Tuesday, 22 December 2009

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Palace: 2010 budget will ensure completion of gov't projects

MalacaƱang cited yesterday the vigorous support given by Congress to the P1.5406 trillion proposed national budget for 2010, saying it augurs well for the realization of its high priority programs and projects set in motion under the Arroyo administration.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said approval on Friday by the Bicameral Conference Committee of the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA) assures the country of sustainable growth over the coming years.

For his part, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar brushed aside negative observations on the budget, indicating that the government would adhere closely to the provisions of the GAA. According to him, accusations come easy, especially during political seasons. 

Secretary Remonde recalled that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in her budget message to Congress, said her programs and projects could only be successful if they (legislators) would also adopt them as their top priorities.

“Armed with the proposed P1.541-trillion National Budget, the government, I am confident, could put the finishing touches to the development tapestry we started to weave almost nine years ago. But only with your support,” the presidential message stated.

The President said the budget stands on solid ground, and described it as “decisive.” 

“But more than just funding the country’s requirements for next year, the 2010 National Budget looks back and beyond. It is, in fact, completing projects rather than starting new ones to firm up the gains we have studiously laid brick by brick all these years. So that the next generation can build on what this Administration is leaving as its legacy,” the Chief Executive told the legislators.

According to the Press Secretary, next year’s GAA would also put on a steady course the country’s recovery from economic and financial setbacks owing to the global fiscal crisis and natural calamities. “The 2010 budget was crafted with highly-improved education system, greatly expanded housing programs, sustainable energy supplies, and vigorous infrastructure and rehabilitation efforts to spur economic growth in the provinces, among other objectives,” he stressed.

He also cited President Arroyo’s strategic moves to strengthen revenue earnings, while at the same time, bringing down fiscal deficit and debt service.

The education sector was given a lion’s share of the national budget with P185.5 billion, followed by infrastructure with P126.9 billion. Other allocations included P79.9 billion for pension and gratuity, P20.8 billion for land reform, P30.4 billion for health, PO16.6 billion for transportation and communication, and P15.3 billion for social welfare and development.

PIA Dispatch - Monday, December 21, 2009

Palace confident of a stronger and more vibrant RP economy by 2010

MalacaƱang today expressed confidence that the country’s economy will be stronger and more vibrant in 2010 due to the economic reforms initiated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the expanding global economic recovery.

In a radio interview over DZRB Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Spokesperson for Economic Affairs Professor Gary Olivar said the economic reforms set by President Arroyo can be continued by her successor.

He projected that the country’s trade with its major partners will continue to increase including the rise in domestic consumption and demand which will further keep the economy afloat next year.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has earlier projected that gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 2.6 to 3.6 percent next year.

“We are hoping that we are able to realize that (growth). Kapag nangyari po yan, inaasahan natin na makakabalik tayo sa long term growth” (If this will happen, we can expect long term growth), he said.

Olivar said that the country’s strong points remain in the remittances brought by the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the outsourcing and offshoring sector and investments from the private sector.

NEDA earlier said that growth drivers for the country this year include trade, tourism and business process outsourcing, construction, mining and quarrying, government services and air transportation.

For next year, NEDA projected that other drivers of growth for the country will be from the manufacturing, finance, transportation, communication and storage, and agriculture sectors.

Despite the country’s slow GDP growth as compared to previous years, the Philippines joined in the handful of Asian neighboring countries that experienced positive growth in the midst of global economic crisis.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

PIA Dispatch - Friday, December 18, 2009

Gov’t: 13th month pay is mandatory, Christmas bonus discretionary

MANILA, Dec. 18 - The government on Friday reiterated that all wage and salary workers in the country are entitled to the 13th month pay as mandated by law. 

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that based on the time-honored Presidential Decree No. 851 issued on December 16, 1976, all employers in the country are required to pay their employees a 13th month pay not later than December 24 of every year.

Roque, emphasized, however, that the 13th month pay, should not be confused by workers with the Christmas bonus,

The Labor and Employment Chief said that while the law definitely requires employers to pay their rank-and file employees the 13th month pay, the generous granting of a Christmas bonus, on the other hand, remains, basically, a management prerogative.

Roque reiterated that the Christmas bonus is not a part of such benefit as mandated by the law, though employers may also grant their workers bonuses on top of the 13th month pay, depending on their discretion, or Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and other agreements.

The workers can only ask the management to grant them Christmas bonus which is discretionary on the part of the employer, adding that all wage and salary workers should report to the nearest DOLE office any employers who are unable to pay them the 13th month pay on or before December 24.

As this developed, the Labor Chief appreciated the generous effort being made by members of the country’s employers sector to ensure that their employees are granted, aside from the 13th month pay mandated by the law, a Christmas bonus on top of the law-required 13th month pay.

Media had earlier quoted the assurance of the more than 500-corporation strong Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) that employees will be receiving their Christmas bonuses this year.

Amidst the recent typhoons that hit the country, ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luiz, Jr. was also quoted by the media that the endeavor will help to make a happy Christmas for employees, adding that some member firms under the umbrella have already distributed bonuses to their respective personnel.

Meanwhile, the DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), has clarified the salient provisions of PD 851 requiring all employers to pay their employees a 13th month pay.

The BWC, which is the DOLE’s agency administering the country’s laws on working conditions, said that the 13th month pay which all employers are required to pay their employees, must not be less than one-twelfth (1/12) of the total basic salary earned by an employee in a calendar year.

While all employers are required to pay their employees the 13th month pay not later than December 24 of every year, an employer may, however, give to his or her employees one-half (1/2) of it before the opening of the school year, and the remaining half on or before December 24.

For this purpose, the frequency of payment of the monetary benefit may be the subject of an agreement between the employer and the recognized collective bargaining agent of the employees, the BWC emphasized. (PNA)


PGMA calls for new world order in fight against global warming

COPENHAGEN – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo late Thursday issued an appeal for collective action by all nations to address the harsh effects of global climate change, as she stressed that participating countries must not leave the unprecedented summit “without a deal.”

Speaking before other top delegates to the climate change summit at the Bella Center in this Danish capital, the President warned that the hour is late and the need to do something about global warming is urgent.

“We come to Copenhagen in partnership with other nations to find a way to meet the harsh impacts of climate change and avert a global crisis,” the president said. “The problem will certainly take years to solve, but we need to start the process now.”

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, held Dec. 7-18, is hosted by the Kingdom of Denmark. Some 183 countries have sent in their president or prime minister making the affair the biggest gathering of top-level government officials in history. It also attracted tens of thousands of print and broadcast journalists, members of non-government organizations, tourists and curiousity-seekers.

Taking her scheduled slot a few speakers after President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Arroyo urged developed countries of the world to own up to their responsibility.

According to President Arroyo, developing countries are the least responsible for the global warming but they suffer the most from its ill-effects.

The Philippines, for instance, emits only 1.6 tons of greenhouse gases per capita, while the world’s average is six tons per capita. For any meaningful progress in the effort to avert disaster, recent studies suggested, emission must be brought down to three tons.

Tragically, “we are one of the top 12 countries, identified by the United Nations at risk from climate change,” she said. “Two recent typhoons cost the Philippines $4 billion or 2.7 percent of GDP. Over 600,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed.”

The same typhoons affected nine million people and claimed 900 lives.

“We cannot afford to leave Copenhagen without a deal,” the President told her fellow top-level delegates.

But for an equitable outcome, she said, developed countries must lead in reducing emissions “under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.”

The President appealed to rich countries to establish a financial mechanism that will facilitate a seamless transfer of technologies necessary to fight the global warming phenomenon.

“We applaud Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s ground breaking announcement that the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” she said.

The President said that equally essential to the establishment of global funds from which developing countries can draw is their replenishment from time to time when there is need for it.

“Humans started the problem,” she said. “Humans can solve it.” (OPS)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comelec to implement SC decision on voter's registration

MANILA, Dec. 16 - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be implementing the order of the Supreme Court requiring the poll body to extend the registration of voters for next year's polls until Jan. 9, 2010. 

According to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, the poll body has tentatively set the holding of the additional registration days on Dec. 21-23 and on Dec. 28-29, 2009.

Likewise, the posting of the names of the applicants and the corresponding ERB (Election Registration Board) hearings are scheduled to be held on Jan. 2-9, 2010.

“Registration is not only on the filing (of their applications)... may mga administrative aspects din dito like completing the Book of Voters, posting notices of the Election Registration Board and subsequent hearings,” he said.

Jimenez said that they have no choice but to implement the order. He admitted that the High Court's ruling would delay their preparations in automating the May 10, 2010 elections by about three to four weeks.

“But, of course, we will try hard so that it will not affect our preparations for the automation,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, the SC granted the petition of the Kabataan Party-list to extend the voter's registration until Jan. 9, 2010.

The continuing registration of voters for next year’s polls started in December 2008 and ended last Oct. 31.

The poll body had cited the need to finish the registration earlier due to the poll automation project.

Meanwhile, Atty. Ferdinand Rafaran, Comelec Law Department chief, said they will file a “motion for clarification” before the High Tribunal even if there is a provision in the order that they will not accept a “motion for reconsideration.”

“Ipapa-clarify natin sa SC yun… but we will have to make do with what is there in accordance with the decision, and we can see that the Comelec will be operating under very difficult circumstances,” he said.

The Law department head said they will be issuing the final guidelines on the extended voter's registration as soon as they get the clarification from the SC.

Initial figures from the Comelec show that the country has some 49.2 million registered voters, but the number is expected to reach 50 million. (PNA)


Palace to provide adequate security to judge in Maguindanao massacre case

MANILA, Dec. 16 - The government will provide all necessary and appropriate security to the judge who will handle the Maguindanao massacre case. 

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that wherever the case will be tried, the government will harness any of the law enforcement agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).”

“We will exhaust all efforts to provide them with necessary security including personal security if it becomes necessary. They could be provided close-in security and it means even if they go home, they will not be afraid,” Ermita noted.

Ermita said that Supreme Court has a way of resolving the security issues of their judges who handle controversial cases.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno has also vowed to give security to the Quezon City judge who will try the murder case of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

Ermita and Puno made separate assurances after one of the judges from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) refused to accept the case due to security concerns. (PNA)

Monday, 14 December 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, December 14, 2009

PGMA to speak on gains of martial law in Maguindanao

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to speak on the substantial dividends of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao before she leaves for Copenhagen, Denmark this week.

In a press conference, Presidential Economic Spokesperson Professor Gary Olivar said the President may sum up the accomplishments of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao which restored peace and security in the province. The emergency measure, otherwise known as Proclamation 1959, was lifted over the weekend.

Olivar noted that the gains of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao can be measured in terms of the suspects identified and rounded up, witnesses summoned, charges filed, huge quantities of firearms uncovered, unexplained wealth disclosed, public safety protected, and the normal workings of government restored.

“Beyond quantification is the possibility of another cycle of revenge killings that may have been averted, and of course the palpable restoration of peace of mind to the beleaguered citizens of that province,” he said.

Olivar said the gains from the declaration of martial law are what President Arroyo plans to “describe in greater detail before she leaves for Copenhagen this week.”

He added that it is only appropriate for President Arroyo to have her final say on the issue.

The gains from the declaration of martial law, he added, are “incontrovertible” because nobody has seriously questioned their factuality only the manner by which they were achieved.

“On the ground, public support was widespread: the bishops supported it, the folks in Basilan even wanted it for themselves, and when martial law was finally lifted in Maguindanao, there was at least as much apprehension as relief among the public there, now that the military and police can no longer act swiftly as martial law allowed them to do,” he said.

“At least one question comes to my mind, as a non-lawyer like the majority of our people. If the High Court rules against the exercise of martial law that transpired, what will this do to the dividends that were achieved? What will this mean for the arrests that were made, the charges filed, the evidence collected? Will these gains become what is called “poisoned fruit,” the objectionable outcome of a poisoned process? Will we then be required to release the suspects, throw away the evidence, even drop the charges?” he said.

Olivar then turned the tables on government critics by asking them if they can suggest a contingency plan to ensure that justice will given to the victims of the gruesome massacre that left 57 people dead including women and journalists.

“If there is no such plan, on what grounds then do these inquisitionists justify putting at risk the rendering of justice of the victims of the massacre, their families, and the communities of Maguindanao?” he asked.

Olivar said that he is looking forward to get thoughtful and responsible answers from the critics to questions like the ones he raised.

“Otherwise, we shall end up being treated to just another episode in the long and endless trial by publicity of this President,” he added.

PGMA to play active role in Copenhagen conference

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will play an active role and will be highly visible in the climate change negotiations to be held this week in Copenhagen.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson on Economic Affairs Professor Gary Olivar said President Arroyo will attend the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen and there are two track negotiations that will take place during the event.

Olivar said the first track of negotiations will take place in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) with Malta as chair. The goal is to enable a full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action now and beyond 2012.

The second track negotiations Olivar said, will take place in the Ad Hoc working Group on Further Commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) chaired by Antigua and Barbuda. It will discuss the future commitments of developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol.

Olivar noted that out of the five climate change threats that were identified such as drought, food, storm, rising sea level and agriculture, the Philippines is on top of the list for the storm threat following the disasters brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in the country.

He said that based on the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific studies, various effects of climate change to the Philippines include the increase in sea levels in the country that could affect the living conditions in 64 of the nation’s 81 provinces.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her speech in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last June 18 termed it as follows: “As a nation made up of over 7,000 islands, rising seas due to global warming takes on a whole new meaning. Florida may lose some coastline, we lose a nation,” he added.

Olivar cited the Oxfam International report which stated that agricultural yields in the country are forecast to drop by about 10 percent for every one degree rise in temperature.

The other effects of climate change to the Philippines, Olivar added, include that in view of warmer sea surface temperatures, stronger typhoons and cyclones are being seen all over the world.

The country’s high diversity of species is also specifically vulnerable as even a slight change in temperature could cause the disappearance of many species. The country’s coral reefs, home to algae and hundreds of species of fish, are under the immediate threat from a warming of ocean temperature.

Olivar said that after the climate change meeting, President Arroyo is expected to meet with the approximately 8,000 Filipinos living and working in Denmark.

Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde and Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Secretary Heherson Alvarez are expected to accompany the President in the conference.

PGMA decided to lift martial law in Maguindanao after achievement of its objectives -- Remonde

Malacanang reiterated on Monday that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo decided to lift martial law in Maguindanao province after the objectives of Proclamation 1959 were achieved.

In a television interview, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President approved the recommendation of the National Security Council (NSC) last Saturday to lift martial law in the province due to the achievement of the goals for its declaration.

Remonde also stressed that Malacanang was ready to defend before the Supreme Court and Congress the President’s decision to declare martial law in Maguindanao under Proclamation 1959 she issued last December 4.

He cited that among the gains of the martial law declaration were the arrest of several suspects in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre and the filing of charges against them in court, the restoration of local government and judicial operations as well as peace and order in the province.

Remonde said that after the NSC reported these achievements to the President during the meeting last Saturday, Mrs. Arroyo ordered the lifting of the implementation of martial law in Maguindanao effective at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Palace official also clarified that the President did not decide to lift the martial law proclamation because of fear of the possibility of Congress or the Supreme Court ruling against its imposition in the province.

”We have the numbers in Congress. We decided to lift martial law in Maguindanao due to the achievement of our goals for its declaration. We respect the suspicions of our critics but we will continue to do what we believe is right,” Remonde stressed.

The Press Secretary added that the declaration of a state of emergency remains in Maguindanao along with Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City.

At the same time, Remonde said that the manhunt operations for the remaining suspects in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre continue despite the lifting of martial law in the province.

Devanadera: Successful implementation of ML in Maguindanao hailed

Acting Justice Secretary and concurrent Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera on Monday said that a good number of Filipinos jubilate with the successful implementation of Martial Law in Maguindanao.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1959 on Dec. 4, declaring martial law in Maguindanao to quell the brewing rebellion in the province, especially in the towns controlled by the Ampatuan family.

However, President Arroyo lifted the Martial Law in Maguindanao on Dec. 12, or exactly eight days later after government authorities reported that the objectives for which Martial Law was declared were accomplished.

"That's the problem with us, we are very much focused on the debates, instead of looking for solution for the problem in Mindanao," Devanadera stressed.

The DOJ Chief was referring to the joint session of the 14th Congress that is now in the middle of debates whether or not martial law in Maguindanao should be revoked.

"Instead of having ourselves busy with our respective work, we are in the joint session of Congress to debate," Devanadera pointed out.

Aside from Devanadera, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Victor Ibrado and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Versoza, among others, have been busy answering questions from the lawmakers on the implementation of Proclamation 1959 in Maguindanao in the joint session of Congress since last week.

"The soldiers and the police are hampered, because their chiefs are there in the session (Congress), instead of doing their primary job of maintenance of peace and order," Devanadera lamented.

The joint session is set to resume on Monday afternoon. However, the joint session debate has been rendered moot and academic the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao last Saturday.

PSALM turns over Calaca power plant to DMCIHI

The privatization of the 600-megawatt (MW) Batangas Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant was formally closed Thursday, 03 December 2009, through a simple ceremonial turnover conducted by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation.

Before the ceremony held at its Makati City office, PSALM received USD150.79 million (USD150,790,000.00) from new owner DMCI Holdings, Inc. (DMCIHI) as its down payment for the power facility located in Calaca, Batangas. DMCIHI offered USD361,709, 000.00 for the Southern Luzon-based power plant.

The power plant will be operated by Sem-Calaca Power Corp., a new company recently established by Semirara Mining Corp., the coal mining arm of DMCIHI.

PSALM President and Chief Executive Officer Jose C. Ibazeta  noted that the successful negotiated sale of the power facility last 08 July 2009 was a “turning point of the privatization program.”

“By the closing of Calaca, we effectively breached the 70% requirement under the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) for the generation side,” he said. “So we now have to work on the IPP (Independent power producer) side. We can achieve open access, one year after we do that.”

The sale of the Calaca plant also substantially contributed to sustaining PSALM’s privatization program this year, which is currently at the 81.3% mark for all its generating assets in the Luzon and Visayas grids.

Mr. Ibazeta congratulated DMCIHI’s entry in the electricity sector, saying that it “certainly bolsters the confidence of the private sector in the future of the power industry.”

DMCIHI President Isidro Consunji, who praised PSALM for a fair and transparent bidding process, took pride in saying that the “Calaca [power plant], as of today, will be the only coal-fired power plant in Luzon that is owned and operated by Filipinos.”

“We believe that Calaca employees, who are all Filipino, are very well equipped and very much capable to make Calaca a world-class coal-fired power plant,” he said.

Saying that DMCIHI will be a vital player in the electricity industry, National Power Corporation President Froilan A. Tampinco acknowledged the “openness and the receptiveness” of Sem-Calaca in recognizing the issues and concerns of the employees of National Power who, he said, “are now their employees starting today.”

Mr. Tampinco said National Power would continue to support the government’s power privatization program.

Palace welcomes Sison removal in terrorist list

Malacanang welcomed on Monday the reported removal of Jose Ma. Sison from the terrorist blacklist by the Council of the European Union.

In a media briefing this afternoon in Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson on Economic Affairs Gary Olivar said this is welcome news particularly if the development would lead to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Olivar said this new development is a positive factor on the resumption of the talks with the left hopefully before the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With peace a top priority of her administration, the president has called for everybody’s cooperation in a bid to forge a final peace negotiation with the left and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and sustain the gains in her peace and development efforts.

Olivar said the relaxation of restrictions on Sison could expedite the resumption of negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“Hopefully this will lead to good things as far as the peace process with them. This is really what we are concerned about here in the Philippines, the resumption of the peace negotiations with the left,” Olivar said.

The resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDF was supposed to be held in Oslo, Norway last Aug. 28, but was put off after the NDF made another demand as a precondition.

“We are hopeful that Mr. Sison given this latest improvement in his circumstances abroad will now be in a better position to assist in facilitating the peace process between the CPP-NPA-NDF on one hand and the Philippine government on the other. That is our fervent hope,” Olivar said.

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, December 10, 2009

PGMA commemorates 500,000th ICT employee milestone

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commemorated on Thursday afternoon another milestone achievement in her government’s advocacy to provide jobs for Filipinos with the hiring of the 500,000th employee in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

The president personally met the industry’s two latest hires at the TOEI Animation Co,. in Eastwood City, Quezon City.

These were Dawna Joyce Borbon, an 18-year-old resident of Marikina, and Avelino Rufo, a 20-year-old resident of Caloocan City.

Borbon, one of thousands of PGMA scholars, was accepted by TOEI as an assistant animator after taking a six month animation course offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

She expressed her gratitude to the president, saying the PGMA scholarship program gave her an advantage over others in being chosen to join the TOEI team.

Rufo, also a PGMA scholar, undertook his animation training at the Take One Animation of the PGMA Training for Work Scholarship program. When he finished his training, he was deployed to TOEI as an in-between artist.

PGMA’s attends installation of Legazpi’s 6th Bishop

Legazpi City - The arrival of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Great in the Old Albay District caused quite a stir.

The church was filled to the brim and the church grounds were also set up to accommodate the overflowing crowd that came to witness the canonical installation of Legazpi’s sixth bishop, the 55-year-old Rev. Joel Baylon.

Baylon succeeds Apostolic Administrator Bishop Lucilo Quaiambao. Prior to his appointment, Baylon was Bishop of Masbate since 1998.

The president arrived 15 minutes before the formal installation rites were to begin and she was flanked by political leaders, including former Senate President Franklin Drilon. Those who met her at the church’s entrance were Albay Gov. Joey Salceda; Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal; Al Francis Bichara; Rep. Edcel Lagman; and Rino Lim; Presidential Assistant Tomasito Monzon; Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Gen. Ronald Detabali; Philippine National Police Regional District C/Supt. Ruben Padua; and Bishops Jose Sorra and Lucito Quiambao.

A concelebrated high mass for his canonical installation is expected to last two hours with Papal Nuncio Edward Joseph Adams, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Nueva Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, 31 other bishops and 300 clergy in attendance.

The installation will be done at the start of the mass with the presentation and reading of the Apostolic letter appointing Baylon as the new bishop of Legazpi.

The installation and mass are expected to last three hours, after which the president is invited to attend a dinner in honor of Baylon at the Albay Astrodome, right across the church.

PGMA says martial law necessary to quell rebellion in Maguindanao

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told members of the House of Representatives and the Senate that martial law has been proclaimed in Maguindanao to quell armed rebellion and to suppress lawless violence in that province.

In her written report to Congress, Mrs. Arroyo said Presidential Proclamation 1959, declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao, was issued in response to movements of armed men and the shutdown of local government offices in Maguindanao, ordered or encouraged by the Ampatuan clan to deprive duly constituted authorities of the powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety.

“Indeed, the nature, quantity and quality of their weaponry, the movement of heavily armed rebels in strategic positions, the closure of the Maguindanao Provincial Capitol, Ampatuan Municipal Hall, Datu Unsay Municipal Hall and 14 other municipal halls and the use of armored vehicles, tanks and patrol cars with unauthorized “PNP/Police” markings, all together confirm the existence of armed public uprising for the political purpose of removing allegiance from the national government,” the report states.

Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita read the 20-page report before the joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City Wednesday afternoon.

For her part, Secretary Agnes Devanadera, explaining the factual and legal bases of the proclamation, said there was a breakdown of the judicial system, with judges staying away from their courtrooms, making it difficult if not impossible to secure arrest and search warrants. She added that local government offices have also been shut down, with officials and employees nowhere to be found.

In the same joint session, Gen. Andres Caro II, PNP director for operation, said an estimated 2,400 heavily armed groups loyal to the Ampatuan family have strategically positioned themselves in several Maguindanao municipalities, notably Sharif Aguak, Datu Unsay, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Sultan sa Barongis, Datu Piang, Guindulungan, and Talayan.

He said these acts constitute “public uprising”.

“While the government, at present, is conducting legitimate operation to address the ongoing rebellion, public safety here requires the continuous implementation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao until the time that such rebellion is completely quelled,” Caro said.

According to Caro, implementation of martial law has led to the prompt arrest of several members of the Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., ARRM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, and their supporters, who were monitored to be preparing to resist government troops.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles shared the view that President Arroyo could not be compelled to personally show up at Congress to render her report. Both presiding officers said the President, by submitting a written report, had complied with the requirement of the Constitution.

Also present in the joint session were Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang.

The joint session officially started at 4:12 pm Wednesday and was suspended by at 10:51 pm. It resumed at 2 p.m. Thursday.

PGMA has sufficiently fulfilled Constitutional requirements on ML declaration in Maguindanao

MANILA, Dec. 10 — A Palace spokesperson on Thursday maintained that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has complied with Constitutional requisites when she filed with Congress her written report to justify her declaration of martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao province last Dec. 3.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar defended the Chief Executive's non-appearance before a joint Senate-Congress session, stressing the Constitution does not require President Arroyo to personally face Congress in the course of legislative deliberations on martial law proclamation.

The submission of the President's report last Sunday night, Olivar pointed out should satisfy constitutional requisites.

"She (the President) has complied with the requirements, the information is right there, it is in writing so that they could read it carefully and all the members of the official family relevant to this matter have also appeared,” the deputy presidential spokesman added.

”If they have problem with the quality of the information that has been given to them in writing as for the supported by testimony delivered in person by the relevant members of our official family, that should be their focus and not whether or not she is there to deliver it,” Olivar also stressed.

Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen on Wednesday's opening of the joint session of House of Representatives and Senate questioned the non-appearance of President Arroyo during the deliberation of martial law declaration in Maguindanao.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr. earlier said that the President need not show up during the joint session.

”She need not show up. It is not required and mandated as (in the case of) the Senate President and I think it is not necessary,” the House Speaker said.

President Arroyo has motored to Pampanga and Bulacan for a series of presidential good governance events while Congress held its joint session.

The joint session of House and Senate suspended the proceedings at 11:00 p.m. Wednesday and will resume on Thursday afternoon.

In attendance during the opening of the joint session on Wednesday held at the Batasan Pambansa were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Jesus Versoza.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales Jr. was in Singapore and was represented by Defense Undersecretary Antonio Santos while Armed Forces of the Philippines  Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado came late immediately following an official foreign trip.

Meanwhile, President Arroyo’s legal counsel Raul Gonzales prodded lawmakers to do away with what he termed as "boring questions" on Proclamation 1959 and instead proceed to vote to revoke or uphold the imposition of martial law.

”They should go directly to the voting. Their questions are all the same. I was so bored I fell asleep,” Gonzales was quoted as saying in a radio interview.

In a separate radio interview, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that lawmakers should not forget that the objective of the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao is to give justice to the massacre victims and arrest all the perpetrators and dismantle private armies.

DILG installs Adiong as ARMM acting governor

MANILA, Dec. 10  – Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Thursday sworn in Vice Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as acting governor of the ARMM.

Adiong replaced Zaldy Ampatuan, who was taken into military custody for his alleged involvement in last month’s massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao.

The Department of Justice has also charged Ampatuan with rebellion.

Puno administered the oath of office of Adiong as part of his general powers of supervision over the ARMM, which the President has delegated to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under Administrative Order 273.

“We thank acting Governor Ansaruddin Adiong for this very brave act. This is not going to be an easy task. The tasks that lie ahead are going to be difficult but we have confidence and faith in his ability as acting governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Puno said.

“At this most trying times, we temporarily take over the reins of government in Muslim Mindanao. We are equally humbled by the enormity of the responsibility it carries,” Adiong said after taking his oath of office at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Thursday noon.

The oath-taking ceremony, held during simple rites at the conference room of the Camp Crame Multipurpose Hall, was also attended by representatives of the component provinces of the ARMM, including Rep. Pangalian Balindong of the second district of Lanao del Sur along with Governors Sakur Tan of Sulu, Jum Akbar of Basilan, Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, and Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi.

“Today’s exercise will evidence and impress upon everyone that even with martial law in Maguindanao, the Constitution remains in effect, the civilian government is in place ... and all other aspects of governance will continue to exist,” Puno said.

He said the appointment of Adiong as regional governor of the ARMM would “set in motion” other events “to restore normalcy in Maguindanao.”

“I hope this will lay to rest all the fears about martial law and the delegation to the DILG by the President of her powers of general supervision over the ARMM that these will result in a de facto takeover of the region. That will not be the case. What will be enforced are the laws that continue to be in effect with or without martial law. Our laws remain in place no matter what crisis takes place,” Puno said.

At the start Wednesday night of the joint session of Congress tackling Proclamation 1959 by the President, which imposed a state of martial law in Maguindanao except for certain areas, Puno clarified his role in the ARMM, making it clear that he had no “blanket authority” or broad powers to either appoint a new regional governor or take over the area.

Puno sought to clarify misconceptions that he had become the “de facto governor” of ARMM following the issuance by President Arroyo of AO 273.

He said during the joint session by the bicameral Congress tackling Proclamation 1959 that under Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code, which provides for the autonomy of the local government units, the DILG had no control over LGUs, much less the autonomous regions in the country.

As for the President’s powers over the ARMM that were transferred to the DILG, Puno said that under Article V, Section 1 of Republic Act 9054, which strengthened and expanded the Organic Act for the ARMM, such powers were only to ensure that the acts of the regional governor were within the scope of his or her powers and functions.

“The nature of this supervision allows the President or her delegated authority to suspend the regional governor for a period of not more than six months” for willful violation of the Constitution or any existing law that applies to the ARMM, Puno said.

Puno also said the President, or her delegated authority, as stated under RA 9054, may suspend, reduce, or cancel the financial blocks or grants-in-aid, funds for infrastructure and other forms of assistance intended for the autonomous region.

Puno said that it was still the regional governor, unless he was rendered incapable of fulfilling his functions, who should appoint officers-in-charge in the autonomous region.

Because the regional governor,Zaldy Ampatuan, is now unable to carry out his functions, then under the principles of lawful succession, the vice governor—Adiong—has to take over as acting ARMM governor.

If for any reason the vice governor is incapable of carrying out this task, the Speaker of the Assembly is the next in line, Puno said.

Adiong, as acting governor, has the power to appoint the OICs to fill up the vacant positions in the ARMM.

He said that even with martial law in place in Maguindanao, the ARMM continued to enjoy autonomy.

Moreover, he said, the transfer of the President’s powers of general supervision over the ARMM to the DILG did not in any way “impair the autonomy of the region.”

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

PGMA opens road project in Guagua, Pampanga

GUAGUA, Pampanga – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo opened on Wednesday the portion of the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo (GSO) road project that benefits the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, and Zambales.

Aboard a pick-up vehicle, the president made the ceremonial drive-through of the newly completed Guagua section of the GSO Road Widening and Emergency Dredging Project.

Previously a two-lane road, the highway has been widened to ease daily traffic congestion.

Funded by the Korea Economic Development Cooperation Fund (KEDCF), the US$22.30-million project ensures the national highway will be passable especially during floods.

PGMA honors gov’t agencies, private firms for Quality Management Programs

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will honor on Thursday this year’s winners for ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems Certification and Philippine Quality Award in Malacanang.

Forty national and local government units, government-owned and controlled corporations, and government financial institutions will receive their ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems (QMS) Certification from the president.

QMS certification is part of government’s advocacy to reduce red tape and create a more competitive economic environment.

Three business organizations will be the recipients of the 2009 Philippine Quality Award (PQA) which is the country’s counterpart to the prestigious Baldrige National Quality Award of US. In choosing this year’s awardees, PQA used seven criteria: leadership; strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management, and business results.

The PQA is managed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and implemented by the DTI-Center for Industrial Competitiveness. The Award administrators are the Development Academy of the Philippines for the public sector and the Philippine Society for Quality for the private sector.

The president will also recognize the following:

• 12 youth volunteers who will receive the 2009 Volunteers Award, the highlight of the National Volunteer month celebrated in December;

• 18 awardees of the Gawad sa Kampeon ng Kabataan Pilipino 2009, which recognizes youth development in their respective Sanggunian; and

• winners in the 2nd National Service Training Program (NSTP) “Green Philippines” Awards 2009, the nationwide search for best environmental program;

The president will also lead the awarding of certificates to autonomous and deregulated colleges and universities that have consistently shown exemplary performance in providing education, research and extension services.


PGMA signs law creating 1st Pampanga state university

BACOLOR, Pampanga – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday signed Republic Act 9832 converting Don Honorio Ventura College of Arts and Trade (CHVCAT) here into the Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University (DAVTSU).

Enrique Baking. President of CHVCAT, now DHVTSU, thanked the president for her unwavering support and assistance that led to the creation of Pampanga’s first state university.

“Today is a memorable day,” he said. “In behalf of the board of trustees, professors and students, I sincerely thank you Madam President. Without you, we will never fulfill our 18-year old dream,” Baking told the president.

Erstwhile known as “Escuela de Artes Y Oficios de Bacolor,” the school was founded in Nov. 4, 1861.

It was renamed Don Honorio Ventura Memorial School of Arts and Trades (DHVMSAT) in 1964 in honor of statesman, philanthropist and prominent son of Bacolor, Don Honorio Ventura.

The renaming was signed by the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

On May 5, 1978, DHVMSAT was converted into DHVCAT by virtue of Presidential Decree 1373. This is in response to the school’s vision and mission of providing quality technological education especially to poor and underprivileged families by offering new technological programs.

Palace confident that ML in Maguindanao is justifiable

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita expressed confidence on Wednesday that President Macapagal-Arroyo’s issuance of Proclamation 1959 that put Maguindanao under martial law can be justified.

”Yes, we are confident to justify the proclamation,” Ermita said when asked by the Senate media after the P4.259-billion budget of the Office of the President was approved during the Senate plenary deliberations of the proposed P1.5-trillion national budget for the 2010.

Ermita made his comment several hours before he and other top officials of the national defense and interior and local government departments face the lawmakers in joint session of Congress set at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

”We will be there as resource persons and ready to answer every questions. You know that before the executive makes the steps, every document is very well studied,” Ermita explained.

Ermita said the lifting of the imposition of martial law will depend on the accomplishment of the purpose which is to maintain peace and order and security in the area.

”We want to develop an environment we can assure the safety of the citizenry. Therefore, that could be very well a major consideration (for lifting of proclamation),” Ermita said.

Ermita said the military and the police are required to report periodically the accomplishment of the proclamation.

He refused to comment whether the filing of rebellion charges against the Ampatuans is enough to lift the imposition of the martial law.

”I can’t comment whether it is enough to lift the martial law. All these things will be taken up during joint session. I’m not in a position to discuss,” Ermita said.

Ermita also downplayed speculations that the imposition of martial law could lead to no election scenario.

”It is not true. That is speculation only. Everyone has freedom to express their opinion. Let’s give it to them,” he said.

On the OP’s budget, Ermita explained that the 41.5 percent increase from this year’s budget has been made due to the creation of climate change office and Mindanao river basin as well as information technology office under the OP umbrella.

Ermita eyes Batangas Congressional

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is running for Representative in the 1st District of Batangas.

In a press conference this morning in Malacanang, Ermita said he will file his certificate of candidacy tomorrow as a substitute for the one earlier filed by his daughter, Lisa Ermita-Abad.

When asked who will replace him as executive secretary, Ermita said that the appointment in the executive office is the sole prerogative of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I think it is superfluous to mention to you there are people around here in Malacanang capable and close enough to the president to fill the position,” he said. The president is the one who will make the final choice.”

Citing the recent Supreme Court ruling, appointed and elected officials running for next year’s polls, Ermita noted, are not automatically resigned.

“So we can stay on up to the start of the campaign period which is the third week of March,” he explained. In other words, I will be still around,” he said.

Ermita was a three-term Congressman representing the First District of Batangas from 1992 to 2001. During his stint, he authored and sponsored landmark bills improving the country’s security and defense and providing benefits to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.