SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 14 December Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng BayanCongress sets debates on bill on contraception
BRUSHING aside strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the House of Representatives has set for plenary debate a population management bill that promotes artificial methods of contraception and places them within reach of Filipino families.
"Far from engendering a 'culture of death,' HB 3773 will help propagate a culture of life in which every child born to this world is cherished, wanted, nurtured and loved," Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said in his sponsorship speech Monday night.
Lagman is the principal author of House Bill 3773, which seeks to provide the public "free and full access to adequate and relevant information on reproductive health and a full range of family methods and devices."
With Lagman's formal introduction of the measure into the House's agenda, debates on the bill are expected to start in mid-January after the congressmen return from their Christmas recess, which begins this week.Senate to Comelec execs: Resign now
WHAT GOES around comes around -- or so they say.
And for the "egregiously fraudulent" contract for the purchase of P1.24 billion worth of automated counting machines in 2003, the entire Senate is demanding the resignation of all but one of the election commissioners.
A "shocked" Benjamin Abalos, chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), rejected the demand.
The plenary adopted on Monday night Report No. 44 of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which had found the commissioners and the members of the Comelec's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) liable for prosecution for the "Comelec modernization scam."
The investigation was prompted by the privilege speech of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. titled "Mega Bucks Blind Comelec," on Aug. 18, 2004.
Abalos protested the call for his and his colleagues' resignation.
"I was shocked," said the Comelec chair, who was grilled by senators at a budget hearing yesterday.
He said he had been under the impression that the Senate investigation was stopped because a case had already been filed against them in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman is about to conclude its investigation.
Comelec commissioners can be removed only by impeachment.Senate fed up, cites Bolante for contempt
THE SENATE yesterday made it known to Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante that it had had enough of his capers. The chamber cited him for contempt and ordered his arrest.
Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, said Bolante, the former Department of Agriculture undersecretary in charge of the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund, would be bodily brought to the Senate the moment he returns to the country.
Senate President Franklin Drilon issued the arrest warrant after he and 18 other senators signed a joint order of the Senate blue ribbon and agriculture committees finding Bolante in contempt. The committees are investigating allegations that the fertilizer fund was diverted to last year’s election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The fund was distributed to more than 100 members of the House of Representatives three months before the 2004 election but the Department of Agriculture could no longer find the documents covering the disbursements.
Bolante, a close friend of Ms Arroyo’s husband, was held in contempt for repeatedly snubbing Senate subpoenas -- four so far -- compelling him to attend the joint investigation. Despite his lawyer’s promises he would attend, Bolante gave the Senate the slip twice when he left on Oct. 26 and on Dec. 11 on the eve of the hearings.
The joint committees ruled that Bolante was delaying, impeding and obstructing the inquiry and for these, he was “hereby cited in contempt of the committees and ordered arrested and detained in the Office of the Senate sergeant at arms, until such time that he will appear and give his testimony.”Garci probe suspended ’til next year
THE House panel investigating the “Hello Garci” tapes suspended hearings until Jan. 25 next year, giving former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano some respite from intense grilling by lawmakers.
North Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Talino Santos, head of the five-committee panel, declared the hearings suspended at about 4 p.m., after Garcillano’s second appearance before the body yielded very little new information yesterday.
Earlier, the joint panel agreed to invite top officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain why Garcillano’s signature appeared on a Comelec resolution dated Aug. 31, after his appointment had lapsed on June 8 and he had gone into hiding over the leaked audiotapes. Garcillano continues to stonewall at House
Virgilio Garcillano on Tuesday continued to frustrate congressmen trying to pry information from him about his supposed wiretapped conversations with President Arroyo and his whereabouts in the past five months.
Appearing for the second time before the five committees of the House of Representatives investigating the wiretaps, Garcillano remained evasive as ever, parrying congressmen’s queries with noncommittal answers like "I am not competent to say anything about that," and "I have no knowledge about it."
An exasperated opposition Rep. Imee Marcos of Ilocos Norte threatened to cite Garcillano for contempt for being evasive.
Marcos had asked Garcillano to confirm or deny his reported flight to Singapore on July 14. "I am not competent to answer your question," he replied.Garcillano's plaint: Nobody believes me
VIRGILIO GARCILLANO himself summed up the conundrum of the "Hello Garci" tapes and why there could be no closure to the scandal that nearly toppled the Arroyo presidency-he had a credibility problem.
"I surfaced because I want to clear things up but the problem is, it seems that nobody believes whatever it is I say," Garcillano said yesterday in his second appearance before a House inquiry.Abat group forms revolutionary govt
Former defense secretary Fortunato Abat declared late Tuesday night the creation of a "revolutionary transition government" in place of the Arroyo administration, DZMM reported.
"I hereby proclaim the creation of a government of unity for national survival," Abat said after a meeting with former government officials and supporters at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.
He said the transitional government aims to attain its goal through a "peaceful takeover of power." This would be accomplished by ousting President Arroyo in the "cleanest term possible."
"We had enough of the corruption and incompetence of the Arroyo government. Now is the hour that she goes," Abat said.
Part of Abat's statement said the true mandate of the police and the military is to protect the sovereignty of the people. "The chain of command does not end with the commander-in-chief. The chain of command ends with the people."AFP chief to Senate: No security breach at ISAFP
After receiving flak from lawmakers, Armed Forces chief Gen. Generoso Senga assailed the credibility and competence of the principal witness in the wiretapping probe before the Senate, stressing her testimony constitutes "no breach in security."
Amid claims by principal witness Marietta Santos that she saw how the supposed wiretapping of President Arroyo’s conversations took place inside the so-called "Blue Room" of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Senga downplayed the testimony, pointing out her lack of technical knowledge.
"(Santos) said she saw… equipment, I think she doesn’t have the technical competence to identify (what) a bugging device looks like," Senga told a joint news conference with Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday.
"Unang-una kasi ang nakikita ko (From what I initially observed), everything that Marietta Santos is saying is taken as gospel truth... We should first analyze the statement from whom it is coming," Senga said. Solons don't buy line AFP can't tap cell phone
SENATORS looking into the "Hello Garci" tape scandal were stumped yesterday by claims of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Generoso Senga that the military, despite its P45-billion budget, had no capability to tap cell phone conversations and, thus, could not have been the source of the controversial tape.
Senga made the bold assertion during a luncheon meeting with Senate President Franklin Drilon on the eve of hearings by the Commission on Appointments, which can confirm or bypass Senga's appointment as military chief.
Senga's claim clashed with the findings of an Inquirer special report in September which recounted how Rear Admiral Tirso Danga, on assuming his post as head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), invited his predecessors and regaled them with his sophisticated bugging equipment from the United States, which could be used to track down suspected terrorists.
The equipment included a handy computer, no bigger than an attaché case and used to intercept phone conversations and record the voices of pre-programmed targets.
"It's a little difficult to imagine that the top intelligence network of our country would not have that capability," Drilon, who chairs the commission, told reporters, referring to Senga's claim.Lack of quorum snags terror bill
Lack of quorum derailed last night the approval by the House of Representatives of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.
Among the controversial provisions of the draft law are those on arrest without a court warrant and detention of suspects for not more than 15 days without charges.
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., on whom Malacanang has pinned hopes for the approval of the measure before Congress goes on its Christmas recess today, wanted the bill passed last night.
As of 9 p.m., he was on the floor waiting for a sufficient number of his colleagues to show up for the resumption of the session, which the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin, suspended about 20 minutes earlier when Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras questioned the quorum.
When no sufficient warm bodies showed up, Salapuddin was forced to adjourn the session until 4 p.m. today.
Paras, a member of the minority, said when the House is discussing important measures like the anti-terrorism bill, there should be enough members in the session hall listening to the discussions.
Luisita stock plan good as doomed
The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) executive committee on Tuesday upheld the recommendation of its validation committee to revoke the stock distribution option being carried out by the family of former President Corazon Aquino at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
The recommendation will be presented to the PARC en banc, which will adopt or reject it. If the recommendation is adopted it will be submitted to President Arroyo for final action.
Atanacia Guevarra, PARC executive committee director, said 14 members of the committee voted to abolish the stock distribution option as recommended by the validation committee that reviewed the terminal report of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
The executive committee has 21 members but only 17 were present at its meeting Tuesday, with only 15 having voting power. Fourteen members voted for the revocation of the stock distribution option, a scheme under the comprehensive agrarian reform program allowing farmer-beneficiaries to become part owners of farmland.
Once the stock option plan is canceled, the 5,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita that straddles three towns will come under CARP coverage and the Cojuangcos will have to give up huge tracts of the estate to farmer-beneficiaries.