SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 06 January Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Lawmakers slam bishops for meddling in politics (
HOUSE leaders yesterday lashed out at Catholic bishops for seeking an active role in lawmaking and claiming that congressmen could not discern right from wrong.
House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles of Davao City rejected a call from Archbishop Fernando Capalla, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for the creation of a formal group in which the religious could exert their influence on the lawmaking process.
The proposed Bishops-Congressmen’s Forum would facilitate a free exchange of ideas in crafting important laws because “almost every House bill has a moral dimension,” Capalla said.
But Nograles said the bishops can only act as resource persons and ruled out a more formal role for them in lawmaking.
“The bishops can suggest legislation but they cannot have an absolute participation in legislation,” he said.
House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Rolex Suplico of Iloilo City added that Capalla’s proposal would violate the constitutional separation of Church and state.
He also expressed resentment over Capalla’s suggestion that all lawmakers needed moral guidance from the bishops.
“We cannot presume that members of Congress cannot discern right from wrong,” Suplico said. “We cannot presume that the people voted clowns to Congress.”
Reflecting the Church’s continuing efforts to influence political developments, Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said a plenary assembly of CBCP is set to begin on Jan. 28 to assess various national issues, including calls from some of its members for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign over charges of election fraud.
“Part of our agenda is to assess the national situation and see whether there is a need to come up with a pastoral statement,” Iñiguez said.
The plenary assembly is CBCP’s highest governing body and is called every January and July.

GMA: Economy off to flying start (
In the wake of the peso’s strong performance against the dollar at the start of the year, President Arroyo said yesterday it is not just the local currency "but the whole economy" that is off to a flying start.
She also vowed to make ordinary Filipinos, particularly the poor, feel the gains brought about by the country’s fiscal and economic stability.
"The gains of the nation must be felt by ordinary Filipinos who have sacrificed beside us in bearing the burden of fiscal stability and discipline, casting off the distraction of political turmoil and keeping their energies focused upon the hardy chores of nation-building," Mrs. Arroyo said in a statement.
"The runway is clear and the takeoff is at hand," she added.

Air Force graft, unrest bared (
AN AIR FORCE colonel yesterday said that generals and wing commanders in the Philippine Air Force (PAF) were "illegally" receiving monthly allowances of P45,000 each on top of their salaries.
Colonel Efren Daquil also confirmed grumbling in the military.
"I have direct knowledge that Air Force generals, the wing commanders, are given P45,000 a month over and above their salaries and other allowances. I would like to know if CGPAF (commanding general of the PAF) is authorized to dole out this allowance," said Daquil.
The allowance, according to him, is called the Direct Support Fund (DSF.)
Denying Daquil's allegations, the PAF said the colonel would be taken into custody and possibly charged for giving interviews without permission.
Air Force spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Restituto Padilla said Daquil would be restricted to quarters, investigated and possibly charged with violating two Articles of War, specifically conduct unbecoming an officer.
"If truth is unbecoming, then I'm willing to be jailed," said Daquil, former deputy wing commander of the PAF 710th Special Operations Wing based at Clark, in Pampanga province.
No go-ahead yet to raise LPG prices, says Lotilla (
The Department of Energy on Tuesday cautioned retailers and manufacturers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) against raising their prices, saying it has not been officially notified about any price increase.
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said his department has not received a notice of increase from the LPG Marketers’ Association, which announced Monday it would increase its prices by P2 a kilogram, or P22 per 11-kilogram cylinder.
The increase was reportedly triggered by the $44 per metric ton increase in LPG contract prices for January 2006.
Contract prices rose to $582 per metric ton this month from a low of $538 due to rising worldwide demand.
Major oil companies Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Inc, Caltex Philippines Inc. and Total Philippines Inc. have not raised their LPG prices.
But Lotilla said the planned increase should not be carried out without prior notice to the department.

RP-US military exercises to start on Jolo (
ZAMBOANGA CITY - Filipino and American troops will begin a series of new joint antiterror training exercises in February in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, a known stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, local security officials said Tuesday.
Officials said the exercises are expected to start next month and would involve infantry and Marines from both countries. Security would be tight during the exercises to protect the soldiers against possible attacks by Abu Sayyaf militants.
The Abu Sayyaf has been threatening to attack US targets in the Philippines. The group has killed three Americans, including a soldier, in Zamboanga City.
"The training is part of the US security assistance to Manila, and it is held every year. [Besides] the joint training, humanitarian missions will also be carried out in Jolo. The civic action will surely benefit many poor families on the island," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, a spokesman for the Southern Command based in Zamboanga City.
He said US and Filipino troops are also prepared to build infrastructure projects in Jolo. "Jolo will benefit from these joint-training exercises and it will also help the local economy and provide jobs to many people," he told The Manila Times.
FVR meets Drilon, Sotto but no one's talking (
Former President Fidel V. Ramos met secretly with Senate President Franklin Drilon and former senator Vicente Sotto III Monday night, fueling speculations that the three were mapping out political moves for the coming days.
Drilon and Sotto confirmed the meeting, held at a Makati office of Ramos, but declined to give details. The two said that because it was Ramos who invited them, they are leaving it up to him to tell the media what they had discussed.
There has been no significant movement in the opposition since the failed impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. The attempt of retired Gen. Fortunato Abat to form a nucleus of a people power in November failed to draw crowds, with the media outnumbering his supporters.
Ramos’ meeting with Drilon and Sotto, both opposition leaders, has given rise to talk of a new oust-Arroyo move. Ramos had said that announcements of a coup against the administration were merely meant to scare people and that the only successful power was held without giving anyone any inkling that it was being plotted.

Judge in rape case vows quick verdict (
OLONGAPO CITY—The trial of four US marines accused of raping a Filipina will be completed within a year, the judge handling the case vowed yesterday.
Judge Renato Dilag of Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 73 was selected to handle the case that has strained relations between the United States and the Philippines.
“The whole world is watching us now on how we will be handling this high-profile rape case,” Dilag told reporters.
Dilag said he would have to end the proceedings within a year, as prescribed under the Visiting Forces Agrement (VFA) which gives American troops joining military exercises in the country limited protection from criminal prosecution.
The VFA stipulates that American personnel charged with a crime will no longer be required to appear if the trial takes longer than a year.
To meet the one-year deadline, Dilag said he would hold up to three hearings a week.

US Marines seek dismissal of case (
Lawyers for four US Marines accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina filed motions in court yesterday seeking to dismiss the case or suspend the proceedings.
Deputy Executive Judge Renato Dilag of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 73 said he would study the motions, hold a hearing Friday and handle matters quickly to avoid delaying the possible issuance of arrest warrants.
Olongapo City Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni last week submitted documents to the court alleging that on the night of Nov. 1, Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith raped the woman in a rented van at the Subic Bay freeport, a former US naval base, while his fellow Marines cheered him on.
Also charged were Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis, Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier and Timoteo Soriano Jr., the Filipino driver of their rented van.
The four Marines are now in the custody of the US Embassy in Manila. Soriano’s whereabouts were not immediately known.
Smith’s lawyer, Benjamin Formoso, filed a motion asking Dilag to dismiss the complaint against his client for lack of probable cause, and to delay an arrest warrant until sufficient cause can be found to support the rape charge. Smith claims he only had consensual sex.
John Coluso, a lawyer for Silkwood and Duplantis, said he was filing an urgent motion to suspend proceedings against his clients. Carpentier’s lawyer filed a similar motion.
"We don’t agree with the finding of probable cause against my two clients," Coluso said. "We have to tell the court that... we are going to question the case before the Department of Justice so can you suspend proceedings for the moment?"

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