House reps question SC lawyer's faith, intentions at Sereno impeach hearing

GRILLED. Supreme Court lawyer Jocelyn Fabian is grilled for hours on end by the House justice committee hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – For hours, lawyer Jocelyn Fabian had to sit in the House Justice Committee hearing listening to one lawmaker after another grill her on her credentials and intentions.

She is a hire of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), and the head of the Technical Working Group (TWG) being hit by the committee as causing inordinate delay in the issuance of survivorship benefits.

Fabian was a certified public accountant since 1985 before she passed the Bar in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, she was hired by the Supreme Court (SC) to the office of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is now being impeached.

Complainant Larry Gadon wants to make it appear that Sereno hired an incompetent person, and appointed her to a crucial role. Fabian and Sereno are sisters in the Christian faith.

It was on this grounds that she was grilled for hours on end by lawmakers on Wednesday, January 17, in the continuation of Sereno’s impeachment hearing.

‘Christian, Christian na ‘yan’

“They belong to one Church, ‘yun nga mga Christian, Christian effect na ‘yan, ek ek,” Gadon said, making fun of their faith.

He was reprimanded by Pampanga Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc, and Umali even had the remark deleted from record.

But the succeeding interpellations questioned her faith and intentions just the same.

Fabian claimed that she does not know Sereno personally, but she added that one of her character references was lawyer Winnie Salumbides, who also belongs to the Christian faith and is now a spokesperson for Sereno.

Right before applying for the SC, Fabian was an operations head for a real estate company, earning around P60,000 a month on top of bonuses and other perks.

“Why did you decide to leave such a lucrative position, cast your luck, apply for a position that’s not permanent, you wouldn’t even know you would be accepted?” Cebu 3rd District Gwen Garcia asked her.

“It may sound incredible, but that is the truth and if I am a person of figures, I am also a person of faith, I used to be missionary, I am used to minimal compensation. I am not married, there is not much to be worried about, and my family, by the grace of God, is able,” Fabian said.

But still Garcia was not satisfied.

“You said that you didn't know the Chief Justice, why did you not apply for a law firm that you know, or applied somewhere else...unless you can convince us that such blind faith is credible, please do not try to muddle the issue here,” the lawmaker said.

Not for money

This exchange between Garcia and Fabian went on for a while, leading Fabian to say: “I do not apply just because I know somebody, or the prospect is profitable. My view of working is not really to earn.”

Garcia refused to buy Fabian’s story that she wanted to “contribute to nation building” and just counted on her stars that Sereno – who she said she believed in – would hire her.

“You based your beliefs in the Chief Justice and that she would realize your dreams of nation building because you realized you belonged to the same faith?” the Cebu representative asked.

Bondoc butted in and tried to appease Fabian by saying that what they’re questioning is whether Sereno was rational in hiring her – an experienced accountant – for a crucial job in the SC.

But then he came around to using Fabian’s faith again in criticizing the performance of the TWG, which supposedly caused an average two years in delays in issuing survivorship benefits.

“Why would the Chief Justice hire a person who cannot explain why she left the private sector? You did not use rational thinking, you used faith for your decision in your private life, would that be the same reason for the decision you now make which the SC is now saying, you were wrong?” he said impassionately.

To that, Fabian wanted to respond, but she had to assert herself in the microphone before Umali allowed her to speak. “Make it concise,” said Umali.

“Rational din po ako, kaya lang meron po akong pananampalataya, hindi po sila exclusive (I'm rational, but I also have faith, they're not exclusive),” Fabian said.

“Okay na?” Umali said, as he moved on to the next topic.

Umali maintained the committee was not harsh on Fabian, and defended that the lines of questioning of the members were just because Fabian’s evasiveness. – Rappler.com

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Lagman told: Convince me rebellion in Mindanao has ended

In deliberating on the sufficiency of factual basis of the martial law extension, Reyes raised that petitioner, Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), needs to "convince" the court that rebellion in Mindanao has ended. File

MANILA, Philippines — "When does a rebellion end?"

Associate Justice Andres Reyes posed this question to petitioner Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) who challenged the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"When does a rebellion end? Does it end when a siege is finished? Or when each and every member of that rebellion movement has surrendered or eliminated or neutralized? You have to convince me," Reyes said.

"What really are the overt acts of rebellion? Amassing of weapons? Going around with weapons? Recruiting personnel or amassing weapons or amassing funds are not overt acts of rebellion? Where the issue has to be enlightened, and perhaps you can convince me otherwise that the rebellion is not happening anymore," Reyes added.

In deliberating on the sufficiency of a factual basis for martial law extension, Reyes said petitioners need to "convince" the court that rebellion — the justification for the extension — in Mindanao has ended.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."

Lagman said that the existence of rebellion "would be dependent on the statements of government authorities. In the case of Marawi siege, no less than the President said that Marawi is now liberated."

But Reyes pointed out that there was no mention that rebellion is over. "Military operations can end on day-to-day basis," he said.

The SC, in July 2017, held that a rebellion staged by terrorist groups in Marawi City affected all of Mindanao and justified Duterte's martial law.

Eleven justices voted to junk the petitions challenging the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 216 that placed the entire Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region.

Last October, Duterte, in a rousing speech before government forces, declared that Marawi had been liberated from terrorist influence, however, martial law was not lifted. Less than two months later, Duterte asked Congress to extend martial law until Dec. 31, 2018.

Lagman stressed before the SC: "It's the President saying that Marawi, the epicenter of theater of war has been liberated from terrorist influence. Defense Secretary [Delfin Lorenzana] said that combat operation is terminated. That would tell us that if there was any actual rebellion, that rebellion has been quashed."

Lagman, and three other petitioners, raised that the martial law is not needed to quell the "remnants" of the terrorist groups in Mindanao. They asked that the extension of martial law be declared unconstitutional.

Reyes, however, said that the president holds discretion on measures to implement in the country, as such in quashing the remaining terrorists in Mindanao.

Lagman replied: "Such discretion is not absolute. It is circumscribed by the Constitution itself. That is why the Supreme Court is given by Constitution the special and specific jurisdiction whether the action of President would be based on sufficient factual basis," Lagman said.

The SC continues on its second day of oral arguments on the petitions challenging the factual basis of martial law extension on Wednesday.

 

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Carpio: It’s legally possible to extend martial law coverage nationwide

Talking of legal possibilities, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio thinks it’s possible that the martial law could eventually be extended to cover the entire country.
During Wednesday’s oral argument, Solicitor General Jose Calida said part of what prompted the Duterte administration to extend the martial law in Mindanao were the offensive operations being launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) following the cancellation of peace talks.

“Public safety inevitably requires the extension of the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao,” Calida said. “The danger and risks the Daesh-inspired local terrorist groups and the NPAs pose cannot be discounted. The extension of martial law will necessarily address the rebellion being waged by these groups, which launch attacks from areas they control inside Mindanao.”

 

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State, also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Calida further explained that leeway must be given to President Rodrigo Duterte in order to fully and effectively discharge his functions as commander-in-chief.
“Due deference must be made to his judgment call, which the Court has recognized is based on vital, relevant, classified and live information not ordinarily available to the public,” Calida said.
During the presentation made by the military, Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the communist rebels had launched a total of 422 attacks in various areas, 64 of which were carried out in Mindanao. In those attacks, 47 troopers were killed and 75 others were injured. There were also 31 civilians who died in those clashes.
“CPP-NPA is nationwide,” Carpio noted. “If the President can declare martial law in Mindanao because of CPP-NPA, can the President declare martial law in the entire Philippines?”
Calida said that would not be necessary.
“But if you follow the argument that the CPP-NPA [threat] is nationwide, legally the President can declare martial law throughout the entire Philippines because there is an ongoing rebellion nationwide,” Carpio said.
“But he did not,” Calida said.

“But he can,” Carpio said.
“There is the accompanying requisite of public safety that requires it [martial law declaration],” Calida said.
Carpio asked if the first condition of an actual rebellion by the CPP-NPA had been complied with.
Calida said yes. But he added. “I believe that he will not impose martial law in the entire Philippines.”
“We are not talking of what you believe. We are talking of the possibilities, the legal possibilities,” Carpio said.
Meanwhile, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Lucas Bersamin both said they were still not “sold” to the arguments raised by Calida.
According to Jardeleza, in the first petition against the proclamation of martial law, he ruled in favor of the government because he believed that the scale of the threat to public safety justified such a proclamation.
But he said: “In the scale today, I am not sure if the scale is on the same level.”
Calida argued that the Congress resolution on the one-year extension of martial law was very detailed.
Bersamin said, however, that he felt “like those words were only lifted from the documents transmitted with the President’s request.”
The justices wanted to know why the government specifically wanted a one-year extension.
“Is it a show of weakness on the part of the government that they cannot quell the rebellion in less than a year?” Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta asked.
Meanwhile, both Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe asked what the government intended to achieve with the martial law declaration that it could not do if only the other powers of the President would exercised.
The oral arguments ended on Wednesday afternoon with all parties ordered to submit their respective memorandum on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 4 p.m. before the case would be submitted for resolution to meet the 30-day deadline. /atm

 

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Duterte, Rappler clash over fake news, press freedom

PROTEST Members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines rally on Wednesday at Mendiola, Manila, against a decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission to close the online news site Rappler,warning that media critical of President Duterte were targets of repression. —JOAN BONDOC
President Rodrigo Duterte and Rappler locked horns over fake news and press freedom after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decided to shut down the online news site for alleged violations of the Constitution and corporate regulations.

In a scathing attack against Rappler a day after the SEC made public its decision, the President on Tuesday called it a “fake news outlet” that published stories “rife with innuendos and pregnant with falsity.”

“Since you are a fake news outlet, then I am not surprised that your articles are also fake,” he said. “We can debate now. Tell me where is our lies and I’ll tell you where are yours.”

“You’re not only throwing toilet paper. You’re throwing shit at us. You have gone too far,” he added.
Rappler’s response
Responding to Mr. Duterte’s outburst, Rappler’s managing editor, Glenda Gloria, threw back the President’s accusations at him.
“The President knows who produces fake news in the Philippines, and it certainly is not Rappler,” Gloria said. “He doesn’t have to look far from where he sits in Malacañang.”
Mocha Uson, Presidential Communications Operations Office assistant secretary, has been accused of spreading fake news.
She has denied the charge, saying she herself has been a victim of fake news.
Rappler’s reports have included allegations that the Duterte administration has “weaponized” social media to discredit and generate online hate against his most vocal detractors.
The SEC revoked Rappler’s certificates of incorporation and registration for allegedly violating the constitutional restriction on 100-percent Filipino ownership and control of mass media entities.

Rappler has denied any foreign control over its operations and would appeal the decision.
Francis Lim, a lawyer for Rappler, cited a Supreme Court ruling saying that “control … is done through [the] board of directors who manages the company.”
“If there is any violation at all, we believe that the penalty meted out by the SEC is too severe,” Lim said in an interview with ANC television on Wednesday.
‘I don’t even know SEC’
Mr. Duterte said he couldn’t care less whether Rappler continued to operate or not, and challenged it to prove that he was behind the SEC’s move against it.
“Why would I have it closed? I don’t even know that son of a bitch SEC. They are all Aquino appointees,” he said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Dec. 22, 2016, requested an inquiry into the “possible contravention of the strict requirements of the 1987 Constitution,” the SEC said.
Lengthy rant
Calida denied Malacañang ordered him to pursue the case against Rappler, saying he was “just doing [his] job.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday defended Mr. Duterte’s lengthy rant the day before against Rappler and other news organizations he considered unfair to him and said he did not mean to threaten the press.
“The President is a lawyer, he honors the Bill of Rights, he has no problem with the Bill of Rights,” Roque told reporters.
“What you are seeing from the President—or what you saw for instance from the President last night—is also the exercise of free speech on the part of a President who feels that he has not been getting the right kind of treatment from the media,” he added.
Mr. Duterte ridiculed Rappler’s argument that the SEC decision constituted harassment. “Look, why should you complain if I am critical against media? Are you not critical of me?” he said.
“Don’t abuse it (press freedom) too much. It’s a privilege in a democratic state. You have overused and abused that privilege in the guise of press freedom,” he said.
Foreign press organizations and human rights groups have rallied behind Rappler, joining a chorus of domestic outrage among the media and political opposition at what they see as moves to muzzle those scrutinizing Mr. Duterte.
Shawn Crispin, the senior Southeast Asia representative of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, on Wednesday said the “politicized” move by the SEC represented “a clear and immediate danger to press freedom in the Philippines.”
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said the SEC’s “harsh” decision came with “horrifying implications on the full and untrammeled exercise of press freedom.” —With reports from Nikko Dizon, Allan Nawal, and the wires

 

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SEC decision to revoke Rappler's license 'too severe' – lawyer

LEGAL BATTLE. Rappler will challenge the ruling of the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler Incorporated argued that the penalty imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an allegedly unconstitutional Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) provision is "too severe."

Rappler's lawyer Francis Lim said the SEC decision to nullify the PDRs issued by Rappler Holdings Corporation to Omidyar Network Fund LLC as well as revoke the articles of incorporation of Rappler are "anti-investor and anti-business."

 

"If there is any violation at all, we believe that the penalty meted out by SEC is too severe...Imagine revoking the articles of incorporation of Rappler Incorporated, which is not even a party to PDRs," Lim said in an interview with ANC's Early Edition on Wednesday, January 17.

Lim cited the Supreme Court (SC) decision on the case of Gamboa v Teves promulgated on June 28, 2011, where it held that the "capital" requirement in Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution refers only to shares of stock entitled to vote in the election of directors.

In 2011, the High Court ordered the SEC to apply this definition of "capital" in determining the extent of allowable foreign ownership in the case of PLDT Incorporated, and to impose appropriate sanctions if there was a violation of Section 11, Article XII, of the Constitution.

A former dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) then filed a petition, alleging that the foreign ownership guidelines set by the SEC in 2013 were "tailor-made" to allow PLDT to skirt the law limiting foreign ownership in public utilities to 40%.

But in November 2016 and April 2017, the SC affirmed its earlier decision to reject the petition to nullify the foreign ownership guidelines set by the SEC.

Throwback to Gamboa v Teves

"Control, according to [the] SC decision in Gamboa vs Teves, is done through [the] Board of Directors who manages the company," Lim said.

But SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa said PLDT's case and that of Rappler are two different issues. 

"PLDT's case stemmed from a decision of the SC, changing the way it should compute foreign equity ownership in nationalized activities," Herbosa replied in a text message.

"Here, the constitutional provision has been there since before Rappler came into existence and it is clear: 100% Filipino ownership. [This] means 100% control, management, veto power should have been complied with from the time Rappler came about," she added.

Is the decision to revoke Rappler's incorporation papers too harsh? The SEC chief thinks otherwise.

"SEC orders revocation of companies even for just failing to submit annual reportorial requirements. Is it not fair to revoke also on ground of violation of the Constitution and the law?" Herbosa said.

Lim argued, however, that there is no factual basis for the SEC decision because Rappler, in December 2017, submitted a waiver of the provision in the Omidyar PDRs.

"[The] provision being mentioned by SEC was already waived by Omidyar before [the] SEC decision. We believe there is no factual basis for the SEC to revoke the Omidyar PDRs, much less articles of incorporation of Rappler Inc," Lim said. 

But Herbosa said what was submitted was just a photocopy of the waiver and not a document subscribed by a notary or a Philippine consulate.

"Therefore, the purported waiver is of no substantial value to the formal proceedings against the respondents," the SEC decision states.

The probe was initiated after Herbosa's office received a "referral letter" from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on December 22, 2016, asking it to conduct an investigation into Rappler "for any possible contravention of the strict requirements of the 1987 Constitution."

A show-cause order was only issued in August 2017 to Rappler, after the SEC conducted an "internal, inter-departmental investigation" between December 2016 and July 2017. The SEC decision to revoke Rappler's license to do business and to nullify the Omidyar PDRs was issued last January 11.

Rappler will exhaust all legal means to challenge the decision, which it views as pure harassment. Various media groups and human rights advocates in the Philippines and abroad have also condemned the decision as an attack on freedom of the press. (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom– Rappler.com

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Party-list solons want seat of gov't transferred to Davao City

Two party-list lawmakers from the House of Representatives has filed a resolution seeking to relocate the seat of government from Metro Manila to Davao City.

Kabayan party-list Representatives Ron Salo and Ciriaco Calalang, who was only installed to the post on Monday, filed House Bill 6968 on Tuesday.

The bill, according to the proponents, seeks to address the issue of "Manila imperialism" and spur development in the countryside especially in Mindanao.

The lawmakers believe transferring the seat of government to Davao City will strengthen nationalism and sense of belongingness for the people in the countryside, and decongest Metro Manila and ease the traffic problem in the capital region.

If approved, the bill will push for the building of a National Government Center in Davao City, where the following offices will be located:

Presidential Palace
Vice-Presidential Palace
Senate
House of Representatives
Supreme Court
Constitutional Offices
National offices of government agencies
Salo and Calalang said that relocating and separating the seat of government from other centers takes precedence from two economic superpowers.

In the US, the political capital is Washington D.C. and the financial capital is New York City, while in China, the political capital is Beijing and the financial capital is Shanghai.

"Transferring the seat of government and separating it from the financial centers will address the destructive effects of traffic. This will prevent heavy losses in businesses and will significantly lessen travel time which can be spent for other productive activities," the bill's explanatory note read.

"Transferring the seat of government also means that it will prevent the further rise in population due to unmitigated migration, congestion and urban blight which hamper further development. It will also help arrest the continued rise of prices both in housing and other properties for sale and for rent," it added.

Relocation, job displacement

Under the transitory provisions of the bill, the construction of the National Government Center must be completed within three years upon the enactment of the law.

Metro Manila will remain the country's economic or finance center, but the offices of government agencies in the capital region will be converted into regional offices.

Malacañan Palace will remain as the official residence of the President of the Philippines in Manila.

Buildings with historical significance that have been vacated as a result of relocation will be transferred, managed and maintained by the National Historical Commission.

Permanent government employees who will be affected by the relocation will be given the option to resign or early retire and will be given mandated entitlements according to laws.

A total of P1 billion will be initially appropriated to implement the provisions of the proposed law which will be taken from the Presidential Savings of the current fiscal year.

For the succeeding years, the amount needed for the implementation of the law will be sourced from the annual General Appropriations Act. —ALG, GMA News

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Calida: Petitioners failed to present facts for nullification of Mindanao martial law extension

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday argued before the Supreme Court (SC) that there is a factual basis for the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao which was requested by President Rodrigo Duterte and approved by Congress last month.

Speaking at the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the extension, Calida said the petitioners have failed to present facts to overturn the presumption of constitutionality of Resolution of Both Houses No. 4.

"The facts show that the rebellion has not been quelled. Sadly, Mindanao, the land of promise, is still beset by strife. Our armed forces are fighting the rebels in the mountains and the jungles. Our armed forces are fighting them in the cities and towns. Our armed forces will fight them wherever they inflict their violence on fellow Filipinos," the solicitor general said in his opening statement.

Calida also said the SC cannot review the manner by which the Congress deliberated upon and approved the President's request in response to petitioners' claim that Duterte's allies in Congress "unduly constricted" the period of debate and granted the extension with "inordinate haste."

Congress approved the one-year extension with on December 13, roughly three weeks before the December 31 expiration of the six-month extension of the May 23 proclamation that placed the whole of Mindanao under martial rule following attacks by ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

"These issues are political and non-justiciable. They go into the wisdom of the congressional action. The 1987 Constitution itself allows the Congress to determine the rules of its proceedings," Calida said.

He added lawmakers did not act arbitrarily when they voted to extend martial law and continue the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.

Neither can the Court dictate on the President which commander-in-chief power to use to respond to the situation in Mindanao.

"As the Court discussed in Lagman [SC decision on original martial law proclamation], the power to choose, initially, which among these extraordinary powers to wield in a given set of conditions is a judgment call on the part of the President," Calida said.

Allegations of abuse and human rights violations cannot also nullify the extension, according to Calida.

"As stated previously, the Congress’ extension of martial law only requires that the rebellion persists and that public safety requires the extension of martial law. This means that alleged abuses and human rights violations cannot serve as a cause to invalidate the extension," he said.

Calida said the alleged abuses and human rights violations are unsubstantiated.

Assuming that there were human rights violations during the period of effectivity of martial law, the Court already ruled in that the alleged violations must be addressed in a separate proceeding, he added.

For his part, Major General Fernando Trinidad, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for intelligence, spoke about the necessity for the extension.

"The scourge being brought by the communist rebels, the Abu Sayyaf group, and the presence of remnants, protectors, supporters and sympathizers of the DAESH pose a clear and present danger to the national security and hinder the facilitation of rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Marawi City and the attainment of peace, stability, economic development and prosperity in Mindanao," Trinidad said.

"Considering the magnitude of scope as well as the presence of rebel groups in Mindanao, public safety remains in danger and the security of Mindanao is at stake. As it is, the AFP is appealing is for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for one year," he added.

The military official said the appeal was not intended to gain "extra power" for the AFP "but to hasten the accomplishment of the AFP's mandated task in securing the safety of our people in Mindanao and the whole country in general."

"The rebellion in Mindanao still exists. Many Mindanaoans have spoken supporting the extension of martial law. The fate of Mindanao now rests in our hands: the legislators, the Executive and the judiciary and the security sector alike," Trinidad said. — RSJ, GMA News

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Lawmakers say Sereno’s purchase of ‘predetermined’ vehicle violates law

The procurement official of the Supreme Court (SC) has claimed that the acquisition of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s P5.2-million security vehicle was “predetermined” and thus, according to House lawmakers, was a violation of the government’s procurement law.
Testifying before the House hearing on the determination of probable cause in Sereno’s impeachment on Wednesday, House justice committee members quizzed SC personnel about Sereno’s availing of a supposedly luxurious vehicle using public funds.

Pressed by House members on whether the Toyota Land Cruiser was already the choice of Sereno’s office for a security vehicle, Ma. Carina Cunanan, procurement head and assistant chief of SC’s administrative services, said: “It was already predetermined, your honor.”

 

But Cunanan explained that Sereno’s office did not specify the car’s brand in the procurement request. It was the procurement office who asked Sereno’s office about their preferred brand.
Cunanan explained that in the 2016 procurement plan of the high tribunal, it allotted P6 million for transportation equipment to the office of the chief justice. Other justices and SC officials were also given a budget of up to P2 million each for their transportation equipment.
Asked by ABS Rep. Eugene de Vera why Sereno had to purchase a Land Cruiser, Cunanan said they decided to consider the request because Sereno had never requested for a service vehicle since her appointment.
“The procurement of vehicle for the Chief Justice has always been included simply because when she was appointed as CJ, she never requested one,” Cunanan said.
“So in deference to her and by reason of her stature, we had to see to it that there’s also an amount allotted for her in the procurement of a vehicle,” she said.
“So we asked the office of the end user, in the event that we need to procure, and they said it was a Land Cruiser,” she added.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas Sr. then pointed out: “When you procure, you don’t give a brand para fair. You should all specify the details, but not the brand.” /kga

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Congress must vote separately to amend, revise 1987 Constitution – Davide

Former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. echoed the position of constitutionalist Father Joaquin Bernas that Congress should vote separately when voting on any amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution.
At a joint hearing at the Senate on the controversial Charter change (Cha-cha), Davide pointed out a provision in the Constitution which states that any amendments to or revisions may be proposed either by Congress upon a vote of three-fourths vote of all its members and through Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

“Note should immediately be taken of the fact that the section does not state when acting as a Constituent Assembly, the Congress should be in a joint or separate session,” he said.

 

Davide then cited Bernas’ pronouncements and book on the 1987 Constitution.
In the book, Davide said Bernas noted that the provision in the Charter says nothing about a joint session.
“It’s submitted that each house may separately formulate amendments by a vote of three-fourths of all its members then pass it onto the other house for a similar process. Disagreements can be settled through a conference committee,” the former Chief Justice said still quoting Bernas’ book.
While Congress may decide to come together in joint session, Davide said the two chambers – the Senate and the House of Representatives – must vote separately.
“Since the Constitution is silent about the method…Congress should be free to choose which ever method it prefers,” he said.
“It is also submitted, however, that what is essential is that both houses vote separately. This is because the power to propose amendments is given not to a unicameral body but to a bicameral body.”
“I fully agree with Father Bernas,” Davide added. /kga

 

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Duque insists on full refund of gov’t payment for Dengvaxia

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said he would demand full refund of the P3.5 billion the government paid to the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur for the Dengvaxia vaccines that the Department of Health (DOH) junked after the drug proved to be flawed.
Duque, who was in the Senate for a meeting with Sen. JV Ejercito, the health committee chair, told reporters that he agreed with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III that a full refund was in order.

Pimentel said on Sunday that Sanofi Pasteur should fully refund the P3.5 billion the government had paid the company because “[a]ll the vaccines were defective from the beginning.”

“We will ask for a full refund eventually but for the meantime we want the immediate withdrawal of vials of vaccines that are still stored with our cold chain storage facilities,” Duque told reporters.

The DOH sent a letter to Sanofi Pasteur on Friday to demand refund of P1.4 billion in unused Dengvaxia supplies.
Sanofi Pasteur said on Monday that it had agreed to refund P1.4 billion to the Philippine government for unused supplies of Dengvaxia, but Duque said he had not yet personally received a response from the company.
“Sanofi Pasteur has responded positively to the Philippine Department of Health’s request that we provide reimbursement for the doses of Dengvaxia that were not used by the government in the public vaccination program,” Sanofi Pasteur said in a statement on Monday.
Not related to mess
But Sanofi Pasteur stressed that its decision was not related to any question of safety or quality involving Dengvaxia.
“Our decision to reimburse for unused doses is not related to any safety or quality issue with Dengvaxia. Rather Sanofi Pasteur hopes that this decision will allow us to be able to work more openly and constructively with the DOH to address the negative tone toward the dengue vaccine in the Philippines today,” the company said.
“Sanofi Pasteur strongly believes that this tone is due to a misunderstanding of the benefits and risks associated with the dengue vaccine and a lack of awareness among the general public, particularly parents of vaccinated children, that the overall benefit of dengue vaccination remains positive in high endemic countries like the Philippines,” it added.

Sanofi Pasteur also said it had requested a meeting with the DOH to discuss any questions involving the reimbursement, and to “find ways to inform the Filipino public in a more balanced and evidence-based way on dengue vaccination while also restoring public trust in vaccination programs, in general.”
The DOH paid Sanofi Pasteur P3.5 billion for Dengvaxia supplies in 2015 for a dengue immunization program.
It halted the program last Dec. 1 after Sanofi Pasteur announced that Dengvaxia worsened symptoms in vaccinated people who had no previous exposure to the dengue virus.
More than 830,000 schoolchildren had received at least one dose of Dengvaxia before the DOH could stop the program.
14 kids died
At least 14 of those children have died and the DOH is trying to determine if Dengvaxia is linked to their deaths.
“The Dengvaxia vaccine, which Sanofi Pasteur aggressively promoted and sold to the Philippine government, has undeniably failed to deliver its supposed clinical benefit and safety claims, hence, considered defective under Philippine civil laws,” Duque said in a statement earlier on Monday.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are investigating the controversy and 21 vaccinated children have brought graft charges against former President Benigno S. Aquino III and three members of his Cabinet.
The children also accused the former officials of violating the government procurement law.
Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco also has brought plunder, graft and mass murder charges against the former officials for exposing more than 830,000 children to health risks by giving them Dengvaxia.
More charges coming
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which is investigating the deaths of vaccinated children, said on Monday that it would bring criminal and civil charges against former government officials over the dengue immunization drive.
“Definitely, someone’s going to be charged. But the health workers and officers, we won’t charge you. You were only misled,” said PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO

 

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