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Monthly Archives: April 2009

Our issue for April 25, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 25, 2009 Issue

Main Features

Cover: Speaker Prospero Nograles and Kampi President Luis Villafuerte

1. The Enablers

Speaker Prospero Nograles resigns as president of Lakas-CMD and Rep. Luis Villafuerte steps down as president of Kampi to give way to the merger the two parties of President Arroyo. But the merger is an old story and the resignations of Nograles and Villafuerte are only intended to project concentration on next year’s general elections. The two parties will still force passage of a resolution for a constituent assembly that will revise the Constitution for a shift to parliamentary government, which will enable Mrs. Arroyo to run for a seat in parliament, there to be elected prime minister. Their intention is to get a ruling from the Supreme Court by June on whether the House of Representatives can revise the Constitution without the Senate, which refuses to take part in a constituent assembly. With three new justices on the court by June, the administration believes the decision will go its way. If that happens, forget the presidential election.

         By Guiller de Guzman

2. Moral Force

Chief Justice Reynato Puno leads a new movement for the moral transformation of the Philippines, largely aimed at shaming the Arroyos and their allies into leaving public life after next year’s general elections. Supported by the Catholic Church and other religious denominations in the Philippines, civic, legal, and activist groups, the movement will define the characteristics of good leaders and muster 10 million votes to ensure the election of such leaders next year. But will there be elections?

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. The Killers

Human Rights Watch blames the continuing vigilante-style killings in Davao City on President Arroyo. By supporting the city’s tough-guy mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, Mrs. Arroyo, the group says, in effect sanctions the killings. More than 800 people, mostly critics of Duterte, according to House Speaker Prospero Nograles, have been killed since 2001, about the same number of activists, trade unionists, human-rights workers and lawyers who have been killed in various parts of the country since Mrs. Arroyo came to power in that year. But don’t expect anything to come out of the Human Rights Commission’s investigation: the National Police, though ordered by Mrs. Arroyo to support the probe, is daring human rights advocates to prove that there are vigilante killings in Davao.

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Give Earth a Chance

April—Earth Month—is cruel to the United States, which insists predictions of catastrophes caused by climate change are based only on computer models and cannot actually happen. The out-of-season storm system and wildfires that swept from Texas to Tennessee on April really happened, and they were exactly the kind of catastrophes that Europe and Asia, including the Philippines, are asking the United States to help avert by joining the global effort to slow down climate change.

         By J. de Jesus

5. Features

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Our issue for April 18, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 18, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Cavite Gov. Eugenio Maliksi

         (with eight-page, full-color supplement)

         By Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre

1.Rattled

With their plan to sabotage next year’s general election by revising the Constitution just waiting to be pronounced dead, the allies of President Arroyo are turning to Plan B: find a strong presidential candidate. But there is no one in their ranks. So Lakas-CMD is trying to pressure unaffiliated Vice President Noli de Castro, who is leading in the all polls, into running for the administration. Kampi, Mrs. Arroyo’s original party, has no one, and it cannot dare to play clown and offer its president, Luis Villafuerte, as even half a candidate. The Nationalist People’s Coalition is in disarray, with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who is said to be Mrs. Arroyo’s choice, vacationing from the party because the boss, Eduardo Cojuangco, prefers to hand the banner to Sen. Francis Escudero for the race. Cojuangco’s choice could send Sen. Loren Legarda, in the top four in most polls, shopping her presidential ambition around for a backer, weakening some more the administration’s chances of retaining power. The worst-case scenario is drawing from the opposition, and here the ruling coalition’s target is Sen. Manuel Villar. But Villar does not need to cross over to the administration to run for Malacañang. If financing for the campaign is the problem, that is for other candidates to worry about, not his. A candidate must be found before November, the advanced deadline for candidates’ registration.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

2. Failed Again

If the House of Representatives fails to swing the revision of the Constitution before the end of the first regular session in June, that’s it for the ruling coalition. Speaker Prospero Nograles is giving the effort only up to the first week of June. After that, the coalition must seriously turn to finding a presidential candidate or Malacañang will go to the opposition, and everybody knows what that means—big trouble, especially for the crooks. But Luis Villafuerte, the Kampi president who reads only the letter of the Constitution and ignores its spirit, insists the revision is still possible if the House can force a confrontation with the Senate in the Supreme Court for a ruling on how a constituent assembly votes. He thinks the new justices on the Supreme Court will vote for the administration in gratitude to President Arroyo. Chances are they won’t, so the better minds in the ruling coalition prefer to allow next year’s general election to go through. After all, there is still Plan C: buy hackers to monkey with the Comelec’s computers if the House fails to pass Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia’s proposal for a hand count of the vote.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

3. Blacklisted

Good news: The IMF will provide $1.1 trillion to help struggling economies combat the global recession. Bad news: the Philippines will get very little, if not exactly nothing, of it. The Group of 20 major economies has blacklisted the country, along with Costa Rica, Malaysia and Uruguay, for its uncooperativeness in the international effort at transparency in tax information. This is going to hurt the Philippines, which is offering all sorts of incentives to foreign investors to come here and help the government deal with the worsening unemployment. Malacañang says the government is committed to comply with the international standards in tax information, and it is now calling on Congress to review the tax laws to speed up the country’s exit from the blacklist. Only the tax laws? How about the banking laws? The secretiveness of Philippine banking has always been an encouragement for offshore tax fraud and even local official corruption. This is not going to be easy. Never mind the foreign cheats. There’s nothing they can do to stop the revision. It’s the local crooks who will surely lobby Congress to go easy on this one—secretly, of course.

By Guiller de Guzman

4. Meaningful Darkness

The Philippines saved 611 megawatts of electricity by turning off the lights for Earth Hour on March 28. That will not dent the impact of global warming on the Philippine environment, but taken together with the energy savings of the rest of the world that switched off the lights for Earth Hour, the savings will add up to one big message for world officials going to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December: Act now and save Planet Earth.

By J. de Jesus

5. Features

Our issue for April 11, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 11, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Pampanga Gov. Eduardo Panlilio

1. Fr. Eduardo Panlilio, President of the Philippines

Filipinos fed up with politicians and hungry for good government are encouraging Pampanga’s priestly governor, Eduardo Panlilio, to run for Malacañang in next year’s general election. They suggest that he pick Isabela’s reformist governor, Grace Padaca, as his vice-presidential running mate. Panlilio, who has only one supporter on Pampanga’s 15-member provincial board, says he is open to a presidential run, but needs to go through a “period of discernment,” meaning he will study the matter. Meanwhile, he is campaigning for support among civil-society groups and nongovernmental organizations for a reform candidate—who can very well be him, as there is nobody around who can be seen as a real reformist, unless Pope Benedict XIV discovers that he is a Filipino and migrates to the Philippines tomorrow to meet the one-year residency requirement. Not all Catholic clerics are glad about Panlilio’s setting an eye on Malacañang. There are those who like the idea of a priestly president, like Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who says canon law does not really prohibit priests from going into politics, and those who believe Panlilio must first leave the priesthood before running for the presidency, like Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for whom service to God is the sole vocation of a priest. But that is not really a problem, because if Panlilio really wants to serve as president, then he can leave the priesthood. The real question is his readiness to run the Philippines. As Sen. Manuel Villar, a declared presidential candidate, says, the presidency is not for OJTs.

     By Ricky S. Torre

2. Let the Debate Begin

The Commission on Elections can go ahead and automate next year’s general election—it will need the computers anyway. But the votes to be counted will not be for the usual local and national offices. They will be for local offices and members of parliament. As we have been saying in past issues, the allies of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives will force the revision of the Constitution before June, and sure enough Speaker Prospero Nograles has given approval for the start of the debate when Congress returns on April 13. Mrs. Arroyo says she wants the election to go through, but is doing nothing to stop her allies. Would she say no if this emergency project hurdles the Supreme Court?

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. See, She Is No Coddler

Facing impeachment charges in the House of Representatives, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has brought corruption charges against 17 former officials of the Public Works Department for the rigging of bids for road contracts in projects financed by the World Bank. The impeachment complaint against Gutierrez has stemmed from her sitting on the investigation of this scandal for one year and the likely reason is the involvement of her friend, Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Arroyo. Now the complainants can withdraw the charges. She has brought charges against the corrupt officials. The contractors involved will be investigated separately, but, rest assured, charges will be brought against them, too. How about Mr. Arroyo? Well, Mr. Arroyo is a private citizen, right? Is there a complainant?

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Leave No Trace

After the European Union raised a collective howl against the continuing political killings in the Philippines, President Arroyo ordered her security forces to stop unauthorized hits. More than 800 activists, trade unionists and human-rights workers and nearly the same number of journalists have been killed or kidnapped by the military or the police since Mrs. Arroyo came to power in 2001. In addition, more than 800 criminals have been killed in Davao City by groups believed to be vigilantes, although that city’s mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, and his hit men could behind the extrajudicial killings. Mrs. Arroyo’s order for a stop is more likely for the newspapers only. Her national security adviser, Norberto Gonzales, wants to know what killings the European Union is talking about. So don’t expect the abduction, rape and murder of an NPA commander’s daughter to be the last.

         By Guiller de Guzman

5. Holy Week Feature: Apostle to the Apostles

Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel has a literary anomaly. The race between Simon Peter and an unnamed disciple to the tomb of Jesus interrupts the narration of Mary Magdalene’s seeing the risen Lord. Scholars have been quick to notice the irregular position of the race to the tomb between Mary Magdalene’s going there and her seeing the risen Jesus and concluded that the present shape of chapter 20 is not its original form. The final redactor of John’s Gospel interpolated chapter 20 after the death of the evangelist (and also added chapter 21) for a particular reason, which had nothing to do with the Resurrection.

         By Guiller de Guzman

6. Features

Our issue for April 4, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 4, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Fighting Contraband (PASG chief Antonio Villar Jr.)

         With eight-page, full-color supplement

         By Pat Ruaya and Ricky S. Torre

1. Operation: Get Lacson

So, the administration has gotten to Cesar Mancao. Sen Panfilo Lacson has no doubt about that, and no matter what Palace officials say, Lacson sees Malacañang’s hand here. Mancao is pointing to Joseph Estrada as the mastermind and Lacson as responsible under the chain of command for the November 2000 murders of public relations agent Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. It’s been eight years, not really very long, but Mancao, at least as suggested by his statement now in the possession of the Justice Department, appears to have forgotten protocol. He could not have ridden in the same car with the chief of police, so that the conversation about a hit on Dacer that he claims he overheard aboard Lacson’s car could not have happened. Also, nobody in the Presidential Antiorganized Crime Task Force referred to Estrada by his mustache. From Lacson to the lowest-ranking agent, Estrada was simply “Erap.” At any rate, Lacson and Estrada are definitely in trouble—Lacson for keeping on trying to nail the Arroyos for corruption, and Estrada for trying to unite the opposition for next year’s presidential election.

         By Guiller de Guzman

2. Their Hands Are Dirty

The independent group of investigators headed by former Supreme Court justice Carolina Griño-Aquino has reinstated the charges against three wealthy drug dealers that the Justice Department dismissed in December. It seems that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been right: Justice Department officials and prosecutors have been bribed to dismiss the charges. President Arroyo has ordered the Justice Department to bring charges against the three suspects and the Presidential Antigraft Commission to go after the Justice officials involved—Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and Prosecutors Philip Kimpo and John Resado. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has already approved the prosecutors’ recommendation to dismiss the charges, but the Lady Boss, whose ratings are scraping the bottom, has hissed an order. Now he must reverse himself—or he might be suspected of being in on the corruption, too.

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. Still Lacking Power

Congress has approved amendments to the charter of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., among which would raise the insurance on bank deposits from P250,000 to P500,000. The new charter, however, still does not allow the PDIC to determine which deposits are legitimate and may be insured and which are illegitimate and therefore may not be insured. And the PDIC is still not allowed to function as a “bridge bank,” that is, an entity that can run closed banks until they are rehabilitated.

         By Dean de la Paz

4. Features