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'Hello Garci' report slams Arroyo, foes
“The government tried to cover up election cheating allegations last year but was battling a conspiracy to try to oust President Gloria Arroyo, according to a draft report by a congressional committee.
The document, reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper on Wednesday, was to be presented to five panels from the lower house of Congress looking into opposition claims that Arroyo conspired with an election official to seal her victory.
The "Hello Garci" tapes were a series of audio recordings allegedly featuring Arroyo talking by telephone with former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about rigging the presidential election on May 10, 2004.
Arroyo, whose new term is due to run until 2010, apologized on television in June for talking to an election official but did not say it was Garcillano and insisted she did nothing wrong.
Her administration gave "no sincere cooperation" to the inquiry, said the draft report by Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, a member of the ruling coalition who nonetheless voted in favor of ousting Arroyo during the failed impeachment in September.
"A conspiracy clearly existed to topple the president by embarrassing her with the so-called Garci tapes," it said.
"On the other hand, the administration could not and would not confront the tapes and contributed nothing toward arriving at the truth about them."
Recordings released by the government, purportedly showing Estrada conspiring with unknown people to assassinate Arroyo, were "suspiciously short and clearly spurious, not to say unquestionably fabricated," the report said.”Palace: House report on 'Hello Garci' tapes 'grossly unfair'
“A DRAFT report at the House of Representatives containing findings of an attempted Malacañang “cover-up” of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s alleged involvement in poll fraud in 2004 is “grossly unfair,” a spokesman for the President said Wednesday.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the failure by the five House committees that investigated the issue to ferret out the facts from a wiretapped conversation between the President and an election official should not be taken to mean that Malacañang was hiding something.
"The failure by the House committees to squeeze out facts beyond the knowledge and awareness of government functionaries does not mean there is a cover up on their part," he said.
Bunye was among those who testified in the hearings three months ago after he came out with two versions of the tapes, which purportedly recorded conversations between Arroyo and the Commission on Elections official whom reports identified later as Virgilio Garcillano.
He pointed out that some committee members were just on a "fishing and witch hunting expedition" and were using the hearings as a "political platform."
The draft report said that Malacañang attempted to cover up the truth behind the wiretapped recordings, which had come to be known as the “Hello Garci” tapes.
The report said that throughout the hearings, "no witness from the administration made a single contribution to arriving at the truth" and that "no sincere cooperation was extended by the administration to the congressional inquiry."”Solon wants 'very presumptuous Hello Garci report' modified
“DESCRIBING the draft report as "very presumptuous," one of the chairmen of the five-committee wiretapping probe at the House of Representatives wants to modify the finding that Malacañang attempted to cover up the truth behind allegations that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated in the 2004 election.
"I'd like to modify some of the statements in the draft report because some of them are opposition statements," Sorsogon Representative Jose Solis told INQ7.net in a telephone interview shortly before a closed-door meeting of the committees Wednesday.
"There was no cover-up. The statements were very presumptuous," he said.
"If there were lapses in [Presidential Spokesman Ignacio] Bunye's testimonies then that 's his own fault. But to say that Malacañang was trying to cover it up was not fair," he said.
He said that if the committees found Bunye guilty of perjury then they could prosecute him on his own action.
Solis said it was not also right for the committee to conclude that there was no sincere cooperation on the part of the administration to ferret out the truth because aside from Bunye, several Palace officials appeared and participated in the hearings.
"I'd like to correct this statement. What are their bases for saying that? Why don't they just describe the testimonies of the witnesses instead of making such conclusive statements?" he said.”Arroyo scored anew for another 'human rights violation'
“THE PRESIDENTIAL Security Group's (PSG) strict security on Tuesday that delayed a mass to commemorate the first anniversary of the "Hacienda Luisita massacre" is another example of human rights violation under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a lawyer claimed Wednesday.
"She is suppressing the people's right to exercise religious freedom," Romeo Capulong said.
"President Arroyo cannot always do it her way, there is a law that should be followed," Capulong said.
At 4 p.m., Tuesday, a mass was scheduled to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of seven striking workers of the sugar land in Tarlac, which the family of former president Corzaon Cojuangco-Aquino owns.
But the PSG's refusal to allow the entry of those who wanted to attend the mass, including San Miguel Parish Priest Ernie Cruz, Fathers Jo Dizon and Peter Casiño, resulted in an hour's delay of the activity, Capulong said.
At the third session of the "People's Court" on Tuesday, witnesses recorded over 4,000 cases of human rights violations under Arroyo since assuming the presidency in January 2001 via a popular revolt that ousted predecessor Joseph Estrada.
Hacienda Luisita workers, under the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU), went on strike last year to protest alleged unfair labor practice by management and to demand the release of their unpaid benefits.”Pulse: 75% of Pinoys believe they are poor
“Pessimism is growing as three out of four Filipinos consider themselves poor or very poor while only 10 percent said they are well-off or wealthy, results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showed Wednesday.
While the figures remain almost the same as those in Pulse Asia's July survey, more Filipinos believe they are worse off now than last year (73%) while an even bigger percentage (87%) said the same thing about the plight of the nation as a whole.
It added that level of pessimism among Filipinos regarding the future increased by nine percentage points both at the personal and national levels.
In October 2005, 58% of Filipinos expect their personal circumstances to worsen in the year ahead while 74% are pessimistic regarding the country’s situation in the next 12 months.
The survey, which interviewed 1,200 respondents from October 15 to 27, said pessimism at the personal and national levels are at their highest since the series were started in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
The survey said majority of Filipinos remain most concerned about health and inflation with 50 percent of respondents agreeing that staying healthy is their biggest personal concern.”Shares close slightly lower on extended correction
“SHARE prices closed slightly lower as the market's technical correction persisted for a fourth straight session, dealers said.
They noted however that the downside was capped by some buying interest in a number of laggard stocks.
The composite index closed down 2.99 points or 0.14 percent at 2,060.75 after trading between 2,057.42 and 2,066.26. Volume reached 815.97 million shares valued at 1.37 billion pesos.
The broader all-shares index retreated 0.99 points to 1,250.78.
Losers outnumbered gainers 40 to 36, while 50 stocks ended unchanged.
Dealers said the market is likely to trade sideways for the rest of the week, with profit-taking continuing in stocks deemed expensive after the market's rise to an eight-month high last week.
However, any downward pressured may be offset by further buying interest in laggards or second line stocks seen with strong earnings prospects for the remainder of the year.”
'People's court' shuns evidence from Loren
"The "people's court" has turned down the offer of the lawyer of former Sen. Loren Legarda to submit evidence on alleged fraud committed in the 2004 presidential election.
Demaree Raval, counsel of Legarda and of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, said House Minority Leader Francis Escudero ignored his offer to present documents in his possession proving allegations of cheating.
He said Escudero’s action made him doubt that the panel created by the opposition really wants proof of poll fraud.
"They are correct in saying that there was wholesale cheating, but where is the proof? Escudero said during the impeachment hearing that he has a roomful of proof, but he has no proof! All the documents are with me, and he did not want me to submit this proof!" Raval said.
He said Escudero should be thankful that the impeachment complaint against the President did not prosper or the people would have found out that Escudero had no hard evidence to back his claims.
Raval also criticized the mock trial being conducted by the people’s court, presided over by former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona Jr. The court, officially called the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability, has finished hearing the allegations of poll fraud and has moved on to the President’s alleged human-rights violations.
The two charges are included in the impeachment case against Mrs. Arroyo that the House Committee on Justice had thrown out in September for insufficiency in form and substance.
"The so-called witnesses at the people’s court gave hearsay evidence. They were making conclusions without presenting proof. The mock trial should approximate an actual trial. If those witnesses were presented in a real court, they would have been dismissed outright," Raval said."
Two GMA aides split on Garci 'closure'
"Two of the President's close advisers are split on whether the wiretapping controversy that rocked the administration in September is already a closed book or a story that is far from over.
Fresh from a month-long medical leave, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said in a radio interview on Tuesday that only the reappearance of former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano can put the issue to rest.
Gonzales made the statement a day after Environment Secretary and Political spokesman Michael Defensor said that as far as the government is concerned, the "Hello, Garci" controversy is already a closed book.
Gonzales said that although the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo has been settled, Garcillano owes the people an explanation.
Garcillano is widely believed to be the poll official with whom Mrs. Arroyo is supposed to have discussed how to rig the results of the 2004 presidential election. Their cell-phone conversation was caught on tape and was presented as evidence in the impeachment case against the President."Military overruns Abu Sayyaf camp
"GOVERNMENT troops have captured an Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo Island but bad weather has slowed down an offensive against the fleeing bandits, the military reported yesterday.
Troops pursing the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas reported they recovered ammunition for rockets, mortars and grenade launchers from the camp near the town of Indanan late Monday, said Southern Command spokesman Col. Domingo Tutaan.
The military reported that four Marines have been killed and 22 other soldiers have been wounded since a gunbattle erupted late Friday followed by sporadic clashes. There were no encounters reported yesterday.
Tutaan said there were no confirmed casualties on the rebel side and no bodies were found at the camp, only bloodstained backpacks and personal belongings."Stop criticizing EVAT, GMA tells detractors
"President Arroyo called on her detractors yesterday to stop criticizing the expanded value-added tax (EVAT) law as recent economic developments have proven her right in implementing fiscal reform measures.
In a speech at the 49th founding anniversary of Carmen town in North Cotabato, the President said the people are now "tired of the antics of destabilizers" and want peace and prosperity to prevail in the country.
"Now we can see very early the fruits of confidence in our economic reforms," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Our peso is strengthening and will strengthen further because our overseas Filipino workers are enthusiastic in sending remittances."
"The opposition has said that once we implement the EVAT, the price of gasoline and diesel will shoot up but that did not come true… and this is no coincidence but providential because of our implementation of tax reforms," the President said."
Rights commission calls PNP officials
"Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo T. Reyes and officials of the Philippine National Police will appear on Wednesday before the Commission on Human Rights which is investigating into the alleged shootout in Pasig City last week in which three suspected carjackers were killed.
Human Rights Commissioner Wilhelm Soriano said Reyes, Director General Arturo Lomibao, PNP chief, and Chief Supt. Augusto Angcanan, Traffic Management Group (TMG) director, will explain their side even before receiving subpoenas."House clamors for return of P70-M pork
"CLAIMING that the fiscal crisis is over, the House of Representatives wants the pork barrel for each member of the House restored to its full amount of P70 million in next year's national budget, the appropriations committee said yesterday.
The pork barrel finances the pet projects of congressmen and senators and is a known source of kickbacks.
"There's a clamor and there's a basis for that. But the leadership has yet to make a decision," said Representative Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur, chair of the committee.
A senior member of the House, who asked not to be named, said it was a "logical request" because most of the pet projects of House members in their districts were temporarily shelved after the pork barrel was slashed."'Hello Garci' probers find Palace cover-up
"THE HEADS of five House committees that conducted a joint inquiry into the "Hello Garci" scandal have concluded that Malacañang attempted to cover up the truth behind allegations President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stole last year's election.
The draft committee report, principally authored by Representative Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, disclosed that throughout the hearings "no witness from the administration made a single contribution to arriving at the truth." It said "no sincere cooperation was ever extended by the administration to the congressional inquiry."
The 64-page report obtained by the Inquirer has been sent to members of the five committees and is up for adoption in an executive session this morning.
"In sum, on one hand, a conspiracy clearly existed to topple the President by embarrassing her with the so-called Garci tapes; on the other hand, the administration could not and would not confront the tapes and contributed nothing toward arriving at the truth about them," it said."
GMA to play leading role at Apec meeting
"PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will assume a lead role when she and 20 other leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) take up the war against terrorism during their annual summit in Busan, South Korea on Nov. 17 and 18.
As chairman of the Apec Counter-Terrorism Task Force, Mrs. Arroyo will preside over the leaders’ meeting on counterterrorism, which will be one of the high points of the summit.
Elected head of the task force after being nominated by US President George W. Bush during the Apec summit in Santiago, Chile last year, the Philippines will continue to discharge this distinct and prestigious assignment until next year.
President Arroyo designated Gen. (ret.) Benjamin Defensor (former Armed Forces chief) as task force head with the rank of ambassador."Con-com asked to reform RP political parties
"A proposal to reform the country’s political parties has been submitted to the presidential consultative commission (con-com) for possible inclusion among the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
The proposal, filed by the Citizen’s Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP), seeks to reform the country’s multi-party system to adapt to the parliamentary system of obtaining enough majority seats to earn the right to elect the prime minister and members of the Cabinet.
The CMFP said their proposal seeks to promote the development of "a free and open party system" in which political parties may be able to ascend into power by securing the majority in the parliament.
Con-com chairman Jose Abueva said the proposal would be a "major innovation" in the proposed revision of the 18-year-old Charter.
Abueva noted the Constitutions of 1935, 1973 and the present 1987 Charter have no provisions governing political parties.
"If adopted, this would be the first time ever that the Philippine Constitution would embody such an article," he said."
Arroyo ratings show slight improvement
"President Arroyo’s approval and trust ratings posted slight improvements in the latest results of an independent nationwide public opinion poll.
However, the Oct. 15-27 Pulse Asia survey also found that at least half of Filipinos still disapproved of Mrs. Arroyo’s performance and distrusted her.
Twenty-four percent said they approved of Mrs. Arroyo’s performance, which is a five-percentage point improvement from the 19 percent posted in Pulse Asia’s July survey.
Fifty-two percent said they distrusted Mrs. Arroyo, but the latest figure is lower than the 58 percent in July. Twenty-four percent were undecided, largely unchanged from the 22 percent a quarter ago.
Mrs. Arroyo’s approval rating is actually unchanged from the 25 percent rating posted in Pulse Asia’s June opinion poll, conducted about a month before Mrs. Arroyo admitted speaking to an election official during last year’s presidential vote count following opposition allegations of electoral fraud.
Her 21-percent trust rating — although an improvement from the 17 percent in July — is unchanged from the 20 percent in the June survey.
Fifty-five percent of Filipinos said they had little or no trust in Mrs. Arroyo while 25 percent were undecided.
"The lack of movement in the President’s performance and trust ratings may be due in part to people’s perceptions that certain issues regarding the presidency have not been resolved satisfactorily," Pulse Asia said in a statement.
It pointed out that a majority of Filipinos (53 percent) surveyed in the October poll felt that the impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo "should have been discussed more fully" by the House of Representatives before it was quashed by her allies last Sept. 6.
Another 31 percent believed that the complaint should have been sent to the Senate for trial so that the accusations that Mrs. Arroyo cheated her way to victory in last year’s presidential election could be resolved.
Only 15 percent approved of the House vote to junk the complaint.
Mrs. Arroyo’s disapproval rating remains the highest among those of other top officials and her approval rating is the lowest.
Vice President Noli de Castro enjoyed an approval rating of 47 percent, followed by Senate President Franklin Drilon with 46 percent, Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. with 36 and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. with 34 percent.
Davide and De Venecia have the highest disapproval rating next to Mrs. Arroyo, both with 32 percent, followed by De Castro with 26 percent. Drilon had 21 percent.
The Pulse Asia poll surveyed 1,200 Filipinos. It had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points and a 95-percent confidence level."