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Mayor Estrada Saves Manila/Will Next President Be Incorruptible?

Malaya 12.05.14


The President admits that the fight against corruption cannot be won overnight.  He has been working to “make change permanent” by continuing his legacy even after he leaves Malacañang.”


by Ducky Paredes

According to President-Mayor Joseph Estrada as the former President likes to be called nowadays, he can finally look forward to getting a good night’s sleep after seeing an improvement in the city’s financial standing.

When he took over as mayor in 2010, the city had a deficit of P4.4 billion. Unfazed, he told barangay officials then, that Manila would be debt-free by 2015.

“I have to admit that sleep rarely visited me since I inherited Manila’s fiscal problems. I could not sleep even after taking sleeping pills,” he said at the two-day Manila City Development Council convention held in Baguio City.

Thanks to improved revenue collections—largely due to updated fair marketDescription: for real property and a new revenue code—Manila’s financial standing is looking better, an achievement Estrada trumpeted in his state of the city address earlier this year.

With the city back in the black, public gymnasiums, sport centers and swimming pools can once again be used by residents free of charge starting in January. The city government began charging a fee for the use of these facilities when Estrada took office in 2010.

During the Baguio convention, Estrada told Manila barangay officials that the city government now has “greater room to finally implement the projects and programs that have been shelved for years, [with] emphasis, of course, on those that will benefit our 896 barangays and their combined 1.8 million residents.”

One of these was the release of the annual city aid fund from 2012 to 2014 for every barangay amounting to P1,000 yearly. Next year, the annual allocation would go up to P12,000 on the strength of a city ordinance.

Msnils will was also open a dialysis center in the next few days for the city’s indigent residents.

* * *

Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado is back from the  the United States and is ready to face his former friend and ally, Vice President Jejomar Binay, for a debate.

“I’m back and I like to reiterate my challenge to the Vice President for a face-off or debate to know who is telling the truth and who is lying,” Mercado told the Inquirer on Tuesday morning.

Mercado, who issued the challenge while he was abroad, said Binay could name the place and the time for the debate.

From the way that Binay has been avoiding debate challenges — from Senator Trillanes and others — there seems little chance that he would accept the challenge from his former ally.

The former vice mayor left for the United States after a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee suspended its hearing on the alleged overprice of the Makati City Building II, a carpark built when Binay was mayor of Makati.

Mercado has provided testimonies and documents to the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee linking Binay, who has declared his intention to run for President in 2016, to alleged anomalies.

Apart from the allegedly overpriced P2.28-billion carpark, Binay has been accused of owning a 350-hectare high-end farm in Rosario, Batangas province, and condominium units in Makati through dummies. The Vice President has denied the charges.

Away for more than two weeks, Mercado arrived on Monday evening on board Philippine Airlines from Los Angeles.

Mercado insists  that his travel was personal and had nothing to do with Binay.

Thinking that Mercado had more goods against the Vice President, the latter’s political spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said Mercado was a “proven perjurer who has nothing good to say.”

“The Vice President is too busy working to be distracted,” Remulla said in a text message.

Asked whether Binay had anything to worry about and whether he planned to take any legal action against Mercado, Remulla said: “He’s confident of the end game toward Malacañang.”

* * *

The President has  vowed that more charges will be filed and more personalities will be jailed in connection with the pork barrel scam.

“We should emphasize: These are only the initial cases filed; more will come once the necessary evidence is assembled,” Aquino said in a speech during the 2nd State Conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) in Malacañang.

In his speech, the President promised that those who “conspired to steal” public funds will be made accountable.

“Prominent lawmakers, former heads of GOCCs [government-owned and -controlled corporations] and government agencies, and others in the private sector who conspired to steal from the people through the Priority Development Assistance Fund [PDAF] have been arrested and are now undergoing the appropriate processes to determine accountability,” Aquino said.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are now in jail in connection with alleged misuse of their PDAF or pork barrel.

Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and the lawmakers’ subordinates were similarly ordered arrested for their participation in the P10-billion PDAF racket.

In June this year, Napoles submitted affidavits containing the names of 20 senators and 100 congressmen, many of whom incumbent, who allegedly benefited from the PDAF, before it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year.

The camp of principal witness, Benhur Luy, feared that such long list of possible respondents could drag the case for at least a decade.

Napoles’ scheme involved siphoning off PDAF to bogus non-government organizations that she herself had put up.

Aquino, also during the UNCAC meeting, said his administration has set up a budget scheme that will prevent similar abuses.

“There are new measures to speak of as well. For instance, one of the innovations we introduced in the budgeting process this year is the GAA [General Appropriations Act]-as-release-document system. Through this system, the budget serves as the release document itself the moment it is signed into law. This meant that, as soon as 2014 began, the majority of allocations were released to agencies, enabling them to begin implementing projects, thus cascading benefits down to our people, at the soonest possible time,” he explained.

* * *

The President admits that the fight against corruption cannot be won overnight.  He has been working to “make change permanent” by continuing his legacy even after he leaves Malacañang.

“With the 2016 elections not too far off, let us always remember that we are working to make change permanent, to make the commitment to good governance a commitment that lasts beyond this administration,” he said.
            “We are working to rid the Philippines of the corruption that has tainted its reputation and plagued it for so long; we are working to institutionalize a legacy that finds its roots in the mindset of our countrymen, who will never again settle for anything less than true public service,” Aquino added.

The President narrated how “methodical” the “straight path” has been for him, noting that “each hindrance would have to be dismantled before we could make true progress.”

“As you may remember, the first Executive Order I signed created a Truth Commission intended to investigate allegations of graft and corruption, as the first step toward accountability. We all know unfortunately, this was blocked by the Supreme Court, which was then led by then-Chief Justice Corona. Yet we persisted.

 “Only 6.5 percent of the 2010 budget, amounting to P100 billion, was left when this administration took office. We also inherited the proposed 2011 budget, which has to be given to Congress roughly about two months into office. Even with these challenges, we embarked on serious reforms . . . And in 2012, we finally had the wherewithal to craft a budget, under which each peso government spent would have real and concrete benefits for the Filipino people,” according to the President.

* * *

Of course, for this campaign to continue, we will need another President as dedicated against corruption as the present President. From the way things look, it is just too bad but that the next President could actually be eminently corruptible.

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hvp 12.04.14

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

Ilayo ang mga Paaralan ng mga Lumad sa Panganib



ni Horacio Paredes


Noong hapon ng Dec.1, nagsimula ang isang gabing vigil-protest ng mahigit 50 estudyante at guro ng mga Lumad Community Schools mula sa Mindanao sa tapat ng DepEd Central Office upang igiit kay DepEd. Sec. Armin Luistro na harapin sila at aksyunan na ang mga kaso ng pagkakampo ng mga militar sa kanilang mga paaralan. Kasama nila ang iba’t-ibang organisasyon at NGOs sa pangunguna ng Save Our Schools Network sa panawagang ibasura ang DepEd Memorandum 221, series of 2013 na nagpapahintulot sa Armed Forces of the Philippines na gamitin ang mga eskwelahan sa mga operasyong militar.

Noong sunod na araw (Dec.2)  nagtayo din ang mga guro at estudyante ng pansamantalang “klasrum”/mobile school sa tapat ng ahensya upang ipakita kay Sec. Luistro kung ano ang kalagayan ng kanilang pag-aaral sa panahon na sila ay sapilitang lumilikas bunga ng matinding takot at pagkakampo ng mga militar sa kanilang komunidad at paaralan.

Dapat lamang na ang mga paaralan ay hindi pinagagamit sa militar upang hindi nalalagay ang mga mag-aaral sa panganib na baka sila ay madamay  sa engkwentro ng mga militar at ang kanilang kalaban. Dapat ay nilalayo ang mga nag-aaral sa panganib. Kapag pinababayaang [umasok ang mga sundalo at magkampo pa nga sa ating mga paaralan, sinusubo natin ang mga bata sa panganib. Dapat na itigil na ang ganitong gawain ng DEPED.

Dapat pa nga na ang mga eskwelahan at ang mga estudyante ay nilalayo sa panganib, hindi pinappasok ang militar sa kanilang kampus at ginagawang armadong kampo ng mga sundalo na maaaring lusubin ng mga katunggali natin.

Mapanganib na nga ang buhay sa mga liblib na lugar ng bansa; huwag naman sanang kahit na ang mga paaralan natin ang pinapabayaang maging kampo militaar na maaaring maging “target” ng mga kalaban ng estado.

Kapag pinapapasok ang militar sa paaralan, lalong linalapit natin ang mga estudiyante sa panganib imbes na sila’y nabibigyan ng dagdag na proteksyun!

Hindi dapat na pinababayaang maging kampo militar ang ating mga paaralan. Imbes na nakakatulong ang ganito sa pag-aarla ng mga bata, lalo lamang silang nalalagay sa panganib.

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

That Taguig COA Audit

“Appropriate plantilla positions have not been created for the different offices of the city. Hence, contract of service for contractual and job order personnel under the different development projects/programs was charged to OMOE (other maintenance and operating expenses) account.”

by Ducky Paredes

There wae a time when the Ilustrados among us were respected by all. Not only were they the educated (by Western standards), they were also those in positions of power among the natives (second only to the colonizers). Thus, we still see people who consider that they are part of the ruling class who are above the rest and act caaordingly.

How else explain the tack taken by the Maserati driver against the lowly MMDA tyraffic aide who he dragged  with his sportscar over a few hundred meters, injured him severely and now accusses the poor man of having assaulted him. Only one who consider himself  above the law would expect others to believe that story.

Or how about the expectation of a governor disqualified by the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court for having spent too much on his election campaign opredicting that our President may soon find himself in jail. This comes from the same feeling of being “Ilustrado,” born above the rest of us.

It is unlikely that President Benigno Aquino will go to jail, Malacañang said Monday in response to disqualified Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito’s recent statement.

“Sa parte ng Pangulo at ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete, kami ay naglilingkod ayon sa pagtitiwala ng ating mga mamamayan at sinusunod ang Saligang Batas at lahat ng mga batas ng bansa,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Palace briefing.

Ejercito accused the Aquinos of harassing his family.

He blamed the late President Corazon Aquino for the unseating of Joseph Estrada as San Juan mayor in 1986 and called his own ouster “selective justice.”

Coloma, on the other hand, insisted that the President’s family had nothing to do with Ejercito’s disqualification because of an election violation.

“Mismong ang Korte Suprema ay inuphold ‘yung desisyon ng Commission on Elections na isang independent constitutional body,” Spokesman Sonny Coloma said in response.

Coloma explains that the administration has nothing to fear and that Aquino and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Ejercito’s uncle, have a good relationship.

Coloma said the public should appreciate the turn of events.

“Ngayon lang tayo nagkaroon ng actual disqualification ng isang nakaupong lingkod-bayan.

Baka naman gusto nating tingnan ‘yung positibong aspeto nito na kung saan ipinapakita natin sa mga mamamayan na hindi balewala ‘yung mga tadhana ng batas na kinakailangang sundin ang mga patakaran,” he said.

* * *

State auditors have found “ghost employees” in Taguig City.

According to the news, the Commission on Audit (COA) wants Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano to account for more than P317.4 million that the city government spent on salaries of its contractual employees, who seem nowhere to be found.

The COA also noted the “doubtful existence” of medicines and medical, dental, laboratory and office supplies in City Hall’s inventory amounting to nearly P102.3 million.

In its annual financial report for 2013, the COA noted several adverse findings in its audit of the financial transactions of one of the richest cities in the country.

Yet, Taguig prides itself as being unique withvits slogan –Walang Korap sa Taguig.

Cayetano is the wife of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, one of the three senators leading the Senate inquiry into corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family.

State auditors also ordered the city government to distribute to village councils their share of revenue from real property taxes and community tax certificates, or cedula, amounting to almost P337 million.

The results of the audit on the Taguig City government were contained in a 918-page report that COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza submitted to President Aquino on Sept. 25.

The report, also included the annual audit reports of 79 provinces, 144 cities, 1,446 municipalities and 29,947 village councils nationwide.

Besides the missing payroll documents for the city’s job order personnel, the state auditors also questioned the city government’s decision to hire contractual workers that cost Taguig nearly P487 million.

The auditors said the city government should have just created regular positions to allow it to source the payroll money from its personal services expenditures.

The COA directed the city government to refund almost P39 million it released as bonuses to contractual workers, saying the granting of such benefit violated a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) circular.

“Appropriate plantilla positions have not been created for the different offices of the city. Hence, contract of service for contractual and job order personnel under the different development projects/programs was charged to OMOE (other maintenance and operating expenses) account,” it said.

To avoid employing casual workers, the COA said, the city government should “prioritize the creation of an appropriate organizational structure and plantilla positions … for effective governance.”

It said City Hall must also “classify and record the salaries of contractual and job order personnel [under] personal services accounts pursuant to the updated description of accounts in the New Government Accounting System.”

The agency asked the city government to “stop paying incentive to the [contractual workers] without legal basis to avoid audit disallowances and to cause the refund of the amount paid as performance incentive bonus in 2013.”

Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano on Thursday decried what she said was the deliberate distortion of some of the Commission on Audit (COA) findings for 2013 aimed at “malign(ing) the reputation of Taguig as a city with a hard stance against corruption.”

Cayetano did not say in the statement who she thought was behind the supposed distortion but her husband, Sen. Alan Cayetano, has earned the ire of several of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s allies for his acerbic criticisms of him in Senate hearings on the alleged overpricing of Makati City Hall Building II.

For one, according to the mayor, the COA report that was said to have accused the local government of employing “ghost employees” had also “already made it clear” that “there are no ghost employees in Taguig.” “The COA already cleared this issue in its report. So why is it being resurrected in the media?” she asked.

To clarify the supposed bogus claim of ghost employees, the COA said the “biometric machine readings of daily time records were the basis of the [human resource management office] in the preparation of payrolls for these personnel,” said Taguig City Administrator Joel Montales, a lawyer.

“For those not using the biometric machine, the manual time records are the basis of payroll preparation. Payroll payments are made through Land Bank of the Philippines automated teller machine[s] …. Verification disclosed that the personnel in the above-mentioned programs were actually assigned/deployed to different offices in the absence or lack of regular personnel performing regular functions/services,” Montales quoted the COA as saying.

“We in Taguig categorically deny this bogus claim [of ghost employees]. The truth is the [supposed ghost employees] are warm bodies and they make up the backbone of the local government’s programs,” the mayor said.

As for the supposed questionable practice of hiring job order personnel, Montales said the COA, “in a previous audit,” had “already acknowledged” that these personnel hired by Taguig City “augmented the present workforce.”

Montales said this practice was perfectly legal and had redounded to the benefit of the residents of Taguig City.

 He added that the personnel’s “engagement” had “significantly contributed to the successful implementation of the various social programs introduced by [Taguig City], especially in the fields of health and education.”

According to the mayor, these “innovative social programs” that “require work beyond regular office hours and even during weekends and holidays” include a “house-to-house delivery of free medicine for asthma, diabetes and hypertension; distribution of senior citizens’ allowance; scholarship distribution; regular medical and dental missions; feeding and nutrition programs; information and education campaigns/training on solid waste management, waste collection and segregation.

“Disaster awareness and preparedness/basic emergency life-saving seminars; violence against women and children seminars; AIDS/HIV awareness and gender-sensitivity seminars and [focus group discussions]; continuous cleanup and dredging of waterways; census and tagging; maintenance of peace and order; and traffic management.”

 “All these programs are intended to be delivered for the benefit of [Taguig Citys] ’more or less 720,000 residents,” the mayor said, reiterating that the city’s job order personnel were working hard.

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hvp 12.02.14

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

Scholarships for Top 10 HS Graduates

The borrower would pay off the loan periodically, starting two years after graduation, but not later than eight years after leaving college.


by Ducky Paredes


The top 10 graduates of every public high school are now assured of scholarships in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs), with President Benigno Aquino III’s signing into law of the Iskolar ng Bayan Program, now Republic Act No. 10648.

 “The new law will enable a greater number of Filipino families to fulfill their hopes and dreams of sending their children to college,” said Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education.

 “We expect around 80,000 of the country’s best-performing public high school graduates to benefit from the new legislation,” said Romulo, who has been championing greater public access to higher education.

 “Highly improved access to a college education is crucially important in fighting poverty and growing our middle class families,” Romulo added.

Under the Iskolar ng Bayan Program, the top 10 graduates of every public high school will be entitled to admission to the SUC of his or her choice within his or her province, without having to pay for first-year tuition and miscellaneous fees.

According to the Department of Education, there are more than 8,000 public high schools nationwide.

Public high schools with more than 1,000 graduates will be entitled to one additional college scholarship slot for every 500 graduates, to be granted to graduates whose ranks immediately follow the top 10.

After the first-year college scholarship under the program, the student beneficiary will be covered by financial assistance from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), if qualified.

In the 2015 national budget, SUCs have a total of P3.5 billion available for scholarships. This is apart from the CHED’s P2.2-billion allotment for student financial aid.

Romulo is also author of the proposed Voluntary Student Loan Program by Private Banks, which since been passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives, and is now pending Senate action.

Under the program, an eligible student may obtain a low-cost bank loan to pay for the tuition of the college where the borrower has been accepted. The student may also use the money to finance all other schooling as well as living expenses.

The loan would have an effective interest rate pegged to the 91-day Treasury bill rate, which stood at 1.144 percent per annum as of Nov. 28.

The bank may apply an add-on 3.0 to 5.0 percent annual interest rate. But instead of the student paying for the extra interest charges, the lender may claim the corresponding amount as tax credits. The bank may then use the credits to pay, or offset, its tax obligations.

The borrower would pay off the loan periodically, starting two years after graduation, but not later than eight years after leaving college.

 Borrowers would be issued either Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) numbers, depending on their preferred future employment.

The bank may then enlist the SSS or GSIS to collect repayments via salary deduction or withholding.

The lender may also ask the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to help collect from borrowers with job contracts abroad.

* * *

   In his column in a Ful-Am paper in the US, Frank Wencesao writes: “A US-Pinoy lawyer objects to Sen. Koko Pimentel’s ruling not to include in the records of the Blue Ribbon Subcommittee’s hearing these bank accounts Ernesto Mercado alleges to belong to Eduviges Baloyloy and Gerardo Limlingan, known Binay’s dummies, the bank accounts below because by accepting the accounts as evidence, the subcommittee can endorse it to the BIR and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for them to investigate if crime had been committed and be additional evidence of the totality of corruption charges vs. the Binays, to wit:

            “1. A US dollar account at Citbank with $71,481.95 deposit as of March, 30, 1996;

            2. A Hong Kong dollar account, also in Citibank, with HK$ 552,712.73 deposit as of March 30, 1996;

            “3. A Hong Kong dollar account, also in Citibank, with HK$405,200.20 deposit as of September 30, 1998.

            “My colleagues and I are therefore in the process of revising Pamusa’s strategy of fighting corruption in the remaining 1-1/2 years of President Aquino’s term to enhance his legacy by cleaning up until their conclusion the pending high-profile cases, e.g. Maguindanao Massacre; plunder cases vs. GMA, et al.; graft case vs. Ongpin et al.; tax evasion and ill-gotten wealth forfeiture cases vs. dismissed CJ Renato Corona; and the various cases related to the PDAF scams masterminded by Janet Napoles.

            “The strategy will overlap the first 1-1/2 years of President Aquino’s successor, hence the latter’s remaining 4-year in office would involve lesser corruption and, instead, be an opening of a window of opportunity gear up the Philippine economy to be more favorable to local and foreign investors undisturbed by big businessmen who couldn’t speak straight Pilipino but wrap the Philippine flag around themselves to discourage foreign competition which is good for the people.

            “Depending on the Joint USDOJ-PHDOJ Anticorruption Program (the “Program”) now awaiting Secretary Leila de Lima’s imprimatur Pamusa looks forward to put in place a volunteer team of forensic accountants connected whose members are with the Big 4 U.S. accounting firms that will go on leave and spend their vacation in the country offering their services to the PHG and Pamusa by training a local “army” of undergraduates and newly graduates forensic accountants who can help in random forensic auditing of an existing big company whose growth of corporate assets and net worth appear to be statistically improbable.

            “When a company shows signs of business shortcuts, dependence on political influence for success or has resorted at one point of its existence to corrupting government regulators, the bureaucracy and has tendency to cook accounting books and other shenanigans, Pamusa will have a team to zero in on wrongdoers and make a template to make it easier for government offices to pinpoint financial crimes.

            “Hopefully Congress will pass an amnesty law to negotiate settlement of ill-gotten wealth and illicit assets from the proceeds of corruption. Unless they negotiate settlement, many current and former Filipino government officials, their immediate family members and close associates, or the private businessmen and individuals that colluded with them to amass ill-gotten wealth, will be Pamusa’s targets under the said anticorruption Program and suffer the consequences under this UNCAC’s international cooperation provision, to wit: Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.”

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hvp 12.02.14

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

The Masserati Driver/Binay/BBL

And, of course, because these people allow themselves to be fooled by Binay, they have to be telling the truth.”

by Ducky Paredes

The Maserati car driver who was caught on video assaulting a traffic enforcer complains  that his family is already suffering from statements being made against him.

Joseph Russell Ingco, who was caught on video assaulting traffic enforcer Jurve Adriatico, also assured the public that he will be “submitting himself to the proper legal process.”

In a statement, posted on Twitter,  Ingco said that the incident with the traffic enforcer of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was  “truly sad.”

(I guess that, for Ingco, what is sad about it was that a video was taken and seen by police and the public.)

“I hope that people will let due process take its course,” he says.

The 39-year-old businessman said that his “wife and children” are already “severely suffering” from “cruel statements” being against him because of the incident. (Boo hoo.)

“I am praying for the patience and understanding of everybody,” he said.

The incident took place at the corner of Quezon and Araneta avenues where enforcer Adriatico and his fellow enforcers were manning traffic.

Ingco made an illegal left turn at the intersection, prompting the traffic enforcers to take photos and video of the car. Ingco made a U-turn and went back to confront the traffic enforcers.

He called Adriatico over and when the enforcer was beside the car, the suspect allegedly yanked the enforcer’s shirt and punched him repeatedly while the car was still moving.

Police investigators said that as Adriatico was being punched, he was also dragged for about 10 meters before the Ingco let go and sped off.

* * *

Vice President Jejomar Binay says that he is bracing for more attacks that he believes will continue well into the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections.

In the meantime, he is spreading rumors agasinst his percieved enemies. The the Vice President says his camp received information that the real purpose of former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado’s trip to the United States was to fabricate documents to be used in the conspiracy to defame him.

“Ayon sa bali-balita namin ay gagawa ng kung anong dokumento. Itong darating na mga araw hanggang sa panahon ng pagkakampanya, e magbibintang dito, bintang roon, kahit na alam naman po nilang kasinungalingan,” Binay says.

The vice president said his detractors will intensify their campaign to damage his image as the elections near.

“Pagdating ng oras, sasabihin, ‘Hala! Ito po ang imahe ni Vice President. Kaso rito, kaso r’yan. Pero ‘yun ay mga bintang na walang batayan at kasinungalingan. So ‘yun ang part of conspiracy. Kita mo, of late, kung ano-anong unit dito, unit doon. eh ‘yan, napapakita naman na walang katotohanan,” he says.

Binay said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should be asked about the real destination of Mercado since she was the one who approved the trip.

De Lima has been mum on the call of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas to confirm Mercado’s reported US trip because his “secret” departure has raised so much speculations.

Tiangco earlier said the reluctance of government agencies like the Bureau of Immigration to confirm Mercado’s departure substantiates doubts that his trip to the US may be part of the conspiracy to ruin Binay’s chances in the upcoming election.

Binay admitted that he was affected by the allegations hurled against him but he had already moved on because the people he met in his provincial sorties have told him they do not believe his accusers. And, of course, because these people allow themselves to be fooled by Binay, they have to be telling the truth.

* * *

 “There is no Plan B, only Plan A!” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) said at the launching of the Primer on the BBL.

The BTC which drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), he said is not looking for an alternative beyond the law in case the peace deal won’t work.

The MILF emphasized that it has placed all its cards behind the proposed BBL as the solution to the bangsamoro problem and end the decades-old Mindanao conflict.

Even past pronouncements by MILF leaders indicated that it is counting much on the BBL to give Mindanao an inclusive, just and durable peace, which has remained elusive despite the signing on September 2, 1996 of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) by the Government of the Philippines (FPA) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Iqbal believes the “BBL is the antidote to (Moro) secession.”

The European Union (EU) funded the printing of around 58,000 copies of the primer in English which will later be translated to six local dialects to explain in the dialect of the stakeholders what the BBL is all about and how it will affect the everyday life of the Bangsamoro people.

The BBL is currently undergoing review in both houses of Congress and being discussed in many forums by experts, civil society organizations (CSOs) who are for or against the measure.

Both Houses of Congress have expressed full support for the BBL which President Aquino certified as urgent.

Congress said it would be able to pass the BBL in 2015 which shortens the time frame for the MILF to implement the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will eventually abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

If the road map for the Bangsamoro new political entity (NPE) runs its length, election for the pioneer officials of the NPE would be synchronized with the 2016 national elections.

But the MILF is willing to wait.

Maybe the legislators think that is the best time, Iqbal said.

“We think that is the best time to do that, although time is short and is running very fast, I hope we can come up with a very appropriate Basic Law so the BTA will be given enough time to do its job,” said Iqbal.

“And if we can not be able to succeed, then at least we have done our part and people will witness that we are doing everything possible,” he said.

“I think the government is really committed to pass that law. And while there are obstacles along the way in terms of  people raising some concerns against the BBL, but the movement forward, I think, is still on track,” said Iqbal.

Secretary Teresita Q. Deles, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and Secretary Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao, CEO of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), shared the MILF’s optimism.

 “No, it is not a setback. The Senate has said it will be in January at the earliest, and even up to February. We just need to work that the plebiscite can be held immediately after,” the OPAPP chief said.

Deles also allayed fears the BBL might be watered down by Congress, saying it won’t happen, altough some amendments are expected.

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hvp 12.01.14

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

Questioning the Supplemental Budget

“Tacloban is only one of the 171 cities and municipalities directly affected by Yolanda.  We are ensuring that all areas in the Yolanda corridor will get the assistance they need,” says Lacson.  


by Ducky Paredes

Senator “Chiz” Escudero, head of the Senate Finance Committee where P137 billion in 2013 and 2014 went.

“Had we spent that much for the Yolanda affected areas?” Escudero.

“Quite frankly, I don’t see, it, I don’t feel it and certainly the  people in Region 8 don’t see it and feel it either,” he says.

Escudero says that P37 billion was allocated for post-Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction in 2013 while P100 billion was included in the 2014 national budget.

Escudero wants the agencies to first explain where the money went before his commmitee will tackle the supplemental budget submitted by Malacanang.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez says that he would examine documents coming from the Departments of Budget and Management (DBM), Energy (DoE), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Housing Authority (NHA), to ascertain where the budget, including foreign donations, went.

Presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, former Senator Panfilo Lacson says that Leyte got the biggest budget from the government coffers among those affected by the typhoon.

Romualdez wants an itemized breakdown or accounting of the ‘Yolanda’ funds.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz notes that the Romualdez’s group and several other lawmakers have already filed resolutions seeking a full auditing of the Yolanda funds; and yet the agencies concerned seem to be not responding to the call.

Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza reminded the public that ‘Yolanda’ funds, as reported in the media, were “in the tens or hundreds of billions”, including donations and aid from the private sector and international communities.

Atienza said Congress alone approved  14.6 billion supplemental budget for ‘Yolanda’ and other victims of calamities last year.

“But up to now,” he says “Congress has no idea about the breakdown of how the funds were spent.

Escudero also wants to know if there is a need for a supplemental budget and why the DBM did not include the amount in the 2015 proposed national budget but is now submitting a supplemental budget.

* * *

Senate President Franklin Drilon  sees no hindrance to the passage  of the supplemental budget.

“The supplemental is for future needs. This is not a condition that the previous appropriation has been exhausted, because it is possible that in the inadequacy of budget, a new appropriation is being requested,” he adds.

Lacson, meanwhile, insists that Leyte has received a funding of P8.09 billion, which was the biggest among the areas battered by Yolanda.

Of the  total amount, Lacson said P3 billion went to infrastructure projects; P 367.44 million for social services; P 4.01 billion for resettlement; and P 714.73 million for livelihood assistance.

“Based on these figures, Tacloban City has received the most funding support from the national government for its rehabilitation needs,” Lacson said.

He noted that the P8.09 billion funding translates to half of Tacloban City’s requested and approved total funding requirement estimated at P 15.73 billion.

“Through this funding support, several projects are already ongoing or have been completed. Among these are the ongoing repair of Tacloban Base Port and Daniel Romualdez Airport which is targeted to be completed by the end of 2014,” Lacson says.

The repair of the city hall, civic center and public market, funded through the Department of Interior and Local Government, are all ongoing, Lacson added.

Lacson said the DSWD has begun distributing Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) to affected households with partially and totally damaged houses in safe areas of Tacloban City. ESA distributions will amount to P 315.55 million.

Various livelihood efforts have also been implemented, including Cash for Building Livelihood Assets (CBLA) assistance to 9,725 families; employment program for 1,151 beneficiaries; and repair or replacement of damaged fishing boats for 547 fishermen.

“All targeted 14,433 permanent housing units for Tacloban City are already funded with the total amount of P 4.01 billion. As of today, 1,124 housing units have been completed and 5,526 are being constructed with target completion in 2015,” he said.

“Tacloban is only one of the 171 cities and municipalities directly affected by Yolanda.  We are ensuring that all areas in the Yolanda corridor will get the assistance they need,” says Lacson.  

* * *

The People Surge Alliance trooped to the public hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement at the UP Tacloban College headed by Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, Senator Bongbong Marcos, Rep Alfred “Albee” B. Benitez Negros Occidental, 3 Chairman, Housing and Urban Development,Rep Ferdinand Martin “FM” Romuladez, Leyte, Lone District and Rep. Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte, Quezon City,

“It is disgusting that President Aquino and his rehab stooge Panfilo Lacson came out too late with their rehab master plan 10 months after Yolanda’s landfall, and approved this only as a political gimmick in time for the Yolanda anniversary. Now they are doing the rounds of shelter turnovers that are mere PR stunts aimed at defusing the anger of Yolanda survivors,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge.

In a position paper submitted to the Senate Committee,  People Surge cited recent studies by non government organizations on the current state of rehabilitation in Eastern Visayas. Citing data from the independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, a total of 1,200,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

There are still over 250,000 families or more than 1,300,000 people living in evacuation centers, tent cities, bunk houses, and settlements in ‘no-build zones.’ The national government was able to construct only 364 homes in Tanauan and Tacloban, Leyte.

They also cite the findings of the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines covering upland, lowland, urban, and coastal ecosystems. A specific and serious shelter concern raised was the No Dwelling Zone (NDZ) policy, which seeks to prohibit residential infrastructure within 40 meters from the coastline..

The survivors’ alliance called for a genuine pro-people reconstruction program. They want a housing program with ensured access to livelihood and social services, resiliency standards, and people’s control and participation. They also demand that the No Dwelling Zone policy be scrapped.

In the same committee hearing at, OPARR Undersecretary Leslie Cordero admitted that Tacloban residents will have to wait for three years before the National Government finishes the 14, 433 total number of housing needs for Tacloban alone.

No matter how well the National Government does its job, it will not be enough for Yolanda’s  victims.

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hvp 11.30.14

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

Dalawang Sulat



ni Horacio Paredes


“Sobrang tuwa ako dahil  kaparehas ko na kayo din po ay nananalig din sa kakayahan ni Ping Lacson at hinde bastang karaniwang tao lang. Isang pinagpipitagang kolomnista pa. Sir, sa hanay kong maging presidente na hahalili kay Pinoy ay nangunguna sa akin si Ping Lacson at sumunod si A. Trillanez IV,  Alan Peter Cayetano, Mar Roxas at Grace Poe in any order. Sa kapanahonan ni Ping at ni Estrada noon ko naramdaman ang katiwasayan at katahimikan sa kanilang panunungkulan. Sa taya ko sa panahon nila sana magumpisa ang pagunlad ng Pilipinas. Biro mo Sir magumpisa sana kay Estrada ang inasam na kaunlaran. Sundan ni Ping Lacson, FPJ at ngayon si Pnoy. Si Estrada naniwala talaga ako na biktima ng konspirasiya. Si Ping Lacson at FPJ biktima ng pandaraya. Si Tito Sotto at  Angara, kung hinde nila binaraso at pumayag sila na idaan sa kombensyon ang pagpili ng standard bearer baka hinde pa namatay si FPJ sa sama ng loob. Sa paniniwala ko kasi kung me kombensyon, sa pupolaridad ni FPJ siya talaga ang maging standard bearer sa pangulohan at malamang na tangapin na lamang ni Ping Lacson ang pagka pangalawang pangulo. At naniwala ako na unbeatable ang tandem nilang ito. At dahil namatay si FPJ naging presidente na sana si Ping. At dahil si Ping ay beterano ng pulitiko mahirapan silang dayain at hinde sana namatay si FPJ sa sama ng loob. Kung natapos naman ni FPJ ang termino nya tiyak ko na manalo si Lacson sa pagka pangulo dahil sa kanyang track record. Ang dumi ng pulitika sa ating bansa. Buti na lang me Pnoy, Lacson, Trillanez, A. Cayetano, Grace Poe at Mar Roxas pa tayo”. — Boie Cinchez. Antipolo City.

* * *

   Sumulat rin sa atin ng isang kolumnista ng ibang pahayagan ng tinawag niyang “Isang Paglilinaw”:

“Nais kong ipabatid sa lahat, partikular na sa mga miyembro ng Ikaapat na Estado,  na mariing kong itinatanggi na ako ay nasuhulan ng kampo ni Bise Presidente Jejomar Binay ng halagang P100, 000.

“Walang katotohanan at kasinungalingan  ang  kumakalat na “white paper” na umano ako ay nasuhulan para itigil ang mga banat laban kay Binay sa aking kolum na “Abot-Sipat” sa pahayagang Hataw.

“Bagama’t inaamin ko na minsan ako ay nabigyan ng media handlers ni Binay, nililinaw kong hindi pera ang ibinigay nila sa akin.  Ang pagbatikos ko kay Binay sa overpriced Makati Cityhall Building ay lehitimong usapin  na ginamit ko sa aking kolum.

“Sa ganang akin, hindi maituturing na bribery kung ako man ay tumanggap ng mamahaling regalo at pabor mula sa media handlers ni Binay.  Malinis  ang aking  konsensya, at mariin kong pinanghahawakan ang prinsipyo ng malinis na pamamahayag.

“Para sa isang malaya, tapat at responsableng  pamamahayag.” — Ariel Dim. Borlongan, Hataw Columnist

* * *

    Salamat, Ariel, sa iyong pagiging tapat. Ngunit kung tinigil mo ang pagbatikos sa nakita mong  kamalian dahil sa natanggap mong regalo, walang pagkakaiba iyon sa katotohunang nasuholan ka!

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hvp (11.28.14)


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

Automated Elections, Coco Farmers, LP Candidates

(T)he rest of us are  very pleased with elections that are not marred by ‘dagdag-bawas.’ Why C3E wants to bering back ‘dagdag-bawas’ is simply not acceptable.”


by Ducky Paredes


The move by the original group that lost to Samartmatic when the country decided to try automated elections is at it again. This time, a 19-page petition for certiorari, diled by Homobona Adaza and co-petitioner Jonathan Sinel are sking the Sypreme Cpurt to stop ther used of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in the 2016 voting.

Smartmatic is the supplier of the PCOS machines used in the elections in May 2010 and in 2013.

The petitioners said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion for its failure to resolve pending legal questions on its deal with Smartmatic.

Adaza and Sinel say the Comelec should first conduct an inventory and technical and forensic testing of the more than 80,000 PCOS machines procured for the 2010 polls.

According to the patitioners, Smartmatic-TIM was awarded the contract in 2010 even if it failed to comply with the requirement provided for in Section 12 of Republic Act 9369, also known as the Election Automation Law.

The law mandates that the system procured for the 2010 and succeeding elections “must have demonstrated capability and has been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.”

Because of this, Adaza and Sinel say that Smartmatic “should be summarily excluded from the bidding.”

This is the same argument of the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) that wants to ban Smartmatic and its local partner, Total Information Management Corp. (TIMC), from joining the bidding for the procurement of 23,000 automated election systems (AESs) to be used in the 2016 presidential elections.

C3E spokesperson Dave Diwa said Smartmatic should be barred from participating in the bidding because it violated the elections law in the past and for its failure to deliver the required services in a specified period.

 “For the past two elections, we’ve been made fools by Smartmatic. We ask the Comelec to reconsider its stance on the blacklisting of Smartmatic.”

Unfortunately for this group of losers, the rest of us are  very pleased with elections that are not marred by “dagdag-bawas.” Why C3E wants to bering back “dagdag-bawas” is simply not acceptable. Give up already and let’s move on.

* * *

“I hope it’s clear: You have our full support and we are on your side,” the President told coconut farmers in Filipino in a meeting in Malacañang. “May you continue to trust [the government]. Help us in the struggle to achieve our singular objective for coconut farmers and the rest of the Philippines.”

The farmers wore green shirts with the words, “Nakaw na Coco Levy, Ibalik sa Niyugan.” For the meeting, the President assembled a powerhouse group of his Cabinet men: Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

These 71 farmers walked 1,700 kilometers in 66 days from Davao City to Malacañang beginning Sept. 21, the 42nd anniversary of martial law, to dramatize their plight.

They want to take control of and actually benefit from P71 billion in coco levy funds collected from coconut farmers during the Martial Law years.

“The best course of action I see is to craft a law. This would ensure that the next generation would enjoy the benefits brought by the coco levy fund and we would be spared from any legal obstacle in the future,” Mr. Aquino told the farmers.

But pending such a law, the President was open to issuing an executive order ensuring that the coconut industry, especially small farmers, would enjoy the benefits of the coco levy fund.

 “I also agree that we will use only interest income from the coco levy fund so that even the next generation of farmers would benefit from it,” he said.

At the outset, the President reminded the group that the Supreme Court had yet to decide on the motion for partial reconsideration of its 2012 ruling that the government owned the 27-percent block of shares of San Miguel Corp., the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF).

They were “to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry, and ordered reconveyed to the government,” the high court said.

* * *

Fewer travelers from China are visiting Southeast Asia, casting a shadow over the region’s tourism industries.

     Newfound frugality on the part of Chinese amid the economic chill at home is one reason. But Malaysia and Thailand have image problems that are also keeping the tourists away and taking a toll on Singapore.

     Malaysia welcomed 12% fewer visitors from China for the January-July period compared with a year earlier. The Malaysian airliner that vanished in March carried mainly Chinese passengers, and Chinese tourists have since thinned out.

     Thailand’s political unrest, military coup and martial law have affected tourism from around the world. January-September visitors from China declined 17%.

     In Singapore, tourists from China plunged 29% for the January-August period. China is the biggest contributor to the city-state’s tourism, and trails only Indonesia in visitor numbers. But many tour packages offered in China combine Singapore with Malaysia and Thailand for a three-country Southeast Asian vacation.

* * *

            The Liberal Party will be fielding re-electionists Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto, food security czar Francis Pangilinan, rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson Jr. and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.   The LP announced its senatorial bets even as rumors that its candidate for President could be  the House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.facing off with the presumptive standard bearer, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.  

            Senator Cynthia Villar, meanwhile, said Wednesday her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar, was not running for vice president following reports her husband was being eyed as the running mate of some presidential candidates for the 2016 elections.

“Some are saying that but he doesn’t listen,” said Cynthia.

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hvp 11.27.14


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

Si Kaliihim Domingo ng DTI



ni Horacio Paredes


            Ang naging panauhin ng “Bulong Pulungan” noong Martes ay ang Kalihim ng Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) na si Gregory L. Domingo. Noon ko pa laang nakilala ang  Kalihim ng DTI ngaunit napahanga ako sa kaniaynag biodata. Tinapos  niya ang Management Engineering sa Ateneo de Manila Univesity noong 1976,  kumuha naman siya sunod ng MBA sa Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Sunod tinapos niya ang Master of Science in Operations Research sa Wharton School-University of Pennsylvania noong 1982.

            Nagtrabaho siya sa Amerika mula 1982 hanggang  1995 sa ilang mga financial institution gaya ng Mellon Bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert at First Boston. Naging  Managing Director siya ng Chemical Bank (New York).

            Bumalik siya sa bansa noong 1995,  bilang Managing Director/Treasurer ng Chase Manhattan Bank (Manila) .Mula 1997 hanggang 2000 siya ay President ng Camelray-JCTI Corp. (CJC).

            Siya’y naging Director  ng ilang kumpaniya sa bansa gaya ng  SM Investments Corp., BDO Private Bank, PASUDECO, Meralco at Belle Corp.

            Noong Julio 01, 2010 hinirang siyang Kalihim ng DTI ni Pangulong Aquino.

* * *

   Magandaang mga binalita niya sa amin. Inaasahan niya na pasulong na ang ating bansa at magiging sunod-sunod ang ating tagumpay sa nga susunod na taon. Sa kaniyang pananaw, ang hinihintay lamang ay ang nagkaroon ng pinuno na tumahak sa Daang Matuwid at magdaratingan na ang mga dayuhang  magpapasok ng kanilang yaman sa ating bansa. Marami rin siyang binanggit ba mga mayayamang mga kumpaniya at negosiyante na handanang pumasok sa Pilipinas.

Noong merong nagtanong kung baka sakaling magkamali ang mga botante na ang kanilang mapili pa rin sa 2016 bilang Pangulo ay isang kurakot na naman, sinabi ng kalihim na hindi na ito maaaring mangyari sapagkat sa tulong ng media at ng ating komunikasyon kung saan ang mga balita ay agad na napapa-alam sa madala, nagbago na rin ang ating mga botante at marami na rin ang nakaka-intindi kung ano ang nangyayari sa bansa at sa balita. Kaya siya’y naniniwala na marunong na ang ating mga botante.

Sana’y tama siya sa kaniyang pagtiwala sa dunong ng ating mga botante. Iyon na lang ang ating pag-asa na ang kaniyang nakikita na pagsulong ng ating bansa sa susunod na mga dekada ay maaring matutuloy. Kaya lang, kung magkamali tayo sa 2016, baka mapornada lahat ng magagandang kinabukasan ng Pilipinas!

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hvp (11.26.14)

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

SM Goes Solar/FPI Backs Mighty

(T)he Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said the PMFTC-commissioned joint report of Oxford Economics and International Tax and InvestmentDescription: titled “Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2013,” which revealed “fast-rising illegal cigarette trade” in the Philippines, was “incomplete.”


by Ducky Paredes


SM Prime Holdings Inc. will change the rooftops of its buildings turning these into  solar projects following the successful installation of solat panels at the SM City North Edsa, making it  the world’s biggest solar-powered mall.

SM Supermalls president Annie S. Garcia says that the group is now targeting a similar solar power project in SM Dasmariñas, Cavite, where 3,243 solar panels would be installed to generate 800 kilowatts by May 2015. At the SM Mall of Asia, more than 10,500 panels are expected to be installed to produce 2.7 megawatts before the end of next year.

Garcia says that they expect to continue working with Solar Philippines with the two planned projects after a successful partnership on the 1.5-MW solar facilities installed at the SM City North Edsa. The capacity of these facilities account for only 5 percent of the mall’s electricity requirements. Still, turning to solar will  save SM Prime as much as P2 million in power costs every month and offset 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to planting about 6,000 trees a year.

The capacity of the 5,760 solar panels installed at the SM City North Edsa is enough to power 1,000 households, or light up all the 16,000 lighting fixtures, 59 escalators and 20 elevators at the mall.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla estimated the investmentDescription: P130 million to P140 million. Apart from the SM malls, the Manuel L. Quezon University in Manila is also using solar facilities, while St. Scholastica’s College is also expected to follow suit.

 “The solar rooftop project is part of SM Prime’s continuing commitment toward making its operations sustainable and environment friendly especially (as) the Philippines (is) facing a potential energy shortage from 2015 onwards due to increasing power requirements and limited energy resources,” SM Prime said in a statement issued during the launching ceremonies led by President Aquino.

* * *


The Federation of Philippine HIndusties (FPI)  the  biggest organization of domestic manufacturers wants cigarette firm Mighty Corp. to answer allegations that it has been engaging in “systematic and endemic” tax fraud.

  “Mighty Corp. should answer the serious charges of fraud in its importation practices uncovered in a recent government report,” says FPI Chairman Jesus L. Arranza.

 FPI called on the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (COCCTRP) to conduct another hearing in order to give Mighty a “chance to clear its name.”

According to FPI chairman Arranza, the Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO) report presented during the joint COCCTRP hearing at the Senate contained allegations that were “too serious to ignore.”

For instance, the STSRO report alleges that Mighty imported “huge volumes of tobacco leaf, which it declared for export but were diverted to domestic consumption.”

Arranza expressed concern over charges that import shipments of acetate tow — a raw material for cigarette filters—had also been declared for export goods but were instead used in products sold locally.

The Senate report also alleged that Mighty had declared import prices of acetate tow as well as Burley and Virginia tobacco leaves at prices way below their suppliers’.

 “These are serious findings and some of them may constitute falsification of commercial documents punishable under the Revised Penal Code,” says Arranza.

“We believe the joint congressional oversight body should look deeper into this matter and make the necessary recommendations… This will also allow Mighty to air its side,” he said.

In response to the STSRO report, Mighty says that it was “inconclusive” and was merely based on an Oxford Economics study, which had been commissioned by rival PMFTC Inc.

 PMFTC has been accusing Mighty of dodging payments of taxes and duties.

In a separate statement issued also on Monday, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said the PMFTC-commissioned joint report of Oxford Economics and International Tax and InvestmentDescription: titled “Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2013,” which revealed “fast-rising illegal cigarette trade” in the Philippines, was “incomplete.”

The report alleged that almost one out of five or 18.1 percent of the 105.5 billion cigarette sticks sold in the country last year could be “attributable to illicit consumption.”

 The BIR points out that such presumption was in contrast to the rising collections of excise and so-called “sin” taxes on tobacco products as well as alcohol.

BIR data presented during the COCCTRP hearing showed that from January to September, collections from sin taxes slapped on tobacco and alcohol reached P37.24 billion, 45.5-percent higher than the P25.6-billion target set by the agency under the sin tax reform law.

Collections from tobacco products during the first nine months amounted P28.79 billion or 86.3-percent more than the P15.45-billion target.

 As a result of the implementation of the sin tax law, total excise tax collections rose to P78.34 billion during the January to September period. Excise revenues without the sin taxes would have stood at only P41.09 billion during the nine-month period.

Last year, total sin tax collections from tobacco and alcohol products hit P51.12 billion, up 50.6 percent from the target of P33.95 billion for 2013.

The sin tax collection target for 2014 is P42.86 billion, which BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares says the government “will exceed.”

Amid allegations of illicit consumption of cigarettes in the domestic market, which the BIR acknowledged “has become a worldwide concern,” Henares maintains that her agency and the Bureau of Customs have been “very consistent in [the] fight against smugglers of goods, as this affect our revenues.”

“We implemented various measures to counter illicit cigarette activities such as implementation of stamp tax on cigarettes. We have also acted on reports by sectors to address allegations of mis-declaration / under-declaration, and we are strictly monitoring removals of cigarettes products to ensure that those that are sold in the market are properly taxed,” Henares points out.

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hvp 11.30.14

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