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Gerry Baldo

Biazon warns vs trusting China on Benham Rise

Monday, 29 January 2018 13:57 Published in Nation

A lawmaker from Muntinlupa yesterday warned against trusting China on Benham Rise or Philippine Rise.

According to Rep. Ruffy Biazon, China’s record pertaining to its explorations should have been considered before allowing them in the Philippine Rise.
Biazon also took exception to Malacañang’s statement that Filipinos are not capable of doing scientific study in the area.
“Well sa aking opinyon, ang una...ang pinanggagalingan ng pangamba kasi ay track record ng China. Alam naman natin na yon ang ginawa nila sa West Philippine Sea (Well in my opinion, first, the source of the apprehension is China’s track record. We all know what they did in the West Philippine Sea),” Biazon said.
“Pangalawa, meron kasi silang capability. Alam natin yong kanilang navy and coast guard ay may sapat na resources para talagang magkaroon ng presence sa mga lugar na yan (Secondly, they have the capability. We know that their navy and coast guard have the resources to be present in those areas),” Biazon added.
He said that the Philippine government should have been wary given China’s “creeping invasion” in the West Philippine Sea. It should not happen again at the Philippine Rise.
He said that before allowing anyone to explore or do research in the area, the government should have, first, asserted its rights over the place which is not part of Philippine territory but part of our exclusive economic zone as ruled by the United Nations on the Law of the Sea or UNCLoS.
Biazon refuted Malacañang’s statement that Filipinos do not have the capability to do research in the area.
“Kasi nagkaroon na ng ilang expedition na all Filipino. Both yong privately organized and supported at yong merong tulong ang gobyerno. Hindi naman accurate to say na wala tayong kakayahan (We have had several all-Filipino expeditions, both privately organized and supported by the government. It is not accurate to say that we do not have the capability),” he said.
The Muntinlupa lawmaker, who is an avid underwater photography buff, said that Filipinos do have the capability to explore and do research at the area.
Biazon, who has filed several bills for the protection and security of Philippine Rise, said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is also capable of securing the resource-rich area, one of which is the proposed Philippine Eastern Seaboard Strategic Defense Plan. Included in the measure is the establishment of a military base in the Eastern side of the archipelago, the establishment of surveillance equipment and on how to defense our rights over the place which is part of AFP modernization.
Biazon stressed that Philippine Rise is an important element of the country’s food security and that the government should keep a close watch on China’s research in the area.
He said Filipino scientists and intelligence officers should be there watching the Chinese.

The House committee on transportation yesterday created a Technical Working Group that would look into proposals to regulate the growing need for motorcycle taxis.

According to Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, panel chairman, the committee is also going to conduct public consultations in areas like Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro to get inputs on how the novel mode of public transportation works.
Cebu Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the motorcycle taxi is working well in his city as an alternative mode of transportation.
Osmeña, one of the resource persons, during a hearing on the measure to regulate the use of motorcycle taxis or habal-habal, underscored the need to amend the law on public transportation to include the motorcycle taxis.
Osmeña said the motorcycle has been the primary mode of transportation for most of Cebu’s population.
“It is being used to bring kids to school, to go to market and to do our daily chores,” Osmeña said.
David Medrana, who was also at the hearing representing a group of motorcycle riders for hire called “Angkas,” said there is obviously a big demand for this kind of service.
“But without a legitimate and properly regulated ride-matching service, people are forced to look underground, even though safety risks are greater,” Medrano told lawmakers.
Medrano explained in the Philippines, there are only less than a million registered cars and over 4 million motorcycles and yet the focus of the government is on Grab, Uber and TNCs.
“Perhaps because half of all cars are registered in Metro Manila. Outside Metro Manila, however, motorcycles rule the streets at a ratio of 1 is to 9, in favor of the motorcycles. Ito po ang Sasakyan ng Bayan,” Medrano said.

CJ intervened in House case vs detained ‘Ilocos 6’

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Presiding justice, 3 CA justices told to file TRO before SC

A former Court of Appeals justice yesterday said Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno showed “lack of delicadeza” or “lack of propriety” when she promised protection to the three CA justices locked in a standoff with the House of Representatives over the detention of six Ilocos Norte officials, or the so-called “Ilocos 6.”

The House justice committee tackled the allegation that Sereno “perverted justice” when she met with the presiding justice and associate justices of the CA instructing them not to comply with the processes of the House of Representatives, which earlier issued a show cause order against the appellate justices who had ordered the release of the Ilocos 6.

Former CA Associate Justice Remedios Salazar Fernando said former CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, now SC associate justice called for an emergency meeting last June 21, 2016 following the latter’s own meeting with Sereno regarding the Ilocos 6 case.
“According to our Presiding Justice, he was given an assurance by the chief justice that she and the SC will protect the CA,” Fernando said.
Fernando added that Sereno had advised the three appellate justices to seek relief from the High Court.
“According again to our presiding justice, in his talk with the chief justice, she advised the three justices to file a petition before the Supreme Court with a TRO and that she will take care of it. And everybody was silent about it,” she added.
The three CA justices of the special fourth division who handled the habeas corpus case of the Ilocos 6 were Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon, and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.
Fernando said Sereno’s action showed lack of propriety, stressing that “propriety dictates that it should not be the case,” she said in response to lawmakers’ queries if Sereno’s action was proper.
Fernando said after the June 21 meeting, Reyes again called the CA justices to another emergency meeting the following day.
“He again informed us that he came from the Supreme Court and he already signed a joint statement with the Chief Justice regarding that particular case. According to him, we will have Mass the next morning and after the Mass, he will host a lunch and the Chief Justice will join us for lunch,” Fernando said.
However, Fernando said there was a specific directive from Sereno for the three CA justices handling the case not to join them for lunch.
“According to our presiding justice, the chief justice instructed our clerk of court to tell them not to include the three because there might be a case filed before the Supreme Court and the chief justice might be asked to inhibit from the case,” she added.
Fernando said that Sereno indeed joined them for lunch where she informed them that since a joint statement on the issue had already been released, any statement on the matter should emanate from the SC spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te.
Sereno, reacting to Fernando, said that when she met with then CA Presiding Justice Reyes, the only discussion between her and Justice Reyes were the contents of a Joint Statement to the House of Representatives asking for a reconsideration of the show cause order in order to protect judicial independence.
The Chief Justice and Justice Andres eventually issued the Joint Statement dated June 21, 2017 in order to avert a constitutional crisis.
The Joint Statement expressed deep concern over the show cause order “cognizant of its implications on separation of powers and judicial independence” and asked the House of Representatives to reconsider its show cause order since the House was “not without any legal remedy that is consistent with the separation of powers should it disagree with the action of the Court of Appeals, such as an appeal” to the Supreme Court.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, vice chairman of the House justice panel, said the chief justice lost impartiality in this matter, hence violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.
CJ denies CA justice’s testimony
Sereno, though her spokesman, yesterday denied Salazar Fernando’s testimony that she advised the CA justices to defy the House of Representatives.
The three Court of Appeals Justices issued a writ of habeas corpus for the release of six Ilocos Norte provincial employees who were detained by the House of Representatives at the time.
Fernando said she believes Sereno’s action was irregular.
“For me, personally, because I would not do it,” she said.
Fernando said the committee could confirm her testimony once former CA Presiding Justice now SC associate Justice Andres Reyes, Jr. testifies before the panel.
According to lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokesmen, the Chief Justice did not advise Justice Reyes what particular legal remedy or petition the three CA Justices should take. Neither did she assure Justice Reyes of a favorable outcome on such a petition by telling him that she would take care of that petition in the Supreme Court.
“In fact, when the Ilocos 6 appealed before the Supreme Court to stop the hearing before the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice inhibited herself from hearing and deciding the case,” Lacanilao said in a statement.
Lacanilao stressed that the Chief Justice has always advocated the cause of judicial independence that is essential to the rule of law.
“To defend the integrity of the judicial process, judges and justices must be allowed to decide on cases based on their merits without fear of political pressure or retribution. Constitutional processes must be observed to uphold the separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of government,” Lacanilao said.
Sereno was accused, among others, of committing other high crimes when she met with the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals and instructed them to ignore the show cause order from the House of Representatives and question it before the Supreme Court.
On June 20, 2017 the House Committee on Good Government issued the show cause order against the Special Fourth Division of the CA in connection with the court’s to release six Ilocos Norte officials that the House Committee on Good Government ordered detained for refusing to cooperate with its investigation.
CJ ICT consultant paid P12 M
The camp of Sereno also yesterday stressed that there is nothing irregular in the hiring of information and communications technology (ICT) consultant Helen Macasaet, whose contract of service expired in November 2017.
Sereno’s hiring of an ICT consultant with excessive compensation without public bidding is one of the allegations being tackled by the House justice committee during its continuation of the hearing on the impeachment complaint filed by Gadon.
Lacanilao said the engagement of Macasaet was done in accordance with the government procurement law through an alternative mode called “negotiated procurement”.
“The Supreme Court hired Ms. Macasaet from among three choices through negotiated procurement because her services are highly technical in nature and, therefore, exempted from public bidding under Section 53.7 of the 2009 Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184,” Lacanilao said in a statement.
He clarified that it was “the Supreme Court, not the Chief Justice,” who hired Macasaet in October 2013 to review and assess the implementation of its Enterprise Information Systems Plan (EISP) and to implement the e-Courts and automated hearing projects for the entire judiciary.
Lacanilao further said Macasaet’s compensation was “reasonable and not excessive”.
In his verified complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of unilaterally, without public bidding, hired Macasaet as an ICT consultant with an allegedly excessive compensation of P250,000 a month, which is higher than the P150,000 monthly salary of an SC justice.
During the impeachment hearing, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva, who also headed the SC Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) on Consulting Services, testified that the amount of P1.5 million for a consultancy contract, or P250,000 per month, awarded to Macasaet was the highest for an individual contract.
Villanueva said the BAC did not approve the consultancy contract but merely acknowledged that it met the requirement for a negotiated procurement, where the main criteria were trust and confidence of the procuring agency or end-user of the consultant.
“Nothing in the rules or even the law with regard the negotiated procurement states the BAC should sign the notice of award,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva said BAC only considered the Oct. 1, 2013 and May 23, 2014 contract of consultancy of Macasaet, who served at the SC from 2013 to 2017.
Villanueva said subsequent renewals of Macasaet’s consultancy contract were done by the Office of the Chief Justice.
Macasaet’s consultancy contract was renewed for 6 times each time for P1.5 million or a total of P9 million, according to Villanueva.
Lacanilao, however, noted it was the SC’s BAC on Consulting Services that characterized Macasaet’s services as “highly technical in nature” through a memorandum dated Sept. 10, 2013.
“The BAC also opined that the subject procurement primarily requires trust and confidence because it is a priority program of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Lacanilao said based on records, Macasaet’s initial six-month service contract, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2013, and which would entitle her to a monthly salary of P100,000, was also evaluated by the SC’s Procurement and Planning Committee, the BAC, and the Management Information Office.
After the review of the implementation and the update of the EISP ended in March 2014, an updated five-year work plan for the implementation of the program was formulated. A technical and policy consultant was necessary to implement the Updated EISP Work Plan.
The BAC again considered three individuals and following a review of their qualifications in relation to the requirements of the Terms of Reference (TOR), appropriate officials recommended that Macasaet be engaged as consultant.
On May 3, 2014, a new six-month contract of services was executed between the SC and Macasaet. Under the new contract, Macasaet was paid a fee of P250,000 per month, inclusive of applicable taxes.
Lacanilao said the fee was relatively lower than the cost of earlier ICT-related consultancies which were proposed by the Committee on Computerization and Library in 2012 and that the scope of her consultancy was much broader than those proposed consultancies.
“The result of Ms. Macasaet’s work also justifies her fees,” he explained. “Under these circumstances, her compensation cannot be characterized as excessive.”
He also emphasized that Macasaet developed and reviewed the TOR, provided technical assistance during the procurement and quality assurance for at least 16 projects worth P3.47 billion. “Her fees represent a mere 0.32 percent of the costs of the projects she was involved in.”
Lacanilao noted Macasaet has been in the ICT industry for more than 35 years, specializing in systems integration management, business re-engineering, digital strategy development, information systems planning, and solutions implementation. With PNA



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