been many proposals from local to foreign investors to provide for our various needs.

From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary. There are so many sectors that could benefit from this.

We will be able to construct the needed infrastructure in order to help tourism grow.

In agriculture, we will be able to have access to grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, orderly road networks and post-harvest facilities. 

If we can fix out food supply chain with the help of the private sector, instead of importing, we will hopefully be able to supply for the needs of the global market. 

The prices of commodities will go down if we are able to make this efficient railway system a reality. It will be cheaper and faster, and it will be easier for travelers to avoid crooked cops and rebels.
 
A reminder to all: creating jobs is foremost on our agenda, and the creation of jobs will come from the growth of our industries. Growth will only be possible if we streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest.

We make sure that the Build-Operate-and-Transfer projects will undergo quick and efficient processes. With the help of all government agencies concerned and the people, a process that used to take as short as a year and as long as a decade will now only take six months.

The Department of Trade and Industry has already taken steps to effect this change, under the leadership of Secretary Gregory Domingo: The never-ending horror story of registering business names, which used to take a minimum of four to eight hours depending on the day, will be cut down drastically to fifteen minutes.

What used to be a check list of thirty-six documents will be shortened to a list of six, and the old eight-page application form will be whittled down to one page. 

I call on our local government units to review its own procedures. While we look for more ways to streamline our processes to make business start-ups easier, I hope the LGUs can also find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started.

All will certainly benefit from this streamlining -- be it businessmen, soldiers, rebels and ordinary Filipinos. As long as the interests of Filipinos will not be jeopardized, we will explore all available avenues to make this a reality. We must start now, and we should all help achieve this and not stand in each other's way.

The time when we will no longer be made to choose between our people's security and the future of our children is upon us now.

Once we implement these public-private partnerships, we will be able to fund public service in accordance with our platform.

This will enable us to fund our plans for education.

We will be able to expand our basic education cycle from seven years to the global standard of twelve years.

We can build more classrooms, and we will fund service contracting under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Program (GASTPE). 
Conditional cash transfers that aim to lessen the burden of education on parents will also be funded if this partnership becomes a reality.

Our plans for improving PhilHealth can now be within reach.

First, we will identify the correct number of Filipinos who sorely need PhilHealth coverage, as current data is conflicting on this matter. On one hand, PhilHealth says that eighty-seven percent (87%) of Filipinos are covered, then lowers the number to only fifty-three percent (53%). On the other hand, the National Statistics Office says that only thirty-eight percent (38%) of Filipinos are covered by Philhealth.

Even as we speak, Secretary Dinky Soliman and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are moving to implement the National Household Targeting System that will identify the families that most urgently need assistance. An estimated 9 billion pesos is needed in order to provide coverage for five million poor Filipinos. 

Our country is beginning to see better days ahead. The private sector, the League of Provinces headed by Governor Alfonso Umali, together with Governors L-Ray Villafuerte and Icot Petilla, are now ready to do their share when it comes to shouldering the financial burden. I know that the League of Cities under the leadership of Mayor Oscar Rodriguez will not be far behind. 

If the local governments share in our goals, I know that I can surely count on Congress, the institution where I began public service, to push for our agenda for change.
Our Cabinet has already showed it skill by identifying not just problems but also proposing solutions in a matter of three weeks.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Basyang, we were told by those in the power sector that we would be without electricity for four days. The quick action of Secretary Rene Almendras and the Department of Energy resulted in the restoration of power to almost all those affected within twenty-four hours.

The so-called water shortage in Metro Manila was quickly attended to by Secretary Rogelio Singson and the Department of Public Works and Highways. Secretary Singson did it without prodding, which alleviated the suffering of those affected.

We also witnessed the competence and initiative of those we appointed to be part of our Cabinet. It is but just that they not be forced to go through the eye of a needle to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. Should this happen, competent Filipinos will be encouraged to help our country by becoming public servants. 

In the soonest possible time, we will convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss the important bills that need to be addressed. Rest assured that I will keep an open mind and treat you honorably.

We will push for the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which will limit spending bills only for appropriations that have identified a source of funding. We need 104.1 billion pesos to fund those laws already passed but whose implementation remains pending because of lack of funds.  

We will re-evaluate fiscal incentives given in the past. Now that we are tightening our purse strings, we need to identify those incentives that will remain and those that need to be done away with.

We will not allow another NBN-ZTE scandal to happen again. Whether from local or foreign sources, all proposed contracts must undergo the scrutiny of correct procedures. I now ask for your help with amending our Procurement Law.

According to our Constitution, it is the government's duty to ensure that the market is fair for all. No monopolies, no cartels that kill competition. We need an Anti-Trust Law that will give life to these principles, to afford Small- and Medium-Scale Enterprises the opportunity to participate in the growth of our economy. 

Let us pass into law the National Land Use Bill.

It was in 1935, during the Commonwealth, that the National Defense Act was passed. There is a need to amend for a new law that is more responsive to the current needs of national security. 

I appeal to our legislators to pass the Whistleblower's Bill to eradicate the prevalent culture of fear and silence that has hounded our system.

We will strengthen the Witness Protection Program. We must remember that from 2009 to 2010 alone, cases which involved the participation of witnesses under the program resulted in a ninety-five percent conviction. 

There is a need to review our laws. I call on our lawmakers to begin a re-codification of our laws to ensure harmony in legislation and eliminate contradictions. 

These laws serve as the basis of order in our land, but the foundation of all rests on the principle that we cannot grow without peace and order. 

We face two obstacles on our road to peace: the situation in Mindanao and the continued revolt of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian. We have asked Dean Marvic Leonen to head our efforts to talk to the MILF.

We will learn from the mistakes of the past administration, that suddenly announced an agreement reached without consultations from all concerned. We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people. 

We recognize the efforts of the MILF to discipline those within its ranks. We are hopeful that the negotiations will begin after Ramadan.

To the CPP-NPA-NDF: are you prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism and finger-pointing?

If it is peace you truly desire, then we are ready for an immediate cease-fire. Let us go back to the table and begin talking again. 

It is difficult to begin discussions in earnest if the smell of gun powder still hangs in the air. I call on everyone concerned not to waste a good opportunity to rally behind our common aspiration for peace.

Our foundation for growth is peace. We will continue to be shackled by poverty if the crossfire persists.

We must understand that now is a time for sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that will pave the way for a better future. With our freedom comes our responsibility to do good unto our fellows and to our country.

To our friends in media, especially those in radio and print, to the block-timers and those in our community newspapers, I trust that you will take up the cudgels to police your own ranks.

May you give new meaning to the principles of your vocation: to provide clarity to pressing issues; to be fair and truthful in your reporting, and to raise the level of public discourse. 

It is every Filipino's duty to closely watch the leaders that you have elected. I encourage everyone to take a step towards participation rather than fault-finding. The former takes part in finding a solution; from the latter, never-ending complaints.

We have always known that the key to growth is putting the interest of others beyond one's own. One thing is clear: how do we move forward if we keep putting others down? 

How will those without education secure quality jobs? How will the unemployed become consumers? How will they save money for their future needs?

If we change all this, if we prioritize enabling others, we will open a world of opportunities not just for ourselves but for those who direly need it. 

We have already begun the process of change, and we are now able to dream of better things for our country. Let us not forget that there are those who wish us to fail, so that they will once again reclaim power to do as they please at the expense of our people. 

My firm belief is that our fate is in the hands of God and our people. While we focus on uplifting the lives of our fellow men, I have an unshakeable faith that Almighty God will give us His blessings and support. If we remain firm in our belief that God is on our side, is there anything impossible for us to achieve?

The mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. The situation is not what it was before; we can all dream again. Let us all become one in achieving a fulfilment of our hopes and aspirations for our country.

Maraming Salamat Po!

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