Jan 312013
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday told leaders of foreign parliaments that the Philippines is getting closer to enacting a law on better access to government records.

De Lima made the pronouncement despite President Benigno Aquino III being lukewarm to the idea of certifying as urgent the current Freedom of Information (FOI) measure pending in Congress.

Speaking at the 5th Global Organization of Parliaments Against Corruption (GOPAC) in Pasay City, De Lima emphasized the importance of having a law that guarantees the public of free access to government records.

“Freedom of information is the most effective modality to prevent corruption… [and can] make government officials accountable to any wrongdoing,” De Lima said during the event held at the Philippine International Convention Center.

“A freedom of information act is very much within our reach,” she added.

This was in stark contrast to a pronouncement made by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Thursday that Aquino has no plans on certifying as urgent the current FOI bill, a version of which has been passed in the Senate but remains on second reading at the House of Representatives.

“We want a healthy debate [first]. Whether [it’s] this Congress, or the next Congress, we want a healthy debate to take place. That’s what we want and in fairness to all constituents, let’s have a healthy debate… and let’s take it from there,” Lacierda said.

He also said that the public can be assured of government transparency even with the absence of a freedom of information law.

Last month, the Senate unanimously passed its version of the FOI bill. At the House, the measure has not yet made it past the period of sponsorship—the first step in the plenary discussions of the proposed legislation. Congress has three session days left or until Wednesday next week before the campaign period starts.

The FOI bill, which seeks to promote transparency in government transactions, was approved at the House committee level last November. It was transmitted to the plenary on December 11.

Jesse Robredo

In her speech at the GOPAC conference, De Lima said “openness to information” can help empower the public, as proven by the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, a recipient of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Good Governance and a former Naga City mayor.

“The emancipation of the citizenry has transformed a lethargic city into a booming one,” De Lima said, highlighting Robredo’s contribution to Naga City where he served for more than 18 years starting in 1988. While he was mayor, the city was named by Asiaweek magazine as one of the “Most Improved Cities in Asia” in 1999.

Robredo, whom De Lima described as having “personified good governance,” is recognized for his contributions to government transparency, one of which was requiring local government units (LGUs) to post details of their procurements, disbursements, and financial transactions in public places, including on the Internet through the LGUs’ respective websites.

To stress the benefits of having free access to government records, De Lima cited as an example the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who she said was ousted as the country’s top judge with the help of “innocuous” public documents that ultimately showed disparities in his declaration of wealth. Corona was convicted of failing to disclose around P200 million in peso and dollar deposits that he amassed while in public office.

“Victory against corruption could not have been any clearer than as had been achieved by our Congress [during the impeachment trial],” De Lima said.

De Lima also emphasized that for an FOI measure to work, there must be a “clear and uniform access to information” as well as a measure to protect whistleblowers.
“The Philippine society is poised to divest itself of the shackles of complacency and secrecy,” De Lima said.


The three-day GOPAC conference gathered some 500 delegates, including lawmakers and 12 heads of foreign parliaments from around the world, to discuss issues and practical approaches to combatting corruption.

It was the first time the conference was being held in Manila. The conference is co-hosted by the Philippine Senate and the Southeast Asian Parliamentarians Against Corruption, which is one of GOPAC’s regional arms.

Among the heads of parliament visiting the country to attend the conference are from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Timor Leste, Egypt, Chad, Gabon, Kenya, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia and Botswana.

Organizers said these participating countries, like the Philippines, have all “made significant progress in the fight against corruption.” Additiional speakers for the event were anti-corruption advocates and leaders, including Transparency International’s Huguette Labelle and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. — KBK, GMA News

Jan 312013
Comelec to retain aggregate airtime for candidates

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to keep the shorter or aggregate time limit on the advertisement of candidates for the May elections, poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Friday. “Pina-finalize na namin,” he said, referring to Resolution 9615. “We will retain the aggregate [time limit with some changes in right of reply,” Brillantes told reporters. Interviewed at the sideline  of the retirement ceremony for Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armand Velasco, Brillantes said he expects to see the final copy of the resolution within the day so Sarmiento and Velasco, who will retire on February 2, will be able to sign it. He said the amended resolution may be released on Monday. GMA Network Inc. and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas have earlier asked the Comelec to reconsider its resolution. — Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News

Jan 312013
PAGASA: Diffused tail-end of cold front to bring rain to parts of Luzon

The diffused tail-end of a cold front may bring rain to parts of Northern and Central Luzon on Friday, state weather forecasters said. In its 5 a.m. bulletin, PAGASA said the diffused tail-end of a cold front is particularly affecting the Northern Luzon area. “Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and the regions of Ilocos and Cordillera will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms,” it said. Also, Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have partly cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. Meanwhile, strong to gale force winds associated with easterly and northeasterly winds may affect the northern and eastern seaboards of Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Visayas. “Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” it said. — LBG, GMA News

Jan 312013
PHL hacktivists hint at Feb. 6 anti-cybercrime law protest

Philippine-based hacktivists on Thursday hinted at a protest action against the Anti-Cybercrime Law on Feb. 6, the day the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on the measure lapses. In a post on its social networking accounts, Anonymous-affiliated Private X issued guidelines to participants but did not post details of where the protest will be held. “Asahan nyo kami sa mga darating na araw sa cyberspace, sana maasahan din namin kayo sa February 6, 2013 (Expect us in the coming days in cyberspace, but we also expect you to join us on Feb. 6, 2013),” it said. The group also said it does not need a permit for its physical protest. “Hindi natin kailangan ng permit dahil ang ANONYMOUS ay Free at di Grupo (We do not need a permit. Anonymous is free and is not a group),” it said. Feb. 6 is the day the high court’s TRO against the Anti-Cybercrime Law of 2012 lapses. Hacktivists had joined protests against the law for its provisions regarding e-libel, which they said violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression. Last year, some hacktivists attacked government websites to protest the law but stopped when some of the sites attacked turned out to be providing critical weather data. The Private X post also gave guidelines to its participants: – No violence, No weapons, No graffiti, destruction, or vandalism, Anonymous is legion. – Never be alone. Know the dress code.  – Cover your face (Use scarves, hats and sunglasses. Masks are not necessary). – Read More …

Jan 312013
World Bank estimates losses due to corrupt acts at $1.3 trillion

By Cathy C. Yamsuan Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:51 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013 An anticorruption crusader on Thursday cited a World Bank financial study that quantified the “devastating effect” of illicit financial flows through corruption at $1.3 trillion a year. Dr. Naser Al Sane, outgoing chairman of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (Gopac), said losses due to corrupt practices ranging from bribery to theft and tax evasion would be equivalent to the combined economies of Switzerland, South Africa and Belgium. “This amount of money could lift the lives of 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day… for at least six years. Al Sane, a Kuwaiti member of Parliament, said countries with “weak governments” as a result of irregular practices “have a 30-45 percent higher risk of civil war,” citing a separate World Bank development report in 2011. He lamented that many global leaders would invoke the UN Convention Against Corruption during their political campaigns “yet do nothing” in achieving its goal. “Look at the regimes that are falling in the Middle East! All dictators fall because of revolutions.  They belonged to countries that ratified anticorruption treaties,” Al Sane said. He also warned that global corruption “is getting worse.” “It’s a monster everywhere facing us. This is a challenge not only to us [but] to all activists,” he said.  

Jan 312013
Saudi ‘blood money’ rescues doomed Filipino from execution

By Tarra Quismundo Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:29 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013 Rodelio Celestino Lanuza An overseas Filipino worker who has languished on death row in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade has been saved from execution with the Saudi government’s shouldering nearly P25 million in blood money for his victim’s family, the kingdom’s embassy in Manila said Thursday. The embassy said the Saudi government paid 2.3 million riyals in blood money that Rodelio Celestino Lanuza was supposed to pay to the heirs of Mohammad bin Said Al-Qathani, whom the Filipino killed in self-defense in 2000. The amount covered the balance of 3 million riyals (P32.54 million) left after Lanuza’s family paid an initial 700,000 riyals (P7.6 million). Welcome gesture The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the development and thanked the Saudi Arabian government for the “humanitarian gesture.” “This will pave the way for the issuance of an affidavit of forgiveness, or tanazul, in Mr. Lanuza’s favor. We hope that as soon as all legal procedures are completed, Mr. Lanuza will finally be reunited with his family,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a statement issued Thursday night. The Saudi Arabian Embassy said Lanuza’s family had appealed for help to raise the remainder of the blood money. It said the Saudi Arabian government made the “royal goodwill gesture” as a result of coordination with Vice President Jejomar Binay, the presidential adviser for migrant workers’ affairs. Another one on death row Binay is also working to raise P44 Read More …

Jan 312013
Cheyenne, Tom Clancy’s attack sub, arriving in Subic Friday

By Tarra Quismundo Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:54 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013 ‘TOM CLANCY’S SUB’ The USS Cheyenne (SSN 773), a Los Angeles-class submarine, is scheduled to arrive in Subic Bay Friday for a routine port visit. This stop in Subic will permit the Cheyenne to replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation. Cheyenne is the primary subject of Tom Clancy’s novel “SNN,” a fictional war over the Spratlys. PHOTO FROM US EMBASSY INFORMATION OFFICE In Tom Clancy’s world of fiction, it’s a US nuclear submarine that fights China over the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The submarine, according to Wikipedia, is the USS Cheyenne, a nuclear attack submarine belonging to the US Pacific Fleet. In Clancy’s novel “SSN,” the Cheyenne battles China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warships in the disputed Spratlys. The Cheyenne is arriving Friday in the former US naval base on Subic Bay, Zambales province, not to battle the PLA but for a “routine port visit,” according to the US Embassy. Tubbataha mess Unfortunately the Cheyenne is arriving amid deep embarrassment for the US Navy whose minesweeper USS Guardian is stuck on the southern atoll in the Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco-World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea. In a still unexplained misadventure, the Guardian ran aground on the atoll on Jan. 17. As the ship is badly damaged, the US Navy has decided to break it apart. The US Navy is facing investigation Read More …

Jan 312013
Old Spanish maps may yet boost PH claim to Panatag

By Jaymee T. Gamil Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:53 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013 Spanish and Filipino delegates to this year’s Tribuna España-Filipinas forum have agreed to embark on a coordinated “archiving program” of historical documents, especially those involving the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines more than 400 years ago. As the sixth edition of the annual multisectoral forum between the two countries drew to a close on Wednesday, an official of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport told the Inquirer that some of the Spanish archives, once catalogued and translated, may even help the Philippines in its claim to the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal. Luis Enseñat Calderon, director of the ministry’s Ibero-Archivos Program, said Spanish historical archives contained documents and maps on the Spanish colonization of the Philippines from the 16th to 19th century.   Possible proof   “The archives may be important in this way to demonstrate that in the 19th century, the Chinese did not control these group of islands,” Calderon said, when asked how Spanish archives could help the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal. He quoted colonial Spanish officials in the 1800s, saying these islands “were controlled, more or less, by the Philippines from Manila.” While these documents are available at the National Historical Archive of Spain, he said it is not yet accessible to the public because his office is still digitizing the documents. “But little by little, we can make progress and publish this on Read More …

Jan 312013
Assad not seeking asylum in PH–DFA

By Tarra Quismundo Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:26 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013 The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday denied a newspaper report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seeking asylum in the Philippines amid the escalating violence in his country. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario categorically denied the story (not in the Philippine Daily Inquirer) that suggested the matter was  discussed at a meeting on Tuesday between Bouthaina Shabaan, a trusted adviser of the beleaguered Syrian leader, and President Aquino. “There was absolutely no discussion on the matter,” Del Rosario said in a text message. “There is no truth to that report that President Assad is seeking asylum in the Philippines. In other words, the unnamed sources gave the wrong information,” Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, told a press briefing Thursday. He said Shabaan indeed handed a letter to the President but that the two sides did not talk about the possibility of asylum for Assad in the Philippines. ‘Political solutions’ He explained that Shabaan’s visit was part of Syria’s campaign to inform the international community about “political solutions” that the Syrian government is considering to end its the conflict with rebel forces. Hernandez characterized the meeting as a “sharing of information” on Syria’s plans, adding that Shabaan went on to visit other countries after she left the Philippines. “It’s part of their campaign to the international community that this is how they would like to solve their crisis.  Usually, this is what happens when Read More …

Jan 312013
Petron to raise $500M via hybrid notes

MANILA, Philippines – Petron Corp., the country’s largest oil refiner, is planning to issue up to $500 million in hybrid capital notes, the company said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Petron priced the offering on Jan. 30 at 7.5 percent. The expected issue date is on Feb. 6, the company also said. “This is to advise that the company has priced the offering last night, Jan.y 30, 2013, with an issue size of $500 million and expected issue date of Feb. 6, 2013,” Petron said. Proceeds of the fund-raising activity would be used to fund the company’s capital expenditures program, Petron president Eric Recto earlier said. In the first nine months of 2012, Petron said its consolidated net income plunged to P932 million from P7.6 billion a year earlier, largely on depressed margins in global markets. The company also said its consolidated net income of P500 million in the third quarter was down 68 percent from P1.56 billion a year earlier, Petron earlier said in a statement. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 However, the P500-million earnings was a turnaround from the P2.1-billion loss posted in the second quarter. Officials said Petron is focused on strategic initiatives that will ensure its long-term growth and profitability. Recto said the company may have more details on its projects lined up for the year after its board of directors meeting in February. Two years ago, Petron launched an ambitious $2-billion project that would entail putting up more Read More …