Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Remorse a pre-condition for considering pardon for Philippin ex-pres Arroyo

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Remorse on the part of former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo will be a factor for consideration should President Benigno Aquino III be confronted with a situation in which he would have to decide whether to pardon her or not if she is convicted of any crime.
"Pardon I think is governed by several policies within the Board of Pardons and Parole," President Aquino said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel. "The degree of remorse is one component that I remember."
"Of course, at this point in time, they manifest that they are innocent of any of the charges. So if they still profess [innocence], where is the remorse? Where can we find the remorse there?" he added.
Asked if remorse was something that has to be publicly seen before pardon is considered, Aquino said, "It's too way, way ahead, I think."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reckoning time for Palparan

I remember that speech to be most obscene.
In her sixth State-of-the-Nation address on July 24, 2006, Gloria Arroyo, amidst cries of parents of University of the Philippines Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and relatives of Manuel Merino, a farmer, Gloria Arroyo lavished praises on one of the most feared and hated generals — then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, commander of the 7th Infantry Division in central Luzon, where many of the extra-judicial killings happened.
Arroyo said: "Sa ganitong mga proyekto, palalakasin natin ang ekonomiya ng mga barangay at lalawigan. (In this [anti-insurgency project], we will strengthen the economy in the barangay and provinces.)And we will end the long oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists who kill without qualms, even their own.
"Sa mga lalawigang sakop ng 7th Division, nakikibaka sa kalaban si Jovito Palparan. Hindi siya aatras hanggang makawala sa gabi ng kilabot ang mga pamayanan at maka-ahon sa bukang-liwayway ng hustisya at kalayaan. (In the provinces covered by the 7th Division,  Jovito Palparan is fighting the enemies. He will not stop until the people are free from the scourge of darkness and rise to the dawn of justice and freedom.)"
That was adding insult to injury.
Times have  changed.
Arroyo is now on hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. Palparan is on the run, hunted by police authorities and National Bureau of Investigation agents armed with a warrant for his arrest for the kidnapping of Cadapan, Empeño and Merino.
He was last seen trying to board a plane to Singapore at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga while everybody's attention was on the tragedy in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and other parts of Central Mindanao.
He was stopped on orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and has not been seen since then.
Two of Palparan's co-accused, Lt. Col Felipe Anotado, Jr. and S/Sgt Edgardo Osrio of the AFP Intelligence and security Group have surrendered tot eh office of the Armed Forces' Provost Marshal in Camp Aguinaldo.
The role of the military, especially Palparan in the abduction of Cadapan, Empeño, and Merino was related by Raymond Manalo, who together with his brother Reynaldo, survived abduction and torture by the military.
Manalo said six armed men in military uniform abducted him and his brother on Feb. 14, 2006 from their place in Barangay Buhol na Mangga, San Ildefonso, Bulacan.
From there, they were detained and moved from one place to another, particularly military camps and detachments including Fort Magsaysay and a detachment in Sapang, San Miguel, Bulacan, where they allegedly met Palparan.
From Sapang, Manalo was transported to Camp Tecson under the 24th Infantry Battalion, where three men loaded him in a white car.
Manalo said he was taken to what he learned later a training detachment of the Scout Rangers. He said it was in the barracks that he met Cadapan, with her feet chained to a double bed.
During their conversation, Manalo said Cadapan told him she was abducted from Hagonoy and was subjected to torture."
After a week, Manalo was reunited with his brother who also brought to the camp, where they stayed from September 2006 until Nov. 22, 2006.
Three days after, Raymond said Empeño and Merino were also brought to the camp.
Raymond further said he saw Cadapan being subjected to torture like water treatment through nose, and electric shocks.
Palparan and Arroyo's military had denied any role in the abduction of Cadapan, Empeño and Merino as well as extra-judicial killings of activists.
As the family of the three hope for justice with the warrant of arrest for Palparan,we remember the words of Edith Burgos, mother of another missing activist, Jonas Burgos, in the play "Mrs.B":" Walang kasing-sakit mawalan ng mahal sa buhay. Kahit gaano ka katibay, kahit gaano ka katapang, kahit gaano ka kabuo, mababasag at mababasag ka rin. (There's nothing more painful than losing someone you love. Even though how much you try to be strong, to be solid, there's a point when you will crack.""

Intl day vs corruption marks Gloria Arroyo’s 1st day in govt detention

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was transfer to a makeshift government detention facility at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on Friday, which coincidentally marks the United Nations (UN)-designated International Anti-Corruption Day.   It could not have happened at a better time, netizens said.   “There’s a rhyme and reason to things, synchronicity,” said Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party spokesperson Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel through her Twitter account @risahontiveros. Other netizens expressed similar views.     From the high-end St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, Arroyo on Friday arrived at the government-run VMMC in Quezon City to serve her hospital arrest in relation to an electoral sabotage case the Commission on Elections filed against her.   ‘Against the cancer of corruption’   Held every Dec. 9, the UN General Assembly designated the International Anti-Corruption Day “to raise awareness of corruption” and of the UN Convention against Corruption “in combating and preventing it.”   “All of us have a responsibility to take action against the cancer of corruption,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.   “Although the poor may be marginalized by corruption, they will not be silenced. In events across the Arab world and beyond this year, ordinary people have joined their voices in denouncing corruption and demanding that governments combat this crime against democracy,” Ban added. — VS, GMA News

Lawmakers impeach Philippines' Supreme Court chief justice

              MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine Congress impeached the country's chief justice on Monday as allies of President Benigno Aquino lined up behind his drive to root out corruption.
A total of 188 members of the 285-seat House of Representatives lower house signed an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona on the grounds that he betrayed public trust and violated the constitution.
Aquino accuses Corona and the court of bias in favour of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the focal point of the president's campaign to eliminate graft.
Corona will go to trial in the Senate upper house next year. Before the outcome of the parliamentary vote was disclosed, he vowed to fight on and uphold the court's independence.
Legal officials suggest an impeachment could pitch the country into a battle between the executive and the judiciary.
But the president's allies saw the vote as an important moment in exposing what they see as his predecessor's endemic corruption.
"This is an important step in holding former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the people," Teodoro Casino, a leftist member of Congress, said in a statement.
"We need to hold (the chief justice) accountable for the long list of anti-people rulings he supported to favour his patron, Arroyo."
Arroyo, president in 2001-2010 and now a member of Congress, appointed Corona as chief justice a week after last year's election that voted Aquino in but before he actually took power.
Arroyo is under guard at a hospital after her arrest on charges of electoral sabotage. She denies the charges and her lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to overturn an arrest warrant against her.
Corona is the first member of the judiciary to be impeached, but lawmakers believe he may resign to avoid embarrassment. In April, the head of the anti-graft agency, an Arroyo ally, resigned after she was also impeached in Congress.
Aquino, son of venerated former president Corazon Aquino, remains popular 18 months after being elected and hopes public opinion will place an additional burden on Corona to quit.
The president says the Supreme Court has blocked efforts to pursue Arroyo after it ruled against the creation of a truth commission on her activities in office.
The court also overturned a travel ban imposed by the government on the former president as she was about to fly out of Manila airport for medical treatment.
The leader of a small opposition bloc, Edcel Lagman, said the government had offered various funds as inducements to persuade lawmakers to support the impeachment motion.
Aquino's allies disputed the allegations.
Hours before the impeachment vote, the chief justice talked about a "secret plan to oust me from office by any means fair or foul", threatening to destroy democratic institutions.
"I want you to know that your chief justice continues to be in command and will lead the fight against any and all who dare to destroy the court and the independence. We shall not meekly walk away," Corona told a gathering of court employees.

No Xmas at home for detained ex-Philippine leader

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine court rejected on Wednesday requests by arrested ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to celebrate Christmas at home and use her cellphone and computer in detention, underscoring recent stunning reversals for a woman once considered among the world's most powerful.
Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court cited security reasons for denying Arroyo's request to leave a military hospital where she is detained on electoral fraud charges. She wanted to celebrate Christmas and New Year at her upscale home in the capital.
But she obtained small concessions. Mupas allowed her family, children and grandchildren to celebrate the holidays with her in her heavily guarded hospital suite from Dec. 24 to 26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. She will also be allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio, attend Mass and get an hour of sunshine each day.
"The court is not inclined to grant (Arroyo) a Christmas furlough," Mupas said in his order. He said he was allowing her family to visit because "the court is fully aware of the fact that everybody wants to be with his loved ones during Christmas."
Court sheriff Rodelio Buenviaje said Arroyo was upset when he relayed the order to her.
"We are saddened but we will follow," Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told reporters. "I was just hoping that the judge will see through his heart that this is a season for unity and forgiveness."
Arroyo's Nov. 18 arrest curtailed her rights even though she remains a member of the House of Representatives, Mupas said.
Mupas had ordered Arroyo's arrest on Nov. 18 in her hospital room, where she had sought treatment for a bone ailment, on suspicion of ordering the rigging of 2007 senatorial elections to favor her candidates. She has denied any wrongdoing and has hired a battery of lawyers.
Last month, the Supreme Court lifted a travel ban on her, and she attempted to leave the country with her husband. President Benigno Aquino III's justice secretary, however, defied the Supreme Court order and directed airport authorities to stop her from leaving, fearing she might try to escape from prosecution.
Aquino, who won election on a promise to uproot corruption, blames Arroyo for a decade of graft and corruption scandals that eroded public trust in government and held back foreign investment.
Arroyo, however, accused her successor of resorting to "demagoguery to completely destroy my reputation."
Aquino has accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, a former Arroyo chief of staff whom she appointed shortly before her term ended last year, of obstructing Arroyo's prosecution. Although Corona has denied favoring Arroyo in his rulings, Aquino's allies in the House of Representatives impeached the chief justice last week.
Arroyo, a 64-year-old former economics professor and daughter of an ex-president, survived four opposition impeachment bids and four attempted coups during her nine stormy years in power.
Arroyo once landed near the top of a Forbes magazine list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Arroyo camp refuses air transfer, complains about delay

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's camp complained this morning about the government insistence on the former president's "air transfer" despite the rains.

In a press conference at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Makati, Arroyo spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn said the former president has been ready for her transfer since this morning.

However, both Arroyo’s camp and administration officials charged with securing her transfer could not agree with how Mrs. Arroyo would be transported to the government-run Veteran's Memorial Medical Center (VMCC).

Bautista-Horn said the government had been insisting flying her out for "security reasons."

Arroyo's camp, meanwhile, said they were willing to travel by land to the VMMC, where Arroyo will be placed under house arrest. VMMC is located in Quezon City, around 10 kilometers from Makati.

"Gusto po namin sumunod sa korte na dapat i-transfer ang Pangulo sa Veterans," Bautista-Horn said in the televised press conference.

The spokesperson said they would not allow Arroyo to fly out "in this kind of weather."

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, however, said that the Arroyo camp agreed to do the air transfer, but due to the rains, the delay happened.

Robredo said it is the Philippine National Police who will dictate the terms of the transfer, and not the Arroyo camp.

Robredo said that police is now planning alternative ways to securely transfer the former President.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Appeals court upholds dismissal of slain hostage taker Rolando Mendoza

Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez were legally correct in dismissing hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza from the Philippine National Police, according to justices of the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals Thirteenth Division, in a 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Francisco Acosta, affirmed the Ombudsman's decision to dimiss Mendoza from the police force and junked his petition for review. Associate Justices Magdangal De Leon and Angelita Gacutan concurred with Justice Acosta.

The appellate court affirmed that Mendoza and his fellow lawmen P/ Insp. Nelson Lagasca, SPO1 Nestor David, PO3 Wilson Gavino and PO2 Roderick Lopeña committed "grave misconduct" when they tried "extorting" money from complainant and chef Christian Kalaw in April 2008. In his complaint, Kalaw accused Mendoza and the other police officers of extorting a total of more than P20,000 from him and forcing him to swallow "shabu" after being apprehended for a traffic violation.

“To warrant removal from office, settled is the rule that the misconduct must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties amounting either to maladministration or willful, intentional neglect and failure to discharge the duties of the office,” the CA said. “Besides, questions remain unanswered: We could not understand why the petitioners extendedly kept or detained Kalaw in the police station when the purported basis was just a mere traffic violation, i.e., illegal parking and/or driving without required license; and why the petitioners put so much attention on Kalaw’s alleged traffic violations when primarily it is their job to apprehend traffic violators in the City of Manila,” the decision said.

Kalaw eventually filed charges against the policemen in April 2008, but the PNP's Internal Affairs Service recommended the dismissal of the case in October of the same year after the complainant failed to attend the proceedings’ hearings. The case reached the Office of the Ombudsman, which ultimately ordered Mendoza's dismissal from service. Mendoza moved for the reconsideration of the ruling but the Ombudsman denied it.

In the morning of August 23, 2010, Mendoza hijacked a Hong Thai Travel bus, declared a hostage situation, and demanded his reinstatement in the police force. The standoff lasted for 11 hours and resulted in the deaths of eight tourists. Police snipers fatally shot Mendoza when they raided the bus. Mendoza had claimed Gonzalez demanded P150,000 so he [Mendoza] could be cleared from the charges. Gonzalez repeatedly denied the accusation. Last March, Malacañang announced Gonzalez's dismissal from service for gross neglect of duty and misconduct in office, for his alleged failure to promptly act on Mendoza's appeal, which was pending for nine months. — ELR, GMA News

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No 'baon' for Oban

Bowing out as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief yesterday, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. cited the gains against military corruption and claimed that there are no more thieves in the AFP.
“I can proudly say to our countrymen that there are no thieves in our Armed Forces,” Oban said in Filipino during the change of command rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Oban, who turned over the command of the AFP to his classmate Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, said he would be leaving the service without receiving sendoff money or “pabaon.”

“I can proudly say that I did not change. Sa posisyon ng chief of staff, pumasok ako na Oban at lalabas pa rin na Oban. Walang baon. (I assumed the chief of staff post as Oban and I will relinquish it as Oban. No sendoff money),” he said, the pun on his name drawing laughter from the audience.

Dellosa and Oban are graduates of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class ’79.

Oban said the military is continuously undertaking the reforms he introduced.

“As I step down today I can proudly say that we have succeeded in re-strengthening unto ourselves the value of honesty and integrity, the basic ingredients that make us proud members of the AFP,” he said.

Oban said the military’s procurement system became more transparent under his watch.

“We have strengthened the capabilities of our Inspector-General, our internal auditors and our Provost Marshall if only to send the message that we mean business, in the business of reforms,” he said.

Oban said 99 percent of the personnel vacancies in the military have been filled. This was higher than the 96 percent personnel-hiring rate when Oban assumed his post as AFP chief last March.

“With the observation that personnel vacancies can be corrupted through the so-called ghost soldiers, we have intensified selective recruitment,” he said.

“Mr. President, I can assure you there are no ghosts among your soldiers,” he said, addressing President Aquino who attended the turnover rites.

The AFP’s image had been tainted with corruption after former military budget officer George Rabusa claimed that ranking generals received huge amounts upon retirement. He said the giving of huge cash gifts or “pabaon” to top officials is part of a tradition in the AFP.                                 

At the height of the controversy, polling firm Pulse Asia released a survey which showed that almost half of Filipinos or 48.9 percent view the military as an institution where corruption is most prevalent.                      

The findings were based on the results of a nationwide non-commissioned survey conducted from Feb. 24 to March 6.                       

 Oban assumed as AFP chief last March amid the uproar over the supposed irregularities in the military’s financial system. During his assumption, Oban vowed to ensure the timely release of military funds and to discourage the practice of conversion. He also vowed to conduct unannounced audits and to run after those involved in anomalous transactions.

Oban looks forward to retirement

The military held a simple retirement ceremony for Oban, without the display of military assets as was customary.

A battalion of soldiers, about 400 military personnel, rendered the arrival honors for President Aquino who presided over the ceremony. A division of soldiers, or about 1,000 military personnel comprised the parade.

During the ceremony, Oban chose not to ride a military vehicle when he inspected the troops for the last time. He instead marched with AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara.                                    

The troop inspection usually lasts for seven to eight minutes when the retiring officer uses the military vehicle. Oban’s troop inspection lasted for more than 12 minutes. Oban caught the interest of the crowd after delivering lines that expressed his affection towards the troops.                                                          

 “I only want to be with you (troops) twice – now and forever. I will not miss as you go dahil nakaukit kayo sa aking puso (because you are etched in my heart),” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd.                         

Oban also thanked his wife Concepcion and his only son Tobit, promising to spend more time with them after his retirement.                  

“After I sign my relinquishment orders, I am all yours. Gusto ko gawin yung di natin nagawa nang ako ay chief of staff – ang mag-Jollibee. (I want to do what we were not able to do when I was chief of staff – to eat at Jollibee),” he said.                          

Oban also thanked God for giving him the opportunity to lead the AFP and President Aquino for believing in his capabilities.      

 He also thanked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the confidence he instilled in him “by just being there.”                    

 Oban expressed confidence that the military would prosper under Dellosa’s watch.        

“I share the faith of the entire armed forces in your (Dellosa) capability to lead it to even greater heights of success,” he said.

Oban was the fifth Air Force general who served as AFP chief. Others from the Air Force who held the post were Pelagio Cruz (Dec 31, 1961 to Aug. 31, 1962), Victor Osias (Jan. 21, 1967 to Aug. 15, 1967), Arnulfo Acedera Jr. (Nov. 28. 1996 to Dec. 31, 1997), and Benjamin Defensor Jr. (Sept. 10, 2002 to Nov. 28, 2002).                                     

 Prior to his designation as chief of staff, Oban served as deputy chief of staff, the third highest position in the AFP.          

Other positions he held were deputy chief of staff for plans, Air Force assistant chief for operations, commander of the Air Defense Wing and the 1st Air Division, and Air Force Vice Commander.                                     

He also served as Squadron Commander at the 5th Fighter Wing, Group Commander of the Tactical Operations Group 12, and Director for Operations of the 5th Fighter Wing. (Philstar News Service,

Philippine church and military change guard

              MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine Catholic Church and military, the two most powerful institutions in the country that have helped topple two previous leaders, installed new heads on Monday as acrimony over investigations into another former president intensified.
The church and the armed forces are the two most influential bodies in a fervently religious country and played important roles in the 1986 overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the 2001 ouster of President Joseph Estrada.
The church named Antonio Tagle, a charismatic and media-savvy 54-year-old priest, as Manila's new archbishop in a sign it was stepping up the defence of its faith.
On the same day, President Benigno Aquino, whose government is testing the church's power by proposing to liberalise laws on contraception and divorce, installed a long-time family ally as head of the 130,000-member military.
Aquino is locked in a battle with the country's top judge, whom he accuses of hindering his anti-corruption drive, over efforts to investigate his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Jesuit-educated Tagle became only the fifth Filipino head of the Archdiocese of Manila in its more than 400-year history, replacing the retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales.
Joselito Zulueta, an analyst on church affairs, said Tagle would be a potent weapon against government plans to legalise divorce and improve access to contraception through his close links with the Catholic middle-class and civil society groups.
Tagle is expected to be at the forefront of efforts to keep the Philippines -- the only state in the world without a divorce law -- as one of the strongest bastions of Catholicism. The church there equates contraception with abortion.
Zulueta said Tagle may also emulate the political role of revered former Cardinal Jaime Sin.
"Tagle will be political like Sin in the sense that he will continue to make the church's voice heard on political issues. Historically, the church in the Philippines is activist and interventionist," Zulueta told Reuters.
Sin, Manila archbishop from 1974 to 2003, was popularly known as the "divine commander-in-chief" after he called on Filipinos to support a group of soldiers, led by General Fidel Ramos, who rebelled against Marcos in 1986.
The same two men also shored up the presidency of Corazon Aquino, the current president's mother, against coup attempts while the country struggled to restore democracy.
Ramos succeeded her as president in 1992. In 2001, he again teamed up with Sin to oust Estrada over corruption allegations.
Loyal military leaders helped Arroyo, Estrada's successor, see off several attempted coups by disgruntled soldiers.
Benigno Aquino's broad popularity and personal honesty have significantly lowered the risk of military overthrow. On Monday he appointed Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa, a former member of his mother's presidential guard, as military chief.
Aquino ordered the military to step up external defences and said he was confident it could also defeat threats from within.
He promised to provide funds to modernise equipment and improve the military's capability to defend maritime borders against outside powers claiming parts of the country -- a reference to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Aquino has been critical of the Supreme Court and its chief justice, who he accuses of protecting Arroyo from investigation into electoral fraud and graft charges.

House majority OKs impeach case vs Corona for Senate trial

In just a matter of hours, members of the majority coalition at the House of Representatives on Monday agreed to directly send to the Senate the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose impartiality is being questioned by no less than President Benigno Aquino III. 

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairperson of the House justice panel which prepared the case, said more than 130 members of the majority signed the complaint during a caucus on Monday afternoon. 

“We believe that Chief Justice Corona is a major part in a grand design to protect his patron, that is why we are now in the process of impeaching the chief justice,” Tupas said. 

The ruling party’s move came a few hours after Corona, at a flag ceremony at the Supreme Court,bared an alleged plan to oust him from office "by any means fair or foul." He, however, said he will not leave his post.  

Corona is widely associated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had appointed him to the high court in April 2002 and, just before she stepped down from the presidency in May 2010, appointed him chief justice. Corona once served as Mrs. Arroyo's spokesman and chief of staff when the latter was still vice president. When Mrs. Arroyo was catapulted to the presidency in 2001, Corona then assumed various posts — presidential chief of staff, presidential spokesperson, and acting executive secretary.  

The chief magistrate has been on the receiving end of tirades from the President for his supposed lack of impartiality. Aquino sits as chairperson of the ruling Liberal Party. 

Impeachable offenses 
According to Tupas, Corona is being accused of three impeachable offenses: graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. 

The House justice panel chair likewise said that his committee proposed Corona’s impeachment based on the following grounds: partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration; failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN); issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; issuance of the “status quo ante” order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez; decision in favor of gerrymandering in the cases involving the 16 newly-created cities, and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province; granting temporary restraining order in favor of former President Arroyo; failure and refusal to account for the Judicial Development Fund (JDF) and special allowance for the judiciary collections; and Since the impeachment complaint was supported by more than one-third of all House members, it will be transmitted straight to the Senate for trial once the House approves it on the plenary. Tupas said the House will formalize Corona’s impeachment during Monday afternoon’s plenary session. 

‘Mother of all blackmails’ 
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, for his part, criticized the approval of the impeachment complaint, describing it as “the mother of all blackmails.”   Lagman said many of the administration allies were just “blackmailed into signing the impeachment complaint by threatening those who would refuse to sign with the deprivation” of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF), commonly known as the “pork barrel.” 

“The derogation of our democratic institutions is almost complete with the emasculation of the House of Representatives, the violation of civil liberties, the impairment of the rule of law, and now, the destruction of the Supreme Court and the judiciary,” he said in a statement. 

He added that the administration is also blackmailing SC justices “not to decide on pending cases against the Aquino administration, otherwise, the wrath of impeachment will be on them.” 

The opposition leader also appealed to the senators who will act as judges in the impeachment trial to “be strong and judicious” and “not to succumb to similar blackmails.” — RSJ, GMA News

Philippine police arrest former top poll official

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Police arrested the Philippines' former elections chairman Tuesday on charges he aided the vote fraud allegedly ordered by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Former Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos surrendered to a Manila regional trial court in suburban Pasay city and was placed under arrest, police Supt. Samuel Turla said. He will be held in a police detention facility, unlike Arroyo, who is under arrest in a government hospital.
Police took his fingerprints and mugshots before detaining Abalos at a regional police headquarters in the capital, Turla said.
Abalos said he surrendered to underscore his innocence to charges that he played a role in rigging 2007 senatorial elections to ensure the victory of Arroyo's candidates in a Muslim autonomous region then governed by her political ally.
President Benigno Aquino III succeeded Arroyo last year after a landslide election victory due in part to his promise to fight corruption and crushing poverty. He has blamed Arroyo for a decade of scandals that eroded public trust in government and held back foreign investment.
Arroyo, 64, has denied any wrongdoing and accused her successor of using "black propaganda" to damage her image. She was arrested last month at a private hospital and later was moved to a public veterans' hospital amid calls for her to be treated like other crime suspects.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who arrived in Manila Tuesday for talks with Aquino and his counterpart, Albert del Rosario, said that by strongly dealing with past cases of corruption, countries like the Philippines would discourage future cases of graft.
"You can only deter future possible acts of corruption if you're seen to be robust in dealing with the past," Natalegawa said in a news conference, adding he was glad that the Philippines, like his country, was taking steps to root out graft.
On Monday, Aquino's allies in the House of Representatives impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on eight complaints of alleged corruption and that court he led improperly favored Arroyo. She appointed him chief justice shortly before her presidential term ended last year.
Corona vowed to fight back. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Corona is likely to face trial there in January after Congress returns from a monthlong Christmas break.
Aquino thanked lawmakers Tuesday for impeaching Corona.
"We are now going through a process to stop the continued destruction by a wayward magistrate of the sacred institution that is the Supreme Court," Aquino said.
But Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez called Corona's impeachment "an assault on all the rights, power and privilege of the entire judiciary," which he said was being "forced to surrender its constitutionally mandated powers and functions to the whim and caprice of political machinations."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CTA junks Ligots plea to defer hearing tax evasion cases

The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) Third Division on Wednesday rejected the plea of former Armed Forces comptroller Ret. Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, and his wife, Erlinda, to defer hearing the four courts of tax evasion charges against them.  

The Ligots requested the tax court to stop the proceedings until after the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division concludes a forfeiture case against them involving various assets Ligot allegedly amassed while in active service. 

Government wants those assets confiscated as part of the Ligots’ supposedly ill-gotten wealth.  

The case before the Sandiganbayan has a significant bearing on whether or not the tax evasion cases against the Ligots are valid, defense lawyer Emiliano Bantog has argued.  

If the properties involved in the case before anti-graft court are not owned by the Ligot couple, then the tax evasion cases will have no basis and render void the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) claims against them, Bantog added.  

However, CTA Associate Justice Amelia R. Gotangco-Manalastas pronounced in open court Wednesday that the forfeiture case does not a prejudicial matter that justifies against hearing the tax evasion charges against the Ligots. CTA neet not wait for Sandiganbayan  

Thus, the tax court need not wait for the Sandiganbayan to resolved the case before it against the couple, according to the CTA.  

The Ligots will wait for the written ruling of the court and based their motion for reconsideration on it, Bantog told reporters after the hearing.

“It was a pronouncement in open court so we do not know what the basis for the ruling was.”  

Meanwhile, the tax court reset Wednesday’s scheduled arraignment of the Ligot couple to Jan. 16, 2012 with a caveat against both defense and prosecution and that that was the last deferment on the arraignment.  

The CTA is waiting for a Department of Justice decision on the motion for reconsideration the Ligots filed on Aug. 3 questioning the validity of their indictment on four counts of tax evasion.  

DOJ Assistant State Prosecutor Stewart Allan A. Mariano said his recommendations were already submitted and is now under review.  

The DOJ and the BIR want the Ligots to pay more than P400 million in tax assessments and penalties for undeclared incomes and assets from 2001 to 2004.  

With three cases lodged with the Third Division and a fourth pending before the Second Division, the CTA has ordered prosecution to consolidate the charges to facilitate orderly proceedings.  

But Bantog said it will only confuse the proceedings because of the four-year time frame surrounding the allegations in the cases

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ampatuans to oppose new freeze order

MANILA, Philippines - A lawyer for a prominent member of the Ampatuan clan said yesterday he will oppose a new freeze order on the assets of his client’s family.
“We will have it lifted,” Paris Real said in a text message to The STAR, but declined to elaborate.
Real represents Sajid Ampatuan, a son of clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and one of the principal suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, wherein 57 people – including 32 journalists – were killed.
On Friday, a Manila court issued a new freeze order on the 597 bank accounts, 142 firearms, 132 motor vehicles and 113 houses and lots in the names of 27 members of the Ampatuan clan and their associates.
The order was released after the previous freeze order issued by Court of Appeals lapsed that same day.
Several media groups have criticized “the unwarranted delay and apparent lack of attention” that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) accorded the case.
Palace defends agencies
Malacañang yesterday brushed aside insinuations the government has not been doing its job to freeze the bank accounts of the Ampatuans.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the OSG, led by Solicitor General Jose Cadiz, obtained a freeze order the day before the first freeze order expired Friday last week.
“Despite the attempt made by the Ampatuan side (to withdraw money), they failed to withdraw sums of money from the bank concerned. So that doesn’t matter,” he told reporters in a briefing.
Lacierda clarified that “the President was not disappointed” even if the first freeze order from the Court of Appeals had expired, noting that a Preservation Asset Protection Order (PAPO) was obtained from the Manila regional trial court.
“The result was they (Ampatuans) failed to get it (money) and it is not because we were delayed in filing a motion. This was done, you must remember, that this was done ex-parte,” he said.
Lacierda said they “needed to make sure that the PAPO, the filing of the motion, would be timed in a manner that it will not create a situation where they would be able to be apprised of a formal motion to maintain that asset preservation order.”
The six-month CA freeze order was based on the petition of the AMLC that covered 597 bank accounts, 142 firearms, 132 motor vehicles, and 113 houses and lots in the names of 27 members of Ampatuan clan and their associates.
The AMLC only filed a petition for civil forfeiture with a prayer for a new freeze order with Manila regional trial court Thursday last week, according to a joint statement by several media groups.
The media groups said that a week ahead of the expiry of the appellate court’s freeze order, they called government attention to the issue and the possibility that members of the Ampatuans could take the delay as a chance to retake control of their unexplained wealth and use it to affect their trial for the massacre.
After two years, only two of the main suspects from the Ampatuan clan who have been tagged in the killings have been arraigned. The key suspect in the massacre, Andal Ampatuan Jr., has not been arraigned for trial.
Of the 196 total suspects, only 93 have been detained for trial.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Philippine ex-president Arroyo's lawyer seeks international support

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - A counsel for former Philippine president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo, lawyer Raul Lambino, is coming home shortly after a trip to Europe where he sought international support for the embattled former leader.
"He feels very happy so I think it was mission accomplished, what he set out to do," Ferdinand Topacio, another Arroyo family lawyer, told reporters Sunday at St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City in Metro Manila where Arroyo is held under hospital arrest.
He said Lambino was returning home on or about December 10.
Topacio said Lambino left for Europe four days ago to bring to the attention of the international community the alleged harassment of Arroyo by the present administration.
Lambino met with the Centrist Democrat International, a political group dedicated to promoting Christian democracy, he said.
Topacio said he talked to Lambino on the phone upon Arroyo's instruction but declined to elaborate on what Lambino said. "I will leave that to Attorney Lambino to announce when he comes," he said.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two suspects in Ramgen slay want to become state witnesses

Two people linked to the brutal killing of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.'s half-brother, Ramgen "Ram" Bautista, will ask the court to admit them as witnesses, not as suspects, their lawyer said Friday.   "Magbibigay kami ng rejoinder kasi pagsasama-samahin na natin lahat ng sinabi ng witnesses para ma-prove namin at ma-justify namin na itong si Glaiza at itong Norwin ay talagang witness lamang at hindi dapat maging accused at suspect dito sa kasong ito," Claire Castro, lawyer of suspects Glaiza Vista and Norwin dela Cruz, told GMA reporter Suzan Enriquez in an interview aired over GMA News TV's Quick Response Team (QRT) on Friday.   Castro said they intend to submit the rejoinder on Dec. 13, when the preliminary investigation on the case resumes.   "Ipapakita natin sa prosecutor na ang mga alam nito at ang mga mabibigay na information ng aking kliyente ay vital dito para maresolba yung kaso. [Ang rejoinder] ay gagawin namin para at least ‘yung proteskyon maibigay kaagad," she said.   Vista and Dela Cruz may face murder and frustrated murder charges for the fatal shooting and stabbing of Ramgen, 23, last October 28 in his Parañaque residence. Another victim, Ramgen's girlfriend Janelle Manahan, survived the attack.   The two suspects had claimed that they decided to turn themselves in last November due to alleged death threats against them. They also said they wish to clear their names from the killing of Ramgen.   Vista and Dela Cruz allegedly had contacts with the hired killers of Bautista.   But in a separate interview also on QRT, Manahan's lawyer Argee Guevarra told Enriquez the move to have the suspects admitted as state witnesses was "premature."   He said cases should still be filed against them and that they can let the court decide during the progress of the trial whether they do qualify as witnesses.   "If we evaluate their testimony and we are convinced that they are telling the truth, [and that they will be able to help in] prosecuting the masterminds behind this crime, we will not oppose. We will in fact join Attorney Claire Castro in asking for [it].  By all means we are amendable to that," he said in a Telephone interview.   Also implicated in the case are Ramgen's younger siblings — Ramona Bautista, 22, who fled the country days after the incident, and Ramon Joseph "RJ" Bautista, 18, who is in police custody.   Their mother, Genelyn Magsaysay, has denied that her children would resort to killing each other to settle their differences.   Apart from RJ, two other suspects — John Michael Nartea and Roy Francis Tolisora — are detained. Nartea and Tolisora, who allegedly carried out the attack on orders of RJ and Ramona, will be arraigned in January together with RJ.   Earlier in the day, Magsaysay submitted an authenticated copy of Ramona's counter-affidavit to the City Prosecutors Office in Parañaque City.  She was accompanied by her other children.   Manahan was supposed to submit her reply affidavit with the prosecutor's office, but had to back out because here face wound was bleeding, GMA reporter Saleema Refran quoted her camp as saying.   Guevarra, however, said it was also the decision of Manahan's legal team not to allow her to face the media and attended the investigation.   "Emotionally fragile siya at sa totoo lang ang kanyang balikat hindi pa naghihilom, naka-sling pa siya," he said.   He noted, however, that their client's affidavit will prove that Ramona was — supposedly — lying in her statements.   "Pupuntiryahin namin ang mga inconsistencies at mga bagay sa kanyang salaysay na pawang kasinungalingan," he said. — VS, GMA News


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Arroyo camp won't seek additional security from govt — spokesperson

Despite a supposed plot to kill former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the camp of the former Philippine leader is not likely to request any additional security from the government. 

In a radio interview Thursday, Mrs. Arroyo's spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn indicated that they do not intend to ask the government for such arrangement. 

"Kung hihingi kami ng dagdag security, sa administrasyon din manggagaling. Kaya kami ay umaapela sa ating mga mamamayan [na] pagsama-samahan nating bantayan para di matuloy [ang] ganitong klaseng balakin," Bautista-Horn said in an interview on dwIZ radio. 

At the same time, Bautista-Horn insisted that the so-called kill plot dubbed "Put the Little Girl to Sleep" is no gimmick to gain sympathy for Mrs. Arroyo, who currently represents Pampanga's second district in the House of Representatives. 

Bautista-Horn had claimed that the information came from an Aquino administration official, who relayed the same to a former member of Mrs. Arroyo's Cabinet. Meanwhile, the Southern Police District has not beefed up security for Mrs. Arroyo at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City as of early Thursday, radio dzBB's Denver Trinidad reported. 

As of 7 a.m., Trinidad reported that only one police vehicle was assigned to the hospital where Mrs. Arroyo has been staying since Nov. 15.

Mrs. Arroyo was placed under police custody November 18 on charges of electoral sabotage. Electoral sabotage, when evidence is strong, is a non-bailable offense.    Last week, the camp of Mrs. Arroyo asked the court handling her case that the former Philippine leader be placed under house arrest. The prosecution, meanwhile, opposed such move.

SC clears Lacson of murder case

Senator Panfilo Lacson said he feels vindicated following the Supreme Court’s decision to finally close the Dacer-Corbito slay case charged against him.

The SC denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by the family of murdered publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer. The family questioned the decision of the Court of Appeals which dismissed the involvement of the senator in the deaths of Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000.

The high court also upheld the CA’s ruling that former police senior superintendent Cezar Macao II is not a credible witness and his testimony against Lacson has no more weight.

“Mancao wasted 14 months of my life,” Lacson said in an interview with Yahoo! Southeast Asia Thursday.

The senator referred to the 14 months of hiding to evade his arrest. He fled the country in January 2010 shortly after a court ordered his arrest for the double-murder case. He surfaced earlier this year in March claiming that he escaped from “injustice.”

“I don’t regret that I evaded arrest since I was just trying to avoid a clear persecution and injustice upon my person by the Arroyo administration on account of the numerous exposes that I did against her corrupt government and excessive abuse of power,” Lacson said.

Lacson calls witness ‘incredible and untrustworthy’

“Now that the SC ruled with finality on my vindication, the least that I expect from Mancao is to show compunction. But like a lone wolf wailing and whining in the dark, he continues to insist what everybody else describes him – incredible and untrustworthy,” he added.

Despite the court’s decision, the witness insisted that his claims implicating the senator are true.

"Nagsasabi ako ng katotohanan. Fourteen months niya ikumpara mo sa utos niya na magtago kami ng 10 years. Career ko suffered, family nawasak. It's unfair. Hindi ako hihingi ng kapatawaran. I'm on the right here," Mancao said based on an ANC report.

Mancao taken off witness protection

With the SC ruling, Mancao is also off the Department of Justice's witness protection program.

“While I will not pursue case against him, I will not take part in preventing what the court is expected to do which is to deny his motion to be discharged as a state witness and thenceforth execute the arrest order issued against him as an accused in the Dacer-Corbito case,” Lacson said.

Philippines' Arroyo ordered out of luxury hospital

A Philippine court Thursday ordered ex-president Gloria Arroyo to be moved from an exclusive hospital to a military-run medical facility while waiting to go on trial for alleged vote rigging.
A judge at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, which is hearing the case, noted that medical procedures required by Arroyo, 64, could be done at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, clerk of court Joel Pelicano said.
"Five days from today... former president Arroyo will be transferred to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center," Pelicano told reporters.
The veterans hospital is a heavily secured facility in northern Manila where Arroyo's safety would be assured, and competent government doctors could attend to her needs, he said.
Arroyo, who ruled the country for nearly a decade until last year, has been staying at a $1,100-a-day private hospital suite since she was arrested last month on charges of rigging senatorial elections in 2007.
Vote rigging is a non-bailable offence and if convicted, she could face life in jail. The trial could take years to complete.
Her successor, Benigno Aquino, has also vowed to charge Arroyo for other acts of corruption that she allegedly committed while in power.
Arroyo's lawyers have insisted that she is suffering from a rare bone disorder, loss of appetite and intestinal infections that require her to stay in the private hospital and wear an elaborate neck brace.
But her doctors testified in court that she could be treated at any state-run hospital and that she was well on her way to recovery.
Arroyo's spokeswoman, Elena Horn, said that while the decision was open for appeal, the former president would likely be transferred next week.
"We will comply and respect the decision of the court," Horn said, but pointed out that Arroyo would continue to use all legal options open to her.
Arroyo has another motion before the court to allow her to be placed under house arrest. The court said Thursday that motion should be resolved within 10 days.