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Mario J. Mallari

Combined military and police operatives encountered a robbery hold-up gang in Nueva Ecija province on Thursday, killing one of the suspects while two others were captured.

Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, commanding officer of the Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion, said that elements of the 48th IB, led by Lt. Arthur Barba, were en route to haul other troops for rotation at around 4:50 p.m. when they noticed a commotion along the Gabaldon national highway in Barangay Ligaya.
According to Osias, the troops were alerted by the victims, aboard a van, about the armed group that had just robbed them.
The victims told the 48th IB troops that the holdup men were riding a Kia van.
Osias said that the 48th IB troopers, aboard a KM450 truck, then chased the suspects and saw a police vehicle also running after the armed men.
However, upon reaching Barangay Ligaya, the armed group, composed of six men, engaged the pursuing government troops, sparking an intense gun battle.
Osias said that three of the armed men were wounded and brought to a local hospital but one of them died.
The two others were subsequently taken into custody by Gabaldon police.
Osias said that three other suspects escaped.
Authorities recovered two caliber .45 pistols with silencer and a caliber .38 revolver, a PNP identification card, a military ID and undetermined amount of cash.

Lacson to ask SC to freeze 2015 GAA

Friday, 31 July 2015 00:00 Published in Headlines

EVIDENCE ENOUGH TO PIN RESURRECTED PORK 

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson vowed yesterday to question before the Supreme Court the pork-infested P2.6-trillion budget for this year and with it a plea to prohibit the Aquino administration from further spending it.

Lacson cited the “reincarnation” of the unconstitutional “pork barrel” system in the 2015 General Appropriations Act.
Lacson identified P424 billion in lump sums in the pre-election year budget.
At a forum in Club Filipino, Lacson said he has in his possession enough evidence to support the petition against
the approved budget.
Lacson, who served as the Aquino government’s rehabilitation czar in the aftermath of supertyphoon “Yolanda,” noted the “reincarnation” of the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) and priority development assistance fund (PDAF) in the current budget.

“I am willing to spearhead moves to go to the Supreme Court –the justices themselves are victims here because their decision is circumvented,” Lacson, citing the SC decision ruling the unconstitutionality of some provisions of the DAP, said.
The DAP is the brainchild of the Aquino administration with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as the alleged architect.
The Palace said it is ready to defend the 2015 budget from the planned petition of Lacson.
“We will wait for the petition of former Senator Lacson to know the basis of his criticism. If the court directs that we respond we will follow,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said.
“It is clear in the provisions that the government follows the decision of the Supreme Court, in the Belgica et al. vs. Ochoa et al. that I mentioned which is the decision on the case where the Supreme Court decided on the PDAF,” he said.
“This was declared unconstitutional that’s why it was removed since the 2014 budget and in the following 2015 budget the President issued such veto message because it is included in the budget passed by the Congress,” he said.
The veto message said particularly that Congress “…ought to consider the pronouncement by the Supreme Court in Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica et al., vs. Honorable Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., (G.R. Nos. 208566, 208493 and 209251, November 19, 2013) against any post-enactment intervention of legislators in the implementation of the Budget.”
It added “Therefore, Memorandum Circular No. 91-A dated Nov. 28, 1993, which requires legislative consultation respecting the portion given to cities or municipalities in the congressional districts of a beneficiary province, shall be supplanted by new guidelines by the DBM to cover release of the subject LGU shares.
“We have up to next week to file a petition for prohibition before the SC. We have sufficient evidence and we are still gathering more evidence on our findings that PDAF was resurrected and the pork barrel is very much alive and kicking,” Lacson said.
Lacson said he has photographs and documents that will support his claim that “pork barrel” was indeed resurrected in the national budget.
Citing his own study of the budget, Lacson said that about P424 billion can be considered as “lump sum appropriations” in the budget.
According to Lacson, initial scrutiny showed that “pork barrel” is present in at least four departments, namely, Department of Agriculture (DA), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Health (DoH) and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
In DA alone, Lacson said that at least P6.25 billion can be classified as “pork barrel.”
“It was added to various projects of the DA, particularly in the regional level and became PDAF,” said Lacson.
He said several members of the House of Representatives could be charged with the supposed insertion of “pork barrel” into the budget.
On the other hand, Lacson said initially there is no member of the Senate involved.
He, however, refused to identify the members of the House of Representatives. Lacson stressed that he has nothing against them but their names are on the documents he had gathered as evidence.
Lacson said that the lump sums have characteristics similar to the legislative lump sums or the PDAF and the Presidential pork which are the DAP funds.
Lacson said the bigger lump sums in the 2015 budget were found in the DSWD with P102.6 billion; DepED with P80.7 billion; DILG with P80.7 billion; DoH with P75.4 billion; DND , with P66.4 billion; DA, with P29.9 billion; DPWH, with P11.4 billion; DoTC with P11.4 billion; DENR with P6.1 billion; National Irrigation Authority with P13 billion; and the Philippine National Police with P6.7 billion.
Lacson said the 2015 budget has provisions similar to the main act that the SC ruled as illegal or the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Circular 541.
The DAP, which Malacañang calls an economic stimulus program and which supposedly sought to speed up public spending, was funded through savings declared by departments and agencies even prior to the end of a fiscal year or derived from pooling unobligated allotments and withdrawing unreleased appropriations or applying the savings and unprogrammed funds to augment existing programs, activities or projects (PAPs).
Lacson said the 2015 budget has provisions that allowed agencies to realign funds on a certain quarter or month of the year.
Lacson also earlier identified the resurrection of PDAF in the form of the so-called Unified Accounts Code Structure or UACS.
“Recently, the government rolled out reforms in our public financial management. The government adopted, starting last year, the so-called Unified Accounts Code Structure or the UACS, a single classification system for all our government financial processes—from budgeting to cash management to accounting and audit,” Lacson said.
“UACS calls for transparency and accountability, or so they claim. As my team and I randomly analyzed this coding system, say, of the National Irrigation Administration, we discovered that there were some codes missing. To our surprise, such ‘missing codes’ were utilized to insert some projects during the budget deliberation in the House of Representatives. We likewise discovered that, in the budget of the said agency alone, there is a total lump sum amounting to P11.3 billion,” Lacson said.
“The issue on the (alleged) PDAF (in the budget) is just secondary as the main issue here is the revival of (Budget Circular 541), which brought about the DAP that was declared unconstitutional by the SC. The revival of the Budget Circular 541 could pave the way or reverse of the DAP (Disbursement Accelation Program),” Lacson said.
“It’s a work in progress now. We’re studying (the GAA) and I do not want to leave any provision that is constitutionally infirmed left behind or not included in the petition,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we have all the evidence once we file the petition for prohibition in questioning the constitutionality of certain provisions,” he added.
Pork-free budget — Abad
Budget Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) chief strategist Florencio “Butch” Abad maintained that the budget this year is pork free while denying the juggling of public funds.
In a statement, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said various transfers of appropriation under the 2014 budget were legitimate and open to public scrutiny, after Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon alleged that P323.6 billion in funds were improperly realigned in 2014.
“The P3-trillion national budget proposal reveals that the provisions on the redefinition of savings and augmentation that have been first inserted in the 2015 General Appropriations Act have all been carried over to the 2016 budget proposal,” Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.
The DBM claimed that fund realignments and transfers of appropriation are different, where realignments involve the reallocation, modification, or change of details within an existing program, activity, or project.
It added that transfers of appropriation take place when an authorized agency transfers specific appropriations to another agency for the implementation of programs, activities, or projects.
“Rep. Ridon’s claims on 2014 fund realignments are very misleading. First, he mistakes transfers of appropriation for fund realignments, and second, he incorrectly alleges irregularity where there was none. We ask our public officials to be responsible in interpreting budget information so that we don’t misinform the public,” the DBM said.
It added as noted in the past and present General Appropriations Act (GAA), budgetary transfers from one agency to another involve Special Provisions in a particular agency’s budget that assign another agency’s support in implementing particular programs or projects.
The latter agencies are therefore given specific appropriations to implement these programs or projects, the DBM said.
In particular, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was assigned the responsibility of constructing school buildings for the Department of Education (DepEd) under the education agency’s budget in 2015.
The DPWH was also tasked to construct farm-to-market roads (FMRs) for the Department of Agriculture (DA) under the latter’s 2015 budget, it said.
On the other hand, when agencies need to effect changes in their organization to improve their operations and performance, they need to set up a Rationalization (RAT) Plan based on Executive Order (E.O.) No. 366. This Plan, which involves transferring personnel from one agency to other agencies, will also have an impact on the budget of the agency.
“You’re not only moving around personnel under a Rationalization Plan, you also need to transfer their salaries. With the Department of Agrarian Reform, they needed to transfer people to the departments of Health and Justice. That’s why we needed to move the PS requirements of the affected personnel in DAR to the two other agencies in the 2015 GAA,” Abad said.
Meanwhile, the DBM has a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao regional office of the DepEd (ARMM-DepEd) to administer their Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) premiums. Likewise, part of the budget of the Department of Justice (DoJ) is transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to ensure the funding of the Child Protection Service as stated under Republic Act 10630.
Abad said with regard to funds transferred to and from Overall Savings, these followed the guidelines in declaring savings from Personnel Service (PS).
“These were later used to augment the 2014 National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRMMF) and 2014 Contingency Fund, as well as to help settle the GSIS liabilities of the People’s Television Network,” he added.
“Before these funds can be transferred, the agencies need to detail their projects—with the specific beneficiaries or areas—before funds are released. Likewise, all information on these transfers are well-documented and made available online. In past and present GAAs, we’ve been following the strict conditions laid down by Congress. We have also crafted the budget in accordance with the high court ruling on savings and fund transfers” Abad said.
“While we welcome criticism, we also need to be vigilant against scaremongering because that only confuses the citizens. At the same time, it contributes nothing to the public discussion on government spending,” he added. Joshua L. Labonera

A senior justice of the Supreme Court yesterday warned that a non-imposition of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute would lead to an arms race in the region and the “rule of cannon” will prevail in the seas. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, speaking before a forum in Camp Aguinaldo, cited the possible negative implication if Unclos does not prevail in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

He said that if Unclos, considered as the constitution for the ocean and seas throughout the world, will not be applied in the sea dispute then it cannot be imposed on other maritime disputes anywhere in the world.
“It would be the beginning of the end of Unclos, the rule of the naval canon will prevail in the ocean and seas, no longer the rule of law,” he stressed.
This will trigger a naval arms race among coastal countries, he added.
Carpio also warned that if the UN International Arbitral Tribunal ruled out jurisdiction over Manila’s complaint against Beijing filed in January 2013, it would give credence to China’s nine-dash line claim.
“Just imagine if the tribunal says we don’t have jurisdiction, the nine-dash line is valid then what will happen? The only way we can protect our ourselves is to acquire warships, warplanes, anti-ship missiles,” he stressed.
“Resources that should go to education, infrastructure and social services will have to be reallocated to defense,” added Carpio, who was included in the Philippine delegation who attended The Hague hearing of the arbitral tribunal recently.
But Carpio stressed the Philippines has no chance of winning in a total war against China.
“No matter how many warships we would buy, we cannot defeat China. We can only hope to deter China but there is no way we can win in a total war. So it’s totally useless if the tribunal says there is no jurisdiction, the nine-dash line prevailed,” he said.
“Then there is no law of the sea anymore, everybody will have to arm, every nation will have to arm itself but that’s not enough to resolve the dispute, it will just worsen the dispute, and the judges in the tribunal will be out of job because nobody will follow the law of the sea anymore,” he noted.
According to Carpio, China’s ongoing reclamation activities and its encroachment into the maritime territories of countries that lies within the South China Sea have been planned many years ago under a grand design of dominating Southeast Asia’s most important navigational waters.
He said China’s nine-dash line eats up 85.7 percent of the whole South China Sea and threatened to rob the Philippines of about 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
“China does not need to explain the nine-dash line, you just have to see what it is doing in the South China Sea, reclaiming,” he said, referring to the ongoing massive reclamation activities in the seven reefs that it occupies, but fall within what is considered by Manila as part of its maritime territory.
In its reclamation, China is not only destroying seven reefs, but a total of 17 reefs as it has made 10 other reefs as sources of filling materials for its reclamation.
“China has damaged 10 other reefs for filling materials for the seven reefs that China occupies,” Carpio noted.
He said the nine-dash line moved the boundary of China to 64 kilometers away from Balabac in Palawan, 40 kilometers away from the shoreline of Batanes and 70 kilometers away from Burgos in Ilocos Norte.
Relatedly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday urged China to be transparent in conducting military exercises in the disputed South China Sea to avoid questions from and establish connections with foreign neighbors.
Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said while the AFP respects the right of other militaries to hold combat drills within their territories there are activities that can be opened to “outsiders” in the spirit of transparency.
“It’s the right of any sovereign nation to conduct any kind of exercises that it thinks are relevant to its own security interest,” he stressed.
Padilla said the AFP has been very transparent in holding military exercises, citing the presence of international observers during such training.
He also cited the United States invitation to China during the Rim of the Pacific, the biggest military exercise in the world. The US initiated the conduct of the activity.
China announced that it conducted air and sea drills in the South China Sea on Tuesday as it stakes an increasingly assertive claim to virtually the whole sea despite rival claims by neighbors.
The live-ammunition drills involved more than 100 ships, dozens of aircraft, information warfare units as well as the nuclear force, the state-backed China Military Online said in a report posted on the defense ministry’s Web site.
The report did not specify where exactly the exercises took place.
Padilla, however, maintained that the AFP is not alarmed over the Chinese drills.
“We see it as the right of any sovereign nation,” he said.

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