Friday, January 29, 2010

8 presidential bets engage youth in ANC forum

Few fireworks in debate at DLSU

MANILA, Philippines - For the first time, eight of the country's presidential candidates gathered together in a presidential forum to convince the youth that they are fit to lead the country if elected president in the May 10 poll.

There were pointed jabs but few fireworks in the ANC Youth 2010 presidential forum at the De La Salle University campus on Taft Avenue, Manila as the eight presidential candidates laid down their platforms of government and tackled subjects such as the reproductive health bill, corruption, and the legacy of President Arroyo.

The eight who attended the event were former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Sen. Manny Villar, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, televangelist Eddie Villanueva, environmentalist Nick Perlas, and Olongapo councilor JC delos Reyes.

In an interview on ANC after the forum, Prof. Edna Co of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) praised Gordon, Aquino and Madrigal for making a clear impact on the audience during the forum.

Audience members, on the other hand, said it was Teodoro, Gordon and Aquino who made a favorable impression during the event.

Co praised Gordon for being a good communicator and giving straightforward answers to all of the questions. "He was speaking from a very clear position on what his views are on most of the issues," she said.

She also gave plus points to Aquino for his improved performance but noted that the Liberal Party senator should articulate his positions better instead of issuing "motherhood statements."

"He didn't waver as much as in previous forums, but there is room for improvement," she said.

She said Madrigal came across as "strong, brave and clearly ideological" considering that it was her first time to attend a presidential forum.

"She had strong criticism coming from a neoliberal position, and whether you agree with her or not, she had very categorical answers for the questions," she said.

Finally, she said the audience missed former President Joseph Estrada who skipped the forum since he had to shoot a campaign ad.

"The audience missed him. It would have been good for him to face this kind of forum. He could have added to the luster of the discussion," she said.

C-5 controversy

During the forum, Madrigal made pointed asides at Villar over the latter's alleged budget insertions in the C-5 road extension project.

“Hinahamon ko ang mayayaman na senators na ilabas sa website and lahat ng insertions na nakabuti sa businesses nila. [I challenge my fellow rich senators to reveal on a website all the budget insertions that favored his businesses.]” Madrigal said.

In response, Villar said he had already answered the controversy numerous times and had placed his answers in his website.

Asked why she was lagging in the presidential surveys, Madrigal said she did not believe them since some presidential candidates could influence the results.

Co said the brief back-and-forth between Madrigal and Villar over the C-5 issue was held back by time constraints. She said, however, that Villar lost points when he threw the issue back at Madrigal and told her to read his website.

"In a way, he was brushing it aside. Most in the public would have wanted him to answer," she said.

TV ads

During the forum, Villar leveled his own aside against presidential frontrunner Aquino as a way of defending his expenses on TV ads.

Villar said he is amenable to a proposal to limit campaign spending but noted that infomercials were a way to level the playing field against the more popular candidates.

"In limiting campaign spending, we should not shut the door to those candidates who are poor, whose mother was not a celebrity, whose sibling was not a celebrity, so that they can be known...Even though I have a lot of infomercials, I don't think I can reach the level of popularity of a popular celebrity or a popular mother," he said in an apparent jab against Aquino. Aquino's mother is the late president Corazon Aquino while his sister is popular TV host Kris Aquino.

Asked about his advice to candidates who had no money, he said: "It depends on what you do. For example, in business, if you have no money, it's probably because you don't know how to manage. You will be giving a big problem to the country if you run when you can't even manage your business."

Gordon, however, said the people should not be afraid of rich candidates. "Kahit mayaman ang kalaban, wag matakot!" he said.

He also vowed to give free Kindle e-book readers for public school students and raise the monthly salaries of public school teachers to P40,000 if elected president.

RH bill

Several candidates gave opposing views on the controversial reproductive health bill, which advocates sex education for primary and secondary school students.

Delos Reyes said he sees no need to support sex education since he believes the youth have "natural" or instinctive knowledge of sex.

"Palagay ko po ang isang kabataan, may sapat na natural na kaalaman kung ano ang mangyayari kung siya ay sumipi. (I think youth have enough natural knowledge of what will happen if they have sex)," he said.

He also said he believes distributing condoms to the youth, as part of safe-sex campaigns, "promotes promiscuity and infidelity."

Aquino, meanwhile, softened his stand for the RH bill and said he wants several amendments in the measure.

“There are provisions that I cannot support,” Aquino said. “I was mistakenly labeled as co-author [of the bill]. Actually, I’m listed as interpellator, and I’m waiting for my opportunity."

“But having said that, I still think that this is a problem that we cannot bury our heads in the sand. Kailangan natin tugunan. Habang hindi inaasikaso ang problema, tuloy lalaki ang problem at tuloy ang pasakit sa taongbayan,” he added.

Should Arroyo face charges?

All but one of the candidates agreed that President Arroyo should face charges for various misdeeds during her term including alleged massive cheating in the 2004 elections and large kickbacks from the NBN-ZTE and fertilizer fund scams.

Villanueva blamed the Arroyo administration for gross misgovernance and said the rule of law must be applied on those who have done wrong.

“Bigyan natin ng katarungan ang ating taong bayan (Let us give justice to our people),” he said. “No man should be above the law."

Perlas said Arroyo should be made to answer for the Northrail, Southrail and ZTE-NBN scandals. "What are the geo-political imperatives behind the ZTE, Northrail, Southrail and the investments of the Chinese in the mining industry? She opened up the country for long-term lease to foreigners even while issues of agrarian reform and ancestral domain of lumads and Muslims remain pending," he said.

Reyes, on the other hand, went one step further and said corrupt government officials from the time of the Marcos dictatorship should be made to account for their actions.

For his part, Teodoro said anyone could file a case against the President as long as they have the evidence to convict her of a crime. "If I help pursue a case against her, people would think I was participating in a whitewash. If I don't join, they would say I am not doing my job," he said.

He added: "Mt principle here is anyone can file a case...I will not interfere. Let justice be done."

Co said the question on Arroyo's accountability was particularly telling since the next president would have to deal with the past president before he or she could move forward.

"It's one of the issues that some sectors of society will put before you and will haunt the next administration," she said.

She noted that Teodoro was put on the spot by the question, especially since he is the administration's bet in the election. "I think Teodoro was put on a tight situation. He was trying to be safe on certain issues such as Gloria Arroyo. He even wavered on the RH bill," she said.

Co said presidential forums allow the public to know the candidate but may have a limited effect on the popularity surveys. She added some of the candidates should learn how to be an effective speaker during public forums.

"It's not just what ideas you carry but how you put across the message. Sometimes you have quite a lot there but the communication and the way you put it across is not effective so you are subjected to different levels of appreciation by the audience," she said.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Monday, January 25, 2010

CBCP to candidates: Refrain from mudslinging

MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has urged candidates to refrain from mudslinging in the run-up to the May synchronized elections.

In a pastoral statement following the conclusion of their plenary assembly, the bishops asked candidates to play fair and square and raise the level of the campaign.

“We ask the candidates, already at this point, to start serving the nation by being honest and sincere in educating the people on the situation of our country in their campaign. They should not campaign to manipulate the perceptions of the people but to help them to make good choices for the sake of the country. They are to present their platforms and convictions rather than attack others,” the bishops said.

The prelates noted that there is need to “transform our political order” and urged the people to be agents of this change.

“We appeal directly to you, our fellow countrymen and women, as well as to all members of our Basic Ecclesial Communities and religious lay organizations to exercise your right to vote wisely i.e. Following the criteria indicated several times in our previous pastoral letters,” the CBCP statement, signed by its president Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, said.

In winnowing the right candidate, the bishops told the voters to eschew surveys and political advertisements. “Follow the dictates of your conscience after a prayerful and collective period of discernment. “Winnability” is not at all a criterion for voting! The vote you cast will be a vote for the good of your country and your children’s future.”

The bishops urged the public to “engage in principled politics” by supporting candidates that are “qualified and have a record of striving for the common good.”

They added: “We are asked to first articulate the key values and principles by which we can evaluate individual candidates across political parties. This is the kind of politics in which Gospel values form the bases of our choice of candidates and not party or family loyalties.”

Source: ABS-CBN News

Enrile blasts Villar for unethical conduct

Cayetano says no conflict of interest

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday accused Senator and Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar of unethical conduct and violating the 1987 Constitution for failing to divest himself of controlling shares in real estate firms that earned billions of pesos in taxpayer's money over road right-of-way projects.

According to the report of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Villar should be censured for failing to divulge that his real estate companies would benefit from the Las Piñas-Parañaque link road and the C-5 road extension projects.

The report said the government spent P6.2 billion on the C-5 road extension project, including the realigned P4.28 billion for the extension project, the P1.8 billion spent for the original project but was wasted due to the realignment, and the reportedly overpriced payment of P141 million in right-of-way for Villar's real estate companies.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, however, contested the findings of the committee report as running counter to the testimones of some of the witnesses. He said government witnesses summoned by the Senate had testified that there was no realignment of the government road projects in Parañaque and Las Piñas and no misappropriation of funds for the same.

'Substantial, credible evidence'

In the report, Enrile said there was "substantial, credible evidence" to show that Villar and his wife, Congresswoman Cynthia Villar, owned 100% of Adelfa Corp, which is the holding company that owns Golden Haven Memorial Park and Azalea Property Corp., now Brittany.

He said the two real estate firms earned billions of pesos after the government bought their properties for two road projects namely the Las Piñas-Parañaque link road and the C-5 road extension project.

He said documentary evidence and the testimonies of several witnesses, including former Adelfa senior VP and general manager Anastacio Adriano Jr., showed that properties owned by Villar's real estate companies that were acquired for the road right-of-way projects were overpriced and given zonal valuation for different areas from the areas where they were situated.

"It is fair and safe to assume that Senator Villar knew and ought to have known of the said overpricing as his corporations stood to gain from such transactions from the government and considering the closeness of Sen. Villar to Adriano," Enrile said.

He noted that Villar used his influence as House Speaker to appropriate funds for the Las Piñas-Parañaque link road. He said Villar continued to fund the project when he was already a senator, as chairman of the Senate committee on finance, and when he was Senate president.

Enrile said there was a conflict of interest when Villar failed to divulge that his real estate companies stood to benefit from the road projects. He said that instead of benefiting from the road projects, Villar should have donated the land to the government.

He also scored Villar for refusing to appear in 12 Senate adjudicatory hearings to investigate allegations that his real estate companies benefited from government road projects in Parañaque and Las Piñas.

Villar has refused to appear in the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry, saying that some members of the panel were his opponents in the presidential race.

'No conflict of interest'

In Villar's defense, Cayetano said the senator's real estate firm is just one of the developers who benefited from road right-of-way projects. He cited an 1999 opinion of former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas that there is no impropriety when government decides to enter into contract with a real estate firm owned by a member of Congress.

"He [Cuevas] said if the government wants to take over your property, there is no conflict of interest because the government has a project. The government is taking over your property. If Villar's companies had not dealt with government, the properties would have been expropriated. It would be a forced purchase. The difference is that in expropriation, the owner could contest the fair market value of the price. Villar could have earned more through expropriation," he said.

Cayetano also chastised senators for accusing Villar of cowardice when he refused to appear before the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry.

"It is not true that a person is a coward just because he chooses the venue where he will defend himself. It means he has the qualities of a true president. It means he will not drag down his office because one senator or a couple of senators believe that they will win the election by throwing the C-5 issue and wanting the debate here on the floor," he said.

He also noted a sentence in the Senate Commmittee of the Whole report assuming Villar's guilt despite no direct evidence linking him to the overpricing of the properties.

"Since when have we had the right to assume? We will say in the report "there is no direct evidence" and then say he is guilty. This report would not have been released if not for politics. We should investigate who signed this report," he said.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jamby to file plunder raps vs Villar

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jamby Madrigal on Tuesday reiterated that she would elevate the ethics complaint she filed at the Senate against Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Back in June 2009, gathered that Madrigal intends to file graft raps against Villar for allegedly using his position to gain millions from the C-5 road extension project.

Madrigal said she will be soon be filing plunder charges against the presidential contender

The senator’s move came following the decision of 12 of her colleagues to sign a report of the Senate Committee of the Whole ordering Villar to pay the government P6.2 billion, the amount the government allegedly spent for the rerouting needed by the C-5 road extension project.

The P6.2 billion includes the following:

  • P4 billion pesos for the road extension project;
  • P1.8 billion for the original design of the project;
  • P141 million for the right-of-way paid to Villar’s real estate companies, Adelfa Properties Inc. and Golden Haven Memorial Park.

No quorum
Meanwhile, the plenary debate over the Committee of the Whole report on the C-5 controversy was stalled on Tuesday due to the absence of a quorum.

Only 10 – out of the needed majority or 12 senators – showed up.

Those who showed up on Tuesday were:

  • Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile;
  • Sen. Jamby Madrigal;
  • Sen. Manuel Roxas II;
  • Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri;
  • Sen. Jinggoy Estrada;
  • Sen. Benigno Aquino III;
  • Sen. Gregorio Honasan;
  • Sen. Rodolfo Biazon;
  • Sen. Francis Escudero;
  • Sen. Richard Gordon.

Six of the 12 senators who were absent on Tuesday are on official business. They include Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Pia Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel, and Villar’s running mate Loren Legarda.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a guest candidate in Villar's Nacionalista Party (NP), was reportedly sick.

Those who were absent - Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Lito Lapid, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Villar - allegedly did not give official reasons for their absences at Tuesday's session.

This pushed a visibly irked Roxas to move for the cancellation of official business as a cause of absence. He added that the Senate has only 7 days left to work on pending measures.

Sen. Estrada, on the other hand, stressed that no less than the 1987 Constitution mandates lawmakers to take up committee reports at the plenary.

Miriam: Acquit Villar
Meanwhile, Santiago chose to clear Villar of the charges linking him to the C-5 road extension project in the absence of "direct evidence."

Santiago, in a statement, explained that a Senate ethics probe should only base its conclusion on unimpeachable evidence, or proof beyond doubt, and not only on "credible substantial evidence," as stated in the draft of the committee report.

The senator said that since the ethical raps investigated by the Committee of the Whole merit a severe form of penalty such as suspension or even expulsion, the strength of proof presented against the respondent should be akin to the level of evidence accepted in criminal cases.

“The Senate may punish any member for disorderly behavior, and may either go to the extent of suspending the senator, or expelling him. This being the case, since the penalty can be as high as expulsion, an ethics investigation can, in effect, even impose the capital punishment on a senator, by expelling him from the Senate. Hence, the standard of proof should be the same as the standard of proof in criminal cases: 'proof beyond reasonable doubt'," the legislator said.

“The draft committee report admits that there is 'no direct evidence' against Sen. Villar. This being so, the lack of direct evidence does not meet the standard of 'proof beyond reasonable doubt.' This is why I voted to acquit him,” she said.

Changed position
Santiago, a guest candidate of six political parties, including Villar's NP, has been consistent in her vote. She also signed a resolution last year exonerating Villar of the charges.

Two of the 12 senators who signed the draft of the committee report – Estrada and Pangilinan – also signed a resolution last December nixing the allegations against Villar.

But Estrada withdrew his signature late last year in response to criticisms that he gained something in return.

Pangilinan, on the other hand, explained that he adopted the position of the Liberal Party, which he is a member of. The LP wants the report taken up at the plenary.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Friday, January 22, 2010

Teachers to get P4,300 for poll duties

P30-M fund set up for poll-related casualties

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday announced that public school teachers who serve as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in May will get P4,300 each.

"Our teachers need to be fully compensated as they perform central roles in this political exercise," DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus said in a statement.

The statement followed the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Lapus and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo.

Lapus said the MOA signing for teachers's compensation is only part of a "series of cumulative measures" to ensure clean, honest and peaceful automated local and national elections on May 10.

The DepEd said that even before the MOA signing, Education Undersecretary Franklin Sunga and Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal had come up with an agreement on the teachers' compensation package last December.

Based on the MOA signed, teachers who will serve as election inspectors will receive P3,000 each, plus P300 transportation allowance.

Another P500 will be given for inspection, verification, and sealing of book of voters, plus another P500 for inspection, verification, and sealing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

The MOA also provides that team leaders, including school heads, principals and education supervisors who are not members of the BEI, but will supervise certain precincts will receive P3,000.

Even school janitors and messengers who will be assigned in voting precincts during the elections will also get P1,500 each while members of the board of canvassers in the municipal, city and provincial levels will get P5,000.

Aside from the allowances, the DepEd said the Comelec has pledged a P30-million fund for "election-related deaths or injuries" that may involve teachers while performing their poll duties.

It said that each family of a "deceased" teacher or DepEd employee will receive P200,000.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Lab testing of automated poll process starts

Simulated voting and transmission in 5 local governments to be conducted Wednesday

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) begins today the series of "end-to-end" tests on the automated election system that will be used nationwide in the May presidential and local elections.

The 5-day laboratory tests, to be conducted initially at a secure warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, will tackle all the election day activities--from the reading of the ballots by the counting machines, the transmission of the data, and the canvassing of votes.

Seventy-five precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines will be tested initially. There are now 25,700 machines from Smartmatic that are in Comelec custody. The rest of the total 82,200 machines will be shipped in batches from Taiwan.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters on Thursday that under this test, the empty machines and laptop will be loaded with the software designed for reading and canvassing votes. Sample ballots will then be fed onto the machines. Mock votes will be counted and transmitted, and results will be canvassed by the laptop.

The software to be used for the tests, however, is the uncertified version. Larrazabal said that the software will undergo 3 more tests for certification in Colorado, USA.

Larrazabal said the lab tests should help the Comelec spot any probable problems at any stage of the process. “These are some procedures to be taken to test the accuracy, security, and functionality of the system,” he said.

He added that Smartmatic conducted last weekend its own “end-to-end” testing of the machines, in which the company saw no problems with the machine functions. “That will be verified in this lab test,” he said.


Representatives of the Technical Evaluation Committee, the Department of Science and Technology, the Commission Advisory Counsel, Smartmatic-TIM, and Comelec will participate in the test, which will be conducted entirely in the warehouse.

After the lab tests, the poll body will then proceed with the field tests on January 27.

The field tests, just like the lab tests, will also simulate the entire voting process to determine the voting, counting, and canvassing functions of the machines. The field tests will be conducted simultaneously in real polling precincts to get an idea of pobable conditions on election day.

The poll body selected 2 precincts, each to be serviced by 1 PCOS machine, in the following cities and municipalities for the testing:

  • Pateros
  • Taguig City
  • Bakun, Benguet
  • Naga City, Cebu
  • Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Larrazabal said that the General Instructions for the first nationwide automated elections “specified that there should be urban and rural areas tested.” A mix of cities and municipalities were chosen to see different election day conditions.

“[The field tests] will show that the system should work not only in the urban centers but also in rural areas all over the country,” Larrazabal said.

Larrazabal said that the lab and field tests are “internal testings” only, and a nationwide mock test will be done on February 6. Details of the mock test, however, will be revealed next week yet.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comelec uncovers 300,000 fingerprint matches in voters' records

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday uncovered more than 300,000 fingerprint matches from the records of voters who registered for the 2010 elections.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the poll body's barangay affairs and information and technology departments discovered the multiple registrants after auditing biometrics records of some 10 million registered voters in the National Capital Region, Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

"With the use of biometrics, we are able to discover those who registered more than once. They cannot question this because walang kawala ang fingerprints," Sarmiento told ABS-CBN.

The Comelec official said that of the 315,307 fingerprint matches undergoing initial verification, 43,902 were already found to be identical "beyond reasonable doubt" after they rated 99.9% of similiarty based on the Comelec's automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS).

Sarmiento said double and multiple registrants will only be allowed to vote once in the precinct where they first registered. He noted that some of the voters could have registered twice after changing addresses.

The Omnibus Election Code states that any person found guilty of double/multiple registration shall be punished with imprisonment of 1 to 6 years. The guilty party shall also be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of his right to suffrage.

Erratum - An earlier version of the report erroneously indicated that 300,000 double registrants have been uncovered. 300,000 fingerpint matches (not persons or voters) were found and are still undergoing verification, of which 43,902 fingerprint matches were already found to be identical "beyond reasonable doubt".

Source: ABS-CBN News

Remonde dies after heart attack

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - Press Secretary Cerge Remonde died Tuesday morning after suffering a major heart attack.

Doctors at the Makati Medical Center declared him dead at 11:51 a.m..

Remonde was found unconscious in his home Tuesday morning and was brought to the Makati Medical Center (MMC).

In an statement issued at around 1 p.m., Dr. Eric Nubla of the MMC said "Remonde was brought to the emergency department at Makati Medical Center at about 11:20 a.m. He was unconscious, not breathing, there was no heart beat."

"Attempts were made to resuscitate him. Despite heroic measures, he expired at 11:51 a.m. He was 51 years old," Nubla said.

Asked what the cause of death was, he said: "We cannot say that because no autopsy was made."

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar earlier told dzMM that Remonde, suffered a "major heart incident" in his house in Bel-Air, Makati City.

He was found slumped and unconscious inside the bathroom.

Prayer in Facebook profile

Strangely, Remonde's last post on his Facebook profile was a prayer to be "released from fear and worry." The shoutout, which was posted at 6:51 p.m., reads as follows:

"Lord, thank You for the infinite love that meets our every need and provides all the beautiful and wonderful things we experience in life. Release our hearts and minds from fear and worry. Fill us with Your peace as we learn to fully trust in your providence. Help us to do all that we are capable of and the rest we entrust unto You. Amen."

Read the whole story at ABS-CBN News.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nomination for new justice chief opened

THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) unanimously voted Monday to open the nomination for the still-to-be vacated position of Chief Justice, but decided to defer the submission of a shortlist of nominees to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the eight-man council, during its en banc meeting, decided to start the process of filling up the position to be vacated by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who is set to retire on May 17, 2010.

Puno’s date of retirement is well within the election period that prohibits the President from making appointments.

“There is urgency to come up with a shortlist but there is no urgency to submit it (to the President),” Marquez told reporters in a press briefing.

The JBC is a constitutional body mandated to screen and recommend nominees to vacant judicial posts.

Puno is an ex-officio member of the JBC, while other members are Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Senator Chiz Escudero, Representative Matias Defensor, retired SC justice Regino Hermosisima, Dean Amado Dimayuga Jr., lawyer J. Conrado Castro, and retired Court of Appeals (CA) justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman.

Marquez said the JBC will publish the opening of the position for applications or recommendations so that the members could soon deliberate on the list of candidates and publish the names of candidate.

Read the whole story at

Will Arroyo retain Ibrado as AFP chief?

MANILA, Philippines - Will there be a new face at the helm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by March or will President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stick it out with current military chief Gen. Victor Ibrado?

Ibrado is due to retire on March 10, the day before the election appointments ban takes effect. The president is barred from making new appointments two months before the elections and until the end of her term.

But pivotal to the 2010 elections is the president’s next move with regard to the leadership of the military. Ensuring security during elections, which includes monitoring the gun ban, falls partly on the shoulders of the AFP.

The AFP and the Philippine National Police will also play key roles in choosing the next president if there will be failure of elections in May 2010, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The 2010 polls will also show if the AFP has learned its lessons following the "Hello Garci" election fraud scandal in the 2004 presidential race.


Former military chief Sen. Rodolfo Biazon says he would prefer that Ibrado stay in his post just to erase any doubt of partisanship of the military.

“I’m pushing for the extension of his term,” he said in a telephone interview with

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. has said that under the Arroyo administration, term extension has been a common practice.

Out of the 10 military chiefs she has appointed in 9 years, Arroyo has extended the term of four – Esperon, Roy Cimatu, Efren Abu and Benjamin Defensor.

Rumors cropped up last year, however, that Ibrado would be dislodged from his post by elite members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, which includes Army commander Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit. The ouster was called "Oplan August Moon."

If the alleged operation succeeds, Bangit will purportedly be installed as AFP chief. The AFP has repeatedly denied that such a plan exists.

Interim appointment

With or without such an "operation," however, reports of Bangit as Arroyo’s prime pick to replace Ibrado have persisted. His name was floated as the next AFP chief as early as May 2009 when Gen. Alexander Yano retired.

Bangit was Arroyo’s senior military aide when she was vice president. He later served as chief of the Presidential Security Group.

If Arroyo lets go of Ibrado and opts to appoint somebody in an acting capacity, observers say that Bangit is a shoo-in, although Brawner says that there are other contenders, such as AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen Rodrigo Maclang and Vice Admiral Leonardo Calderon Jr.

Ibrado’s replacement will stay only until after the elections. The next president can renew his appointment and make it permanent, or he may choose a new AFP chief of staff.

As of now, the public is waiting for Arroyo’s decision. She may make an announcement on changes in the AFP leadership on March 1 during the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation.

AFP and Ampatuans

All eyes are now on the military after the Commission on Elections said it plans to resurrect the former’s expanded role in elections. Upon the candidates’ requests, soldiers may be allowed to serve as their security escorts, just like in 2004.

The suggestion came just as security forces were reeling from allegations that policemen and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) were used by the Ampatuan warlords to execute the election-related massacre last November 23.

No less than Ibrado admitted that some of the firearms seized from the Ampatuans belonged to the AFP, though he put the initial number of guns at a miniscule 32.

The killings were allegedly carried out to stop the Ampatuans' rival for the Maguindanao gubernatorial post, Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, from filing his certificate of candidacy.

Ghosts of 2004

In 2005, some military generals were implicated in the alleged cheating in Mindanao after they were mentioned in the taped conversations between election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and a woman believed to be President Arroyo. The conversations took place during the 2004 polls.

Then deputy chief of staff for operations Brig. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon was one of those mentioned. But he was absolved by the military board and was later promoted as chief of staff.

One of the generals who testified in a Senate hearing that the military had a hand in the election fraud in Maguindanao, Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, was removed from his post.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Key issues Aquino, Erap, Gibo, Villar must address

MANILA - Philippine opposition senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino has taken an initial lead in opinion polls for the May presidential elections, but no clear favourite has emerged because candidates have not revealed their platforms.

Analysts say the presidential race will hurt local markets in a big way if the elections do not produce credible results, while a smooth transition of power will likely boost investments in local stocks and debt papers.

Here are some questions and answers on major economic and political issues markets want the top four presidential candidates to address:


BENIGNO AQUINO - Aquino's phenomenal rise in popularity polls can be traced to an outpouring of emotion after the death of his mother, the country's revered democracy icon Corazon Aquino, in August 2009 and his campaign promise to fight corruption in government.

He vowed in his political ads and website to be the country's first and most determined corruption fighter, but he has not given details.

Unlike his three main rivals, he has not been involved in any corruption scandal and he has lived simply, opting to reside in the same house he grew up in.

MANUEL VILLAR - Billionaire lawmaker Villar, ranking second in most polls, has been linked to a multi-million dollar infrastructure project allegedly inserted in the national budget. His opponents say the project was aimed at benefitting his family's property company.

He promises to fight graft, which he said has contributed to poor delivery of services and bad infrastructure, but also has not given details.

JOSEPH ESTRADA - Former president Estrada was ousted from office in 2001, later convicted of plunder and then pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight corruption and nepotism.

Estrada was known during his three-year rule for throwing midnight parties with gambling and drinking buddies.

GILBERTO TEODORO - Although former defence chief Gilberto Teodoro has never been involved in any irregularity, his close association with Arroyo, who has been hounded by corruption issues since 2005, weighs him down.

During his term as defence chief, Teodoro suspended a multi-million dollar deal to acquire combat helicopters due to allegations of bribery and contract fixing.


AQUINO - Aquino has an economics degree but no experience as an economist. He has yet to lay down a clear platform on how to address the budget deficit problem and the market is nervous about how he will tackle the revenue shortfall given his little executive or managerial experience.

VILLAR - Villar has vowed to be prudent in state spending to cut the budget deficit, now at record levels, and raise revenues. He promised to raise the country's revenue to GDP ratio from 12 percent to 17 percent, but did not give details on the specific measures he will undertake.

ESTRADA - Estrada has not given details on his fiscal programme but in his short-lived presidency during the Asian financial crisis, he kept a tight rein on spending to limit the fiscal shortfall.

TEODORO - Teodoro is widely expected to continue the current government's fiscal programme, which aims to balance the budget by 2013.


AQUINO - In his website, Aquino said he will pursue a broadly supported peace deal with Muslim rebels that will address decades of neglect. His running mate and the leader of his political party, Senator Manuel Roxas III, opposed a government deal expanding the autonomy for Muslims that led to an escalation of conflict in Mindanao in 2008.

VILLAR - He has said in public debates that poverty is the root of the the peace and order problem in the southern Mindanao region. He said state resources must be poured into the region if the government was serious in uplifting the lives of people in Mindano.

ESTRADA - He advocated iron-fisted policies to defeat communist and secessionist rebels during his administration and is expected to assume the same stance when elected.

TEODORO - As a former defence secretary, Teodoro is well placed to tackle the communist and Muslim insurgency issues. Like all the other candidates, he favours holding peace talks to end the insurgencies that have killed more than 160,000 people and displaced 2 million. He has also said the government must invest in increased police and military visibility in Mindanao to eradicate private armies.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Friday, January 15, 2010

Comelec: Late training because teachers might forget

MANILA, Philippines - A Commission on Elections (Comelec) official said Friday that the late training of teachers in operating the voting machines for the 2010 automated elections was intentional.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said they feel that the teachers would forget the things they would learn in the precinct optical scan (PCOS) training if it was done earlier.

"The training was designed to be done in March so that it would still be fresh. If you do it early, they (teachers) might forget," Larrazabal told radio dzMM in an interview.

Comelec's legal chief, Ferdinand Rafanan, had also brushed aside issues raised by teachers on the late PCOS training.

Rafanan said teachers would only be taught to input a 2-password security key into the PCOS voting machines.

"After that they would be doing nothing. Almost 90 percent of their task in the [2010] elections would still be manual," he said.

The training of teachers in operating the PCOS machines has been moved to March 1, less than 2 months before the May 10 elections. Rafanan said the Comelec is confident that the teachers' training would be concluded in one month.

Meanwhile, Larrazabal said the Comelec is expecting that all 82,000 PCOS machines would be delivered on February 21.

He said that the Comelec has a scheduled conference with officials of the Department of Education on the same date. The conference would tackle the main responsibilities of teachers, who will act as Board of Election Inspectors in the automated elections on May 10.

Several groups have raised fears of a failure of elections because of the delays on the Comelec's election calendar. The delays have been attributed to the delayed delivery of the PCOS machines from China that are being produced by the winning bidders' group, Smartmatic-TIM.

Teachers also fear that they would be used as scapegoats in case confusion mars the automated elections, which would be a first in Philippine electoral history.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Palace officials call Noynoy 'arrogant, ignorant'

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang officials lashed back at Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, calling him arrogant and ignorant for saying that he will not recognize a Supreme Court chief justice appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"A combination of arrogance and ignorance. As presidential candidate, you have to respect the current dispensation. A Constitution has three branches, you do not threaten a co-equal branch," Prospero Pichay, President Arroyo's political affairs adviser, said in a press conference in Malacañang.

Pichay was reacting to Aquino's statement on Thursday that he will not recognize the next chief justice who may be appointed by President Arroyo.

Aquino also warned Supreme Court justices from accepting an appointment by Mrs. Arroyo as the next chief justice. He said the justices would be risking his or her presence in the Court as an associate member.

Aquino made the statement on the assumption that he will be elected as the next president.

The senator's statement was a reaction to debates on whether Mrs. Arroyo is allowed by law to appoint a replacement for retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno while there is a ban on midnight appointments.

Puno will retire on May 17, which is within the constitutional midnight appointments ban of an outgoing President.

Pichay said Aquino's threat against SC justices was a "big blunder" and a sign that "he will become a dangerous president."

"Even Marcos didn't threaten the judiciary," the presidential adviser said, referring to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Pichay also insisted that appointment of a new chief justice does not have to go through the Judicial Bar Council, which vets nominees to the judiciary.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, meanwhile, said that there could be a "failure of assumption" to the presidency if there is still no appointed new chief justice who will swear in the next elected president.

"Baka magka-failure of assumption imbes na failure of elections," Remonde said.

He also defended Mrs. Arroyo's appointments of all the incumbent justices in the high court, insisting that it was President Arroyo's job to fill up the posts.

He said the political opposition is just trying to twist the issue and use it as a campaign tool in the elections.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poll chief worries over automated elections

MANILA -- With only four months to go before the anticipated automated elections, Comelec chairman Jose Melo admitted Monday that he worries over the circumstances that might occur before the May 2010 poll.

Melo, who regarded these problems as "birth pains," said that from a scale of 1 to 10, the rating of the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) level of preparedness is only 8.

He confessed that he worries on the upcoming use of the 82,200 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines this May. Out of the more than 80 thousand machines, only 7,200 arrived before 2009 ended.

In a news conference Monday, Melo said that apart from the delivery of the remaining machines, there are still some problems that bother him.

"In so far as holding automated elections is concerned, our confidence level is high...but there are these problems. It bothers us also," he said.

Read the whole story at

Comelec reinstates Perlas, Lim as 2010 candidates

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday reinstated Nicanor Perlas and detained Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim as official candidates for president and senator, respectively, in 2010.

The inclusion of the 2 in the official list of candidates for president and senator was announced after the Comelec En Banc session.

The other presidential candidates earlier recognized by the Comelec are:

1. Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Liberal Party

2. former President Joseph Estrada, Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino

3. Senator Manuel Villar, Nacionalista Party

4. Senator Richard Gordon, Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines

5. Senator Jamby Madrigal, Independent

6. former Department of National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Lakas-Kampi-CMD

7. Jesus is Lord leader Eddie Villanueva, Bangon Pilipinas

8. Olongapo City Councilor John Carlos de los Reyes, Ang Kapatiran Party

The initial list of official candidates for senator includes:

1. Nereus Acosta Jr. - LP
2. Sharuff Ibrahim Albani - KBL
3. Zafrullah Alonto - Bangon Pilipinas
4. Ana Theresia Baraquel - LP
5. JV Larion Bautista - PMP

6. Martin Bautista - LP
7. Silvestre Bello III - Lakas-Kampi-CMD
8. Rozzano Rufino Biazon - LP
9. Bong Revilla - Lakas-Kampi-CMD
10. Henry Caunan - PDP-Laban

11. Pia Cayetano - NP
12. Rizalito David - Ang Kapatiran
13. Joey De Venecia - PMP
14. Miriam Defensor Santiago - People's Reform Party
15. Franklin Drilon - LP

16. Juan Ponce Enrile - PMP
17. Jinggoy Estrada - PMP
18. Ramon Guico - Lakas-Kampi-CMD
19. Teofisto Guingona III - LP
20. Jo Aurea Imbong - Ang Kapatiran

21. Kata Inocencio - Bangon Pilipinas
22. Alexander Lacson - LP
23. Raul Lambino - Lakas-Kampi-CMD
24. Rey Langit - Lakas-Kampi-CMD
25. Yasmin Lao - LP

26. Lito Lapid - Lakas-Kampi/Command
27. Alma Lood - KBL
28. Apolinario Lozada - PMP
29. Regalado Maambong - KBL
30. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr - NP

31. Liza Maza - Independent
32. Ma Judea Millora - KBL
33. Ramon Mitra - NP
34. Ramoncito Ocampo - Bangon Pilipinas
35. Satur Ocampo - Bayan Muna Party

36. Susan Ople - NP
37. Sergio Osmeña III - Independent
38. Jovito Palparan Jr. - Independent
39. Imelda Papin - KBL
40. Zosimo Paredes - Ang Kapatiran

41. Gwendolyn Pimentel - PDP Laban
42. Rodolfo Plaza - NPC
43. Reynaldo Princesa - Bangon Pilipinas
44. Ariel Querubin - NP
45. Ralph Recto - LP

46. Gilbert Remulla - NP
47. Ma. Gracia Riñoza-Plazo - Ang Kapatiran
48. Sonia Roco - LP
49. Adrian Sison - Ang Kapatiran
50. Vicente Sotto III - NPC

51. Adel Tamano - NP
52. Reginald Tamayo - Ang Kapatiran
53. Hector Tarrazona - Ang Kapatiran
54. Francisco Tatad - Grand Alliance For Democracy/Gabaybayan
55. Alexander Tinsay - Bangon Pilipinas

56. Manuel Valdehuesa Jr. - Ang Kapatiran
57. Hector Villanueva - KBL
58. Israel Virgines - Bangon Pilipinas

Source: ABS-CBN News

Estrada on Palace comeback: That’s destiny

MANILA, Philippines - “I’m coming back. That’s destiny.”

Joseph Estrada, who is running for president again in the May election, made this vow in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday after returning to Malacañang almost nine years after his ouster to attend a National Security Council meeting.

The former President admitted he missed the Palace, especially the “everyday course of the presidency.”

“It’s almost nine years today since I left Malacañang. That was Jan. 21,” said the actor-turned-politician.

Estrada, 71, was forced to step down in 2001 after only two and a half years in office by a people power uprising dubbed Edsa II. He was replaced by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He was later convicted of plunder but was promptly pardoned by Ms Arroyo in 2007.

Estrada said he felt a bit awkward while sitting in Heroes Hall during the meeting that tackled private armies and other security concerns in preparation for the elections.

“It’s something new to me because before it was GMA who used to be seated to my right. Now I was the one seated to her right,” he said in Filipino, referring to the seating protocol when he was president and Ms Arroyo was vice president.

Seated to Ms Arroyo’s left was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and across from them were Vice President Noli De Castro and Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Rodolfo Biazon.

Read the whole story at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aquino leads rivals in Facebook face-off

THE leading contenders for the presidency are not too old for Facebook.

In the digital race to get more “fans” and online “supporters,” Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party is ahead of the pack.

So far, on their official pages in the online social networking site, Aquino has 210,988 supporters; Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party), 158,016 fans, plus 2,756 in two other Facebook public profiles; former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), 26,907 fans and 3,100 supporters; Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan), 2,894 supporters, and former President Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), 4,050 supporters.

Estrada has another Facebook account with 421 fans.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal (independent) has 201 fans, while the two youth group accounts of Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran) have 861 and 71 members.

The Inquirer made the count at 3 p.m. Saturday, but the figures continued to change at press time.

Read the whole story at

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Comelec projects 80% turnout for 2010 polls

Says more people are interested in casting their votes because of the new, automated system

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is projecting an 80% voter turnout--or 40 million votes to be cast--this year, higher than the average 75% it normally set in previous polls.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters Friday that more voters will be keen on casting their votes to try the new, automated system. Another factor that will increase voters' interest are the fact that it's a presidential election, and there are a number of "interesting" candidates.

"In the run up to this election, we have to understand that [election-related matters] are always in the news.... ...So, we really expect that it (the interest generated) will translated into voting numbers on election day," Jimenez said.

Citing projections made by the National Census and Statistics Office, Jimenez said the target 50 million voters population for the 2010 elections has been exceeded.

As of September last year, the total number of registered voters was at P50,086,054, and the clustered precincts reached 75,471. The numbers are still subject to change due to the continuous cleansing of voters list, and the additional voters from the extended registration.

New registrants
Jimenez also reported that, as of now, the current number of voters generated by extended registration has already reached 258,691. Comelec is still waiting for statistics from 2 municipalities in Sulu to finalize the tally of late registrants. The extended voters ran December 21-23, and 28-29.

The current statistics of late registrants is a far cry from the 2 million registrants that Kabataan partylist expected to be listed up. The partylist lobbied last year for the extension of the voters registration, which the Supreme Court granted.

In a press conference last Wednesday, commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that the threshold on the number of expected voters had been reached during the regular registration. "A lot of people have already registerd. I guess we've reached our target."

But Kabataabn partylist earlier said that even though the Comelec deemed that there was a low turnout in the extended registration, having more than 250,000 registrants for just 5 days is already a success.


Friday, January 8, 2010

4 Nacionalista local bets slain in a week

MANILA, Philippines - Nacionalista Party's presidential candidate, Sen. Manny Villar, sees a pattern of "persecution of those wearing NP colors" with 4 of the party's candidates killed in a week, almost 3 months before the 2010 national elections.

"We are just on the seventh day of the new year and we already have lost four of our local candidates to assassinations. Have we become endangered political species?" Villar said in a statement on Thursday.

Villar said retired policeman Julio Esquivias killed last Tuesday was a candidate of the NP for councilor in Casirugan town in Sorsogon province.

Reports said that the retired policeman has been leading local election surveys before he was shot to death 10 times by a motorcycle-riding gunman.

Villar said Esquivias's killing followed the "assassinations" of 3 other NP local members he identified as Cipriano Albores, a former councilman of Barangay Kinangan in Malita, Daval del Sur and organizer of the Manny Villar for President Movement in the province; Wilbert Origines, barangay leaders' president and a the NP's candidate for vice-mayor in Taganaan, Surigao del Norte; and Joen Canete, NP's candidate for councilor in Dingras, Ilocos Norte.

"Because they can't be beaten fair and square they were beaten in a manner most foul. There is no other explanation for their tragic fate other than this: They were killed because they were winning," the senator said.

The senator said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and security forces should act immediately against the election-related killings in hotspot areas.

He added that killing political opponents defeats the purpose of the Comelec's effort to rid election cheating by fully automating the 2010 elections.

"We may be able to modernize the way we vote and count the vote but can we really claim progress if some of us still resort to the Stone Age practice of just bludgeoning the opponent?" Villar said.

The police have identified 14 provinces as election hotspots, including Samar, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Maguidanao, Basilan, Sulu, Nueva Ecija, Abra, Surigao, Zamboanga Sibugay, Sarangani, Eastern Samar, Western Samar, and Antique.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines said additional troops will be deployed to the hotspots to prevent the anticipated increase in election violence in the next 11 weeks before the May 2010 elections.


Overseas voters want extended registration, too

Petitioner says SC decision to extend local listup should also apply to Pinoys abroad

Following the Supreme Court order to extend the registration of voters, as petitioned by a party-list group, a group of overseas Filipinos on Friday asked that a similar extension be extended to voters based abroad.

In her petition filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Maritess Salientes Bloom, a Filipina residing in Boston, Massachussetts, requested for 28 additional days for the registration of overseas absentee voters.

Registration for overseas absentee voting (OAV) was held from February 1 to August 31, 2009.

In her petition, Bloom stated that the August 31 deadline for registration "is utterly insufficient to accomodate first time [overseas] youth registrants and voters."

Filipinos in certain countried have complained about how far Philippine embassies or consulates are from their areas, so it's difficult for them to register.

The petition also called for "equal protection of law," in which the Supreme Court's decision to extend local registration should be applied to them.

'Our dollars help'
Loida Lewis, chairman emeritus of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), told reporters Friday that the petition is "a very legitimate request" as it shows their "fundamental right as a citizen."

"Maanu naman bang they give us the right to register and vote. That's very simple we're asking as Filipinos," Lewis added, as she explained how dollar remittances of OFWs helped the local economy.

Lewis, who represented the petitioner, said they should have asked for 4 months extension of registration. She said that the local registration started 2 months ahead of the OAV registration, but still the OAV registration ended 2 months earlier.

"Lugi na kami ng 4 months. Pero ang hinihingi lang namin, by taking the exact application of the law, meron pa kaming 28 days," she said.

Lewis met on Friday with Commissioner Armando Velasco, who handles OAV affairs. Velasco told Lewis that he will be bringing the petition to their en banc meeting on Monday.

Final list already printed
Lewis expects that the poll body will immediately decide on the petition and hopefully start the extended registration on January 15, 5 days after the en banc meeting. If this schedule will push through, OAV extended registration will end on February 14. "If you give it to us next week, just say it's a valentine's gift."

But in an interview with reporters, Velasco said that they might have a hard time implementing the extension of OAV registration, since the list of OAV has been finalized last month.

"Mukhang mahihirapan kami na mag-implement. Na-print na ang certified list of voters, ready na for distribution," he said.

In the final tally of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), 589,830 overseas Filipino are registered to vote in next year's poll. Among them are 224,884 new registrants.


Copyright 2009 Election 2010. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan