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Fractious LP eyes big pie EDITORIAL 07/30/2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fractious LP eyes big pie

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The Liberal Party (LP) is trying to throw its weight around in the ongoing tussle at the Senate for prime committee posts with its members seeking to corner the most sought-after chairmanships, drawing the comment from Sen. Joker Arroyo that it was a case of the smaller guys wanting to get the bigger pie.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s withdrawal from the Senate presidency was hailed by his partymates as an act of statesmanship, but now the LP is into arm-twisting in the Senate to lay its members’ hands on the juicy posts.

Despite the fact that the current president is a party member, the LP, it seems, is finding it difficult to haul in recruits from both the Senate and the House of Representatives, thus weakening President Aquino’s legislative leverage on the many bills that he claims he plans to pursue in his reform agenda.

Speaker Sonny Belmonte, a Lakas-Kampi turncoat and now an LP member, won the top House post, but only as a result of a tactical alliance, mainly with members of Gloria Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD party. Of the 90 or so House members who voted Belmonte into the speakership, not even 30 are card-bearing LP members. The case in the Senate is the same, with only four party members out of the 23 senators..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com1.html

Homework time FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 07/30/2010

Homework time

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
Good grief! Do these new secretaries in the communications group know just what they are doing and saying?

From the way they sound, everything but everything can be made legal and binding through an executive order (EO) signed by their president, Noynoy Aquino.

Thus, even when there is no law backing up their dual and co-equal status as full Cabinet secretary, Sonny Coloma and Ricky Carandang will both be communications group secretary, and not a press secretary, even when there can be no communications group as a frontline department in replacement of the Office of the Press Secretary, as this department can only be abolished, and replaced by Congress, not by a mere EO.

But apparently, they believe that this can be done without the participation of Congress. Well, good luck to them.
Stated differently, the Aquino administration and its officials, especially Noynoy, believe that they can do anything they want, through an EO, which, it should be stressed, does not have the same effect and force of a law, unless of course, the EO is buttressed by an existing law, or a constitutional proviso, both of which are absent..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com2.html

Mexican capital aims to be oasis for gays FEATURE 07/30/2010

Mexican capital aims to be oasis for gays


MEXICO CITY — Mexico City’s gay community has in recent decades turned the capital into a relative oasis in a strongly Catholic country reknowned for its conservatism and machismo.
The authorities in the Mexican capital are now seeking to attract gay tourism, even though there is still widespread discrimination against them.

The city is well placed “to become the first gay friendly destination in Latin America,” said Tourism Secretary Alejandro Rojas.

In March, the urban sprawl of some 20 million people celebrated the first legal gay and lesbian weddings in Latin America. And this week, authorities said they had opened the first tourism office for homosexuals in the region.
Gay tourists are discerning, respectful and spend 47 percent more than heterosexual tourists, Rojas said.

His leftist city government last week offered a free honeymoon here to the first gay couple to wed in Argentina after that country legalized same-sex marriages in the whole country.

In Mexico City’s Zona Rosa district, a hub for the homosexual community, gay actor Tito Vasconcelos applauded the advances but underlined that “there’s a lack of consistency between statements and reality,” for Mexico’s gay community.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com3.html

A scandal in the making MR. EXPOSE Amb. Ernesto Maceda 07/30/2010

A scandal in the making

Amb. Ernesto Maceda
President Aquino announced in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) that he has received an offer of $100 million from a business group/developer for the lease of the two Philippine Navy bases, the Headquarters at Roxas Boulevard adjacent to the PICC and the Bonifacio Naval station which is also the Headquarters of the Philippine Marines, adjacent to Global City and Forbes Park. Both properties have a total area of about 30 hectares. He confirmed the advanced negotiations at the Philippine Star anniversary.

It’s a creative solution to the Philippine Navy’s shortage of ships. But it should go through a transparent process. Considering its location, it appears that the $100 million or P4.5 billion offer is low for 300,000 square meters adjacent to Forbes Park. Forbes Park lots sell at P85,000/sq.m.

It should, therefore, be open to public bidding with a minimum bid set at $300 million at least. To begin with, an objective appraisal of the value of the two properties must be made before the bid is set.

And if the sale of Fort McKinley and the proposed sale of government properties in Japan are recalled, there should be congressional authority secured to allow the sale or long term lease of these valuable properties. And the Historical Commission must be consulted. The policy of selling prime government land must be fully debated. Are we going to lease Malacañang Park or part of Rizal Park?... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com4.html

PeNoy’s half-true lies DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 07/30/2010

PeNoy’s half-true lies

Herman Tiu Laurel
PeNoy’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) cued the mainstream, oligarchy-controlled media on the propaganda line that the National Power Corp. (Napocor)’s rate hike petition is due to the artificially low rates it charged upon instruction of Malacañang under Gloria Arroyo. By highlighting this, PeNoy created the impression that the massive debt incurred by Napocor had been due to incompetence and corruption. PeNoy’s Energy Secretary Jose Almendras, former executive of the energy conglomerate Aboitiz Group, even followed this up on radio every day.

What PeNoy omitted is the fact that Napocor’s dire situation today is a result of the distorted privatization program, which has saddled it with debts (accrued over the decades from its service expansion across the country) while giving away its profit-generating assets for a song to private power producers, as well as, transmission and distribution companies. In effect, Napocor was robbed of revenues that were supposed to service its debts.

Most of these independent power producers or IPPs started business by taking advantage of Napocor’s power generating assets that were privatized by government to them. The sale of these assets, in turn, assigned to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (Psalm) Corp., was supposed to pay off Napocor’s debts; but a balance of at least P475 billion remains.

Government absorbs 35 percent (which we pay for as taxes) and we, the consumers, absorb 65 percent as “stranded contract costs” and “stranded debts,” which we will all pay under the so-called “universal charge.”

On the July 29 morning radio program of Noli de Castro with Almendras as guest, the Napocor tale was again thrashed about with the two lambasting the state-owned power corporation without explaining the history of its debts. Why, De Castro, in his infinite ignorance, even exclaimed, “Basta gobyerno ang may hawak lugi” when the truth is, his ABS-CBN bosses and their ilk are said to have gotten the biggest slice of the Napocor pie.

PeNoy, Almendras, De Castro will obviously not report the most enlightening Philippine energy news item of the past week: “Meralco income up 82 percent on 14 percent hike in volume sold,” as headlined by a business paper. In the first semester alone, Meralco profited by a whopping P5.8 billion from P3.18 billion in the same period last year. Such reports of gargantuan earnings hikes abound; yet little notice is taken.

Alas, the shenanigans of privatization know no bounds. In 2008, Meralco admitted that it charged consumers P13 billion in power that was never delivered because they have the “take-or-pay” purchased power agreement provisions courtesy of the power privatization law, Epira (Electric Power Reform Act), passed by the Edsa II Congress. And in 2009, Meralco reported a 119-percent increase in its net profit. Meanwhile, Aboitiz Power, Almendras’ mother company, reported its profit rising 143 percent in 2008, which it attributed to acquired government power assets.

PeNoy, Secretary Almendras and the likes of Noli de Castro, ABS-CBN, GMA7, and the mainstream newspapers are in cahoots with the power oligarchs in hiding these facts from the people.

The other fairy tale from the Sona is the much ballyhooed leasing out of the 30-hectare Naval HQ property. Considering that this is near the prime properties of Metro Manila, i.e. Forbes Park and Fort Bonifacio, the offer PeNoy was boasting of amounts to a “steal” as relayed to us by real estate experts. This is not only a fairy tale; we can smell a scam here and it would not surprise us if PeNoy’s campaign contributors (who are also big-time real estate moguls) put him up to it.

The expressway to the North that PeNoy said a foreign investor has offered to build, which would certainly entail the usual “sovereign guarantee,” will lead to exorbitant toll rates again.

It’s as if PeNoy is deaf to the pains and cries of commuters and traders using the present BOT expressways and skyways that are charging sky high toll fees that make the cost of things, such as tourism, vegetables, meats, poultry, and everything else that needs to traverse the expressways higher.

Hearing Secretary Sonny Coloma say that “Anyway, they (the pained commuters) can take the old highway” shows us how insensitive PeNoy’s people are and how ignorant they are of the economic impact their decisions make. PeNoy’s foreign-funded highway will be another highway to ruin.

Still, the same insensitivity plagues them on the MRT fare hike issue and the “cash transfer” plan of Dinky Soliman which will end up increasing hunger again, as inflation eats up the value of the “cash” for less rice as time goes by.

The final lie we spotted is PeNoy and Secretary Jesse Robredo’s spiel about the eradication of jueteng because the reports keep streaming in that not only is jueteng alive and well even in the province of Robredo but a new, more powerful gambling operation has spread all over the country called the “Meridien.” Operating alongside the “legalized” Small Town Lottery (STL), it definitely has the underside that really rakes in the money. The PNP big bosses are certainly not going to stop the P30-billion illegal gambling operations because, our informants aver, the top brass of the police allegedly split the P1-billion bounty per annum.

People should note how Robredo has softened his statements on these illegal gambling operations, as in his own home province, the political kingpins who also run jueteng have long overshadowed him.

In all, nothing has changed in this country: The looting by the oligarchs, criminal gangs, and corrupt bureaucrats continue. It’s a fairy tale that has no happy ending unless real revolutionary change intervenes.

(Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1098AM; watch Politics Today, Tuesday, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m. on Destiny Cable Channel 21, with the topic, “Stop Agus and Pulangui Privatization” and other power issues, with Mr. Louie Corral and PALAG; visit our new blog, http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com)

 (Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com5.html

Row over Cyprus air control poses growing safety risk FEATURE 07/30/2010

Row over Cyprus air control poses growing safety risk


NICOSIA — A decades-old dispute over the control of Cyprus airspace has sparked accusations of a growing safety risk as the volume of air traffic over the divided resort island expands.

The Greek Cypriot head of Nicosia Air Traffic Control, which under international law is responsible for supervising the airspace over the island as well as a large slab of the adjacent eastern Mediterranean, says there have been near misses and that the number of incidents is growing.

The rival Turkish Cypriot aviation authorities, who oversee flights between Turkey and the breakaway north of the island and claim jurisdiction over the surrounding airspace, acknowledge there is a problem but say the cause is the Nicosia controllers’ refusal to talk to them.

“We’ve had a couple of very bad incidents,” said Nicosia air traffic chief Haris Antoniades.

“We had a very, very serious case about 18 months ago,” Antoniades told AFP.

“There was a Russian flight coming from the Egyptian airspace, flying through Nicosia to Turkey, to go to Russia, and then we had another flight coming south.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com6.html

Dutch troops to leave Afghanistan after ‘proud’ four years focus 07/30/2010

Dutch troops to leave Afghanistan after ‘proud’ four years


THE HAGUE — The Dutch troop deployment in Afghanistan, often held up as a model for other peace missions, ends after four years on Sunday amid concerns about the void it will leave.
“We offer the majority of the population relatively safe living conditions and advancements in health care, education and trade,” chief of defense, General Peter van Uhm, said of his troops’ legacy in the southern Uruzgan province.

“We have achieved tangible results that the Netherlands can be proud of,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

Around 1,950 Dutch troops are deployed in Afghanistan, mainly in Uruzgan where opium production is high and the Taliban very active, under the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Nato had asked the Netherlands to extend the mission, which started in 2006 and has cost the lives of 24 soldiers, by a year to August 2011.

This sparked a political row that led to government collapsing in February and the end of the Dutch deployment.
The mission is known for its “3 D” approach of defence, development and diplomacy.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100730com7.html

Ombudsman suspends 6 poll execs over P690-M folders By Charlie V. Manalo 07/30/2010

Ombudsman suspends 6 poll execs over P690-M folders

By Charlie V. Manalo
The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday placed under preventive suspension six Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials in connection with the canceled awarding of a P690-million contract to OTC Paper Supply for the purchase of the Ballot Secrecy Folders (BSF).

This was an email statement from the Ombdusman’s Office sent to the media.

Ordered placed under preventive suspension for six months without pay were Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr.; Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman Maria Lea Alarkon, and BAC members Allen Francis Abaya, Maria Norina Casingal, Martin Niedo and Antonio Santella.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said the commissioners, including himself, immediately signed the resolution placing Tolentino as well as all the members of their BAC under a six-month suspension without pay, pending the conduct of a formal inquiry against them. 

“Suspension will be effective (Friday),” Melo told reporters at a news briefing yesterday.

According to Melo, except for Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, all other poll commissioners agreed to suspend the employees involved in the ballot secrecy folder scandal..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed1.html

SC: Noy’s family-owned sugar mill acted in ‘bad faith’ By Benjamin B. Pulta 07/30/2010

SC: Noy’s family-owned sugar mill acted in ‘bad faith’

By Benjamin B. Pulta
The Supreme Court (SC) has decided a labor case filed by sugar workers against the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) owned by the family of President Aquino, which decision ruled against the Cojuangco-Aquino clan’s sugar business, saying it acted in bad faith.

In a 10-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, the SC’s Second Division said the sugar mill acted in bad faith in slashing the 13th month pay of its employees and turned down the petition filed by CAT seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals issued last year.

The appellate court had ordered the firm to revert back to its long-established formula in computing the employees 13th month pay.

The sugar mill cut the workers’ 13th month pay after staging a protest action six years ago. The protest left at least seven sugar workers dead and scores injured.

CAT claimed there had been an error in the computation of the 13th month pay of its employees which it claimed was discovered only by the management when the workers’ union – Central Azucarera de Tarlac
Labor Union — raised a question concerning the computation of their 13th month pay for 2006..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed2.html

Fight for Senate panels heats up; floor voting likely By Angie M. Rosales 07/30/2010

Fight for Senate panels heats up; floor voting likely

By Angie M. Rosales
The fight for Senate committee chairmanships is far from over as wranglings among senators are still on a high pitch, and unlikely to be resolved through dialogs.

Still fighting tooth and nail over committee chairmanships among senators, the only option left may be through election of the committee chairmen, in which case, the Liberal Party (LP) members may lose out in the voting process, having less members in the Senate.

The matter is seen as not being easily resolved despite assurances by Senate leaders, given that there are senators now alleging that some of their colleagues are out to protect their alleged vested interests in cornering those known “juicy” positions in the upper chamber.

Sources yesterday said this is the issue now being thrown at the ranks of the LP in the Senate who are now being pointed to as the reason for the ruckus in the distribution of committee assignments..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed3.html

Querubin, Marine officers to talk on ‘Hello Garci’ scandal By Mario J. Mallari 07/30/2010

Querubin, Marine officers to talk on ‘Hello Garci’ scandal

By Mario J. Mallari

Some officers and men of the Philippine Marines are now ready to spill the beans on the alleged manipulation of the 2004 presidential elections won by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo by a slight margin over opposition standard-bearer, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.

Marine Commandant Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban said the Marines will tell the truth should the Truth
Commission, created by President Aquino to look into the alleged wrongdoings of the Arroyo administration, call them to shed light on the alleged widespread manipulation of the 2004 presidential polls.

“If they want the truth, the Marines will give them the truth,” he said.

“Since it’s a creation of the President, our Commander-in-Chief, then they (Marines) are obliged to appear before the commission,” said Sabban, adding “basically, it’s almost an order because the commission was created by our Commander-in-Chief, so following the doctrine of the chain of command, they should appear before the commission.”

In a separate interview at his Camp Aguinaldo quarters, bemedalled Marine Col. Ariel Querubin confirmed that some Marine units were directly involved in manipulating the 2004 elections, particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where Marines forces were deployed at the time..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed4.html

Give truth body a chance, critics told By Mario J. Mallari 07/30/2010

Give truth body a chance, critics told

By Mario J. Mallari
Only those who have something to hide will not cooperate with the yet to be formed “Truth Commission,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday even as she doused fears the body would be used for a political witchhunt.
At a press briefing, De Lima, asked to comment on what some critics say would be a “toothless” body to go after graft and corruption, said the proposed agency would nevertheless be formed through a presidential decree instead of a law.

“Passing a law (to put up a commission) would take time,” De Lima explained, saying the truth agency “would have compulsory powers to compel witnesses to appear.” 

“I foresee that only potential respondents would not appear (before it),” she said.

She said the Aquino administration is still studying how to go about penalizing those who ignore its subpoena.
“Let us remember that this proposed Truth Commission is a fact-finding body and its powers would be merely recommendatory. It will not be a body that would adjudge people as guilty or not. What’s important is information and evidence are collected,” she stressed..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed5.html

Aquino’s Cabinet in for CA rough sailing 07/30/2010

Aquino’s Cabinet in for CA rough sailing

President Aquino’s appeal to Congress, through the Con-firmation on Appointments (CA) body, to go easy in screening his appointees when they are subjected to confirmation hearings, appeared to have fallen on deaf ears — at least on the part of the senators, some of whom are said to be out to scrutinize, with a fine-toothed comb, even former media practitioners who have been appointed by Aquino to positions with full Cabinet rank.

“Why should we be soft on anyone? We have to screen everybody with the same standards and I will ask the question you are asking me. Were you part of the LP (Liberal Party) campaign?” Sen. Loren Legarda said when asked to comment on the “hiring” of former broadcast journalists and a broadsheet columnist to form part of the so-called “communications group” of Malacañang.

From verified reports, Secretary Sonny Coloma who wrote a column in BusinessWorld and Secretary Ricky Carandang, a newsreader and TV talk show host at the ABS-CBN network, were still functioning as so-called journalists even when they were said to be part of the propaganda campaign of then LP presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100730hed6.html

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