In a bid to deflect the many suspicions that, with President Aquino’s insistence that the Senate be populated with his Team PNoy senatorial candidates, and obtain full control of the Senate and transform the upper chamber as his rubber stamp Senate, said to be the last bastion of inde-pendence in the Legislative Branch of government, Malacañang yesterday said that in the event of a majority victory of its senatorial candidates in the just concluded elections, the Palace, would defer to the respective positions of upper chamber members in various key issues subject for legislation.
But it was also made clear by Aquino’s communications secretary that the President wants the majority of senators to toe his line in passing the Bangsamoro law.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ramon Carandang yesterday made the statement even as he reiterated Aquino’s thrust in pushing a 12-0 victory in the senatorial race, to ensure a bigger majority bloc supportive of his administration.
“What we are hoping for is that we have senators who are on the same page as the Aquino administration in terms of priorities, in terms of the thrusts and the programs of the administration,” he told reporters in a briefing at the Team PNoy headquarters in Makati City.
“The Senate is an independent body. We’re not saying that we want a rubber stamp Senate. What we are saying is that when it comes to the things that are important to the administration, for the President, we want to be able to count on the majority in the Senate to support important measures that we need to pass moving forward,” he said.
Carandang pointed out that in some crucial pieces of legislation pursued by the administration such as the increase in sin taxes and the adoption of the reproductive health (RH) law, votes cast by senators were very close.
“We could have lost those bills by a margin of one or two votes. And it was there that we realized that it’s more safe, it’s more comfortable for us if we have a bigger majority in the Senate.
“You know more than I do that it could have gone either way at some point. For us to be able to continue with reforms, we would be more comfortable with a bigger majority in the Senate,” he explained.
A source said that what Carandang is saying is contradictory.
“He (Carandang) says that Aquino will defer to the respective positions of the senators, but he also says that crucial pieces of legislation, the President can count on his allies in the Senate—the majority to pass these pieces of legislation,” the source said.
This early, the Palace official admitted that they are eyeing a solid majority vote in the Senate when the matter of the organic act that will pave the way for the adoption of the Bangsamoro basic law, is presented to Congress.
“The Transition Commission will draft an organic law for the Bangsamoro and that has to be approved by both Houses of Congress. That’s a big issue for us and we’re hoping that with a solid majority in the Senate, it will be easier for us to pass legislation like that,” he said.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 00:00 Published in Nation
Few hours before all of the country’s polling precincts officially opened, text blasts containing disparaging information against some senatorial bets continued, targeting two candidates from the administration coalition Team PNoy.
Re-electionist Sen. Loren Legarda was prompted to issue a statement debunking a particular “text brigade” reiterating her being a supposed author of a filed bill in the upper chamber, seeking to reduce the benefits of government workers, particularly the uniformed personnel or police and soldiers as well as public school teachers.
Legarda released a copy of an official certification, dated April 24, 2013, issued by the Senate bills and index service staff director Ma. Antoniette Aristoza, the senator did not initiate or introduce any such proposed legislation.
“This is to certify that based on our legislative records, there are no pending bills authored by Sen. Loren Legarda seeking to reduce/remove the benefits and allowances to military or police personnel; and teachers,” she said.
“We hope that this document will put to rest false information that have circulated through text messages and even print and social media that the honorable senator has purportedly authored a bill which will reduce the benefits and salaries of our teaching personnel,” it said.
Several other text messages targeted another Team PNoy candidate, re-electionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, alleging that the senator purportedly engaged in vote-buying in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Monday, 13 May 2013 00:00 Published in Headlines
A last-ditch attempt at weakening the chances of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates perceived to be clinging at the bottom half of the senatorial race was put into action during the last few days of the campaign period through a devious scheme of hacking into the Senate website to pass off bogus statements as having come from UNA bets Sen. Gringo Honasan, former Sen. Migz Zubiri and Rep. Jack Enrile.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III suspects the involvement of some Senate staff under the chamber’s Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB) of being involved in the dirty tricks launched against the UNA bets.
Sotto said the supposed Honasan statement was even released to reporters and other media outlets shortly before noontime using the e-mail address of the Senate, firstname.lastname@example.org, the same e-mail address used by the said office in sending out press releases of various senators.
“I will call for an investigation of PRIB. Why are they involving themselves in black propaganda? Heads must roll,” an incensed Sotto said in a phone interview.
Sotto said he would also ask the Senate secretariat which supervises the PRIB to make a “full audit” and accounting in the operations of the media bureau and identify the culprit.
While initially, the Senate leader said that the smear campaign against Honasan could even work in favor of the latter, considering that the reelectionist colleague would be hogging the headlines on the day of the actual poll exercise without any effort, Sotto noted the implication of incident.
The three are slugging it out for the 10th to 12th places along with Team PNoy candidates.
The attempt to dislodge them appears related to the 12-0 goal of the administration coalition.
“I am withdrawing from the senatorial race,” a letter-statement, allegedly made by Honasan was posted in the Senate website on the eve of election day, but which was later found out in journalists’ parlance as a “kuryente” or a hoax.
Honasan was quick to deny the supposed statement, after some Senate beat reporters, wire agencies and even Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself, called him up for confirmation on this matter.
“I am so surprised at the viciousness (of the attack against me). The letter seems to be so authentic that even Senate President Enrile called me up to confirm if it’s true. I categorically deny I am withdrawing (from the race). All of those responsible are hiding in the shadows, nobody seems to have the courage to surface,” he said, referring to those engaged in black propaganda which incidentally had him as the latest “victim.”
If at all, he is indeed withdrawing his candidacy, Honasan said the first to be informed would be the so-called “three kings” of UNA, meaning Vice Presideny Jejomar Binay, Enrile and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.
“I categorically deny that I am withdrawing...I am not interested in knowing who are behind this smear campaign, I’d rather deal with them face to face but they’d opted to cower in the shadows,” Honasan added.
The Senate website was not accessible yesterday after the supposed hacking incident.
The fake email targeting Zubiri purportedly assailed Team PNoy senatorial reelectionist Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who has been his constant rival as a result of a vote count issue during the 2007 elections. Zubiri’s camp denied releasing the statement.
“We will ask the [National Bureau of Investigation] to immediately investigate the incident with their cybercrime group. This is an obvious last minute black propaganda against Migz to destroy his integrity,” Zubiri said in a press statement, this one apparently authentic.
The bogus statement was issued through email account email@example.com and stated “Koko’s term at the Senate yielded nothing, and he’s got a broken marriage, to boot. Worse, no one except those at the survey firms feel assured that my cousin and the honorable Senator’s estranged wife, Jewel May Lobaton, was not treated as well as she should have been.”
A similarly spurious release was also distributed earlier supposedly coming from Enrile purportedly asking the public to “move on” from the death of former matinee idol Alfie Anido more than 31 years ago.
“Please note that subject PR from the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org is not mine nor from my campaign team. It’s fake and unauthorized,” Enrile said in a statement.
The fake press release was posted on a Facebook page created by a similarly bogus group that called themselves UNA volunteers.
“It’s a blessing in disguise since the law prohibits them (senatorial candidates) to campaign on election day. The candidates being targeted by the spurious emails, however, can now go on air on radio and on television to announce that it’s not true,” he said.
But with less than 24 hours before all of the country’s polling precincts could open, Sotto said, it could also cause some confusion among the voters unless this matter is addressed immediately and clarified to the public.
Sotto, who is open in admitting his support to the reelection bid of Honasan, who he considered as a very close personal friend, stressed that the issue of PRIB getting embroiled in the so-called dirty tactics against some senatorial candidates is not a laughing matter.
He pointed out that under section 2 paragraph 4 of the Constitution on the Civil Service Commission (CSC), it says that “no officer or employee of the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political campaign.”
The PRIB told the camp of Honasan that they have sent this message: “please be advised that the Senate PRIB email address email@example.com was used to send out a grossly misleading press release entitled Gringo: I am withdrawing from the senatorial race. We condemn the unauthorized use of our email address. The camp of Sen. Gringo Honasan has denied withdrawal of his candidacy. Senate’s PRIB’s email account may have been hacked or accessed by unauthorized users. Investigation on this matter and appropriate action shall be done immediately,” to various media organizations.
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