Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Robredo says she’s unfazed by impeachment threats

By: DJ Yap - Reporter / @deejayapINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday she has done nothing wrong as the second highest official of the land and was prepared to face any move to impeachment her.

Robredo was responding to statements from proadministration lawmakers, including House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, that she might face impeachment after Congress resumes its session next week.

Alvarez recently told the Inquirer that he was building a case against her for “betraying the public trust” when she criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and extrajudicial killings in her message to an international narcotics forum.


“We are not doing anything wrong. We are prepared to face it. It’s part of the democratic process,” Robredo told reporters during a visit to a poor community in Malabon City.

Political firestorm

Two impeachment complaints were filed against the Vice President after her March 16 video message to a side event of the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, sparked a political firestorm as it coincided with the filing of the first impeachment case against the President.

However, no member of the House of Representatives has endorsed the complaints, prompting the complainants to submit them to the Speaker.

Alvarez has not acted on either complaint.

Robredo said she couldn’t tell whether the impeachment moves would gain traction in the House, where she had served as representative of her home district in Camarines Sur.

Sufficient grounds

“It’s hard to say [if the impeachment will get the support of lawmakers]. But maybe it would be better if the support for it were to be based on sufficient grounds,” she said.

“Impeachment is a political process, but any decision should be based on the grounds for impeachment. Let’s listen to the grounds and discuss whether this should be passed to the Senate” as the impeachment court, Robredo said.

She added that she was not fazed by it and would not allow any complaint to impede her work.

Alvarez told the Inquirer in a recent interview that Robredo had spoken against the entire country with her video message.

“What? You would go to the UN, then you would talk and lambaste our nation? Isn’t that betrayal of public trust? That’s a ground for impeachment,” Alvarez said.

 

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De Lima tells EU lawmakers she’s being treated well at PNP jail

By: Jeannette I. Andrade - Reporter / @jiandradeINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer 

Photo: VISITING LEILA European lawmakers arrive at the PNP detention center to visit Sen. Leila de
Lima on Wednesday. —RICHARD A. REYESTwelve European Union lawmakers visited Sen. Leila de Lima at the Philippine National Police detention center on Wednesday to make sure she was being treated well in the lockup.

The head of the group, Sweden’s representative to the European Parliament Soraya Viola Helena Post, told reporters after the one-hour visit that De Lima looked “very good and strong.”

The group included members of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights: Adam Kosa of Hungary, Josef Weidenholzer of Austria, Rikke Karlsson of Denmark and Post.

They were accompanied to Camp Crame in Quezon City, where the PNP headquarters is located, by acting EU Ambassador to the Philippines Mattias Lentz.

A 13th EU lawmaker, an adviser and member of the political group staff to the European Parliament, was not able to join the visit to De Lima.

 

No complaints

Post said De Lima assured her visitors that she was being treated well by the PNP.

“We discussed her situation and she did not complain (about) the police. She said they’re taking care of her,” Post said.

“She says that she would like to go to her family and she also would like to go to her work to vote in the Senate,” Post said.

Asked why they visited De Lima, Post replied: “The delegation’s purpose of the visit is to express our concerns as parliamentarians in Europe about the case of De Lima. Of course, because we had a resolution and also some other issues that is our concern on human rights.”

Post was referring to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on March 16 urging the administration of President Duterte to end extrajudicial killings in its war on drugs and to give priority to the fight against drug trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers.

The EU lawmakers also called for the immediate release from detention of De Lima, citing concerns that the drug charges brought against her were “almost entirely fabricated.”

Drug charges

De Lima was arrested at the Senate on Feb. 24, a week after the Department of Justice filed three cases against her for violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act in the Regional Trial Court in Pasay City.

She was accused of receiving payoffs from convicted drug lords held in New Bilibid Prison.

De Lima has vehemently denied the charges, saying these have been “manufactured” by Mr. Duterte’s allies as retaliation for her 2009 investigation of summary executions of criminal suspects in Davao, when he was mayor of the city, and her launching an inquiry last year into thousands of extrajudicial killings in his crackdown on illegal drugs.

The EU lawmakers, in their resolution, urged the dropping of all “politically motivated charges” against De Lima, noting that Amnesty International “regards Senator De Lima as a prisoner of conscience.”

On March 24, Mr. Duterte responded angrily calling the EU lawmakers “crazies.”

“If I have the preference, I’ll hang all of you. You are putting us down,” Mr. Duterte said.

‘Idiotic exercise’

He also lashed out at the European Union for proposing a “health-based solution” to the drug problem that involved dispensing cocaine or heroin or crystal meth, which is locally known as “shabu.”

He called the supposed EU proposal a “government-sponsored idiotic exercise.”

“The sons of bitches, they want us to build clinics, then we should, instead of arresting or putting them in prison like in other countries, you go there and if you want shabu they will inject you or give you shabu,” he said in a speech to Chinese-Filipino businessmen.

“Then if you want cocaine, they will give you cocaine and if they want heroin, they will give you heroin,” he added. —With a report from Inquirer Research

 

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Ombudsman finds Banisilan ex-mayor guilty of misconduct

By: Marc Jayson Cayabyab - Reporter / @MJcayabyabINQINQUIRER.net

Photo: Office of the Ombudsman. NOY MORCOSO/INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

A former mayor of Banisilan, Cotabato was perpetually disqualified from holding public office after being found administratively guilty for appointing her nephew as the general manager of the Banisilan Water System.

In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman found former Banisilan Mayor Betty Allado guilty of the administrative offenses of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The Ombudsman said Allado appointed her nephew, municipal administrator Jornalito Allado, as the general manager of the Banisilan Water System, which is tasked to manage and operate the municipality’s water system.

The Ombudsman said “(Mayor) Allado committed a misconduct attended by willful intent to violate the law or to disregard established rules in violation of the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 198 and Executive Order 292.”

Jornalito Allado was also dismissed from service after the Ombudsman found that he, as chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), awarded a consultancy service for the project “Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig sa Lahat” to Noel Bryan Tuling of JK Engineering Design and Consultancy Services without public bidding.

In 2012, the Banisilan municipality was a recipient of a project assistance having received P7 million for its implementation.

Tuling turned out to be Jornalito Allado’s brother-in-law, the Ombudsman said.

The procurement rules state that all bids should be accompanied by a sworn affidavit of the bidder that it is not related to the Head of the Procuring Entity (HOPE), members of BAC, and BAC Secretariat by consanguinity up to the third civil degree, the Ombudsman said.

“Jornalito’s failure to disclose this fact is tainted with the element of corruption as his omission gave an unwarranted benefit to Tuling,” the Ombudsman said.

The two Allados were thus, ordered dismissed from the service; in case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to their salary for one year.

The Ombudsman also found administratively liable the BAC members who allegedly failed to exercise due diligence in ensuring that Section 47 of Revised Implementation Rules and regulations (IRR) of the Government Procurement Reform Act is complied with.

The following BAC members who were suspended for one year after being found guilty of simple misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service were Jaime Alisasis, Ramil Jayma, Marietta Nonan, Ramon Capanang, Carmencita Bari, Andres Serue, Raymond Franco, Hilario Cabangon and Leopoldo Cascante Jr. JPV/rga

 

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Google Launchpad Accelerator Class 4 starts this week with 2 RP companies

In May, Google announced its fourth class of Launchpad Accelerator. This is the same program I mentioned in April in which Google acts as a non-financial incubator for selected start-up tech companies from emerging countries. Class four has landed this week in Silicon Valley for a two week “boot camp” at the Google Developers Launchpad Space in San Francisco.

The class consists of thirty-three companies from sixteen countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. Two companies are representing the Philippines—BLOOM, a blockchain technology company focused on the dependably robust remittance market in the Philippines, and HonestyApps, a platform that is targeting the fast creation of mobile app.

BLOOM, aka BloomSolutions, Inc, is a Bitcoin-based software company focused on remittances. The company was founded by 36-year old University of the Philippines graduate Luis Buenaventura and University of Queensland graduate Israel Keys. CEO Keys also holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Self-proclaimed cryptocurrency specialists, Bloom’s team is aiming to deliver on one of the great promises of technology--that it improves the lives of those on the other side of the digital divide. Remittances have historically been dominated by high-charging banks, Western Union, and distribution infrastructures like those owned by the Lhullier family. It is high time that a disruptive technology ease the process of money transfer as well as lower the cost of transactions. According to its website, Bloom can lower remittance costs by more than 50%. I am looking forward to hearing and writing more about this company.

HonestyApps is an app creation platform that has been used to create event apps and dating apps, among others. While their Facebook page confirms that the founders are now stateside, I can find very little on the management team. First order of business at Google, I hope, is that they guide the companies on filling out an About page and a Team page for their company websites.

Google has explicitly mentioned in their announcement that they are going to instruct the members of class 4 on the use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. While AI promises to be the latest status-quo disrupting technology in not-just-Silicon-Valley- anymoreland, there seems to be a platform war underway among the large tech giants. Thus, training companies in emerging countries to use the Google platform may be just as beneficial to Google as it is to the companies.

I enjoy the stream of startup companies unearthed by Google’s competition. I now use Zipmatch (from class 3) for my Philippine real estate searches. I also find it promising that there is a growing ecosystem of fintech players in Manila. The Philippines certainly stands to leverage technology into improved consumer credit and payments systems. This could be life-changing for the underprivileged who are still burdened with prepaid systems and cash-based transactions. Lightning fast payments may serve to blur the line between credit and prepaid.

The Google boot camp ends on July 26th with a private event for the participants. They will probably be sequestered inside hip brick buildings in San Francisco’s SOMA district for most of their two weeks here. So in case we do not see you, which is very likely, Bloom…Honesty, safe travels, live long, prosper, and break down that digital divide.

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TRB to check if construction protocols followed in Skyway 3 construction

The Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) on Wednesday said it will check if construction protocols were followed in the Skyway Stage 3 project in Makati City.
"We have to look into the construction methodology nila dahil kasi so far nung bibistahan mo lang wala namang pagkakamali, ewan lang natin kung during yung ina-assemble nila yung rebars doon eh meron ba silang hindi nasunod na protocol," TRB spokesperson Albert Suansing said in an interview on radio dzBB.
Suansing was referring to the beam that collapsed and fell on Osmeña Highway, causing heavy traffic on Tuesday morning.
"Kasi inihahanda na sa pagbubuhos yun actually eh, yung buhos, meaning lalagyan na ng semento, may porma na. So bakit humilig yung rebars habang pineprepare nila," he added.
The DM Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) that handles the Skyway extension project, said five of its workers sustained scratches and minor injuries while two private vehicles were slightly damaged due to the accident.
Meanwhile, Suansing said that they have asked the concessionaire, Citra Central Expressway Corporation (CCEC), a unit of San Miguel Corporation to submit an incident report.
Based on the incident report, the TRB will conduct an area inspection as part of its investigation.
He added that they will check if DMCI has a safety officer on the site when the accident happened.
Suansing also pointed out that DMCI was "lucky" only five people were injured and two vehicles were affected since the accident happened during peak hours. — GMA News

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Silliman University professors in Dumaguete City go on strike

More than 180 teachers and staff members of Silliman University in Dumaguete City joined a protest rally on Wednesday.
Victor Aguilan, Silliman University Faculty Association (SUFA) external and grievance officer, told GMA News Online that 189 teachers voted to go on strike.
He said the length of time the teachers will participate in the protest action will depend on the action of the administration or the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The SUFA, in a statement sent to GMA News Online, said members decided to go on strike after parties failed to reach an agreement on seven deadlocked issues.
"The SU Administration cannot agree to the just, fair, and equitable demands of SUFA. It is worth noting that the collective bargaining negotiations between SU and SUFA, and the succeeding conciliation-mediation facilitated by the NCMB have been going on for more than one (1) year," the teachers said.
The SUFA is asking for the following:
A one-time bonus of P38,000.00
Across the board of P1,500.00 on the 2nd Year (effective June 1, 2017)
Across the board of P2,300.00 on the 3rd Year (effective June 1, 2018)
Christmas and Founder's Day bonus
K+12 Transition Scholar’s Subsidy
Reduction in the class sizes in the Early Childhood (K1 and K2) and Elementary (G1 and G2) levels
Improvement in the retirement pay
Administration’s proposal of a Productivity Enhancement Incentive (14th month pay) without any conditions
"The Union has indeed been very patient and reasonable to the SU Administration. However, it is unfortunate that this patience and rationality was never esteemed or valued by the University Administration. The Union was thus left without any other option but to go on strike," the SUFA members added.
Aguilan said similar protest actions were held in School Year 1991-1992 and SY 1996-1997

Admin reacts
Silliman University, in a statement sent to GMA News Online, said it respects the faculty members' right to stage a strike.
However, it urged the faculty union "to respect measures put in place by the Administration to ensure the continued administration of learning opportunities to its students through adaptive measures."
It added that the university, like other universities in the country "is still adjusting to the financial implications of the K+12 program," but it "offers salary increases, bonuses, and other benefits that are prudent."
The university administration said it is "receptive to the welfare of and security of jobs and opportunities for the other sectors in our immediate constituency, not only for over the next three school years."
"The Administration has been earnest in reaching a mutually beneficial Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the faculty union. Its offer is guided by what the University can afford, what will not compromise the sustainability of overall operations, and what based on actual and projected revenues is prudent, especially with the decline in enrollment revenues brought about by the K+12 program," it said.
Around P218 million goes to the salaries and benefits of 407 faculty members, the university said.
"On top of this, the Administration has proposed a final offer totaling Php63 million for the next three school years (SY 2016-2019), with around Php57 million allotted for salary increases, bonuses, and other benefits," it said.
The administration said the next CBA review will be done after SY 2018-2019 and "new increases and improved benefits will be demanded for and offered."

Classes go on
Meanwhile, the university through Office of Information and Publications Director Mark Raygan E. Garcia announced that classes will proceed as scheduled according to the school's official Facebook page.
The post dated July 18, 2017 says: "In response to queries from students and parents on the status of classes, due to rumors that the faculty union will stage a strike tomorrow, Silliman University reiterates that class schedules remain unchanged."
"As earlier issued in an advisory, the Administration has made preparations, which include adaptive measures, to ensure the continued learning of our students. Learning activities will continue as scheduled tomorrow and on other days."

Students demand immediate action
Silliman University Student Government (SUSG), for its part, demanded that administrators resolve the dispute with SUFA immediately as they have been caught between the crossfire of the ongoing issues.
"As students, we feel for the struggle of our teachers and we believe that their claims are justified. We demand for the administration to take immediate action in settling the dispute with SUFA for the sake of the students who breathe life into the university, prove to us students that we are being led towards the right way instead of misleading us with figures, and that the truth can be upheld throughout this whole situation for a better quality of life for all concerned," SUSG said in a statement posted in their Facebook account.
The student body also claimed that the university's administration has given them a kid-glove treatment regarding the matter.
They added that the quality of education "should not be compromised merely because the Silliman University Administration refuses to acknowledge the claims of its faculty."
"Fundamentally, the backbone or lifeblood of Silliman University lies in its teachers and its students. We students contribute greatly to the University's coffers while the teachers are primarily the ones who ascertain that Silliman University lives up to its reputation as an institution providing quality, competent and holistic Christian education," SUSG said. — GMA News

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What falsehoods in naturalization proceeding result in denaturalization?

By Emmanuel Samonte Tipon 

 

Chief Justice Roberts, during oral argument in a denaturalization case, noted that Question Number 22 of the Application for Naturalization asks: “Have you ever committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” He then recalled that “Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone. . . I was not arrested. .  If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all.”

The government lawyer replied: “First, that is how the government would interpret that, that it would require you to disclose those sorts of offenses.” 

Chief Justice Roberts riposted: “Oh, come on. You’re saying that on this form, you expect everyone to list every time in which they drove over the speed limit . . .” 

The government lawyer said: “If we can prove that you deliberately lied in answering that question, then yes. I think - - “

Justice Sotomayor asked if the “failure to disclose the use of a childhood nickname that is embarrassing, that has no relationship to anything whatsoever, could you prosecute that person?”

The government lawyer said that “there are a number of answers that could be given in the naturalization process that could be false and might seem to be, in isolation, immaterial, completely immaterial, for example. I mean, you could, you know, lie about your weight, let’s say. .. The point, though, is, Congress specifically attended to all false statements under oath in these types of proceedings. It has specifically provided that it is a crime to lie under oath in the naturalization process, even about an immaterial matter, and it has provided that certain of those immaterial lies are categorical bars to naturalization.” 

Justice Kagan: “I am a little bit horrified to know that every time I lie about my weight, it has those kinds of consequences.” Maslenjak v. United States, No. 16-309 SC 04/26/2017. Transcript of oral argument at 27-36.  https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2016/16-309_b97c.pdf 

Anyone who listened to the oral argument on April 26, 2017 could have predicted the decision of the Supreme Court – not every lie will result in denaturalization. 

In a rare display of unanimity, on June 22, 2017, the Supreme Court said: “A federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a), makes it a crime to “knowingly procure [ ] contrary to law, the naturalization of any person.” And when someone is convicted under § 1425(a) of unlawfully procuring her own naturalization, her citizenship is automatically revoked. See 8 U.S.C. § 1451(e). In this case we consider what the Government must prove to obtain such a conviction. We hold that the Government must establish that an illegal act by the defendant played some role in her acquisition of citizenship. When the illegal act is a false statement, that means demonstrating that the defendant lied about facts that would have mattered to an immigration official, because they would have justified denying naturalization or would predictably have led to other facts warranting that result.” Maslenjak v. United States, No. 16-309 SC 06/22/2017. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-309_h31i.pdf  

The petitioner Divna Maslenjak is an ethnic Serb who resided in Bosnia. During an interview in connection with her application for refugee status in the United States, she said that her husband evaded service in the Bosnian Serb army by absconding to Serbia. American officials granted them refugee status. Later she applied for naturalization. In her application, she swore that she had never given false information to a government official while applying for an immigration benefit or lied to an official to gain entry into the United States. Maslenjak was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. It was later discovered that Maslenjak knew all along that her husband served in the Bosnian Serb Army. 

The government charged Maslenjak with knowingly procuring contrary to law her naturalization in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1425(a)  because in the course of procuring her naturalization she broke another law, 18 U.S.C. § 1015(a), which prohibits knowingly making a false statement under oath in a naturalization proceeding.

At Maslenjak’s criminal trial, the District Court instructed the jury that to secure a conviction under § 1425(a), the Government need not prove that Maslenjak’s false statements were material to, or influenced, the decision to approve her citizenship application. She was convicted. The Court of Appeals for the 6th  Circuit affirmed her conviction, holding that if Maslenjak made false statements violating § 1015(a) and procured naturalization, then she also violated §1425(a). 

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, saying “To decide whether a defendant acquired citizenship by means of a lie, a jury must evaluate how knowledge of the real facts would have affected a reasonable government official properly applying naturalization law.” 

“If the facts the defendant misrepresented are themselves disqualifying, the jury can make quick work of that inquiry. In such a case, there is an obvious causal link between the defendant’s lie and the procurement of citizenship. . . In short, when the defendant misrepresents facts that the law deems incompatible with citizenship, her lie must have played a role in her naturalization.” But  “even if the true facts lying behind a false statement would not ‘in and of themselves justify denial of citizenship,’ they could have ‘led to the discovery of other facts which would’ do so.” Thus “a person whose lies throw investigators off a trail leading to disqualifying facts gets her citizenship by means of those lies – no less than if she had denied the damning facts at the very end of the trail.” 

The Supreme Court noted that § 1425(a) clearly imports some kind of “causal or means-end” relation, but left that relation’s precise character unspecified. The Supreme Court pointed out that “Qualification for citizenship is a complete defense to a prosecution brought under § 1425(a).”  Maslenjak was not convicted by a properly instructed jury of procuring, contrary to law, her naturalization, since the jury was told that it could convict based on any false statement in the naturalization process, that is, any violation of § 1015(a), no matter how inconsequential to the ultimate decision, although as the Supreme Court had shown the jury needed to find more than an unlawful false statement.

Comment: For more information on this issue, see the annotation: What constitutes concealment of material facts or willful misrepresentation warranting revocation of naturalization under § 340 of Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C.A. § 1451). 77 ALR Fed 379. 

 (Atty. Tipon has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School where he specialized in Constitutional Law. He has also a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. He placed third in the Philippine Bar Examination in 1956. His current practice focuses on immigration law and criminal defense. He writes law books for the world’s largest law book publishing company and writes legal articles for newspapers. He has a radio show in Honolulu, Hawaii with his son Noel, senior partner of the Bilecki & Tipon law firm, where they discuss legal and political issues. Office: American Savings Bank Tower, 1001 Bishop Street, Suite 2305, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A. 96813. Tel. (808) 225-2645. E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Website: www.bileckilawgroup.com. He was born in Laoag City, and lived during the war in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. He served as a U.S. Immigration Officer. He is co-author with former Judge Artemio S. Tipon of the best-seller “Winning by Knowing Your Election Laws” and co-author of “Immigration Law Service, 1st ed.,” an 8-volume practice guide for immigration officers and lawyers. Atty. Tipon has personally experienced the entire immigration cycle by entering the United States on a non-immigrant working visa to write law books, adjusting his status to that of a lawful permanent resident, and becoming a naturalized United States citizen.)

 

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