SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 6 December Afternoon
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Villar: 'Disguised pork' to hold up budget debates (

“SENATOR Manuel Villar warned that deliberations on the P1.056-trillion national budget for 2006 could reach an impasse because of “disguised pork barrels” and predicted that this and other delays would force the government to work under a reenacted 2005 budget during the first three months of next year. He said the increases in the proposed 2006 budget would likely be subjected to extensive discussion, hampering the budget’s passage.

But he added it would be important to scrutinize additional projects in the budget, which include the Kilos Asenso Support Fund and the Kalayaan Barangay Program Fund, since these would be funded by additional taxes collected under the expanded value added tax (VAT) law.

Some senators had voiced concern earlier over the two new funds, which will require a total outlay of P8 billion. They suspected that these were new forms of pork barrel, a known source of kickbacks.

“Some of the projects are good but they would be using VAT earnings,” Villar said. “We have to see where the money goes because most of these projects are just disguised pork. We might forget that the primary reason we imposed the VAT is to fix the country’s finances. If we are so hot to spend the earnings, we might end up getting back our old financial problems.””

Garcillano: I'll name 26 more opposition 'phone pals' (

“The lawyer of former Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano said Tuesday his client will name more opposition congressmen and senators who allegedly spoke to him during the May 2004 elections.

"Mayroon pa marami pa 'yan (there are more), there are about 10 to 20 names of congressmen. At saka doon sa lista[han] ni Mr. Garcillano nakita ko ay mga five to six senators (On Garcillano's list I saw the names of five senators)," Tamondong told ABS-CBN's Magandang Umaga Bayan.

Tamondong dismissed allegations that his client's bombshell is just a ploy to divert the attention of the public from the "Hello, Garci" audiotape scandal.

"Hindi. Hindi nililihis. Talagang tumawag sila (No. No he is not muddling the issue. They really phoned him.)," he said.

He added: "Now, yung denial expected 'yan. So siguro, mabuti na mag-submit sila sa lie-detector test para malaman kung nagsasabi ba sila ng totoo o nagsisinungaling (Their denials are expected. Maybe it would be fine if they submit to lie-detector tests)."”

'Moment of truth' for solons in Garcillano testimony—Palace (

“INSTEAD of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it will be some lawmakers who will face the "moment of truth" on Wednesday when the House of Representatives resumes its inquiry on the wiretapped tapes supposedly linking the President and an election official to poll fraud, according to Malacañang Tuesday.

"Now it seems to be the turn of some legislators to face the moment of truth," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said before former Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano testified on his alleged conversation with the President over the purported manipulation of results in the May 2004 election.

Bunye said the President was "out of the fray" after House legislators had dismissed an impeachment complaint against her.

"The case is closed as far as the Presidency is concerned. The verdict has been issued via the failed impeachment move," Bunye said.”

COMELEC to produce Garci phone records (

“The Commission on Elections on Tuesday said it is willing to provide copies of former COMELEC commissioner Virgilio Garcillano's phone records to separate congressional inquiries into the wiretapping controversy.

COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos said the agency gave each poll commissioner a cellular phone with a regular line before the May 10, 2004 elections. He admitted that Garcillano used a postpaid line, which indicates all the calls he made and received during election season.

"We will be willing to cooperate with anybody...we will produce all of these because there are public documents," Abalos told DZMM after being asked about Garcillano's phone records.”

Consultative Commission set to endorse parliamentary gov't (

“THE CONSULTATIVE commission (ConCom) on Charter change is expected Tuesday afternoon to adopt a recommendation mandating a shift to a parliamentary form of government in a new Constitution, a commission official told the Inquirer Monday.

Rene Azurin, a professor at the University of the Philippines Graduate School of Business and co-chairman of the commission on the form of government, said an overwhelming majority of commission members would recommend the shift to a parliamentary from the presidential form, and there was nothing opponents of the change could do about it.

"There's nothing more we can do. All we can do right now is vent our opposition in the media and hope the public is enlightened when they ratify the new constitution in a plebiscite," Azurin said in an interview.

Azurin and only six other commission members are opposed to the idea of changing the system of government, saying the parliamentary form would give politicians too much power.

"You give them both legislative and executive powers. They will have the power to make the policies and then implement them," Azurin said.

"The national budget will become a huge pork barrel. Budget deliberations will just be partitioning the funds to determine who gets how much," he added.

Azurin said that under a parliamentary system, there was no check and balance with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet except through the judiciary.

"[But] that assumes one can actually document and prove wrongdoing. If we are now disturbed by the way politicos are wielding limited powers, what should we imagine will happen after they've been given virtually unlimited powers?" Azurin said.”

Floods displace 1,850 families in Lucena (

“An estimated 1, 850 families evacuated their homes in Lucena City after heavy rains triggered flash floods in 11 barangays, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said Tuesday.

OCD operations chief Neri Amparo identified the affected barangays as Uno, Singko, Otso, Nueve, Diyes, Market View, Mayao-Crossing, Ibabang Dupay, Gulang-Gulang, Cuta and Dalahican.

Amparo said at least 9,250 residents left their homes Monday night and are now staying in evacuation centers.

Weather bureau PAGASA earlier said there is no typhoon within the immediate Philippine area of responsibility.

It said a low pressure area is causing heavy rains in several provinces in Southern Luzon.”

RP inflation picks up slightly in November (

“MANILA (AFP) - Philippine consumer prices rose 7.1 percent from a year earlier in November, slightly exceeding the forecasts of the central bank and private economists, the National Statistics Office said Tuesday.

The November inflation rate was also a slight increase over the 7.0 percent posted in October and September, the NSO said.

Month-on-month, consumer prices in November were up 0.8 percent over October when they rose by 0.5 percent.

The November outcome brought the average rate for the first 11 months of the year to 7.7 percent, the office added.

The Central Bank of the Philippines had earlier projected inflation in November at 6.4-6.9 percent, with economists expecting 6.7-7.0 percent. Its full year estimate is for a 7.6-7.9 percent rise in prices.

Prices of food, which make up about half of the consumer price index basket, jumped 6.4 percent in November, faster than October's 5.8 percent pace.

However core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, eased to 6.1 percent in November from 6.3 percent in October.”
Newsbriefs 06 December Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

‘Farewell, see you in Thailand’ (
The 23rd Southeast Asian Games ended the way it started — in a burst of light and colors. Only this time, it heralded the coming of host Philippines as the new sporting king of the region.

Thousands of Filipinos at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, led by President Arroyo, and millions more at home watching the ceremonies on TV, relished the shining moment in the nation’s sporting history.

It took them 14 years to bask in glory, after a heartbreaking loss to Indonesia during the SEAG in Manila in 1991, achieving the feat in less than two weeks of competition against the best in the region with runaway 113-86-92 (gold-silver-bronze) medal finish.

The President, who declared the Games open during ceremonies nine days ago, formally closed the biennial meet, with athletes of the 11 nations set to converge again in Thailand two years from now.

Until then, the Filipinos will reign supreme.

Garci circus begins (
Former COMELEC commissioner Virgilio Garcillano’s return is creating a circus and a nightmare as these developments on Monday show:

* Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez is now acting and talking as the virtual lawyer for Garcillano, saying that Garcillano cannot be forced to testify and tell all to the House of Representatives, because a pending case in the Supreme Court will render the revelations he makes sub judice (under judicial deliberation).

• Gonzalez said any pending case in court cannot be discussed in legislative investigations.

• As United Opposition spokesman Francis Escudero and his opposition colleagues in the House were telling the media that Garcillano should tell the truth and not waste his opportunity to clear his name, their names were being besmirched by Garcillano himself, through his lawyer.

Ed Tamondong, Garcillano’s lawyer, revealed the names of congressmen, most of them oppositionists, who Garcillano said had spoken to him "either personally or over the phone lines" during "the election of 2004."

"They discussed election matters with my client," Tamondong said.

• Sen. Miriam Santiago, a staunch ally of President Arroyo, the other day proposed to make Garcillano a state witness protected by immunity from prosecution.

She taunted her fellow senators with the threat that "Garcillano’s testimony would be prima facie evidence of a crime under the Antigraft and Corrupt Practices Act."

Garci names solons who also called him (
FORMER elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano spoke to at least 30 congressional and eight senatorial candidates from both sides of the political fence during the May 2004 elections, his lawyer said yesterday.

Among those that Garcillano spoke with were Taguig/Pateros Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano; Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero; Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez; Lanao del Sur Rep. Benasing Macarambon Jr.; Cebu Rep. Clavel Martinez; Quezon Rep. Rafael Nantes; Navotas/Malabon Rep. Ricky Sandoval; and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, lawyer Eddie Tamondong said.

“These public officials spoke with former commissioner Garcillano during the elections of 2004 and discussed election matters with my client,” Tamondong said, noting that the former poll official had kept a “blue book or journal” of all politicians – administration and opposition – who sought favors or meetings with him.

Golez denied speaking to Garcillano.

“Including my name as among those who allegedly personally or by phone talked to him is crazy and a lot of BS. I did not know him from Adam... and don’t remember even meeting him. I am now consulting with my lawyers to study what recourse I have against this malicious statement,” Golez said. “Garcillano is shaking off the dirt and stink now associated with him to smear his detractors.”

Escudero, on the other hand, acknowledged meeting Garcillano at the Manila Hotel last year, but said he never asked the former poll official to make him win as congressman.

Cayetano said he spoke with Garcillano in January 2004 to complain about the alleged miscount in the plebiscite for Taguig’s bid for cityhood.

Suarez said he sought Garcillano’s help to have a voting center moved to the town proper for fear of massive cheating in the area last May.

At the reopening of the “Hello Garci” hearings on Dec. 7, Tamondong said, it would be the word of Garcillano versus the congressmen who vilified him in June.

“We want to present as character witnesses those who... had vilified my client before the media... but who also asked favors and talked to him on election-related matters,” Tamondong said in Filipino.

Tamondong also said Garcillano would sue all those who had the Garci tapes played in public - including media organizations — because doing so was illegal under Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Law.

Miriam taunts fellow senators about Garci (
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday predicted that many senators will lose sleep once former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano starts naming senators who called him up at the height of the election last year.

Garcillano is set to appear on December 7 before a House joint committee investigating the wiretapped conversations that purport to indicate that President Arroyo cheated in the 2004 polls.

"There will be a lot of insomniacs among senators on the eve of the House hearing on the wiretapped controversy. Garcillano will still testify and he will not go away even if these people call him names," Santiago told reporters at a press conference.

Garcillano is expected to divulge all politicians who called him up at the height of the canvassing of the votes.

Santiago asked the Senate Committee on Ethics and the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the senators that Garcillano will name in his testimony.

DOLE sees better economy, employment picture in 2006 (
Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said yesterday she sees better employment opportunities for Filipinos next year in the wake of improvements in the country’s economy and political situation.

"Political bickering has started to abate so we expect more foreign and local investors to come and invest their money to expand or put up new businesses next year," she said.

Sto. Tomas also allayed fears over former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano’s decision to come out of hiding. Garcillano is being accused of plotting with President Arroyo to rig last year’s election in her favor.

The Garcillano issue, according to Sto. Tomas, is merely "of curiosity value" since she does not "see the level of acrimony and hostility (the issue generated) four or five months ago."

Hard labor for Garcia? Well, not really (
IT SOUNDED like a terrible fate but the penalty of “two years of hard labor” imposed by a military court on ex-Major General Carlos Garcia may be all an empty phrase, based on Philippine military practice.

Military prosecutor Colonel Al Perreras yesterday said no officer who had received the penalty had been actually subjected to such punishment.

But convicted enlisted men had been made to spruce up military grounds, clean up living quarters and do other menial jobs, he said.

This means Garcia will not be made to so much as sweep the streets of Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Quezon City, where he is now being held.

“In practice, this (hard labor) is not carried out,” Perreras told the Inquirer. “It’s inappropriate for an officer to do hard labor.”

In military parlance, “hard labor” means “extra fatigue work,” he said, adding: “Officers do not render extra fatigue work.”

Satur files criminal charges vs Palparan (
A militant party-list group on Monday filed criminal charges against Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan before the Office of the Ombudsman, owing to his alleged human-rights violations.

In a 13-page complaint-affidavit, Bayan Muna, led by Rep. Satur Ocampo, charged Palparan and Col. Manuel Cusi with multiple murder, frustrated murder, serious illegal detention and arson.

Citing documents from several human-rights organizations in Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and Central Luzon, the group said Palparan and his men committed cruelty against their victims.

The complaint added that during Palparan’s stint at the 204th Infantry Battalion in the Mindoro provinces, 27 persons were summarily executed.

Besides this, the complaint said, about 1,500 Mangyans were ejected from their homes and subjected to abuses.

SC budget under Senate probe for first time (
The proposed Supreme Court budget on Monday came under close scrutiny by the Senate for the first time since the enactment of the 1986 Constitution that granted fiscal autonomy to the judiciary.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said the automatic approval of the Court budget should end "because it has virtually become a lump sum appropriation."

"Unlike those of other government agencies whose budgets are detailed, that of the High Court has no specifics on how it would be spent. It has only general headings," she explained.

Thai, RP corruption worsens—poll (
HONG KONG -- Multinationals perceive corruption is getting worse in Thailand and in the Philippines but is declining elsewhere in Asia, a report released yesterday shows.

The multinationals say corruption is the major obstacle to investment and business growth in Asia's developing economies.

Among 12 Asian economies covered, India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam still had high levels of corruption but their governments were seen to be making headway in fighting the problem, according to a survey by a Hong Kong-based think-tank, Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (PERC).

In contrast, Hong Kong and Singapore -- two of the most developed Asian economies -- were rated as the places where graft is most under control, PERC said.

Singapore topped the survey with a score of 0.89 where the best grade is zero and the worst is 10. Arch economic rival Hong Kong was second at 1.22 while Indonesia was the worst with a score of 9.44.

Japan was third, followed by South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China is making the most progress, it said.

US Embassy in Manila closed due to bomb threat (
The US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard in Manila halted public services on Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat Monday night.

A statement on the US Embassy website ( said that "due to plausible threat information, US public services at the US Embassy in Manila will be temporarily closed to the public beginning on December 6, 2005."

"These public operations include visa and consular services, and services of the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs Regional Office," the statement said.

It said the US Embassy will resume all public operations, including visa operations, "when deemed appropriate."

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