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Newsbriefs 18 January Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

4 more Oakwood mutineers escape

FOUR Army junior officers who joined a short-lived mutiny in 2003 escaped late Tuesday evening from a military prison, triggering a security alert, officials said.

First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Sonny Sarmiento, Nathaniel Rabonza and Patricio Bumindang piled up chairs inside their detention cell at Fort Bonifacio and sneaked out of the windows at around 9 p.m., intelligence reports said.

“Yes, there was an escape,” Army Chief Lieutenant General Hermogenes Esperon said in a phone interview with reporters.

"They were found to be absent during an accounting for the night," Army spokesman Major Bartolome Bacarro said, adding that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been informed of the incident and has ordered a massive manhunt and a thorough investigation of what happened.

The jailbreak came a month after Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, one of the leaders of the failed coup in Makati City, also outsmarted his escorts and fled while taking a break from a court hearing.

“They are now fugitives... Those liable for the escape will be sanctioned,” Bacarro told GMA Network's “Saksi” newscast, as he appealed to the public to help hunt down the escaped mutineers.

Bolante asks SC to stop Senate from arresting him (

Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante asked the Supreme Court yesterday to stop the Senate from implementing its warrant of arrest issued against him last December for his failure to appear before the hearing involving the P728-million fertilizer scam.

Bolante, in a 27-page petition filed through his lawyer Antonio Zulueta, said he failed to attend the hearings on Oct. 6 and Dec. 12, 2005 because of his prior commitments abroad. However, he would be willing to attend the scheduled Senate hearing on Jan. 23.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, chairman of the Senate committee on accountability and public officers and investigations, and Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., chairman of the committee on agriculture, have cited Bolante for contempt and directed Senate sergeant-at-arms retired Maj. Jose Balajadia Jr. to immediately arrest and detain Bolante.

The Senate committees said Bolante’s failure to appear and testify at the hearings despite personal notice delayed the inquiry.

Bolante argued in his petition, however, that the legislative inquiry conducted by the Senate committees had transcended its limitations and mutated into prosecution or judicial inquiry.

"Petitioner no longer stands as a mere resource person in the investigation but as an accused... The full investigation has already prejudged petitioner. The proceedings have turned into a prosecutorial inquiry in aid of persecution," Bolante said.

House: Impeach rap defective (

The House of Representatives sent back yesterday to Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano the impeachment case he re-filed against President Arroyo the day before, calling it "defective."

Roberto Nazareno, the chamber’s secretary, said he returned the complaint to Lozano on the instruction of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Nazareno said the complaint filed on Monday was defective since it was not sworn to. Also, it was not endorsed by at least one congressman as required under the rules on impeachment.

He said even if these two requirements had been met, he was not sure if the House could accept the Lozano petition since the one-year protection against further impeachment complaints which Mrs. Arroyo enjoys has not expired.

Malacañang was quick to deny the opposition’s charges that the Arroyo administration had dispatched Lozano to re-file the impeachment complaint to preempt a stronger one to be filed by the opposition later.

"The opposition should be more careful and prudent about their accusations," Palace political adviser Gabriel Claudio said. "Attorney Lozano is not with the administration."

Opposition lawmakers said Lozano’s filing of a new impeachment complaint — which, in fact, is a version of the opposition’s amended complaint — had turned the impeachment process into a "rat race" whereby the first to file would be the one recognized by the House.

For his part, incoming presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor said the Palace would face the new impeachment complaint at the appropriate time but was not overly concerned about it.

House committee wants people to decide fate of 2007 polls (

A "WORKING draft proposal" containing a provision that will give the people an option to either retain or scrap the 2007 elections has been adopted by a committee at the House of Representatives tasked to study proposed amendments to the 1987 Charter.

Voting 29-10, the committee on constitutional amendments agreed on Tuesday to adopt its 36 pages of proposed Charter amendments and a page of transitory provisions containing the "no-election" scenario as an option.

The committee proposals also include:

• Extending the three-year term of legislators to five years;

• Allowing the incumbent President to continue as Chief Executive and exercise the same powers under an interim parliament "except those to be delegated to a Prime Minister who shall serve as chief operating officer of the government, conformably with the parliamentary system."

This is contrary to the committee's original approved amendments by the committee where the President will serve as concurrent Prime Minister under an interim parliament.

• Making incumbent members of Congress automatic members of the parliament until their terms end in June 30, 2007 or until the first elections for members of parliament are held in May 2007.

• Allowing senators elected in May 2004 to continue to serve as members of parliament until June 2010.

• Enabling the incumbent Vice President to automatically become a member of parliament and the presiding officer "for the immediate election
of the Prime Minister."

Lakas lawmakers want six senators penalized (

IRATE congressmen moved yesterday to impose sanctions on Lakas senators who snubbed the party’s Jan. 14 national directorate meeting to discuss amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

The move to punish the senators came from Lakas congressmen who said party leaders have the obligation to attend important meetings to help resolve controversial issues such as the proposed Charter amendments and a recommendation to scrub the 2007 elections.

An infuriated Negros Occidental Rep. Monico Puentevella criticized the absentee Lakas senators for acting as if they didn’t care about the party, after benefiting from their affiliation with it.

Puentevella reminded Lakas Senators Juan Flavier, Pia Cayetano, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Richard Gordon, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Lito Lapid about their responsibility to the administration party, which helped them get elected.

“After you won, (you say) goodbye? Where is the decency here?” Puentevella said, addressing himself to the senators on the ANC News Channel. “You should be ashamed.”

SC sets hearing on suit vs EO 464

The Supreme Court has set for Feb. 21 the oral argument on the petition filed by various groups led by Bayan Muna to declare President Arroyo’s controversial Executive Order No. 464 unconstitutional.

In an en banc resolution, the High Tribunal set the oral argument for 1 p.m.

The SC had earlier consolidated the petition for certiorari filed by party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo, Reynaldo Lesaca Jr., Rafael Mariano, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, Joel Virador, the government employees’ group Courage and the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) with a similar petition filed by lawyer Francisco Chavez seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order on the implementation of EO 464.

The party-list congressmen said EO 464, an order issued by Mrs. Arroyo requiring Cabinet members and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to get the President’s permission before appearing in any congressional investigations, is unconstitutional and smacked of dictatorship.

"EO 464 is intended to hide facts which may lead to more questions on Mrs. Arroyo’s illegitimate mandate and corrupt practices. By virtue of this presidential fiat, the Executive department arrogated unto itself the power to make itself immune from the oversight functions of Congress," the petitioners said.

They claim that EO 464 suppresses civil liberties, making Mrs. Arroyo worse than the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The order also curtails "the people’s right to information and access to public documents and public officials," they said.
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