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BCDA, PPP DESTROYER

Foreign (investors) have not come in ….The risk is bigger not on the market side. The risk that they are worried about is Government.”

by Ducky Paredes

We all support any move to institutionalize public-private partnerships (PPPs) as the game-changer that could attract more and bigger foreign investors into the country.

Foreign investors see the government’s ability to deliver on project terms as the biggest uncertainty, according to executive director Manolito Madrasto of the Philippine Constructors Association Inc. “Foreign (investors) have not come in. The risk is bigger not on the market side. The risk that they are worried about is Government,” he says.

The elusive, hoped-for rush of foreign direct investments (FDIs) will probably stay away for so long as there are the wrong bureaucrats and there are state-run firms engaged in the odd business of spooking investors by screwing private partner-developers in the government’s special economic zones (SEZs).

The systematic and relentless manner by which the BCDA, on Arnel Casanova’s watch, tightened the screws on the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo) in Baguio City and SM Land Inc. (SMLI) in Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City (BGC)will drive investors away.

Casanova even outdid himself at Camp John Hay (CJH) this month following the Feb. 11 decision by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. (PDRCI) to (1) rescind the original CJH lease accord, (2) order the BCDA to return P1.42 billion in rentals thus far paid by its lessee, CJHDevCo, and (3) order CJHDevCo.) to return to BCDA its leased 247-hectare property.

After applying strong-arm tactics against CJHDevCo for several years running—topped by an aborted government attempt to forcibly take over the leased property in 2012 and another one last month—Casanova and BCDA have, in the aftermath of the Feb. 11 ruling, started bullying sub-locators, concessionaires and lot owners who had in good faith acquired 50-year leases on properties at what has been transformed by its private developer into the No. 1 eco-tourism destination in the North.

* * *

In their latest post-PDRCI statement, Casanova and BCDA legal services chief Peter Paul Flores said BCDA will not honor the sub-lease agreements of CJHDevCo since BCDA was never privy to these transactions. They, tell the the concerned sub-locators and other lease-contract holders to instead run after their lessor, CJHDevCo..

This is the latest silly and stupid of Casanova and BCDA. The truth is that neither BCDA nor Casanova have the power nor the authority to bully the sub-locators, concessionaires and lot owners, let alone cancel their legitimate sub-lease contracts with CJHDevCo.

In fact, Casanova and BCDA are not even in a position to order CJHDevCo to vacate its leased CJH property until:

The Writ of Execution has been issued by the Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) affirming the rescission of the lease agreement as ordered last Feb. 11 by the PDRCI; and

BCDA has refunded the money reward of P1.42 billion to CJHDevCo as so ordered by the PDRCI.

Until such time that the Baguio RTC affirms the PDRCI ruling and BCDA settles its P1.42-billion refund, CJHDevCo shall continue under the law to exercise possession, control and management of CJH to maintain peace and order, assure the safety of residents, and enable its sub-locators and sub-lessees to conduct their business as usual.

* * *

And even if both these conditions are met,  Casanova and BCDA still cannot run after the sub-locators, concessionaires and lot owners because, according to CJHDevCo:

The BCDA simply cannot alter any part of the lease contracts for any and all properties leased by CJHDevco to third parties;

Homes, condotels and Golf Club were all issued building permits by the BCDA itself, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC).

BCDA consented to all sub-leases within CJH when it expressly gave CJHDevCo the right to sub-lease various areas;.

BCDA is likewise aware that the various properties were sublet to third parties in good faith.

In fact, BCDA is in possession of the various contracts covering these properties and has never raised any objection to them; 

These sub-lease holders enjoy 50-year rights because from the very beginning, BCDA committed to 25-year contracts renewable for another 25 years at CJHDevCo’s sole option.

This makes third-party lease contracts good until October 2046; 

Thus,, all third-party contracts in Camp John Hay were never a point of contention of PDRCI’s Arbitration Tribunal;

Article 1385 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states that an order for “mutual restitution” cannot include properties currently in the possession of third persons who have acted in good faith in acquiring them; and

CJHDevCo has assures all third-party sub-lease holders that the firm will stand by them and protect their rights and interests under their contracts, and will make available legal counsel for this purpose if and when needed.

* *

During the public affairs show Headstart on ANC, CJHDevCo executive vice president-chief operating officer (EVP-COO) Alfredo R. Yñiguez III said that BCDA officials couldn’t claim to be clueless on the details of the third-party lease agreements, including their validity for 50 years and not  just for 25 years, because:

BCDA has four members in the CJHDevCo Board of Directors, all of whom naturally had access to all information, documents and contracts pertaining to CJH; and

BCDA officials were aware from the start that the contracts were bid out as 50-year leasehold accords—25 years renewable for another 25 years at CJHDevCo’s sole option—because BCDA in fact owns five (5) log cabins and 26 condotel units, including those at two hotels (the Forest Lodge and The Manor).

There are on record 118 business enterprises like business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, restaurants and retail shops along with 85 residential buildings owned by private sub-lessees at the CJHSEZ, according to JHMC president-CEO Jamie Eloise Agbayani.

* * *

Question: What went wrong with CJH when it has amazingly been turned in less than two decades into a world-class eco-tourism hub at the country’s summer capital?

And why would its horror story be the classic case of how and why, despite the country’s successive credit-rating upgrades and the proposed passage of business-friendly come-ons like the draft PPP bill, big-time foreign investors would rather go to, say, Vietnam or Thailand, than risk their money in PPP or other big-ticket Philippine ventures?  

It is because the CJH story—as what Yñiguez has so aptly described on the ANC show—is “an example of a PPP gone bad.”

For Yñiguez, the whole problem boils down to a “relationship issue” between the lessor and lessee.

For those who have closely followed the long-running feud between the BCDA and CJHDevco over the John Hay special economic zone (JHSEZ), what Yñiguez seems to be saying is this:

This relationship issue has sabotaged CJH because Casanova and BCDA made it a priority to eject CJHDevCo over and above the far greater good of transforming the erstwhile camp into a PPP showcase, in full support of the host city of Baguio and the national government’s long-term investment program for both foreign and local business groups.

* * *

Lawmakers are also fed up with Casanova’s bully tactics against CJHDevCo and, now, against the CJH sub-locators and concessionaires that two of them—Reps. Jonathan dela Cruz and Winston Castelo—are urging Congress to investigate BCDA’s mismanagement of the JHSEZ and the reverse privatization that Casanova wants to implement following the PDRCI’s rescission of the agency’s lease accord with CJHDevCo.

In House Resolution No. 1936, Castelo wants the House special committees on bases development and on national defense to jointly look into the lapses committed by the BCDA that resulted in contract breaches in its lease agreement with CJHDevCo , notably the agency’s failure to establish the One-Stop Action Center (OSAC).

In a separate privilege similarly seeking a House investigation, Dela Cruz said the questionable acts of Casanova in mishandling CJH has a “deleterious” effect on the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which is supposed to get 50% of lease revenues under the bases conversion law.

“From the time he assumed office in 2010, Casanova made it a point to make life harder for the Sobrepeña Group even to the point of sacrificing the development of Camp John Hay and the attendant consequences thereof is beyond question,” Dela Cruz said. “His highly publicized efforts to grind the Sobrepeñas even came to a point where no less than Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan had to intervene at the last minute to ensure the opening of one of the core CJHDevCo projects—the Forest Lodge hotel—at the appointed time.”

The government’s PPP has “gone haywire resulting from the misguided, misplaced and high-handed management style of the current BCDA leadership,” he said.

* * *

Casanova, who seems to have belligerence embedded in his DNA, has reason to be mad about the outcome of the arbitration case because although the PDRCI has directed CJHDevCo to turn over the leased property plus all physical improvements on it, it at the same ordered the BCDA to return the P1.42 billion in rentals thus far paid by its lessee from the time their original lease agreement was sealed in 1999.

Worse for Casanova, the PDRCI threw out BCDA’s contention that CJHDevCo owed P3.3 billion in overdue rentals, and found BCDA guilty of contract breach in failing to put up the OSAC—as it had committed in one of the RMOAs—that was supposed to speed up the issuance of business permits of the private developer and its sub-locators and concessionaires.

Yñiguez said during the ANC program that PDRCI’s decision vindicated CJHDevCo’s position that it owed nothing to BCDA in back rentals, and ) that its operations were hobbled by the BCDA’s failure to deliver on its RMOA commitment to establish the OSAC.

As noted by Yñiguez, only 18 hectares of the 247 hectares leased by CJHDevCo from BCDA had a “developable footprint,” and the private firm had managed to develop only four hectares of the 18 hectares, primarily because of the lack of business permits to clear the way to the commercial development of the remaining 14 hectares of “developable” lots.

There are 15 existing projects, including the CJH Suites, requiring various permits that the promised OSAC was supposed to process in a month’s time but which remain pending.

 * * *

In a separate statement, CJHDevCo chairman Robert John Sobrepeña said: “We are pleased and happy with the decision of the PDRCI…and we are awaiting our lawyers’ advise on its implementation.

“We feel vindicated by the Arbitration Tribunal in upholding our position that CJHDevCo does not owe any P3.3 billion back rentals to the BCDA,” he said. “Instead, it was the finding of the Tribunal that it is BCDA which now owes us P1.42 billion as reimbursement for all our rental payments. 

* * *

What is truly unfortunate is while the BCDA has repeatedly transgressed the MOA/RMOAs to its private partner’s detriment, CJHDevCo has continued to act in good faith all these years—in unequivocal support of the government’s public-private partnership program—in  paying P1.4 billion in rentals and investing some P5 billion in various CJH facilities and other projects.

As of 2012, CJHDevco already completed 90 construction projects and was finishing another nine (9) projects in its leased area. 

These 90 completed projects include the Camp John Manor Hotel, Golf Clubhouse, CAP Convention Center, luxury log homes and forest cabins, a new main gate, a filling station of the Eco-Village, and two buildings of the Ayala Technohub.

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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Divorce / Lee Kuan Yew, 91/ President Bongbong

”Among the respondents, 16 percent have live-in partners, 63 percent are married and 21 percent are single.”

 

by Ducky Paredes

I am taken aback that as much as three out of five Filipinos want divorce to be legalized for “irreconcilably separated” couples. Thius is according to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The survey, conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 2014says that 60 percent of 1,800 respondents agree that “Married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again.” 29 percent disagreed and 11 percent were undecided..

Among the respondents, 16 percent have live-in partners, 63 percent are married and 21 percent are single.

More men and women are in favor of the proposition, with 62 percent of male respondents (from 52 percent in March 2011) and 57 percent of female respondents (from 49 percent in March 2011) agreeing with the statement..

Support for the approval of the legalization of divorce also rose in all areas, with 67 percent of adult respondents from Metro Manila, 62 percent from Balance Luzon, 55 percent from Visayas and 55 percent from Mindanao.

During the last SWS survey on divorce in March 2011, fifty percent of Filipinos favored the legalization of divorce.

SWS cleared that the survey is noncommissioned and was released as a “public service.”

The Philippines and Vatican City are the only two states in the world, which ban the practice of divorce.

* * *

The company that won the P727.2-million Voter Verification System (VVS) project which will do the biometrics for voters—Safran Morpho and Comfac Corp. Joint Venture (Safran-Comfac JV)—could be disqualified for non-compliance with requirements and rules of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

The disqualification was sought by Indra Sistemas S.A., the second lowest bidder,which filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the Comelec.

“Indra prays that the Honorable Committee reverse its Resolution No. 1 dated March 11, 2015 and declare the Safran-Comfac Joint Venture as ineligible to participate in the instant bidding,” wrote Indra Sistemas S.A.

Resolution No.1 declared Safran-Comfac JV as having the lowest calculated bid for the lease of 23,000 VVS units to be used in the 2016 national and local elections.

Safran-Comfac JV submitted a bid of P470,910,720 compared to Indra’s P581,672,000.

In its motion, Indra claimed that Safran-Comfac JV failed to submit a VVS demo unit during submission of bids in violation of the Comelec-BAC’s requirement.

“In light of its failure to include a demo unit of its VVS machine in its bid submission, the non-discretionary ‘pass/fail’ criterion should have applied, and accordingly, the joint venture’s first envelope should have been marked as ‘failed’ and its financial bid should not have been considered,” Indra said.

It added that Safran-Comfac JV also failed to submit a soft copy of the technical documentation and of the source code as required by the BAC.

“The importance of a soft copy of the source code cannot be overlooked. Once an Automated Election System technology is selected for implementation, the Comelec is mandated to make the source code available and open to any interested party or group, which may conduct its own review,” Indra said.

Aside from the absence of a demo unit and source code soft copy, Indra also underscored the failure of its rival firm to indicate the contract amount and value in the Sworn Statement of All Ongoing and Completed Contracts; submission of a “patently false and erroneous” calculation of their Net Financial Contracting Capacity (NFCC); their Bid Security not being executed in the proper form; and their Omnibus Sworn Statement not being in the prescribed form.

“Indra Sistemas prays that the Honorable Committee consider the foregoing observations regarding the bid documents submitted by the Safran-Comfac Joint Venture, and apply the non-discretionary ‘pass/fail’ criterion, and declare the absence, incompleteness or patent insufficiency of requirement ‘fail’,” it said.

As the lowest calculated bidder, the joint venture still needs to undergo the post-qualification evaluation to verify that it has complied with all legal and technical requirements.

Failure to pass the legal and technical requirements are grounds for the forfeiture of the bid security and disqualification of the bidder for the award.

In case of disqualification of the winning bidder, the second lowest bidder will be the one to undergo post-qualification evaluation.

The VVS units will be pilot-tested together with the optical machine reader (OMR) in the 2016 elections, which will be supplementing the old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

The VVS will serve as additional security measure to ensure that the voter has complied with the biometric requirements under Republic Act (RA) 10367.

RA 10367 mandates that the records of voters who fail to have their biometrics taken will be deactivated. It requires that all new and existing voters should have their biometrics taken. Thus, all voters will have to submit themselves for their biometrics to be taken in the days leading up to the election.

* * *

In a radio interview,, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that he is considering a run for presidency in 2016. Marcos said although seeking reelection as a senator was his “default setting,” there were calls for him to run for president.

“Many have been saying that I should run (for President). I listen to all of them, and I’m happy for their strong support. So, we will thoroughly study everything,” says Bongbong.

The only son of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, Senator Marcos had so far been silent on any plan to run for President.

In her birthday celebration last year, Mrs. Marcos said she dreamed of returning to Malacañang with her son as the president.

The senator said he has seen the presidency from different sides, while most people just see the grandeur and power.

“I saw my father at the end of the day and at the beginning of the day, the kind of problems he had to face. The kind of very serious sacrifices you have to make if you want to become a good president,” he said.

Marcos says that anybody can be a president, but not everyone can be a good one. There is no use in becoming president if you cannot be a good one, he adds.

The Nacionalista Party senator told DZMM that he would be a candidate for 2016 – either as Presidente or for re-election as a Senator.

“But we have a saying that luck is only being ready when opportunity presents itself. This means one should be ready for luck. So I will make myself the luckiest to the best of my ability,” he said.

Anticipating questions about his graduation from Oxford, Marcos said he would go to London over the Holy Week to collect his records to put an end to the controversy.

“Slowly, I am addressing these concerns. I already got my file from La Salle, that’s for my high school. I will get everything so that when questioned again, I can show them the papers, and there’s no need for me to explain,” he said.

He also said he expects some people will take it against him for being the son of the martial law strongman.

“We cannot change history, and we really cannot change what actually happened,” the senator said. “You can’t say this happened, and this did not happen. It would just be easy to prove my father accomplished many things, and there were significant developments in the country when he was President,” he said.

“Now, if there are personal issues or whatever it is, that’s a different matter. But as a President, I cannot perhaps turn my back on the record of my father. Also, I have always been saying that whatever opinions you have about my father, I think that can no longer be changed, regardless of what I may say or do. So the record of my father will stand. My father does not need help to explain his record. History speaks for itself,” he added.

* * *

President Benigno S. Aquino III extended his personal condolences to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the passing of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

”The President, in joining the Filipino people in expressing the solidarity of the Philippines with Singapore at this time of mourning, extends his personal condolences to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,” said the Malacanng statement.

”Prime Minister Lee has always extended every official and personal courtesy to the President in his visits to Singapore and their official interactions in the ASEAN community.”

President Aquino also joined the Filipino people and the Singaporean people in mourning the passing of Lee Kuan Yew.

”As the Singaporean people mourn the passing of former PM Lee Kuan Yew, the Filipino people join them in honoring a statesman who can justifiably be called the Founding Father of the Republic of Singapore.”

The Palace said throughout Lee’s long life, as prime minister and senior minister, Lee demonstrated an unswerving devotion to his country, turning it into a state that would be an exemplar of efficient, modern, and honest governance.

”The development of Singapore has earned it the respect of nations and peoples, including the tens of thousands of Filipinos who work there and visit the country.”

Lee died at the Singapore General Hospital where he was confined for severe pneumonia since February 15. He was 91.

Amid the haunting reality of student suicides, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo has urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the country’s 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) to establish a fast-acting financial aid program for students in dire need of help to pay for their costs of living and schooling.

The CHED and our SUCs should put up the mechanism for the quick-release grants, hopefully based on a unified set of guidelines as to potential beneficiaries,” said Romulo, chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education.

This is one practical approach to helping students facing extreme financial difficulties while in college,” Romulo said.

The case of Rosanna Sanfuego, a 16-year-old respiratory therapy freshman at the Cagayan State University (CSU) in Caritan, Tuguegarao City, has turned the spotlight on student suicides due to severe economic hardship.

Sanfuego hanged herself at their home in Abulug town on Feb. 25 after she became despondent over her inability to pay her school and dormitory fees, plus persistent hunger problems while studying.

The suicide of Kristel Tejada two years ago also magnified the susceptibility of financially distressed students.

A behavioral science freshman at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila, Tejada, also 16, took her own life by drinking silver cleaner after she was grief-stricken due to unpaid tuition fees.

School authorities need to do a lot of soul-searching. College students are at a vulnerable age. Some of them can be easily overwhelmed by hard times, especially if they have nobody else to run to for help,” Romulo said.

SUCs have to assure indigent students that they can obtain immediate financial relief from a highly responsive support system,” he said.

Romulo said the CHED and SUCs have ample funds to support financially distressed students.

This year alone, he said the national government is spending some P7.7 billion for post-high school scholarships.

SUCs have a combined P3.5 billion available for scholarships. This is apart from the CHED’s P2.2-billion allotment for student financial aid.

TESDA has another P2 billion for its Training for Work Scholarship Program.

Romulo sponsored the House-approved Unified Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education (UniFAST), which aims to enable a greater number of college students from disadvantaged families to access state-sponsored financial assistance.

Now nearing Senate approval, UniFAST is expected to vastly improve the distribution of college scholarships, study grants, grants-in-aid and low-cost educational loans.

Romulo introduced the Iskolar ng Bayan Program, now Republic Act 10648, which provides the top 10 graduates of every public high school with scholarships in SUCs.

Romulo’s proposed Voluntary Student Loan Program by Private Banks, which the House previously passed on third and final reading, is now awaiting Senate approval.    

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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Abante (03.24.15)
‘Cool lang’ si Mar
ni Horacio Paredes

Tama ang pinapakita ng ating DILG Secretary na hindi siya nagpapadala sa gustong mangyai ng maga pamilyang  Binay na  kinakasuha ng Ombudsman sa katiwaliang ginagawa ng pamilya. (Meron ring kaso laban kay Dra. Elena noong siya umupo bilang Alkalde ng Makatii noong teen-edyer pa si Jun Jun na ngayon ay Alkalde  na ng Makati at pinapasupinde ng Ombdsman.)
Nanawagan si Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas sa publiko na manatiling kalmado at huwag mag­padala sa “drama” na ipinalalabas ng  mga pamilyang Binay at kasalukuyang  Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin ‘Junjun’ Binay at ng kanyang mga tagasuporta sa lungsod.
“Nananawagan ako sa publiko na manatili ta­yong mahinahon dahil ito naman ay regular lamang nating gawa­in,” panawagan ni Roxas.
Ayon kay Roxas, mandato ng DILG ang paghahain ng suspensyon sa mga Binay at ang opisina ng Ombudsman ang nagsuspendi sa kanila dahil sa pandarambong sa kaban ng bayan.
“Nire-recognize ba natin ang Ombudsman as an independent authority o hindi?” tanong ni Roxas sa mga Binay. “Ang batas ay batas. Lahat tayo ay sakop ng batas.”    Idinagdag niya na isang pambatang drama ang gina­gawa sa Makati at ito ang humahadlang para makakuha ang mga residente ng lungsod ng mga serbisyo mula sa pamahalaan.
“Ang governance at pamamahala ay isang seryosong gawain. Nakasalalay dito ang kabutihan ng ating mga kababayan,” dagdag ni Roxas.
Naghain ang opisina ng Ombudsman ng anim na buwang preventive suspension kay Mayor Binay at sa 20 pang dawit sa mga alegasyon kaugnay ng Makati City Hall Parking Building II.
Inatasan din ng Ombudsman si Roxas na ihain ang preventive suspension order “bilang pagganap sa kanyang trabaho” at kaagad naghain ng apela ang mga Binay sa Court of Appeals.
Ito ang masama sa ating nagiging culture — na inaakala ng mga nakapuwesto na kanila na ang inuupuang pwesto at maari nila itong ipasa sa kanilang mga anak at ka-pamilya. Kaya tuloy na napakarami ang nagiging kawatan dahil sa wala naman sa kanilang naniniwala na meron silang tungkulin sa lipunan na maglingkod ng tapat.
Para sa karamihan sa gobiyerno ang kanlang paniniwala ay maari silang magpayaman habang nasa pwesto gaya ng mga nauna sa kanila na naging mga billionaryo tapos naging pulitiko at walang tungkulin sa lipunan at sa bans
Ito ang nakikita natin sa mga pamilyang gaya ng mga Binay na halos lahat ay pumapasok sa politika kahit na hindi man lamang makapasa sa abugasiya ang anak na ngayon say Alkalde ng Makati at knakalaban ang sang miyembro ng gabinate ng eating Panful.
Dahan-dahan, Jun Jun. Baka magsabay kayong mag-inang makukulong.
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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

PRA Execs Sued for Plumder

Malaya (03.24.15)

”But what happens when the issue is neither inconstancy nor unpredictability but no regulation  at all?

by Ducky Paredes

Government’s erratic regulatory regime has been a constant deal-breaker for big-time investors in the Philippines.
As stressed by former socio-economic planning secretary Cielito Habito “Rules are rules. They are there for good reason, and not meant to be set aside or broken when convenient.”
In fact, flip-flopping regulatory policies have exasperated the investment community for so long that the country’s top business groups—among them the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.—saw it fit last year to come out with a joint statement reminding the Aquino administration that:
“Consistency and predictability in policy and adherence to rules, among other factors, form the bedrock of investor confidence in any economy. In light of the significant attention that the Philippines has been gaining from the international and domestic investing community, it is our firm belief that the country must hold fast to these principles in order to sustain the gains that the country has achieved in the past four years.”
But what happens when the issue is neither inconstancy nor unpredictability but no regulation  at all?
* * *
For consumer  activist Rodolfo Javellana Jr., such a non-performance of official duty smacks of plunder and largescale graft, considering that his perceived inaction for almost three decades now has to do with a largely undeveloped public property worth over P41 billion, thanks to one agency of a government perenially short of funds to bankroll its priority programs and projects.
Hence, Javellana’s t decision to file plunder and graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against incumbent and former executives of the Public Estates Authority or PEA (now the Philippine Reclamation Authority or PRA) over their alleged “conspiracy” with officers of a private developer to defraud the government in the sale for a pittance in 1988 of a 41-hectare reclamation property on the seaside of Roxas Boulevard in Parañaque City.
The head of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) and the Water For All Refund Movement (WARM)—two civil society groups that have been at the forefront of public opposition to, among others, train fare and water rate hikes in the metropolis—Javellana has included in his rap sheet the officers of the Manila Bay Development Corp. (MBDC) who, he claimed, have violated with past and incumbent PEA executives the anti-plunder and anti-graft laws (Republic Act No. 3019 and RA 7080, respectively) over the MBDC’s failure to develop this estate next to the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).
* * *
A reading of the plunder and graft complaint shows that what had provoked Javellana is that there has been no development in this property now known as Central Business Park II,  30 years after PEA and  MBDC signed a deed of sale.    Javellana believes this reeks of a scam worthy of a plunder case, given that the agency has done nothing all these years to take back the business park, or at the very least take punitive action against the private developer, when this reclamation property was sold at a bargain in 1988 for just P470 million, on condition that MBDC would develop it into a commercial-cum-shopping complex in five years’ time.
Certain quarters speculate that this 41-hectare property is actually worth a lot more than P41 billion, as it is on the southernmost tip of one of Metro Manila’s “hottest” districts nowadays that includes the City of Dreams complex, Solaire Resort and Casino and SM’s Mall of Asia.
Javellana believes this no-regulation policy smells fishy like the “biggest scam” ever in terms of public asset disposition, more so for a government that needs all the resources it can get to fund its priority programs.
* * *
In his 14-page Complaint-Affidavit, Javellana tackles the “conspiracy” to defraud the government and the Filipino people of expected accumulated earnings from what is probably the country’s “biggest scam of asset disposition,” involving the Absolute Deed of Sale covering MBDC’s Central Business Park II.
He notes in the affidavit-complaint that this deed of sale has proven to be “grossly disadvantageous” to the government and the people because:
MBDC has till now reneged on its commitment under the 1998 agreement to acquire the lot for a relatively small amount, on condition that this firm would fully develop it into a business-commercial complex in five years’ time; and
Past and incumbent PEA management and its Board have surprisingly done nothing  to take punitive steps against MBDC such as cancelling the contract for this serious breach.
Respondents in this plunder-graft case are former PEA general manager Eduardo Zialcita, who executed the deed of sale in 1988, along with incumbent PEA chairman Roberto Muldong, general manager Peter Anthony Abaya, and PEA Board directors Virgilio Ambion, Manuel Medina, Edilberto de Jesus, Reynaldo Robles and Rene Enrique Silos.
Also respondents in the plunder-graft charge are MBDC president George Chua, who signed the contract with Zialcita in 1988, and the unnamed board directors of this private developer.
* * *
Although this anomalous deal was sealed in 1988 yet, Javellana pointed out in his affidavit-complaint that it is not covered by the mandatory 10-year prescription period for the filing of plunder charges against guilty parties and the 20-year prescription period covering graft complaints, because “the Filipino people (only) became aware of the Deed of Sale just recently when the issue became public.”
“Hence, the filing of these cases against the former and present officials of PEA as well as against the owners and officers of MBDC is within the period allowed under the rules,” he said.
Javellana recalled that it was only in 2014 when a paid newspaper advertisement came out urging PEA to take back this property estimated at P41 billion but which MBDC had purchased for only P420 million.
According to Javellana’s charge sheet, Zialcita  this Roxas Blvd. reclaimed property totaling 410,467 square meters (sq. m.), by vitue of President Decree No. 1084 that created PEA in 1977 as the overseer-agency for the commercial development of state-owned reclamation estates.
This property was sold to MBDC, on Aug. 23, 1988 for just P1,100 per sq. m., or a total of P472,037,050, on condition that the private firm would develop the lot into a business or commercial complex within five (5) years, based on the approved Parcellery Plans and Urban Design Guidelines attached to both parties’ deed of sale.
However, Javellana claims that MBDC reneged on this commitment to undertake a five-year development program.
“Despite this clear contractual violation of MBDC, however, PEA did nothing to enforce its rights under the Deed of Sale,” Javellana said. “This is gross neglect of duty detrimental to the interests of the government as well as the Filipino people,” in violation of both RA 3019 and RA 7080.
“What is more appalling is that PEA officials seriously neglected their duty to enforce such rights under the Deed of Sale despite MBDC’s continuous non-compliance for more than 21 years,” notes the complaint. “MBDC’s failure to develop the subject property to this date should have compelled PEA through its several General Managers and Board of Directors to cancel the said contract. What are they waiting for?”
By 21 years, Javellana was referring to the over two decades from the time the five-year development plan by MBDC was supposed to have been completed by 1994 up to today under the incumbent PEA management.
It is clear, says Javellana, that this land deal “is manifestly and grossly disadvantageous” to both Government and the Filipino people, owing to this “gross inexcusable negligence” or “wanton and serious omission or non-performance of the duty” of the successive PEA management up to the present in enforcing their agency’s rights under the 1998 deed of sale.
* * *
Stressing that the 1988 sale accord violated RA 3019, Javellana said that “the obligation to demand fulfillment by MBDC of its contractual obligation still stands.”
“Thus,” he said, “the Chairman and members of the Board of Directors of PEA are jointly and continuously committing this particular crime. It is highly suspect and inexplicable why PEA Officers and Board of Directors in the past and now their successors have all remained indifferent with regard to MBDC’s non-compliance.”

“What is outrageously detrimental to the Philippine government and to the Filipino People is the fact that the Philippine government sold this property to MBDC only in the amount of P472 million in exchange for a highly commercialized place originally intended to benefit the government in the form of tax revenues but remained unfulfilled,” he said.
“PEA through its continuous inaction seemingly gives premium to MBDC’s non-compliance as the property is now valued at around P41 billion more or less. Truly, MBDC … is sitting on a veritable gold mine for doing nothing!
* * *
Javellana said the past and incumbent PEA and MBDC officials are guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which declares as unlawful or corrupt, and subject to criminal prosecution, any and all official transactions by public officers that are manifestly or gross disadvantageous to the government.
Worse, he said, these officials have also violated the Anti-Plunder Law, owing to their apparent conspiracy “to commit one goal—to amass billions of pesos at the expense of the Filipino people.”
“Former PEA Officers during their respective tenures of service as General Managers, Chairmen and Members of the Board of Directors and the current PEA Officers all contributed to what could be the biggest scam of asset disposition by the Philippine government with a value of more than P40 billion,” he said in his complaint.
RA 7080 punishes public officers and their accomplices in the private sector who accumulate ill-gotten wealth worth at least P50 million or who commit the fraudulent disposition of state assets worth that same amount and above.
Javellana says that under Article VI of the 1998 deed of sale, MBDC, as the buyer, shall submit to PEA “a Development Plan…and a 5-year Implementation Schedule, within six (6) months from date of receipt by the buyer of the written notice from the seller of the approval of this Deed of Sale by the Office of the President of the Philippines.”
* * *
This accord provision then requires MBDC as the buyer “to develop the subject Property in accordance with the approved Development Plan in the Five-Year Implementation Schedule.”
“Horizontal development shall be completed as far as practicable within two (2) years from the date of the approval of the buyer’s Development Plan,” according to this provision of the deed of sale.
“Vertical Development in accordance with the approved 5-Year Implementation Schedule must be at least sixty percent (6o%) completed by the buyer at the end of the fifth (5th) year as determined by the seller.”
MBDC is further required under Article VI to be “responsible for site preparation, construction of containment walls and land-fill improvements or such other shore protection structures as may be necessary, according to the grade and elevation indicated in the approved Development Plan…The land-fill improvements and construction of the containment walls or shore protection structures shall be finished by the buyer within two (2) years from the date of approval by the seller of the buyer’s Development Plan.”
Javellana said that despite MBDC’s “clear contractual violation, “PEA did nothing to enforce its rights under the. Deed of Sale. This is gross  neglect of duty detrimental to the interests of the government as well as the Filipino people.”
“In the first place, PEA through its General Manager and Board of Directors has all the right and obligation to demand from MBDC compliance with Article VI of the Deed of Absolute Sale within the period stated therein (5 year period),” he added
* * *

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Comelec’s New Voting Rules

Malaya (03.23.15)

by Ducky Paredes

Manila is abuzz with speculations and innuendos on the latest actions by certain players critical of the country’s preparations for the staging of our third computerized elections in 2016.
Certain 2016 watchers have raised doubts, on the motives of the bids and awards committee (BAC) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in virtually putting in limbo this poll watchdog’s planned purchase of direct recording electronic (DRE) and optical mark reader (OMR) machines to be used next year when it surprisingly move to disqualifiy  the only two bidders interested in supplying these additional automated vote-counting machines — Smartmatic of Venezuela and Indra Sistemas of Spain.
They wonder why the BAC  disqualified Smartmatic when its financial bid was just P1.72 billion or a third lower than the Comelec-pegged P2.5-billion ceiling, and  even contained several project components  at no cost to government.
As for the other disqualified bidder, Indra is in the hot seat over  the discovery that it had taken the Comelec for a ride in joining the auction for 2016’s poll-related projects, apparently on the basis of a phoney eligibility record with regard to its participation in past automated elections across the globe.
Thus, Smartmatic has also asked the Comelec en banc in a protest letter, to blacklist Indra and ban it from all of its poll-related projects, for making “a mockery of the Philippine electoral process” in having submitted “fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” to dupe the agency and the Filipino electorate into believing it had the track record required under our poll automation laws to participate in these auctions.
The need for the Comelec to hold another public auction for the DRE and OMR machines needed to augment its Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines used in the past two polls will certainly delay its preparations for next year, but not to the point of totally upsetting its timetable for the national balloting—thanks to the proactive move by the agency’s past leadership to seal last Dec. 23 a negotiated contract with its private partner Smartmatic, in lieu of holding a time-consuming public bidding, for the diagnostic work on, and repair of  83,000-plus PCOS units.
Legislators cognizant of the global acclaim reaped by the Comelec for its highly successful automated election system (AES) in 2010 and 2013 wonder why nongovernment organizations (NGOs) claiming to be electoral reform activists continue to demonize Comelec along with Smartmatic on the  basis of their rehashed charges of supposedly wholesale PCOS poll fraud that the Supreme Court (SC) had already dismissed twice in previous rulings.
In fact, this is apparently the reason why the SC ignored the filing  by  the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) and AES Watch  seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Comelec-Smartmatic PCOS contract, and, rather than grant this request, merely instructed the respondents to reply to these charges.
Liberal Party (LP) Rep. Edgard Erice has linked C3E and ARS Watch to radical factions of the political opposition.
Erice, who is vice chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, asked these critics  to be transparent about their alleged dealings with or links to the National Transformation Council (NTC) that is demanding the resignation of President Aquino, fretting that next year’s polls could be in trouble if there is truth to reports that “there are ties that bind” these groups.
Erice wants the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Poll Automation to summon these  poll reform activists, saying that “(they) should come clean and tell Congress whether their respective groups share NTC’s call for Aquino’s resignation and the creation of a council of leaders to govern the country.”
After the Comelec’s BAC disqualified both Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) and Indra last Feb. 25 during the second stage of the two-phase P2.5-billion bidding for the DRE and OMR projects for being “non-responsive,” Smartmatic then filed a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) owing to its disqualification over what Smartmatic officials have called a “flimsy technicality.”
(With the expected surge of new voters come 2016, the Comelec wants to lease 410 DRE machines and 23,000 OMR machines for P2.5 billion so it could increase the number of voting precincts nationwide and trim the number of voters from over 1,000 per precinct in 2013 to its targeted 800 for the 2016 elections.

Comelec’s BAC is chaired by lawyer Helen Aguila Flores and has Jubil Surmieda as vice chairperson; and Charlie Yap, Maria Juana Valeza and Divina Blas Perez, as members.
Citing the dissenting opinions of BAC members Perez and Yap in the Feb. 25 decision, Smartmatic said its offer was not really “non-responsive” as it had written  the dash symbol in certain items, which meant not that the bidder did not submit an incomplete bid but rather that it was offering those items for free to the Comelec.
Smartmatic noted that Yap’s opinion had jibed with the GPPB issuances on the difference between the “0” or zero and the “—” or dash in the completion of bid forms or proposals.
“The BAC disqualifies a consultant if it provides for a required item but does not indicate a price for it and is thus deemed as non-compliant, except that if it specifies a ‘0’ (zero) or a ‘-‘ (dash) for the said item, it would be deemed as having offered the item for free to the government,” Smartmatic said.
In a previous statement, Smartmatic president for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores asserted that his firm had merely followed the format issued by the Comelec itself.
“The Smartmatic joint venture, in fact, presented a complete, fully responsive, and fully compliant bid, which is very beneficial to Comelec and [to] the Filipino taxpayers,” Flores said. “We trust that the Comelec-BAC will realize that this proposal, like all of our proposals, is advantageous to the government and will reconsider its decision.”
Flores cited its bid price proposal for the OMR was 31% lower than P2.5-billion approved budget for the contract, adding that, “The goal of a competitive bid to find the best prices for the government was achieved, and it would be a shame if the benefits would be dismissed because of a flimsy technicality.”
In its protest letter, Smartmatic also called on the Comelec en banc to suspend and blacklist Indra Sistemas for making a mockery of the country’s electoral process in submitting bid documents peppered with “fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” to deceive the agency and voters into believing it was qualified to take part as a bidder in the Comelec’s auctions when the truth—it now turns out—is that its poll-related experience and record as supplier or service provider overseas were not connected at all to computerized balloting.
Consider the following discrepancies revealed by Smartmatic:
Indra told the Comelec it had “supplied an OMR system to various countries even if in reality, it did not.”
The certificate submitted by Indra attesting that the system used in the Madrid, Spain elections was the same one it was proposing to use in the Philippines was only issued by an office under the City Mayor and not by an election authority in that country;
Although Indra had secured a contract pertaining to Argentina’s parliamentary elections in 2013, the said balloting was not a computerized one.
The Provincia de Buenos Aires Junta Electoral itself said that the  balloting was “not automated.”
Rather than having a contract for an OMR bidding as it had claimed in documents submitted to the Comelec, Indra had only handled a provisional non-official vote quick-count system.
* * *
Months before Smartmatic’s submission of its blacklist-Indra petition, its lawyer Ruby Yusi had asked Rep. Frenedil Castro,  to pry into allegations that Indra was under investigation in Spain for assorted issues, including a questionable track record in its business deals in Southeast Asia.
Incidentally, this delay in the P2.5-billion DRE/OMR projects resulting from the BAC’s Feb. 25 ruling to hold another public bidding vindicates the decision of the previous Comelec leadership under Chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr. to forge a negotiated contract with Smartmatic last Dec. 23 on the diagnostics work on, and repair of, the 83,000-plus PCOS machines, instead of subjecting this project to a time-consuming public bidding.
By entering into a negotiated contract—as so authorized under the Omnibus Election Code and Republic Act No. 9184 or the government procurement reform law—last December, the BAC was able to start the bidding for the lease of additional voting machines last February, rather than a few months later if a public auction had been conducted instead for the diagnostic/repair work on the 83,000-plus PCOS units.
* * *
A bipartisan group of lawmakers  vouched for the accuracy of AES/PCOS and these solons have separately warned the Comelec against selecting a new and untested service provider in the 2016 balloting.
Rep. Frenedil Castro  said that critics would do well to just help the Comelec improve the automated system as (1) they have failed to present “incontrovertible evidence to substantiate their claim” of electoral fraud, and (2) the poll watchdog had handled the past two automated elections very well.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he was initially opposed to the use of PCOS machines in 2010 but then had a change of heart after witnessing the accuracy of these units as a member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe denounced the repeated and recycled claims of electoral fraud in the 2010 and 2013 polls, and pointed out that, “The worldwide trend is toward automation and we should not again go back to the Jurassic age where outcome of election results are known only after several weeks (or) even months.”
For his part, Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), personally vouched for the accuracy of the PCOS machines—as proven by his victory over his pro-administration rival—as he noted that, “It would be a nightmare and terrible decision to go back to the old system of manual counting of votes, which takes forever and which allows miscounts and ballot switching and snatching.”
Echoing Tambunting’s warning, another oppostion solon—Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian—said that staging a semi-manual 2016 balloting would be “like going back to the Dark Ages.”

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

The Senate Report, HardTimes for PWU

Malaya (03.20.15)
”Poe says that  the President should explain why he decided not to use his ‘awesome powers’ as the commander in chief of ‘all armed forces of the Philippines’ and as President, during the operation.”

by Ducky Paredes
President Aquino is responsible for the death of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao because he allowed resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who was then under suspension, to meddle in the SAF’s “Operation Plan: Exodus.”
This was the draft report prepared by the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs, on peace, unification and reconciliation, and on finance.

The three committees first released an executive summary of the report which was read by Sen. Grace Poe, and later a copy of the 129-page draft report. The report needed the signature of the members of the three committees. It has been signed by 15 senators abdd has become a majority report of the whole Senate

The report said the following are “indicative findings of liability” but the committees are leaving the determination of liability to the prosecutorial arm of the government:

The concerned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other armed groups “murdered and robbed” the SAF commandos.

Purisima is liable for  “Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions, violating Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 36(b)(4) of Presidential Decree No. 807, in relation to Section 46(A)(3), Rule 10 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.”

Director Getulio Napeñas, who was sacked as SAF chief after the January 25 operations, “committed grave misconduct, violating Section 36(b)(4) of Presidential Decree No. 807, in relation to Section 46(A)(3), Rule 10 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.”

And “The President must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by PDG Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus.”

Senator Poe, as chairman of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs, said “it is beyond doubt” that Aquino was aware that Purisima was serving six-month preventive suspension for alleged plunder and yet the President allowed Purisima to join a meeting at the Bahay Pangarap on January 9 when the sensitive and classified PNP operation was discussed.

Poe also noted that when Purisima reported to the President that Marwan had been neutralized in the early morning of January 25, Aquino even sent a text message to Purisima saying “Basit should not get away.”

Even the communications between the President and Napeñas were coursed through Purisima, Poe said.

“The foregoing shows that the President knew that PDG Purisima was exercising official functions despite the latter’s preventive suspension, and did nothing to prevent it,” Poe said.

Purisima’s lawyer, Kristoffer James Purisima, said: “At no time since his preventive suspension did PDG Purisima perform official duties and functions. Neither did he misrepresent or falsely represent himself as the Chief PNP under pretense of official position.”

“It appears that the President, along with (Interior) Secretary (Manuel) Roxas, (Defense) Secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin, (AFP chief) Gen. (Gregorio) Catapang), could have done more… perhaps if the President and the key security officials… discussed the incident and shared information with each other at  the early stages of the day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives would have been lost,” said Poe.

Poe says that  the President should explain why he decided not to use his “awesome powers” as the commander in chief of “all armed forces of the Philippines” and as President, during the operation.

“The President is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the mission,” she said.

She said “it is imperative that the President display unquestionable leadership, be forthright and candid with our people, accept responsibility for all decisions he makes as President, and admit mistakes he made along the way.”

The joint panels said the Mamasapano incident is not an encounter as suggested by the MILF and other sectors, but a massacre.

The joint panel, Poe reports,  recommended the filing of murder, frustrated murder and robbery charges against individuals who killed and robbed the SAF commandos.

Poe said that the joint panels also  found Napeñas committed grave misconduct.

“Given that Getulio’s actions in directly coordinating and reporting with Purisima instead of Espina, he broke the PNP chain of command and for which he may be held administratively liable for grace misconduct……,” Poe said referring to Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer in charge                             * * *
Another storied Philippine has gallen  into hard times. The Benitez family has been connected with the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) for several generations. Now, Businessman Eusebio Tanco is about to take over the assets of PWU and has expressed his displeasure over the recent move of the Benitez family to prevent STI Education Systems Holdings Inc. from getting hold of  PWU’s assets.
In a statement sent, Tanco said: “I am deeply saddened that there are still people like the Benitezes who, after I have extended help to save their university from imminent bankruptcy and their assets from certain foreclosure, who I trusted completely to manage the school which they unfortunately run to the ground, now turn around and brazenly reneged on their commitment and refuse to pay their obligations.”
Tanco,  chairman of STI Holdings claims the Benitez Family  has been telling  falsehoods on what the real score is between their ruined partnership.
“On top of this unprofessional conduct, the Benitezes continue to spin stories to portray themselves as victims when they actually are the oppressors. I am however, confident that the discerning public will see through this haze which they deliberately create,” Tanco says.
The Benitez family on Monday sought for an involuntary rehabilitation of PWU in hopes of preserving the school’s operations after Tanco’s STI Holdings initiated foreclosure proceedings.
Benitez matriarch Helena Z. Benitez, PWU chairperson and a longtime creditor of the university, filed a petition to the Manila Regional Trial Court for the said rehabilitation of PWU.
Benitez is asking the court to issue a commencement order and a stay or suspension order which shall “suspend all actions or proceedings, in court or otherwise, for the enforcement of claims against PWU and against third party mortgagers.”
The order, if granted, would suspend the extrajudicial sale of lands currently occupied by PWU in Manila and Jose Abad Santos Memorial School in Quezon City worth about P1.2 billion.
STI in December last year initiated default proceedings against PWU which the Benitez family contested in court.
STI’s move to foreclose the PWU properties stemmed due to the latter’s alleged failure to pay almost P1 billion in accumulated loans, interest, and expenses.
STI had acquired PWU’s loan with BDO worth P223 million in 2011, and loaned another P198 million to Unlad, the corporate arm of the Benitez family.
PWU earlier offered STI P644 million to settle the dispute which the latter  rejected.
* * *
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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Malaya (03.19.15)
“From the very start, from the time the PNP was created in 1991, the President has always been regarded as the commander-in-chief.”

Lacson on the PNP,  JIM Leader Captured

by Ducky Paredes

Former Senator Panfilo Lacson does not agree with  Malacañang’s argument  that the principle of  chain of command does not apply to the Philippine National Police.
Lacson, who was PNP Chief from 1999 to 2001 before his election as Senator, explains: “From the very start, from the time the PNP was created in 1991, the President has always been regarded as the commander-in-chief.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV  defends President Benigno Aquino III. Trillions says that  and saidonly Napeñas was responsible for the incident and the relieved Special Action Force commander should be man enough to admit his mistakes and ask for forgiveness from the families  of the slain policemen.
“Did the President violate the chain of command?” Trillanes said. “That’s absurd. The whole world will laugh at us.”
Lacson explains that  with Executive Order No. 226 of 1995 which instituted command responsibility in the PNP and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the principle of command responsibility is ingrained in the PNP.
“The chain of command is present even in business organizations. What does chain of command mean? It’s the formal line of authority, responsibility in communication. This is the relationship of superior and his subordinate. So you cannot say that the PNP is not covered by a chain of command,” he says.
Lacson disputeds the claim of Palace spokesmen and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the PNP board of inquiry contradicted itself in its report on the Mamasapano incident that resulted in the death of 67 people, including 44 police commandos.
Lacson agrees that while  President Benigno Aquino III  had the prerogative to directly order Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas, buthow will Malacañang will be hard put o explain why former PNP chief Alan Pursima was issuing orders when he was already suspended.
Lacson made his remarks after Malacañang argued that Aquino does not have any liability for the incident because the PNP was a civilian agency not covered by the principle of chain of command.
But Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reiterated that the root cause of the chaos and even the deaths that resulted from the secret operation was mainly because President broke the chain of command.
“There was chaos because the normal chain of command, the whole command structure, was bypassed, and President Aquino made his own chain of command,” Marcos told reporters. .
Marcos said the chain of command during the Mamasapano incident consisted only of Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas. “So there were only three of them who planned and talked about this. So that is certainly significant,” Marcos said.
But Marcos notes that it will be hard to make Aquino answer for the incident because of the presidential immunity from suit.
“How do we make him answer? I don’t know. We’re just hoping that he acknowledges the need. That’s what the people are waiting for. What’s his reason for breaking the chain of command,” said Marcos.
On the other hand, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives, slammed the Palace from trying to discredit the BOI report after it criticized Aquino for violating the chain of command.
“It is preposterous, absurd, ridiculous, and outrageous for Malacanang to discredit a government-sponsored inquiry,” said Romualdez, also president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
“They even told the public to wait the results of the investigation and after the findings were made public, they are now assailing the PNP-BoI, that’s illogical,” Romualdez added.
Instead of washing his hands of the issue, Romualdez said President Aquino should explain why he allegedly violated the chain of command and why he should not be held liable over the Mamasapano incident.
“Like what I had been saying in the past, the President should admit full responsibility,” Romualdez said.
* * *
The leader of a new Muslim rebel splinter group, linked to the Mamasapano carnage, more than a dozen bombings and beheading of a farmer as well as accused of protecting two terror suspects, was captured Sunday night in General Santos City.
Mohammad Ali Tambako, head of the newly formed Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), was arrested with four of his followers while aboard a tricycle in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City.
“Tambako was fleeing when he was arrested,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, head of the military public affairs office.
“They were on their way to a sea port in General Santos … armed with hand guns and grenades.”
The police and the military operatives arrested Tambako, a native of Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and his associates – Datukan Sato Sabiwang, Ali Valley Ludisman, Mesharie Edio Gayak, and Abusahma Badrudin Guaimil alias Hansela Omar – on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Cotabato City Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Jorge Jabido for their alleged involvement in the killing and bombing of civilians in Midsayap, North Cotabato, in 2010. They yielded three grenades and two handguns.
Army 10th Infantry Division (10ID) commander Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año said that Tambako had been in General Santos City for at least one week after he escaped a military dragnet in Maguindanao where there is an ongoing offensive against the BIFF.
Tambako and his companions were flown to Manila for inquest.
Tambako, who formed JIM with about 70 armed fighters last year, has been suspected by the military of giving refuge in his southern stronghold to top Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and long-wanted Filipino bombing suspect Abdul Basit Usman.
The operation to neutralize Marwan and Usman last January left 44 police commandos dead in an ensuing gun battle with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups, including Tambako’s JIM in Mamasapano. That prompted the military last month to launch an offensive against the BIFF and other armed groups that has killed about 100 suspected insurgents and led to the capture of Tambako.
Before forming JIM, Tambako was vice chairman for military affairs of the BIFF under Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato. However, he was expelled last year from the BIFF, along with 30 of his followers, for beheading farmer Ricarte Dionio in Midsayap, North Cotabato, following a raid at a Christian community in 2013.
Prior to this, Tambako was a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) before he joined the MILF and later the BIFF, where he was appointed Amir after Kato, reportedly his uncle, suffered a stroke in January, 2012.
Tambako  studied in Egypt and Cabunoc said his time overseas  enabled him to build up extensive contacts with foreign militants. Having been exposed to foreign terror networks in the Middle East, Tambako had established a network of contacts among the notorious Islamic Fundamentalists around the world, according to the military.
He finished his special education at the Ulama Doctrine School in Libya and took graduate studies in Cairo, Egypt.
Tambako also took the elite force training in Pakistan.
AFP records show that Tambako is associated with the Jemaah Islamiyah and high value targets like Marwan, Usman, Mauiyah, Omar Patek, and Albader Parad.
Despite his links to terror groups, sources said Tambako’s downfall was a result of information provided by influential Muslim clerics and senior commanders of the MILF. The same sources said one of the informants is a senior Islamic preacher who served as guide to capture the suspects.
It was learned that Tambako opposes peace talks with the government, apparently the reason the MILF provided information on his whereabouts.
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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Mga Batang Namaytay sa Loob ng Kotse

Abante (03.19.15)

ni Horacio Paredes

Isang menor-de-edad ang natagpuang wala nang buhay habang isa pa ang nailigtas matapos na ikulong umano sa isang nakaparadang sirang kotse sa General Trias, Cavite kamakalawa ng gabi.
Base sa inisyal na imbestigasyon ng Gen. Trias Municipal Police Station, isang “Lawrence” na ka­tiwala ng may-ari ng kotse ang nakakita sa da­lawang bata sa loob ng sasakyan.
Ayon sa saksi, gumagalaw pa si John Carlo Cabrera y Adaro, habang wala ng buhay si JB Beltran y Buhay, kapwa 5-anyos, kapwa residente ng Bgy. San Juan 1 ng nasabing bayan nang kanyang matagpuan.
Lumalabas din sa pagsi­siyasat na huling nakita ang mga biktima na naglalaro sa ibabaw ng isang heavy equipment sa Pennsylvania Subdivision ng nasabing barangay dakong alas-12:00 ng tanghali sa kaparehong araw.
Sa salaysay ni Cabrera, binitbit umano sila ng suspek na si Domingo Manibao y Mata, 78-­anyos, caretaker sa lugar na pinangyarihan ng krimen, pinalo ng kahoy sa ulo ang nasawing biktima, hindi pa umano nakuntento ang suspek at kinaladkad ang mga paslit sa nakaparadang silver Chevrolet (XTA 744) at doon sila ikinulong habang naka-“childlock” ang sasakyan.
Lumabas sa awtopsiya na may namuong dugo sa ulo ng nasawing paslit, bukod pa sa may dugo ito sa labi at bali ang kanang braso, at posibleng namatay rin sa suffocation.
Ang isa pang biktima kung nagtagal pa ng ilang minuto sa sasakyan at hindi agad napansin ni Lawrence ay posible umanong binawian din ng buhay.
Nadakip naman ang suspek sa nasabing krimen matapos ang maagap na follow-up operation ng Gen. Trias MPS.
* * *
Iginiit ni Justice Secretary Leila de Lima na mali ang pananaw sa pagsangkot kay Pangulong Benigno Aquino III sa report ng Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI) kaugnay ng isinagawa nitong imbestigasyon sa naganap sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“Comprehensive as the BOI Mamasapano Report wishes to be, it starts on the wrong premise insofar as the role of the President as commander-in-chief of the PNP is concerned,” reaksyon ni De Lima sa BOI report na isinapubliko nitong Biyernes.
Ipinunto ni De Lima na hindi maikukunsidera na commander-in-chief ng PNP si Pangulong Aquino kundi     Chief Executive dahil ang PNP ay “civilian in nature”. “In relation to the PNP, the President is the Chief Executive, in the same way that he acts as the Chief Executive to all the civilian agencies of the Executive bureaucracy,” ayon pa kay De Lima.
Sinabi ni De Lima na ang naturang pagkakamali ay labag sa Saligang Batas at maituturing na “illegal operating premise” ng PNP. Sa kabila aniya na pinilit ng BOI na makapagsumite ng report, dapat ay itinama muna nito ang naturang pagkakamali.
“In this sense, the PNP-BOI cannot assume to impose upon the President his role and corresponding accountabilities as Commander-in-Chief of the PNP, without itself understanding the very nature of the PNP as a civilian agency that should relate to the President as its Chief Executive,” ayon pa kay De Lima.
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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Lacson on the PNP, JIM Leader Captured

Malaya (03.19.15)
“From the very start, from the time the PNP was created in 1991, the President has always been regarded as the commander-in-chief.”

Lacson on the PNP,  JIM Leader Captured

by Ducky Paredes

Former Senator Panfilo Lacson does not agree with  Malacañang’s argument  that the principle of  chain of command does not apply to the Philippine National Police.
Lacson, who was PNP Chief from 1999 to 2001 before his election as Senator, explains: “From the very start, from the time the PNP was created in 1991, the President has always been regarded as the commander-in-chief.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV  defends President Benigno Aquino III. Trillions says that  and saidonly Napeñas was responsible for the incident and the relieved Special Action Force commander should be man enough to admit his mistakes and ask for forgiveness from the families  of the slain policemen.
“Did the President violate the chain of command?” Trillanes said. “That’s absurd. The whole world will laugh at us.”
Lacson explains that  with Executive Order No. 226 of 1995 which instituted command responsibility in the PNP and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the principle of command responsibility is ingrained in the PNP.
“The chain of command is present even in business organizations. What does chain of command mean? It’s the formal line of authority, responsibility in communication. This is the relationship of superior and his subordinate. So you cannot say that the PNP is not covered by a chain of command,” he says.
Lacson disputeds the claim of Palace spokesmen and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the PNP board of inquiry contradicted itself in its report on the Mamasapano incident that resulted in the death of 67 people, including 44 police commandos.
Lacson agrees that while  President Benigno Aquino III  had the prerogative to directly order Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas, buthow will Malacañang will be hard put o explain why former PNP chief Alan Pursima was issuing orders when he was already suspended.
Lacson made his remarks after Malacañang argued that Aquino does not have any liability for the incident because the PNP was a civilian agency not covered by the principle of chain of command.
But Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reiterated that the root cause of the chaos and even the deaths that resulted from the secret operation was mainly because President broke the chain of command.
“There was chaos because the normal chain of command, the whole command structure, was bypassed, and President Aquino made his own chain of command,” Marcos told reporters. .
Marcos said the chain of command during the Mamasapano incident consisted only of Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas. “So there were only three of them who planned and talked about this. So that is certainly significant,” Marcos said.
But Marcos notes that it will be hard to make Aquino answer for the incident because of the presidential immunity from suit.
“How do we make him answer? I don’t know. We’re just hoping that he acknowledges the need. That’s what the people are waiting for. What’s his reason for breaking the chain of command,” said Marcos.
On the other hand, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives, slammed the Palace from trying to discredit the BOI report after it criticized Aquino for violating the chain of command.
“It is preposterous, absurd, ridiculous, and outrageous for Malacanang to discredit a government-sponsored inquiry,” said Romualdez, also president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
“They even told the public to wait the results of the investigation and after the findings were made public, they are now assailing the PNP-BoI, that’s illogical,” Romualdez added.
Instead of washing his hands of the issue, Romualdez said President Aquino should explain why he allegedly violated the chain of command and why he should not be held liable over the Mamasapano incident.
“Like what I had been saying in the past, the President should admit full responsibility,” Romualdez said.
* * *
The leader of a new Muslim rebel splinter group, linked to the Mamasapano carnage, more than a dozen bombings and beheading of a farmer as well as accused of protecting two terror suspects, was captured Sunday night in General Santos City.
Mohammad Ali Tambako, head of the newly formed Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), was arrested with four of his followers while aboard a tricycle in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City.
“Tambako was fleeing when he was arrested,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, head of the military public affairs office.
“They were on their way to a sea port in General Santos … armed with hand guns and grenades.”
The police and the military operatives arrested Tambako, a native of Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and his associates – Datukan Sato Sabiwang, Ali Valley Ludisman, Mesharie Edio Gayak, and Abusahma Badrudin Guaimil alias Hansela Omar – on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Cotabato City Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Jorge Jabido for their alleged involvement in the killing and bombing of civilians in Midsayap, North Cotabato, in 2010. They yielded three grenades and two handguns.
Army 10th Infantry Division (10ID) commander Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año said that Tambako had been in General Santos City for at least one week after he escaped a military dragnet in Maguindanao where there is an ongoing offensive against the BIFF.
Tambako and his companions were flown to Manila for inquest.
Tambako, who formed JIM with about 70 armed fighters last year, has been suspected by the military of giving refuge in his southern stronghold to top Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and long-wanted Filipino bombing suspect Abdul Basit Usman.
The operation to neutralize Marwan and Usman last January left 44 police commandos dead in an ensuing gun battle with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups, including Tambako’s JIM in Mamasapano. That prompted the military last month to launch an offensive against the BIFF and other armed groups that has killed about 100 suspected insurgents and led to the capture of Tambako.
Before forming JIM, Tambako was vice chairman for military affairs of the BIFF under Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato. However, he was expelled last year from the BIFF, along with 30 of his followers, for beheading farmer Ricarte Dionio in Midsayap, North Cotabato, following a raid at a Christian community in 2013.
Prior to this, Tambako was a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) before he joined the MILF and later the BIFF, where he was appointed Amir after Kato, reportedly his uncle, suffered a stroke in January, 2012.
Tambako  studied in Egypt and Cabunoc said his time overseas  enabled him to build up extensive contacts with foreign militants. Having been exposed to foreign terror networks in the Middle East, Tambako had established a network of contacts among the notorious Islamic Fundamentalists around the world, according to the military.
He finished his special education at the Ulama Doctrine School in Libya and took graduate studies in Cairo, Egypt.
Tambako also took the elite force training in Pakistan.
AFP records show that Tambako is associated with the Jemaah Islamiyah and high value targets like Marwan, Usman, Mauiyah, Omar Patek, and Albader Parad.
Despite his links to terror groups, sources said Tambako’s downfall was a result of information provided by influential Muslim clerics and senior commanders of the MILF. The same sources said one of the informants is a senior Islamic preacher who served as guide to capture the suspects.
It was learned that Tambako opposes peace talks with the government, apparently the reason the MILF provided information on his whereabouts.
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On Chinese Expansion, MILF Leaders Malaysians?

Malaya 03.17.15)
“‘We have not been consulted on the BBL and other issues that concern the people of Mindanao.
Malacanñang decides Mindanaoans’ fate all by themselves,’ Duterte said.”

by Ducky Paredes

China is ramping up land reclamation and construction on the disputed Spratly Islands, aerial photographs by the Philippine military show, fueling concerns in Manila that the Asian giant soon may militarize in the South China Sea.
Photos taken in  January show several large facilities, such as a six-story building, being constructed on the Johnson North and Johnson South reefs. China has reclaimed about 80,000 sq. meters on Johnson North Reef, where only a 1,000-sq.-meter building stood two years ago.
A massive 3km strip with a maximum width of 600 meters has emerged on Fiery Cross Reef, where the Philippine military thinks China is constructing an airstrip. Much of the reclaimed land and facilities are expected to be for military use..
In addition to the five known projects in the area, the new photos revealed that China also is building up the Mischief and Subi reefs. A facility resembling a fish farm was discovered on Mischief Reef.
These activities “are fueling greater anxiety within the region about China’s intentions amid concerns they may militarize outposts on disputed land features,” says U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
China’s large-scale projects first came to light last year, also through photos by Philippine forces. Beijing has claimed most of the South China Sea as its territory and is tightening control over the area. It is reclaiming land on the Paracel Islands as well.
Other claimants of the disputed territory, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, have few or no options to curb Chinese expansionism. The Philippine government is challenging Beijing’s claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and a decision could come out as early as the end of this year.
* * *
Is ir possible  that Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim and MILF peace panel chief Mohagher Iqbal are Malaysians as Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles has been saying.
Nograles, a member of the 75-member house panel studying the Bansamoro Basic Law, wants  the committee to  ascertain the true citizenship of Murad and Iqbal first, before resuming its deliberations on the BBL.
He said if the allegations of former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III were true, Congress can be held criminally liable for committing acts of treason for selling out the country’s sovereignty to foreigners.
According to Alunan, Murad and Iqbal are Malaysians. He says they travel using Malaysian passports.
“This is a very serious allegation and must be investigated immediately before we continue deliberations on the BBL,” says Nograles.
“I raise this concern because if it is true that we are writing the proposed law for Malaysians, then we in Congress will be criminally liable for treason,” he says.
The Aquino government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF in March last year. Part of the government’s commitment to the MILF is the passage of the BBL, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao.
Nograles said it was good that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has decided to extend the life of the BBL panel for another three months as this would allow lawmakers to get a better view on how the proposed law would affect the country’s national interest.
He said the panel, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, should immediately call the officials of the Bureau of Immigration and subpoena all travel documents of Murad and Iqbal.
“We are all for peace but we should achieve peace in Mindanao without sacrificing our sovereignty as one nation,” Nograles said.
Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte yesterday asked President Aquino to hear the sentiments of local leaders in Mindanao regarding the proposed BBL and Mamasapano incident.
“We have not been consulted on the BBL and other issues that concern the people of Mindanao. Malacanñang decides Mindanaoans’ fate all by themselves,” Duterte said.
* * *

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has called on lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to “follow the Constitutional structure” in legislating a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) so that it can withstand legal scrutiny, in the event it is brought before the Supreme Court.
Speaking before the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) judicial forum in Makati City on Thursday, Sereno said the survival of the BBL from legal scrutiny actually depends on how well Congress would enact the bill.

When the Constitution says policies will be laid down by Congress in the form of legislation, then, it behooves that the institution that has been identified by the Constitution to do the job of legislation should make an excellent job at it,” Sereno said, when asked of her view about the controversial BBL.
Sidestepping the discussion on the constitutionality of the provisions of the proposed BBL since it could be raised before the SC, the country’s first lady Chief Justice exhorted legislators to ensure that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that it would  pass would not contravene the constitution.
“My request is that, please, for the identified organs to do their utmost. It can make more difficult the questions that the Court needs to address, instead of having a more efficient disposition. The questions can actually need to be resolved very decisively in the two houses of Congress,” Sereno explained.
Sereno added that legal flaws in every proposed law must be addressed at the level of the Congress because it could be too late once they are raised before the high court.
“Remember when we conduct our oral arguments and when we ask for memoranda and pleadings to be submitted, we are not going to try facts. Policy decisions must be based on facts,” she explained.
“Many decisions on wisdom need to be based on facts. So this is the handicap to the courts’ ability to become fast. So, who suffers? This is the country that suffers because information is provided but not addressed at the level where it should be done,” she said.
The chief magistrate also clarified her previous statement calling for sobriety in the Moro region following the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where 44 police special action force commandos, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and five civilians were killed.
She said it was not meant to espouse the BBL and that she was just responding to calls for an all-out war against the MILF.
Sereno said she just “wanted to emphasize that discussions for the resolution to the conflict in the South must somehow be found.”
“What I want people to understand is that war comes at a very high cost and if there’s an alternative to war, one that is acceptable to the context of justice and the rule of law—I emphasize here the rule of law—then, that has to be pursued. It’s the test of good governance,” she observed.
The Chief Justice  also rejected calls from some sectors for her to lead a transition council pushing for resignation of President Aquino over the Mamasapano encounter.
“I am denied that political role of succession by the 1987 Constitution. So, that actually frees me to emphasize that my role is not to be engaged at all in partisan politics. So, I hope that puts to rest that question,” she said.
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Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.