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Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo

BBL funding scheme can become national template

Saturday, 03 February 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

House Deputy Speaker, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya said discussions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law “have generated excitement among local governments as the powers to be devolved under the bill could be the template other regions can aspire for.”
“It is one of the reasons why many people are supporting the BBL. It can be the trailblazer for greater local autonomy,” he said.
“Many see the BBL as the opening for increased powers for the grassroots. There are those who believe that in the spirit of equality, the powers to be enjoyed by Bangsamoro should be enjoyed by the Bisaya, the Bulakenyo, or by the Bicolano,” Andaya said.
“After the BBL has been passed, there will be similar clamors by LGUs for more powers. And when that time comes, how can we deny, for example, Central Luzon’s request for Bangsamoro-like powers?”
“What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” Andaya said.
He said the idea, fueled by the BBL talks and the advocacy for federalism that regions can retain what they earn, “is getting traction, in all regions.”
Andaya said the administration stalwarts should not fear a “BBL-inspired ‘me too’ movement” for greater autonomy because after all, “we have been busy preaching the gospel of federalism.”
Those proposing to grant more fiscal powers and perks to the proposed Bangsamoro government should “be prepared to extend it to all, to apply it nationally. It should become the national standard,” Andaya said.
He said a tax-retention scheme in favor of local governments must become “the rule” once the said provision is incorporated into the BBL.
“We cannot be generous with one region, and be stingy with others,” he said. 

Reyes testimony pins Sereno for perjury

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno perjured herself in claiming in her verified answer to the impeachment complaint that she did not prevent Court of Appeal (CA) Justices from paying a courtesy call to President Duterte which was disputed by Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Andres Reyes at the resumption of the House hearing on the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Reyes, a former CA presiding justice, said during yesterday’s hearing of the House committee on justice that Sereno indeed gave him an order to cancel the courtesy call, otherwise it “might end his career.”
Reyes recounted what had transpired during a meeting of several CA justices including himself and Sereno after Duterte won the presidency in 2016.
He said that the request for a courtesy call came about after CA Associate Justices Agnes Reyes-Castro and Socorro Enting asked him to seek an audience with the President.
“Once we get an available date, we would be sending a letter or a request. The talks centered on that until the day I was given the date the President was available,” Reyes said.
After the courtesy call was set with Malacañang, he received a call from Sereno, Reyes said. “Then I got a call from the Chief Justice who told me to go to her office,” Reyes said.

When Reyes arrived at the Office of the Chief Justice, he said that “she was smiling at me” but she said “I don’t like your letter.”
“Your letter is insulting to me and the en banc. You make it appear that we are not doing anything here in the Supreme Court. Your letter is discussing the problems with the President and that’s an insult to us. She said, You are a big embarrassment to me,” Reyes said
“I apologized to Sereno for bypassing the Supreme Court in sending the letter to Malacañang,” Reyes said.
Sereno then warned him saying the President was “loquacious,” and that “they might be silenced when they meet him.”
“Again, I apologized. She told me, this might end your career. So again, I apologized. I said, Ma’am I really didn’t mean to bypass the Supreme Court or you, I don’t have a mean bone in my body,” Reyes said.
“She told me, You better cancel that courtesy call to Malacañang. So I said yes, Ma’am. I canceled that courtesy call,” he added.
“So I went back to the office, I called for some justices including Justice Reyes-Carpio, I told her that in the meantime let’s cancel the courtesy call. I think the next day I went again to the Office of the Chief Justice. If I remember right, I told her I already met with some justices and the meeting was already canceled,” he added.
The version of the Sereno camp, through Sereno spokesman Josa Deinla was that the Chief Justice only told Reyes to cancel the courtesy call as she wanted to resolve the issues of the judiciary internally.
“That is what the Chief Justice wanted at that time. The issues that Justice Reyes wanted to bring to the President should be presented to the Supreme Court en banc first,” she added.
Gadon, in a statement, said Sereno also lied when she made it appear that the SC en banc was mad at Reyes for the planned courtesy visit to the President “which turned out to be untrue.”
“In the hearing today, it was disclosed by Reyes that Sereno actualy prevented him and the CA justices from going to Malacañang for a courtesy visit. Sereno even dressed down Reyes and threatened him that it might be the end of his career. Reyes had to cancel going with the CA justices for fear (of what Sereno had said) which even resulted in him becoming ill for several days,” Gadon said.
CJ tagged anew on benefits delay
Administration lawmakers said that another SC justice tagged Sereno for delay in release of survivorship benefits during the resumption of the impeachment hearings but another spokesman for Sereno said the clarification made by Associate Justice del Castillo that not a single member of the Supreme Court objected every time the issue of retirement benefits was taken up during en banc deliberations bolstered the contention that Sereno should not be blamed for the perceived delay in the grant of benefits for the surviving spouses of deceased justices and judges.
According to lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokesmen, del Castillo’s testimony strengthened their argument that the Chief Justice had no power to unilaterally act on retirement petitions, especially after the three most senior magistrates of the High Court created the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits (SCRCSB) in 2015.
Testifying before the House committee on justice, del Castillo said not one of the justices questioned why it took time for the special committee to study the conflicting resolutions on the application of survivorship benefits.
“In fairness to the Chief, whenever the Justice-in-charge would speak about this particular application raffled to him, the Chief would say the matter is referred to the committee. If there was really a strong opposition, I believe it would have been raised. But there was none, so we took it at that,” Del Castillo explained to members of the justice panel.
Lacanilao said the mere silence of the justices meant that they understood the complexity of the issues involved.
“It goes to show that the justices were fully aware of the functions of the special committee and the issues it was trying to resolve,” Lacanilao said.
“As pointed out by Justice del Castillo, had the justices really wanted to expedite the process they could have raised the issue of delay during the en banc meetings, but they didn’t,” he added.
Considering there was no objection at the time the survivorship benefits was discussed by the en banc, Lacanilao said “the opinion of any member of the high tribunal that there was delay was a mere afterthought.”
As part of the administrative reforms of the high court, applications for retirement benefits are now referred to the SCRCSB to help ensure judiciary-wide consistency of rules and grants.
Where necessary, as when applications have issues, further study is undertaken by the special committee or its technical working groups.
Except on the issue of survivorship benefits, the creation of the special committee resulted in faster and more accurate processing of retirement benefits.
A statement from the Press and Public Affairs Bureau of the House of Representatives, however, said that Sereno was the ultimate cause of the delay of as much as two years in the release of benefits for the surviving spouses of retired members of the bench.
Del Castillo said he and other members of the court had raised similar concerns over the delay in the approval of petitions for survivorship benefits.
Del Castillo added that whenever the issue of survivorship was raised in the en banc, Sereno would tell them that a special committee was created to study the matter.
“Of course we would refer the matter to our Chief Justice, she is the presiding officer of the en banc. And so she would inform us that a special committee has already been established to study the apparent conflicting laws on the matter,” del Castillo said.
Bid papers forged
The possibility the bid documents for the acquisition of the Toyota Land Cruiser for exclusive use of Sereno were faked was raised in yesterday’s resumption of the impeachment hearing against the Chief Magistrate.
In his testimony, del Castillo told members of the House Justice committee the documents submitted to him for the purpose of purchasing a vehicle for the Chief Justice were in order, thus his recommendation to proceed with the purchase.
“As far as I’m concerned, this case was raffled to me, the rollo was given to me, I went over the rollo, bidding was published in the Philippine Star. I find the procurement process in order, then there’s the law allowing the exemption of the Chief Justice from the ban on luxury cars,” said del Castillo.
“There was no legal basis for me to deny the recommendation so I passed it on to the court,” said del Castilo adding that not even Administrative Order 233 series of 2008, which prohibits government officials and employees from purchasing luxury service vehicles can be used to block the purchase as the same order also provides for an exemption in the case of the top five officials of the country, including the Chief Justice.
But when told that the purchase could have violated the Procurement Act as the brand was already pre-determined, del Castillo retorted that had he known that fact, he would not have endorsed it for approval of the SC en banc.
According to del Castillo, he said the documents he reviewed contained only the technical description of the vehicle. In the earlier hearings of the committee, it was pointed out that specifying a certain brand violates the provisions of the government procurement laws.
However, Rep. Eugene de Vera pointed out that in the previous hearing lawyer. Cunanan had admitted that the purchase of the Toyota Land Cruiser was pre-determined, adding that the price of P5.2 million as specified in the documents relating to the purchase of the vehicle is specifically meant for a Toyota Land Cruiser.
De Vera said he obtained two separate documents, both entitled “First Endorsement” and signed by Cunanan.
He noted that one of the documents specifically mentions “Toyota Land Cruiser”, while the other did not specify any brand.
“So, there is some sort of falsification there because it appears identical to me. So what I’m trying to establish is, Mr. Justice, you have been had as she (CJ) had one over you,” De Vera said, insinuating the documents submitted to the en banc were fake.
Del Castillo said he only found out that there was a pre-determined brand for the vehicle preferred by Sereno from the testimonies given before the committee on justice.
At the same hearing, del Castillo validated earlier testimonies of other justices Sereno’s creation of a technical working grouo caused the delay in the processing of the survivorship benefit claims.
In the previous hearing of the committee, it was revealed that before the creation of the special committee, the SC had approved with dispatch 271 such applications for survivorship benefits.
After the special committee was constituted —which also resulted in the creation of two Technical Working Groups—approval of 29 such applications was delayed by as much as two years. The order creating the Special Committee was signed by Sereno and senior SC Justices Antonio Carpio and Presbitero Velasco, Jr..
Del Castillo said that in hindsight the SC en banc could have resolved the applications for survivorship benefits without awaiting the recommendation of the special committee.
However, SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro said the SC en banc could not have done that. She said that even if one justice was assigned to a specific case for survivorship benefit he would not be alerted to it unless such administrative matter was included in the agenda of the en banc.

House adopts con-ass mode, viva voce

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Limits press freedom, creates 5 states

The House of Representatives’ first step in revising the 1987 Constitution was to adopt the constituent assembly (con-ass) as the mode to change the provisions of the Charter and quickly approved through viva voce vote.

The reoslution was adopted yesterday seeking to convene Congress into a con-ass to propose amendments to the Constitution.
In the resolution, both the Senate and the House of Representatives are to constitute themselves into a constituent assembly “to propose amendments to, or revision of, the Philippine Constitution.”
The resolution did not make clear whether the voting will be on a separate voting basis for the two chambers.
Today, the Senate will be discussing the resolution introduced by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. It has been made clear by all the senators that they will stick to separate voting.
The resolution substitutes several other resolutions, including limits placed on press freedom,

There went the congressmen proposing limits and more curbs to freedom of the press and expression, with Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House Subcommittee 2, saying that the existing proviso on freedom of the press and expression will undergo a change with the phrase no law shall be passed abridging freedom of the press altered with the additonal phrase of “the responsible exercise’ of the freedom of speech, et cetera, should be inserted.”
Castro said that this freedom has been so abused that there was a need for the constitutional provision to be amended.
“You know this time, you just listen. There is so much abuse of this freedom. They think that it is unrestrained,” Castro said.
Federal system, poll suspension
The House committee on constitutional amendments yesterday also started to deliberate on the proposal to suspend the 2019 midterms polls and change the form of government from the present presidential-bicameral to parliamentary-unicameral.
In a hearing yesterday, the panel headed by Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, dealt on the possible postponement of the 2019 mid-term elections and terms extensions for elected officials.
“But these are just possibilities. We are also sensitive to public sentiments, especially if the people would not want to suspend the election,” Mercado said.
The panel also talked about a Prime Minister who will be elected by the Parliament composed of the Federal Assembly and the Senate.
Mercado said that the draft of the possible changes in the Constitution was also silent on whether the incumbent - President Rodrigo Duterte would be barred from re-election under the new parliamentary form of government in its first election to be held in the second Monday of May 2022.
At the same time, the proposal will allow Vice President Leni Robredo to finish her term until 2022 during the transition period under the new federal government because her position will be abolished during the first parliament election in May 2022.
If the public approves the new federal Constitution in a plebiscite that could be held simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataang (SK) elections on May 24, 2018, senators and congressmen will serve in a holdover capacity.
It said that the members of the Interim Parliament “shall be the incumbent Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and by appointment of the President, the Members of the Cabinet with portfolio.
“The first election under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May 2022,” said the proposal that will push constituent assembly (Con-Ass) as a mode of amending the Constitution.
The new proposed Constitution will give elected officials a five-year term for two consecutive terms.
In the event the 2019 midterm election is postponed, the new President with a five-year term will have two consecutive terms who will be elected by the people on the first election in May 2022.
The Interim Prime Minister, according to the proposal, “shall be elected by a majority vote of all the Members of Parliament. He shall be a Member of the Cabinet.”
The proposal said that “the Vice President shall continue until 2022 to exercise her powers and prerogative as Vice President under the 1987 Constitution.”
The Members of the Federal Assembly will not have more than 300 members where 20 percent of this figure will be represented by the party-list sector, the proposal said.
JBC abolished
under new charter
It’s goodbye to the Judicial and Bar Council as a House subcommittee tasked to review provisions of the 1987 Constitution proposed the abolition of the JBC.
The JBC, under the current Constitution, is mandated to nominate appointments to the Judiciary.
But in the proposal of the Subcommittee 2, the power to nominate members and officials of the Judiciary will be vested upon the Prime Minister, who will serve as the head of the government.
There is also the proposal that the Prime Minister “shall nominate and with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the Chief Justices and members of the Supreme Court and constitutional court, the lower collegiate courts, the Ombudsman and his deputies and the chairmen and members of the constitutional commissions.”
Among the other proposals of Subcommittee 2 are the establishment of the Regional Court of Appeals in five proposed states, and the lowering of the retirement age of members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts from 70 to 65 years old.
5 Federal states proposed,
3 senators per state
The measure also proposed that a minimum of three senators shall be elected in each of the five states that will be created under the federal government.
The five states include: the State of Luzon, State of Visayas, State of Mindanao, State of Bangsamoro, and the State of Metro Manila which is the seat of the Federal Government.
Through the help of the Cabinet, the new Articles on Federal and Regional Powers and Number of States will authorize the Prime Minister to lead the government and exercise Executive power of the President under the present presidential form of government.
The proposal says that the President will exercise oversight powers over all branches of government which include the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary and constitutional and independent bodies.
The federal Charter as proposed by the House of Representatives will give the president a term of five years and a chance for one re-election.
Aside from the the longer term for the president, the proposed Charter will subdivide the country into five states: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, the Bangsamoro and Metro Manila, each one having its own constitution, capital, flag, anthem and seal.
During its meeting yesterday, the House committee on constitutional amendments led by chaired by Rep. Mercado, bared the output of the four subcommittees tasked to review the 1987 Constitution and suggest revisions to be discussed during the proposed constituent assembly.
Among the outputs of Subcommittee 1, which is tasked to review Articles VI, VII and X of the 1987 Constitution and new Articles on Federal and Regional Powers as well as Number of States, was a revamp of the term and functions of the President.
It is proposing for the President to assume the role as head of state symbolizing the sovereignty of the people, and the unity and solidarity of the nation, who will have an oversight power on all branches of the government, constitutional bodies, independent bodies, departments, agencies and offices, head of international relations and foreign affairs, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and have appointing, pardoning and residual powers.
However, the president under the new Charter, who wlll be elected directly by the people, will have a term of five years with one re-election which will begin at noon on June 30 and end on the same day and time five years after.
Mercado however was quick to add that should he have his way, the president should have a term of four years with one re-election, just like the pre-martial law era.
“Me, personally, I don’t like five years. I only want four years. Because during the time that these terms were implemented before martial law, it seemed four years were already enough for an effective governance,” he said.
At the same time, Subcomittee 1 proposed the creation of the Federal Republic of the Philippines’s comprised of five states – Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, the Bangsamoro and Metro Manila.
The Subcommittee proposal did not deviate from the present set-up recognizing provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays as the basic political units of each states.
The proposal added that each state will have its own unicameral State Assembly, which will handle all the legislative functions of the state government. The State Assembly will be composed of two representatives elected from each province and one representative directly elected from each highly-urbanized or independent cities.
Each state shall elect its own premiere, who will be tasked to handle all executive functions in each state.
The Premiere will have the authority to appoint state Cabinet members and other state government positions.
Elective state and local officials will have a term of five years with more than two consecutive terms.

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