SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 02 February Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

CBCP: Quit option stays

ILOILO CITY -- The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday said that resignation remained an option for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resolve the "Hello Garci" controversy.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo also brushed aside criticisms that the Catholic Church was interfering in politics. "When people do not like what we are saying, then we will be criticized as interfering in politics," Lagdameo said.

The archbishop of Jaro said that the resignation option was contained in the July 10, 2005, pastoral statement issued by the CBCP at the height of the wiretapping controversy that nearly unseated Ms Arroyo.

In last year's statement, the bishops stayed away from mounting calls for the President's resignation but said she should not ignore them.

Asked if last week's pastoral statement, issued after the prelates' first plenary this year, reflected what the CBCP felt about the unresolved political crisis, Lagdameo said: "Probably. Partly, we can say that that is a statement of frustration."

"We did not change (the July 10 statement). So it still stays that the President listen to the voice of the people," Lagdameo told reporters here after the launching of the People's Graftwatch of Iloilo Inc.

Palace rejects costly ConCon (

AFTER junking the unpopular plan to shelve the 2007 elections, the administration is not likely to accept the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) proposal to hold a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) to amend the 1987 Charter.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday Malacañang will stick to the plan to entrust the job of amending the Constitution to Congress, acting as a constituent assembly (Consa).

“At present, the position of the administration and Congress is to do it through constituent assembly,” Ermita said.

VAT profiteers face raps, loss of permits (

The government warned it will cancel the permits of retailers taking advantage of the higher value added tax to jack up prices and file criminal charges against those caught overpricing more than once.

The value added tax rose to 12 percent from 10 percent effective yesterday, triggering fears of price gouging.

But Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the government would go after profiteers even as he released a primer indicating the suggested retail prices of basic commodities such as canned goods, milk, and instant noodles.

“Unscrupulous profiteers should be warned that we will not hesitate to take action against those who will take advantage of the VAT increase,” he told a press briefing in Malacañang.

“We will publish these price lists to guide consumers as to just how much they should pay,” he said, adding three traders at the Trabajo Market in Manila were fined for jacking up their prices even before the new tax rate had taken effect.

Fertilizer fund traced to solon's foundation (

CEBU CITY -- The foundation that was to implement the Department of Agriculture's controversial hybrid rice program in Cebu's third district has the same address and phone number as the office and clinic of the district's representative, Antonio Yapha.

The people behind the foundation are employees of Yapha, a physician and one of the three Cebuano lawmakers who benefited from the DA's Hybrid Rice Commercialization (HRC) program. Yapha received P3 million, according to DA records.

The foundation was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 30, 2002, under the name "Kasosyo Foundation." Its given address was Cebu City, with phone number 412-5773; its registration number was A200208333.

Per SEC records, its president, Wilfredo Camomot, was Yapha's speechwriter, who died of cardiac arrest on Aug. 23, 2004.

The other incorporators -- Ofelio Puno, Abundio Elle and Monico Baron -- are either related to or working for Yapha.

When the Inquirer dialed the number, it turned out to be the phone of Yapha's clinic cum district office at the Visayas Community Medical Center on Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City.

The woman who answered the phone was Nida Ordeniza, who said she was Yapha's secretary.

Asked if she was connected with the Kasosyo Foundation, Ordeniza said she had no knowledge of it. But when the Inquirer mentioned Camomot's name, she became evasive and said she could not answer questions because she was eating.

The Inquirer called again about 30 minutes later, but a male staff member said Ordeniza had left.

5 soldiers questioned for aiding Magdalo (

FIVE marines are being questioned for allegedly helping Capt. Nicanor Faeldon move around while he was in hiding for more than a month before his recapture on Jan. 27.
Pvts. Lorenzo Caranzo and Hardy Glaraga were taken to the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) compound in Camp Aguinaldo after they arrived at the Manila Domestic Airport on a Cebu Pacific flight from Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

Three other unnamed marines who are already in custody will also be questioned at the Isafp headquarters, said Armed Forces spokesman Col. Tristan Kison yesterday.

Kison told a press briefing that Caranzo and Glaraga were among the 185 soldiers charged before a military court for their participation in the short-lived Oakwood mutiny in July 2003 but they were released in May 2005 after they struck a plea bargain with military prosecutors.

“They were part of the Magdalo group that staged the failed mutiny and were the same persons who were charged and demoted two ranks lower for their involvement in that foiled uprising,” Kison said.

The two were fetched from Puerto Princesa where they were assigned, said Col. Gaudencio Pangilinan, chief of the military Counter-Intelligence Group.

Their names were found on a list of Faeldon’s contacts, Pangilinan said.

He added that Faeldon positively identified the two as his contacts.

Kison said the military may file appropriate charges against the two marine privates, depending on what is learned from their debriefing.

Luisita asks TRO on stock deal with farmers (

The Hacienda Luisita Inc. on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the Department of Agrarian Reform order voiding its stock distribution option agreement with its farmer-beneficiaries.

In an 88-page pleading, Hacienda Luisita Inc. said the agreement was made pursuant to the mandate of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council earlier nullified the agreement described as a scheme meant to circumvent the law. The resolution was affirmed by Agrarian Secretary Nasser Pangandaman.

The petitioners also alleged that the council and Pangandaman violated the contractual and property rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

Senators hold DENR's P5-B budget (

To force Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Michael Defensor into testifying in its budget hearing, the Senate committee of the whole on Wednesday froze the proposed P5.59-billion allocation for his department.

The senators were annoyed to learn that the DENR has had two officers-in-charge since January 17: Undersecretary Armando de Castro from January 17 to 30 and Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio from January 31 to February 10.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said that questions about DENR policies could not be answered authoritatively by OICs who are replaced every two weeks.

"This is the first time I have seen a revolving door of OICs, and of a secretary on leave determining who should be the OIC. The office of the secretary has a public character; is not a fiefdom of anybody," Drilon said.

He said Defensor should decide whether he should return to the DENR or take up his new post in Malacañan. Defensor went on leave from the department on January 17 when he was named presidential chief of staff in a concurrent capacity. He replaced Rigoberto Tiglao, who was appointed ambassador to Greece.

SC upholds Desierto decision on PCGG vs Imelda Marcos, Tan (

THE Supreme Court has cleared former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto of any wrongdoing in his dismissal of graft charges against former first lady Imelda Marcos, tycoon Lucio Tan and several other people in the sale for P150 million of a block of shares in a five-star hotel held by the Development Bank of the Philippines 26 years ago.

The court said Desierto -- Ombudsman from 1995 to 2002 -- did not commit any grave abuse of discretion or cause “undue injury to the government” when he dismissed the case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government against Marcos, Tan, and several officials of DBP and Sipalay Trading Corp. (STC) in 1997.

“The Ombudsman correctly found that some of the essential elements of the offense charged are not present. Verily, we cannot attribute any arbitrariness or despotism to him,” it added in a decision penned by Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez.

The PCGG had charged Tan, Marcos and officials of STC and DBP with violation of the anti-graft law for the alleged anomalous sale of DBP’s shares in Maranao Hotel Resort Corp. (MHRC), which then owned the Century Park Sheraton Hotel, to Tan’s STC.

“We agree with the Ombudsman that in approving the sale of the shareholdings, private respondent DBP officials did not give unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to STC,” the court said, adding that they had “acted in good faith, and sound exercise of judgment.”
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