On the President’s statement on the abolition of the pork barrel

I welcome the response of the President on the pork barrel issue. It’s time to break down the system of patronage and dynastic politics. Through this, let us intensify the creation of transparent mechanisms for services to truly reach the people. 

We are faced with a comprehensive issue that cannot be solved by the abolition of the pork barrel alone. The path that we must tread in order to move forward is the reform of the budget system in a way that will guarantee the equitable distribution of resources, especially for the poorest provinces. No one must be left behind.

Dinagat is among the provinces which has been left behind in terms of share in our government resources. We have used our PDAF in Dinagat to fund the needs of our constituents. We have allocated funds for scholarships as well as for emergency and medical assistance. National government agencies should ensure that resources are allocated to address these needs of the people in our district.

In time, we must consider shifting to a parliamentary form of governance where the Executive and Legislative are one in implementing programs for the people that go hand in hand with crafting laws that will uplift the marginalized.

At this point, we are called to rally behind the clamor for change. Para sa bag-ong kaugmaon, padayon!

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THE CITIZEN-HERO: Sec. Jesse Robredo’s Legacy of People Empowerment and Community Contribution to Nation-Building

by Akbayan Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao

Hindi maikakaila na mahusay na lider si Jesse Robredo. Sa katunayan, alam na alam ni Sec. Jesse Robredo na mahusay siya. Sa katunayan, labing-apat na Galing Pook Awards ang pinaghirapan na sinungkit ng Naga sa kahabaan ng kanyang termino bilang mayor nito. Pero ano ang pinagkaiba niya sa iba pang mahuhusay na lider ng samabayanang Pilipino? Ang sagot: busilak at lubusan niyang pinaniwalaan na hindi lang siya ang magaling, na hindi lang sa kanya ang tagumpay kundi sa komunidad at sa mga indibidwal na mamamayan nito. Pilit niyang binigyan ng pagkakataon ang maliit na tao na hanapin, gamitin at ipagtanggol ang sarili nilang husay para sa pagpapanday ng kanilang lipunang kinabibiliangan.

Indeed, Sec. Jesse institutionalized a brand of leadership which has people empowerment as its basic foundation. By his actions and responses to local government concerns, he taught people how to take responsibility for the progress or decline of their own community. He took to heart the precepts of consultation and participation which the people he was able to engage with realized to be the essence of citizenship. He was quoted to have said that “Collectively, successful local governments, driven by constituencies who are well-informed, constructively engaged, and willing to share the burden of community building, can build our country”.[1] To my mind, he is saying simply that you have to lead people in such a way that they become leaders themselves. Empowering the community member encourages good governance.

He was right. And at this juncture of our country’s history we should take the rare opportunity to lead and nation-build on the basis of such well-proven formula. Tama na ang pogi points brand of constituency engagement. It’s time we treat our people like intelligent members of a community who can become able partners in lessening poverty, reducing crime, and achieving inclusive progress. Sec. Jesse showed us that people who seek remedies from the government are not asking to be spoonfed with ready-made quick fixes. They are, instead, asking that we tap into their rich base of knowledge and experience on the issues-at-hand and they are seeking for a partnership with government to solve the problem and not just its symptoms. Kaya nga sabi niya di ba, “kaya natin” hindi “kaya ko” o “kaya mo”!

That is the best thing about Jesse Robredo’s leadership: the concept of “tayo” which is the core of the Filipino culture of bayanihan in times of opportunity or difficulty.

But he did not only stop with the principle of “tayo”. Sec. Jesse also pushed for the importance of the sectoral groups themselves, which is key to their empowerment and eventual success.

I still remember when we were still campaigning on the Sumilao Farmers case in their “Walk for Land, Walk for Justice” where 54 farmers walked from Bukidnon to Malacañan in 2007.  When the farmers reached Naga City, they were warmly received by the Nagueños.  Sec. Jesse, who was then the mayor of Naga, even organized an entire program for the farmers and served meals and a place where they could rest. What was more surprising was that Sec. Jess literally took the extra mile when he walked with the farmers in the 10-kilometer stretch upon meeting them. Aside from the Sumilao Farmers, Sec. Jesse also welcomed with open arms the farmers of Banasi, Camarines Sur and other peasant groups in their struggle for land rights.

Image(Photo credit: http://www.naga.gov.ph)

 Image

(Photo credit: http://www.naga.gov.ph)

I also remember that before we left Naga, Sec. Jesse left this message to farmers, “Mahalaga ang tunay na pakikibaka, hindi dahil sa tayo ay magtatagumpay o di magtatagumpay. Subalit, sa palagay ko, mahalaga na may taong naninindigan sa kanilang karapatan, may mga taong ipinaglalaban ang hustisya, at may mga taong naniniwala sa matuwid. Dahil paminsan-minsan, mahirap ipaglaban ang paniniwala.”

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(Photo credit: http://www.naga.gov.ph)

While losing one of our great leaders may be considered to be a time of crisis, I personally do not consider it to be so because it has become a great opportunity for the Filipino people to get to know a national leader of Sec. Jesse’s caliber and integrity; the Filipino youth to find another hero to emulate; and public officials like us to take the challenge and inspiration to blaze our very own trails towards partnering with instead of herding our constituencies.

As he passed on, Sec. Jesse gifted the Filipino nation a moment of collective, national epiphany, a bayanihan sort of “a-ha” moment and left us all with the question of “What will you do now?” What can we contribute to this nation as individuals, as a people, as interest groups, as civil society organizations, as public officials, as a government, as leaders entrusted with the power to effect change, as citizens burdened with the duty to push for accountability?

As Sec. Jesse did, we will seek to know what “general welfare” really is, by consulting with the farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous people, urban poor, and other marginalized groups. We will show respect for the needs of our police force so they will in turn look after the needs of our citizens. We will institutionalize government linkages with civil society organizations which unhesitatingly complement efforts in good governance and protecting human rights. We will fight for transparency and public information in government transactions. We will seek community input on concerns directly affecting them such as peace and security, health, education, environment and natural resource allocation.

As Sec. Jesse did, we shall consider as an important source of policy and legislation not only the gripes and ideas brought to us by our constituencies. More importantly, we shall take steps to reform our offices from within, taking the hard, even dangerous, but necessary steps to take out the long-entrenched culture of self-enrichment, non-transparency and ivory tower type of leadership. If we carefully ponder on the many tributes, accolades and testimonials given by people from all walks of life for Sec. Jesse, we will see that these only prove one thing: The Filipino people are done with the traditional type of politics in which they do not really have the power to choose their leaders and in which leaders impose their will on their constituency as the power flows from top to bottom. Because of the revelation that was Jesse Robredo, they have realized that they should participate in the all-important task of governing themselves and that they can seek accountability by being themselves accountable for their contribution to the community.

As he once said, “Our political history has shown that we have put the burden of running this country to our ‘best’ people for too long.  And yet, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown wider.  For this country to succeed, we need to make heroes of the ordinary people.  We need to make heroes of ourselves”.[2] Salamat Sec. Jesse sa iyong paniniwala sa mamamayang-bayani. ###


[1] Follow Your Heart; Pursue Your Dream.  Jesse Robredo’ Speech during the Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City held on March 29, 2003
[2]Follow Your Heart; Pursue Your Dream.  Jesse Robredo’ Speech during the Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City held on March 29, 2003
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Privilege Speech – No Arms for Atrocities!

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

I must talk about humanity’s struggle to build a more peaceful world. This is a historic moment with the question: Will the world have a global standard on weapons trade? Must we consent to a future where arms proliferate and breed humanitarian and human rights abuses? Last July 27, 2012, the United Nations was unable to reach an agreement on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) during the UN Diplomatic Conference held in New York City with representatives from over 170 countries. However, Diplomats at the UN remain optimistic further talks on a draft treaty could lead to a vote on a final ATT by the end of the year.

Mr. Speaker, there is too much at stake for the Philippines in this ATT Agreement. Consider that 6 years ago, Akbayan delivered a privilege speech on the proliferation of small arms. In 2006, when Rep. Risa Hontiveros delivered her speech there were 638 million firearms[1]. Now we have 875 million[2] worldwide. In 2006, there were 800,000 legal and 415,000 loose firearms[3] in the country. Now the Philippines has an estimated 1.1 million loose firearms[4],a 300% increase in just 6 years.

Weapons in the wrong hands undermine peace, our human security, development and poverty-reduction initiatives. Think of weapons proliferation and the Ampatuan massacre. Consider the easy access to small arms and the climate of impunity that surrounds the extra-judicial killings of journalists and activists.

Arms proliferation also facilitates gender-based violence against women.[5] Irresponsible weapons trading and diversion to illicit markets can exacerbate our problem with armed conflicts, and pose serious threats to human rights and international humanitarian law.

Comprehensive policies must include gun trafficking and international trade. Three years ago, a Panamanian-registered, Philippine-owned ship, MV Capt. Ufuk[6] docked in the Philippines. Turkey was the ship’s port of origin, and along the way passed it through Ghana and Congo[7] allegedly for ship repair before briefly stopping in Malaysia and Indonesia en route to Mariveles, Bataan. The ship contained Indonesian-made, Belgian designed SS1-V1 assault rifles ordered by Mali, a small State in West Africa. When the Bureau of Customs and the PNP raided the ship, only 5 gun crates remained out of the 20 crates with as many as 200 rifles. As then Sen. Rodolfo Biazon noted, “This is not just a case of loose firearms but a national security issue because 200 rifles could arm a battalion, (or) arm two companies.”[8] This is a strong argument on the international nature of our local problem with the illicit trade of weapons. There are gaps in our importation and exportation controls[9], and transport procedures regarding weapon shipments.

What is alarming? What is alarming is the sheer number of weapons in the world, and its annual authorized trade that exceeds more than USD 60 Billion. What is alarming is the 747,000 deaths per year because of armed violence worldwide. There are two bullets for every representative in this hall. In fact, there are two bullets for every person on this planet.

Mr. Speaker, there are international regulations in the trade of bananas but no regulations in trade of weapons—trade in nearly all categories of manufactured goods is regulated by rules which bind exporters and importers to commonly agreed conduct.

I call on Congress to support a robust global standard for the arms trade and the ‘no arms for atrocities’ principle. The following are concrete actions that we can spearhead:

One, At the national level, we must strive for the Matuwid na Daan in arms transfers. No arms for atrocities. Congress must enact policies that exact accountability for our international arms and ammunitions transfers.

The Philippines has a growing firearms and ammunitions industry and supporting a robust Arms Trade Treaty in the UN does not mean curtailing these industries[10] but will regulate the trade in weapons so that they may not fall into the hands of abusers.

Two, Congress must enact into law the set of criteria for our arms trade. Our national laws must support the spirit of a strong ATT. Until now we have no clear-cut policies that ensure human rights protection in our weapons trade. We must not allow arms shipment to butchers that will commit grave violations of human rights and humanitarian laws. No arms for atrocities. Mr. Speaker, the weapons industry in the Philippines must not authorize transfers if there is a substantial risk that those weapons would:

a. Be used to perpetuate or facilitate high levels of armed violence including gender-based violence, to particular rape and other forms of sexual violence;

b. Be used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights or humanitarian law;

c. Impair efforts at poverty reduction or achieving sustainable development.

Three, Congress must support the adoption of the ATT by supporting the Global Parliamentary Declaration. Since last week, members of the Philippine Action Network to Control Arms, have been soliciting our parliamentary support. I encourage fellow representatives to sign the parliamentary declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Mr. Speaker, the peoples of the world have spoken. To date, more than one million photo petitioners and 600,000 petition signatures were gathered and handed over to the UN Secretary General this month. I would like to take this privilege to reiterate the peoples’ longstanding call for a robust and legally-binding standard that ‘1) covers all weapons and transfers, 2) ensures wider transparency in the arms trade, and where 3) transfers are governed by strong criteria supporting international humanitarian law, human rights and gender, socio-economic development, and conflict prevention and reduction.’[11]

By the time I finish this speech, 50 persons would have died because of the illicit and unregulated trade in arms. Now is the time for a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty that will save lives. Let us do our part in humanity’s quest for a just and peaceful world. No arms for atrocities! Maraming salamat po.



[1] Hontiveros (2006) “Control Arms Now!” Privilege speech delivered in Congress on 7 August 2006.

[2]Small Arms Survey (2012) Retrieved July 2012 from <http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/weapons-and-markets.html&gt;

[3]Hontiveros (2006) Ibid.

[4]Felipe (2009) “PNP revokes Mayor Ampatuan’s 19 gun licenses”. The Philippine Star. 30 November 2009

[5]Control Arms (2012) Global Parliamentary Declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty.

[6]Vivanews (2009) Indonesia weapons smuggled to Philippines. 28 August.

[7]Manila Bulletin (2009) British captain of arms ship seeks government protection. 26 August.

[8]Philippine Daily Inquirer (2009) Biazon seeks Senate probe of gun smuggling. 03 August.

[9]SIPRI (2009) Arms transfers to Asia and Oceania. Background paper. Retrieved July 2012 from <http://unidir.org/pdf/activites/pdf4-act485.pdf&gt;

[10]PhilANCA and WE Act 1325 (2012) Letter to the President.

[11]Arms Trade Treaty Brief (June 2012).

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PUSHING FOR A MINDANAO ENERGY SOLUTION (Speech)

PUSHING FOR A MINDANAO ENERGY SOLUTION

Speech by Akbayan Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao

Mindanao Consumer Summit: Mindanaoan’s Response to the Power Crisis

Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City

May 11, 2012

 

 

To the various civil society groups, people’s organizations, stakeholders, and local officials present, maayong buntag sa inyong tanan.

 

Mindanao has been called the land of promise, and indeed it is true for the millions of people who reside in it. Aside from the rich natural and human resources as well as the diverse culture and tradition that it has, Mindanao also leads the way for the country in renewable energy by having the largest ratio of renewable energy in its energy mix comprising 60% of the power generated in the island. This has been made possible by harnessing the tremendous power of natural forces by damning rivers and tapping geothermal spots to generate electricity.

 

As a Mindanawon, like many of you who are gathered here, I also feel a sense of trepidation with the fate that the island has. The frequent power outages lasting for a couple of hours in some areas while lasting for six to eight in others has left many people in the dark, literally and figuratively. It has unnecessarily disrupted various social, economic, and cultural activities in the island. Mindanawons feel powerless, no pun intended, as some groups say they must swallow the bitter pill of higher electricity rates or accept frequent black outs. Instead of sitting back and accepting such a fate they had nothing to do with, Mindanawons are raising objections to such kind of proposals and have instead come up with their own solutions. And why not? If Mindanao is to face a power crisis, then it should be given the option to solve it.

 

I’m not an energy industry expert but the tireless work of various stakeholders in the power industry has made it clear to all of us that accepting higher electricity rates in order to avert blackouts is a false choice. There are other choices. But before that, let me first raise the following points on the whole issue of the power crisis in Mindanao. First, this current mess that the island can be traced to a faulty national policy on power. Second, its effects are felt not only by Mindanawons but also by the environment especially in the issue of mining. Third, that if any solution can be given for this power crisis it must be a solution grounded on addressing those previous points I mentioned and that such a solution must be a re-imagination, not only of Mindanao’s power industry but that of the entire country as well.

 

Okay, I know those points I raised are a mouthful, but do bear with me as I delve deeper into them.

 

More than a decade since Republic Act No. 9136 or better known as the EPIRA passed into law the promise of affordable power premised on the privatization of power industry assets and competition of power producers has failed to materialize. EPIRA was touted as a way for the country to pay off the huge debts of the state-owned National Power Corporation or NAPOCOR by privatizing its assets. Its proponents promised that NAPOCOR’s P943 billion debt could be paid off. Instead of being paid off, NAPOCOR’s debt increased by 1.24 trillion in 2009 from 943 billion in 2001 and in the process lost profitable power assets that generated tens of millions of dollars in income yearly. Many of these assets were sold at rates often favorable to the purchaser such as the Masinloc Geothermal Plant which had an $80 million dollar annual income and sold for $390 million with only a 40% down payment with the balance to be paid in seven years.

 

The promise of competition didn’t prove to be true either. Instead of competition, the power industry is now controlled by a few business interests many of whom own both the assets that produce power as well as the companies that distribute it. It is not uncommon that the companies operating power assets in some parts of the country are also power distributors in others. In fact one can simply mention four or five companies and these would account to more than half of the entire power industry. Simply put, how can anyone expect competition to bring the prices of electricity down if the production and distribution of power as well as the market prices of power are controlled by a handful of companies?

 

Instead of affordable power, consumers ended up paying more than twice the rates in just a decade. The end of state monopoly of the power industry opened the floodgates for oligopolistic control of the industry. Privatization benefitted groups such as San Miguel, the Lopezes, the Aboitizes, and companies owned by Manny Pangilinan but left the majority of electricity consumers at the losing end.

 

This oligopolistic control of the industry has also created further problems. With these big companies now exerting more influence on the country’s energy policy, they are now also exerting influence on other energy issues such as the kind of energy used and for what purpose it is produced.

 

Although the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 clearly spelled out the country’s policy for renewable energy like hydro, geothermal, solar and wind to have an increased share in the energy mix of the country to address environmental issues as well as to decrease dependence on imported fossil fuel, the half-hearted efforts from the government coupled with the strong lobby of certain groups arguing that renewable energy would cost more prevented the full take off of a strong renewable energy sector. In fact, many of these groups such as the Aboitizes presented coal energy, one of the most detrimental forms of energy in terms of health and environment, as a solution to the growing demand for energy.

 

In effect, we are being told that we should have clean and renewable energy but since we cannot afford it, we should settle for an energy source that will cost us even more causing damage to the environment and exposing us to health risks. Like the issue of privatization, we are being made to choose between two undesirable choices. It’s either we pay for expensive energy or damage our lungs and the environment. Well, we shouldn’t buy into that. Coal isn’t even proving to be affordable as it was promised.

 

Because coal is basically a non-renewable resource, it is no surprise that it is not really cheap, unless coal energy proponents discover a way to create coal circumventing Mother Nature’s process which takes millions of years to create coal, the prices will only go higher. It doesn’t make it any better that its generation cost is also subject to the fluctuations in the price of coal.

 

Coal energy has now expanded its share of the energy mix from 10% in 1991 to the current 30%. Its proponents raise two key issues, affordability and rising demand for energy, as an argument for the further increase of coal’s share in the country’s energy mix. From the current 10 coal-fired power plants in the country, more are set to be built. A coal plant project in Subic, led by the Aboitizes, is planned to generate 400 to 600 megawatts to stave off a power crisis in Luzon. Closer to home, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras unveiled plans for a 1000 megawatt capacity for Mindanao. But stakeholders in Subic and Mindanao have been left scratching their heads. Subic and Olongapo have no need for more power as it is being addressed by existing power plants in the area. Mindanao has a shortfall of only 100 megawatts, not 1000. So, who needs this extra power? There is growing suspicion that such a huge output in energy is needed to meet rising residential and industrial use as well as the growing mining operations in the country.Jean Marie Ferraris, from the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) stated that “There is enough energy supply in the country if not for the mining industry.”

 

In Mindanao, the mining industry which already uses tremendous amounts of energy is driving this growth in coal energy. As a result, Mindanao must face greater environmental pressure caused by mining and coal power. Coal energy it seems, is a twin of mining, both create more damage than benefits. Both industries have pernicious effects on the environment. Mining contributes a paltry to the region’s share of the gross domestic product while taking a huge toll on the environment causing soil erosion, threat to biodiversity, and groundwater contamination. Coal energy is not much different; the amount of harmful gases it releases into the environment makes it one of the main causes of global warming. These two industries are mutually dependent. Mining drives the demand for coal energy while coal energy makes an expansion of the mining possible.

 

As the island of Mindanao continues to endure a power crisis, many of its people are left wondering what solutions can be made. Clearly, EPIRA has failed to deliver and the current trend in energy isn’t too promising. Mindanao is lucky in a way because its power sector was given a 10 year reprieve from EPIRA. However, with the current energy crisis gripping Mindanao, some groups have now come knocking on Mindanao’s door. Time is up they say. It’s time for privatizing Mindanao’s power assets they say.

 

To those who believe that the Agus-Pulangui hydro power assets must be privatized, that coal power must now fill a concocted 1000 megawatt demand, that privatization is the solution, and that renewable energy is a waste of money, Akbayan says, “Sorry, we beg to differ.”

 

Combining the proposals of various renewable energy advocates, people’s organizations, and Mindanao leaders a clear alternative is beginning to take shape. Instead of privatizing power assets, greater government control of the industry is gaining more and more supporters. Instead of dirty and expensive coal energy, renewable energy such as hydro power is seen as the strongest answer. What is even more important to this alternative solution is the growing clamor for people’s participation in how their power is made, used, and managed. Indeed this is real people power.

 

It is noteworthy that during the recent Mindanao Power Summit attended by President Benigno Aquino III, various stakeholders in the region from the local government officials to civil society organizations pushed for returning government participation in the industry. Many proposed the creation of a “Mindanao Power Corporation” to manage the various energy assets in the region with the end goal of making the people of Mindanao responsible for their own energy needs. This is a clear rejection of control of the power oligopoly in Mindanao.

 

Another component of this alternative solution is focusing on renewable energy. Instead of abandoning hydro power, we must rehabilitate these power assets, starting with the Agus-Pulangui hydro power plant. Dredging of the heavily silted rivers together with upgrading of its facilities will ensure affordable and renewable energy will remain as a bedrock of Mindanao’s power production. Added to this is the need for investing in other renewable energy resources such as geothermal, solar and wind. Small scale operations of solar energy have shown positive results that run contrary to allegations that renewable energy is expensive. It also noteworthy that Mindanao, which is strongly opposing coal, is also opposing mining. Mindanao will not allow coal power and mining to take off at the expense of the region’s environment and health.

 

Also, important is the need for citizen’s participation in the different levels of the power sector. Mechanisms for consumers to take part and have a say in how their power is sourced and distributed means that the public will no longer become passive actors in the power industry. This also means accountability and transparency is ensured and practices that tend to raise the price of power are prevented. In effect, the promises that EPIRA made will be fulfilled in spite of it.

 

Mindanao is no longer just a land of promise. The Mindanawons who challenge the imposition of higher rates, dirty energy, and privatization have clearly laid out an answer not only for the Mindanao power crisis but also for the future of the Philippine power sector. Indeed, Mindanao must show that there is another way.

 

Daghang salamat

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PRESS RELEASE, March 21 2012: Akbayan questions SC ruling reaffirming FASAP recall

PRESS RELEASE, 21 March 2012
Contact Person: Adrian Baccay @ 0927 4308021

Akbayan questions SC ruling reaffirming FASAP recall

Akbayan Party decries the recent Supreme Court ruling on March 13, 2012, rejecting the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) against the recall of the resolution of its case versus Philippine Airlines (PAL). The case is part of the impeachment case against Chief Justice Corona.

“The resolution reaffirming the Supreme Court’s earlier recall of an otherwise final and executory decision is devastating to FASAP who have awaited the finality of the favorable decision of the SC for years. The recall order and this recent decision reaffirming it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for FASAP. I really hope that this decision has nothing to do with the testimony of FASAP President Bob Anduiza in Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment trial,” Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao said.

On February 7, FASAP President Roberto “Bob” Anduiza took the Senate witness stand to prove the irregularities in the Supreme Court’s resolution that recalled the final and executory Decision favoring the flight attendants.

In his testimony for Article III of the verified impeachment complaint, Anduiza said that the Supreme Court appears to give a preferential treatment to PAL as the former required the latter to comment on a petition-letter previously sent by FASAP. But when PAL sent a letter to the Supreme Court through its counsel, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, the case was immediately docketed as a new administrative matter of the Supreme Court despite the fact FASAP was not notified of the existence of such letters. FASAP learned of the existence of the letter only after the court promulgated its resolution recalling its earlier Decision on the case.

According to Bag-ao, the FASAP v. PAL is a landmark case that may just go down the drain by setting a bad precedent for the Philippine judicial system. “With the recall forming part of our judicial system, what can stop parties or their lawyers from employing underhanded maneuverings, in the guise of mere letters or endless Motions for Reconsideration?” Bag-ao quipped.

“It is even more unfortunate that the Supreme Court has denied us the opportunity to present the testimonies of court personnel and documentary evidences which could have shed into light the active involvement of the Chief Justice in the recall of the FASAP Decision that is recently upheld by the Supreme Court,” Bag-ao said.

Bag-ao hopes that the impeachment court will consider the plight of FASAP members in their decision to convict Corona. “By promulgating a guilty verdict on the Chief Justice, somehow we will be able serve the ends of justice in favor of FASAP,” Bag-ao concluded. ###

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YOUNG AND DETERMINED

“Whatever happened to helping old people cross the street?”

That was my initial reaction when I was told Chip wanted to file a bill for a “good deed” project at school. Chip’s father is a long-time friend of mine and a fellow alternative lawyer. He said his kid wanted to ban schools from selling softdrinks, so he made a bill prohibiting it. I was told Chip was a Grade One pupil. I said, “Okay. No prob. I’ll file it.” But all the while I was thinking, I was in Grade One too, at that time I also wanted to change the world like Chip, so I made paper machès, stick-figure drawings and paperdolls. For a good deed project, as I’ve said, I’d help an old person cross the street or I’d just probably wash the dishes at home.

Chip came to my office after his class, still in his uniform, ready to make schools a healthier place for kids. Right then and there, he explained to me the health effects of soda and other drinks with high-sugar content and caffeine. He cited studies and Word Health Organization reports. He knew his facts. He knew his arguments. I was amazed. He was seven years old and already, an articulate lobbyist.

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So we printed copies of the bill and went to see my fellow Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, for his signature as our co-author. Then we went to the Bills and Index and got our house bill number, HB 4268 or the “Healthy Beverage Options Act of 2011”. But we simply called it the “Chip’s Bill”.

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Then Chip toured the House of Representatives. He went to see the Speaker and discussed his bill with Speaker Belmonte himself.

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As we walked back to my office, I was wondering what age will Chip be when his bill would finally be passed into law. Take the RH Bill’s ten years (and still counting) for instance, and Chip will already be a high school senior before Chip’s Bill becomes Chip’s Law. Provided he will not be accelerated!

After that, we went back to our office where Chip began playing with the miniature boxing belt which Rep. Manny Pacquiao gave all members of Congress last Christmas. I thought of the committee hearings, the technical working groups, the lobbying of the rich multinational soda companies, the plenary debates, the bicam conference, the caucuses, the presscons, all ahead of this little kid and his progressive little piece of legislation. He just smiled at me and began playing with the small Ifugao hut on my table. He wants to be a scientist, he said, as he continued putting the toy Ifugao man inside his hut.

Chip thanked all of us and said he’ll be back for the deliberations. I thanked him too for the honor of becoming his ‘co-author’. He left our office with smiles on our faces. It felt like that feel-good-story, those of us, cynical civil servants needed for a long while.

A few days ago, I was told that Chip’s good deed project now has a Senate counterpart and a proposed Quezon City Ordinance. He is eight years old and already doing his media campaign. There is really no stopping little Chip!

Meanwhile, House Bill No. 4268 is still lodged in the House Committee on Welfare of Children. Last year, I wrote the committee to consider the bill for preliminary deliberation. It was put in the calendar but its hearing was postponed due to conflicts in schedules.

As I watch Chip on TV, I notice how much taller he is now. I can’t help but say, “Hey Chip, don’t grow up too soon, but when you do, please do us a favor and stay young”

PASS CHIP’S BILL NOW!

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Impeachment Chronicles (Day 5)

Impeachment Chronicles

Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

25 January 2012 (Day 5)

Contact Person: Jan Eugenio, AKBAYAN Policy Affairs Officer, 09088849545

 

Miriam lays down 3 Crucial Points for the Impeachment Trial

For the first time after a week-long absence, Miriam Defensor-Santiago appeared as a senator-judge in the impeachment trial of embattled Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The feisty Senator gave her perspective at the beginning of the trial yesterday.

First, Santiago stresses that the impeachment proceedings is not a judicial nor a political process. Rather, it partakes of the nature of a quasi-judicial, quasi-political body. The Senator’s view is somehow parallel to the one taken by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno who explained in his dissenting and concurring opinion in the case of Francisco vs. House of Representatives that the impeachment proceedings is sui generis.

Consequently, Santiago made her second point that the quantum of evidence required in convicting an impeached public officer should be of having an “overwhelming preponderance of evidence”. This differs from the views taken by both the prosecution and the defense panels. On one hand, Rep. Niel Tupas of the prosecution panel said that only “substantial evidence” is needed for conviction. On the other hand, former Justice Serafin Cuevas of the defense panel stated that it should be “proof beyond reasonable doubt”.

“Proof beyond reasonable doubt” which is that degree of proof, excluding the possibility of error, which produces moral certainty. If the facts are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfil the test of moral certainty and, consequently, the innocence of the accused will prevail. This is the evidence required in criminal proceedings, and this is the most difficult to obtain. “Preponderance of evidence” means the weight, credit and value of the aggregate evidence of one party is superior to the other party. The only question is which party has the more convincing evidence? This is usually used in civil cases where there are at least two contending parties. “Substantial evidence” refers to evidence adequate to support the reasonable conclusion that a certain act or omission occurred even if it is possible to draw two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence. This is the evidence required in administrative cases, and is said to be the easiest to obtain.

Santiago went one notch higher by adding “overwhelming” to the phrase “preponderance of evidence”, thereby implying that the evidence presented by the prosecution should be far more greater than that presented by the defense. Santiago pointed out that the framers of the Constitution thought that the penalty given in case of conviction in impeachment trial is not retributory in character; impeachment is not a punishment.

Third, Santiago gave her legal opinion on the imminent issue on whether the impeachment Court should be liberal in the appreciation of evidence. Santiago said that there was no need to go into jurisprudence because the rules expressly provide that a liberal interpretation should be made and technicalities should be brushed aside. A liberal interpretation also implies that any document that is related to a particular article of impeachment (in the case of Article 2, the Income Tax Return of Chief Justice Corona and members of his family) must also be admitted as evidence by the impeachment court. In this way, it would hasten the proceedings of the trial. ###

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