Thursday, September 22, 2005

RP's Hunger

Survey says more Filipinos going hungry

Inquirer News Service

AS THE country followed the "Hello Garci" scandal, the impeachment debates, the series of hefty oil price increases, and lately the news of Imelda Marcos' jewels finally going into auction, an alarming number of Filipinos saw all these go by on empty stomachs.

A survey by the private polling firm Social Weather Stations from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 showed that 15.5 percent of households nationwide considered themselves as having "experienced hunger" or had nothing to eat at least once in the past three months.

It was the second highest figure since SWS began its quarterly surveys on hunger in July 1998, the start of the Joseph Estrada administration. A record high of 16.1 percent was set in March 2001, two months after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over the presidency following the EDSA II people power uprising.

From the first quarterly survey to the last, hunger has been felt by 10.4 percent of the population on the average. Around this time last year, the SWS poll showed that hunger spells were reported by 15.1 percent of Filipinos.

Malacañang, mainly through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, then responded by launching rice subsidy and food-for-work programs targeting schoolchildren and the unemployed in the country's poorest provinces.

Another mass feeding program for grade school pupils, this time offering vitamin-enriched noodles, is planned for implementation starting next year.

Very serious

In a statement yesterday, the SWS said the latest numbers -- 15.5 percent -- indicate that the "people's current economic situation continues to be very serious." That figure, it said, represented an estimated 2.6 million families.

It was also higher than the previous quarterly survey conducted in May, when the hungry constituted 12 percent of all households.

In a parallel survey, however, SWS reported a decrease in the number of Filipinos who considered themselves "poor."

Self-rated poverty

"The proportion of household heads reporting themselves as 'mahirap' (poor) went down to 49 percent in August 2005, from 57 percent in May 2005," it said. SWS called this indicator "self-rated poverty."

Still, the monthly family budget, which the self-rated poor said they would need to escape poverty went up from P10,000 in May to P12,000 in August among Metro Manila respondents, according to SWS.

Lowering living standards

The polling group noted that what the respondents believed to be the "poverty threshold" budget had not really increased in the past five years despite the rise in the cost of living each year.

"The failure of the thresholds to increase despite so much inflation is a sign that the poor are actually lowering their real living standards," it said.

By area of respondents, the hunger level was 16.7 percent in Metro Manila, 18 percent in the rest of Luzon, 13.3 percent in the Visayas, and 12 percent in Mindanao.

To come up with the nationwide figure of 15.5 percent, SWS actually added up the answers of two types of "hungry" respondents: Those who felt "severe hunger" by missing meals "often or always" in the last three months, and those who endured "moderate hunger" or had nothing to eat "once or a few times" in the same period.

'Severe hunger'

The "severe hunger" bracket in the August poll made up 2.6 percent -- translating to about 400,000 families -- compared with 2.9 in the May poll.

The "moderate hunger" grouping grew to 12.9 percent in August -- about 2.1 million families -- from 9.2 percent in May.

Compared with May, severe hunger rose in Metro Manila, while moderate hunger rose across the country, SWS noted.

SWS conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 randomly selected household heads -- 300 each in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for national percentages and plus or minus 6 percentage points for area percentages. Volt Contreras

Social Weather Stations (SWS)

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

Book For Bloggers

Bloggers' handbook released to help dissidents

Agence France-Presse

PARIS--A bloggers' handbook aimed at helping dissidents in repressive countries avoid detection when they publish on the Internet was released Thursday in Paris with the support of the French government.

The press rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) said the 86-page book -- which is also available at its website -- offers "handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation."

"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest," RSF said.

The handbook offers advice on the best ways to get blogs picked up by search-engines and how to "establish credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles."

It also includes personal acounts from bloggers in countries such as Iran, China and Nepal, and a list of states judged to be the "champions of Internet censorship."

The book was produced with help from the French foreign ministry.

Reporters without Borders

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Possible Successors

US profiles rising Filipino leaders

Norman Bordadora
Inquirer News Service

THE US EMBASSY has been profiling the Philippines' "up and coming political leaders" even before the "jueteng" and "Hello, Garci" controversies snowballed into the worst crisis to beset President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration.

An embassy report dated May 10 and prepared by political officer Andrew MacLearn said Vice President Noli de Castro and other personalities had been "jostling to stand out in a crowded field as they beg[a]n to lay the groundwork for the 2007 senatorial election and the 2010 national elections."

The report said that as of early May, Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II was "well-placed for the 2010 race," opposition Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson "clearly want[ed] to be President," Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando was similarly interested, and young House Minority Leader Francis Escudero was emerging as a dark horse.

It portrayed Sen. Manuel Villar, Nacionalista Party president, as projecting a "nationalist posturing" that pitted him against certain US interests.

Sen. Richard Gordon was seen as a politician who got things done and was "not afraid to get his hands dirty."

"The wild card, however, is whether the Philippines engages in serious constitutional change that would lead to a parliamentary system well before 2010, as numerous politicians continue to advocate," the report said.

The seven-page report is one of a number of documents obtained by the Inquirer from a source who asked not to be identified. The documents contain updates on Philippine political figures and developments and the corresponding US assessments.

They are believed to be copies of files allegedly illegally downloaded from US Federal Bureau of Investigation computers by Filipino-American intelligence analyst Leandro Aragoncillo.


The profiles on the so-called emerging leaders appear to have been based on general information possibly culled from the government, media reports and social circles, as well as conversations with the personalities named or those close to them.

The conversations were either casual or formal meetings, as confirmed by some of the personalities interviewed by the Inquirer.

Members of the House of Representatives who were listed expressed concern that their conversations with US Embassy officials were being used as basis for profiling Philippine leaders.

"Is this meant to influence [Philippine affairs] or for [the US government's] own domestic purpose [as a guide] in coming up with foreign policy?" Escudero said.

He said he had talked with embassy officials in line with his work as House minority leader.

"I don't know the basis of their assessment," he said. "I suppose they're giving me more credit than I deserve. We had yet to be active at that time. There was still no 'Hello, Garci' tape and there was still no impeachment."

Said Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr. of the embassy officials' repeated visits at his office: "I thought it was just banter. I never thought I was already being profiled."

The report said Andaya, chair of the powerful House committee on appropriations, was eyeing a Cabinet post after his term as congressman.

Ilocos Norte Representative Imee Marcos, described in the report as the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos' "most politically ambitious child," said it showed that the US government was in constant search for allies among the Philippines' leaders.

"They want the country to remain a reliable ally, which they are not certain the country would be," Marcos told the Inquirer.

De Castro

The report said De Castro and a number of senators had been busy preparing for the 2010 presidential election. But even before the political crisis thrust De Castro into the limelight as Ms Arroyo's constitutional successor, the US Embassy already had a dim view of him.

"Given that the last two Presidents -- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph "Erap" Estrada -- rose from the vice presidency, he likely has similar ambitions, although many view him as a substantive lightweight," the report said.

"De Castro's biggest liabilities appear to be political and managerial experience as well as his weak English language. His speech-making even in Tagalog has not won rave reviews, either," it also said.

The report said a political officer of the US Embassy had spoken with De Castro's chief of staff, lawyer Jesse Andres, and was told that the Vice President's priorities included poverty alleviation, overseas Filipino workers and housing.

"[Andres] said the Vice President believe[d] himself to be very popular with the 'masa,' as indeed public opinion polls have confirmed," the report said.

It said that De Castro's "key backers among the elite" were members of the Lopez clan, owner of the ABS-CBN media network.

"De Castro relies on his still active network of ABS-CBN officials extensively, and is not afraid to call senior ABS-CBN members via cell phone on a moment's notice to ask questions about news coverage and foreign affairs," it said.

Mar and Ping

The report said that as early as May, Roxas had "charted his political career toward the presidency."

It noted that Roxas had "high name recall" as a grandson of the first President of the republic, Manuel Roxas, and "a strong background in economics and sufficient private wealth to fund a massive national campaign, as he did in [the] 2004 [senatorial election]."

"Heightening his popularity is his relationship with Korina Sanchez, a fashionable Manila media star," it added.

But a statement issued by Roxas' office said he had not engaged in any discussion with any US Embassy official regarding his political plans in the next five years.

The report described Lacson as "cagey" and "still clearly want[ing] to be President."

"His strict law-and-order presidential campaign earned him a third-place finish in the May 2004 election. His campaign won him many admirers including in the wealthy Chinese-Filipino community, historically victimized by kidnapping and other crimes," it said.

Lacson confirmed to the Inquirer that he had been in constant touch with embassy officials: "We have conversations. Sometimes, we have friendly banter. Other times, we talk about more serious topics."

He said he did not know where the embassy officials based their conclusion that he still wanted to be president as early as May, when the political crisis, including the issue of who would replace Ms Arroyo, had yet to rage.

"I don't know where they got that. They talk to many people," Lacson said.

Fernando et al.

The report said MMDA Chair Fernando told an embassy official in an April 25 conversation that he was "interested in the presidency."

"In a recent national survey by a local firm, Fernando ranked as President Arroyo's most popular Cabinet member," it said.

It also said Fernando had garnered "popular segments of Manila's underprivileged urban population, primarily for his unorthodox but effective methods for putting some order to a chaotic Metro Manila."

According to the report, Villar "paints himself as an independent thinker and a nationalist who could resist 'foreign' influence."

"This nationalist posturing, along with multiple Manila strip mall business interests, placed Villar on the opposite side of some [Philippine government] enforcement efforts involving the intellectual property rights law and pitted him against [US government] interests in the past," it said.

The report said the "political tandem" of Villar and his "popular wife," Las Piñas Representative Cynthia Villar, had worked to "support his political ambitions."

"Notably, the Villars have a penchant for smooth political marketing, and have the useful distinction of being the richest couple in Congress," it said.

Senator Richard Gordon, who pushed for the retention of the US bases in 1991 when he was mayor of Olongapo City, was described in the report as having "worked closely" with embassy officials "in the past."

It said he used his "promotional flare (flair)" to win a Senate seat in 2004.

Poe's Susan

The report mentioned Susan Roces, widow of 2004 opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., but said her "public appeal," while "strong," was "still more potential than real."

But it added: "Her professed desire to help the 'masa' and to ensure that her husband's 'legacy' continues may drive her eventually into a more active political life, as may her clear contempt" for Ms Arroyo.

The report also said the sons of ousted President Joseph Estrada could also make a stab at the presidency under certain circumstances.

It said the "enduring affection of the 'masa' for the Estrada clan" could make Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada a potential leader "regardless of the outcome of his father's ongoing trial" for plunder and his own case.

It also said San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito appeared to be "in line to inherit the political mantle of his father."

The report concluded: "Additional biographic detail about these and hundreds of other leaders of the Philippine polity can be found in the biographic portal by visiting Embassy Manila's classified SIPRNET website. Please follow the link below: RICCIARDONE."

US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone was the latest chief of mission appointed to the Philippines.

US Embassy in Manila

Senate of the Philippines

House of Representatives of the Philippines

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Recto On Intel Funds

Gov’t overspent P1.2 billion for intel

The government overshot its “confidential and
intelligence budget” by nearly P1.2 billion in 2003
and 2004, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

“This chronic overspending in intelligence funds is a
scandal that makes the Venable contract a petty
offense, “Recto said, referring to the one awarded by
the National Security Council to a US law firm to
lobby for Charter change funds in Washington.

“Funds for clandestine activities are not only being
audited clandestinely but are also augmented
clandestinely.  The veil of secrecy on intelligence
funds has made possible the improper diversion of
funds to it,” he said.

Recto noted “the whale of a difference” between the
amount of “confidential and intelligence funds”
appropriated by Congress, as contained in the general
appropriations act (GAA), and the amount actually
spent, as reported by the Commission on Audit.

In 2003, the GAA for that year authorized a
“confidential and intelligence fund” of  P1.225

But COA later reported that what was actually spent
was P1.555 billion, or P330 million more, Recto said.

Because the 2003 budget was deemed reenacted in 2004,
due to the failure of Congress to pass one for that
year, the same authorized level of P1.225 billion for
confidential and intelligence expenses should have
been maintained, Recto explained.

“But what was actually spent in 2004 was P2.062
billion, or higher by P837 million,” he said.

Even the 2006 budget acknowledges a lower amount of
“confidential and intelligence” expenses of P1.885
billion in 2004, “which makes it a blatant lie in the
face of the COA report.”

In short, by Recto’s computation, government overshot
its intelligence budget by 27 percent in 2003, and by
69 percent in 2004.

Recto said the “flagrant violation” of the general
appropriations act when it comes to intelligence fund
spending “reduces the power of the purse of Congress
to a farce, and increases the need for congressional
oversight on the use of these funds.”

“Why go through the motion of putting that amount in
the budget when in the end government will be spending
a bigger amount, without advising Congress?” he said.

Recto said he expects Malacanang to defend the
augmentation of intelligence funds by invoking the
power of the President to realign funds under her

“But just the same, there are reportorial requirements
under the law such as quarterly reports to the
chairman of House appropriations committee and the
chairman of the Senate finance committee by officials
who must explain how they spent their intelligence
fund allocation,” he said.

Under budgeting rules, “confidential and intelligence”
funds form part of an agency’s maintenance and other
operating expenses (MOOE).

The former is usually given to Cabinet-rank officials
to allow them to undertake intelligence-gathering
activities which are confidential in nature and in
support of their agency’s mandate.

In 2004, per CoA records, less than 10 departments
received and spent intelligence funds. These were the
Office of the President, DND, DILG, DOTC, DENR, DoJ
and DoF.

Recto said he recognized the need of agencies with
crucial functions to have access to a stash of funds
that could be used to source information. “There is no
debate about that need. In fact, in the case of
revenue agencies, I would even bat for a higher
‘intel’ fund so they can run after smugglers and
economic saboteurs.”

“But procedures must be followed. Oversight must not
be relaxed,” he said.

The “confidential and intelligence funds” Recto was
referring to are “largely distinct and separate” from
the budgets of civilian and military intelligence
gathering agencies.

“The budgets of the latter would include money for
salaries, payment of utilities, rent, supplies, gas
and etc.  What I am referring to are pure intelligence
funds which are used by agencies, even by those not
involved in the spying business.”

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lobby Probe

Santiago seeks Senate probe on US lobby deal

Veronica Uy

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago has asked for a Senate inquiry into National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales' signing up of US law firm Venable LLP for lobbying in the US Congress.

In a still unnumbered resolution, Santiago pointed out that aside from Gonzales, the National Security Council also includes the Senate committee heads on foreign relations, national defense and security, and public order and illegal drugs.

As Senate committee head on foreign relations, Santiago said she was "never informed of any meeting" on the 12-month lobby contract with American law firm Venable LLP, which would cost government 75,000 dollars per month.

Santiago said Senate should reexamine the power of the NSC and its adviser and determine the legal liability, if any, of Gonzalez for acting beyond his authority.

She said it should identify the private patrons of the contract, how much has already been paid to Venable, and where the money came from.

Santiago said Senate should also look into how the contract violates Philippine sovereignty.

Gonzales said Thursday government's deal with Venable LPP was largely for "defense matters" but admitted that lobbying in the US Congress for Charter change was part of the deal.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Sunday ordered the contract cancelled.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promotes a car-less day sticker for motorists as she campaigns for energy conservation among the public and government officials in Manila on Saturday
"But such cancellation does not mitigate legal liability because the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act punishes the mere act of 'entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same,'" said Santiago.

Dan, Tom Honored

Former network news anchors Dan Rather, left, and Tom Brokaw pose backstage after a tribute to them at the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ABS-CBN Headlines

TOP OF THE HOUR (as of 5:00 PM)

Wycoco: RP officials in espionage case 'good as charged'
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco on Friday said the three unnamed public officials implicated in the espionage case against former police officer Michael Ray Aquino and Federal Bureau of Investigation analyst Leandro Aragoncillo are already "good as charged." 9/16/2005 5:00:41 PM

Arroyo delays return, sees family in US 9/16/2005 5:01:58 PM
Wycoco: RP officials in espionage case 'good as charged' 9/16/2005 5:00:41 PM
Arroyo pushes debt-for-equity swap in UN meet 9/16/2005 3:06:16 PM
FBI traces spy link in Aquino, Aragoncillo e-mails 9/16/2005 12:48:51 PM
Pacquiao's knockout call: Unity, reconciliation for Pinoys 9/16/2005 12:48:30 PM
Indon army readies Aceh pullout 9/16/2005 3:49:11 PM
US threatens N. Korea with assets freeze 9/16/2005 3:43:48 PM
Australia expels US peace activist 9/16/2005 2:45:30 PM
Indonesia confirms fourth human bird flu death 9/16/2005 12:56:38 PM
Problems arise in N.Korea nuke talks 9/16/2005 11:25:51 AM

Peso weaker at 56.17:$, stocks up 9/16/2005 5:06:16 PM
August balance of payments surplus $297M 9/16/2005 5:01:43 PM
Kuwaiti firm takes stake in RP oil project 9/16/2005 3:03:28 PM
Stocks up 6.71 points, peso at 56.117:$ mid-trade 9/16/2005 12:37:53 PM
US$ trades P56.11, stocks up early 9/16/2005 10:40:29 AM
Man gets prison in Cameron Diaz topless photo case 9/16/2005 3:10:58 PM
Renee Zellweger, Kenny Chesney seek annulment 9/16/2005 11:16:10 AM
Judge orders actor Tom Sizemore to stay in rehab 9/16/2005 11:14:04 AM
It's a boy! Spears confirms birth of baby 9/16/2005 11:09:29 AM
FPJ's daughter could not resist showbiz 9/16/2005 11:01:37 AM

Armstrong rules out return to competitive cycling 9/16/2005 3:08:45 PM
Nine NFL players fined for pre-game brawl 9/16/2005 1:09:22 PM
Unlikely foursome take lead at 84 Lumber Classic 9/16/2005 10:38:10 AM
'Pacman' arrives, set for Manila motorcade 9/16/2005 8:50:11 AM
Goosen looking hot, Montgomerie beaten 9/16/2005 8:16:10 AM
Five killed as floods hit Luzon 9/16/2005 4:05:45 PM
Angono evacuees sent home as flood retreats 9/16/2005 3:10:34 PM
Low pressure area threatens Zambales 9/16/2005 2:22:05 PM
Floods kill 5, sweep houses in Munti 9/16/2005 2:21:17 PM
Marikina floods subside, evacuees return home 9/16/2005 9:43:36 AM

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Glo's UN Stint

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (front row, L), Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (front row, 2nd L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (3rd from bottom) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (2nd from bottom) attend a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton (L) speaks with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as they attend a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

UN Protests v. Glo

Filipino protesters gesture in front of a poster of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during a rally along a busy street in Manila September 14, 2005. The demonstration was scheduled to coincide with Arroyo's address before the U.N. General Assembly in New York. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Vidal v. Media

Vidal accuses media of dividing Church By Christian V. EsguerraInquirer News Service
LIPA CITY, Batangas -- The influential archbishop of Cebu yesterday dismissed suggestions the worst political crisis to engulf President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had divided the Philippine Catholic Church hierarchy and accused media of fomenting dissension among the prelates. “It’s the media that are dividing us,” Ricardo Cardinal Vidal told reporters. “You make it appear as though there’s infighting among us when there is none.”
Vidal urged the media to report only the truth and ignore speculations.
The country’s lone active cardinal appeared disturbed by a recent Inquirer report identifying him as among several bishops who had received hefty cash donations from the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Vidal, who is usually low-key, and two other bishops had admitted receiving Pagcor money but stressed it went to projects for the poor. This is a practice officially frowned upon by the Church hierarchy and denounced by some prelates.
Vidal yesterday led a pilgrimage to Lipa City in Batangas province, focal point of the National Day of Prayer for Reparation, Conversion and Consecration, called in the aftermath of the House of Representatives’ decision junking the impeachment complaints against Ms Arroyo over charges she stole last year’s election.
Ms Arroyo, upon the invitation of the bishops, took time out from a heavy schedule to attend a Mass in Lipa hours before her departure for New York. “This was in solidarity with the bishops,” said Media Secretary Cerge Remonde.
More than a dozen prelates joined the Lipa affair, including those urging the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to reassess its position in July staying away from calls for Ms Arroyo’s resignation but urging her not to dismiss them altogether.
The CBCP’s 12-member permanent council is to begin a meeting today on the country’s political situation.
A faction of the 119-strong CBCP is to hold a “special meeting” separately to articulate concerns the organization’s prescriptions for the nation’s political problems had apparently been ignored. The bishops had said in their July statement that resignation, impeachment and the creation of a “truth commission” were not against the Gospel.
A Palace official, who declined to be named, said the CBCP’s policymaking body would address statements made by Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Fr. Robert Reyes urging the prelates to take a tougher stand against the President. The official also said the bishops’ concerns about media reporting that tended to put the Church in a bad light would be taken up in the council meeting.
Cruz has been on the forefront of a crusade against illegal gambling. His campaign led to a House investigation that implicated Ms Arroyo’s family in gambling payoffs.
Council agenda
Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando City, Pampanga province, said today’s meeting would “touch on the political crisis.”
A council member, Aniceto said the agenda had been prepared before the current political issues surfaced.
Both Vidal and Aniceto denied knowledge of a parallel gathering of bishops outside of the council. But at least four highly reliable Church insiders yesterday confirmed to the Inquirer that such a gathering would indeed take place.
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, who earlier confirmed the special meeting, was spotted by the Inquirer at the CBCP office yesterday.
Contrary to perceptions, the special meeting was not meant to pressure the council into issuing a stronger response to the failed impeachment bid, a Church insider said.
The council, headed by outgoing CBCP president Fernando Capalla, is in charge of policy decisions when the body is not in plenary session.
The source said the parallel meeting outside the council was triggered by the Inquirer exposé on bishops and priests who had been receiving hefty cash donations from Pagcor. The failed impeachment of Ms Arroyo was also a major reason, the source said.
“There’s the larger issue of how these things are being handled by the CBCP,” the source said. “The goal is to think this out soberly, in prayerful discernment, and determine what can be done to bring about unity and speak out as one in a clearer voice.”
Aniceto told reporters in Lipa that Filipinos should explore other peaceful solutions to the nation’s political ills.
A people of hope
“Let us not close our doors that easily. There are still alternatives. We are a people of hope,” said Aniceto. Asked what these options were, he said Filipinos should engage in “prayerful discernment so all of us will be enlightened.”
Aniceto seemed unperturbed by the quashing of the impeachment complaints in the House of Representatives against the President last week. He said the impeachment was an important “first step” in resolving the crisis.
“Democracy is a dynamic procedure, that’s why we keep on asking the Lord to illumine our pathway,” he said.
He said Ms Arroyo had the right to defend herself. “This is really what will happen under our present form of government.”
Representative Eduardo Zialcita of Parañaque City urged the CBCP to rein in prelates who issue statements outside of its official position.
“We don’t mean to have their free speech curtailed but going against the CBCP stand is creating more confusion and divisiveness among the Catholic flock,” Zialcita, an Arroyo supporter, said in a statement yesterday.
“The CBCP should serve as a calming voice amid the opposition’s refusal to abide by the House’s decision to dismiss the impeachment complaints against the President,” said another administration ally, Representative Jesli Lapus of Tarlac.
Also yesterday, Senator Rodolfo Biazon said he was not surprised to see the Church and other religious denominations overstep legal boundaries. He said politicians had given them leeway “to meddle in state affairs.”
“Who caused this? Us, politicians. During elections, who do we run to? We troop to these different sects for their support. When you are given that support, you’re accepting the fact that they can meddle in political affairs,” he said.
Biazon also said Filipinos, in some ways, encouraged the Church to overstep legal boundaries and play an active role in the 1986 and 2001 bloodless people’s revolts that toppled leaders.
One way to put a stop to this is for the government to institute reforms in the country’s electoral system by raising the level of maturity of both politicians and the electorate, the senator said.

RP Pols To Be Charged

Ex-Lacson aide and FBI cohort nabbed in US for espionage

Tetch Torres Veronica Uy

FORMER police official Michael Ray Aquino and a Federal Bureau of Investigation analyst were arrested in the United States for espionage, National Bureau of Investigation chief Reynaldo Wycoco said.

At the same time, three government officials in the Philippines will be charged for conspiracy in stealing and passing on classified information about the country's political affairs.

Aquino was arrested, along with an FBI intelligence analyst Leandro Aragoncillo, for allegedly stealing "highly classified" material stored in computers at an FBI office in the US, Wycoco said Tuesday.

Aquino, who is believed to have fled to the United States several years ago after being indicted in Manila on homicide charges, apparently tried to buy the material from Aragoncillo, a Filipino-American FBI employee.

National Bureau of Investigation Interpol chief Ricardo Diaz said the documents were passed on electronically to Aquino, who is based in New York.

Aquino and Aragoncillo were arrested in New York City on Saturday in possession of documents pertaining to "highly classified assessments of the Philippine political situation" as well as assessments of "Philippine political leaders," said NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco.

Aquino is one of opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson's co-accused in the alleged Kuratong-Baleleng rubout.

Wycoco said three government officials will also be charged for conspiracy, hinting that one of them is a former high-ranking executive, a top-level official, and a second level cabinet member.

He said these officials discreetly sent sensitive information to Aquino, who was arrested in his house in Queens, New York.

Aquino and Aragoncillo were charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of acting as unregistered foreign agents. Aragoncillo is facing a separate case for unauthorized use of a government computer.

Wycoco said Aquino could face up to 18 years in jail if convicted by US courts of espionage. The former police officer could also be charged for other crimes including money laundering, he added.

Lacson on Tuesday admitted to receiving information from Aquino, but said that the items he received were not "sensitive."

"…I don't recall having received any information sensitive [from] the US government," said Lacson, who admitted to keeping "in close touch" with Aquino since he migrated to the US.

Lacson said his former subordinate regularly kept his friends and former associates updated on news about Filipino-Americans' interests and matters concerning Philippines affairs.

"I am not sure which of the information that I and others received were considered classified because to my recollection, the bits of information I got from him were largely news that everyone has read and heard in our local media," he said.

Aquino was brought to court on Monday where his rights and charges were read, Consul General Cecilia Rebong of the Philippine consulate general in New York said in a report.

Felix Vinluan, Aquino's immigration lawyer, clarified that Monday's hearing was not an arraignment that required Aquino to enter a plea.

Aquino is currently detained at the Passaic County Correctional Facility.

Rebong said the judge provided Aquino with a criminal justice attorney to defend him in this case.

Formerly one of Lacson's most trusted aides, Aquino is also among the suspects in the killing of public relations man Salvador "Bubby" Dacer.

Rebong said the following charges were read to Aquino:

"1. Acting as an agent of a foreign official without notification of the Attorney General in violation of Title 18 of US Code, Section 951;

2. Knowingly communicating classified information by a government employee to an agent or representative of a foreign country (i.e. receiving classified information); and

3. Conspiracy to commit all the above offenses in violation of Title 18 of the US Code, Section 371."

The charge sheet said passing on classified information violates Title 50 of US Code, Section 783.

Carol Buch, one of the case prosecutors, said the nature of the case barred him from immediately informing the Philippine consulate on the arrest.

"[B]ecause of the covert and sensitive nature of the case, no consular notification has as yet been made," said Buch, adding that a notice will be sent to the consulate on Tuesday.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez earlier asked the United States embassy to provide the Philippine government with more details on the arrest of Aquino.

In his letter to Jeff Cole, US justice department attaché Gonzalez sought information on the documents allegedly obtained by Aquino.

"I would like to be furnished soonest at least, with [a] brief of the documents downloaded by him so that the government can take the necessary action under the circumstances," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said, considering the current political situation in the country, "It could be detrimental to our government."

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been dogged by allegations of electoral fraud and recently survived an impeachment bid against her at the House of Representatives.

Rebong said Aquino will have his second hearing on September 21. US laws allow his detention for 10 days from the day of his arrest.

The consul general said the September 21 hearing will determine if Aquino should be turned over to immigration officials, or remained detained and face trial in the US.

With reports from Margaux Ortiz, Inquirer New Service and Agence France Presse

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lacson Aide A Spy?

Ex-Lacson aide nabbed in US for espionage
Margaux Ortiz Inquirer News Service
MICHAEL Ray Aquino, a former police official and aide of then police chief Panfilo Lacson, was arrested during the wekend in New York for espionage, a National Bureau of Investigation official confirmed on Tuesday.
NBI Interpol chief Ricardo Diaz said a Federal Bureau of Investigation intelligence analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo, was also arrested for downloading documents on the Philippines, several of which were classified secret. Diaz said the documents were passed on to Aquino electronically.
He said Aragoncillo, who is of Filipino descent, works at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.
Aquino is based in New York.

Anti Glo Rally in NY

Protesters stage rally ahead of Arroyo’s arrival in NY
Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
NEW YORK -- Militant groups who want President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo out of Malacañang held a pocket rally here on the eve of the President’s arrival for the United Nations (UN) summit.
Calling themselves the “unwelcome party” for Ms Arroyo’s visit, some 20 members of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and the Philippine Forum staged a one-hour mobilization in front of the Philippine Consulate office along Fifth Avenue.
The protesters held placards demanding Ms Arroyo’s ouster, saying she was a bogus president, and asking her to own up to the human rights abuses of civilians in the Philippines.
“With the impeachment process killed in Congress, this leaves us no choice but to gain strength in the streets of Manila, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco,” Rusty Fabunan, spokesperson of the committee told
Fabunan said the rally intends to expose Ms Arroyo as the “fake and illegitimate representative to the UN.”
Similar protest actions continue to hound her in the Philippines even after her allies in Congress junked the impeachment complaint filed by the opposition against her on allegations that she committed electoral fraud and that her family benefited from illegal gambling.
Protest organizers said they would hold another rally on September 15, the day of Ms Arroyo’s departure for Manila.
Ms Arroyo is to attend the UN summit and world leaders forum from Sept. 12-15.
She will be the first Filipino leader, the first Asian head of state and the first woman leader to preside over a summit of the UN Security Council.
She is expected to be back home on Sept. 17.
United Nations

Yorac dies of kidney

Yorac dies of kidney failure
Fe Zamora Inquirer News Service
FORMER Presidential Commission on Good Government chairperson Haydee Yorac died of kidney failure in Chicago on Tuesday morning, RP time.
Yorac's death was confirmed by her law partner Felicidad Aquino-Arroyo.
Arroyo said Yorac died around 5:30 a.m. at the St. Francis Hosipital in Chicago where she had been confined for a week. The cause of death was kidney failure as a result of cancer complications.
Arroyo said most members of Yorac's family was at her bedside when she died.
Yorac was 64.
Known for her fearlessness and feistiness, Yorac also sat as chairperson and commissioner of the Commission on Elections.
In a phone interview with, PCGG spokesman Nick Suarez said the the commission would hold a memorial service for Yorac.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tourism Up

Tourist arrivals rose by 14 %, says Durano

Inquirer News Service

NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur -- Despite the political turmoil hounding the country, the number of foreign tourists increased by 14 percent from January to July, according to Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.

Durano, who was here to open the weeklong Bicol version of "Wow Philippines" fiesta, ascertained that the political turmoil had not affected the tourism industry of the Philippines.

Without citing exact figures, he claimed that tourists from Japan, China and Korea knew that the rallies and other political squabbles affected only Metro Manila.

Southern Tagalog and Bicol were among the regions that benefited from the increasing influx of foreign tourists, he said.

Bicol was also becoming a major tourist destination with Lake Buhi and the islets of Caramoan, aside from the majestic Mayon Volcano, gaining popularity.

In a simple ceremony held at Plaza Rizal here, he declared the geothermal field occupied by the Bac-Man geothermal production as an eco-tourism site.

Among several areas recognized by the eco-tourism certification of Bac-Man are the Botong Twin Falls, Bat Sanctuary, Inang Maharang Mud Pool and Nag-aso Lake.

The 150-megawatt geothermal production field located in the boundary of Bacon, Sorsogon and Manito, Albay started its operation in 1993.

The location of the geothermal field in the mountains also provides a vantage view of Mayon Volcano, Albay Gulf, Bulusan Volcano and Sorsogon Bay.

Bohol Chronicle Update on Jagna

"Lake" threatens Jagna, Duero folks

At least seven Jagna and Duero barangays situated in low-lying areas have been categorized as under threat following the formation of an artificial lake, which at any given time could trigger flashfloods in Mayana, Jagna.

Jagna Mayor Exuperio Lloren yesterday told the Chronicle that under close monitoring are barangays Boctol, Lunoy, Cambugasan and Alihawan in Jagna while barangays Mambuol, Cansuhay and Alihawan in Duero are also vulnerable of flashfloods.

If the land movement continues, the seven barangays face the risk of being washed out by floodwaters, the mayor said.

The land erosion has affected 78 hectares in Mayana, Lloren noted, quoting a Sept. 1 report of the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB).

The erosion which started July 11 is moving at 5 to 23 meters a day during the past two months.

Earlier, Emil Berador of the regional MGB said the land area affected is even bigger than the landslide that hit the United States sometime in 1996.

The scenario of the feared flashflood may appear that water would find its way through two tributaries that could pull down water from the Mayana River and the Banwalog River in Duero. The water coming from these two rivers may flow into Alihawan River that sets the boundary between the two coastal towns.

Third district engineer Aramis Torrefranca said the artificial lake has developed below Mayana River. He said the lake measures about 7 by 50 meters in diameter, a situation enough to alarm residents nearby for impending flashfloods.

The district engineer said residents in the seven barangays are at risk if the water will overflow.

To prevent a possible flashflood, six holes have been made on the sides of the artificial lake.

The lake was five-meter deep. But after massive clean-up, the deep has reduced to two meters.

Torrefranca has posted engineering personnel right at the lake to find ways that water could not overflow into the low-lying areas.

Meanwhile, MGB authorities fear that landslide will continue for even a year.

Llloren said relocation has been carefully studied while the displaced residents, about 176 families, have temporarily sought refuge at the homes of their relatives and friends.

The mayor said that since he expects additional assistance, a quick response team (QRT) has been in place in Mayana.


Lloren hopes relief assistance will continue to arrive in Jagna since the disaster is still in progress.

He said that despite the calamity, displaced residents have not been plagued of any form of sickness.

The mayor praised an ABS-CBN medical mission and groups of Jagna-anons from Cebu and Manila who visited the area twice for help.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Transport Strike Monday

Nationwide transport strike on Monday planned

Clarissa Batino
Inquirer News Service

AT LEAST two transport groups are holding a nationwide transport strike on Monday to protest the continuous increase in the prices of oil products and to press for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mar Garvida of the transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (United Association of Drivers and Operators Nationwide, Piston) said they would also protest the imposition of the expanded value-added tax on fuel.

The Philippine Confederation of Drivers and Operators-Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (PCDO-ACTO) transport group will also be joining the strike, he added.

Garvida said Piston has 250,000 members nationwide.

The group has a strong presence in northern Manila, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Pampanga.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Impeachment Dates


Here is a timeline of the events that led to the emergence of the "mother of all tapes," as described by self-styled whistle-blower Samuel Ong, former deputy director for intelligence of the National Bureau of Investigation.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

US Chief Justice Dies

US Chief Justice Rehnquist dies from cancer

Maxim Kniazkov
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON--William Rehnquist, chief justice and a leading conservative voice on the US Supreme Court, died Saturday after losing a battle with thyroid cancer, setting up a new political battle for President George W. Bush over the makeup of the judiciary.

Rehnquist, the 16th chief justice of the United States, "died this evening at his home in Arlington, Virginia, surrounded by his three children," the court said in a statement.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in October but had kept working up to the final days of his life.

The news was delivered to Bush shortly late Saturday night, the White House said.

"The president and Mrs. Bush are deeply saddened at the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist," spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said. "His family is in their thoughts and prayers." The president was to make a formal comment on Sunday.

Coming on the heels of the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in July, Rehnquist's death broadens the political fight over the makeup of the Supreme Court, which plays a key role in shaping America's political and social landscape.

Conservative federal appeals court judge John Roberts has been named by Bush to replace O'Connor.

But although his initial reception on Capital Hill was positive, Roberts is expected to face a tough confirmation hearing, during which his positions on issues ranging from abortion to the role of government will be closely scrutinized.

The Congress hearings are scheduled to start this week.

Rehnquist's passing means the president will have wage a second major political battle over a successor, who is likely to be a social conservative like Rehnquist.

The most mentioned name to become chief justice is Antonin Scalia, a pillar of the Supreme Court's conservative faction.

Rehnquist had been in and out of hospital ever since his condition was diagnosed. But with rumors about his retirement swirling, Renhquist moved forcefully to quash them in July, insisting he would not retire and that he intended to "continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits."

Rehnquist was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and took his seat on January 7, 1972.

He was elevated to chief justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Rehnquist was a strong opponent of abortion, gay rights, gun control, and affirmative action for minorities.

A fierce defender of the death penalty, Rehnquist often wrote a divergent opinion when in a minority of one, earning himself the title "Lone Ranger."

Rehnquist was one of two dissenters in the key Roe vs Wade case in 1973 which recognized abortion as a constitutional right.

In 1995, he wrote the majority opinion striking down a federal law ordering a "gun-free zone" around state schools, in a landmark decision preserving the rights of individual states.

In 1999, he presided over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in the Senate over accusations that he lied about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

A year later, Rehnquist and four other Republican-nominated justices, ordered the end of the presidential election ballot recount in Florida, giving the presidency to George W. Bush.

Born October 1, 1924, William Hubbs Rehnquist grew up in Shorewood, in the midwestern state of Wisconsin.

The son of an affluent wholesale paper salesman, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and served in North Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in political science from Stanford University in California.

Rehnquist attended Harvard University for a year and earned another master's degree before returning to Stanford to study law. He graduated in 1952 at the top of his class.

The former chief justice is survived by his three children: Janet Rehnquist, James Rehnquist and Nancy Spears as well as his sister, Jean Larin. His wife, Natalie Rehnquist, died in 1991.

Unity At Last?

Posted by Alecks Pabico 

prayer-gathering.jpgOUT of tonight's inter-faith prayer gathering called by the De La Salle Brothers at the school's Greenhills campus, a broad coalition of mass movements, political parties, civil society organizations and religious groups invariably clamoring for Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation, impeachment and ouster has been formalized, all uniting under the banner of truth.

Calling themselves Bukluran sa Katotohanan (Coalition for the Truth), a name unanimously adopted from the theme of the event, the new movement significantly unites disparate groups that have not come together until this evening, as well as brings the so-called "middle forces" (students, professionals, the business sector) into the fold of the Arroyo resign-impeach-ouster (RIO) campaign.

"Our unity is anchored on principles and our aspirations for change, a change that is in turn anchored on the clamor for the truth," said Rep. Etta Rosales of the Akbayan party list.

The occasion marked the first public appearance together of former Pres. Corazon Aquino and Susan Roces, widow of Fernando Poe Jr., the opposition's presidential candidate in the 2004 elections.

Addressing the crowd who came to listen to the Catholic mass and the Christian and Muslim (Duwa'a) service, Mrs. Aquino, now 72, vowed to give whatever she can to the campaign for the truth.

"Pasensya na po kayo dito sa matanda niyong kababayan. Akala ko ay maaari na akong magpahinga. Pero siguro ganyan talaga ang buhay. At ako naman, habang kaya ko pa ay iaalay ko ang lahat nang aking makakaya para sa inyo, " she said.

For the first time, too, the key personalities in the RIO campaign have come out in public together. Aside from the country's two most famous widows, also in attendance were 26 of the pro-impeachment congressmen who received the loudest and longest applause of the evening; Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas; three of the resigned Cabinet members who came to be known as the "Hyatt 10"; former senators Wigberto "Bobby" Tañada and Leticia Ramos-Shahani; Reporma's Renato de Villa and Frank Chavez; Mayors Jejomar Binay and JV Ejercito of the United Opposition; and leaders of recently launched mass formations like the Laban ng Masa, Black and White Movement, White Ribbon Movement, Unity for Truth and Justice, and the Gloria Step Down Movement.

Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna party-list representative, however, said that the coalition's message is still muted.

"Tonight, prayer is the main expression. What remains to be seen is the unified call for protest actions in a more dramatic way," said Ocampo, though he disclosed that the different groups are now in talks.

But do expect the coalition's initial show of force next week in anticipation of Tuesday's plenary vote on the House justice committee's decision to throw out all the impeachment complaints against Arroyo last Friday.

"And if they will kill the impeachment," Rosales said, "we hope it will be the signal for the people to come out and join us in waving the banner of truth."  

Following are excerpts of Mrs. Aquino's brief remarks:

Unang-una, nais kong magpasalamat kay Bro. Armin (Luistro) for organizing this event.

Salamat din kay Bishop (Antonio) Tobias for the mass and all the priests.

Salamat sa inyong lahat. Salamat din kay Susan at narito siya ngayon upang makiisa sa atin.

Ito po ang kauna-unahang pagkakataon na makunan kami ng litrato ni Susan. Nagkita na po kami noong ibang araw pero private lamang po iyon. Pero ngayon siguro ay nararapat na nga na magkaisa tayong lahat upang manalangin sa panginoong diyos na ibigay sa atin ang katotohanan.

Salamat din sa Hyatt 10…At salamat sa ating mga congressmen…Ang hanap natin ay 79 at balita ko ay nadagdagan na dahil si Congressman (Antonino) Roman ay narito na rin…

Ano ba ang kailangang gawin para dumami kayo at para makamit natin ang katotohanan na hinahanap natin?

Kanina naisip ko na kung minsan matagal ang pagsagot sa aking panalangin. Alam po ninyo noong 1972, panahon ng martial law, ang aking panalangin palagi sa Diyos, kung maaari po sana i-release na lang Niyo si Ninoy.

Naghintay po kami nang matagal. Nakita ko nga rito si Rita Rodrigo Sevilla, na kasama ng daddy niya si Ninoy. Nandito rin si Bobby Tañada na katulong namin at katulong natin ang kanyang magiting na ama.

Noong 1975, nag-hunger strike si Ninoy for 40 days. Tapos 1978 sumali ang laban at katakot-takot ang dayaan noon, at talo silang lahat. Inisip ko nga, wala na bang katapusan ito? Kailan kaya sasagutin ng Panginoong Diyos ang aking panalangin?

But God does work in mysterious ways. And in 1980, Ninoy suffered a heart attack. And it was that heart attack which gave us the passport to freedom.

Kaya kung minsan po hindi natin naiintindihan, bakit natatagalan ang paggsagot sa ating panalangin. Katulad po nang nangyari sa ating Batasan Tuesday. Nag-walk out. At inisip natin, ano ba ito? Wala na tayong pag-asa?

But because of that walkout, I think, Bro. Armin, you were  inspired to call all of us together to pray. So let us continue to pray for each other, to support each other. I am sure that if more and more of us pray and ask the Lord to bring us closer to the truth, He will do that and he will grant us not only 79, but more than 79, although  we will be happy with 79.

So maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat. Pasensya na po kayo dito sa matanda niyong kababayan. Akala ko ay maaari na akong magpahinga. Pero siguro ganyan talaga ang buhay. At ako naman, habang kaya ko pa ay iaalay ko ang lahat nang aking makakaya para sa inyo.

Maraming salamat.