DOJ junks drug raps vs Faeldon, 11 BOC officials

Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon/PHILSTAR PHOTO BY EDD GUMBAN

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday dismissed the criminal charges filed against former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and 11 other BOC officials in connection with the PHP6.4 billion shabu shipment seized in Valenzuela City last May 26.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DOJ panel headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes dismissed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) complaint for conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), negligence and tolerance under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, and corrupt practices of public officers under Section 3 of R.A. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) for lack of probable cause.

According to Aguirre, the DOJ cited PDEA’s “failure to state with clarity the acts or omission supposedly committed by the above-named BOC respondents that would constitute violation of the offense charged” as basis in clearing Faeldon of the charges.

“Further, the evidence adduced by the PDEA in support of the charges were insufficient to establish probable case. Thus, the Panel is constrained to take into consideration the defense raised by the respondents,” read the resolution.

Aside from Faeldon, also cleared from raps were then BOC Director Milo Maestrecampo, Director Neil Estrella, Intelligence Officer Joel Pinawin, Intelligence Officer Oliver Valiente, Atty. Jeleena Magsuci, Atty. Philip Maronilla, Alexandra Y. Ventura, Randolph O. Cabansag, Dennis J. Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor.

The DOJ panel likewise dismissed PDEA’s complaint for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) regulation under Sec, 32 of RA 9165 against the agents and investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti Organized and Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD), namely: Atty. Dennis Siyhian, Atty. Marie Catherine Nolasco, SI Marfil B. Baso, SI Joselito C. Guilen, SI Darwin Francisco and SI Edgardo C. Kawada.

The panel found that under the circumstances attendant to the case, and pursuant to relevant DDB Regulations and jurisprudence, the NBI-AOTCD is justified to retain custody of the 500 kilograms of shabu which they seized, examined and investigated.

PDEA’s complaint against the corporate officers of Hong Fei Logistics was also dismissed for failure of the PDEA to show that these corporate officers knowingly consented to or actively participated in the importation of the subject shipment.

Also, the case against Emily Anoche Dee for maintaining a drug den is likewise dismissed. The Panel finds lack of knowledge on the part of Emily that her property being rented will be used as a transshipment point of the subject drugs.

Regarding the case against Fidel Anoche Dee filed by the NBI-AOTCD, the same was also dismissed in view of the existence of an earlier case filed against him by the PDEA before the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City.

Pursuant to Department Order No. 004 Series of January 4, 2017, the dismissal of the cases against the BOC personnel, the NBI-AOTCD agents and investigators, the corporate officers of Hong Fei Logistics and against Emily Anoche Dee and Fidel Anoche Dee shall be subject to automatic review by the Secretary of Justice.

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Senate tackles TRAIN, okays higher P250K ceiling for income tax exemption

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara. INTERAKSYON FILE

MANILA – Starting 2018, workers with a take-home pay of less than P250,000 annually will be exempted from payment of income tax. This, after Senate ways and means committee chief Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara accepted an amendment raising the exemption ceiling from P150,000 to P250,000.

The amendment was proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto as senators resumed plenary deliberations Wednesday on the House-approved version of the Duterte administration’s tax reform package.

As a result of the amendment approved Wednesday, the tax relief will be given in one blow, no longer on staggered basis as first outlined in Angara’s proposal as the main sponsor of the Senate version of what’s billed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

The higher exemption ceiling for income tax will also cover professionals and the self employed, and the informal economy, so that even sari sari store owners or traders in merchant hubs like Divisoria can enjoy it.

Angara said the amendment will substantially boost the take home pay of workers starting next year, if it is enacted.

Right now, the exemption from income tax only applies to the minimum wage earner. The current setup is so regressive that many compensation income workers would rather decline salary hikes as these could only result in bloating the taxable income but have no impact on take-home pay.

Progressive rates

Workers earning P250,000 and above annually will be paying different rates, calibrated as income rise, but lawmakers said the new brackets are still more progressive than the existing tiers.

For example, those earning over P250,000 but not more than P400,000 will pay tax of 20% of the excess over P250,000.

Revenue goals on target: Angara

In a statement issued just before the plenary deliberations began, Angara said the Senate version of TRAIN has met the revenue goal of the government after the ways and means committee chairman introduced his amendments to Senate bill 1592.

Based on the estimates by the Department of Finance (DOF), SB 1592, taking into consideration the proposed amendments, would yield P159.5 billion in revenue—a hundred billion more than the previous revenue estimate of P59.9 billion.

“We were able to meet the revenue target using the more comprehensive and accurate data that the DOF has provided the committee after the filing of the committee report,” said Angara.

The revenue boost was significantly sourced from the amendments to the provisions on the expansion of the value-added tax (VAT) base. From the repeal of certain VAT special laws alone, the estimated revenue gain is raised from P14 billion to P45.5 billion.

Another major source of revenue is the doubling of the prevailing documentary stamp tax rates which will approximately yield P40 billion.

Documentary stamp tax is a tax on documents, instruments, loan agreements and papers evidencing the acceptance, assignment, sale or transfer of an obligation, right or property incident thereto.

These include stamp tax on bank checks which will be doubled from P1.50 to P3; on original issue of shares of stock, P1 to P2; sales or transfer of shares of stock, P0.75 to P1.50; certificates of profits or interest in property or accumulations, P0.50 to P1.

Such amendment was first brought up by Recto during the period of interpellations.

“The stamp tax rates are already due for updating since such rates were set two decades ago just like our income tax rates. This increase in stamp tax rates will also improve the progressivity of the tax reform package, as this will mostly affect the rich who have the ability to pay additional taxes,” Angara said.

Angara explained that the ways and means committee sought to come up with a version of the TRAIN bill that would raise the take-home pay of Filipino workers by providing tax relief to 99% of individual income taxpayers and, at the same time, meet the revenue target so as not to impair the government’s capability to finance its programs and projects.

The Senate version likewise provided more specific earmarking provisions so that revenues will be allocated to programs that will directly benefit the poor. These include the funding of the free college law, unconditional cash transfer for the bottom 50% poorest households, free medicines for poor families and feeding programs in areas with high incidence of hunger, infrastructure programs to address congestion and improve mass transport, among others.

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Returning war on drugs to PNP will mean more bloodshed – HRW

Policemen inspect the body of a man, with tape wrapped around his head and feet, who police said was a victim of a drug-related vigilante execution in Manila. (photo by Ezra Acayan, Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — Returning the government’s war on drugs to the Philippine National Police, as President Rodrigo Duterte has suggested, would mean more of the bloodshed that has already claimed thousands of lives since he assumed office last year, a human rights watchdog warned.

Last month, Duterte handed the campaign against narcotics to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to appease “bleeding hearts” and the media, an apparent reference to the growing anger over the deaths blamed on the drug war, which some tallies place at more than 13,000 and counting.

It was the second time Duterte, who had promised a “bloody” war on drugs when he ran for president, had ordered the PNP to step aside. He first did so in January following revelations policemen were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a Korean businessman, only to call in the PNP once more about a month later following what he said was a resurgence of drug activity.

On Wednesday, addressing troops at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, he again signaled a change of heart, saying the police were indispensable to his “all-out war” against drug syndicate.

“But as of now, just to parry, I placed it under PDEA. But whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely, it will increase the activity of the shabu (crystal meth),” he said. 

Reacting to Duterte’s statement, Phelim Kine, Asia division deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said this “was not wholly unexpected,” citing PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa’s reaction after the war on drugs was given to PDEA: “Drug pushers are saying hallelujah.”

HRW has long been critical of Duterte, accusing him of creating the so-called “Davao Death Squad” when he was mayor of the Mindanao city to execute suspected criminals, and of replicating this on a nationwide scale through his war on drugs.

Kine also said Duterte may “have been emboldened by (the) unwillingness of either U.S. President Donald Trump or fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders to publicly challenge the drug war slaughter during the ASEAN 2017 Summit, which the Philippines hosted earlier this month.”

Before hosting the regional summit, Duterte had warned visiting world leaders, including Trump, against discussing human rights or the war on drugs with him.

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ignored the warning and said he had brought up the matter with a “receptive” Duterte.

http://www.interaksyon.com/trudeau-says-he-took-up-human-rights-ejks-with-receptive-duterte/

An angry Duterte blasted Trudeau for what he called “a personal and official insult.”

www.interaksyon.com/watch-duterte-felt-insulted-by-trudeau-bringing-up-extrajudicial-killings/

Kine said Dutrte’s “apparent desire to resume the murderous drug war underscores the need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings.”

“Until that happens, the number of victims denied justice and accountability will likely only continue to grow,” Kine added/

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Duterte cancels peace talks with communists

Fr. Pete Montallana recalled that the people in remote areas, particularly the indigenous people in the Sierra Madre, felt safe when the government and rebels stopped hostilities in Christmases past.
“Let the people celebrate Christmas without the feeling of fear around them,” Montallana said as he called on Mr. Duterte and the communist leaders to resume the talks and continue the traditional Yuletide ceasefire.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, advised the communist rebels to just surrender, saying the defense establishment would be relentless against the NPA. —With reports from Jeannette T. Andrade, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., and AFP

The government has canceled all planned meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of peace talks with the communist insurgents, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said on Wednesday.

Dureza said the national government was terminating the talks after the failure of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in reciprocating peace overtures from the President. But he said he was still hopeful that this would turn out to be a temporary setback.

“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” he said in a statement.

 

The NDFP is the political arm of the CPP.

“Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision. We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations,” Dureza said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said Malacañang was preparing the official proclamation terminating the peace talks and categorizing the NPA as a terrorist organization.

“I no longer want to talk, especially after their last ambush of a police officer where a 4-month-old girl who was in the arms of the mother [was killed],” he said.

The baby was killed when NPA members ambushed a police vehicle in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon, on Nov. 11. The baby and her mother were in a Toyota Fortuner that was behind the police vehicle.

The CPP has been waging an insurgency since 1968 to overthrow a system that has created one of Asia’s biggest rich-poor divides.

On and off

Peace talks to end the conflict, which the military says has claimed 30,000 lives, have been conducted on-and-off for three decades.

 

They were revived last year after Mr. Duterte, a self-declared socialist, was elected President, with Norway and the Netherlands hosting the negotiations.

Dureza said the termination of peace talks with the communist rebels was an unfortunate development.

“Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said.

He said Mr. Duterte had taken unprecedented steps and had walked the extra mile to bring peace. “However, the CPP and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity,” he said.

Dureza said there would be “no peace negotiations anymore” with the insurgents “until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

He said the government would continue to “closely watch the developments” to determine if the talks could resume later on.

Gratitude to Norway

“We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events,” Dureza said.

Norway has been a facilitator in the peace process between the government and the NDFP since 2001.

“Despite this setback, [hopefully only temporary], we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace,” Dureza said.

“I now call on everyone: Let’s all stay the course together,” he added.

The peace talks bogged down in May when the government peace panel withdrew from the fifth round of negotiations in the Dutch city of Noordwijk after the CPP ordered the NPA to step up attacks against security forces.

The CPP issued the order after Mr. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after Islamic State-inspired terrorists laid siege to Marawi City in late May.

Formal talks between the government and the CPP were supposed to resume in September but the President was angered by the NPA ambush on convoy of the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato, in July.

Mr. Duterte insisted that there should be a ceasefire before the talks could proceed.

Gloomy Christmas

A Catholic priest predicted that the coming Yuletide season would be gloomy and violent because of the scuttled talks.

Fr. Pete Montallana recalled that the people in remote areas, particularly the indigenous people in the Sierra Madre, felt safe when the government and rebels stopped hostilities in Christmases past.

“Let the people celebrate Christmas without the feeling of fear around them,” Montallana said as he called on Mr. Duterte and the communist leaders to resume the talks and continue the traditional Yuletide ceasefire.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, advised the communist rebels to just surrender, saying the defense establishment would be relentless against the NPA. —With reports from Jeannette T. Andrade, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., and AFP

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Resigning from politics crosses Pacquiao’s mind

Dismayed by “destabilizers” and politicians with “hidden agenda,” Senator Manny Pacquiao admitted on Tuesday that he has thoughts of resigning from politics.

“Kung tatanungin mo ako ngayon sa pulitika, parang gusto kong madismaya, ma-discourage. Gusto kong umayaw na, ano ba… ganito pala yung pulitika? Kasi hindi ako marunong mamulitika e. Kung ano yug tama, kung ano ang alam kong tama para sa bayan, yun ang isusulong ko, yun ang gusto ko,” Pacquiao said during a press briefing at the Senate.

(If you would ask me today about politics, it is very dismaying, discouraging. I want to give up already. Is this the real politics? Me, I don’t really know how to play politics. Whatever is right, whatever I know is right for the country, that is what I’m going to pursue, that is what I like.)

“Marami akong nadiskubre dito pagdating sa pulitika na hindi mo malaman kung totoo o hindi, maraming nagtatago sa ibang anyo…” he said.

(I discovered a lot when I joined politics—things that you wouldn’t know whether it’s real or not. A lot of them are cloaked behind a different appearance.)

Asked if he is now discouraged to seek a new post in government after his term ends in 2022, Pacquiao said: “Alam mo sinabi ko nga sa asawa ko, sabi ko babe gusto kong mag-resign pero pag umayaw naman ako dito sa pulitika, sino na lang ang taong may puso talaga? Sino na lang ang taong totoong mag serbisyo sa ating gobyerno?”

(You know what? I have told my wife, babe I want to resign but if I give up politics, who would be the one to have a heart? Who would be that person to provide real service to the government?)

Asked why he was disappointed in politics, Pacquiao cited as example some politicians who pretend to help out the poor but only do so because they have their own hidden agenda.

Asked again if he was disappointed by people who were trying to “destabilize” the government, the senator quickly answered yes.

Ayaw ko ng pangalanan, mag-init lang yung ulo ko. Buti na lang hindi ako si Duterte,” he said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.

(I don’t want to name names. Gladly I’m not like Duterte.)

Pacquiao refused to identify though the politicians or colleagues who have disappointed him.

“Ayaw kong magsalita ng bad words pero nagagalit ako sa ganyan (I don’t want to say bad words but I hate those kinds of things),” the senator added. /jpv

READ: Pacquiao now a political heavyweight

"Visit Inquirer Sports' The Pacquiao Files (www.inquirer.net/pacquiao-files) for news, features, and other multimedia content about Manny Pacquiao and his upcoming fights."

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'Pathetic,’ ‘laughable,’ says Roxas on move to blame Aquino admin for MRT mess

Former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. (File photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas III on Tuesday scoffed at attempts to pin the blame on the past administration for the dismal state of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT 3).

“In a word? Pathetic. Dahil walang mapakitang accomplishment sa mga ipinangako, nagimbento ng kasong walang laman, walang basehan sa katotohanan o sa batas para ipakitang may ginagawa sila,” Roxas said in a text message to the Inquirer, apparently alluding to the Duterte administration.

[In a word? Pathetic. Because they can’t show any accomplishments on their promises, they’re inventing a case without substance, without basis in truth or in law to show that they’re doing something.]

 

Roxas was reacting to the plunder complaint the Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed against him and nine members of the Cabinet of President Benigno Aquino III for the allegedly anomalous maintenance deal for the MRT system.

Roxas said that the fact that he was included in the case because he was merely a part of the procurement board was “laughable on its face.”

“I was informed that I have been included in a case filed by the DOTr. According to media reports, I was included because of decisions made by the GPP [Government Procurement Policy] Board of which I was a member in my capacity as secretary,” he said.

“This is laughable on its face. I haven’t received a copy of the complaint and will withhold further comment until I do,” Roxas said.

Earlier Tuesday, the DOTr filed before the Office of the Ombudsman plunder, graft and violation of government procurement act against Roxas, former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya, former Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, former Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo and former National Economic Development Authority chief Arsenio Balisacan.

DOTr alleged that Roxas and Abaya, in conspiracy with other Cabinet members and former Transportation officials, amassed wealth from questionable maintenance contracts for the MRT 3.

In the 64-page complaint, Roxas and Abaya were accused of using the maintenance programs for the MRT-3 as a “fundraiser.”

“[They] set into motion a grand scheme of turning the DOTC as a bottomless cash cow, entering into one anomalous procurement project after the other, in order to amass, accumulate and acquire ill-gotten wealth by taking advantage of their official position, authority and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people,” the complaint said.

The DOTr likewise included in their complaint sheet former MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe; former Transportation Undersecretaries Rene Limcaoco, Catherine Gonzales, and Edwin Lopez; former Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) officials; and officials of Busan Universal Rail Inc. (Buri); and a certain Marlo dela Cruz. /atm

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Dureza: Gov’t cancels peace talks with Reds

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jess Dureza INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / JOAN BONDOC

Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, on Wednesday announced the cancellation of peace talks with the communist rebels following the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Dureza said in a statement.

“There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP/NPA/NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident. We will closely watch the developments,” he added.

Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels, he said, left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision.

In his visit to soldiers Tuesday, Duterte announced that he wants to cut talks with the New People’s Army following their string of attacks that have affected civilians.

“We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations. This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace,” he said.

The President also threatened to shut down mining firms which give revolutionary taxes to the rebels. This is seen as a form of extortion by the military, which allows the mining firms to be spared from the rebels’ attacks.

Duterte also recently announced that he would issue a proclamation tagging the NPA as terrorists.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA are part of the list of foreign terrorist organizations since 2002.

He said Duterte “has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace.”

“Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said.

 

“However, the communist party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity,” he added. “We will closely watch the developments.”

“We have expressed our deep gratitude to the royal Norwegian government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events.
Despite this setback, hopefully only temporary, we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace,” he said.

“I now call on everyone: “let’s all stay the course together,” he added. /jpv

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Duterte to rely on AFP, PNP advice in deciding extension of ML in Mindanao

President Duterte rubs elbows with troops fighting terrorists in Marawi. He said he did not think soldiers had stolen civilians things during the siege, and had seen them use on occasion the amenities in house converted into hospitals or operations meeting rooms. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO DESK FILE
MANILA – President Duterte said Saturday he will lean heavily on the final recommendation of the Armed Forces and the National Police on the matter of extending martial law in Mindanao beyond Dec. 31, the new deadline approved by Congress at the height of government engagement with terrorists in Marawi.

“The declaration of martial law is always dependent on what the Armed Forces and the police say. Kung anong sabihin ng armed forces pati police [Whatever the AFP and PNP say], since they’re the ones who will be engaged….we should give credence to it,” the President said at a press conference in Davao City.

Responding to a reporter’s question on whether, with the developments in Marawi now, he was ready to lift the martial law declaration any time soon, Duterte said: “You know, declaration of martial law is always dependent [on] what the Armed Forces and the police recommends.

He pointed out that “they are the two entities that would be relied upon heavily by a President or Head of State when he entertains something like extreme measures — martial law, state of emergency.”

Whatever the Armed Forces and police say, “since they are the ones also who would be totally engaged . . . if there’s . . . trouble there, we should give credence to it actually,” the President stressed.

He said he was confident the security establishment would not “fabricate events” or dish out misleading reports just to lay the basis for a martial law extension.

Soldiers stealing? I don’t think so – Duterte

Asked if he himself had received any reports – since the martial law declaration – of abuses by soldiers in the communities during the Marawi siege, Duterte said, “No [and] I do not believe that the soldiers were there to [steal residents’ things]… Paano nila manakaw ‘yan [How can they steal those]? I was there. And they were billeted in houses. And they were using the amenities” of the houses where they were staying at any given time during the course of the five-month war, he explained.

“‘[The] refrigerator. There was power. Ginagamit ‘yan mga [They’re using the] electric fans. And kung ‘yan lang, I am not ready to put to task my soldiers. ‘Yung sabihin mong mga furniture. Paano nila dalhin?” Duterte wondered aloud.

When soldiers exit an area, all they bring with them are their guns and their knapsack and it’s so easy to see if anyone brought out anything he did not own, he pointed out.

‘Pag move out mo, ang dala-dala mo lang ‘yung knapsack mo pati baril mo. Eh ‘di makita ka ng opisyal [When you move out, all you can carry is your knapsack and your gun]. Those are very large things that you cannot hide in your pocket. And I do not believe na para ‘yan lang, nakawin ng sundalo [that soldiers would steal just for stuff like that].”

He confirmed that, from what he witnessed when he visited the site, the troops on the ground were using basic amenities: “ginamit nila, tama ‘yan kasi napunta ako [the soldiers used the amenities, that’s right, when I went there] several times. I went to the houses used as hospitals, emergency.”

He recalled going to one house “where they used to confer and I attended one using an electric fan, probably also borrowed. But I do not think my soldiers would be… Alam nila ‘yan [They know better than that].”

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AboitizPower sustains strong foothold in hydropower business

The Maris hydro was originally conceptualized and developed by the operations, maintenance, and business development teams of AboitizPower large hydro business unit, SN AboitizPower (SNAP). HANDOUT PHOTO
MANILA – On the back of a strong demand for renewable energy (RE), AboitizPower said it continues to ramp up its portfolio of generation facilities across the Philippines.

AboitizPower’s subsidiary, SN AboitizPower, has completed the commissioning of its 8.5-megawatt (MW) Maris Main Canal 1 hydroelectric power plant, as it gears toward full commercial operation this November.

The plant re-utilizes the water coming from the 360-MW Magat hydro plant through the re-regulating dam located downstream of Magat. The water then flows into the Maris Main (South) Irrigation Canal. The project was made possible with the support of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Energy (DOE), host communities, and local government units.

Maris hydro is the first greenfield project of SNAP. It is composed of two units of Kaplan pit type turbines with generator nameplate capacity of 4.25 MW each. Unit 1 was commissioned on October 24 while Unit 2 was commissioned on November 6. The construction of the US$47-million hydro plant, located in Brgy. Ambatali in Ramon, Isabela, took about two years.

Meanwhile, in October, AboitizPower’s run-of-river hydro business unit, Hedcor, signed civil works contract with UK-based contractor, Whessoe, for its 19-MW Bineng Combined Hydropower Project in Benguet. The project, which will increase the combined capacity of the Bineng plants from 5.48 MW to 19 MW, was approved by the municipal council of La Trinidad in July this year.

In addition, Hedcor’s 69-MW Manolo Fortich project, also a run-of-river hydro, which is currently synchronizing to the grid, is targeted for commercial operations in 2017 or early 2018. Once completed, it will increase Hedcor’s capacity of 185 MW of clean and renewable energy from 22 hydropower plants nationwide.

This brings AboitizPower’s advanced hydro project developments at present to around 97 MW.

Antonio R. Moraza, AboitizPower President and COO, said the company’s continued expansion of RE portfolio is in line with its balanced mix growth strategy.

“We never stop looking for ways to maximize productions from our RE facilities because we know the role it plays in our overall strategy,” Moraza said.

Moraza added that apart from new RE businesses, the company also explores innovative ways to maximize clean and renewable energy sources.

“If we can maximize the potential to produce more energy from an existing resource, we will do it, and that is what we did with Maris, as well as the binary plant in Makban, and soon in Bineng. And our teams will continue to look at these opportunities, as well as new greenfield renewable projects wherever they are available and viable,” Moraza said.

AboitizPower and its partners currently have a total of 787-MW capacity from hydropower generation facilities, which make up 62% of the total 1,263-MW RE capacity. The company also owns the 4th and the 7th largest geothermal power plants in the world, which are the 448-MW Makban Geothermal Power Plant in Laguna and Batangas, and the 234-MW Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant in Albay, respectively. In 2016, AboitizPower also launched its first venture into solar power in Negros.

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Umali: House Justice panel unlikely to vote in favor of Sereno, Lagman motions on right to counsel

Chief Justice Sereno. PHILSTAR file photograph

MANILA – The House Justice panel will rule, before Wednesday’s (Nov. 22) hearing on determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whether to grant two similar motions seeking to allow Sereno’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses for her.

However, in the view of Justice committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali – apparently confident the panel will reject in a vote the two motions – Sereno will be at a terrible disadvantage if she insists on not appearing personally or not confronting the witnesses against her.

“You know, the right to counsel happens in the actual trial. Pero . . . wala pa tayo sa trial [But we’re not yet in the trial stage]. [This seems akin to a] preliminary investigation [but it’s not a] preliminary investigation,” Umali said in a radio interview Sunday, as Sereno’s lawyers , with backing from Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, insist on allowing the chief magistrate to field her counsel to the hearing.

Umali said, “hindi established ang mga rights dito to counsel [the rights to counsel are not established here]. And unfortunately, under our rules, we do not allow lawyers to speak. So [that’s what we’ll have to resolve, whether or not to allow this]. Pero [But] at the end of the day, it will be the vote of the majority that will be followed.”

The Justice panel chief continued, in his DZBB interview: “Unfortunately for the respondent . . . I’m just thinking aloud, [there is a] super majority and [it won’t be easy, as they say, to pass something like that; to let that motion win in a vote].”

 

He said “whatever will be the majority vote, will be the basis of our decision.”

In his position paper last week, Lagman had said that the process of determination of probable cause in an impeachment is akin to that in a criminal case. Lagman, a lawyer, said to prohibit Sereno from deploying her lawyers to cross-examine witnesses against her would render useless the right to counsel enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Umali acknowledged the similarity, but stressed that an impeachment is sui generis [in a class of its own].

“In fact, it cannot be a criminal case [because the respondent in this case is not jailed; we don’t have the power to order his/her jailing].” Instead, Umali said, “this is also akin to [an] administrative case [where removal from office is the punishment for the respondent].”

Thus, Umali concluded, “it’s neither criminal nor administrative, anywhere in between that,” and that is why he does not think the so-called right to counsel repeatedly invoked by Sereno lawyers and by Lagman would apply in this case. “And more than that, if I may say so, siya ay respondent lang, siya ay hindi akusado [she is just a respondent here, not yet accused].” 

The Sereno camp had earlier floated the possibility that the chief justice may take her case before her own peers and seek the en banc’s opinion on the unprecedented debate.

Umali, however, noted that the Constitution clearly does not grant the SC any jurisdiction on impeachment cases. He said the Charter states “the impeachment court is the sole judge of any issues pertaining to impeachment. So [maybe] the more appropriate venue” for raising the issue “should be the impeachment court and not the Supreme Court.”

He said that for one thing, Sereno is not entirely helpless even though there is a super-majority in the House that is apparently against her. The requirements of strong evidence will still be imposed on the complainants, and the “ground of course [is] defined . . . under the Constitution and the rules. Culpable violation of the constitution, graft and corruption and other high crimes, betrayal of public trust.”

In his view, said Umali, simple probable cause just won’t do, “dapat merong [there should be] prima facie evidence. Pero ang sinasabi ng rules namin ay probable cause lang [and yet our rules require only probable cause].”

He expressed hope Sereno will reconsider and personally attend Wednesday’s hearing to determine probable cause.

“If she does not attend, it’s her own lookout [because] I don’t know how [the] allegations or charges against her can be controverted without her attendance. . . . Under the rules . . . the lawyers are not allowed to speak for the respondent. . . . So if she does not attend. whatever is presented to us cannot be controverted” and will be included in the report that becomes the basis for voting on probable cause.

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