SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 18 November 2005
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

SC junks Gudani suit versus GMA (

The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed yesterday a case against President Arroyo on grounds that she is immune from lawsuits.

But the SC ordered her co-respondents to answer within 10 days the petition of two Marine officers questioning the validity of an executive order banning civilian and military officials from appearing before Congress without presidential clearance.

In an en banc resolution, the High Tribunal said a sitting president is immune from legal suits and that Mrs. Arroyo should not have been included as a respondent in the petition filed by retired Army general Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan seeking to declare Executive Order No. 464 unconstitutional.

"The Court resolved to dismiss the petition against President Arroyo since she is immune from suit during her incumbency as President," read the SC decision.

Fertilizer probe opens more cans of worms (

AT THE RESUMPTION of the Senate probe of the P728-million fertilizer fund, the assistant provincial treasurer of Eastern Samar said the provincial government did not receive "a single drop" of fertilizer although P6.5 million from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program had been released for the province.

The company that was supposed to deliver fertilizer to the province turned out to be a vegetable store in Caloocan City.

The fund was meant solely for farm inputs but was allegedly diverted to boost President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's election campaign in 2004.

Former Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin also testified that former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante should be able to answer questions about the alleged scam.

Fertilizer overprice just tip of the iceberg – COA (

The P36-million fertilizer overpricing that the Commission on Audit has uncovered in three congressional districts in the Bicol Region appears to be just the tip of the iceberg, COA officials said yesterday.

Copies of COA reports that The STAR has obtained showed that liquid fertilizer intended for six more districts in that region had been overpriced by 800 percent to 1,300 percent, the same extent of price padding discovered in the three districts. The manner of the alleged overpricing is also the same.

Yesterday, Malacañang backed an investigation into the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds by three Bicol congressmen and a party-list representative.

"That is something that needs to be looked into," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters.

The six districts are those of Representatives Emilio Espinosa, Narciso Bravo Jr. and Rizalina Seachon of Masbate, and Joey Salceda, Edcel Lagman and Carlos Imperial of Albay.

Barangay elections may be scrapped (

A committee of the Consultative Commission has voted to do away with barangay elections and let barangay officials be appointed by mayors instead.

David C. Naval, who heads the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral or Political Party Reforms, said Thursday that abolishing barangay elections will end grassroots politicking.

Rather than being elected, the officials should instead be appointed by the local chief executive.

Naval said the committee decided it would be better for the community if officials are appointed by mayors in agreement with the council of the local government unit.

The proposal to scrap barangay polls was presented before the committee by Jesus Calisin, Albay vice governor, and Mel Senen Sarmiento, Calbayog City mayor.

JI raising funds for new bomb attacks (

THE suspected masterminds of the Bali bombings are soliciting funds to finance operations and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is planning to make the Philippines the launching pad of future attacks in Southeast Asia, military official said yesterday.
Elite Marine troops, meanwhile, killed three suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists, including one of the group’s most notorious leaders in Tawi-Tawi Wednesday morning.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Generoso Senga said they have stepped up intelligence efforts in tracking down the two JI terrorists — Dulmatin and Omar Patek — who continue to elude pursuing government forces in Mindanao.

“The latest report that I got, they are still in central Mindanao,” Senga said.
When asked if the JI leaders continue to gather funds for a new wave of terror attacks in the Philippines, the military chief replied, “Well, that is part of the reports we are getting.”

Abu Sayyaf seeks refuge among civilians; bandit leader killed in new clash (

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Fleeing Abu Sayyaf gunmen have sought refuge in civilian areas in Indanan, Sulu even as a senior commander of the al-Qaeda-linked group and two of his men were killed and another captured while the military stepped up security in nearby provinces.

Hatib Janal Imam Usman (alias Milikan), whose Abu Sayyaf unit was tagged as behind the Sipadan kidnapping in April 2000, was killed Wednesday in an encounter with combined Navy and Marine members in Panglima Sugala town, Tawi-Tawi, said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, public information chief of the Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom).

Troops were on combat patrol when they ran into Usman’s group, triggering a 20-minute gun battle. Two other bandits, identified as Faisal Mungha and Pula Ali, were killed. Abu Sayyaf member Aldrin Amil was captured, Hayudini added. Marine spokesman Maj. Melquiades Ordiales said the nabbed bandit was Usman’s son.

Vietnamese journalist confirms ‘fixing’ barb (

TALK about serendipity.

Lan Phuong, the Thanh Nien Daily reporter who reported that Nguyen Hong Minh, the head of Vietnam’s delegation to the 23rd SEA Games, had said that Philippine organizers have already “fixed” the results of the SEA Games in favor of the host country, confirmed that she did interview Nguyen, and what was written on the Web site was accurate.

Phuong turned out to be a comely, bespectacled lady reporter, who had just arrived in the country yesterday. She arrived at 1 p.m. at the airport and went straight to the Philsoc Media Center.

“Yes. He (Nguyen) said that. The information is correct,” said Phoung in halting but understandable English when reporters showed the Standard Today story to her. Phuong looked bewildered with all the attention focused on her. Worse, she seemed to have failed to grasp the serious implication of the report.

Still, she was also able to confirm that there were other reporters in the “press meeting” held on Wednesday (Nov. 9) in Hanoi where Nguyen was the main guest. Phuong added that Nguyen might have said those statements because he was concerned about officiating in the SEA Games.

“Yeah, he was very worried about the officiating,” Phuong said.

Phuong’s confirmation of the Standard Today exclusive which appeared yesterday practically negated the prevailing opinion from local leaders that report alluding to the Vietnamese delegation head was “a case of misinterpretation.”

UNTV cameraman goes into hiding (

ONE of the four cameramen of UNTV who took the footage of the alleged Nov. 7 Ortigas rubout has gone into hiding following constant threats and surveillance against him by armed men, according to UNTV legal counsel Melanio ‘Batas’ Mauricio.

Mauricio told reporters that the cameraman has in his possession footage that could be a crucial evidence to uncover the real conduct of the purported encounter between the 10 operatives of the Traffic Management Group’s Task Force Limbas and the three suspected carjackers.

“At present, we’re still looking of his whereabouts. He possesses the tape of the incident. As I see it, that video is very important. He opted to go into hiding because of continuous threat against his life. He’s our volunteer cameraman of UNTV,” he said.

Citing accounts from UNTV personnel, Mauricio said that the “missing” cameraman told UNTV personnel that before the shooting, some policemen were already in the place where the purported encounter took place.

“He was on the ground taking footage of the incident during that time,” said Mauricio, quoting statements from UNTV personnel who heard the cameraman’s account of the incident.

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