Monday, August 22, 2005

Kill Impeachment Tax

Arroyo suspends P5.1-B road fund

Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has suspended the release of the controversial 5.1-billion-peso road user's tax, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced on Monday.

The fund for release to 210 members of the House of Representatives, except the party-list representatives, was allegedly being used to persuade lawmakers not to support the impeachment complaints against Arroyo.

Bunye said the President ordered Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to immediately suspend the fund's release.

Bunye said that Arroyo's orders were in line with the "judicious use of resources."

"I think it's not advisable to carry out such projects under this weather," he told

But Bunye could not say whether the money would be kept intact or would be used for other projects.

The fund, the biggest the Road Board would allocate since its creation in 2001, is to be used for road maintenance in the congressional districts. Each solon would receive 26.7 million pesos.

Last year, the government spent 2.5 billion pesos for the "Kalsada Natin, Alagaan Natin" (These are Our Streets, Let's Care for Them) program of the President where street sweepers wore shirts bearing her name.

Arroyo is facing possible impeachment before Congress on charges of vote fraud, corruption, and human rights violations.

Glo's Ouster

Rights mission joins call for Arroyo ouster

Philip C. Tubeza Luige A. del Puerto
Inquirer News Service

LONG before the Senate could try President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for impeachment, a group of international human rights advocates have found her guilty of numerous human rights violations and concluded that she should be ousted.

The group held an International People's Court (IPC) at the Film Center of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, on Aug. 19 and concluded that Ms Arroyo should be "perpetually barred" from holding public office.

The IPC was endorsed by well-known leftist personalities, like scholar Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"In the eyes of the world, Ms Arroyo is now in the infamous pantheon of human rights violators. If only for this, she should be immediately impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate," said Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo.

Ocampo joined the human rights advocates in turning over the evidence they had gathered to the impeachment prosecution team. The impeachment complaint against the President also accuses her of abetting numerous human rights violations perpetrated by the military.

"The voluminous evidence submitted to the IPC would be valuable in the impeachment complaint. No self-respecting member of Congress can turn a blind eye to such well-documented violations and Ms Arroyo's role in them," Ocampo said.

The human rights advocates also said that they supported moves to impeach the President.

"The human rights situation in the Philippines has reached alarming proportions which deserves international attention," said Canadian Barbara Waldern, one of the IPC jurors.

A signal

"This impeachment proceeding will send a signal to all countries in the world that the head of state could be indicted for acquiescence and abetting massive human rights abuses by state security forces," she said.

Waldern was among the 85 foreign delegates of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) that visited areas of the country where the human rights situation "was at its worst," on Aug. 14-18.

The "judgment" of the IPC, which concluded its mission, was signed by all local and foreign delegates. It read:

"The Defendants (President Macapagal-Arroyo and ranking officers of the AFP and PNP) are hereby adjudged to have forfeited any right or authority to occupy their current political positions and hereby ordered removed from positions of power and perpetually and absolutely disqualified from holding any public office."

"The foreign delegates will urge our home countries to withdraw support to the Philippine President if she continues to acquiesce from the worsening human rights violation in the Philippines," said Kawal Ulanday, a member of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan from the United States and IPC juror.

"The worst violations, such as summary executions and enforced disappearances were deliberately and systematically done by state armed forces against legitimate political dissent, this is a serious crime against humanity which merits serious penalties in the international tribunals," added Selma Benkhelija, a lawyer from Belgium and IPC juror.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil said the PNP would investigate any charges of human rights violations.

"We maintain that we do not tolerate human rights violations and we have certain police operational procedures or rules of engagement to follow in certain situation(s)," Bataoil said. "Any deviation from the same, we will make them answer for it including the immediate supervisor on the ground if evidence warrants."

The judges

The IPC held Ms Arroyo responsible for the 4,207 cases of human rights violations from January 2001 to June 2005, which included 400 victims of summary executions and 110 victims of forced disappearances.

Those who testified in the tribunal included witnesses to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in Tarlac province on Nov. 16 last year, abductions and extrajudicial killings committed in Mindoro and Eastern Visayas, and cases of torture, massacres and other cases in Surigao and Sulu.

On the Hacienda Luisita incident, Bataoil urged the mission to also look into the "human rights violations [committed by] the picketers who injured a lot of our policemen in the area during our peacekeeping operation at that time."

The court's judges included American law professor Lennox Hinds of Rutgers University, who was also a lawyer for Nelson Mandela, independent South Africa's first president; Nobel Peace Prize nominee Irene Fernandez of Malaysia, and lawyer Hakan Karakus of Turkey, president of the International Association of People's Lawyers.

Besides Chomsky, the endorsers of the IPC were Ramsey Clark, former US attorney general and founding chair of the International Action Center, and Jitendra Sharma, former justice of the Supreme Court of India.

Police rights

Finding alleged evidence of extrajudicial killings, the international mission concluded that the Arroyo administration violated the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the GRP-NDF (National Democratic Front) Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law, among others.

Ocampo said the unresolved political killings under the Arroyo administration were an "enormous hindrance" to national reconciliation.

"A president that allows and encourages the killing of her own people for political ends, especially of her critics and human rights advocates, doing a grave injustice, culpably violates the Constitution and loses the moral right to govern and to unite the nation," said Ocampo, who is himself a former political detainee during the Marcos dictatorship.

He said that the reported relief of Brigadier General Jovito Palparan as head of the Army's 8th Infantry Division in Eastern Visayas indicated the President's "grudging admission of the politically motivated murders, abductions, torture, forced disappearances and other human rights violations" reported to human rights group Karapatan and the IPC and ISM.

Palparan's removal from Eastern Visayas and his expulsion from the military have long been demanded by Eastern Samar Representative Catalino Figueroa and various people's organizations.

"In spite of the rising incidence of political killings in Mindoro Oriental when Palparan was provincial military chief, Arroyo promoted him from colonel to brigadier general. True, he was removed from Mindoro but he pursued the same bloodthirsty campaign against anti-Arroyo activists," Ocampo said.


The international mission was particularly appalled by the military general accused of numerous human rights violations in the course of his intensive anti-insurgency campaign.

"Due to the particular heinousness of his offenses, we particularly make a specific finding of guilt against (Maj.) Gen. Jovito Palparan," the group said.

The general, who had vowed to wipe out the insurgents, denied the allegations.

The international mission said evidence against the Arroyo administration demonstrated "beyond reasonable doubt that these human rights abuses are widespread, systematic and were done with impunity."

Support for Arroyo ouster

It also supported calls for Ms Arroyo's ouster and asked the international community to do the same.

"The defendants are sentenced to pay compensation and indemnification for the victims' rehabilitation, restitute their material and moral damages, and issue a sincere public apology to the Filipino people, and that all prisoners incarcerated because of political repression be released," it told the Philippine government.

The group further asked the Filipino people to file a complaint with the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

University of the Philippines (UP)

Philippine National Police (PNP)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Libel vs. Lastimosa

Health official takes heat for dengue queries
by Sun-Star Daily Cebu

For issuing conflicting statements to the media, the Cebu City Health Department chief drew the ire of some councilors yesterday after her statements prompted a radio commentator to raise allegations of graft against city councilors.

In an executive session yesterday, the City Council clarified to the media and assured the public that all procedures and requirements have been complied with before they purchased anti-dengue chemicals.

A former city health officer also defended the council, saying the purchase of P1.5 million worth of chemicals is valid.

Despite the spraying activities, the number of dengue cases in the city continued to increase, from 704 cases last Aug. 9 to 767 cases as of Aug. 16.

Twenty-one deaths have been recorded so far since the listing started last January.

Libel charge

The Council is also contemplating on the filing of a libel complaint against radio dyAB news anchor Leo Lastimosa for insinuating that councilors got commissions from the purchase.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama reacted to Lastimosa's reports that the council authorized the purchase even if City Health Department Chief Fe Cabugao said they don't need the chemicals.

But at the session yesterday, Cabugao told the council that she signed the purchase request for Aqua Resigen weeks after she was appointed as city health officer in January.

"It's good that now she is finally admitting to this Council that she signed a request," an irate Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera said.

The council approved last February the purchase of 500 liters of resigen worth P1.5 million. The chemicals were delivered to the City only this month.

Cabugao admitted that she signed the purchase request but the request was made during their budget proposal meeting last year yet, when the sanitary division asked for more chemicals.


"I did not say categorically that we don't need the chemicals. I only said we have to be cautious in using it because there are harmful effects," she explained to the Council.

Rama called for the executive session to clarify insinuations of Lastimosa that the Council hastily declared a state of calamity so the councilors can make money.

"But as a responsible department head, you would sign a request because you fully believe the chemicals are useful to the constituents, not just because your subordinates asked for it and you are afraid to displease your personnel. Tell us if you need it or you don't need it," said Pesquera.

Councilor Gerardo Carillo said he was upset when he heard Cabugao over the radio disown that she signed the request.

"Tell us what you need and you don't need rather than talk to the media and say we don't need it. If you feel you don't need the chemicals, then don't sign it," Vice Mayor Rama said.

Rama also asked Cabugao why they continue fogging and misting activities using Aqua Resigens when former city health chief Felicitas Manaloto already said it is harmful to the environment.

Because mist blowing using resigen has the least harmful effects, former city health officer Estella Ygoña said they shifted from fogging to misting, although they are still using the same chemicals.


Ygona said, though, that misting or surface spraying will be done only in the houses and immediate surroundings of dengue patients in order to kill the adult-infecting mosquitoes.

She stressed that effective environmental management is still the only way to kill the larvae of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

"So the purchase of 500 liters is still valid," Ygoña said.

With this said, Councilor Hilario Davide III said the Council has enough basis to file libel complaints against Lastimosa.

"I feel aggrieved because of his malicious statements. What facts does he have to say that the Council indeed made money?

It's up to us now what actions we would take against Mr. Lastimosa," the councilor said.

Since Lastimosa did not attend the first executive session last Aug. 11, the Council invited him again to the resumption of yesterday's session on Wednesday.

Rama also required Cabugao to submit in the next session the guidelines on how the city health department is implementing their dengue program.

He also said Cabugao should submit a report that fogging and misting are still options for the City to address dengue problems. (LCR)

Bar Exams

Multiple choice to be part of 2005 bar exams -- SC justice

Tetch Torres

MULTIPLE choice will be included in the bar exams on September 4, 11, 18, and 25, according to the chairman of the committee tasked to formulate this year's tests.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Romeo Callejo Sr. told law school deans that he had asked the bar examiners to submit five multiple-choice type questions for possible inclusion in the examination.

During a knowledge-sharing forum on professional examinations however Callejo clarified that the examinees would still be required to explain their answers. "I will not allow guessing under my watch."

He said that even in actual practice, lawyers were required to explain their answers to certain questions.

"Allowing the examinees to explain their answers will train them to develop logic and correct reasoning," Callejo said.

In June 2004, the Supreme Court issued Bar Matter 1161, which outlines reforms such as using multiple choice on 30 to 40 percent of the total number of questions and the appointment of a tenured board of examiners.

There are 5,777 examinees this year.

Glo's Exit

Estrada snubs Arroyo's reconciliation attempts

Agence France-Presse

HONG KONG -- Deposed Philippine leader Joseph Estrada said his successor President Gloria Arroyo was doomed to share his fate as he rebuffed her attempts at a political reconciliation, a report said Monday.

"I have a room specially prepared for her, and a pony too," he said in reference to his term of house arrest while being tried for massive corruption.

For two years, he has been confined to his 15-hectare (37-acre), 14-bedroom villa east of Manila, which he shares with a stable of retired racehorses.

Estrada predicted Arroyo was not long for the presidency, based on his own experience.

"I was confident, too," of not being ousted. "In fact, over-confident," the former film star told the South China Morning Post in an interview.

"Ferdinand Marcos left (Malacañang Palace) by plane. I left by boat. She will leave by stroller," he said, in a joking reference to Arroyo's height of four foot 11 inches (1.48 meters).

Estrada was ousted by a military-backed popular revolt in 2001 due to a corruption scandal and replaced by his then-vice president Arroyo.

He is being tried on charges of plundering a personal fortune of about 80 million dollars but has been allowed to stay under house arrest at his vacation home outside the capital. He has always denied the charges.

Estrada has also consistently said he was illegally ousted, and last year tapped his best friend and fellow actor Fernando Poe to stand in the presidential election, which was won by Arroyo.

Estrada allies have since led an opposition campaign to oust Arroyo from office on charges that she cheated to win the election.

Arroyo was recently accused of committing nearly the same offenses Estrada is now standing trial for, including obstructing the investigation into accusations she rigged her electoral victory and receiving illegal gambling payoffs to fund her presidential campaign.

"I am glad not to be in her shoes at this time," he was quoted as saying. "This is one of the worst times."

There had been widespread speculation that Arroyo was seeking to make peace with Estrada after he was allowed a furlough from house arrest to attend a prayer rally in Manila on Saturday.

The fallen president remains the de facto leader of the opposition and is popular among the majority poor.