The Daily Tribune News - The Daily Tribune News - Headlines http://www.tribune.net.ph Thu, 18 Jan 2018 06:01:48 +0800 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Con-ass stalemate for Senate, House http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/con-ass-stalemate-for-senate-house http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/con-ass-stalemate-for-senate-house

 

NO CHA-CHA UNLESS VOTING DISPUTE SETTLED

The two chambers of Congress have dug in after figuring in a deadlock on their respective resolutions on charter change (cha-cha) as a Senate proposal was even made to have any senator who would dare attend the joint session in the House convened as a constituent assembly (con-ass) expelled from the upper chamber. 

Senators were also unanimous on the issue of the Senate voting separately from the House under con-ass and in not rushing cha-cha to meet a target to have a plebiscite for the proposed Federal charter along with the barangay elections this May.
The House had sought to convene both chambers into a con-ass, while the Senate insisted on it voting separately from the lower house.
Framers of the existing Constitution are split on the need to amend the country’s Charter but are unanimous in saying that Congress should vote separately in approving proposed amendments.
The stand of some of those who drafted the 1987 Constitution invited in the first Senate hearing on cha-cha further bolstered the position taken by senators, even before the House passed concurrent Resolution 9 seeking to convene Congress into a con-ass to begin deliberations on cha-cha to allow a shift to a Federal system, against the holding of a joint session with their House counterparts, unless they will vote separately.

House leaders decided to seal their lips on the apparent stalemate.
“I will not comment on the acts, omissions, or pronouncements of members of the other chamber,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.
Several senators on Wednesday told reporters that they have unanimously agreed that the 23-member chamber may convene and vote separately on the amendments to the Constitution, which the Duterte administration had pushed ostensibly in a bid to shift to a federal form of government.
Senators also appear convinced that a constitutional convention (con-con) is the way to go as even Sen. Panfilo Lacson, proponent of a resolution in the upper chamber seeking the convening of the Senate into a con-ass admitted that he is now leaning toward con-con.
“After hearing all the views, con-con is much better,” Lacson said.
In this case, unlike in the previous con-con which proved to be costly and a tedious process, Lacson found merit in the suggestion of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno on a “hybrid” con-con with one-third of its members appointed while two-thirds are elected delegates.
With both chambers standing firm on its respective view of amending the Constitution, the situation was likened in a stalemate, said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.
“It is on hold. So in other words, until we agree with three-fourths voting separately no (cha-cha) proposals will be made,” he said.
Pangilinan’s assertion was supported by the Senate leadership including Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel.
“If the House has an output and so with the Senate then we have a bicam (bicameral conference). If the Senate has an output, and the House has none then we don’t have anything. Therefore there will be no proposed amendments to the Constitution. We have to dance the cha-cha, we have to follow the same procedure to have proposed amendments to the Constitution,” he said.
“Actually I have not read Resolution 9 (for the House to convene into a con-ass). We await official communication from the House. If the cha-cha is the dance, the two dancers, the two partners must dance the same dance. If they’re dancing different dances then we dont have a cha-cha, that’s the way it is,” Pimentel added.
Drilon said the same, saying that if there is a deadlock especially if there is nothing for them to work on.
“The Constitution will stay if there is a deadlock. The Senate, by not acting on the resolution, effectively stops the process,” Drilon said.
SC can’t compel Senate action
Not even the SC can compel the Senate to act on the concurrent Resolution 9 if the upper chamber will not act on it and the issue is brought before the high tribunal for legal relief.
“The resolution is lost and you cannot be subject to a writ of mandamus,” Puno said, adding that a “no” vote in the Senate cannot be reviewed by the SC because it is a political question.
“It is a political decision and the Senate will only be answerable to the people,” said Puno.
The former SC chief who had been reported to be eyed to lead the commission to be ordered created by President Duterte to review the possibility of a cha-cha, said that while he is amenable to revisiting the Constitution, sided with the Senate’s view on manner of voting while he proposed a “hybrid” or a combination of con-con and con-ass as mode of amending the Charter.
“That’s a cheap argument. We should not count the cost when writing the Constitution. A good Constitution is the best investment a people can make,” he said.
Such interpretation of the lower house to vote jointly with the Senate will destroy the institutional equality of the two Houses which is specifically provided for.
Another former SC chief, retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide also thumbed down Con-Ass and agreed on the Senate voting separately from the lower house.
Davide and another former member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (Con-Com), Edgardo Garcia, stood pat on their belief that there is no need to amend the Constitution.
“This 1987 Constitution has achieved an unsurpassed record of permanence. I would not hesitate to assert that our 1987 Constitution, even if imperfect, is the best in the world. This is the Constitution I am willing to die for. I will until I breathe my last. I am now 82 years old,” Davide said.
Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. also a former Con Com delegate along with former SC Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna, also supported Con-con although the latter admitted that a Con-Ass can also be feasible.
“I submit that it would best if the two Houses of Congress hold their sessions to review the Constitution jointly but they should vote separately,” Pimentel said.
In the event that the Senate committee recommends that the process to carry out the Cha-cha is Con-Con and is adopted in the plenary, “then that effectively stops the cha-cha train of the (lower) house.”
“The SC cannot tell us ‘ no it should be a con-ass.’ In the view of Puno, that is beyond the power of the SC,” said Drilon.
Unprecedented move
In an unprecedented move, since the assumption of the Duterte administration, there has been unanimity among the senators as they closed ranks in insisting that the upper chamber should be made to vote separately from the House of Representatives in approving amended provisions of the Constitution and in not having to rush the process of Charter-change.
Drilon and Lacson, in separate interviews, said that it was unanimously agreed during their closed-door all-senators’ caucus held in the middle of their afternoon plenary session that they will stand firm on the issue on having to vote separate from the lower house.
“In my 20 years as a senator, there are just a few times where there is unanimity. The unanimity was shown yesterday when all the senators said ‘no, we should vote separately’,” he said.
It was on this issue that the idea of “expelling” a colleague who will attend the joint session in the lower house for any Cha-cha proceedings, was mentioned in their caucus by Lacson, Drilon said.
Lacson took note of this saying that they effectively blurred the dividing line that divides the majority and minority blocs as both groups share the same sentiment, that they will not allow themselves to be drowned or overwhelmed by the number of those in the lower house, if and when the con-Ass is put into place.
Also during the hearing, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Sec. Adelino Sitoy admitted to the committee that the perceived Palace interference in the affairs of Congress, insofar as moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, is possible and thus cannot be avoided.
“If we are suspecting interference in our efforts to revise the Constitution, we cannot avoid that. Anyway he had 16 million votes when he won the election in 2016, I’m referring to President Duterte,” Sitoy said.
The PLLO chief further pointed out that there had been similar moves in the past insofar as presidential interference is concerned.
“Apolinario Mabini was directed by President Emilio Aguinaldo to review the Malolos Constitution. In 1935, originally the term limit of the President was only 6 years but because of President Quezon it was modified as four years were too short for a good president and too long for a bad one. So President Quezon got two terms, four years each. In 1973, (then) Pres. (Ferdinand) Marcos of course intervened and in 1987 the Con-Com (Constitutional Commission) of 1986 were all appointees of (the late) President (Corazon) Aquino,” Sitoy said.
Puno said if Congress convenes as a con-ass, voting should be done separately noting that voting jointly meant the cancellation of the participation of the Senate.
“As institutions, they are equal. They have different perspectives and these perspectives have to be reflected institutionally,” Puno said.
Puno also pointed out that the numerical superiority of the House of Representatives will simply overwhelm the Senate.
He disagreed with former SC chief justice Davide, who saw no need to amend the Constitution and even described efforts to do so as a “leap to hell.”
“I don’t know how to intelligently answer that fear because I have not been to hell, your honors,” Puno quipped, referring to Davide’s earlier statement.
EO on BBL looms
An Executive Order (EO) from President Duterte to ensure the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) could come ahead the administration’s eye shift to federalism, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said yesterday.
Signing an EO, Dureza explained, could be the Chief Executive’s apparent guarantee so that the the BBL would not be delayed or scrapped anew ahead of the upcoming legislative debates on the possible charter change to fit a federal form of government.
“President Duterte said he would push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Bill and will even go to the extent of resorting to an executive issuance to hasten it if Congress itself fails to approve it,” Dureza said.
“Stressing that he can use the inherent powers of the presidency, he is ready to carve out through an executive order the area for the Bangsamoro for their self-rule,” he added.
Dureza’s hint came days after Mr. Duterte’s meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders led by Ibrahim Murad in Davao last Monday.
The passage of the BBL would abolish the existing Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), creating a new Bangsamoro regional political entity which is expected to have expanded powers compared to the former.
Claiming to have a Moro lineage, the Chief Executive warned that if the BBL won’t be passed under his watch, seeds of radical Islamist ideology might influence a younger generation of Moros to continuously take up arms in the name of fanaticism.
Dureza said that Mr. Duterte has made a commitment to MILF leaders that the BBL is a priority over federalism.
“The President said that he gave this commitment even during his presidential campaign and would continue to push for it. He stressed that the approval of the BBL should come ahead of federalism,” Dureza said. Ted Tuvera

 

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Angie M. Rosales) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Noy admin to blame for warship deal — Palace http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/noy-admin-to-blame-for-warship-deal-palace http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/noy-admin-to-blame-for-warship-deal-palace

By Ted Tuvera and Mario J. Mallari

The previous administration is to blame for the Philippine Navy’s controversial warship deal which maliciously implied Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said.
The Palace official pointed out that, by President Rodrigo Duterte’s standards, former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had it wrong because he had opted to sign the deal with a low-priced bidder.
“It was the Aquino administration that undertook the bidding and chose the winning bidder. This administration only issued the notice of award which was ministerial,” he stressed.
Roque also rejected calls to back down from the frigate acquisition program with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).
“On what basis (should we turn our back on that deal)?” he asked.
The Aquino administration signed a contract in 2016 with HHI to build two frigates to be delivered to the Philippine Navy in 2020 and 2021.
Roque then challenged Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, Alejano, who alleged that Malacañang was dipping its hands into the Navy’s acquisition of ships, to run after the previous administration.

“Alejano should vent his ire on his Yellow friends, please,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, denied Go intervened in the P15-billion frigate acquisition project.
“The secretary of National Defense is confirming that no intervention or interference by Secretary Bong Go happened,” Director Arsenio Andolong, director of the Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs service, said.
While he confirmed that Lorenzana received a letter from Go during a meeting in Malacañang but such was not actually from Go himself.
Apparently, the subject letter was pushing for Hanwa Thales of Korea as supplier of the combat management system (CMS) for the two brand new frigates contracted by the DND to Hyundai Heavy Industries for more than P15 billion.
The document that Lorenzana alluded to have been given to him by Go and was handed to him at the Palace, Andolong said, so the Defense chief assumed that it came from Go, the Special Assistant to the President and Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).
“It should be noted that the one of the tasks of the PMS includes the official routing and endorsement of documents to government agencies concerned, for appropriate action,” he added.
It turned out, however, that the document was not from Go himself but from Hanwa.
“The subject document originated from Hanwha, one of the proponents for the Combat Management System (CMS) who were post-qualified by the Philippine Navy for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP),” Andolong said.
Andolong said the Defense chief subsequently forwarded the letter to Mercado for appropriate action, who, in turn, gave it to then Commodore Robert Empedrad, the chairman of the Frigate Project Management Team at the time.
Empedrad, Andolong added, wrote a reply to the document stating the preferred CMS of the Philippine Navy, subject to the terms and conditions of the contract.
“There was neither hint nor guidance from the Palace or from Secretary Bong Go to influence the implementation of the project,” he added.
Even relieved Navy chief Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado said Go never mentioned to him anything about the frigate project in many occasions they were together during his tenure.
“I fairness to him, in so many instances that we were together even aboard foreign ships, he (Go) never asked me about the frigate,” he stressed.
The controversy over the P15 billion frigate project has caused Mercado the Navy top post after being accused by Lorenzana of insubordination. Mercado is now on a floating status while Empedrad was named as acting Navy chief.
Mercado was blamed for the delay of the frigate project but military insiders, particularly those from the Navy, claimed that the sacked Navy chief only fought for the good of the command.
The DND also dismissed Alejano’s call for the termination of the contract with HHI.
“There is a proper process prescribed in Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) concerning the termination of a procurement project and there are specific conditions that must be present in order to invoke it, none of which are existing at the moment in this project,” Andolong said.
“We must point out that the anomalies being cited by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano are mere allegations and innuendos which are not legal grounds for termination of the project,” he added.

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Tribune Wires) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Purchase of CJ’s’ vehicle predetermined http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/purchase-of-cj-s-vehicle-predetermined http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/purchase-of-cj-s-vehicle-predetermined

By Gerry Baldo, Charlie V. Manalo and Benjamin B. Pulta

A Supreme Court (SC) official yesterday testified that the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was “predetermined,” and is an alleged violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Atty. Ma. Carina Cunanan, procurement head and assistant chief of SC’s administrative services, however, explained that it was not Sereno’s office who had requested the brand.
“It was already predetermined, your honor,” said Cunanan. She said that it was the Procurement Planning Committee which asked the office of the Chief Justice on the preferred brand of the vehicle.
Cunanan said that Sereno’s office allegedly requested a Suburban but was denied due to lack of budget.
Cunanan told the House justice committee that there was a prior directive before the purchase of the vehicle through one of the members of the Procurement Planning Committee, whom she identified as Atty. Michael Ocampo to consider the type of vehicle to be given to Sereno.
“We had to ask the office of the end user what vehicle they would, and she preferred (the model) in the event that we would procure a vehicle. So it was they who said Land Cruiser,” said Cunanan.
House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas pointed out that under the existing procurement laws, naming a brand is prohibited.
He said that only specifications should be stated in putting out notice for the purchase, say of vehicles, to be fair to other brands.

“When you procure, you don’t give a brand so that its fair . You should all specify the details, but not the brand,” said Fariñas.

Although there was already an endorsement to get a Land Cruiser, Atty. Thelma Bahia, head of the SC Bids and Awards Committee, said they did not specify the brand and just stated the specifications in the posting of procurement of the vehicle
“That’s how you skirt the law,” Fariñas noted.
Bahia also admitted that during the bidding no other car manufacturer made a bid for the supply of the vehicle except Toyota.
Atty. Larry Gadon, impeachment complainant, said there is documentary evidence to show an alleged violation of the procurement law.
“The initiatory document, the first endorsement clearly states Toyota Land Cruiser, even the color pearl white, even the engine displacement and the amount. It’s attached in the records your honor,” said Gadon.
ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera said that the P6 million budget the SC prepared for the purchase of vehicles was specifically meant for the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Apart from the Land Cruiser, Sereno is using another vehicle, a Starex Gold, according to Cunanan.
In her reply to the allegations against her, Sereno said that there is a budget circular explicitly allowing the Chief Justice, as well as the President, Vice President, Senate President, and Speaker of the House to purchase a luxury vehicle for security reasons.
A spokesperson of Chief Justice Sereno maintained that the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser as security vehicle for the country’s top magistrate last year was approved by the Supreme Court en banc and complied with the budget department circular that allowed such acquisition.
Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said the procurement was “above board and not a capricious decision of the Chief Justice.”
“No less than the Supreme Court En Banc itself, in a Resolution dated March 28, 2017 in A.M. No. 17,-03-06-SC, approved the acquisition of the Land Cruiser for the price of P5,110,500,” Lacanilao said.
He also noted a circular from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which allows the country’s highest officials, including the Chief Justice, to use a service vehicle for security reasons.
“The Chief Justice did not ask to be exempted from the prohibition against the acquisition and use of security vehicles by government officials, as she was already exempted by virtue of her position,” Lacanilao said, citing Section 3.1 of DBM Administrative Order No. 233 that was issued by the Executive Department in 2008—two years before Sereno was appointed to the high tribunal as Associate Justice in 2010.
According to Lacanilao, the exemption also covers the President, the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to ensure their safety and security.
“Because of threats to her personal security, she had no choice but to acquire a vehicle that could be bulletproofed. It cannot be denied that judges, lawyers and prosecutors have been assassinated,” Lacanilao pointed out.
Since she was appointed Chief Justice in 2012, Sereno did not ask for a new service vehicle despite her option to purchase a security car under Section 3.1 of DBM A.O. No. 233.
The Chief Justice instead improvised by hanging a personally-purchased bullet-proof blanket on one side of the interior of a Hyundai Starex van that was handed down to her, Lacanilao said.
“The Chief Justice also covers her back seat with a bullet-proof vest which her husband had given to her as a gift. This continues to be her vehicle security upgrade at personal cost until today,” he added.
Sereno’s spokesman also noted that it was the first time the Chief Justice had ever requested a vehicle since she was appointed to the High Court in 2010.
“She had always used vehicles inherited from other Justices or court employees,” Lacanilao explained.
The records of the Supreme Court, she said, would show that at the time of the procurement of the Land Cruiser, new vehicles had already been purchased for eight other justices.
Two new vehicles for two more justices are currently being procured.
Rep. Vicente Veloso said no other SC justcies requested a similar kind of vehicle for security reasons.
TWG head: No close ties with CJ
In a related development, the head of the technical working group (TWG) of the Supreme Court committee tasked to process the survivorship benefits for spouses of deceased magistrates on Wednesday categorically denied she has close ties with Chief Justice Sereno.
Lawyer Jocelyn Fabian denied the allegation of Gadon that she already knew Sereno even before her being hired.
“I totally deny the allegation of the complainant that the chief justice and I knew each other. He (Gadon) does not know me personally and of my competence,” Fabian said.
The TWG, which Sereno had supposedly created, had allegedly delayed the resolution of the 29 applications for more than a year when prior to its creation, the Supreme Court approved with dispatch 271 applications filed from 2010.
Gadon, in his complaint, alleged that Sereno created the TWG headed “by one of her lawyers who knew nothing much.” He said during the hearing that he was referring to Fabian.
He alleged that it was “illogical” for the chief justice to appoint someone she does not know personally to a confidential position. He also claimed that Sereno and Fabian knew each other because they belong to the same church.
Fabian confirmed that she and Sereno share the same faith, but they do not go to the same church.
She also maintained that Sereno did not appoint her to the Supreme Court.
“I applied, I was interviewed and I was accepted,” she said.

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Tribune Wires) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
House seeks to strike out ‘judicial overreach’ http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-seeks-to-strike-out-judicial-overreach http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-seeks-to-strike-out-judicial-overreach

The House panel drafting the Federal Constitution had sought to clip the powers of the judiciary by revising a provision on the Constitution that legislators described as constituting “judicial overreach.” 

Sought removed was a provision in the Constitution that gave the judiciary the power to determine “grave abuse of discretion” in government actions and policies.
The House subcommittee cited “judicial overreach” in a phrase from Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which stated that courts can “determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”
The removal of the provision was cited by former President Aquino for his being open to changing the 1987 Constitution because of “judicial overreach” in the aftermath of the 2014 Supreme Court (SC) decision nullifying certain acts of the Executive creating the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Aquino said in 2014 that he was considering charter change after the SC ruling which he had criticized.
The President then said the judiciary appears checking on the executive and legislative branches “without restraint,” and is using such powers more often.
In opposing the stand of Aquino, then Vice President Jejomar Binay, a lawyer, said the provision “was included precisely to prevent a situation where the judiciary bends to the will of one branch, or of one man as was the case during martial law.”
Binay added that he “firmly believes” that a democracy requires all branches of government “to respect each one’s independence and recognize each one’s powers.”
Under the proposed revision of the House subcommittee the provision would instead read, “Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable.”
Retired Supreme Court justice Vicente Mendoza and Integrated Bar of the Phillipines (IBP) National President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said the revision would constitute a significant change in the powers of the judiciary.
He added the deletion of the portion may render the Supreme Court “powerless.”
“It lessens the power of the judiciary to inquire into acts of other agencies,” he added.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said the proposal was not final and will be subjected to public debate.
Con-ass okay queried
A member of the House minority bloc also vowed to continue questioning the manner by which the House approved the resolution which calls fo the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass).
Senior Deputy Minority Leader, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, said the House Majority unashamedly exercised its tyranny of numbers by employing what he termed a “ridulous” House rule, which paves the way for voting on an issue after three speeches for and two speeches against the matter have been delivered.
“But what happened Tuesday night was a distorted interpretation of a distorted rule,” Atienza said during a pres briefing.
“We were deliberating on the issue, not making speeches. And then when two have already raised their questions, they moved for the division of the House,” said Atienza.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s very undemocratic. We have more than 290 members in the House of Representatives and they will only allow two lawmakers to raise questions? And they were not even delivering speeches as the provision of the House rules provide but questioning,” he stressed.
The other night, voting viva voce, the House adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 09 entitled: “Concurrent Resolution To Constitute The Congress Of The Philippines As a Constituent Assembly For The Purpose Of Proposing Amendments To, Or Revision Of, The 1987 Constitution”.
As described in the resolution, the Constitution is the fundamental and paramount law which provides the framework of governance, as well as the instrument of the people to secure their rights and promote the common welfare.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the authors of the resolution, said recent events show there is a need to introduce reforms in the present Constitution for it to be responsive to the exigencies of the times.
“This includes the need to provide a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, to spur economic regional development in the countryside, and provide impetus to much-needed socio-economic and political reforms,” Alvarez said.
He said the overwhelming victory of President Rodrigo Duterte, who stood on a platform for a shift from a unitary to a federal system of government, among others, did not only sustain but likewise affirmed the clamor and sentiment from a broad cross-section of society seeking a review of certain provisions in the 29-year old Philippine Constitution to make it more attuned and responsive to the demands of present conditions and economic realities.
Atienza said he is in full support of Duterte’s call for change, including amending the Constitution, but he won’t support any move even by his colleagues to railroad the act.
“This is a clear railroading. And if that’s the way, they want to do it, we might as well stop deliberating on the matter and give them what they want,” Atienza said.
“But then, the House would be better off being converted into a Railroad company and led by an engineer, not lawmakers,” said Atienza.
A the same press briefing, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin aired opposition to the interpretation of the House leaders of a joint voting for both Houses of Congress.
“We have a bicameral legislative body. So, when we vote on issues, whatever they may be, we do it separately,” said Garbin.
“That’s the essence of a bicameral congress. If there are differences, we go to the bicameral committee,” he said.

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Benjamin B. Pulta and Charlie V. Manalo) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Rappler probed over possible violation of Constitution, laws http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/rappler-probed-over-possible-violation-of-constitution-laws http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/rappler-probed-over-possible-violation-of-constitution-laws

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre yesterday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the “possible violation of the Constitution and laws” of Rappler and file cases, if evidence warrants, against the online news website.

“Whether any law has been violated, it will not be limited to administrative law, Anti-Dummy law but we are going to see if there are other laws violated by anybody in connection with this decision of SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) in (the) cancellation of registration of Rappler,” he told reporters.
The Justice chief also stressed the SEC decision is not politically motivated because four of its five commissioners were appointed by the previous administration.
Aguirre said the Constitution is absolute in saying that ownership and management of mass media in the country are exclusive to Filipino citizens.
“You should not circumvent what is stated in the Constitution. In other words, you should not do even indirectly what is prohibited in the Constitution,” he pointed out. It was Solicitor General Jose Calida who called on the SEC in December 2016 to investigate Rappler, citing newspaper articles of former ambassador to Cyprus and Greece Rigoberto Tiglao, who disclosed in 2016 that two American companies, Omidyar Network, Inc. and North Base Media, “made substantial investments” in Rappler in 2015.

According to him, the decision of the SEC to revoke the incorporation papers of the online news site was about following the “rule of law.”
On Monday, the SEC canceled the registration of Rappler Inc., the mass media entity that “sold control” to foreigners, and Rappler Holdings Corp. being its alter ego, “existing for no other purpose than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution.”
The regulator ruled Rappler violated a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of Philippine media when the news outfit gave veto powers to a foreign fund which had bought a placement of Philippine depositary receipts on Rappler shares in 2015.
The law prohibits the transfer of ownership of a business in a sector reserved for Filipinos to a foreigner.
Rappler maintained that the investment did not constitute equity nor give the investors veto on editorial matters.
It also questioned the timing of the decision, noting that it was a “harassment” and that it would contest the decision before the courts.
Free press next victim?
The New York Times, in an opinion piece, meanwhile criticized the government’s decision to revoke the license Rappler.
“Exposing such brazen abuse of power is a hallowed mission of a free press, so it should come as no surprise that authoritarians like Mr. Duterte usually go after independent media. One particularly tenacious critic of the president’s vicious crackdown has been a leading online news site, Rappler, and on Monday the government announced that it was revoking its license.”
The action against Rappler is only the tip of Mr. Duterte’s assault on his media critics,” the editorial stated.
“Of course, Mr. Duterte should be condemned first and foremost for his blatant violations of human rights. But the ability of a democracy to repair the damage caused by bad leaders requires the survival of critical democratic institutions, a free press among them.”
The editorial also noted that the President’s “supporters have also made the Philippines a swamp of fake news, conspiracy theories and online harassment.”
“Mr. Duterte has refused to condemn the flood and has denied any involvement in its creation. Predictably, he also denied that the revocation of Rappler’s license was political, and he said he didn’t care whether or not Rappler continued to operate.”
The Times said the incident would be well used by other governments and non-government supporters of democracy to condemn this effort to silence independent voices.
US-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists also called the government’s moves a “clear and immediate danger to press freedom.”
Rappler has had a testy relationship with Duterte since he won election on an anti-crime platform in 2016.
No crackdown
Malacañang, for its part, urged reporters of Rappler to reinvent themselves as bloggers, rejecting allegations the Duterte administration was cracking down on the free press.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the suggestion a day after the government brushed off appeals from media organizations to reverse its decision to withdraw the registration of the Rappler online portal.
The ruling against Rappler that Mr. Duterte derided last Tuesday as a “fake news” purveyor is seen by critics as part of the government’s campaign to silence opposition to his drug war.
Rappler, founded in 2012, is among a handful of news organizations which had produced reports critical of Mr. Duterte’s narcotics crackdown.
“No one has been prevented from exercising free speech, no one has been banned from performing their role as journalists,” Roque stressed.
“They can still become bloggers, that is clear,” he told reporters, while adding Rappler journalists would then have to seek government accreditation as bloggers.
Rappler editors could not be reached for comment.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Duterte again lashed out at Rappler as he denied its report linking his chief aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, to a controversial P15-billion million frigate acquisition project by the Philippine Navy. PNA and AFP

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Ted Tuvera) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Oppositors use the same arguments against ML extension http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/oppositors-use-the-same-arguments-against-ml-extension http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/oppositors-use-the-same-arguments-against-ml-extension

Arguments on the petitions against the one year extension approved much earlier by Congress, were heard during orals yesterday at the Supreme Court.
The petitions were filed by the group of opposition congressmen led by the usual lead oppositor Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Other groups of activists and militant lawmakers also had their petitions, joined by ex- Commission on Human Rights chair, Etta Rosales, and the group of lawyers and human rights advocates former Commission on Elections chair Christian Monsod.
They appeared to have had the same argument they had earlier stated which was thumbed down by the High Court.
In the first extension of Martial Law, which ended in December 2017, more or less the same petitioners said the extension of the martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus had no factual basis because the Maute group, whose attack in Marawi City in May 2017 prompted the initial martial law declaration, was neutralized by the authorities and that communist rebellion in the region does not endanger public safety.
Also present during the oral arguments, as ordered by the Supreme Court, the military’s intelligence officer testified that 48 foreign terrorists who are allegedly involved in training local recruits in Mindanao, were monitored, which is currently under martial rule.
Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the situation in the region has become complicated with the “influx of foreign terrorist fighters capitalizing on the porous maritime boundaries in southern Philippines in the guise of tourists and businessmen.”

He added that the military has monitored the entry of terrorists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.
He also stressed that despite the Marawi siege having ended he said thatg the terrorists were still able to regroup by recruiting some 400 men who have received training on marksmanship, urban warfare, and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“Regional leadership may remain in southern Philippines for the establishment of a wilayat (ISIS provincial caliphate) in Southeast Asia since Daesh still views the Philippines as a prospective area of operation in the region. Thus, senior leaders from Syria, Malaysia and Indonesia may return to assume leadership of Daulah Islamiyah,” Trinidad said.
“Daulah Islamiyah members will attempt to replicate the siege of Marawi in other areas in Mindanao to achieve their goal of establishing a wilayat. They could also look for opportunities to conduct bombings particularly in urban, populated areas not only in Mindanao but even in Metro Manila to project their relevance and to avenge the death of their colleagues,” he added.
Trinidad said remnants of terrorist groups still have the capability to resurge, radicalize communities, recruit members and sow terror again.
Not surprisingly Albay Rep. Lagman opposed the military’s presentation, saying it should have been done before the joint session of Congress before the extension was approved.
With Solicitor-General Jose Calida claiming that no one objected then and that Lagman was absent, Lagman shot back, saying: “I was present the whole time during the joint session of the Congress and there was no Powerpoint presentation made by the military.”
For Solicitor General Jose Calida, there is factual basis for the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao which was requested by President Duterte and approved by Congress last month.
Speaking at the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the extension, Calida said the petitioners have failed to present facts to overturn the presumption of constitutionality of Resolution of Both Houses No. 4.
“The facts show that the rebellion has not been quelled. Sadly, Mindanao, the land of promise, is still beset by strife. Our armed forces are fighting the rebels in the mountains and the jungles. Our armed forces are fighting them in the cities and towns. Our armed forces will fight them wherever they inflict their violence on fellow Filipinos,” the solicitor general said in his opening statement.
Calida added that the SC cannot review the manner by which the Congress deliberated upon and approved the President’s request in response to petitioners’ claim that Duterte’s allies in Congress “unduly constricted” the period of debate and granted the extension with “inordinate haste.”
Congress approved the one-year extension with on December 13, roughly three weeks before the December 31 expiration of the six-month extension of the May 23 proclamation that placed the whole of Mindanao under martial rule following attacks by ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.
“These issues are political and non-justiciable. They go into the wisdom of the congressional action. The 1987 Constitution itself allows the Congress to determine the rules of its proceedings,” Calida said.
Neither can the Court dictate on the President which commander-in-chief power to use to respond to the situation in Mindanao.
“As the Court discussed in Lagman [SC decision on original martial law proclamation], the power to choose, initially, which among these extraordinary powers to wield in a given set of conditions is a judgment call on the part of the President,” Calida said.
Allegations of abuse and human rights violations cannot also nullify the extension, according to Calida.
“As stated previously, the Congress’ extension of martial law only requires that the rebellion persists and that public safety requires the extension of martial law. This means that alleged abuses and human rights violations cannot serve as a cause to invalidate the extension,” he said.
Calida said the alleged abuses and human rights violations are unsubstantiated.
Assuming that there were human rights violations during the period of effectivity of martial law, the Court already ruled in that the alleged violations must be addressed in a separate proceeding, he added.
Terror attacks not considered
in Charter—Monsod
New threats in the modern age may have left martial law in the hands of the government a weak , underpowered tool under its present form in the Constitution, an SC justice observed yesterday during the resumption of oral arguments into the petitions questioning martial law.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin stressed that martial law as pronounced by President Duterte’s martial law is already emasculated when compared to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos “How can the republic survive if there was another kind of threat worst than rebellion or invasion,” Bersamin said in questioning Christian Monsod.
Bersamin noted that weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs ) more commonly called as drones can be remotely operated and used against key targets by enemies of the state.
“Drones can be operated as far as US attacking some abandoned place in Afghanistan. That is is what I see in the internet,” Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin said. Monsod claimed even a million drones cannot threaten the life and survival of the government.
“Oh I watched so many movies like Whitehouse has fallen, London has fallen. These are very terrifying realities that could happen in a few years time,” Bersamin said adding that the framers crafted a constitution “that constricted the use of the ultimate power to actual invasion and actual rebellion.”
Monsod conceded that while the framers did not actually think of the term “terrorism” when they are in the process of creating the Constitution, they considered lawless violence which is equivalent to terrorism.

 

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Benjamin B. Pulta) Headlines Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
House adopts con-ass mode, viva voce http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-adopts-con-ass-mode-viva-voce http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-adopts-con-ass-mode-viva-voce

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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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo) Headlines Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Mayon Volcano ‘fireworks’ draw tourists as residents flee http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/mayon-volcano-fireworks-draw-tourists-as-residents-flee http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/mayon-volcano-fireworks-draw-tourists-as-residents-flee

Spectacular lava “fireworks” shooting from its crater are drawing tourists to the Philippines’ most active volcano, authorities said Tuesday as scientists warned of a potential dangerous eruption within days.

Lava spurting from Mayon volcano lit up the sky overnight Monday in what scientists said was a sign of increasing activity that prompted official calls for evacuation of areas under threat from a major eruption.
But even as thousands of residents flee, tourists are flocking to the area, some 330 kilometers southeast of Manila to watch and photograph the spectacle, Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province told AFP.
“It’s a spectacle to watch. It’s beauty and fury in one, especially at night. But it’s a natural phenomenon so we don’t know when an (explosive) eruption will happen,” Garcia added.
Mayon, a near-perfect cone that also draws thousands of tourists during its periods of quiet, rises 8,070 feet above Legazpi, a city of about 200,000 people surrounded by a largely agricultural region.
The state volcanology institute described the natural pyrotechnics as “short-duration lava fountaining”, an escalation from the slow lava flow from the crater a day earlier. “If lava has enough gas and material, fragments will be flown up into the air, like the fountain you light up on New Year’s Eve,” Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told AFP.

“There is more force involved when the lava would exit so it’s more intense than just the lava oozing out.”
Ash also rose two kilometers into the sky in the past 24 hours, enveloping surrounding areas in a grey carpet as more residents left their homes for safety.
About 30,000 people in and around Legazpi have fled their homes, the provincial government said on Tuesday, more than double the official count on Monday.
Local governments are tapping emergency funds and working to ensure clean water supply, officials said.
However hotels reported getting more tourist bookings while people flocked to viewing decks to watch the volcano from a distance, the provincial government said although it gave no specific figures.
The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” of islands that were formed by volcanic activity, and is perennially under threat from 22 active volcanoes.
The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.
Scientists said it was highly unlikely Mayon would have a similar eruption.
“It erupts quite often, and volcanoes that erupt frequently tend to have smaller eruptions than those that erupt less frequently,” David Rothery, a geosciences professor at The Open University in Britain, told AFP.
Displaced residents rise
The number of displaced residents in Albay continued to rise, now numbering at nearly 5,000 families, as Mayon Volcano remained restive and authorities warned of a possible hazardous eruption in the coming days.
Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, spokesman of the Albay Provincial Police Office (PPO), said that a total of 4,968 families composed of 18,447 individuals have evacuated from their homes since Saturday due to the volcano’s restiveness.
Gomez said that the affected residents are currently housed inside 21 evacuation centers in the towns of Guinobatan, Camalig, Malilipot, Daraga and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco.
Authorities have ordered mandatory evacuation on Saturday after phreatic eruptions were recorded on Mayon Volcano. Forced evacuation was subsequently conducted on residents living within the six kilometer permanent danger zone due to the volcano’s continued unrest.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised Alert Level 3, warning of a “relatively high level of unrest.”
The agency also warned that a hazardous eruption is possible “within weeks or even days.”
Relatedly, the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) has placed its Disaster Response Units (DRUs) on stand-by alert for possible worsening of the activities of Mayon Volcano.
Col. Teody Toribio, spokesman of Solcom, said that all disaster response personnel and mobility assets of 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, Tactical Operations Group 5 and Naval Forces, Southern Luzon are all prepositioned in Camp Simeon Ola, Legazpi City for the continuous deployment for pre-emptive actions.
Toribio said that Solcom is in constant coordination with the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (DRRMCs) for updates and response operations.
Furthermore, Toribio said that Solcom’s Tactical Operations Group 5 and TOG-4 are providing helicopters needed for aerial surveys over Mayon Volcano.
Lt. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, Solcom commander, said that while other Solcom units were placed on stand-by, some troops are already deployed and assisting in the ongoing evacuation and security operations in the affected areas.
Pamonag assured that Solcom is ready to give further assistance and expressed his support to the efforts of OCD 5, LGUs and stakeholders in the province of Albay.

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Mario J. Mallari) Headlines Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
House gets Rody’s 2nd tax reform bid http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-gets-rody-s-2nd-tax-reform-bid http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-gets-rody-s-2nd-tax-reform-bid

The Department of Finance (DoF) submitted last Monday the second tranche of the five-part Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) of the Duterte administration which seeks to reduce corporate income tax (CIT) rates and streamline fiscal incentives to investors. 

The DoF said it submitted the tax reform package through the Office of the Speaker upon the resumption of the second regular session of the Congress following its yearend recess. 

The first package of the CTRP, also known as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), was signed into law by President Duterte last Dec. 19. 

It slashed personal income tax rates, the first time that the government did so by law, while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services through the repeal of several non-essential exemptions to the value-added tax (VAT); adjustments in the excise tax rates for fuel, coal and automobiles; and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages among other measures.

The CTRP’s Package 2, which the DoF designed to be revenue-neutral, or would not result in any increases in tax collections, proposes to gradually lower the CIT rate from 30 to 25 percent while modernizing incentives for companies to make these “performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said.
Chua said that through this tax reform package, the government would be able to ensure that incentives granted to businesses generate jobs, stimulate the economy in the countryside and promote research and development; contain sunset provisions so that tax perks do not last forever; and are reported so the government can determine the magnitude of their costs and benefits to the economy.
He said incentives enjoyed mostly by big businesses such as income tax holidays and other perks with no time limits need to be corrected as it is costing the government over P300 billion annually in foregone revenues.
Citing 2015 data, Chua said income tax holidays and special rates account for P86.25 billion of the revenue losses, while custom duty exemptions account for P18.4 billion.
Exemptions from paying the VAT on imports led to P159.82 billion in foregone revenues; and local VAT, P36.96 billion, although part of this tax will eventually have to be refunded because these are imposed on exporters, he said.
He said these incentives totaling P301.22 billion do not yet include exemptions from the payment of local business taxes and the estimates on tax leakages.
In terms of income tax incentives, the government, in effect, gave away P61.33 billion to companies in 2011, which went up to P88.17 billion in 2014.
Customs duty exemptions, however, have gone down from P82.97 billion in 2011 to P38.04 billion in 2014 owing to the various free trade agreements signed by the Philippines with other countries.
“So on average, we gave away up to 2 percent of our GDP in income tax and custom duties exemptions,” Chua said.
The enactment of the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA) in 2016 has allowed the DOF to track incentives systematically, Chua said.
TIMTA data show that in 2015, income tax holidays accounted for P53.77 billion in foregone revenues; special rates, P32.48 billion; and import duty incentives, P18.14 billion or a total of P104.40 billion in tax incentives given away by the government, which would have accounted for almost 5 percent of national government revenues and 0.78 percent of GDP, Chua said. Data for the VAT and local business taxes are not mandated under the TIMTA.
Low corporate tax take
Chua has pointed out that the government collects income taxes from large corporations and other private firms representing only 3.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or a collection rate of a low 12 percent because of 315 laws or provisions that grant businesses tax breaks and other perks.
He said that compared to other economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Philippines imposes the highest CIT rate but is among those at the bottom in terms of collection efficiency, resulting in a high rate but narrow tax base.
The Philippines, he said, currently imposes a CIT rate of 30 percent but with a tax collection efficiency rate of only 12.3 percent, while Thailand’s CIT rate is only 20 percent but it collects almost triple—a 30.5 percent efficiency—that represents 6.1 percent of its GDP.
Vietnam’s CIT rate is 25 percent but it collects even more with a 29.2 percent tax efficiency rate representing 7.3 percent of GDP. Malaysia’s 24 percent CIT generates a 27.1 percent efficiency rate in terms of collecting taxes, which is 6.5 percent of GDP.
Chua said a flawed and outdated system that provides tax incentives to companies under 123 investment laws and 192 non-investment laws is the reason for the country’s low CIT collection efficiency.
Under the Philippine tax code, all corporations, unless receiving fiscal incentives, have to pay a regular CIT rate of 30 percent or a minimum CIT rate of 2 percent of gross income beginning the fourth taxable year immediately following the year in which a corporation commenced its business operations, when the minimum income tax is greater than the regular tax. The optional standard deduction for corporations is 40 percent of gross income under the tax code.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the DoF scored its first major legislative victory for the Duterte administration and the Filipino people in 2017 with the approval and signing into law of the TRAIN, which will provide hefty income tax cuts for the majority of Filipino taxpayers while raising additional funds to help support the government’s accelerated spending on its “Build, Build, Build” and social services programs.

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Tribune Wires) Headlines Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Ex-Palawan Gov. Reyes opposes prosecution’s plea to cancel bail http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/ex-palawan-gov-reyes-opposes-prosecution-s-plea-to-cancel-bail http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/ex-palawan-gov-reyes-opposes-prosecution-s-plea-to-cancel-bail

The camp of former Palawan Gov. Mario Joel Reyes opposed the motion of the prosecution to cancel his bail explaining it has no merit before the Sandiganbayan Third Division. 

The lawyers of Reyes in its petition mentioned the prosecution urged the court to cancel his bail and his immediate commitment to prison on the ground that there was a change in the circumstances of the accused given his release from detention last January 5, 2018.
Reyes’ lawyers argued that the motion of the prosecution has no basis in fact and in law, and should be denied.
“The Honorable Court, after the promulgation of its decision on August 29, 2017, granted Accused’s motion and allowed him to post bail pending appeal. The court grant of bail after conviction is separate and distinct from the bail posted by the accused on September 1, 2017 to stay the warrant of arrest.

From the time bail after conviction was granted, Reyes has not violated any conditions set by the court,” the motion of Reyes read.
It further argued that the grant of bail to Reyes by the court came after the objections and oppositions raised by the prosecution.
The prosecution did not file any motion for reconsideration or any other action questioning the order from the Supreme Court.
But the prosecution filed its motion to cancel the bail of Reyes on the same grounds that Reyes is a flight risk four months after.
“The prosecution’s motion, however, is without merit because the same failed to establish and/or substantiate any of the circumstances for the cancellation of bail enumerated in Section 5(b) of Rule 114, that he is a recidivist, habitual delinquent or has committed the crime aggravated by the circumstance of reiteration,” the motion said.
It further argued Reyes did not commit an offense while under probation, parole, or conditional pardon, that the circumstance of his case indicate the probability of flight risk if released on bail and lastly there is undue risk that he may commit another crime during the pendency of the appeal.
The motion also noted that the order granting bail to Reyes after conviction necessarily presupposes the court’s factual finding that he is not a flight risk, thus it is incumbent to the prosecution to overcome the finding by establishing the existence of one or more circumstances they have mentioned which the prosecution failed to do.
The motion of the accused according to the camp of Reyes merely cited as basis the change in circumstances of Reyes brought about by his recent release from detention to justify the cancellation of the bail.
But the Reyes camp argued that merely alleging the release of Reyes from detention does not substantiate or prove that he is a flight risk.
Reyes was released from detention after the Court of Appeals resolved in his favor a petition in connection with his murder case for the killing of broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega in 2011.
Voting 3 to 2 on January 4, the CA Former Eleventh Division voided the warrant of arrest issued by the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court Branch 52 against Reyes, citing lack of sufficient evidence for a finding of probable cause for the former governor’s indictment.
The CA also ordered the local court to discontinue the trial against the former governor.
The CA said there was no evidence Reyes aside from the testimony of Rodolfo Edrad alias Bumar.

 

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no-spam@tribune.net.ph (Alvin Murcia) Headlines Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0800