P-Noy Richer By P10 Million In 2011

It was stated and showed in the latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of President Benigno Aquino III that he grew richer by P10.130 million last year which was then submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aquino declared that as of December 31, 2011, he is to be worth P65.130 million, with P32.162 million in real properties and P32.967 million in personal and other assets, as opposed to P54.999 million in the previous year.

The increase of Aquino’s wealth last year is mostly revealed in the value of his real properties, which amounted to P22.073 million as of December 31, 2010.

His house in Quezon City was identified under inheritance was previously declared to be worth only P13.796 million but today was now valued at P23.6 million.

Aquino’s personal and other properties which cover motor vehicles, cash on hand and cash in bank, receivables, and other assets went down a little from P33.155 million in 2010 to PP32.967 million last year.

In total, Aquino’s net worth grew from P50.194 million as of June 30, 2010 to P65.130 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, after 18 months in office with an annual income of P1.212 million.

Aquino had earlier explained that the increase in his net worth last year can be attributed to inheritance, the transfer or documentation of which were completed only in 2011.

Aquino has so far submitted three SALNs before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official depository of the same along with that of the vice president and the heads of other constitutional bodies.

Aquino’s predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SALNS show that she grew richer by as much as P76 million during her nine years in office, from 2001 to 2010.

No Chinese Travel Ban Vs Phl – Palace

Malacañang explained yesterday that there is a travel advisory but clears out that it is not a ban on Chinese citizens planning to visit the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte, stated in her weekly radio interview over state-run dzRB, that she used as a basis the statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that the travel advisory is not related to the Scarborough Shoal standoff.

“It’s not a travel ban, it’s just an advisory, which is normal when they feel that they have to give their citizens warning about a certain event,” she said.

Presidential spokesman, Edwin Lacierda said that more Filipino tourists are going to China than Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines. “Ironically, this is the year of friendly exchanges,” he said.

“That’s why we say it is unfortunate that this happened. But if the decision of tour operators in China is true then we will just have to work hard on the other markets.”

India, the second largest populated country in the world after China, Russia and among others are the other potential markets, Valte said.

Valte added that the Philippine government has not received any official communication about it, while the travel advisory may have been reported in media.

Shirley Lai, a representative of a travel agency, said at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that the most affected when it comes to the declination of Chinese tourist arrivals are the chartered flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen bound for Boracay.

Regular flights are not yet affected, she added.

Lai said that the airlines affected are the chartered flights of Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Air.

She handles about 20-50 Chinese tourists a day, she added.

Lai said that she was expecting Chinese tourists to arrive on May 10, 11, and 12 and proceed to Boracay but they canceled their travel.

She expressed hope that kinks in the issue will be ironed out soon because a lot of revenues were lost with the cancelled tours.

SWS: Poor Families Rise To 11.1M

A recent survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) discovered an estimated 11.1 million Filipino households consider themselves poor last March, while up from 9.1 million households in December.

The results of the survey was first published in BusinessWorld and found out that 55 percent of the respondents rated their households poor, 10 percent higher than the 45 percent three months earlier.

A rise of 9 points from the 36 percent or 7.2 million families are recorded in the previous quarter saying that they were poor in terms of food, an amount that translates to approximately 9.1 million families which accounted for the 45 percent.

It was with the Aquino administration that the figures went up this high.

SWS used face-to-face interviews as a mean to use for the noncommissioned survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for national percentages and plus or minus 6 percentage points for area percentages.

The record for self-rated food poverty was posted at 59 percent under the Ramos administration in April 1994 and in September 2002 under the Arroyo administration, while the record for self-rated poverty was posted in July 1985 at 74 percent under the Marcos regime.

Malacañang reacted last Thursday to the survey results saying that it was “natural” to see variations in the levels of self-rated poverty because the government’s antipoverty programs were taking time to be significantly felt.

Programs take time

President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, acknowledged that discernments of poverty were among the indicators that the administration was looking at.

“As we have said in the beginning, antipoverty programs take some time before the effects are felt on a sustained basis,” Lacierda said in a news briefing.

“In the meantime, it is natural to see fluctuations in self-rated poverty,” he added.

Lacierda, nevertheless has provided subjective evidences of the government’s conditional cash transfer program benefiting target beneficiaries.

“We have heard for instance, when we were in Roxas City… one mother showed how her child was able to buy a new school bag, new shoes. She was also able to buy vitamins for her child,” Lacierda said.

For the survey, SWS showed a card to 1,200 adults nationwide and asked them, “Where would you place your family on this card?” The choices included “not poor,” “on the line” and “poor.”

Self-rated poverty scaled sharply in Mindanao having 72 percent in March from 38 percent in December. Also, it mounted in the Visayas island from 52 percent previously to 61 percent.

But on the other hand the percentages for Metro Manila from 47 percent to 46 percent while the rest of Luzon managed to maintain its 45 percent, remained basically unaffected.

Self-rated poverty also levitated among those living in the rural areas having 49 percent last December and 66 percent in March, but rarely changed among those in the urban areas amounting to 41 percent to 40 percent respectively.

Food poverty

For self-rated food poverty, SWS asked respondents “Based on the type of food eaten by your family, where would you place your family on this card?” Respondents were made to choose from “not poor,” “on the line” and “poor.”

Self-rated food poverty poured in Mindanao with respect to 30 percent last December while 64 percent in March. It also escalated in the Visayas from 43 percent to 47 percent but hardly changed in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon with just a difference of 1 percent last December.

SWS also determined the self-rated poverty threshold of respondents who considered their households poor or food-poor by asking how much they  needed monthly so as not to consider themselves poor.

The median poverty threshold rose in Metro Manila to P12,000 from P10,000, in Luzon outside Metro Manila to P10,000 from P6,000, in the Visayas to P8,000 from P6,000 and in Mindanao to P7,000 from P6,000.

The median food-poverty threshold in Metro Manila rose to P6,500 from P5,000. In Luzon outside Metro Manila, it rose to P5,000 from P4,000.

It went up to P4,500 from P3,750 in the Visayas and to P4,000 from P3,500 in Mindanao.

ADB Official Cites PH Development Path

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the country director for the Philippines mentioned last Wednesday that the Philippines is one of the good examples of countries taking path of development from an agricultural economy to one that is largely supported by services.

Neeraj Jain said at a briefing, that the traditional path is to move from agriculture to industries and then to services.

“This is happening amid the revolution in telecommunications in the Philippines, and experts are now raising the question of whether economies like these are conducive to growth that is inclusive or employment-friendly,” he said.

Also, the ADB official said that the Philippines financial market would need to acquire long-term instruments to help government efforts in encouraging investments in infrastructure.

Improved infrastructure

He stated that improved infrastructure would help efforts in the Philippines to move up to higher value-added activities, particularly the manufacturing and services sectors.

An example that Jain said as an example for the better infrastructure is that it can help in the push for the business process outsourcing sector to develop service offerings other than voice-based call centers.

He said longer-term loans had to be made available for undertakings such as public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

Funding for PPP

“Banks are now providing (loans) that mature in 10 or 12 years,” he said, adding that longer intentions will provide a greater boost to infrastructure projects.

The ADB announced last month the funding support for the PPP initiative “to help sustain the positive reform momentum.”

On the other hand, Australia, through the means of the Australian Agency for International Development, has set aside $15 million for the project development and monitoring facility (PDMF) that the ADB administers. The amount was on top of the $7 million provided to the facility last year.

Jain said the additional fund would mean that the PDMF would be able to support the preparation of more PPP projects than what was previously expected as doable.

With the additional fund, it is estimated that at least 12 PPP projects would be implemented or ready by 2016, more than twice the government target of five projects by the end of 2013.

Luxury Vehicle Sales Decline 30%

Sales in the market of luxury vehicles in the 1st quarter dropped by an unreasonably 30 percent as buyers, mostly upwardly mobile middle class, have become extra careful not to attract the fanatical eyes of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

One of the officials of one of the luxury car companies in the country said 3 luxury car brands namely BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lexus only sold 264 units in the January – March period this year or 30 percent lower than the same period last year.

“Because of the heightened campaign of the BIR, buyers are scared, especially that most of our buyers are middle-class businessmen, who can now afford to upgrade their lifestyle,” the source said.

On the other hand, even the corporate clients and legitimate businessmen have cancelled their plans to buy luxury vehicles on the capture that they could face because of the undue inspection from the tax agency.

Among the 3 luxury car brand models, Mercedes Benz, having the biggest decrease with a reduction of 40 percent negative growth.

BMW, a German vehicle brand, posted the highest sales but still had a dropping off about 37 percent, while Lexus’ decline a modest 2 percent decrease.

Lexus sold a total of 75 units and is eyeing to sell a total of at least 300 units this year from 264 units last year.

Lexus Manila is set to introduce major model changes this year including its best selling RX, which is priced for P1.3 million.

Meantime, the hybrid models of Lexus have not really picked up as hybrids still account for a very small portion of total industry sales.

Lexus hybrid models have sold only 50 units so far.

Its hybrid cars are GT 200, GS450H, RX450H, LS600H with GT model accounting for 40 percent of sales being the most affordable at P2.3 million to P2.8 million.

There have been a good number of hybrid vehicle brands in the country but only Toyota has full hybrid models, the others are “mild” hybrid brands.

“We need to educate the market because hybrid is still little percentage of vehicle sales,” an official said.

Aside from the lack of awareness, the price of hybrid vehicles has remained very prohibitive because of the huge tax burden imposed on these imported cars.

The robust sales of hybrid vehicles in the US, Malaysia and Singapore have been largely attributed to the duty-tax treatment and other perks given to these vehicles.

For instance, a Lexus car in the US could sell for $200,000 with all the taxes but ends up only at $100,000 a unit because of the removal of taxes.

In the Philippines, hybrid vehicles are slapped with import duty, excise tax, vat vat and sales tax and 4 percent municipal tax.

Without these taxes, a P2.3-million hybrid could sell at considerably lower price of P1.6 million.

Government Workers To Get Salary Increase Early

Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona supposedly has at least $10 million in his bank accounts that the Ombudsman is now asking him to explain, regardless of his peso accounts and real estate properties.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, asked Corona to explain in writing within 72 hours how he obtained several peso and dollar accounts, allegedly “grossly disproportionate” to his salary, in different banks.

The order was dated April 20 and served on Corona on April 23.

“This office finds that there is reasonable ground to proceed further with the conduct of an inquiry vis-à-vis the charges that you, during your incumbency as a public officer, accumulated wealth that is purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income,” Morales said in the April 20, 2012 order.

Furthermore, Morales mentioned in the letter that she had received information that “there are several bank accounts in PSBank and several other banks in your (Corona’s) name, including those denominated in US dollars the aggregate value of which amounts to at least US$10,000,000.”

Through his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, Corona responded with a terse four-point reply: (1) I do not own 10M. It simply does not exist. (2) It’s part of the black propaganda and mind-conditioning preparatory to the resumption of trial on May 7. (3) No different from the phoney LRA [Land Registration Authority] list, phoney US property list, phoney surveys, phoney letters to the Inquirer editor, etc., etc. (4) The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.

Three complaints

Appealing her powers under Republic Act No. 6770, which describes the powers and functions of the Office of the Ombudsman, Morales asked Chief Justice to reply in writing to the complaints and to the information regarding his claimed accounts in several banks.

Morales quoted 3 complaints filed against Corona before her office for violation of anti-graft laws, raising the Ombudsman’s power to examine impeachable officers for serious misconduct, including violations of RA 9194, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

“They claim that you do not have the means to acquire properties in substantial amounts, supposedly considering your ‘indicated net worth, modest means and salary as a Chief Justice,’” the Ombudsman said in her letter to Corona.

Complainants Ruperto Aleroza, Gibby Gorres, Harvey Keh, Risa Hontiveros and Albert Concepcion sought to have Corona investigated for allegedly amassing “real and personal properties in significant amounts” and not declaring them in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law.

A complaint that was dated Feb. 17, it was stated that 10 pieces of real property which were presented by the House prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate. These include supposedly “posh” units at the Bellagio, Spanish Bay, The Columns, One Burgundy Plaza condominium developments and houses in the La Vista and Ayala Heights gated communities.

The complainants also mentioned that Corona’s alleged 10 peso accounts and two dollar accounts at Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and five peso accounts with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

A second complaint was filed on March 1 by party-list member Walden Bello (Akbayan), Earnest Francis Calayag, Moses Mikael SD Albiento and Tristan Diane Brioso Zinampan.

They appealed that Corona under declared the values of his real properties in his SALN and did not declare his property in La Vista, Quezon City, and in McKinley Hills, Taguig.

They claimed that the “actual value of his personal properties in the amount of P31,752,623.00 exceeded the declared value in his SALN by P27,252,623.09.”

“According to complainants, the real and personal properties supposedly owned by you and your family are manifestly out of proportion to your salary as public officer, as well as other lawful income, during your respective tenures as associate justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” the Ombudsman said.

A third complaint dated March 28 was filed by Emmanuel Tiu Santos who said Corona had unexplained wealth consisting of P24.6 million in five accounts at PSBank and P12 million with BPI.

Santos, citing reports published in the Inquirer, pointed out that Corona also withdrew P32.6 million on the day he was impeached.

Trial resumes May 7

“While you may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, this office has, as reflected earlier, the power and duty to investigate you for any serious misconduct in office for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. It was on this account that this Office conducted an initial evaluation on the complaints,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman’s move comes as Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate resumes on May 7 after Congress returns from a six-week break.

It will be the turn of the defense to present its case for Corona.

The prosecution sought to subpoena Corona’s alleged dollar accounts, but the Supreme Court stopped the Senate from compelling the banks to submit documents on the alleged dollar accounts.

Corona has said he would open his bank accounts to public scrutiny in due time.

Airlines Seek Customs Overtime Padding Probe

Airline industry is willing to cooperate with the Ombudsman in investigating a complaint filed by airport Customs examiners against their immediate seniors for apparently stuffing their overtime claims with airline companies, and pocketing, instead of distributing properly, the money that is being collected.

The spokesman for the Board of Airline Representatives (VBAR), Mr. Bayani Agabin, mentioned yesterday that the complant supports “our longstanding suspicion of overcharging and abuse of this overtime arrangement. We are thankful that the present administration has decided to do away with the backward practice of a single shift from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon plus overtime, and instead operate 24/7 on three shifts at key ports as is done worldwide.”

Airlines paid airport Customs approximately P2 billion since the early 1990s until 2005, unfortunately when they decided to stop paying, airport Customs sought them to double their charges.

There about 200 Customs employees at the airport. Which then the airlines challenged the overtime practice in court, arguing that Customs employees are government staffs, not theirs.

The complaint before the Ombudsman was filed in August 2009 by some examiners who did not get their share.

Agabin said that it will send a strong message to stumbling civil servants and that the resolution of this case would resound across the government.

Agabin also mentioned that the Ombudsman should find out if the check payments from individual airlines were deposited to the government accounts and it is properly accounted and distributed, whether the recipients professed that these are part of their taxable compensation income.

“If they encashed the checks and divided it among themselves, then this constitutes malversation which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” he said. “This may also amount to a violation of Civil Service Commission rules on double compensation, Commission on Audit rules on accounting and disbursement of funds, and tax laws on payment of taxes on income.” Agabin added.

According to the complaint, Customs collectors prepare two sets of payroll.

One is presented to the airline that shows the complete list of examiners even if some are actually absent, on leave or had been transferred, while the other is the “final payroll” where those actually absent were taken off the list and their share is allegedly pocketed by the superiors, the complaint said.

The airport Customs personnel is also been abused this overtime practice by adding meals and transportation allowances to their billings, and charging four times if four planes land for the same hour they serve, he said.

David With Granddaughter In Living Room During Attack

Randy David, a columnist of Philippine Daily Inquirer, was with his 10-year-old granddaughter las Tuesday night in their living room when gunmen attacked their home on the campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.

“I have no known enemies and I could not understand why some people wanted me shot,” UP professor Edgardo Dagdag, the university’s chief security officer, quoted David, also a university professor, as saying to the UP police who first responded to the strafing.

Dagdag told the reporters on a Wednesday morning that 3 men in the vehicle with plate No. UDM-191 fired David’s house at No. 17 corner Gomburza and E. Aguinaldo Streets in Area 1 at around 8:50 p.m. and at 9:05 p.m.

In addition, Dagdag mentioned that David’s first move when he heard the shots was to protect his granddaughter Julia as he screamed others to drop to the floor. Julia is the daughter of GMA 7 network reporter Kara David.

The attacking hit the car of David’s wife in the garage.

Kara reported the matter on Twitter, saying nobody was injured in the incident.

“My family is OK. Papa and Julia were in the sala (living room) when they heard around four shots. Good thing the vehicle was parked in the garden. Yun ang tinamaan ng bala at hindi sila. Salamat Panginoon (The bullets hit that and not them. Thank God),” Kara tweeted.

Witness

A witness, who reported the attacking to the UP police, said she was with her husband and their baby when she saw a heavily tinted FX Tamaraw stopped in front of David’s house, and someone who fired three shots.

“But nobody stepped out of the vehicle when the shots were fired,” the witness, who asked not to be named, told reporters.

She said she saw the FX come back and someone on board fired a single shot. “They returned after five minutes as if they had waited for someone to come out of the house,” the witness added.

Puzzling

David was said to be a longtime professor of Sociology in UP and he is a well-respected person, Dagdag described the attacking that formed a puzzle in his mind.

“This is not an ordinary case. Malalim ito (This is deep). And we are looking into three possibilities,” he said.

But the UP professor declined to share his theories, saying he would first talk to David, whom he described as a good person.

Dagdag said David was surprised by the attack.

No one was hurt in the attacking although the right fender of the Davids’ Toyota Innova had a bullet hole, according to the UP security chief. A bullet was found in the vehicle.

An owner’s verification check at the Land Transportation Office revealed that the plate number of the FX was registered to a Nissan “utility vehicle,” owned by Enrique Punzalan of Cainta, Rizal province.

Footage

Dagdag said the UP police had obtained a copy of the footage of a neighbor’s closed-circuit television camera, which showed the suspects in the vehicle.

Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo advised the family of David to take extra care following the attacking.

He said the Davids had declined offers of police protection, even as they were puzzled by what could have prompted the attack.

“I talked to his wife (former Civil Service Commission chair) Karina David and she couldn’t understand why the attack happened at all since Professor David is almost semi-retired,” Robredo said.

He recalled asking Karina if she could think of any remote motive possible. “She answered  none, as far as I know,’” he said.

Be careful

Robredo said he just advised the family to be careful about their movements and to let the authorities know of “any new information that is not normal.”

Asked about the state of security on the UP campus in Diliman, he said the UP system was in a better position to explain as the university has its own police force independent from the Quezon City police.

Representative Sherwin Tugna of the Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption condemned the strafing of David’s house.

Tugna urged the police to look into the incident and provide adequate protection to David, whom he described as a “living national treasure” for his incisive and thought-provoking analyses of social issues.

Chief Superintendent Mario de la Vega, Quezon City Police District director, said they would provide David with a security detail even if he had not formally filed any complaint.

“With or without the complaint, we intend to continue the investigation and deploy police personnel to the area,” De la Vega said.

He said that the bullet found in David’s vehicle would be subjected to ballistic tests to trace its origin.

‘Justice Is Alive In The Philippines’

This was the principal emotion of Filipino citizens on the Supreme Court’s final decision ordering the distribution of almost 5,000 hectares of land to Hacienda Luisita farmer-beneficiaries.

Hacienda Luisita became a trending topic on Twitter on Tuesday after the ruling was released.

Twitter user Marin Jabin said, “Justice has finally served the people who deserve her!”

User Lar T tweeted, “Hacienda Luisita finally to be distributed to its rightful owners. Buhay ang hustisya sa Pilipinas (Justice is alive in the Philippines).”

While, Twitter user Stephanie Lim said she was happy for the farmers. “I hope that the distribution will happen as soon as possible.”

Television personalities also shared their thoughts through Twitter.

Actress Assunta de Rossi, who is married to Negros Occidental Representative Julio “Jules” Ledesma IV,  said, “Finally, Hacienda Luisita farmers will get what they deserve. Yes to land distribution! No to greed!”

“So happy for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita. Well deserved!” Claudine Trillo tweeted.

Posts on social networking site Facebook also praised the high court’s ruling.

‘Yellow men’

“After a lengthy war, the farmers finally get a taste of vengeance,” said Facebook user Ian Kim P. Gahoy.

“JUSTICE,” said Facebook user Gabriel Borlongan.

Facebook user Jom Pineda said, “The SC justices voted 14-0 for Hacienda Luisita land distribution. Rejoice to Luisita farmers!”

There were also users who were skeptical about the decision.

Twitter user Dinz Francisco said, “Luisita finally to be distributed but I don’t think the yellow men will agree. They will bend all the rules to take it back.”

Hoping for no flip-flop

The sprawling sugar-estate is owned by President Benigno Aquino III’s Cojuanco clan.

Chief Justice Renato Corona has said his impeachment “is a revenge and a shameless attempt to stop the distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands.”

“If this is really the end of this case, just how long will it take to distribute the land to the farmers? 1 year, 5 years, 20 years? In the Philippines, the law moves slower than a Carabao,” said user Jon in a comment on INQUIRER.net.

“Hope the SC won’t flip-flop on this. Congrats to the farmers. Use the land wisely,” said user magsasakasanayon in another comment on the Inquirer website.

In the articles of impeachment against Corona, Article 3 refers to the lack of probity, integrity and independence resulting in flip-flopping decisions.

UP Statement On The Defacement Of Its Website

The administration of the University of the Philippines (UP) called on involved Filipinos to stop disfiguring the websites of different Chinese institutions in revenge to the hacking of the UP website, saying “[we] are more sensible than this, and our expertise is better used in productive endeavors.”

“We appeal to the public to avoid jumping to conclusions and taking actions that could further inflame people’s sentiments, particularly on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China. Giving the perceived ‘enemies’ a dose of their own medicine by hacking their alleged country’s websites achieves nothing but unproductive counter-actions,” Alfredo Pascual, UP President, said in a given statement.

Also, Pascual requested the media to avoid exaggerating the incident.

Pascual, on the other hand refused to identify the location, given that the University Computer Center (UCC) which is the hosts of the website were able to trace the IP address of the hackers involved and in which country they belong.

“First, the IP address can be masked to appear as if someone is working from a specific location. Second, even assuming that the IP address was not masked, it is still possible that someone compromised a machine from that specific location to deface the UP System website,” Pascual uttered.

“The UCC has already made adjustments to the restored site to prevent a similar incident from happening again, details of which we opt not to divulge for security reasons,” he added.

In the meantime, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that another “attack: has been seen on websites that is being upheld by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) at 4 p.m. today.

“We determined that this was a denial-of-service attack. Information gathered through our data analysis indicated that the attack originated from IP addresses assigned to Chinese networks,” Lacierda said.

PCDSPO website and the Presidential Museum and Library website is causing the servers to momentarily lag due to the malicious URL requests that are being linked to the Official Gazette website.