SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
  15 November 2005 Afternoon
Biazon: Gonzales on 'probationary' release (

“Opposition Sen. Rodolfo Biazon on Tuesday said the release of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales from Senate custody is only "probationary," saying it is still up to the Senate blue-ribbon committee whether or not to make the release final.

"I think this (release) is going to be determined by the (blue ribbon committee) chairman Sen. Joker Arroyo," Biazon told ANC.

The blue ribbon committee cited Gonzales in contempt last month for refusing to divulge information about the controversial Venable LLP contract the government signed to lobby funds for charter change. Instead of being detained, Gonzales was confined at the Philippine Heart Center due to heart problems.

The Senate later allowed Gonzales to go free for humanitarian reasons provided that he appears before the Senate probe on the Venable deal once he is fully recovered.

The national security chief returned to work Monday after President Arroyo approved his request to continue his duties. He told reporters that he refused to seek medical treatment as he is needed in his post.”

Gonzales: Only Garci can provide 'real closure' (

“National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said Tuesday the "Hello, Garci" controversy would be brought to a real closure only if former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano surfaces and answers the allegations of fraud in the 2004 presidential election.

"Maganda kung lalabas si former Commissioner Garcillano kasi maraming katanungan siguro na dapat niyang sagutin sa bayan... Iyan ang tunay na pagsasara, 'ika nga (It will be good if former Commissioner Garcillano would come out because he has a lot of explaining to do and that will bring the controversy to a closure)," National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales told DZMM.

Gonzales's statement came after Malacañan declared the wiretapping scandal a closed book. The Palace made the stand after the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the President should address doubts on the legitimacy of her presidency.”

Defensor hit for closing book on 'Hello Garci' controversy (

“ENVIRONMENT Secretary Michael Defensor was criticized at the House of Representatives on Tuesday for saying that the scandal involving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a former election official for alleged cheating in the 2004 election was a closed book.

"How can there be closure when it has not been answered academically and extensively?" said Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero on allegations that Arroyo conspired with Virgilio Garcillano, a former election commissioner, in rigging the polls in her favor.

Garcillano's whereabouts are unknown. "We don't even know where Garci is or whether he is still alive or not?" Escudero said in a telephone interview.

Escudero said Defensor might have misinterpreted the statement of Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, new head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, who reportedly said that he wanted closure on the controversy that has been hounding the Arroyo presidency.

Global OFW deployment surpasses 800,000 in first 10 months (

”Labor and Employment Acting Secretary Manuel G. Imson Monday reported that more than 800,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been deployed in more than 170 destinations globally within the first 10 months of 2005.

Imson pointed to preliminary government figures that a total of 804,713 documented OFWs were deployed from January 1 to November 1, 2005, or 7,496 higher than the 797,217 deployed in a similar period in 2004.

Land-based OFWs totaling 597,028 comprised some three-fourths of the total 804,713 OFWs deployed, with the overseas Filipino seafarers comprising the other one-fourth (207,685).

This came after Imson affirmed Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) figures indicating that the OFWs remitted to the country more than US$7.003 billion in the first eight months of 2005, representing a 28.02 percent growth from around $5.5 billion in the same period in 2004.”

BIR says Yap not off hook yet (

“THE Bureau of Internal Revenue is continuing its pursuit of former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, saying its dismissed P4-million tax evasion case against the former Cabinet official was one of the strongest under the government’s Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program.

The BIR has filed a motion for reconsideration with the Department of Justice after the DoJ dismissed the tax agency’s case against Yap last month.

“We see this as a strong case for the BIR, and with the filing of the motion for reconsideration, commit [ourselves] to pursue it. We simply seek to apply the tax laws of the land without fear or favor,” said Finance Undersecretary Emmanuel Bonoan, RATE program head.

The motion filed by the BIR said the DoJ erred in dismissing the case and insisted there was sufficient probable cause to charge Yap and his father, Domingo, with tax evasion.”

DENR lifts log ban (

“THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has lifted a logging ban that affected 8,200 community-based forest management agreements in the country.

The ban was imposed following last year’s flashfloods that killed dozens of people and destroyed millions of properties in Southern Tagalog and Northern Luzon provinces.

Environment Secretary Michael Defensor said the decision to lift the total logging ban was based on a thorough study conducted by the environment department and by non-government organizations.

He said the ban had affected forest-dependent communities throughout the country comprising holders of some 200 Integrated Forestry Management Agreements (IFMAs), 3,000 Socialized Forestry Management Agreement (SFMAs), and 5,000 Community-Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMAs).

Of the country’s 81 million population, 16 million Filipinos depend on the forest for their livelihood.

At present, Defensor said the DENR allows only 10 percent of the country’s forestlands to be utilized.”

Shares close lower for third day in a row (XFN-Asia)

“SHARE prices closed lower as profit-taking extended to a third straight session although buying on some small capitalized stocks trimmed the market's losses, dealers said.

The composite index ended down 8.31 points or 0.40 percent at 2,063.74 after trading between 2,059.86 and 2,076.52. Volume turnover stood at 2.03 billion shares worth 472.01 million pesos.

The broader all-shares index retreated 4.41 points to 1,251.77.

Losers outnumbered gainers 48 to 31 and 43 stocks ended flat.

Dealers expect the market to remain in consolidation mode in coming sessions with most share prices still deemed overbought after the main index rallied to its best level in eight months last week.”
  15 November 2005 Morning
12% EVAT imposed starting March 2006 (

"THE value added tax rate will rise to 12 percent in March 2006 and not at the start of the year, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said yesterday.

Appearing before the Senate, Teves said he would recommend increasing the rate from the present 10 percent to 12 percent but said this couldn’t be done by Jan. 1, 2006 as suggested by Republic Act 9337 or the Expanded Value Added Tax Law because the data that would justify the increase would not be available until the last week of February."

NSC chief returns to work, finally (

"Despite doctor’s advice to avoid stressful conditions due to a weak heart, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales reported for work yesterday after a two-week sick leave.

Gonzales’ resumption of duties is expected to elicit negative reactions from senators who had earlier lifted their detention order on him on humanitarian grounds after Senate in-house physicians ascertained that he indeed had a heart ailment.

Assured by Gonzales that he felt well enough, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved his request to return to work.

However, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the President instructed Deputy National Security Adviser Victor Mayo to discharge most of the administrative duties at the National Security Council where Gonzales is director general.

“In view of his physical condition, Gonzales will relinquish the bulk of administrative duties to his deputy and will just concentrate on policy,” Bunye told newsmen."

Palace twits GMA media bashers anew (

"Malacañang twitted again yesterday what it called "chronic media bashers" and destructive politicking amid reports that it would impose a police state any day now.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said there was no way this would happen since the economy remains the government’s focus.

"The only thing we have imposed and declared is a state of economic takeoff, what with the economic growth now being projected at 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent," Bunye said in a statement.

"Instead of obstructionism and doomsday politicking, we urge all to join us in pushing the economy higher, strengthening our political stability and security, and securing a brighter future for the Filipino," he said.

Bunye said the economy’s takeoff was boosted by record remittances from overseas Filipino workers and easing world crude prices, the posting of a lower deficit to $2.871 billion from $3.969 billion last year and increasing revenue collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs."

Palace has spent P27B of FM loot

"Malacañan has spent P27 billion of the P35-billion ($718 million) Swiss deposits of the late President Ferdinand Marcos recovered by the government, Budget Secretary Romulo Neri admitted Monday to the Senate committee of the whole.

Sen. Joker Arroyo couldn’t believe that the administration had spent almost the entire amount in just two years. He estimated the recovered amount to total P35 billion.

The $718 million was previously held in escrow by the Philippine National Bank until the Supreme Court finally awarded it to the government in 2003. The recovered fund being virtually gone, the victims of martial law would be unable to get any compensation from the Marcos estate.

They were previously awarded compensatory damages by a Hawaii court.

Sen. Mar Roxas asked the DBM to give a detailed report on how the government spent the P27 billion. Senate President Franklin Drilon said the breakdown should be submitted with supporting documents.

Neri said the money was spent on agrarian reform "in accordance with law." He promised to give the detailed report within the week after consulting with the Department of Agrarian Reform."

Senators smell pork in 2 items in budget

"TWO NEW items in the proposed P1.05-trillion budget for 2006 with total funding of P8 billion came under close scrutiny by senators yesterday on suspicion these were pork barrel for local government officials.

Pork barrel traditionally finances the pet projects of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is a known source of kickbacks.

At the start of the Senate committee of the whole’s budget deliberations, senators took turns in grilling budget officials on the P5 billion for the Kilos Asenso Support Fund and the P3 billion for the Kalayaan Barangay Program Fund.

After failing to get satisfactory answers, the senators vowed to look more deeply into the two funds in the next hearings.

“We must carefully examine this because the impression of many senators, just looking at it on the surface, is that this is a pork barrel. We are not saying that we will immediately approve it,” Senate President Franklin Drilon later told reporters.

“Any fund not found in the existing appropriations can be considered pork barrel. That P8-billion fund is a huge pork barrel,” said Senator Manuel Villar Jr., chair of the committee on finance."

Hundreds flee homes in Sulu; 34 now dead

"THE government yesterday said there would be no letup in the military attacks on Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Jolo Island in Sulu province as the death toll in fighting there rose to 34 and as hundreds of civilians fled their homes to seek shelter.

Seven soldiers were confirmed dead and at least 21 others were wounded in running gunbattles with the terrorists that have raged since Friday, said Marine commander Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda.

Radio intercepts and intelligence reports indicated that at least 27 members of the Abu Sayyaf and their allies have been killed, but not all the bodies had been recovered,” Miranda said.

“This operation must go on,” he said as he watched an honor guard escort the bodies of four Muslims killed in the fighting.

Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-9 and the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion were pursuing 70 fully armed bandits.

In the Palace, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a statement that the operation was aimed at taking out the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf leadership."

‘Hello Garci’ scandal closed book—Palace (

"MALACAÑANG yesterday declared that the “Hello Garci” scandal was a closed book, a day after the incoming head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) suggested that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo resolve the lingering doubts about her legitimacy.

“I think (all) venues have been exhausted,” said Environment Secretary Michael Defensor, referring to legal and extrajudicial processes mounted to deal with allegations that based on wiretapped conversations, Ms Arroyo had cheated in the balloting last year.

On the legal front, Defensor said opposition questions on the mandate of the President had gone through the canvassing process -- the Presidential Election Tribunal -- and the impeachment attempt in Congress.

“They already lost three times and they always accuse us of ignoring them and never giving in to their pleas,” Defensor said in a briefing in Malacañang as he resumed his role as the President’s main spokesperson on election matters."

Failure of budget for 2006 impends

"Opposition fears that there will be no 2006 budget and that the budget for next year will be a reenacted as in 2005 appear to be coming true. Sen. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said Monday that he and his colleagues are considering a reenacted budget.

Opposition politicians do not want a reenacted budget, because this, according to them, will give Malacañan a free hand and more money to spend than a properly enacted 2006 budget.

Villar is mulling the reduction of the P1.053-trillion national budget by P25 billion.

Two options were raised in Monday’s budget hearing of the committee of the whole. Most senators who gave The Times their opinions thought it was more likely the 2005 budget would be reenacted.

Villar said he planned to cut the budget by P25 billion. The reduction would come from Malacãnang’s allocation for the Public Works Department, the Kilos Asenso Support Fund, the Kalayaan Barangay Program Fund and other new appropriations."

EU keeps Joma, CPP on terror list (

"The European Union (EU) has listed anew the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) along with its founder, Jose Ma. Sison, and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), among the world’s terrorist groups in its council decision last month.

A copy of the official journal of the Council of the EU dated Oct. 17 was released by Malacañang yesterday.

It showed that the panel agreed to update its "list of persons, groups and entities" that it considers to be terrorists, which would then be subject to anti-terrorism measures by EU member-states.

"The Council updated the list of persons, groups and entities to which the restrictive anti-terrorism measures apply introduced in December 2001," the council said in a statement.

"The Communist Party of the Philippines, which includes the New People’s Army (already listed), linked to Jose Ma. Sison (who is already listed), was added to the list," it said.

The restrictive anti-terrorism measures, the council said, would include "freezing of funds and other financial assets and economic resources and police and judicial cooperation between member-states."

The CPP was ranked seventh in the alphabetical list of 25 terrorist organizations and persons that included the NPA and Sison.

The United States has also included the three in its foreign terrorist organization watchlist along with the extremist Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia.

The council also noted that Sison goes by the aliases Armando Liwanag and Joma, and that he heads the CPP and the NPA."

Con-Com wants to equalize regions

"The Consultative Commission will propose the establishment of an equalization fund to help poor autonomous regions should Congress adopt federalism along with several states or autonomous regions.

Dr. Jose Abueva, the commission chairman, said the poorest autonomous regions will receive financial assistance from the central government and other rich states to improve their fiscal situations.

He identified Bicol, Davao and Central Mindanao, and Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as the poorest autonomous regions that need financial support through the equalization fund.

"In Canada and Australia they call it equalization fund, from which states give assistance to other states," Abueva said in an interview.

"In Germany it is called solidarity fund, but we’re not using theirs as a model. We’re thinking of valid and workable solutions [to address the fiscal crisis in the poorest autonomous regions]."

The commission proposed eight more autonomous regions: Central and Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas-Palawan, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon, Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Metro Manila."

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