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House reps question SC lawyer's faith, intentions at Sereno impeach hearing

GRILLED. Supreme Court lawyer Jocelyn Fabian is grilled for hours on end by the House justice committee hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – For hours, lawyer Jocelyn Fabian had to sit in the House Justice Committee hearing listening to one lawmaker after another grill her on her credentials and intentions.

She is a hire of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), and the head of the Technical Working Group (TWG) being hit by the committee as causing inordinate delay in the issuance of survivorship benefits.

Fabian was a certified public accountant since 1985 before she passed the Bar in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, she was hired by the Supreme Court (SC) to the office of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is now being impeached.

Complainant Larry Gadon wants to make it appear that Sereno hired an incompetent person, and appointed her to a crucial role. Fabian and Sereno are sisters in the Christian faith.

It was on this grounds that she was grilled for hours on end by lawmakers on Wednesday, January 17, in the continuation of Sereno’s impeachment hearing.

‘Christian, Christian na ‘yan’

“They belong to one Church, ‘yun nga mga Christian, Christian effect na ‘yan, ek ek,” Gadon said, making fun of their faith.

He was reprimanded by Pampanga Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc, and Umali even had the remark deleted from record.

But the succeeding interpellations questioned her faith and intentions just the same.

Fabian claimed that she does not know Sereno personally, but she added that one of her character references was lawyer Winnie Salumbides, who also belongs to the Christian faith and is now a spokesperson for Sereno.

Right before applying for the SC, Fabian was an operations head for a real estate company, earning around P60,000 a month on top of bonuses and other perks.

“Why did you decide to leave such a lucrative position, cast your luck, apply for a position that’s not permanent, you wouldn’t even know you would be accepted?” Cebu 3rd District Gwen Garcia asked her.

“It may sound incredible, but that is the truth and if I am a person of figures, I am also a person of faith, I used to be missionary, I am used to minimal compensation. I am not married, there is not much to be worried about, and my family, by the grace of God, is able,” Fabian said.

But still Garcia was not satisfied.

“You said that you didn't know the Chief Justice, why did you not apply for a law firm that you know, or applied somewhere else...unless you can convince us that such blind faith is credible, please do not try to muddle the issue here,” the lawmaker said.

Not for money

This exchange between Garcia and Fabian went on for a while, leading Fabian to say: “I do not apply just because I know somebody, or the prospect is profitable. My view of working is not really to earn.”

Garcia refused to buy Fabian’s story that she wanted to “contribute to nation building” and just counted on her stars that Sereno – who she said she believed in – would hire her.

“You based your beliefs in the Chief Justice and that she would realize your dreams of nation building because you realized you belonged to the same faith?” the Cebu representative asked.

Bondoc butted in and tried to appease Fabian by saying that what they’re questioning is whether Sereno was rational in hiring her – an experienced accountant – for a crucial job in the SC.

But then he came around to using Fabian’s faith again in criticizing the performance of the TWG, which supposedly caused an average two years in delays in issuing survivorship benefits.

“Why would the Chief Justice hire a person who cannot explain why she left the private sector? You did not use rational thinking, you used faith for your decision in your private life, would that be the same reason for the decision you now make which the SC is now saying, you were wrong?” he said impassionately.

To that, Fabian wanted to respond, but she had to assert herself in the microphone before Umali allowed her to speak. “Make it concise,” said Umali.

“Rational din po ako, kaya lang meron po akong pananampalataya, hindi po sila exclusive (I'm rational, but I also have faith, they're not exclusive),” Fabian said.

“Okay na?” Umali said, as he moved on to the next topic.

Umali maintained the committee was not harsh on Fabian, and defended that the lines of questioning of the members were just because Fabian’s evasiveness. – Rappler.com

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College of St Benilde beats AU, ends title drought in NCAA football

8 YEARS. College of St. Benilde finally dethrones Arellano University for the NCAA Season 93 football crown. Photo by Bob Guerrero/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Eight years of heartbreak are finally over for the CSB Blazers.

Benilde defeated Arellano 1-1 AET, 3-2 PSO in the deciding match of their best-of-3 finals series to claim the Season 93 crown in front of a noisy crowd at Rizal Memorial on the night of Wednesday, January 17.

Blazer Miguel Artillera scored in the 38th minute from the right flank which was negated by Chief Papuh Corsame 4 minutes into the second half. The Arellano goal came immediately on a counterattack after Benilde withdrew centerback Julito Asparen for Earl Laguerta.

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Artillera had two chances in the second half and Corsame was close on a late header but regulation finished 1-1.

In extra time, Corsame had a great chance for a winner off a fumble from Benilde keeper Jake Vicen but he yanked his shot wide.

Arellano missed the goal frame on two attempts in the shootout, with both Angelo Guengon and Evander Alquileta putting their kicks inches high.

Vicen sealed the title when he batted away Corsame's try in the bottom of the 5th inning.

In the first game last Friday Arellano prevailed in extra time 3-2 thanks to a late strike from Jumbel Guinabang. Benilde leveled on Monday, January 15, in game 2, winning 3-1 in a shoot out after 120 minutes of football ended 1-1.

Blazers skipper Renz Tulayba won the best midfielder and league MVP award.

In the Juniors division San Beda won the title, sweeping De La Salle Greenhills in two games on Friday and Monday, with JR Suba scoring a hat trick in game two as the Red Cubs won 3-3 AET and 3-1 in a shootout. – Rappler.com

Tacloban airport closed for repairs

MANILA, Philippines — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) ordered yesterday the temporary closure of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City to pave the way for repair works of potholes on the runway caused by continuous rains since last week.

In a notice to airmen, CAAP said the airport would be closed from 5:30 p.m. yesterday until 9 p.m. today.

Cebu Pacific and its subsidiary Cebgo cancelled six flights to and from Tacloban yesterday.

Cebu Pacific said flights to and from Tacloban might also be affected in the coming days due to additional repairs on the runway.

 

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Alec Baldwin defends director Woody Allen as Hollywood backs away

Alec Baldwin and Woody Allen. (Photos by Reuters)
LOS ANGELES | Actor Alec Baldwin on Tuesday expressed support for filmmaker Woody Allen as a growing number of entertainment industry stars seek to distance themselves from the “Annie Hall” director as part of the Time’s Up campaign against sexual misconduct.

Baldwin, who appeared in three of Allen’s films, said on Twitter that the renunciation of the director and his work was “unfair and sad to me.”

Baldwin said working with Allen was “one of the privileges of my career.”

Allen has repeatedly denied decades-old accusations that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old in the early 1990s.

But sentiment has turned against him during the sexual misconduct scandal sweeping Hollywood that has led to dozens of successful men being forced to resign or being dropped from projects.

“I am credible, and I am telling the truth, and I think it’s important that people realize that one victim, one accuser, matters. And that they are enough to change things,” Farrow said in an advance excerpt from a television interview due to be broadcast on the CBS show “This Morning” on Thursday.

Baldwin said he did not intend to “dismiss or ignore such complaints.”

“But accusing people of such crimes should be treated carefully,” he added.

Representatives of Allen did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The director has never been charged with a crime.

Allen, 82, won Oscars for the films “Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and the 2011 comedy “Midnight in Paris,” and continues to release a new movie almost every year.

Timothee Chalamet, 22, the star of gay romance “Call me By Your Name,” this week became the latest actor to announce he will donate the salary he earned from an Allen movie to “Time’s Up” and other causes for sexual abuse victims.

He followed Rebecca Hall, Ellen Page and Mira Sorvino who have made donations or issued regrets about working with Allen in recent weeks. Last week “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig, who acted in the 2012 film “To Rome with Love,” said she would not work with Allen again.

The “Time’s Up” campaign against sexual harassment in the workplace was launched two weeks ago by more than 300 Hollywood industry figures.

Allen’s most recent film “Wonder Wheel,” distributed by Amazon Studios, has fared poorly at the North American box office taking only $1.4 million since its Dec. 1 release.

His next film “A Rainy Day in New York,” starring Chalametand also from Amazon, is due for release later this year.

‘TROJAN HORSE’ | House Minority: Giving China Telecom access to communications infra too risky

An internet cable is seen at a server room in this picture illustration. REUTERS FILE
MANILA – Opposition members of the Philippine Congress raised concern on Wednesday that China Telecom Corp Ltd, which may enter the Philippine industry, could be a “Trojan horse” aimed at giving China access to state secrets.

The Southeast Asian country aims to name a third telecom operator within the first quarter that will break the duopoly of PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc. State-run China Telecom has been named as a possible investor in that third entity.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned both PLDT and Globe to shape up or face competition, has welcomed Chinese entities specifically to become the third telecoms operator.

Beijing has selected China Telecom to invest in the Philippines, according to Philippine officials, but it would need to partner with a local company as it cannot operate alone under the law.

China Telecom’s presence in the Philippines, however, does not sit well with some lawmakers, given China’s telecommunications expertise and sophisticated technology.

Despite Duterte’s warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it, due largely to its maritime assertiveness and its challenges to Philippine claims of sovereignty over various islands, reefs and waters.

“While we agree that telecommunications and connectivity are serious problems in our country, it behooves us to scrutinize the China deal,” the House minority bloc said in a statement.

“Is China Telecom a Trojan horse?”

The lawmakers sought a congressional inquiry and cautioned the government against rushing into any deal.

“Giving China access to the country’s communications infrastructure is a serious threat to national security,” they said, adding that even the United States was aware of such risk.

Two US lawmakers introduced a bill this week that bars the US government from using or contracting with Chinese telecom firms Huawei or ZTE Corp.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment on the lawmakers’ security concerns.

The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) sought to allay the lawmakers’ concern on Wednesday.

A National Cybersecurity Plan is in place to provide measures and controls against security risks, DICT Assistant Secretary Allan Cabanlong told Reuters.

“Rest assured that there is no problem. What is important is that we are focused on the development of the country,” he said.

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Over 5,000 aliens barred from entering PH in 2017

Reuters file photo of a Philippine flag
MANILA — More than 5,000 foreign nationals have been barred from entering the country last year, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported on Wednesday.

According to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Marc Red Mariñas, a total of 5,146 foreign nationals were denied entry in different airports nationwide in 2017.

He said that the aliens were prevented from entering the country as their presence was deemed “inimical to national interest”.

Statistics showed that 2,168 Chinese nationals topped the list of excluded aliens, followed by 295 Indians, 190 Americans, 183 Koreans, and 120 Vietnamese.

Based on his report submitted to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, Mariñas disclosed that majority of the foreigners, or 4,511, were turned away at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

A total of 334 and 112 aliens were also denied entry at the airports in Mactan, Cebu and Kalibo, Aklan, respectively, while 11 others were intercepted at Clark, Pampanga.

Mariñas added that most of the aliens who were turned back were profiled as individuals who did not have the means to support their stay here and whose purposes in entering the country were doubtful.

Likewise, he said that exclusion orders were issued against the foreign nationals convicted of sex crimes, improperly documented aliens, and passengers who were rude and disrespectful towards immigration officers.

For his part, Morente commended the BI-POD personnel for thwarting the entry of the undesirable aliens even as he exhorted them to keep their vigilance in discharging their duties as gatekeepers of the country.

“Our country is safer and our borders are secure because of you. Keep watching!” the BI chief in his message to BI port personnel.

 

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Self-rated poverty eases in Q4 but increases in 2017 from 2016

Reuters file photo of a poor family cooking by the roadside.

MANILA, Philippines — Some 10 million, or 44 percent of Filipino families, considered themselves “mahirap,” or poor, in the last quarter of 2017, a three-point decline from the 47 percent, or 10.9 million families, who said they suffered poverty in the previous quarter, results of the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations showed.

But SWS noted that “this gives an average Self-Rated Poverty of 46 percent for all quarters of 2017,” two points higher than 2016’s “record-low” 44 percent.

In SWS’ first quarter survey last year, 50 percent of families rated themselves poor. This slid to 44 percent in the second quarter.

As for “food-poor” families, or those rating their food as mahirap, SWS said this remained unchanged at 32 percent (7.3 million) in December from September (7.4 million).

 

“This gives an average Self-Rated Food Poverty of 33 percent for the year 2017, 2 points above the record-low 31 percent of 2016,” SWS said.

Earlier in the year, “the proportion of Self-Rated Food Poor families was 35 percent in March and 32 percent in both June and September,” it added.

The polling firm attributed December’s 3-point decline in self-rated poverty to a 10-point decrease in Balance Luzon, and slight dips in Metro Manila and the Visayas, offset by a 7-point increase in Mindanao, from September’s 45 percent to December’s 52 percent.

The averages for the whole year wee 43 percent for Balance Luzon, three points higher than the 40 percent in 2016; a record-low average of 31 percent for Metro Manila, one point down from 2016’s 32 percent; 58 percent for the Visayas, up three points from 55 percent in 2016; and 52 percent for Mindanao, up a point from 51 percent the previous year.

The December survey also saw poor households placing their “self-rated poverty threshold,” or the monthly budget for household expenses needed to elevate them from poverty, at 15,000. This made for an unchanged median “self-rated poverty gap,” or the amount they need to meet the threshold, of P5,000.

Meanwhile, respondents placed the national median “self-rated food poverty threshold,” or the monthly budget that a food-poor household needs to stop considering its food as poor, at p6,000; and the national median “self-rated food poverty gap,” the amount they lack in monthly food expenses, at P3,000.

The non-commissioned survey was conducted from December 8 to 16 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (household heads) nationwide with sampling error margins of ±2.5% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

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Lagman told: Convince me rebellion in Mindanao has ended

In deliberating on the sufficiency of factual basis of the martial law extension, Reyes raised that petitioner, Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), needs to "convince" the court that rebellion in Mindanao has ended. File

MANILA, Philippines — "When does a rebellion end?"

Associate Justice Andres Reyes posed this question to petitioner Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) who challenged the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"When does a rebellion end? Does it end when a siege is finished? Or when each and every member of that rebellion movement has surrendered or eliminated or neutralized? You have to convince me," Reyes said.

"What really are the overt acts of rebellion? Amassing of weapons? Going around with weapons? Recruiting personnel or amassing weapons or amassing funds are not overt acts of rebellion? Where the issue has to be enlightened, and perhaps you can convince me otherwise that the rebellion is not happening anymore," Reyes added.

In deliberating on the sufficiency of a factual basis for martial law extension, Reyes said petitioners need to "convince" the court that rebellion — the justification for the extension — in Mindanao has ended.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."

Lagman said that the existence of rebellion "would be dependent on the statements of government authorities. In the case of Marawi siege, no less than the President said that Marawi is now liberated."

But Reyes pointed out that there was no mention that rebellion is over. "Military operations can end on day-to-day basis," he said.

The SC, in July 2017, held that a rebellion staged by terrorist groups in Marawi City affected all of Mindanao and justified Duterte's martial law.

Eleven justices voted to junk the petitions challenging the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 216 that placed the entire Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region.

Last October, Duterte, in a rousing speech before government forces, declared that Marawi had been liberated from terrorist influence, however, martial law was not lifted. Less than two months later, Duterte asked Congress to extend martial law until Dec. 31, 2018.

Lagman stressed before the SC: "It's the President saying that Marawi, the epicenter of theater of war has been liberated from terrorist influence. Defense Secretary [Delfin Lorenzana] said that combat operation is terminated. That would tell us that if there was any actual rebellion, that rebellion has been quashed."

Lagman, and three other petitioners, raised that the martial law is not needed to quell the "remnants" of the terrorist groups in Mindanao. They asked that the extension of martial law be declared unconstitutional.

Reyes, however, said that the president holds discretion on measures to implement in the country, as such in quashing the remaining terrorists in Mindanao.

Lagman replied: "Such discretion is not absolute. It is circumscribed by the Constitution itself. That is why the Supreme Court is given by Constitution the special and specific jurisdiction whether the action of President would be based on sufficient factual basis," Lagman said.

The SC continues on its second day of oral arguments on the petitions challenging the factual basis of martial law extension on Wednesday.

 

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Carpio: It’s legally possible to extend martial law coverage nationwide

Talking of legal possibilities, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio thinks it’s possible that the martial law could eventually be extended to cover the entire country.
During Wednesday’s oral argument, Solicitor General Jose Calida said part of what prompted the Duterte administration to extend the martial law in Mindanao were the offensive operations being launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) following the cancellation of peace talks.

“Public safety inevitably requires the extension of the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao,” Calida said. “The danger and risks the Daesh-inspired local terrorist groups and the NPAs pose cannot be discounted. The extension of martial law will necessarily address the rebellion being waged by these groups, which launch attacks from areas they control inside Mindanao.”

 

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State, also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Calida further explained that leeway must be given to President Rodrigo Duterte in order to fully and effectively discharge his functions as commander-in-chief.
“Due deference must be made to his judgment call, which the Court has recognized is based on vital, relevant, classified and live information not ordinarily available to the public,” Calida said.
During the presentation made by the military, Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the communist rebels had launched a total of 422 attacks in various areas, 64 of which were carried out in Mindanao. In those attacks, 47 troopers were killed and 75 others were injured. There were also 31 civilians who died in those clashes.
“CPP-NPA is nationwide,” Carpio noted. “If the President can declare martial law in Mindanao because of CPP-NPA, can the President declare martial law in the entire Philippines?”
Calida said that would not be necessary.
“But if you follow the argument that the CPP-NPA [threat] is nationwide, legally the President can declare martial law throughout the entire Philippines because there is an ongoing rebellion nationwide,” Carpio said.
“But he did not,” Calida said.

“But he can,” Carpio said.
“There is the accompanying requisite of public safety that requires it [martial law declaration],” Calida said.
Carpio asked if the first condition of an actual rebellion by the CPP-NPA had been complied with.
Calida said yes. But he added. “I believe that he will not impose martial law in the entire Philippines.”
“We are not talking of what you believe. We are talking of the possibilities, the legal possibilities,” Carpio said.
Meanwhile, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Lucas Bersamin both said they were still not “sold” to the arguments raised by Calida.
According to Jardeleza, in the first petition against the proclamation of martial law, he ruled in favor of the government because he believed that the scale of the threat to public safety justified such a proclamation.
But he said: “In the scale today, I am not sure if the scale is on the same level.”
Calida argued that the Congress resolution on the one-year extension of martial law was very detailed.
Bersamin said, however, that he felt “like those words were only lifted from the documents transmitted with the President’s request.”
The justices wanted to know why the government specifically wanted a one-year extension.
“Is it a show of weakness on the part of the government that they cannot quell the rebellion in less than a year?” Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta asked.
Meanwhile, both Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe asked what the government intended to achieve with the martial law declaration that it could not do if only the other powers of the President would exercised.
The oral arguments ended on Wednesday afternoon with all parties ordered to submit their respective memorandum on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 4 p.m. before the case would be submitted for resolution to meet the 30-day deadline. /atm

 

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