Tuesday, September 11, 2012
MANILA, September 11, 2012-At least P75 billion is needed to upgrade and modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order for the government to build a credible degree of defense at par with other neighboring countries.
But Senator Franklin M. Drilon has posed a challenged to the Department of National Defense (DND) to “think out of the box” as to where they can source out this huge amount of budget other than the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
At the hearing on their P120.32 billion proposed budget in 2013, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the P15 billion annual budget for the Armed Force Modernization Program (AFPMP) will be sourced from the GAA.
However, Drilon said the DND may face a budgetary-related problem since the GAA has limitations like the budget deficit and obviously cannot provide in full the P75 billion requirements for the upgrade of the AFP in order to balance internal security and territorial security concerns.
Under the 2013 budget, only P5 billion is earmarked for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program. The other P10 billion is lodged under the Unprogrammed Fund portion in the budget in which the release is subject to the availability of funds, noted Drilon.
“The release of this P10 billion will depend upon the level of deficit we will be incurring. If there is enough fiscal space, that can be funded, but if not, we have to look for other means to fund this equally important endeavor,” explained Drilon.
“I challenge Secretary Gazmin and the rest of AFP officials to look for funds similar to the system in the Bases Conversion Development Authority where the sales of military lands were used to fund the modernization program,” said Drilon.
“We are looking at how the excess lands in the military camp can be made more productive to fund the modernization program in order that we can strengthen our defense system,” told Drilon.
“It is not only the sale of the military assets that can be the source of funds. Military assets are vast of lands which can be made productive and be the source of modernization program,” he added.
Drilon, cited for example, the over 30,000-hectare Hamindan camp in Panay and the 43,000-hectare Fort Magsaysay which need not be sold, but can be made productive.
KIKO TO JBC ON REFORMS AND RETOOLING: REVIEW PREVIOUS PERFORMANCE OF JBC UNDER CJ PANGANIBAN AND LEARN FROM IT
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and former ex-oficio member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), says that a re-tooling of the process in filling up court vacancies by the JBC is hardly needed. "All that the JBC needs to do is to look at the process implemented by the council under the leadership of then-Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban."
"Under his leadership, the JBC was able to reduce the vacancy in the judiciary to 16 percent from a high of 32 percent," he explains.
According to Pangilinan, the JBC then was able to reduce court vacancies to half through an "aggressive recruitment effort and an even more aggressive interview process so that all vacancies will have the necessary list of nominees submitted to Malacanang and that there are no backlog of nominations pending in the JBC."
The current vacancy is now back to 25 percent. Pangilinan says that the process regressed under succeeding Chief Justices, causing the vacancy rate to balloon back to what he calls "unacceptable levels."
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has called for a workshop to review the JBC process.
"The workshop should review the minutes of previous JBC meetings held during CJ Panganiban's time," Pangilinan suggests. "Here they will discover that at one point the JBC interviewed up to 30 applicants daily for a period of four months, thereby speeding up the nomination process tremendously. If we in the JBC were able to reduce the vacancy rates from 32 percent to 16 percent then, there is no reason why the JBC cannot do it now. We slashed the vacancies in half. The JBC today should be able to accomplish this and more. The target should be to reduce the vacancy rate to single digits in a year's time. This will require an aggressive recruitment effort where the JBC goes to the provinces to urge lawyers to take on the challenge of public service."
"Chief Justice Sereno, who is young and energetic, should lead the charge and undertake an all encompassing search for the best and the brightest to join the judiciary and help in putting in place the reforms it so urgently needs," Pangilinan stresses.
MANILA, September 11, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda has filed a bill that aims to establish the first week of February as “World Interfaith Harmony Week” in the Philippines, following a 2010 United Nations resolution declaring the same.
“I filed Senate Bill 3276, or the World Interfaith Harmony Week Act, because I believe it will help ease any conflict or tension caused by differing religious beliefs in the country,” said Legarda.
“The rationale of the UN resolution is a need to find genuine understanding among people of different faiths and belief systems. This finds resonance in the Philippines, a country that will certainly benefit from dialogues among leaders and representatives of religious institutions. The harmony we are pushing for is democratic, and built on effective communication and mutual respect,” she explained.
The proposed measure will mandate all government agencies and instrumentalities to carry out the observance of activities designed to advance the message of harmony and goodwill in accordance with religious traditions and practices during the Interfaith Harmony Week.
“Gatherings and activities for World Interfaith Harmony Week have been held in various countries across the world with diverse backgrounds, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Italy, and Jordan. Even in our country, the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) staged a gathering in Zamboanga City in honor of inter-religious cooperation. Beginning in 2013, we can conduct nationwide immersion programs and educational discussions geared towards forging lasting friendships,” she remarked.
“Senate Bill 3276, as it concurs with the resolution of the UN General Assembly, will go a long way in promoting cooperation and understanding among all Filipinos, and will hopefully aid in establishing a country of empathy and a culture of peace,” Legarda concluded.
MANILA, September 11, 2012-Following the revelation of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman about the numerous irregularities they have unfolded, Senator Franklin M. Drilon has only one question in mind: do ghosts prefer to wander around a poor region like the ARMM?
“In ARMM, there are a lot of ghosts: ghost employees, ghost teachers, ghost students, ghost internally displaced persons, ghost voters, ghost contractors, ghost gasoline stations, and many more,” said its chairman Senator Franklin M. Drilon, referring to fictitious and non-existing persons and transactions which were used to cover up for various anomalies in the region.
“All of these contributed to the corruptions in the past which continue to haunt people in the ARMM,” stressed Drilon, during the Senate Finance Committee's hearing on the P13.99 billion proposed budget of the ARMM in 2013 on Monday.
Drilon, cited for instance, the P1.6 billion unpaid premium payments, including interests and penalties, to the different insurance agencies particularly to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). These payments were deducted from the salaries of the ARMM employees, which the GSIS claimed were not remitted to them from 2001 to 2010.
"We must emphasize the deficiencies in premium contributions are the major source of continuing frustration and disappointment among government personnel including the thousands of teachers," added Drilon.
“Thousands of teachers sometime could not avail of their GSIS benefits like housing and salary loans because the premiums were collected, but per GSIS record, were not remitted to the agency,” explained Drilon.
In a move to help resolve the issue, Drilon said his committee and the Senate Blue Ribbon chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III will conduct an investigation on where these funds went.
“We will look into this to finally address the plight being faced by the thousands of government personnel in the ARMM,” he added.
Meanwhile, the efforts and the political will shown by the officer-in-charge governor to eliminate these anomalies earned praises among the Senators.
“We have confidence in the leadership of Hataman. The OIC governor is our new ghost buster,” said Drilon.
“We are pleased that under the leadership of Governor Hataman, these ghosts are starting to vanish and the corruption is being firmly addressed,” ended Drilon.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada and National Bureau of Investigation Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas listen to the statement of Analiza and Reynold Marzan who appeared Monday afternoon before the NBI. The couple was accused of physical abuse and illegal detention by their kasambahay Bonita Baran, whose case is also the subject of a Senate investigation. Due to the order of arrest issued by the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development for their non-appearance before the inquiries, Sen. Estrada requested the Department of Justice and NBI to turn over the couple to the Senate. The committee is set to conduct its last public hearing on the case on Wednesday. The couple through their legal counsel (not in photo) deny the accusation.
Over 300 students from the different municipalities of Aurora province have participated in the first Aurora Plays Football (APF) program, a three-month workshop which was successfully concluded last Saturday.
Said workshop which began last July was headed by Coach Maor Rozen, a PRO-level National Football Coach from Spain who was invited by Senator Edgardo J. Angara to provide training to the youth of Aurora as part of his comprehensive grassroots sports development program.
Coach Maor also holds a PRO license from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and has participated in several Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
Angara saw the potential of football to become the country’s leading sport as it gives emphasis on agility, strength, mental skills and strategy which our young athletes possess. He felt that we have better chances of excelling and succeeding in this kind of sport given our distinct advantage.
“If there is one sport that we have to strengthen and refocus our energies on, it must be football. Filipino athletes possess the kind of talent – size, strength and speed – to compete internationally. Moreover, the physical attributes of internationally-renowned soccer stars compare favorably with the physical stature of the Filipino athlete of today.”
Field football and beach football were offered to participants aged 11 and below. An inter-municipality league for the 11-and-under category was also part of the program, with matches being held in the Baler Central School every Saturday of August.
One of the most important elements of the leagues, according to Coach Maor, was that every single player from each of the six competing teams was required to play for at least 15 minutes. This way, he says, they can familiarize themselves with the competitive atmosphere of the actual games which is quite different from the pressure during training sessions.
Angara, who had spearheaded the initiative together with Representative Edgardo "Sonny" Angara and Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, encouraged the participants of the workshop to stay in school as model student athletes during the culminating program yesterday.
"I am very proud to see these young student athletes show such dedication to the sport, which is arguably one of the most popular in the world. The province of Aurora is also very lucky to have such an experienced international coach at the helm of this activity, and my hope is that they learn to apply the discipline they learned from this workshop to all their endeavors," he said.
MANILA, September 10, 2012-In light of the conclusion of the Vladivostok APEC Summit 2012 and the upcoming Manila APEC Summit in 2015, Senator Loren Legarda today said that efforts should be made in order for APEC to be more relevant to all Filipinos, emphasizing that APEC is ultimately about people.
“We hosted the APEC Leaders’ meeting in 1996. It was a time when many did not understand what trade and investment liberalization and facilitation meant. Sixteen years, hence, can we say our people now understand how APEC was able to improve their lives?” she said.
APEC, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, accounts for approximately 40 percent of the world's population, 54 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, and about 44 percent of world trade. This year’s priorities were trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration, strengthening food security, establishing reliable supply chains, and intensive cooperation to foster innovative growth.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign relations, stressed that the value of APEC does not rest on trade and investment statistics, but on how much its benefits trickle down to the poor.
“APEC should strive to pursue its goal of trade and investment facilitation to generate more jobs, provide food on the table, enhance capacities, promote education, harness sustainable development, and promote inclusive growth in the region. At the end of the day, APEC is not about business nor is it about trade; it is about its people,” she explained.
The Senator also said that there is a pressing need to make sure that Filipinos are able to develop competitive advantage in key economic sectors in order for the Philippines to make a substantial contribution to the level of trade between and across APEC economies.
“We need to capacitate our farmers, our industries, and other sectors. We need to strengthen them, including our MSMEs so they can equally become competitive in meeting the region’s needs for goods and services,” she detailed.
“We need to take advantage of the vast opportunities that APEC’s economic and technical cooperation offers to prepare us for a more intense level of competition in an era of free trade,” Legarda stressed.
On the issues of environmental conservation and sustainable development, Legarda said that promotion of low-emission energy strategy needs to be enhanced and the Philippines can be a showcase in this area by fully developing its renewable energy resources of which it has abundant supply.
Furthermore, Legarda welcomed leaders’ initiatives to ensure sustainable management of marine ecosystems. She also lauded the relevant and timely cooperation toward improving disaster prevention, response and recovery, including support for people affected by disasters and emergencies.
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