SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbrief 23 November Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Garcillano back, willing to tell all (

Former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano is back in the country "safe and alive" and willing "to tell all" about poll fraud allegations hounding President Arroyo more than five months after disappearing from public view, his wife told ABS-CBN News Tuesday.

The opposition accused him of masterminding the rigging of the presidential election last year in favor of Mrs. Arroyo.

ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) reporter Ricky Carandang interviewed Garcillano's wife Grace in an undisclosed location in Mindanao after meeting at the network's office in Cagayan de Oro.

At the House of Representatives, opposition lawmakers renewed an order for Garcillano's arrest to compel him to shed light on the electoral fraud allegations against Mrs. Arroyo.

Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, chairman of the House committee on public information investigating the issue, said the chamber's sergeant at arms should immediately locate and arrest Garcillano so he can face the joint committees investigating the tapes.

"Everybody is anxious to hear what Garcillano has to say and compare this with other [pieces of] evidence gathered," Remulla told ANC.

Gonzales aide has ‘exit plan’ for GMA (

An "exit strategy" for President Arroyo in case a political crisis forces her to step down has been submitted to her by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, The Manila Times learned Tuesday.

The plan includes three conditions to be met before Mrs. Arroyo agrees to relinquish power, a former government official told The Times.

The plan was conceived by Gonzales and a Jesuit priest, Fr. Romeo "Archie" Intengan, the official said.

He said Intengan himself handed the report to Mrs. Arroyo more than a week ago.

The official said the plan was based on a scenario of a "revolutionary situation aggravated by political crisis."

In The Times’ banner story of November 15, a Palace consultant described Intengan as Gonzales’s trusted adviser on matters concerning the security of Mrs. Arroyo.

The source said the report was prepared in three parts because of its sensitivity.
It starts with a long briefing by Intengan on the current political situation. Part Two contains recommendations and discussions on how Mrs. Arroyo would leave Malacañan.

The report highlights the three conditions that must be met by whoever would take charge once Mrs. Arroyo steps down:
• That Mrs. Arroyo will not be imprisoned
• That she and her family would continue to enjoy freedom of movement
• That the government will not sequester the money already in the possession of the Arroyos.

The source said Intengan recommended the abolition of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency or the National Security Adviser’s Office can easily take over intelligence concerns.

US Embassy silent on custody transfer plea (

The United States Embassy has yet to answer the Philippine government’s request to take custody of the six US Marines accused of raping a Filipina in Olongapo City.

The six Marines are due to appear Wednesday at the Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office for a preliminary investigation into the charge.

The Department of Foreign Affairs made such a request, citing the extraordinary nature of the case.

DFA officials said the US Embassy refuses to turn over Dominic Duplantis, Daniel Smith, Chad Carpentier, Corey Burris, Albert Lara and Keith Silkwood to Philippine authorities until it finishes its own investigation into the case.

Senators see more delays in ’06 budget (

SENATORS expect the passage of the proposed P1.05-trillion budget for 2006 to be further delayed because the House of Representatives is more preoccupied with amending the Constitution than the general appropriations bill.

“The House is prioritizing the Cha-cha (Charter change) and because of that, the approval of the budget this year is dimming,” Senator Manuel Villar Jr., chair of the committee on finance, told reporters.

The House is expected to vote in plenary today on a resolution converting Congress into a constituent assembly that would draft proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution.
Villar said he expects the House to transmit the budget measure to the Senate before Congress goes on a holiday break on December 16, a scenario that could lead to the reenactment of the current budget for at least two months next year.

“If that happens, I would expect the budget to be reenacted for two months,” he said, after emerging from the Senate committee of the whole deliberation on the budget of the defense department.

Olongapo court starts rape charge probe today (

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez yesterday encouraged the 22-year-old Filipina who accused six US servicemen of raping her to appear at today’s preliminary investigation because failure to do so could be exploited by the defense.

Gonzalez said the US soldiers, too, should appear before the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office to answer the charges.

Earlier, reports quoted the complainant’s lawyer as saying she might stay away from today’s preliminary investigation to avoid unwanted publicity.

IMF upgrades economic forecast for Philippines (

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday improved its forecast for the country’s economic growth for this year and in 2006 owing to the robust inflow of remittances by overseas Filipino workers.

At a press briefing, IMF division chief James Gordon said the country is seen to reach gross domestic growth of 5 percent in 2005, an improved position from the original target of 4.75 percent.

For 2006, Gordon said, the IMF sees the country’s GDP growth to reach 5 percent, or .2 percent higher from the target of 4.8 percent.

Gordon said the conclusion was made following the end of a two-week 2005 Article 4, a periodic consultation with the host government, and postprogram monitoring mission on Tuesday.

Although the IMF upgraded its outlook on the country’s economic growth, the figures were still lower than the government’s GDP target of 5.3 percent in 2005 and 5.7 percent to 6.3 percent in 2006.

House to probe fertilizer anomaly (

The House of Representatives has decided to look into the alleged mishandling of hundreds of millions in fertilizer funds that Malacañang released to more than 110 congressmen three months before the May 2004 presidential election.

The decision was prompted by a privilege speech delivered on Monday night by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who said he had nothing to do with the P500,000 in liquid fertilizer that Bacacay, a town in his district, had received.

"No funds were coursed through the office of the congressman of the first district of Albay or even released directly to Bacacay because what was delivered to the LGU (local government unit) by the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI), through the regional office of the Department of Agriculture, were 625 bottles of fertilizer covered by delivery receipt No. 1033 dated Sept. 15, 2005 with no unit price or total value," he said.

Reds step up attacks; 3 more soldiers slain (

COMMUNIST rebels dealt fresh blows to the military, killing three soldiers and wounding nine in skirmishes in Quezon province, prompting the government to order stepped up attacks on the insurgents.

The encounter brought the government death toll to 13 since fighting broke out Saturday between Armed Forces troops and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in different provinces.

Gov't must tackle ban on land mines now, says group (

THE COMMUNIST New People's Army ambush using a remote controlled explosive device that killed nine soldiers has revived calls for the enforcement of an international ban on the use of land mines that has reportedly exacted a mounting toll on combatants and civilians in the Philippines.

The Philippine Campaign to Ban Land Mines (PCBL) yesterday said that at least 248 people had either been killed or wounded by land mines and unexploded ordnances from 1999 to mid-2005.

The latest case was the land mine-triggered ambush staged by NPA guerrillas in Calinog town in Iloilo province on Sunday, which left nine Army soldiers dead and more than 20 wounded.

Despite the increasing casualties from the indiscriminate use of land mines, the government has yet to address the issue, the PCBL said.

Con-com moves to dismantle political dynasties (

The presidential consultative commission (con-com) tasked to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution is pushing to dismantle the political dynasty system under its plan for a federal, parliamentary form of government.

Con-com chairman Jose Abueva said that under their proposal, no elected public official may be succeeded by a relative up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or cousins.

"There should be free access to public office. It should not be dominated by dynasties," noted the former president of the University of the Philippines.

VFA oversight committee summons DFA, DOJ, DND chiefs (

The Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA) summoned Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and two other Cabinet officials to a closed-door meeting yesterday over the application of the VFA concerning the rape case involving six US servicemen.

Although the issue stemmed from a criminal offense, LOVFA co-chairman Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago stressed the presence of Romulo and other concerned officials is necessary since the matter involves foreign policy.

"The situation involves foreign policy and we need to hear the recommendations of these Cabinet members on whether to review, revise or scrap the VFA altogether," Santiago said.

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