Thursday, 25 June 2009

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Philippines orders return of Marcos jewellery

MANILA to former first lady Imelda Marcos that was seized after her husband was deposed from the presidency in 1986.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said on Monday that the government had not taken legal action to claim ownership of the jewellery.

"Evidently, Mrs. Marcos remains to be the legitimate owner of said prized jewellery," he said in a letter to the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the anti-graft agency, adding it was also not proved the items were ill-gotten.

Gonzalez said the state agency which aims to recover about $10 billion worth of alleged ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family failed to file a criminal or civil suit to claim the jewellery.

In 2006, the government tried to auction the jewellery collection, estimated to be worth 15 billion pesos , which has been kept in a vault at the Philippines' central bank since 1990.

Marcos, famous for her huge collection of shoes, jewellery and jetsetting lifestyle, went to a local court to stop the sale, arguing the gems were not acquired illegally using public funds.

"Thank God that after more than 23 years of relentless persecution and deprivation initiated by the government in 1986, President Gloria Arroyo's government has now started efforts for the Marcos' truth and justice to prevail," Marcos said in a statement issued through a spokeswoman.

"Many of those jewellery pieces were intended for religious images, like tiaras for the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The jewellery collections were seized at Malacanang Palace when the Marcoses fled the country in February 1986 after the dictator was toppled by a civilian-backed army coup.

Another set of jewellery was seized by U.S. authorities when the Marcoses settled in Hawaii, where the strongman died in 1989.

Imelda returned in the early 1990s and sought the presidency in 1992 but was defeated. She later won a congressional seat but gave it up after serving one three-year term.

Human rights advocates Rosetta Ann Rosales and Frank Chavez told reporters they would go to court to stop the government from returning the jewellery to the Marcoses, arguing about 10,000 victims of rights victims under Marcos' 20-year iron rule are still awaiting court-imposed compensation.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Business groups slam constituent assembly

MANILA, Philippines - As the country braces for a rally today against the planned convening of a constituent assembly by the House of Representatives, business groups have joined the chorus of protests against the lawmakers.

“We are appalled at the indecency and blatant disregard of the Filipino people’s will displayed by the House of Representatives in its adoption of House Resolution No. 1109 that allows itself to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, without the necessary participation of the Senate,” the business groups said in a joint statement yesterday.

The Action for Economic Reforms (AER), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) prepared the statement.

“The question all Filipinos should ask is: For whose interest was this action taken? Certainly not the Filipino people’s, as there is no widespread clamor to amend the Constitution, especially now that we are less than a year away from a presidential election,” the statement read.

“The resolution contains no issue of profound impact on the people’s welfare,” it said.

“By this action of pro-administration congresspersons, any remaining doubts about the determination of the Arroyo administration and its allies in the House to manipulate our democratic processes and institutions to prolong their hold on power have been erased,” the business groups said.

“Malacañang insists elections will be held as scheduled in 2010. But unless its avowals are backed by President Arroyo’s clear and unequivocal rejection of her congressional allies’ maneuverings and an explicit commitment that presidential elections will be held next year, Malacañang’s declarations amount to nothing but more subterfuge and double talk,” they pointed out.

“If and when the House is challenged for the legality of its actions, we call on the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the results of a constituent assembly that will not have included the Senate in its deliberations,” the statement read.

“The election we look forward to in 2010 is an election for a new President and Congress that will restore the people’s confidence in the government,” it added.

“We call on the Filipino people to vigorously fight and reject this diabolical effort to destroy our democracy!”

All systems go

It’s all systems go for the huge protest rally today in Makati City, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay said.

Rally organizers expect to mobilize more than 20,000 people belonging to various sectors including civil society groups.

“We are expecting the attendance of more than 20,000 individuals coming from different civil society, political and opposition groups in Metro Manila. The people coming from the provinces will no longer attempt to come to Manila because they are being blocked by policemen in the past rallies against this government,” an organizer who declined to be named said.

For his part, Binay said today’s protest action may be a “tipping point for another people power revolution.”

“We hope that this will lead to another people power revolution. This might be the tipping point,” Binay said.

Binay met yesterday with Makati City Police head Senior Superintendent Cedric Train and with rally leaders at his office.

“You see that Col. (Senior Superintendent) Train is here. They assured us that the police will not be within the perimeter of the rally site during the entire duration of the rally. Traffic will be managed by the civilian traffic enforcers of Makati,” Binay said.

“This is not a rally of politicians. This is a rally of all sectors. This is an indignation rally against con-ass,” he said.

“We urge other local officials to issue permits to other groups who intend to hold their protests against con-ass in their localities. Rain or rain, we will be there,” Binay said, adding that even the deadly Influenza A(H1N1) virus would not prevent them from going to the streets in protest.

“We will discipline our own ranks,” Binay said.

Train said 100 city policemen will keep a safe distance from the protesters to minimize tension.

The rally’s main venue is the Ayala Ave.-Paseo de Roxas area in Makati.

Teachers’ groups said they would join today’s protest actions.

“By declaring its intention to push through with constitutional amendments without the participation of the Senate, it reveals how desperate Malacañang’s ruling coalition is to prolong its stay in power. Once again, Mrs. Arroyo and her allies are betraying their utter disregard for democratic principles,” Antonio Tinio, national chairman of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said.

“We are joining the rally against the condemnable and inconsiderate action of these ‘honorable’ House members. What the teachers need is salary upgrading, not con-ass,” Benjo Basas, president of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), said.

In Bacolod City, a protest rally was staged yesterday by the Negrense United Against Con-Ass, Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod, and civil groups and militant organizations.

Bishop Vicente Navarra, in a statement, called HR 1109 “deceptive, a betrayal of people’s trust, illegal, shameful and immoral.”

On the lookout for saboteurs

Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said they would be on the look out for saboteurs and troublemakers.

“We anticipate that the activity will be peaceful and orderly if only the organizers and participants will stick to the plan and strictly abide by what has been agreed upon,” Espina said at a press briefing.

“As a preemptive measure, we have deployed several control points in the provinces north and south of Metro Manila to check the movement of these persons,” he said.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Roberto Rosales said 5,000 police personnel would be deployed for Civil Disturbance Management operations.

Espina said the protesters plan to assemble at 3 p.m. at six different locations in Makati City and march to the Ayala-Paseo area.

“Thus, we will not allow mass actions beyond the authorized public assembly venue,” he stressed.

The military’s National Capital Region Command (NRCOM), meanwhile, is on red alert today but Armed Forces chief Gen. Victor Ibrado stressed that the security preparations have nothing to do with reports of new destabilization plots.

“Our CDMs will only be on standby inside Fort Bonifacio and at Camp Aguinaldo,” Ibrado said.

The military also said it would not allow its men to join today’s protest activities.

“The AFP is mandated to protect the people and the State. The fulfillment of this mandate requires the military to uphold the Constitution and our laws and support the nation’s duly constituted authorities,” AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

“A scenario of any member of the military engaging, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity except to vote is unacceptable,” he stressed.

No campaigning, please

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo appealed to presidential aspirants who will join today’s rally to refrain from using the event to campaign.

“I challenge them not to use the rally for vested interests or for campaigning, especially now that the election period is near,” Lagdameo said in Filipino in an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas. He said the presidential wannabes may just have to mingle with the crowd to show their solidarity and not make any speeches.

“Silent presence will speak loud enough,” Lagdameo said.

Meanwhile, military chaplain Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak said there’s nothing wrong with soldiers and policemen joining the rally but that they should be ready to face the consequence of their decision.

“If a soldier joins because of his right as a citizen, I am certain he will take responsibility for his decision and actions. Whatever happens, he won’t blame it on others,” Tumulak said.

Former President Joseph Estrada, meanwhile, denounced the passage of HR 1109 saying it was clearly ordered by Malacañang.

“Administration congressmen are only dancing to the tune of Malacanang’s orders. Anything is possible under this administration. We cannot just believe their statements anymore,” Estrada said.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

What Your Hair Says About You!

Majority of Filipinos think govt not doing enough against corruption

MANILA, Philippines - Nearly eight out of 10 Filipinos believed that the government's effort in reducing corruption in the Philippines was ineffective. The business sector warned that the current global economic crisis would further exacerbate the adverse impact of corruption in the country. The 2009 Global Corruption Barometer Report from Berlin-based Transparency International showed that 77 percent out of 1,000 Filipino respondents graded the government's effort in its fight against corruption as lacking. Only 21 percent said Manila's effort was effective and one percent said the campaign against corruption was neither effective or ineffective. Compared with other nations in the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines had the second-highest number of respondents which perceived that government's fight against corruption was barely making a dent, following South Korea's 81 percent. The number was even higher than the 56-percent average of respondents in the region saying their government's effort to stop corruption was lacking. Citizens of countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, perhaps the poorest region in the world, had given a better grade to their government's campaign against graft, with only 72 percent of respondents from Senegal marking the fight against corruption as ineffective. "...The perception of government effectiveness appears to have decreased in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Malaysia, Panama, the Philippines, Senegal, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela," TI said. Governments were considered to be ineffective in the fight against corruption – a view that has remained worryingly consistent in most countries over time Perceived as most corrupt in the Philippines were public officials or civil servants, with 40 percent of Filipinos tagging them as most likely to have participated in anomalous transactions. This was followed by political parties, 28 percent; and parliament and legislature with 26 percent. Seven percent of the respondents said the Judiciary was the most corrupt, with three percent pointing to the business or the private sector as the most graft-ridden in the society. Media were perceived to be the least corrupt with only one percent of respondents saying they engaged in corrupt practices. Political parties and public officials were given a score of 4.0 by respondents from the Philippines in the level of corruption. Under the score card, 1.0 meant an agency was not corrupt and 5.0 as extremely corrupt. Parliament and legislature got a score of 3.9 followed by Judiciary's 3.4; businessmen and private sector, 3.0 and media with 2.0. In the past 12 months, about 11 percent of Filipinos said they paid a bribe, above the 10-percent average for the region and slightly lower than the 13 percent for the worldwide average. "Results indicate that respondents from low-income households are more likely to pay bribes than those from high-income households when dealing with the police, the judiciary, land services or even the education system," TI added. Despite the prevalence of corruption worldwide, TI said most of the respondents did nothing to report of the misdeed. “The general public does not use formal channels to lodge bribery-related complaints: three quarters of people who reported paying bribes did not file a formal complaint. About half of bribery victims interviewed did not see existing complaint mechanisms as effective. This view was consistent regardless of gender, education, or age," the group said. Alberto Lim, Makati Business Club executive director, said the Arroyo administration is ranked the second-most corrupt administration in the Philippines, following Marcos' regime. “This administration is worse, although Marcos' is really major (in terms of corruption. Compared to this, (the administration of deposed President Joseph Estrada) Erap's is petty," said Lim in an interview. “The list of (anomalies) goes on. The NBN-ZTE deal, bribery during the impeachment hearing against President Arroyo, the fertilizer scam and others. He noted that governance was one of the more important issues among businessmen in their decision to invest in a country or not. “At the economy's peak in 2007, we had $3 billion in foreign direct investments. That was way lower than Vietnam's about $11-billion FDIs. Last year, our FDIs dropped to $1.5 billion, and this year, it is seen to be halved again to $750 million," Lim added. Meager government resources, needed to boost the domestic economy and provide protection for the vulnerable sector of the society, Lim said, would further be reduced because they were wasted on corrupt practices. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto conceded that the government must redouble its efforts in its fight against corruption. “Clearly, the government can do much more in terms of reducing wastage and inefficiency. You have to look at it both ways. the survey is based on perception and individual experiences. it may be partly true but i believe we're not the worst among our neighbors. but, clearly, we can improve," he said. The Philippine study was made between November 3 and November 3 last year. The Global study took place between October last year and February this year.