Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 05 September 2017

Spokesman denies Mabilog fled to Japan

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. NESTOR BURGOS / INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

ILOILO CITY – Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has not fled to Japan where he is living a “luxurious life” as alleged by President Duterte, according to the beleaguered chief executive’s spokesman on Tuesday.
But talk has been circulating here that Mabilog’s wife Marivic and their two children have either left Iloilo City or are already out of the country.
Lawyer Mark Piad said the mayor left on an official trip to Yokohama City in Japan on Aug. 30 to attend a conference of CityNet, a regional network of cities and organizations focusing on sustainable urban development.

His return flight was scheduled for Wednesday but Piad said there could be an adjustment because there were potential investors and Ilonggos in Japan who wanted to meet with the mayor.
“It could be just a day or two but nothing is final,” Piad, who spoke to Mabilog by phone on Monday, told the INQUIRER.
The INQUIRER sent separate text and private messages through Facebook to Mabilog and Marivic for comment but received no response.
Lifestyle check
In a speech at the birthday celebration of Davao Rep. Karlo Alexie “Kaka” Nograles in Davao City on Sept. 2, the President again mentioned Mabilog, saying the mayor’s house was “more grandiose” than Malacañang.
The President, who has ordered a lifestyle check on Mabilog, has claimed that the mayor’s controversial house was bigger than Malacañang Palace, the official residence and office of the Philippine presidents.
“It was because of drugs. Where else would he get the money from, his business?” the President said in Bisaya, as translated in a transcript by the Presidential Communications Operation Office.

But those who have been inside the mayor’s house have dismissed the claim that his three-story house along the Iloilo River is as big or grandiose as Malacañang Palace.
In discussing the illegal drug trade, the President again mentioned Mabilog as having fled to Japan.
“Muingon sila, ‘Ang kanang mga pobre.’ Ay, ang mga pobre ma’y magdistribute . Alang-alang mga drug lord na mga dato na man na. Pareha anang Mabilog. Eh ‘di tua sa Japan. Nisibat na to, pahayahay. (They’ll say, ‘Those are only the poor. But the poor are the ones who will distribute. It’s not the drug lords who will do that because they’re already very rich, just like Mabilog who has escaped to Japan and living luxuriously there’),” the President said.
Piad said resigning from office or fleeing was “out of the question” for Mabilog.
He said there was also no discussion on any plans of the mayor not to return to the country.
“It’s like throwing away all he has worked for to help Iloilo,” Piad said.
He said there was concern about Mabilog’s safety and security but he said the mayor “left his fate to God.”
Piad said he did not know where Marivic and her two children were, saying he last saw her on Aug. 31.
“She is a private individual and I respect their privacy. I only spoke with the mayor,” he said.
NBI agents visited the Mabilog residence on Aug. 31 as part of the lifestyle check ordered by the President on Mabilog.
A few days earlier, the President again accused Mabilog of being a “drug protector” and ordered the assignment of controversial police official Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido to Iloilo City.
Mabilog has repeatedly denied the President’s allegations and has insisted that their house appears bigger than it really is. The couple has also stressed that the house was built on their joint earnings, especially that Marivic worked for more than 20 years in Canada, rising as vice president for a geodetic engineering firm.
Marivic Facebook post
Marivic posted a cryptic post on her Facebook account at 1:24 a.m. on Sept. 1, apparently in reaction to the events.
“This was the longest 32 hours. At first I said to myself that we don’t deserve this. All we really just wanted was to make Iloilo better and every Ilonggo proud of their own city. We gave our all and more.
“But looking back, recalling every second of the last thirty hours, I got to know real people at their very best. I got to realize that indeed, there are people in our circle willing to risk their lives, career, well-being and safety so that we get to live another day,” she said in her post.
She then thanked those who supported them.
“The last thirty hours was a journey of love, friendships and above all, citizenship. A (citizenship) to a world of true humanity. Good night and I thank God for those who are with us in this journey. Salut!” Marivic said.
On the evening of Sept. 1, police gunned down alleged Western Visayas drug lord Richard Prevendido in an operation at a house at Landheights Subdivision in Jaro District in this city.
In a press conference on Sept. 2 on the killing of Prevendido, the Western Visayas police also announced that Espenido’s assignment to Iloilo was canceled upon orders of the police national headquarters./ac


Justice grinds slow as war vs illegal drugs rages

OVERCROWDED Inmates awaiting the outcome of illegal drug charges filed against them are detained in the overcrowded Quezon City jail in this photo taken on July 27,
2017. —AFP

Accused murderer Manuel Cerna has languished in a Philippine jail for 15 years without a verdict, one of countless inmates enduring interminable trials that are expected to get longer as an unrelenting drug war overwhelms the courts.
A notoriously slow and underresourced judicial system has seen a “tidal wave” of new cases as police have conducted a nationwide crime crackdown in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to eradicate all illegal drugs from society.
The case of Cerna, 60, who almost died of tuberculosis in one of the nation’s most overcrowded jails as his hearings dragged on, is not unusual in that his time in jail while on trial is close to reaching the minimum sentence.

“I get depressed. Some others here committed suicide because their wives left them. They lost all hope of freedom,” Cerna told the French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), in the Manila jail surrounded by rusting barbed wire and the stench of rotting food.
Flawed system
So-called “decader” inmates because they have spent 10 years or more behind bars while on trial are a symptom of a deeply flawed justice system that helped fuel Mr. Duterte’s rise to the presidency last year.
Mr. Duterte won the presidential election on a brutal law-and-order platform, promising swift justice chiefly by killing tens of thousands of criminals and a no-mercy stance on convicted criminals who he said could not be rehabilitated.
Mr. Duterte’s police have indeed shot dead thousands of people as they have scoured slums hunting drug traffickers and addicts, leading rights groups to express alarm at what they say is a wave of extrajudicial killings.
This has undoubtedly avoided many trials.
Additional pressure
But another 96,700 people have also been arrested as part of the drug war since Mr. Duterte came to power, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, adding to pressure on jails that were already nearly six times more crowded than they were built for.
Defendants often have to wait months between hearings, only for the session to be delayed because a judge is sick, a prosecutor fails to show up or a lawyer has another engagement.
Sometimes the case gets reassigned to a new judge and the whole process starts from scratch.

In other cases, public attorneys assigned to defend poor suspects change jobs without handing over crucial documents to their replacement, or worse, files get lost, and again the defendant is back to square one.
‘Vicious cycle’
“There is a tidal wave flooding the judiciary. (But) there is no attendant increase in the number of courts, judges, prosecutors and public attorneys,” Raymund Narag, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University in the United States, told AFP.
“Extrajudicial killings are justified for Filipinos because of the failure of the criminal justice system. It becomes a vicious cycle,” Narag added.
Trials nationwide last an average of six to 10 years, according to a prominent human rights lawyer, Jose Manuel Diokno.
A Supreme Court task force on prison decongestion last year also said “an innocent man is jailed for at least five years before he is eventually acquitted.” One of the key problems is simply a lack of courts, prosecutors and judges.
There are just 2,600 criminal, civilian and other types of courts for a population of 100 million, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez told AFP.
Thirty percent of those courts have no judges, according to Marquez’s office.
This leaves the others with impossible tasks, with judges having to handle up to 5,000 cases at any one time, Marquez said.
The Supreme Court has in recent years sought to do what it can, such as by introducing computerized records and setting up a system to lock in a firm timetable for hearings. Otherwise many months pass without hearings taking place.
‘Band-aid’ solutions
“[But] these initiatives are band-aid solutions. What we need are institutional solutions like adding courts and funding them, which require the support of Congress and the executive [branch],” Marquez said.
The government is fast-tracking the hiring of hundreds of prosecutors and improving staff training, Justice Undersecretary Antonio Kho told AFP.
Mr. Duterte has also promised to pour extra funds into the penal system next year.
But he has also repeatedly made comments that have raised questions about his administration’s intent on improving the nation’s jails and prisons.
Packed jails
“I prefer that they (inmates) sleep standing,” Mr. Duterte said in March when discussing the problem of packed jails.
In a lengthy assessment of the justice system, Mr. Duterte, 72, last month also claimed many prisoners wanted to stay behind bars because they became homosexuals while serving time and enjoyed regular meals.
“They don’t want to go out. Because the food is free and their lover, they are in love, they want to stay there,” Mr. Duterte said, as he insisted people could not be rehabilitated in the country’s jails.
“They are already monsters,” he added.
But Cerna, the alleged murderer, insists he is innocent and mourns the wasted years trapped behind bars away from his family.
“When my mother died, I wanted to break down. I wanted to shout but all I could do was cry,” Cerna, whose real name cannot be disclosed while his case is pending, recalled how he was desperate to help her.
“I wasn’t able to serve her in her dying years,” he added.


Bato breaks down anew: God knows cops not killing innocent people

PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. RYAN LEAGOGO/

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa broke down anew during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, asserting that there was never a policy in the PNP to kill, even innocent individuals.
“Magpakatamay kami para sa inosenteng tao. Mahirap naman sabihin natin na may policy na malawakang pagpatay. Andyan si Lord, nakikita niya. Alam niya. I’m willing to go back to Davao ‘pag na-prove niyo,” Dela Rosa said while in tears.
(We are willing to die for the innocent. It is not correct to say that there is a policy for widespread killing. God is there, He sees. He knows. I am willing to be reassigned to Davao again if proven otherwise.)

This was not the first time Dela Rosa turned emotional during a public hearing.
This time, Dela Rosa cried while defending the police force after Senator Risa Hontiveros quizzed him about the continuous rise of killings amid the government’s drug war.
The Senate public order committee, chaired by former PNP chief Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, resumed on Tuesday its investigation on the death of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in a police operation last Aug. 16.
Addressing Hontiveros, Dela Rosa said: “Walang sinabi si Presidente sa akin na pumatay kami nang pumatay. One-hundred seventy-five thousand policemen, paano ko dedepensahan ang organization ko na sarado na isip n’yo na may policy kami na ganyan?”
(The President did not instruct us to kill and kill. One-hundred seventy-five thousand policemen, how can we defend our organization if your minds are made up that we have that policy?)
READ: Bato: Kian’s death will not stop war on drugs
The police chief added that he is one with the senators, as well as the families of the victims, in their quest for justice.

But he said the lawmakers should also be one with the PNP in seeking justice for its men who are laying their lives for the drug war.
“Sana hustisya rin ng karamihan na pulis na nagtatrabahao. I’m grieving for majority of my men. ‘Yung buhay nila nakataya, tapos i-accuse niyo kami na may policy na ganon? Masakit.”
(We also want justice for the police who are doing their jobs. I’m grieving for majority of my men. They are putting their lives on the line and yet you accuse us that we have that policy? That hurts.)
“You know me personally, hindi ako papayag na gagamitin ang pulis na masama,” he said.
Hontiveros calls Dela Rosa her “old friend” as her late husband and former police official Francisco Baraquel is Dela Rosa’s classmate at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). They graduated from the military academy in 1986.
The lady senator then explained to Dela Rosa that she believes in the PNP’s defense, stressing that in her public statements, she’s seeking accountability from President Duterte who ordered the police to kill suspected drug addicts and pushers. IDL



Trillanes strikes back: I’ll expose Gordon’s ‘corrupt acts’

Sens. Richard Gordon (left) and Antonio Trillanes IV. (File photos by LYN RILLON, EDWIN BACASMAS/ Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Published: 5:02 p.m., Sept. 5, 2017 | Updated: 7:27 p.m., Sept. 5, 2017
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he would not only file an ethics case against Sen. Richard Gordon but he would also expose the latter’s “corrupt acts” as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
“Normally I’m not the whining type and could have easily let these things pass so I could focus on the more important issues at hand,” Trillanes said in a privilege speech on Tuesday. “But in the spirit of justice and fairness, at the appropriate time, I’d be filing my own ethics case against Senator Gordon for his unparliamentary and unethical acts as senator and chairman of the blue ribbon committee.”

“I will also expose his corrupt acts as chairman of the Philippines Red Cross,” he added.
On Monday night, Gordon filed an ethics case against Trillanes for calling the Senate blue ribbon committee “comite de absuelto” (committee of exoneration).
Trillanes claimed that Gordon had broken some rules of parliamentary procedure – “primarily the right of the minority to be heard.”
Trillanes then cited the following rules that he said Gordon violated as chairman of the blue ribbon committee:
Dishonestly insisting that the phrase “comite de absuelto” was made on the record
Disregarding the objection of a member;
Disrespected and insulted a member of the committee
“He (Gordon) mentioned ‘cockpit of chismis’ insinuating that I was just peddling rumors when clearly the information came from his resource persons,” Trillanes said. “He further insulted me by saying: ‘Huwag daw ako nagdadaldal nang hindi ko nalalaman.’ If at all, the comite de absuelto remarks are but a response to his ‘cockpit of chismis’.”

Trillanes also noted that, as in previous committee hearings, Gordon had “monopolized the flow of the proceedings by conducting a monologue for hours, thereby not giving an adequate opportunity for other senators to ask questions.”
He pointed out that only words said or actions done while in a session or hearing is on-going were covered by the Senate rules or the rules of parliamentary procedure.
Conversations made while a session or hearing is suspended or adjourned, he said, were not also covered by the rules as well as statements made in private or in the senators lounge or through media.
“Let me recall, how then Sen. Alan Cayetano called former President and then Sen. Noynoy Aquino as ‘abnormal‘ and how other senators publicly maligned former Senate President Manny Villar prior and during the 2010 elections,” Trillanes said.
“I was also once called a ‘mosquito’ by the late Sen. Joker Arroyo,” he added. “Lastly, we clearly remember how the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago called a lot of senators or resource persons ‘fungus-face’ or ‘imbeciles,’ yet nobody dared to call her out.”
Trillanes maintained that he had not violated any rules when he branded as “comite de absuelto” the blue ribbon committee being headed by Gordon.
“Even in this era of kabastusan at pagmumura under the Duterte Administration, for as long as I am not cursing or using cuss words and I am not physically hurting anybody, then I am not crossing that line,” he said. “I have never crossed that line.” /idl /atm



Sandiganbayan orders trial of Binays to proceed

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, former Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. —INQUIRER PHOTO

The Sandiganbayan has found sufficient basis to proceed with the trial of former Vice President Jejomar Binay over alleged irregularities in the first three phases of construction of the Makati City Hall Building when he was the mayor.
In a resolution dated Aug. 31, the antigraft court’s Third Division also issued a finding of probable cause against his son, then Councilor and later Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., as well as 17 other city officials and two private persons.
The court affirmed the sufficiency of the Ombudsman’s indictment and found that “more likely than not,” the crimes of malversation, falsification of public documents and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were committed.

“There is probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against all the accused and to hold them for trial,” the court ruled.
But, since most of the accused, including the Binays, have posted bail, the court no longer saw the need to issue warrants of arrest. Instead, the accused would be arraigned on the morning of Sept. 29.
Daniel Subido, legal counsel of the Binay camp, said the court resolution meant that the case would go to trial in which the prosecution must present evidence.
“We anticipate that prosecution’s so-called evidence would be weak and insufficient. Thus, the case will eventually be dismissed,” Subido said.
Prosecutors said the Binays and their coaccused manipulated the bidding for the contracts in favor of Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. and Hilmarc’s Construction Corp.
The construction contracts awarded to Hilmarc’s cost P1.486 billion (broken down into P387 million, P499.36 million and P599.4 million for the first three phases), while the architectural design and engineering services contract awarded to Mana amounted to P11.01 million.
The court affirmed the regularity of the Ombudsman’s investigation even if it was done without “adverse findings” by the Commission on Audit (COA).
Bid invitations
“A finding of probable cause does not derive its veracity from the findings of COA, but from the independent determination of the Ombudsman,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez.

The court said the Ombudsman sufficiently showed the questionable publication of bid invitations for the Makati City Hall car park building, which also cast doubt on whether a public bidding was really held as claimed by the bids and awards committee. Yet, Hilmarc’s received the payments despite the apparent irregularities.
The payment to Mana was questioned because of procurement violations and the firm’s alleged failure to deliver the approved plans and specifications under the contract.
The court said “it would appear” that Mana was “preselected” and Binay Sr. was “privy to the plan to ensure the award of the contract,” citing the sworn statement of the former general services division head, Mario Hechanova.
Prosecutors also amply showed documents to support the allegation that the payments were released despite Mana’s failure to deliver on its obligations.
The accused invoked good faith and the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties. They also said that their tasks were passive, supportive and clerical in nature.
But the court said those arguments were “matters of defense which are best threshed out during the trial of the case.”
The Binays’ coaccused include City Administrator Marjorie de Veyra, city legal officer Pio Kenneth Dasal, city budget officer Lorenza Amores, city engineer Mario Badillo, city accountants Cecilio Lim III and Leonila Querijero, acting city accountant Raydes Pestaño, city treasurer Nelia Barlis, central planning management office (CPMO) chiefs Virginia Hernandez and Line dela Peña, CPMO engineer Arnel Cadangan, CPMO project inspector Emerito Magat and general services division computer operator Norman Flores.
As for the bids and awards committee, the following members were charged: vice chair Ulysses Orienza, secretary Giovanni Condes, secretariat head Manolito Uyaco and technical working group head Rodel Nayve.
The accused private individuals were Mana senior partner Orlando Mateo and Hilmarc’s chair Efren Canlas.
Immunity lost
The cases regarding the first three phases of the City Hall car park building’s construction was the second batch of charges filed by the Ombudsman.
These were brought to the Sandiganbayan only on July 14, 2016, after Binay Sr. lost his immunity from suit upon the end of his vice presidency.
The charges concerning Phases IV and V of construction, which cost P790.73 million and implemented under the mayoralty of Binay Jr., were earlier filed on Feb. 19, 2016, since the father still had his immunity.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division on April 18 this year found probable cause to proceed with the trial regarding this set of cases.
Science High building
On Aug. 1, the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict the Binays for new graft and falsification cases in connection with alleged procurement anomalies over the P1.3-billion Makati Science High School building. The cases have yet to be brought by prosecutors to the Sandiganbayan.
The alleged procurement anomalies hounding Makati’s public infrastructure projects came to the fore during a long-running inquiry by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee as Binay Sr. prepared for his presidential candidacy. He placed fourth out of five candidates in the May 2016 elections.

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