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Gerry Baldo

Solon warns of EU ban on RP fish

Saturday, 03 March 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

A lawmaker from the opposition Akbayan yesterday warned the Duterte administration that the country’s fish exports to the European Union could be banned if it fails to stop illegal fishing in its territory.

“If illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing continues, countries from the European Union might just give the Philippines a ‘red card,’” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said.
Villarin made the warning on the 3rd anniversary of the passage of RA 10654 which amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 which was intended to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Villarin noted that the European Union (EU) considered as the largest fish importer in the world, has a “carding system” that monitors and ensures compliance of its trade partners in fighting IUU fishing.
“The Philippines has already been issued a ‘yellow card’ as a warning in 2014, which was only one color away from a ‘red card’ that would permanently ban our exported fish in the EU,” Villarin stressed.
He also said that the 2014 warning from the EU was one of the main reasons why the Fisheries Code of 1998 was amended through Republic Act 10654. This was subsequently recognized by the EU as a concrete step in curbing IUU fishing, urging the Commission to restore the status of Philippine fish exports into “green card” months after the passage of said amendments.
“But because we have already been given a ‘yellow card’, the Commission can easily give use a ‘red card’ if we don’t fully implement our anti-IUU fishing laws,” Villarin remarked.
Three years after RA 10654’s passage, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has recorded 254 apprehensions in 2016, and 894 apprehensions in 2017 on various violations of our fishing laws.
“Where there are apprehensions, there are violations. And where there are violations, there are lapses in the implementation,” Villarin said.
On Tuesday, he filed House Resolutions 1732 and No. 1733 — both aimed at reviewing the implementation of our fishing laws, as well as shedding light into the harmful use of active fishing gears such as “hulbot-hulbot” — a method that indiscriminately catches fish regardless of size and wantonly destroys marine habitats in the process.
He said that the BFAR has recorded a spike of 176 cases in 2017 from 42 cases in 2016 involving the use active fishing gears.
“Harmful fishing practices kill not only our marine ecosystems, but also our credibility in an industry where the Philippines can have a clear edge. We can lose our natural resources, our trade partners, and most importantly, the livelihoods of small fisherfolk because of IUU fishing,” Villarin added.

‘SC can void CJ posting’

Friday, 02 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines




That Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is not qualified to assume her post gives the Supreme Court (SC) the authority to invalidate her appointment due to fraud, the lawyer who filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno said.
Larry Gadon has petitioned the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file a quo warranto proceeding with the SC on Sereno, saying her appointment by former President Aquino is void ab initio or from the start.
“Fraud can not be condoned, fraud can not make a wrong right, fraud can not cure a defect, fraud can not be used as a waiver against the State,” Gadon said in a statement.
He added the impeachment investigation at the House of Representatives led to the discovery that Sereno was not qualified for the position of the Chief Justice as it was established that she has not passed the substantial compliance on submission of at least 10 years of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN).
“This fact has rendered her appointment by the Office of the President as void ab initio it was an appointment done with fraud,” he added.

While “arguably”, the position of Chief Justice is removable through the process of impeachment, this however presupposes the condition that the removal is anchored on grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution , betrayal of public trust , graft and corruption and other high crimes, all of which likewise pre-supposes a condition that is supervening after the appointment, he said.
Nonetheless, fraud to secure an appointment is different, she said.
In the case of Sereno, her appointment was tainted with fraud from the start as she failed to qualify for failure to comply with mandatory requirements.
He noted that the SC has control and supervision of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) or the body which vets nominees for SC vacancies to the President.
The SC is also the final interpreter of the laws and can revoke the Sereno’s appointment.
Failure on SALN compliance
Gadon said Sereno submitted only three SALNs, in 2006, 2010, and 2011 two of which are not subscribed under oath rendering the documents a mere scrap of paper.
Where in the world can you find an Associate Justice of no less from the Supreme Court submitting “an unsubscribed garbage of a SALN?,” Gadon said.
The original requirement is the submission of all SALN during all the years of working in the government but due to the difficulty of locating SALN, the requirement was reduced to only 10 as substantial compliance , and yet Sereno with boldness and audacity only submitted one, Gadon added.
Previous cases showed that government officials and employees of lower ranks have been dismissed from government service with perpetual disqualification to hold public office for failure to submit SALN or due to false declaration.
Gadon said the Chief Justice Sereno is not an exception since no one is above the law.
“If not revoked, the appoint-ment will set a dangerous precedent of incomparable atrocious legal consequence that is tantamount to an admission that our ideals of good governance have gone to the gutters of perdition,” he added.
“While there is an ongoing impeachment proceeding, I believe the Supreme Court can validly revoke the appointment of Sereno,” he added.
“As a lawyer whose only desire is to uphold the rule of law, I believe that it should be established in our jurisprudence that even for the position of impeachable officers, if the ground for revocation is fraud to secure the appointment perpetrated with most despicable malicious intent, the appointment can be legally revoked,” he said.
“The theory and principle that I desire to establish eventually is that the powers of the President can not be used to perpetrate an open and visibly obvious act of fraud,” Gadon said.
“While I have full trust and faith in the House of Representatives and the Senate to proceed with the impeachment and confident that they would eventually remove Sereno based on the tons of evidences established , nonetheless as a lawyer, I would be more fulfilled and satisfied if the removal is based purely on legal reason, that the appointment can be revoked due to malicious fraud rather than removal based on consequence of political nature of impeachment proceedings,” he said.
The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday branded as “scrap of paper” the petition of a suspended lawyer asking the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to initiate quo warranto proceedings to challenge the legality of her appointment to the judiciary’s top post.
Quo warranto petition rolling
In a petition filed with the OSG last Feb. 21, lawyer Eligio Mallari pointed out that Sereno’s appointment as chief magistrate is now being questioned following the testimonies of several of her colleagues in the impeachment proceedings being conducted by the House Committee on Justice.
Mallari cited that the validity of Sereno’s appointment was raised by SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta in one of the hearings of the committee in view of her failure to submit all her SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Mallari said Justice Peralta even told the members of the committee that he considers Sereno as a “de facto chief justice.”
Peralta’s view, according to Mallari, was shared by SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro when the latter said that her appointment was “unfair to other contenders.”
Aside from this, Mallari noted that very low score or failing mark in the psychological test given prior to her inclusion in the short list submitted to then President Benigno Aquino for the Chief Justice post.
“Any lawyer worth his salt would tell you that Sereno’s title to the office could be tried in a quo warranto proceedings may be instituted either by the person who claims to be entitled to the office or by the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Solicitor General or a public prosecutor,” Mallari noted.
He said that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.
“Right now, Sereno’s competence and integrity are under intense public scrutiny. Having scored very low or flunked the psychological test and in view of non-submission of all her SALNs prior to appointment, Sereno’s claim to the position is tenuous, and must be challenged in quo warranto proceedings by the Solicitor General,” the lawyer said.
Gabriela protests CJ ouster bid
The Gabriela Alliance of Women has described the pressure exerted by fellow justices to compel Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Sereno tragic, saying the High Court itself has lent support to the plot to kick out its own leader.
It also sullied the integrity of the SC, soiled its independence and exposed the judiciary to further attacks emanating from Malacañang and its troll army, the group maintained.
On the day the leave takes effect and the first day of Women’s Month, Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador noted “that the impeachment cases against the chief justice is part of a whole array of assaults that the Duterte administration has unleashed against whatever democratic institutions are still left standing in the way of totalitarian fascist rule.”
On March 8, International Women’s Day, regional chapters of Gabriela will lead Solidarity Marches against the Macho-Fascist Dictatorship, including a big rally at Mendiola in Manila, right within earshot of President Duterte.
This developed as Sereno lamented the “confusion” surrounding her indefinite leave from the Supreme Court, but maintained that she was not stepping down as the country’s top magistrate.
“It is unfortunate that my plan of making use of an already approved wellness leave in relation to an indefinite leave was inaccurately conveyed for which I apologized,” the Chief Justice said in a statement read by one of her spokespersons, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, during a press conference held in Quezon City.
“I have not resigned and I will not resign. This indefinite leave is not a resignation. I will devote my time to the preparation of my Senate defense and work on the cases in my docket,” the statement further reads.
The top magistrate clarified that she had agreed to go on indefinite leave, but was also bound by the appropriate administrative rules, which do not contain any provision on such kind of leave.
“I had to qualify my leave according to the provisions of Rule 7, Section 6(c) of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court ‘(c) Members who are on wellness leave or who are on vacation or sick leave, for at least 15 continuous calendar days shall be exempt from raffle. xxx’ and the Resolution dated January 23, 2018 (A.M. No. 07-11-02-SC) on the matter of my approved wellness leave,” she said.
Sereno had initially scheduled her annual wellness leave, as approved by the En Banc, from March 12 to 23, but opted to advance it to March 1 to 15 to give her sufficient time to prepare for her legal defense in the looming impeachment trial.
In the same press conference, Lacanilao apologized on behalf of the spokespersons to the Supreme Court and the House Committee on Justice for the confusion created by his previous announcement that Sereno was merely advancing her approved wellness leave instead of taking an indefinite leave.
“We were working on information available to us at the time we were engaged and asked questions by the press. The developments and discussions on what transpired during the en banc on Tuesday were not privy to us,” Lacanilao explained.
“Therefore, there was no malice on anyone of us to confuse, mislead or obfuscate what were fast developing events in the Supreme Court,” he added. 



House to impeach Sereno next month

Monday, 26 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


The House committee on justice is set to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno next month, Oriental Mindoro Rep Reynaldo Umali said yesterday. 

Umali said the House justice panel is going to decide on the evidence presented by resource persons which have not been controverted by the Chief Justice.
He said that tomorrow’s hearing is going to be the last where two psychiatrists who allegedly administered the psychiatric test on Sereno prior to her appointment as Chief Justice are scheduled to testify.
Officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) are also scheduled to disclose the results of their investigation into the alleged discrepancies in Sereno’s tax records.

“There’s no controverting, no counter evidence because the chief justice did not parricipate,” Umali, the panel chairman, said in a radio interview.
Umali said that all indications are there to impeach Sereno after conducting 14 hearings.
“That is how I see it, that Sereno will be impeached by the House of Representatives by the third week of March, since we have established during the hearing and we have cleared most of the issues since eight justices testified on strong allegations against the Chief Justice,” he said.
“Even two justices who were not able to attend also mentioned in their letters that they did not have a hand on what the Chief Justice has claimed on what was supposedly approved during an en banc ruling,” Umali explained.
Senate transmittal before break
After the Tuesday hearing, Umali said the committee will immediately vote in March 6 on the determination of probable cause to impeach Sereno and take another vote on March 13 to approve the committee report with the Articles of Impeachment and plenary voting the following week.
“Tuesday is our last hearing on probable cause,” said Umali. He added that his panel is planning to transmit the Articles of Impeachment to the
Senate Impeachment Court before Congress goes on Holy Week recess.
Umali said the two psychiatrists will also testify to determine the
veracity of the complaint of Atty. Larry Gadon, impeachment complainant, that Sereno
allegedly failed the psychological exam, making her unfit for the job.
The psychiatric test was a requirement administered by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when Sereno applied for the position of the Chief Justice.
Earlier, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, who has been ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman for grave misconduct, named the two psychiatrists hired by the JBC as Dr. Dulce Liza Sahagun-Reyes and Dr. Genuina C. Ranoy.
At the same time, Umali said the panel is expecting Internal Revenue Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa to secure a clearance from the Office of the President to release the results of their investigation on Sereno’s tax records.



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