Feb 102014
The Commission on Elections might turn to other suppliers to provide the precinct counting optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 presidential polls, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Monday.

On the sidelines of the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, Brillantes said that the poll body is considering other companies along with Smartmatic-Total Information Management, which supplied the PCOS machines for the May 2013 elections.

“PCOS machines pa rin ang gagamitin natin for the 2016 elections, but it might not necessarily be the Smartmatic PCOS. Maraming alternatives,” he said.

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) is set to hold a technology fair on February 21 for companies interested in bidding for the contract.

The council was created to issue a recommendation on the kind of voting technology the Comelec should adopt for use in the 2016 polls.

Brillantes said that among the options being considered by the poll body is using both the old PCOS machines from Smartmatic and the new ones it is planning to purchase.

Smartmatic has claimed that the 82,000 PCOS machines purchased from it by Comelec for P1.8 billion could last even until the 2016 elections.

Comelec said in its report to the joint oversight committee that it will have to shell out P12.9 billion should it replace all the old machines with new ones.

The cost, however, would go down to P6.9 billion if the poll body decides to use the existing PCOS machines and just purchase additional units.

The Comelec estimates it will need 86,100 PCOS machines for the 2016 polls. Around 56 million voters are expected to participate in the next national elections.

Brillantes is hoping that Congress will approve its proposed P16-billion budget for the 2016 polls so that it could buy more PCOS machines to obtain a ratio of 600 voters per precinct instead of 1,000.

“If Congress gives us a good budget to cover the purchase of additional machines, then we can bring down the [voter limit per precinct] to 600,” he said.

The elections chair said the Comelec will only be able to shorten voting hours if the number of voters grouped in a precinct goes down.

“Yung 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. [voting period] natin noong 2013, pwede naming gawing 7 to 5 or 7 to 4 lang. Kapag mas maagang natapos ang eleksyon, ang [paglabas ng] resulta, mas mabilis din,” Brillantes said. — BM, GMA News

Dec 302013
PNP chief to public: Report cops who fire weapons on New Year’s Eve

The Philippine National Police on Monday reminded the public to report any of its personnel using firearms to ring in 2014. PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima issued the last-minute reminder on his Twitter account as he inspected firecracker stalls in Bulacan province. “I encourage everybody to report to PNP, those who have the tendency to use their firearms in celebrating New Year’s Eve,” he said. “For your reports, you need not give your identity, just the information regarding the would be law breakers during New Year’s celebration,” he added. Earlier, the PNP had the muzzles of police officers’ firearms taped to make sure the guns are not fired indiscriminately during the holidays. The muzzles will be checked again after New Year’s Day to see if the guns had been fired. Also on Monday, Purisima personally checked on police operations against illegal firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices in Bulacan. A separate report by radio dzBB’s Glen Juego also said the Bureau of Fire Protection conducted surprise inspections on fireworks stalls in White Plains in Quezon City. In past weeks, the government had been appealing to Filipinos not to welcome the New Year with fireworks, which it said can be harmful and even deadly in some cases. — BM, GMA News

Oct 082013
Leonen: Declaring PDAF unconstitutional won't solve corruption immediately

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Monday that declaring the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional will not immediately solve the corruption problem in the country. During the oral arguments, Leonen said it is the people who can make the changes they want in the system. He said that even without the PDAF, the lawmakers can still utilize congressional insertions to get funding for their pet projects. “There is nothing that the court can do because that is the political department, it will depend upon the people’s will and how the people react on how their representatives act in the House and Senate,” he said. “It is unfair that the only burden in correcting the system rests with the court. Shouldn’t we actually say thay it is within the executive and legislative and we will do our part in terms of correcting it,” he added. Leonen said that even if the court declares PDAF as unconstitutional “still there are a lot of work to be done” as it is public vigilance that will spell the difference. “It is not us who are the saviors but the Filipino people working through the department, making them accountable that will be saviors in this problem,” he said. Leonen also asked petitioners’ counsel, lawyer Alfredo Molo III, if they are not creating a dangerous precedent in asking the court to declare PDAF as unconstitutional. The latter replied in negative. “No. We have identified the clear violation on the Constitution and that is Read More …

Jul 082013
Palace: First day of Ramadan is not a holiday

The first day of the holy month of Ramadan is not a holiday, Malacañang said Monday. In a post on its Twitter account, the Official Gazette said it made the clarification after receiving many queries about whether Tuesday is a holiday because of Ramadan. “[Regarding] queries: Tomorrow, July 9, 2013, is not a nationwide holiday,” it said. However, the date of the start of Ramadan varies—July 9 in some countries, July 10 in others. According to MakkahCalendar.org, the Philippines will be among the countries that should start Ramadan on July 10. Ramadan is the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, and offer prayers. The Official Gazette pointed out that Proclamation 495 does not include the start of Ramadan on its list of holidays. It also noted that separate proclamations will be issued for the observance of Eid’l Fitr and Eidul Adha. — BM, GMA News

Jun 252013
Palace: P18,000 for informal settlers not meant to boost Mar Roxas' 2016 chances

The P18,000 to be given to families living near Metro Manila waterways is not meant to boost Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II’s chances of winning the presidency in 2016, a Palace spokesperson said Tuesday. At a news briefing, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the relocation of informal settlers living near waterways has been planned even before Roxas’ stint at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). She added that it was the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo who began planning moving the informal settlers away from the waterways. “Everybody understands na hindi naman po agaran na makakapagtayo ng medium-rise structure. It took some time to plan and, also, natagalan din po tayo sa pagpili ‘nung mga communities,” Valte said. The President’s spokesperson also said that the DILG is not the only agency in charge of the plan to give P18,000 to enable families near waterways to find temporary housing. She said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be the one to supervise the disbursement of this amount. Valte further said that Vice President Jejomar Binay, who also has plans to seek the presidency in 2016, will also participate in the relocation project, being the head of the Housing & Urban Development Coordinating Council. Senator Franklin Drilon, the Liberal Party (LP)’s vice chairperson, said early this year that Roxas will be the ruling party’s standard-bearer in 2016. Roxas was Aquino’s running mate during the 2010 national elections, but lost the vice-presidency to Binay. — BM, Read More …

Jun 132013
BI wants to take custody of Chinese pangolin poachers if they post bail

The 12 suspected Chinese poachers whose vessel ran aground on Tubbataha Reef in April should be placed in the custody of the Bureau of Immigration if the Palawan court handling the case allows them to post bail, a bureau official said Thursday.   According to BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, the bureau has already informed the Palawan court in a letter dated June 6 that if the 12 individuals are released, they should be turned over to Immigration authorities.   “In the event the court release the 12 poachers on bail, the BI has grounds to keep them in detention because they are undocumented aliens and they did not pass through the Immigration inspection when they entered,” she said. Mangrobang added that the BI, which has already issued a deportation order against the 12, would hold them while the case is being resolved. “It is one thing that they have a deportation order and another if the deportation order would be implemented,” she said. The 12 have been charged with poaching, illegal possession of endangered wildlife and attempted bribery of park officials. The Philippine Coast Guard discovered hundreds of frozen pangolins, individually wrapped in plastic and hidden in sacks, in the cargo hold of the suspected poachers’ vessel as it sat grounded on the reef. Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are a threatened species and are covered by the Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act of the Philippines. In China, the pangolin’s meat and scales are are believed to have medicinal properties: the scales Read More …

Jun 052013
Loren declines Drilon's offer to become next majority floor leader

Senator Loren Legarda said Wednesday that she has declined an offer from Senator Franklin Drilon, who is being eyed as Senate president in the 16th Congress, to be the next majority floor leader. “Napag-usapan namin at sinabi ko na hindi ako interesado. Hindi dahil sa ayaw ko na magtrabaho, pero dahil nanggaling na ako riyan,” Legarda told reporters. However, she added, she might consider the offer to become the Senate president pro tempore next Congress. “Kung andiyan na at wala namang ibang interesado at kung ako ay pipilitin, baka pag-isipan,” she said. Legarda was majority floor leader from 2002 to 2004, when Drilon was Senate president. She won a fresh Senate term during the 2013 midterm polls under the administration slate, which was managed by Drilon. The senator likewise said she would rather “focus on committee work” rather that handle a top Senate post during her third term. “Nanggaling na ako riyan. Give others a chance. Sabi ko nga, ipaubaya na sa iba,” she said. — BM, GMA News

May 052013
PPCRV: 350,000 volunteers ready for poll duty

With just one more week to go before the May 13 elections, a Church-based poll watchdog group on Sunday declared that 350,000 of its volunteers—including 70,000 frontliners—are ready for poll watching duties. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said it is finalizing preparations to enhance the visibility of the 70,000 frontliners who will be assigned to help desks and polling places. “Okay ang deployment ng volunteers. Ang aming pinag-abalahan ngayon nakakuha kami ng materials, pero hanggang ngayon sourcing ako sa T-shirt. Nakaprint na ng 50,000 shirts sa kagandahang loob ng donor, nagsisigasig pa ako makakuha ng 20,000,” PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa said in an interview on dzBB radio. She said the 70,000 volunteers should be wearing PPCRV shirts and IDs as they have to enhance their visibility at help desks and polling places. The PPCRV is a deputized citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections for the May 13 elections. De Villa also downplayed the effect of some Catholic dioceses’ cutting their working ties with her group, saying there are still many volunteers willing to work with the PPCRV. Volunteers being ‘pirated’ De Villa also said that some volunteers are being “pirated” by political parties for the elections, but that the group is not worried. “Siyempre doon may bayad [pero] ako hindi sumasama ang loob ko. Sabi ko mabuti na lang naka-training sa amin ang tamang pagbantay hindi lang sa pamamagitan ng isang technical poll watching consideration. Pati ang values meron kami nioon sa training,” she said. De Read More …

Apr 302013
Brillantes: 29 disqualified party-list groups might be allowed to run in May 13 polls

At least 29 party-list organizations earlier disqualified by the Commission on Elections for not representing marginalized sectors might be allowed to participate in the May 13 polls while 10 others will be cancelled, poll chairman Sixto Brillantes said Tuesday. Brillantes said since the commissioners have different positions on the matter, the en banc will put the matter to a vote by Thursday. He said they are still reviewing the case of the concerned party-list groups. “Iba-iba kami ng posisyon. Magvovoting kami sa Thursday. We are deciding already to allow approximately 29 to 30 and cancel the remaining 9 to 10. Hindi pa kami naga-agree,” he told reporters. The names of the party-list groups are included in the ballot. The Supreme Court earlier this month remanded to the Comelec the case of the party-list organizations the latter disqualified and ordered it to conduct “evidentiary hearings.” The High Tribunal adopted new parameters in the qualification of national, regional and sectoral parties under the party-list system which the Comelec used in determining which party-list organizations will be allowed or not. These are the parameters set by the SC: – Three different groups may participate in the party-list system: (1)  national parties or organizations, (2) regional parties or organizations, and (3) sectoral parties or organizations. – National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent “any marginalized and underrepresented” sector. – Political parties can participate in party-list elections provided they Read More …

Apr 252013
Cardinal Tagle joins calls for return of activist Jonas Burgos

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Thursday joined calls to surface political activist Jonas Burgos, who has been missing since 2007. In his homily at a Mass in Manila, Tagle warned the perpetrators that if they are afraid to face a civil court, they should be more afraid of God’s judgment. “I’m calling on those holding Jonas and many others who are being searched by their mothers, fathers and siblings, you will face God. You must face God now,” he said in his homily, excerpts of which were posted Thursday night on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site. Tagle led a Mass in Manila’s Quiapo district to mark the sixth year of Burgos’ disappearance. Among those who attended the Mass were Burgos’ relatives, friends and colleagues. “Now in this gathering we continue to pray for our brother Jonas Burgos [because] we are one with his family, his mother and his friends,” the prelate said. Burgos was forcibly taken by armed men near a mall in Quezon City in broad daylight on April 28, 2007. His mother Edita still believes Jonas is alive. She welcomed Tagle’s support, which she said is a boost to their campaign against enforced disappearances and human rights abuses. “He’s really a big help because he took time out because I know how busy he is. He is a friend from the past but I know he will do everything just to be with us, the families of desaparecidos,” she said. — BM, Read More …