Economy is Getting Better

To unexpected circumstances, the economy grew at 7.1 percent this Philippines third quarter, compared with 3.2 percent slack in 2011.

Reported by the National Statistics Coordination Board that economic growth is caused by the implemented ‘service sector’ like ‘robust performance’ of transport, storage and communication, financial intermediation, real estate, Renting and business activities and agriculture.

The palace of Malacañang is pleased to this news that beats economy on the other countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia which recorded a 6.2 percent said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Malaysia with only 5.2 percent, Vietnam with 4.7 percent, with 3 percent Thailand and Singapore with 0.3 percent.

“We were very pleased with the news that was relayed to us by NEDA director general Arsi (Arsenio) Balisacan and certainly it was beyond our expectations. We knew that it was going to be a good number,” said the presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda also assured of not only the entrepreneurs benefit from the growth of our GDP but also felt by ordinary people across the country.

In this regard, said the progressive legislators in the Lower House of Congress to hint that the Aquino government to the Filipino people of the country’s economic growth by providing employment and reducing poverty in the country.

Last-Minute Rule Change Could Help De Lima

A last minute change in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) rule on disqualification of candidates could help Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her bid to become the next Chief Justice.

This is after Iloilo Rep, Niel Tupas Jr. bared he is pushing for an amendment to the rule on disqualifying candidates who are facing administrative cases.

“May pending akong amendment to the rules para maging equitable naman at maging fair sa mga applicants but it would depend on the decision ng members ng council kung anuman ang mangyayari on Wednesday,” he said.

Should the JBC support Tupas’ proposal, de Lima still has a shot at landing in the shortlist.

Tupas said de Lima is “definitely disqualified” based on the existing rules.

De Lima is believed to be the top pick of President Aquino for the top judicial post. President Aquino has to appoint the new Chief Justice on August 27. Incidentally, De Lima turns 53 on the same day.

Disbarment cases

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday unanimously junked de Lima’s motion for reconsideration on the IBP Board of Governors’ decision to proceed with a full-blown investigation into her disbarment cases.

The pendency of a criminal or regular administrative case automatically disqualifies a candidate from any judicial post according to Section 5, Rule 4 of  the Rules of the JBC.

The JBC has postponed its voting on the shortlist of Chief Justice candidates and instead reset the deliberations and voting on Wednesday.

The JBC granted the request of its two representatives from Congress, Sen. Chiz Escudero and Tupas, for more time to study the qualifications of all 20 CJ hopefuls.

Escudero was not present during the public interviews of the candidates of July 24-27 because of a Supreme Court ruling limiting the legislature’s representation in the JBC from two to one.

Tupas, on the other hand, was not present during the last day of the interviews after both the Senate and House of Representatives decided to pull out of the process.

Speaking to reporters, Escudero said the IBP decision to investigate the disbarment cases against de Lima was not discussed.

An ABS-CBN source, however, bared De Lima’s predicament was brought up.

De Lima has requested the JBC not to disqualify her from the race.

Escudero said the matter will be put to a vote also on Wednesday.

Palace denies pressuring IBP, JBC

A Malacañang spokesman, meanwhile, denied influencing the JBC or the IBP to help de Lima in her bid to become chief justice.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said he is not privy to the developments in the JBC and declined to comment on these mattes.

“Kung magbibigay kami ng opinyon one way or the other, baka sabihin nilang nag-i-impluwensya po kami. So we feel it is better for us not to comment on what action they will take,” he said.

Lacierda said he still has no details on the nature of the assistance being given by the Palace legal team to de Lima’s bid to become chief justice.

P-Noy Meets With INC Head

Malacañang said that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, visited yesterday the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)’s central office which is located in Quezon City to get to know with the religious group’s leader and “touch base” with the organization’s followers.

Eduardo Manalo, INC’s leader meets Aquino on the eve of the appearance of Chief Justice Renato Corona before the Senate impeachment court, but Malacañang then refused implications that the meeting is about or something to do with the impeachment trial.

Presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda said that, “The purpose of the President is to touch base with his supporters and you don’t need to get the support right now.”

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) management is apparently seen lobbying for the release of Corona, whose lead counsel is former justice Serafin Cuevas who is a member of the sect.

“Unfortunately, the schedule of the President and the schedule of Ka Eduardo (Manalo) could not jibe. It was only this Monday or today that they were able to find a common schedule,” Lacierda said. “The unfortunate thing was it was only today that they were able to find a common schedule.” He added.

Lacierda stated that Aquino’s meeting with the Iglesia ni Cristo’s leader was “warm.”

Aquino personally called for the impeachment of Corona in December 2011.

The last time that Aquino had a chance to visit the INC headquarters which was then considered as his first visit as well was before the May 2010 presidential elections when he was still a senator. He was accompanied by his sisters Ballsy Cruz and popular TV talk show host Kris Aquino.

“As you know, the INC supported the President during his senatorial campaign and during also his presidential campaign,” Lacierda recalled.

The spokesman admitted the impeachment trial was discussed, primarily because it was among the “burning issues of the day.”

“He explained to Ka Eduardo the reasons for the impeachment – that this is part of his reform agenda.

“The President only mentioned the reason why there was an impeachment against Chief Justice Corona and he explained his reasons,” he said.

Lacierda similarly modulated the implication of Aquino’s visit to the INC central office at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, when he could just have received the religious leader at his office in Malacañang.

“I asked that and the President mentioned it’s always a practice of not only this President but also the other presidents, to visit the head of Iglesia ni Cristo in Central. This is nothing new,” he said.

The other topic discussed, aside from the impeachment according to Lacierda, was the government’s skills development program that will be implemented through the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) which is being headed by Joel Villanueva, son of evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement, and is said to be an administration senatorial candidate in 2013.

Lacierda rejected allusions that Aquino was seeking for INC’s support for the future candidate, Villanueva.

“It was only a discussion of what the government has been doing. But there’s certainly no way something was discussed about Villanueva,” he said.

“There are certain matters that we do not list out in the schedule,” he added, dismissing the accusations that the administration had not been transparent in its meeting with the INC.

Not bothered

Lacierda also mentioned that he doesn’t consider Roman Catholic priests’ celebration Masses for Corona just to show a support from the Church leadership for the plagued Chief Justice.

“We have no response to that. This is a free country. There’s a separation between Church and State. So let them – if he wants to celebrate Mass for the Chief Justice, by all means. We have no response to that. And obviously, only a Catholic priest can celebrate a Mass, a Catholic Mass. So there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

He referred to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines saying that they’re not even aware of any official stand of the CBCP regarding Corona’s impeachment.

“They have not released any statement. So we just rely on statements. We don’t rely on individual bishops. As far as we know, they have not published in their website any official position taken by the CBCP,” he said.

Lacierda said they haven’t heard anything from CBCP president Jose Palma “other than those short interviews.”

“But as an official position, we have not seen any official position taken by the CBCP. Any organization can make a position. Right now, it is in the hands of the senator-judges. So let’s wait for the testimony of Chief Justice Corona,” Lacierda said.

Meeting defended

There was nothing wrong with regards that the President having a meeting with INC leaders, just for the issue of the prosecution panel in Corona’s impeachment trial.

“It’s not uncommon for presidents to solicit the support of the influential group even harking back to the 1970s,” Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II also defended President Aquino’s visit to the INC.

“There’s nothing wrong about it. He just presented his sentiments on the impeachment of the Chief Justice and his campaign for reforms, which sentiments are known to the public,” he told the reporters.

He said the President’s visit may be compared to Aquino’s past meetings with Catholic bishops at the height of debates on the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

“If there are groups big or small that are holding contrary views, it is not unusual for us politicians to approach them to present to them our side. To ignore them would mean insensitivity on our part,” he said.

“In the case of the Chief Justice, whether there is lobbying or not from any group, we are confident that the strength of the evidence we have presented against him would get him convicted,” Gonzales stressed.

But Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said Aquino’s visit only showed his insecurity.

“Why is he going out of his way to explain Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment when he should have nothing to do with it in the first place?” Magsaysay said. “He looks so defensive especially when a so-called congressional source said the INC was influencing senator-judges to acquit the Chief Justice.”

No INC meeting

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile contradicted the reports that he met with any representative of the INC.

“I quarantined myself,” Enrile told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said “lobbying for or against any issue is normal.”

“Whether it is happening I don’t know. I’m one of those who can say nobody had approached me to lobby then and now,” Sotto said.

“That’s part of the normal interaction between politicians and constituents. All sectors whether you are Iglesia or civilian or non-sectarian can talk to both sides,” Sen. Edgardo Angara said.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco also denied that the INC was trying to influence senator-judges identified with UNA.

“As the secretary-general of UNA, I would like to state that there is no truth to that rumor. No emissaries from the INC have sent feelers to senator-judges belonging to UNA for the purpose of pleading for the Chief Justice,” Tiangco said in a statement.

“It is disappointing to read of an ‘anonymous’ source trying to besmirch the reputation of both INC and UNA,” he said. “This congressional source insists he remain anonymous while he attempts to discredit UNA and debase the INC.” – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano

Timeline: Resumption of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona

Day 35 (May 7) The impeachment court allows the defense panel to subpoena Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as “hostile” witness, but two defense witnesses are barred from testifying since their testimonies bore no relevance to the case.

Day 36 (May 8) Chief Justice Renato Corona promises to testify before the Senate impeachment court based on the documents presented to the Office of the Ombudsman on his alleged $10-million bank deposits.

Day 37 (May 14) Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales presents an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report, which reveals Corona allegedly had 82 accounts with a “transactional balance” amounting to $10 million, spread out over five banks and not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Day 38 (May 15) Ombudsman Morales continues her testimony, saying there were “significant” transactions on Corona’s alleged dollar accounts during the 2004 and 2007 election periods and before the impeachment trial began.

Day 39 (May 16) The defense panel presents three complainants who filed charges against Corona before the Ombudsman in an attempt to show that their claims were baseless. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile compels Kaya Natin! Movement lead convenor Harvey Keh to explain why he should not be cited for contempt for handing over to his office confidential records of Corona’s alleged dollar accounts.

Day 40 (May 22) Corona testifies before the impeachment court.

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.

Palace failed to stop transport groups

The Philippine government failed to stop transport groups from conducting a nationwide strike Thursday due successive petroleum price increases. This event forced the Department of Education to defer to local governments the decision to suspend classes in their respective localities on Thursday.

Edwin Lacierda said at a briefing in Malacañang “Mukhang hindi po magpapapigil… ang mga transport groups.  And so, in the alternative, we are preparing for the contingencies,” after Chairman of the Metro Manila Developer Authoriry (MMDA) Francis Tolentino Failed to convince the transport groups to cancel their strike.

George San Mateo Piston president said that transport groups wants oil companies to roll back diesel by 9pesos per liter and 10pesos in gasoline. Also the transport groups wants to scrap the 12-percent e-Vat on petroleum products to help stabilize the petroleum product prices.

Aside from Metro Manila the protest actions will also be held in the following cities in Thursday.

  • Bacolod in Negros Occidental
  • Baguio in the Cordillera Administrative Region
  • Butuan in Agusan del Sur
  • Cagayan de Oro in Misamis Oriental
  • Cebu
  • Davao
  • Dumaguete in Negros Oriental
  • General Santos in South Cotabato
  • Iloilo in Iloilo province
  • Legaspi in Albay
  • Mandaue in Cebu
  • Roxas in Capiz
  • San Pedro in Laguna
  • Santiago in Isabela

Noynoy: Hacienda Luisita distributed to farmers by 2014

TARLAC- With the ghost of Hacienda Luisita haunting his bid for the presidency, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III vowed Tuesday to ensure the distribution of the 4,500-hectare plantation to farmer-beneficiaries by June 2014.

Aquino made the promise at a press conference in his family’s ancestral home in Concepcion town, which he chose to be the venue of his electoral campaign’s kick-off. [See: Noynoy seeks God's help at campaign kick-off in Tarlac]

Aquino said he has already asked his extended family – relatives of his mother, the late former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino – to find ways to distribute the land to 10,000 farmer-beneficiaries before the end of the government’s five-year agrarian reform program.

Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Noynoy is committed to ensuring the distribution of Hacienda Luisita land even if he loses in the May elections.

“It’s not just a campaign promise, it’s a matter of principle,” Lacierda told GMANews.TV over the phone.

Read More >>