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Tribune Editorial

Necessity of obstruction clearing

Monday, 05 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The Executive-Ombudsman showdown over the suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang is out of place in the realm of an administration seeking to purge the government of politics and corruption.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has stubbornly stonewalled against the Duterte administration’s actions, the latest of which was the disciplinary action against Carandang.
Morales had made it known that cooperation can’t be expected from her on moves coming from Rody or his allies that made it necessary for cases filed on mostly officials of the previous administration to bypass the Ombudsman and filed them either through the courts or the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Morales is using a Supreme Court entry of judgment in a 2014 final decision of the SC in the case of former deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III who was embroiled in the tragic 2010 bus hostage tragedy that cost the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists and police officer Rolando Mendoza, the hostage taker.
Mendoza tagged Gonzales as having tried to extort from him P150,000 to dismiss a criminal case against him that Mendoza claimed was a set up.
Among the actions taken by the Palace as a result of the outcome of the probe on the incident was the dismissal of Gonzales.
The SC, in an 8-7 vote, ruled afterwards that the administrative authority exercised by the Office of the President over the position of deputy ombudsman was unconstitutional.
The SC specifically voided Section 8 (2) of the Ombudsman Act of 1989, which granted the president the power to remove a deputy ombudsman.
It held that of the appointed officials in the Office of the Ombudsman, only the special prosecutor was covered by the Palace’s power of discipline.
Morales said the Palace suspension order on Carandang was “unconstitutional” and an “impairment” of the Office of the Ombudsman’s constitutionally enshrined independence and that she would not enforce it.
“The Ombudsman cannot, therefore, seriously place at risk the independence of the very Office which she has pledged to protect on the strength of the constitutional guarantees which the High Court has upheld,” she said.
Carandang’s suspension was for administrative offenses of grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for allegedly disclosing false information about the bank transactions of Duterte and his family.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the suspension order is “immediately executory.”
The suspension stemmed from a complaint filed by lawyers Manolito Luna and Elijio Mallari, who had accused Carandang of “falsely and maliciously claiming” that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) had released a report on Duterte’s alleged bank deposits.
The AMLC, however, denied releasing a report on Mr. Duterte’s bank accounts. The AMLC added it has yet to evaluate if there is ground to initiate an investigation on Duterte’s bank transactions.
Carandang had said that Morales had authorized him to probe Duterte’s bank transactions when the latter was still mayor of Davao City.
He claimed that his office had obtained bank documents from AMLC showing Duterte’s and his family’s over P1 billion worth of transactions in several banks from 2006 to 2016.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, however, pointed out that an accountability vacuum will exist if Morales stands pat on her position.
Morales had inhibited from the investigation on the president’s supposed bank records and now “cannot also discipline (Carandang) for acts committed in a case where she inhibited herself as she will contradict herself.”
“Neither can (Carandang) be disciplined by the other deputy Ombudsmen due to lack of legal basis,” he said.
“(W)ho will now discipline Carandang who was acting under Ombudsman Morales’ fiat?” he asked.
Section 2, Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution did not include the deputy ombudsman as among the public officials who may be unseated only through an impeachment.
Calida also cited Section 20, Chapter 7, Title 1, Book III, of the Charter: “Unless Congress provides otherwise, the President shall exercise such other powers and functions vested in the President which are provided for under the laws and which are not specifically enumerated above, or which are not delegated by the President in accordance with law. “
Calida said the president, whose duty is to execute the laws, exercised his residual authority to “discipline officials” under the executive department.
Morales in her actions had only strengthened the argument for her removal from office through impeachment.

Realization dawns

Sunday, 04 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The results of the Social Weather Stations survey in public perception on peace and order showed gradual improvement in a field that many Filipinos thought did not have any positive chance.
The significant questions asked in the survey, among them, was whether people in the neighborhood are usually afraid (a) that robbers might break into their homes, and (b) to walk in the streets at night because it is not safe; and whether (c) there are many drug addicts in the neighborhood.
The December survey found 59 percent of Filipinos answering yes to the statement, “In this neighborhood, people are usually afraid that robbers might break into their houses.
Since the survey is done quarterly, the average for the year was a lower 57 percent fear of burglary for last year from 60.3 percent average in 2016.
Some 48 percent of respondents in the December survey agreed with the statement “In this neighborhood, people are usually afraid to walk in the street at night because it is not safe.
The 49.8 percent annual average fear of unsafe streets for 2017 was also an improvement from the 50.5 percent annual average in 2016.
Another 42 percent in December believed that in their neighborhood “there are already many people addicted to banned drugs.
The 44.8 percent annual average in the presence of many drug addicts in their community for last year was 11.5 points below the record-high 56.3 percent annual average in 2016. It was also the lowest since the 42 percent annual average in 2012.
The marginal improvement in the perception of public order is also a reason for President Duterte to press on with his determined anti-crime campaign, the true nature of which is slowly dawning among the outside critics viewing in.
Such realization was recently admitted by the United States as a State Department official said the US government is cautiously optimistic on Rody’s war on drugs.
James Walsh, a deputy assistant state secretary in the international narcotics and law enforcement bureau noted positive signs in the war on drugs and that the United States remains supportive of the Philippines’ effort in the campaign.
“Many folks have been tracking the extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Philippines and the trends are going down, so there is some encouragement that we are seeing in some of our human rights training working,” he added.
The EJK allegations were mostly the result, however, of hyped up numbers of supposed summary killings that range from 12,000 to 14,000 depending on the critics hurling the allegations.
The opponents of Rody and rights groups then use the bloated figures to prod the United Nations (UN) to barge in and conduct an investigation into their self-serving allegations.
The New York-based yellow sentinel Human Rights Watch said a UN-led probe would both help clarify the disparity in official and independent estimates of killings in the anti-drug campaign and facilitate accountability for unlawful deaths.
Whatever clarification that the government shows, however, would be discarded by HRW while continuing to use the bloated figures supplied by Rody’s local critics.
The government does not accept the allegations of EJK since those claimed deaths are either the result of legitimate police operations or these are under investigation. Some are also homicide and murder cases.
Rody’s critics, however, lumped all unsolved murders into the category state-sponsored EJKs.
On the resumption of tokhang or the anti-drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP), it was the Church now complaining on the use of the bible and rosaries to convince known drug offenders to change their ways.
Rody can’t satisfy everybody with his tough measures, that’s a given.

Inclusivity remains a challenge

Saturday, 03 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

Amid talks of a slowing economy or a bubble being created by the successive high growth for the past six years, economists disagree, citing the still huge opportunities for higher growth.
Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito said the economy has the potential to ramp up growth to about seven to eight percent a year from the current level of six to seven percent and the key would be the agriculture sector.
Habito noted continuing signs of a “renewed industrialization”.
Proof of this is that the manufacturing sector is now the pacesetter for the economy and has grown faster than the services sector, which in turn used to be the economic driver.
Under the services sector are telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO) which had boomed and supported the growth trajectory in previous years.
The resurgence of manufacturing added a source of growth for the economy which explains the sustained growth of over six percent rate which is among the highest in Asia if not the world.
The 8.6 percent manufacturing growth for last year was also higher than the traditionally fast-growing subsectors of finance that include banks and insurance, which grew at 7.7 percent and real estate that expanded 7.5 percent.
Habito said manufacturing is even catching up with BPO, the star performer, where growth has moderated lately to about nine percent.
He said BPO’s stellar double-digit performance in past years appears to have peaked, “and, looking forward, is likely to taper further given political and technological trends.”
“The now eight-year growth streak of manufacturing is a welcome development to those of us who have long rued how industrialization had eluded us, given the broad benefits it brings to an economy and its people,” Habito added.
Industry is a crucial growth sector since it is a major source of jobs which Habito said is pivotal for the economy and Filipino families “especially at this time when growth in overseas worker deployment has slowed down.”
The veteran economist, however, said the state of agriculture is key to the growth momentum since majority of the population still relies on the sector.
The agriculture, fishery and forestry (AFF) sector has reversed its negative performance of the previous year, but remains the laggard, growing much more slowly at 3.9 percent than the 6.7 percent overall growth “thereby dragging it down.”
Agriculture alone, meaning crops, poultry and livestock fared better with five percent but fishery and forestry both continued to slide at contractions of one and 5.9 percent growth, respectively thus pulling down the entire sector.
Output in the staple palay and corn improved with 9.4 and 9.8 percent growth, respectively, as did sugarcane, which rebounded with a hefty 30.2 percent growth but top agricultural exports coconut, banana and pineapple were sluggish at 0.7, 2.9 and 2.4 percent growth, respectively, while mango and coffee both took steep dives at negative 9.4 and negative 10.1 percent.
The poor state of the country’s agriculture, results in the country’s staple food production to be more expensive, hence much less affordable to the poor than in neighboring countries.
Habito said $6 million annual earnings from farm exports are a mere fraction of what our comparable neighbors earn from Vietnam’s $15 billion to Thailand’s $54 billion.
The growth momentum will also be sustained if the government speeds up investments primarily in agriculture since farm investment has fallen behind, with breeding stock and orchard development inching up by a mere 0.7 percent yearly on average, Habito said.
The challenge for the economic managers remain the inclusivity of the economic development which can be met by giving equal focus to agriculture similar to that given to the infrastructure buildup.






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