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PDAF suspended, but not abolished, SolGen tells SC

By Tetch Torres-Tupas INQUIRER.net 5:56 pm | Thursday, October 10th, 2013 25 826 631 MANILA, PhilippinesDespite Malacaangs pronouncements that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been abolished, the government chief lawyer told the Supreme Court that the President has no power to stop it.

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. INQUIRER PHOTO Can the President abolish PDAF, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. Not in the sense of abolishing [PDAF] but the President has the general power to stop releases, Jardeleza told Carpio during part 2 of the oral argument on questions on the constitutionality of PDAF. Carpio questioned Jardeleza why he asked for partial lifting of temporary restraining order in the use of the remaining 2013 PDAF for scholars and indigent sick people when it has been abolished. Jardeleza said there was only a suspension of PDAF use for soft projects.

Earlier Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they were not bothered by Carpios remarks that the 2013 General Appropriations Act is riddled with unconstitutionality because PDAF has been abolished. You know, the President has already announced that the PDAF has been abolishedThey want to declare it unconstitutional. And so they want to make sure that it will no longer be enacted in some other time. But, as far as the executive branch is concerned, the President has already stated that we have abolished the PDAF, Lacierda said. The President himself made the announcement last Aug. 23. But during Thursdays oral argument, Carpio said PDAF could only be abolished if Congress passes a law or if the high court declares it as unconstitutional.

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SC raises serious questions on PDAF

Carpios queries indicate pork barrel illegal By TJ Burgonio, Gil C. Cabacungan Christine O. Avendao Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:21 am | Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 17 692 457 Antonio Carpio, the most senior justice of the Supreme Court, zeroed in Tuesday on provisions in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2013 and asked whether these can be regarded as unconstitutional. These are: The authority of a lawmaker to identify a project as the recipient of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the GAA. The delegation by the President to a Cabinet secretary the authority to realign funds. The concurrence of the Senate finance committee and the House appropriations committee to such realignment. At the start of oral arguments on several petitions asking the Supreme Court to overturn three previous rulings upholding the legality of the PDAF, Carpio directed his questions to Alfredo Molo III, lawyer of petitioner Grego Belgica, a defeated senatorial candidate.

To all these questions, Molo replied that these provisions in the GAA mentioned by Carpio were unconstitutional. Molo said it was unconstitutional for a lawmaker to identify a project but in this years national budget this was binding and mandatory on the executive department. A legislator, he said, does not represent Congress and for him to identify a project is unconstitutional. This is very simple. On its face, you dont need a COA (Commission on Audit) report. You can declare PDAF unconstitutional because what? In the expenditure of funds, it says the President cant spend the money without the concurrence of the Senate committee on finance and House committee on appropriation. Thats unconstitutional, correct? Because the GAA has been approved already, Carpio said. That the Cabinet secretary can realign, thats unconstitutional. That the Senate committee and House committee can concur with the realignment, thats unconstitutional. That the legislator can identify a project and thats binding on the executive. Thats unconstitutional, correct? he added. Carpio observed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) put in all those provisions in the 2013 GAA because this was the practice in the past, although this was not reflected in the GAA. At first, they were cognizant that the legislators cant execute the GAA. But they forgot everything now. Thats the problem now. Its riddled with unconstitutionalities. Correct? On its face. You dont need a COA report, Carpio said. The oral arguments, which lasted for 5 1/2 hours, on three petitions questioning the legality of the PDAF came amid widespread indignation on allegations that P10 billion in the congressional pork barrel system went to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and kickbacks to lawmakers in schemes hatched by detained businesswoman Janet-Lim Napoles. While the issue is being litigated, the court in the meantime suspended the issuance of PDAF funds, to the chagrin of lawmakers who claimed they have nearly 500,000 scholars and thousands of indigent patients dependent on their pork. They pleaded that the court lift this suspension, particularly with the second-semester enrollment just around the corner. Veto power clipped The hearings will continue on Oct. 10 and 17. The court said it would hold separate oral arguments on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), an impounding mechanism for government savings, that was used as a source of the P50 million to P100 million in additional pork given to senators, following the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in May last year.

Carpio noted that the PDAF also deprived the President of the power to veto the spending items inserted in the lump sum items approved by lawmakers. He said that if a legislator reckoned that the President would veto his spending proposal, the legislator would just simply insert the spending item in his pork, depriving the Chief Executive of his chance to strike this out of the budget. He said this violated the system of checks and balances in a democratic system. Should the court rule the PDAF unconstitutional, Carpio said the pork would revert to the general fund and the only way lawmakers could access this would be through a supplemental budget where the spending items would be reviewed line by line. That is the intention of the framers of the Constitution because the President has a chance to veto an item if he thinks its a waste of government money, said Carpio. Justice Jose Perez observed that the PDAF was unconstitutional by itself because it allowed lawmakers to implement the law after approving it themselves. Extraordinary situation Justice Marvic Leonen said that the failure of the system had led to an extraordinary situation where the political brancheslegislative and executive appeared to be together on this and where the judiciary was now compelled to intervene to stop this grave abuse of power. Leonen said that even if the PDAF were declared unconstitutional, it would not end corruption because the lawmakers could still push for their desired projects through congressional insertions. He said it was unfair that the judiciary was given a heavy burden to correct the system. We are not the savior, the Filipino people working through the departments will be the saviors. Everybody needs to work together, Leonen said. Leonen, an Aquino appointee to the high tribunal, sought to expose possible holes in the petitions, specifically asking Molo to clarify whether indeed the President could be impleaded when hes immune from suit. He also wondered why the petitioner questioned PDAF in general, but not specific provisions in the GAA pertaining to PDAF. Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, for her part, took to task COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan, who appeared during the hearing as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, for not checking the misuse of pork barrel over the last several years. Tan apologized and said she came aboard only in 2011. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said the issue before the high court could be political and beyond its purview.

We are sensitive to the fact that we are not politicians. There are political solutions, but we have to know if it is time to step in, Sereno said. Systems failure Molo replied that injecting shock into the system could send a strong message that the Supreme Court would enforce boundaries that the legislative and executive branches would no longer be allowed to cross. Sereno expressed astonishment on why, starting with the 2006 national budget, there was a philosophical shift by Congress and the executive branch toward NGOs in implementing the PDAF. She observed that the people were financing the growth of NGOs by channeling funds to them and that the Government Procurement Policy Board resolution was being used as a legal template to farm out projects to NGOs. Is this a systems failure? Sereno asked the COA chair. Tan countered that it was more of a breakdown of controls. We have a systems failure and its too foregone and accountability checks should have been working which was not, Molo added. Molo also agreed that Presidential Decree No. 910, issued by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1976, authorizing the President to use proceeds from the Malampaya gas project off Palawan province for other projects other than energy development, was unconstitutional. Carpio noted that by authorizing the President to use the fund for any purpose, Congress abdicated its power to appropriate. While this was not a problem then because Marcos exercised the powers of both the executive and the legislative deparments, it became a problem when then President Corazon Aquino came to power in 1986, he observed. Under the 1987 Constitution, the President could not use that power anymore with regard to the multibillion-peso Malampaya Fund. When Congress convened, President Aquino lost her legislative power, he said. Carpio asked Molo whether giving the President the power to use the Malampaya Fund for any purpose was unconstitutional. The lawyer replied, On its face, yes.

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Napoles, 37 others face plunder, graft raps

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo, Matikas Santos INQUIRER.net 3:55 pm | Monday, September 16th, 2013 69 23.1K 8952 MANILA, Philippines Plunder charges were filed before the Ombudsman Monday against Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jose Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. and two former representatives. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said at a news conference at the Ombudsman office that in total 38 were facing charges over alleged conspiracy to divert P10-billion to dummy aid organizations and ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks. De Lima said the five lawmakers allegedly committed plunder in conspiracy with Napoles and other officials of the implementing agencies when each accumulated more than the P50 million plunder threshold through a series of transactions over time through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, and malversation of the cash value of the project cost allocated from their PDAF and through their acceptance of kickbacks or commissions. They were Revilla, P224,512,500; Enrile, P172,834,500; Estrada, P183,793,759; former Masbate 3rd district Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, P108,405,000; and former Apec Rep. Edgar Valdez, P56,087,500. Three former representatives were also facing charges for involvement in malversation, direct bribery and other graft and corrupt practices. They are: - Rodolfo Plaza of one district of Agusan del Sur - Samuel Dangwa of the lone district of Benguet - Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro Mentioned last was Janet Lim-Napoles as co-conspirator of the accused lawmakers.

PLUNDER CASES: Janet Lim Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. named in the complaint PHOTO by INQUIRER.nets Matikas Santos As co-conspirator in the case of the five lawmakers being charged of plunder and 3 other lawmakers charged for malversation and corruption of public officials is Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles, the owner of JLN Group of Companies and believed to be the mastermind of the PDAF (Priority Development and Assistance Fund) scam operations, De Lima said. The Justice Secretary said they also recommended the filing of plunder or malversation charges against staff of the mentioned lawmakers, officials of involved government corporations and officers of Napoles non-government organizations. Others facing charges include: Staff of lawmakers - Atty. Jessica Lucila Reyes Chief of staff (COS) of Sen. Enrile - Richard Cambe staff of Sen. Revilla - Ruby Tuason representative of Sen. Enrile and Sen. Estrada - Pauline Labayen staff of Sen. Estrada - Jose Sumalpong COS of former Rep. Lanete - Jeanette dela Cruz district staff of former Rep. Lanete - Erwin Dangwa COS of former Rep. Dangwa - Carlos Lozada staff of former Rep. Dangwa (officers of government corporations) - Alan Javellana former president of the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) - Gondelina Amata president of the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) - Antonio Ortiz former director general of the Technology Resource Center (TRC)

- Dennis Cunanan former deputy director general, now director general, of TRC - Salvador Salacup former president of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC), now assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture NGO officials - Jocelyn Piorato head of Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. - Nemencio Pablo head of Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. - Mylene Encarnacion Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. - John Raymond de Asis Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. - Evelyn Deleon Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. - Ronald John Lim Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. Also recommended to be charged with plunder of malversation were five employees of NABCOR, three from NLDC, and two from TRC: NABCOR - Victor Cacal - Ma. Ninez Guanizo - Julie Johnson - Rhodora Mendoza NLDC - Alexis Sevidal - Sofia Cruz - Chila Jalandoni TRC - Francisco Figura - Marivic Jover The P10 billion pork barrel scam was first exposed by Philippine Daily Inquirer in a series of articles alleging the misuse of lawmakers PDAF through Napoles bogus non-government organizations. On August 16, the Commission on Audit released a special report on the PDAF which revealed questionable practices on the release of the discretionary funds to lawmakers and dubious NGOs. According to de Lima, the bulk of the evidence included the affidavits of the whistleblowers, copies of transactions and documents from the Commission on Audit and the Securities and Exchange Commission. She said the Department of Justice hopes to further solidify these cases with the findings of the Anti-Money Laundering Council on the frozen bank accounts of Napoles as ordered by the Court of Appeals, courtesy of the coercive powers of the Ombudsman.

In the complaints, De Lima said the modus operandi was for lawmaker to get from Napoles 40 to 60 percent of the cash value of the project as kickback in exchange for selecting the NGO identified with her as recipient of his/her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). She said the lawmaker first submits a list of properties De Lima said in filing the cases, the NBI focused mainly on the criminal charges and that it was up to anyone to file other charges against the accused. She said the NBI will also file next week the charges in connection with the misuse and abuse of the Malampaya Fund and the second batch of cases involving PDAF in two weeks.

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Scattered fighting erupts in Zamboanga City

Agence France-Presse 2:27 pm | Sunday, September 29th, 2013 8 3011 625 MANILA, Philippines Government forces hunted the remnants of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City Sunday, with residents hearing gunfire a day after the military declared an end to its three-week campaign. The Army Saturday announced that police were taking over from troops to clear sections of the vital regional trading center of MNLF stragglers. But just minutes after the military said the threat to Zamboanga was over, soldiers killed three MNLF fighters in a clash that also left six troops wounded. What happened was not organized resistance. These are stragglers trying to escape capture, Zagala told Agence France Presse Sunday, adding that only a handful of rebels remained. The mission is completed. We have already neutralised the threat to Zamboanga City. Fighters swarmed into the citys neighborhoods 20 days ago, taking hostages and triggering weeks of violence as they sought to derail peace talks between the government a rival guerrilla rebel faction.

More than 10,000 homes were razed to the ground forcing over 100,000 people around a tenth of the citys population to flee. The latest clash put the toll at 189 MNLF fighters killed, with 292 captured or surrendering, while 23 soldiers and police and 12 civilians had also been slain. A total of 195 civilian hostages had been rescued with no more believed to still be in the hands of the gunmen, said Zagala. The military said Nur Misuari, who founded the MNLF in the early 1970s, had sent hundreds of armed followers led by his top lieutenant Habier Malik, to Zamboanga. Maliks identification card had been found on the body of a slain MNLF member, Zagala said, though it was too early to confirm his death and forensic examinations were being carried out. The conflict area 30-40 hectares (74-99 acres) of densely packed communities, mangrove swamps and ponds would take about two weeks to clear of possible MNLF stragglers, unexploded bombs, booby traps and the buried bodies of dead gunmen, he said. Muslim rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland. An estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict. The MNLF signed a peace treaty in 1996 that granted limited self-rule to the souths Muslim minority. However, the group is opposed to a planned final peace deal between the government and the remaining major Muslim rebel group, the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MNLF believes the deal could leave it sidelined.

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RH law is gender neutral, says govt rep in final round of debates

By Jamie Marie Elona INQUIRER.net 4:22 pm | Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 10 264 24

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, PhilippinesThe Reproductive Health Law does not discriminate a man or a woman when it provided that a health-care provider can be penalized if he or she refused to perform legal and medically safe health procedure over the absence of the spouses consent, Florin Hilbay, Senior State Solicitor of the Office of the Solicitor General, said Tuesday. It is gender neutral, Hilbay said in his opening remark during the fifth and last round of oral arguments on the RH law, otherwise known as Republic Act 10354, held at the Supreme Court building. He issued the statement as reply to the argument of petitioner Couples for Christ Foundation that the RH Law violates the freedom of religion as it confers upon the wife sole authority to decide on matters relating to her reproductive health in disregard of their Catholic faith which gives the husband authority to decide in cases of marital deadlock . . . Hilbay noted that the law recognizes the constitutional right to liberty and privacy of either the couple to undergo an RH procedure. He argued that the petitioner wants men to have the right to override the decision of women to avail of an RH service. This is not only unfair, it is also unconstitutional, Hilbay said. Under the RH Law, it was stated that in case a couple ends up having different decisions on a certain RH service, the decision of the one undergoing the procedure shall prevail. Hiblay is the last speaker from the government side in the series of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the RH Law.

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Pia Cayetano, Lagman defend RH law

By Christine O. Avendao Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:33 am | Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 9 1193 52

PH law authors Sen Pia Cayetano (left) and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman MANILA, PhilippinesThe two legislators who authored the reproductive health (RH) legislation pleaded Tuesday with the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the suspended law, with Sen. Pia Cayetano arguing, among other things, that those challenging it had a low regard for women. At the resumption of oral arguments on Tuesday on the petitions against the implementation of the RH law, it was the turn of the intervenors in the petition to speak. Cayetano and former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman appeared in court to defend the laws passage and appeal to the high tribunal to uphold its constitutionality and ensure its implementation. Various individuals identified with the Catholic Church and pro-choice groups have filed suit in the high court to stop the implementation of the RH law, or Republic Act No. 10354, which mandates the state to provide the poor with reproductive health services, including access to contraceptives and sex education for schoolchildren. Lagman said the high court need not resolve the issue on when life begins, which the petitioners have raised in determining the laws constitutionality.

I strongly suggest that the issue on constitutionality raised by the petitioners can be resolved without adjudicating on when life beginsas this is a more on the debate on medical science, said Lagman, the principal author of the RH bill in the House. The 1987 Constitution was after all silent on the issue on when life begins, he told the high court. RH law advocates contend that life begins when a fertilized ovum is implanted in a womans womb while those against the law argue that life begins during fertilization. In his presentation, Lagman said the RH law protects the life of the unborn, is against abortion, and equally protects the life of the mother. Lagman tangled with Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who in the past three sessions of oral arguments had peppered speakers for the RH law with questions, indicating his stand against the law. Abad said the RH law will see half of the 23 million Filipinos of child-bearing age getting contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) from the government to avoid maternal-related deaths. But he pointed out that contraceptives and IUDs have resulted in many complications for women like irregular bleeding. But Lagman said the National Statistics Office has stated that 14 women die daily because of complications from pregnancy and childbirth, which are among the problems to be addressed by the RH law. He also pointed out that contraceptives were included in the essential list of medicines of the World Health Organization, which is the main health authority of the United Nations of which the Philippines is a member. Abad maintained that a natural form of contraception like withdrawal during sex was more effective than using artificial contraception, but Lagman argued that the RH law promotes all methods and gave couples the option to choose from these methods. No one will be compelled to use contraceptives, Lagman said. Abad also broached the prospect of adolescents being able to gain access to contraceptives because of the sex education that they will be getting. I think we are working on a wrong premise that adolescents, [as well as] adults, are inherently promiscuous. That should not be the assumption, Lagman countered, noting that UN studies actually show that sex education would have beneficial effects on the young as it would instill in them the proper sex values, delay their engagement in sexual relations, and teach them to avoid having multiple sexual partners. Abad also peppered Cayetano with questions on her position when it was the turn of the senator to present her case.

Abad argued that hormonal contraceptives have the highest possibility of causing cancer and that they can cause Class I cancer. Cayetano countered that the Class I rank was actually the lowest class as it was similar to the risk of women getting sick from microwaves and television.

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UN Security Council passes first resolution on small arms trade

Agence France-Presse | September 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm Tweet Facebook

US Secretary of State John Kerry walks towards a dais to speak with media members after a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle UNITED NATIONS The UN Security Council passed its first resolution Thursday on restricting the trade in illicit small arms, but Russia refused to back the measure.

Russia was the only member of the 15-nation body not to support the resolution drawn up by Australia, the councils current president. The measure calls on nations to consider signing a new treaty in conventional arms, as well as for strengthening the implementation of Security Council weapons embargoes and securing arms stockpiles. Russia, which abstained from the vote, said the resolution should have contained provisions against illegal supplies of arms to non-state groups. Alexander Pankin, Russias deputy UN ambassador, told the council the resolution lacks an important and urgent provision that his delegation had proposed. Russia, one of the worlds key arms producers and exporters, has shunned the arms treaty. It also often raises the case of non-state groups to attack Syrian opposition rebels. UN leader Ban Ki-moon used the meeting to urge more countries to sign the treaty, which the United States joined on Tuesday. Australias Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the council has taken too long to adopt its first resolution on small arms. She highlighted how illicit arms and weapons fuel conflict around the world. These arms and weapons are linked to terrorism, piracy and transnational organized crime. They are an impediment to peace building efforts everywhere, and pose threats to civilians, peacekeepers, aid workers and civil society organizations. The council should consider these issues more systematically, return to this subject with greater frequency and ensure that our commitments today are not forgotten tomorrow, Bishop said.

Syria opposition says 1,300 dead in chemical attacks by army

Agence France-Presse 8:27 am | Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 5 756 68

In this citizen journalism photo provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen, a man and woman mourn over the dead bodies of Syrian men after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. AP BEIRUT Syrias main opposition group accused the government of massacring more than 1,300 people in chemical weapons attacks near Damascus Wednesday, as the UN Security Council called for clarity and expressed strong concern over the allegations. The accusation, which was strongly denied by Damascus, came as a team of UN inspectors was in Syria to probe previous allegations of chemical weapons strikes leveled against both sides during the 29-month conflict. Following an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, the councils president, Argentinas envoy Maria Cristina Perceval, said: There must be clarity on what happened and the situation must be followed carefully. She added that members welcomed the determination of the secretary general to ensure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation. The 15-nation body expressed strong concern about the allegations and agreed that any chemical weapons use is a violation of international law.

Western governments demanded immediate access for the inspectors to investigate the new allegations. Russia, a longstanding ally of the Damascus regime, echoed the call for an inquiry but said it suspected a provocation by the opposition and its foreign backers. Videos distributed by activists, the authenticity of which could not immediately be verified, showed medics attending to suffocating children and hospitals being overwhelmed. More footage showed dozens of people laid out on the ground, among them many children, some of them covered in white sheets. The claim of chemical weapons use, which could not be independently confirmed, was vehemently denied by the Syrian regime, which said it was intended to hinder the work of the UN weapons inspectors already in the country. Opposition sources accused the army of multiple chemical weapons strikes one in Moadamiyet al-Sham, southwest of Damascus, and more in the capitals eastern suburbs. The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists, reported hundreds of casualties from the brutal use of toxic gas by the criminal regime. And in videos posted on YouTube, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, another activist group, showed what it called a terrible massacre committed by regime forces with toxic gas. In one video, children are seen being given first aid in a field hospital, notably oxygen to help them breathe. Doctors appear to be trying to resuscitate unconscious children. Another video posted on YouTube showed what it said was a case of hysteria following a chemical strike in the eastern suburbs. A young girl held her head in her hands and frantically repeated Im alive, as a man in a white coat tried to comfort her. Not totally convinced Specialists in the impact of chemical weapons said the video evidence was not entirely convincing. At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators, said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use. Of the videos that Ive seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents, he said. The opposition National Coalitions George Sabra said more than 1,300 people had been killed in what he described as a coup de grace that kills all hopes for a political solution in Syria. The Syrian regime is mocking the UN and the great powers when it strikes targets near Damascus, while the (UN weapons inspectors) are just a few steps away, he said. State news agency SANA said reports on the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta (the Damascus suburbs) are totally false. Its an attempt to prevent the UN commission of inquiry from carrying out its mission. UN chief Ban Ki-moons office said he was shocked by the reports and that talks were already under way with President Bashar al-Assads government on securing access to the alleged attack sites. The head of the UN inspection mission, Aake Sellstroem, was in discussions with the Syrian government on all issues pertaining to the alleged use of chemical weapons, including this most recent reported incident, a UN statement said. Washington demanded the inspectors be given unfettered access. For the UNs efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Washington has previously described chemical weapons use as a red line that might prompt it to intervene militarily in Syria. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: I hope this will wake up some who have supported the Assad regime, to realize its murderous and barbaric nature. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying it would be a frightful crime if verified. Moscow, which has said it has proof of chemical weapons use by the rebels in March, expressed skepticism about the oppositions claims. The foreign ministry said the timing of the allegations as UN inspectors began their work makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation.

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Malampaya plunder: 20 face charges Thursday

Former DAR and DBM execs named in NBI complaint By Nancy C. Carvajal Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:46 am | Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 145 8284 6835

MAIN CHARACTERS Former secretaries and ex- and current undersecretaries of the agrarian reform, budget and finance departments, together with Janet LimNapoles, are among those who will be charged Thursday with either plunder or

malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in the P900-million Malampaya Fund scam. Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Janet Lim-Napoles and heads of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are among some 20 people recommended to be charged Thursday with either plunder or malversation in the Office of the Ombudsman for their involvement in the P900million Malampaya Fund scam, lawyer Levito Baligod said on Wednesday. Cecilio Zamora, spokesman of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), said the bureau would file the plunder and malversation charges, and submit a truckload of evidence to the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City on Thursday. Zamora said among those to be recommended for prosecution were former and current officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Besides Pangandaman, former Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Narciso Nieto and DAR finance officer Teresita Panlilio were among those to be charged. Baligod declined to name the two DBM officials, saying it was up to the Department of Justice to name them. But sources said former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya and Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos would also be charged. The P900-million fund was supposed to benefit victims of the back-to-back Tropical Storms Ondoy and Pepeng that hit Luzon in 2009, but was remitted instead to Napoles, alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, through 12 NGOs that she had set up. Last month, the NBI filed plunder and malversation charges against Napoles, three senators and 34 others in connection with the pork barrel scam. The 12 NGO presidents to be charged in the Malampaya Fund scam are John Lim of Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation, John Raymond de Asis of Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation, Genevieve Uy of Kasaganahan para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Simplicio Gumafelix of Karangyaan para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Jesus Castillo of Dalangpan Sang Amon Utod Foundation, Nova Kay Dulay of Tanglaw Para sa Magsasaka Foundation; Gertrudes Kilapkilap of Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation, Lilian Espanol of Saganang Buhay sa Atin Foundation, Lorna Ramires of Masaganang Buhay Foundation, Vanessa Eman of Abundant Harvest for Peoples Foundation, Eulogio Rodriguez of Gintong Pangkabuhayan and Ronald Francisco Lim of Micro Agri Business Citizens Initiative. Each of the NGOs received amounts ranging from P55 million to P82.5 million, according to the liquidation report.

No mayor to be charged Baligod, a lawyer of the whistle-blowers, said that no mayor would be charged in connection with the Malampaya Fund scam. The beneficiaries and signatures of the [90] mayors were all forged. There was no delivery of goods, he said. Baligod said he would act as a private complainant in the Malampaya Fund scam and that the NBI complaint would be signed by its officer in charge, Assistant Deputy Director Medardo de Lemos. Merlina Suas, a former Napoles employee and whistle-blower in the pork scam, earlier said Napoles had assigned her as project coordinator with the DAR for the Malampaya Fund operation. Signatures forged In her affidavit, Suas said the signatures of Nieto and the heads of the NGOs in the tripartite memorandum of agreement for the distribution of the P900 million were genuine, but those of the mayors were forged. She said the local government units (LGUs) were made the supposed beneficiaries of the fund without their knowledge. The Napoles NGOs were supposed to deliver agricultural kits to the LGUs. Suas and Benhur Luy, another whistle-blower and a former Napoles employee, said there were no deliveries for the DAR livelihood projects because the signatures of town mayors and the names of recipients on the list were forged. Advance info Luy said Napoles had been tipped off of the plan of the Arroyo administration to release money from the multibillion-peso Malampaya Fund, royalties from the gas project off the west coast of Palawan province. He said Napoles was given the information three months before Malacaang issued the directive releasing money from the Malampaya Fund. Luy said Napoles called for a meeting of her JLN Corp. staff in their office at the Discovery Suites in Pasig City in July 2009 after she found the Malampaya Fund as a new source of their racket. It was on Oct. 13, 2009, when then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita gave the go-signal to agencies to use the Malampaya Fund in such amounts as may be necessary for relief operations, rehabilitation, reconstruction and other works and services to areas affected by natural calamities. Nine days later, Nieto formally requested a P900-million budget to provide directly to our farmer-beneficiaries the necessary inputs to help them recover from their losses in a letter to Andaya.

The Arroyo administration spent a total of P14 billion from the Malampaya Fund supposedly for areas devastated by Ondoy and Pepeng.

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Palace says DAP suspended with PDAF, insists its not pork
By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 4:06 pm | Monday, September 30th, 2013 2 592 113

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines The Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), which has recently been making headlines as the source of alleged bribes to senators, has already been suspended, said a Palace official on Monday. We suspended DAP at the same time we suspended PDAF, according to (Budget) Secretary Butch Abad, said Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a televised press conference. The DAP was the latest of discretionary funds questioned by the public and the media after Abad confirmed it was the source of the additional pork barrel Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada claimed was given to senators months after the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

After the conviction of the former Chief Justice, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million as provided in a private and confidential letter memorandum of the then chair of the Senate committee on finance [now Senate President Franklin Drilon], Estrada said in his privilege speech Thursday, implying it was an incentive for the Coronas ouster. But Drilon, in an earlier interview, said it was not a bribe while Lacierda insisted the fund is not for the lawmakers use. These funds are disbursed to the projects nominated by the senators so it means it goes to the implementing agency, Lacierda said, adding that it is reserved for important projects of the government. Drilon said the DAP was introduced in 2011 to address government underspending and the low GDP (gross domestic product) growth at the time. Senators also debate on whether the DAP is a form of pork barrel. Senator Panfilo Lacson said he considers DAP as regular pork, claiming the funds were from insertions by lawmakers to the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Senator Joker Arroyo, who received DAP this year but voted to acquit Corona, insisted it was not pork barrel. He said the P47 million he secured under the GAA, released in February, went directly to the Department of Education for the construction of school buildings in Bicol and for medical assistance. On Saturday, Abad confirmed that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero, and Drilon received around P100 million worth of releases from the DAP after the Corona impeachment. He said House members also received P10 million to P15 million in DAP, which was a lump sum budgetary item that pooled savings from unused budgetary items. Data released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that all those who voted to convict Corona received DAP funds while those who voted to acquit (Senators Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos and Miriam DefensorSantiago) got nothing. Lawmakers who received P30 million to P50 million worth of releases from the DAP were Senators Antonio Trillanes, Manuel Villar, Ramon Revilla, Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada, Alan Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Ralph Recto, Koko Pimentel, Vicente Sotto III, Teofisto Guingona, and Serge Osmea. Lacierda said the DBM will soon release information on the agencies that received funds from the DAP.

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Aquino defends DAP; ex-Chief Justice seeks peoples action vs pork

By Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:56 am | Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 35 1058 656 The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a lump-sum fund that critics say is unconstitutional and another form of pork barrel that Malacaang controls, is here to stay if President Aquino had his way. The President on Monday rejected calls to scrap the DAP that allows the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to pool government savings and use them for other purposes. Its not that we forced any savings on anybody, Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia. But retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, apparently buoyed by the antipork rallies, said Filipinos were empowered to scrap the pork barrel through a peoples initiative. It is time for the One Million People March Movement to convene a Peoples Congress to enact a law through initiative that will abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), stop the DAP and check abuses of Congress in the exercise of its power over the purse, Puno said in a statement. Church bells across the country will ring on Friday in a show of solidarity with people calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system. The Church Peoples Alliance against Pork Barrel on Tuesday encouraged all parishes nationwide to join the tolling of bells for three minutes on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. to signal our deep attachment to the cries and struggles of the poor for justice, peace and society. The newly formed group is a coalition of bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders from various denominations. Aquinohimself criticized for enjoying discretion over some P450 billion in special purpose funds in next years national budgetmaintained that realigning savings was not a unilateral decision on Malacaangs part. Approved by Congress

We can only fund from savings items that have already been approved by Congress. We are not inventing a new budgetary line, he argued. The President said he was aware that portions of the savings had been coursed through lawmakers in the DAP scheme created by the DBM in 2011. But on the issue that some of them eventually channeled funds to questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, he said he didnt know about this. You expected those entrusted with the funds to act properly, he added. DAP funds diverted Last week, the Inquirer reported that four senators were allotted in 2011 a total of P400 million for agrarian-related projects, but they later realignedthrough the DBMmost of the amount to National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC). Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Tito Sotto III later asked the NLDC to implement their respective projects through NGOs of their choice, documents obtained by the Inquirer showed. Use it or lose The DBM allowed the realignment of funds from the Department of Agrarian Reform to the NLDC, as shown by copies of negative special allotment release orders. In defending the DAP, the President cited a Cabinet policy of use it or lose when it came to funds allotted for different agencies. The previous Arroyo administration had a similar policy. There is no reason for everybody to be delayed if there is an opportunity to accelerate that project which was approved by Congress, which they found merit with, and if we can accelerate the benefits that will accrue to the people, why delay it? he argued. So, why lose and go through the whole process and have it approved again in a subsequent year? Aquino said members of his Cabinet knew that for funding on projects, we give it to somebody else whos way ahead of his schedule and thereby get to the fulfillment of whatever that project or program is at an earlier stage. Antidengue medicine One particularly questionable use of funds that caught his attention involved P5 million allocated for antidengue medicine. He didnt identify the legislator, but the Inquirer reported in July that Sen. Lito Lapid had channeled P5 million each for three towns with no dengue cases.

Aquino said he got curious because he knew there was still no medicine for dengue. After seeing the document on the allocation, he asked, How come no one caught this? Petition against DAP Former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco has asked the Supreme Court to declare the DAP unconstitutional and to recommend charges against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilonthe supposed creators of the program. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a constitutional law expert, and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said Malacaang was not authorized to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another. But Malacaang countered that the Constitution and the Administrative Code authorized the President to realign savings. Former Sen. Joker Arroyo said Aquino used the Administrative Code to create the patently illegal DAP. Unprecedented Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago noted that the four predecessors of Aquino had not invoked the Administrative Code to realign funds. The DAP came to light after Senator Estrada said that 20 senators were given an additional P50-million allocation as incentive for voting to convict then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 for not declaring his dollar deposits in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. Abad confirmed that 20 senators got a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork after Coronas conviction. He said the funds came from the DAP, which was aimed at pump-priming the economy. It turned out that each senator received from P35 million to P100 million each. Moral authority lost In a statement, Puno said that Congress cannot legislate against its own selfish interest and that legislators have lost their moral authority to be the guardians of the peoples money. Because he did not think Congress would abolish the pork barrel system, Puno called on the leaders of the One Million People March Movement, which had launched several antipork barrel rallies, to use for the first time the reserve power given to the people via Republic Act No. 6735, which provides for a system of initiative and referendum. Puno said RA 6735 allowed people to directly propose and enact laws. Under our 1987 Constitution, the power to enact laws is no longer excl usively vested in Congress but can now be directly exercised by the people in

recognition of the doctrine that the people are the real sovereign and not their elected legislators, he said. The former Chief Justice said the people should use this power to make laws whenever their elected representatives default in the performance of their sacred duty to enact laws to promote the general interest, or worse, whenever they betray the public trust. I am confident that the proposed law will readily get the endorsement of 10 percent of the total number of our registered voters and at least 3 percent of the registered voters of every legislative district as required by RA 6735, he said. Raise awareness Puno prodded the movement to continue educating and raising awareness of the people about the evils of PDAF, the DAP, etc., in our public plazas but also provide them with a solution to the problem of our rotten pork barrel system. In a statement, the Church Peoples Alliance against Pork Barrel said the ringing of the church bells would also signify the demands of the people to abolish the pork barrel, to rechannel the funds to social services such as education, health and housing and to hold accountable all those involved in the P10-billion scam. The three-minute activity is also meant to sound the peoples call to declare the DAP unconstitutional and demand presidential accountability, according to Fr. Ben Alforque, convenor of the group. He said the expos on the pork barrel scam and the implementation of the DAP were a manifestation of massive robbery of the peoples treasure chest. He said the Church was being called more than ever to take a decisive action and to side with the poor, who are the direct and indirect victims of graft and corruption.

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Aquino signs law postponing SK elections

By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:54 am | Saturday, October 5th, 2013 4 877 69

President Benigno Aquino. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, PhilippinesPresident Benigno Aquino III last Thursday enacted a law postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections originally scheduled on Oct. 28 to allow Congress to reform the youth council. The law sets Oct. 28, 2014, and Feb. 23, 2015, as the period within which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) could set the date for the SK elections. The signing came more than a week after the Senate and the House of Representatives reconciled their versions of the bill, and ratified the bicameral committee report on this in plenary. Originally scheduled to be held on Oct. 28, simultaneously with the barangay elections, the SK elections were put off to allow Congress to introduce reforms in the much politicized and even graft-tainted youth council. Lawmakers, meeting in the bicameral conference committee, adopted a provision prohibiting current SK officials from keeping their posts in a holdover capacity after their term expires at noon of Nov. 30. They made clear that no appointment would be made to fill the vacancies. Lawmakers, however, acknowledged that by agreeing to set the SK elections after a year, they also recognized the need for youth representation in the government. None of the lawmakers proposed abolishing the SK. We didnt want to wait for 2016 (barangay elections) Its not good if there is no youth representation for three years. Thats why we said discussions on the reforms should be rushed so that new system will be put in place, said Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who sponsored the Senate version. The senators and representatives also agreed to introduce a provision allowing the barangay council to use a portion of the SK fund for youth development program.

Under an existing law, the SK is entitled to a 10-percent share of the barangays internal revenue allotment (IRA). It will be the lookout of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to monitor the use of the fund for its intended purpose, Marcos said. The Republic Act, a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1186 and House Bill No. 2849, has yet to be numbered.

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Ten Largest Refugee Camps

The fighting in Syria has forced more than 2 million people out of the country and into refugee camps. Review the list of the 10 most populous U.N. refugee settlements in the world. (Numbers based on the latest data available from UNHCR as of Sept. 2, 2013) (An earlier version of this slide show incorrectly referred to the UNHRC instead of the UNHCR.) 1. Dadaab, Kenya A complex of five camps hosts 402,361 people, mostly from neighboring Somalia. Here, boys fetched water from a puddle at the camp in 2011. 2. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia A complex of five camps hosts 198,462 people, mostly Somalis fleeing drought and famine in their home country. These people slept in the open there in 2011. 3. Kakuma, Kenya A total 124,814 Somali and Sudanese refugees live in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp. Here, men competed at a makeshift stadium at the camp in 2004. 4. Al Zaatri, Jordan Hosts about 122,723 Syrian refugees. Almost 5,000 citizens a day on average are flowing out of Syria, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antnio Guterres said Tuesday. 5. Jabalia, Gaza Strip Nearly 110,000 Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip refugee camp. Here, boys played soccer at the camp in 2003. 6. Mbera, Mauritania

A total 75,261 refugees, mostly fleeing the conflict in northern Mali, occupy the refugee camp in Mbera. Here, the camp in 2012. 7. Yida, South Sudan A total 70,095 people mostly from Sudan live in the Yida camp, in the newly independent South Sudan. Girl refugees lined up at the camp in 2012. 8. Nakivale, Uganda A total 68,996 refugees live in the Nakivale settlement. Here, a Rwandan refugee cleaned beans at the camp in 2009. 9. Nyarugusu, Tanzania A total 68,197 people, mostly Burundians and Congolese, reside at the camp in Kasulu, northwest Tanzania. Here, children walked out of their classroom at the camp in 2010. 10. Tamil Nadu state, India Some 66,700 Sri Lankan refugees live in more than a hundred camps on the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. About 34,000 more live outside the camps. Here, a girl at a camp outside Chennai, India.