Biz groups: Con-con for federalism shift

In a statement yesterday, the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines said they recognized the need to amend certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution to make it more adaptable and responsive to current social and economic realities. File
MANILA, Philippines — Three of the country’s top business groups support the lifting of economic restrictions in the Constitution through a constitue nt assembly, but prefer a “duly elected” constitutional convention if the changes will include a shift in the form of government.

In a statement yesterday, the Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) said they recognized the need to amend certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution to make it more adaptable and responsive to current social and economic realities.

“We believe this is a necessary action in helping us realize the aspiration of a more inclusive and sustainable growth,” the groups said, noting that the proposal to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution is aligned with the Duterte administration’s push to lift the economic restrictions and open more business areas to foreign investors.

Recently, the MAP and the Philippine Business Group also issued statements supporting economic Cha-cha and said a constituent assembly or con-ass would suffice for this purpose, with the two chambers of Congress voting separately and independently.

For a change in the form of government, however, the two groups said a constitutional convention or con-con is needed.

The MBC, MAP and Finex, in their statement, pointed out that increasing the participation of foreigners in the economy will be a welcome development as it will mean a fresh infusion of financial resources into undercapitalized sectors.

They also believe that amending the economic provisions will lead to the introduction of new technologies that will spur greater innovation and efficiency in local industries, as well as the promotion of healthy competition that will drive businesses to produce better quality and more competitively priced products and services.

Easing foreign investment restrictions will be critical in light of the country’s commitments to the ASEAN Economic Community and its intent to form closer trade relationships with other economies.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been urging Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to join the constituent assembly initiated by the House of Representatives.

Last week, Alvarez said the House would convene as a constituent assembly and work on a federal constitution even without the participation of the Senate.

Under the draft federal constitution that Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso – an ally of President Duterte and a former justice of the Court of Appeals – is proposing, the lawmaking powers of the Senate will be removed while its mandate to confirm appointments of Cabinet members and the ratification of treaties will remain.

“Personally, my proposal is the legislation will be basically a responsibility of congressmen. We will call them federal assemblymen. The Senate, we will make it a point to be the training ground for the presidency,” Veloso, vice chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said over dzBB yesterday.

The House will also retain the power of the purse, or the power to approve budgets, to avoid duplication of function.

“Wala na silang pakialam sa budget, wala na silang pakialam sa lawmaking (They have nothing to do with the budget, they have nothing to do with lawmaking),” Veloso said.

Business: Con-con more democratic

But the MBC, MAP and Finex said they believe it is more democratic for the two chambers of Congress to vote separately to recognize the autonomy of the Senate and to avoid diluting the voice of the senators in the critical process.

“We understand this to be the intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and this is also consistent with the legislative process. The proposed amendments shall then be presented and discussed with the public before seeking approval via nationwide plebiscite,” the groups said.

While the MBC, MAP and Finex acknowledged other legal modes of revising the Charter, they believe a constitutional convention will offer a more diverse, independent and prospective approach.

“In connection with the possibility of shifting to another form of government, we believe a duly elected constitutional convention is the appropriate body to amend the Constitution,” the business groups noted.

“Our current elected officials were placed into position by their constituents to tackle numerous priority legislative reforms and have more than enough on their hands. A constitutional convention, on the other hand, will be purposely elected for the specific task of revising the Constitution and, therefore, individuals who wish to be elected for this role can properly present themselves and their views during the campaign period.”

“While such mode would entail greater costs to implement and probably more time, it should be seen as a justifiable investment that will result in significant social returns in the long run,” they added.

House can go it alone

But for Veloso, even if the senators do not want to join the constitutional assembly, the House can do it alone.

“Magsosolo kami. Hindi naman sinasabi sa Constitution na kailangan palaging present ang mga senador eh, palaging present ang mga kongresista (We will do it alone. The Constitution did not say that the senators must always be present, but the congressmen must always be present),” Veloso said.

Veloso also reminded senators that they cannot just expel their colleagues who want to join the House-initiated constituent assembly.

“Sila ang dapat ma-expel (senators who will not participate in constituent assembly are the ones who should be expelled) because that constitutes disorderly behavior,” he said, citing Article 6 Paragraph 3 of the 1987 Charter.

“It’s only by disorderly behavior that you can expel a member of Congress, either Senate or House of Representatives. And intimidation and blackmail are disorderly behaviors. What are they?” he added.

‘Senate should be abolished’

If he had his way, Veloso said the new federal government should have a unicameral Congress wherein the Senate will no longer exist to avoid duplication of functions and save public resources.

“Well at the end of the day, magastos iyun (bicameral Congress is costly). I will suggest na buwagin na talaga ang Senado (that Senate should be abolished). That will no longer be our initiative. Ang mga tao na mismo ang magpo-propose (The people will be the ones to propose),” he added.

Veleso also said that the country has in recent history not yet produced legal luminaries in the mold of the late senators Jose Diokno, Claro Recto and Jovito Salonga, and vice president Arturo Tolentino.

“Well, I am not really the one who said this. This is just the observation of our colleagues. Look at them. Who are the senators who have the stature of Recto, Tolentino – the brilliant ones – Diokno, Salonga?” he said. - Delon Porcalla


UST student body denounces giving of alumni award to Mocha Uson

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) on Sunday condemned the awarding of the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

"The UST-CSC strongly denounces the UST Alumni Association's action of honoring Mocha Uson the Thomasian Award for Government Service," the student body said in a statement.

"Mocha Uson, who is widely known as the main purveyor of politically-motivated propaganda against known members of the government's opposition, an avid spreader and citer of fake news."

"We express dismay over this event as Mocha Uson does not, in any way, embody the ideals of a real Thomasian, and with all due respect, Ms. Esther Margaux "Mocha" Justiniano Uson does not deserve an award that was supposed to be meant solely for outstanding alumni," the UST-CSC added.

Uson was given the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service along with other government officials from the House of Representatives, the Senate, the judiciary branch and the executive branch.

Meanwhile, the UST-CSC also urged Thomasians to fight against fake news and to seek fact-based pieces of evidence amid the denial of truth.

"We encourage everyone to be critical on every information they receive even if it hails from supposedly credible sources," the student body said. — Anna Felicia Bajo/BM, GMA News


P1.2-M bounty offered for killers of aide of Nueva Ecija gov

Forensic investigators check the vehicle of Mary Ann Hernandez Nito, murdered executive secretary of Nueva Ecija Gov. Czarina Umali. (photo by Cris Sansano, InterAksyon)
TALAVERA, Nueva Ecija — A bounty of P1.2 million has been offered for information leading to the capture of the killers of the chief aide of Nueva Ecija Governor Czarina Umali.

Marry Ann Hernandez Nito, Umali’s executive secretary, was shot dead at a gasoline station in Talavera where she was having her vehicle fueled.

Talavera Mayor Nerevie Santos raised the initial P200,000 for the capture of Nito’s killers, with Umali adding P1 million to the reward money.


OEC-holding OFWs not covered by deployment suspension to Kuwait

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Saturday clarified that overseas Filipino workers already holding a plane ticket and an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) can still proceed to Kuwait despite the deployment suspension announced on Friday.

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Bello said only those who do not yet have an OEC will be covered by the deployment suspension prompted by reported cases of maltreatment of OFWs by their Kuwaiti employers.

“Apektado ‘yung mga 'di pa nabibigyan ng OEC…” he said. “‘Yung mga na-isyuhan na, may ticket na, may OEC na, hindi sila covered.”

The deployment suspension temporarily halts the processing and issuance of new OECs pending an investigation into the deaths of seven OFWs in the Middle Eastern country.

Bello said he doubted the claim that some of the deaths were because of suicide, adding that he has given investigators a maximum of 15 days to produce results.

President Rodrigo Duterte is mulling a “total ban” of OFW deployment to Kuwait after receiving reports of abuses against OFWs, many of them household helpers.

"We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It’s always in Kuwait," Duterte said at the launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank, but did not elaborate on the matter.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said two department officials will meet with the Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines on Monday to discuss the issue.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency shows Kuwait was the fifth top destination for newly-hired and rehired OFWs in 2016. —LBG, GMA News


Bacolod media, groups join 'Black Friday' call to uphold press freedom

LIGHT IN THE DARK. Members of the press and other organizations light candles to call for press freedom at the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City Friday, January 19. Photo courtesy of NUJP-Bacolod

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Wearing black shirts, members of the media, progressive organizations, and representatives from the Catholic Church joined the nationwide protest action dubbed as “Black Friday for Press Freedom” at the Fountain of Justice here on Friday, January 19.

About 50 attendees called for the government to uphold press freedom as they held streamers bearing messages like “Defend Press Freedom,” “No to Media Crackdown,” “Resist,” “Fight Tyranny,” “No to Dictatorship,” “Stand with Rappler,” “We will not be Silenced,” and “Don’t Gag the Press.”

The group also lighted candles and staged a noise barrage at the busy thoroughfare.

Fr. Chris Gonzales, head of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod, likened the present situation to an ugly person who hates to see his reflection at the mirror.

“It’s not the fault of the mirror that you are ugly, as it only reflects your true physical being,” he said.

He said the media only reports what it sees on its surroundings, adding, “if it is horrible, it’s not its fault as it is only telling the truth."

For her part, Inday Espina-Varona, convenor of media and artists alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), said the government is trying to silence the media because they have a plan to change the Constitution “to deprive our basic human rights.”

The government claimed this (the proposed constitutional amendments) is to eradicate poverty, but the truth is, they want to give the nation to the foreigners, she said.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter said in a statement that “in the past days, we're hounded by the news about our colleagues in the media industry – the revocation of Rappler's registration by the Securities and Exchange Commission due to its alleged foreign ownership and the shutting down of This, in a way, is demoralizing.”

The group added it is clear harassment and intimidation to the media.

The statement said the President had publicly illustrated his dislike and distrust to the media especially those who are reporting critical stories about the administration.

He went as far as calling Rappler a fake news site after it reported the alleged intervention of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go in the P15 billion warship deal.

"This is a blatant attempt to undermine the role of the media in uncovering the truth, dismissing it as malicious propaganda thrown at the administration," it added.

The group said they won’t be intimidated and not be silenced, as they call on their colleagues to remain steadfast.

“Let's do our jobs and side with the truth. We should stand together and defend our press freedom. Afterall it's our duty to remain as watchdogs, and not as lapdogs,” the statement said.

Also joining the rally was Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros, which called on the government to uphold press freedom.

The protest was capped by the chanting of “Ang media, ang bayan, tuloy pa rin ang laban.” –


MIASCOR to appeal contract termination to Duterte

MANILA, Philippines — Aviation services provider MIASCOR said it would appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte “to kindly reconsider his position” after the Manila International Airport Authority terminated its contract over the luggage theft involving the firm’s employees at Clark International Airport.

Duterte ordered aviation and transport officials to terminate MIASCOR’s contract following the incident that victimized a returning overseas Filipino worker who lost P84,000.

On Friday, MIAA general manage Ed Monreal wrote MIASCOR president Fidel Harmon Reyes, saying: “Following the expiration of the Lease and Concession Agreement dated July 8, 2014 between the MIAA and MIASCOR last March 31, 2017, please be advised that the Agreement shall no longer be renewed.”

He asked the company to vacate the airport complex and terminals within 60 days.

“We shall formally issue an appeal to the President to kindly reconsider his position on behalf of our almost 4,000 regular employees and their families who will be affected,” MIASCOR said in a statement Saturday. “It is unfortunate that the actions of six erring employees in Clark International Airport have negatively impacted the Company.”

MIASCOR said it and Clark airport authorities “acted very quickly and placed those allegedly involved under preventive suspension.”

“They have since been terminated and criminal and administrative charges have been filed against them,” it added.

The firm also said it “immediately reached out” to the theft victim, Jovenil Delacruz, “upon learning about this unfortunate incident and we have already reached an amicable settlement.”

“We would like to stress that we do not tolerate this type of behavior from any of our employees,” the cmpany said. “MIASCOR is committed to conducting its business with the highest standards of compliance and ethics. And every employee is expected to demonstrate professionalism, honesty and integrity.”

“The recent incident does not define what MIASCOR stands for and how it operates,” it said. “MIASCOR has been in operations since 1974 and has presence in several key airports in the country, including NAIA, providing aviation services.”

MIASCOR said its customers “and the traveling public can attest to our service excellence and through the years the Company has been a major contributor to the growth of the country’s aviation and tourism industry” and vowed to “do everything it can to remedy the situation.”


Palace: Scathing HRW report on PH rights situation ‘fiction’

Malacañang on Friday dismissed a Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report that said the human rights crisis in the Philippines under President Duterte was at its worst since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“That’s fiction,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said without elaborating.
Roque, who is also the President’s adviser on human rights, has defended his boss from allegations that he is a rights violator. He said the policy of Mr. Duterte, blamed for the deaths of thousands of drug suspects, was to protect the police in killings committed during legal engagements.

He earlier blasted HRW for ignoring the Duterte administration’s efforts to clean up the police ranks. —LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND NESTOR CORRALES



Legazpi City decamps 11,000 Mayon evacuees

Lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Over 9,000 people have evacuated the area around the Philippines’ most active volcano as lava flowed down its crater Monday in a gentle eruption that scientists warned could turn explosive. (AP Photo/Dan Amaranto)
LEGAZPI CITY—At least 2,610 families or 11,522 persons from the 8 to 8.5 kilometer radius of Mount Mayon were decamped in Legazpi City on Thursday night.

Evacuees were from the barangays (villages) of Padang, Buyuan, Mabinit, Matanag and Bonga.

Miladee Azur, head of City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the decision was made after Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum reiterated that the most threatened in the recent activities of Mayon Volcano are residents inside the 6 to 7 kilometer radius.

“As per advisory by [Phivolcs] Director Solidum in a bulletin, with alert level 3, the areas within the Southeastern part inside the 7 kilometer radius are affected. It means, there’s actually no reason for them to evacuate but they were fearful when they saw (the activities of) Mayon Volcano,” she said.
Azur said though the evacuation on Monday was voluntary, most of the evacuees wanted to go back to their houses when they knew that the most affected are within the 7-kilometer radius.
“That was voluntary evacuation. It was not a mandatory evacuation. We just accommodated their willingness to evacuate because they couldn’t sleep at night,” she added.
Based on the latest data of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, 6,973 families or 26,971 persons were still in evacuation centers in the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Tabaco City, and Ligao City. Ma. April Mier, @MaAprilMierINQ, Inquirer Southern Luzon



Int’l journos slam SEC ruling vs Rappler; asks UN, Asean to make a stand

A rappler employee exits its office at the Capitol Commons in Pasig on Monday, January 15, 2018 after Maria Reesa and Chay Hofilena gave a press briefing to media as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) orders the revocation of its license to operate. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE
An international group of journalists has called on the United Nations (UN), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make a stand against the Philippine government’s decision to revoke the license of online news site, Rappler, as it is a “flagrant violation of media freedom.”

On Friday, French-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders or RSF) condemned the ruling of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking Rappler’s articles of incorporation “on trumped-up legal grounds.”

“The decision to close Rappler is fraught with danger, hence the urgency of referring it to these international bodies,” RSF deputy director-general Antoine Bernard said in a statement.

“We are very concerned about the safety of its journalists and the protection of their sources, especially as Rappler is well known for the quality of its investigative reporting,” Bernard added.
In an order dated January 11, the SEC alleged that Rappler violated the restriction on foreign ownership of local media, the anti-dummy law, the corporation code, and the Securities Regulation Code.
The body pointed out that Rappler’s Philippine depositary receipts (PDR) issued to one of its foreign investors, Omidyar Network, requires the news company to seek the investor’s approval on corporate matters.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has denied the allegations, saying the order to shut down the news outfit was a political pressure over their stories critical of the government.
The order drew wide criticism from media groups, saying the move was an attack to press freedom. Centerlaw, the former law firm of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, said that the SEC decision was unconstitutional for denying Rappler due process as it was a form of prior restraint.
Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said that the Duterte administration’s “troll army” has been spreading the rumor online that Rappler is foreign-owned.
“The president is clearly trying to exploit nationalist sentiment in order to silence a media outlet that annoys his clique. But the legal grounds offered for this decision are contradicted by the hard facts,” Bastard said.

RSF maintained that Rappler is 100 percent Filipino-owned, based on its media ownership monitoring study conducted in partnership with VERA Files.
“Rappler Holding Corp. is an example of financial transparency. It has received some foreign investment, including from Omidyar Network and North Base Media, but this has been in the form of PDR that do not imply any form of ownership,” the statement read.
“RSF supports Rappler’s decision to appeal against this iniquitous decision, one based entirely on false information,” it added.
The SEC order, apparently, was only the first of the series of moves against Rappler. In a subpoena released on Thursday, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) summoned Ressa and former Rappler reporter, Reynaldo Santos Jr., to answer a complaint for cybercrime.
The subpoena stemmed from a cybercrime complaint filed by Chinese-Filipino businessman Wilfredo Keng, one of the subjects of an investigative report by Rappler in 2012.
READ: Rappler’s Maria Ressa , ex-reporter summoned to NBI for cybercrime raps
The Rappler report indicated that Keng’s sports utility vehicle was used by the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The NBI required Ressa and Santos to appear at their headquarters in Manila and submit their testimonies on January 22. /kga



Bato: PNP raising bail fund for cops in mistaken identity shooting

The body of a slain worker is seen next to the bullet-riddled AUV on Shaw Boulevard in Barangay Old Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong City. STAR/Joven Cagande, File
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s top cop on Friday said the Philippine National Police is raising funds to help the relieved police officers, who mistakenly shot at a vehicle and killed two of its passengers in Mandaluyong, to post bail.

Two people were killed and two others were wounded last month in a shooting incident along Shaw Boulevard, where law enforces mistakenly opened fire at a vehicle bringing a gunshot victim to the hospital.

The police were deployed to assist barangay watchmen who were pursuing a white van they thought was carrying the shooter in an earlier incident.

According to PNP chief Director-General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, the policemen and village officials involved in the fatal shooting were already charged with double homicide and double frustrated homicide.

A warrant of arrest, which set the recommended bail bond, has also been issued, Dela Rosa added.

“We’re putting up bail fund for them. So that’s our moral responsibility because those cops are our men,” Dela Rosa told CNN Philippines.

“They were performing their duties during the time although they made a mistake. But still deep inside them there was no ill motive in that operation,” he added.

Malacañang earlier assured the public that there will be no whitewash in the investigation of the shooting incident in Mandaluyong City.

The PNP is already facing unprecedented scrutiny due to concerns about their conduct during anti-narcotics operations.

Thousands of suspected drug traffickers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed his lethal drug war, with human rights group saying most of the fatalities in the crackdown were extrajudicial killings committed by cops.

But the police force, which continues to enjoy Duterte’s trust despite previously calling them “corrupt to the core,” had denied executing suspects in cold blood, saying they only killed in self defense.

In the same live television interview with CNN Philippines, Dela Rosa said the mistaken identity shooting was completely unacceptable, but “shit happens.”

"So they have to face the consequences of their actions," he said.

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