Monday, December 9, 2013

Tension mars ABC polls in NE town as 2 barangay chiefs resist arrest

SAN ANTONIO, Nueva Ecija – Tension marred the elections for the municipal presidency of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) in this town when two barangay chairmen resisted lawmen trying to arrest them, sparking a commotion and prompting a walk-out by six of their colleagues here Monday.

          The incident broke out at around 8 am Monday when lawmen from the San Antonio police served the warrants for the arrest of barangay chairmen Anacoreta Santos of Barangay San Jose and Roy Juliano of Barangay Sta. Barbara for the crimes of murder and frustrated murder and grave threat, respectively.

          The two barangay officials who, police said were in hiding for several days, finally surfaced at the Sangguniang Bayan session hall where the ABC polls were to be held when accosted by the lawmen.

          At the time the lawmen came in, 16 barangay chairmen were already inside the hall to take part in the elections.

Aside from Santos and Juliano, they were barangay chairmen Sonny Garces of Sto. Cristo, Pablo Torres (Hulo), Jojo Pomeda (Panabingan), Celia Cayman (Maugat), Sally Mendoza (Buliran), Rainier Umali (Lawang Kupang), Ome Macatunao (Tikiw) and Pepe Gante (Cama Juan), all allies of Mayor Antonino Lustre; and Tuque Zapata (Poblacion), Amang Carpio (Luyos), Turne Miranda (Sta. Cruz), Ojie Dionisio (Papaya), Eddie Ostanes (San Francisco) and Arcie Cruz (San Mariano), who were all supporters of Lustre’s rival, ex-mayor Arvin Salonga.
Chief Inspector Marcelino Veneracion, police chief, said they were merely obeying lawful orders by the court. “We just implemented the warrants of arrest issued by the court, nothing else. Our actions had nothing to do with the elections,” he said.

          Earlier, provincial police director Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves issued a memorandum ordering Veneracion to enforce the twin court orders for the arrest of the two barangay executives.

          Santos’ arrest was ordered by Gapan City Regional Trial Court Branch 35 Judge Mildred Villaroman for murder and frustrated murder. No bail was recommended for the murder case while a bail bond of P200,000 was recommended for the frustrated murder case.

          Juliano’s arrest was ordered by San Antonio Municipal Trial Court Judge Voltaire Venturina for grave threats with recommended bail of P6,000.

          Lustre said Juliano is also serving a 60-day preventive suspension for abuse of authority and gross misconduct slapped on him by the Sangguniang Bayan for allegedly verbally abusing and driving away people from the barangay hall.

          Vice Mayor Jose Balagtas said Juliano’s suspension took effect just last December 5 after the SB conducted the investigation and the issues have already been “joined,” meaning he was asked to explain his side.   

          Balagtas explained the suspension - which will last up to February 3, 2014 - was meant to prevent Juliano from using the powers of his office to intimidate witnesses and influence the outcome of the investigation.

Surrounded by their supporters, the two barangay officials however, resisted their arrest.

          Lawyer Arnold Castro, legal counsel of the two, confronted the arresting lawmen and said the warrants should have been served after the elections.

          The stand-off lasted for three hours, prompting Nieves to dispatch operatives of the provincial public safety company (PPSC) to rush to the scene to carry out the arrest.      

The 20-man PPSC team, led by Inspector Joey Cabating, succeeded in convincing the two barangay officials to go with them, but not after Zapata’s group walked out of the session hall. They were detained at the police stockade.

          The elections went on with Garces getting elected as ABC president.

          Veneracion defended the presence of Cabating’s group, saying an augmentation force was necessary to ensure that the arrests of the two were peaceful and orderly.

          He said they have been conducting surveillance operations on Santos and Juliano long before their arrests. (Manny Galvez)

Legarda: Strengthen Women’s Role in Peace Building

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today echoed the United Nations’ call to strengthen the role of women in the peace building process and urged the Senate to look into the country’s implementation of the provisions of a UN Security Council Resolution on the issue.

Legarda, in her report to the Senate on the outcome of her official mission to the Women in Parliaments Global Forum - Annual Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on November 27-29, 2013, said that aside from celebrating the Philippines’ triumph in closing the gender gap, the conference also highlighted the need to strengthen the role of women in conflict resolution and the peace building process.

“In the sidelines of the Women in Parliaments Global Forum, I had the chance to meet with Ms. Jody Williams, Chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who inspired me to look into the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in light of the country’s commitments to the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325,” she explained.

UNSCR 1325, adopted on October 31, 2000, primarily acknowledges the significant role of women in conflict prevention and peace building efforts.

As member of the United Nations, the Philippines has the duty to implement the Resolution’s key provisions namely the participation of women in all levels of decision-making; gender-perspective in Secretary-General Reports and Security Council Missions; protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls; gender perspective in conflict processes; and gender perspective in peacekeeping, which ensures government commitment in improving the participation of women in the peace process and addressing sexual violence committed against women in times of armed conflict.

Legarda filed Senate Resolution No. 407 to look into the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which provides the baseline in evaluating government efforts in its commitment to implement UNSCR 1325.

“After recording significant achievements in gender equality as noted by the World Economic Forum in its 2013 which ranked it 5th among 135 nations and the 1st in South and South East Asia, the Philippines must fully utilize the potential offered by women in the determination for peaceful and sustainable solutions to armed conflict besetting the country today,” said Legarda.


MANILA-Peace is the perfect gift to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao this season. I laud the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their efforts to make peace and harmony and prosperity – elusive for so many generations – become a reality in our lifetime.

The signing of the power-sharing annex is an affirmation of how substantive discussions based on genuine desire for peace, justice and equality for both sides can overcome even the most difficult and polarizing of obstacles.

The Senate fully supports the completion of all endeavors towards the completion of the peace process in Mindanao, and with these recent successes, remains hopeful to finally be able to end the conflicts which have delayed economic and human developments in the region.

We look forward to seeing and finally scrutinizing the proposed law that will institute the necessary reforms called for in the Agreement. Absolutely, the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law will be given utmost priority in the Senate next year. 

Recto seeks higher tax exemption ceiling for 13th month pay, Christmas bonuses

MANILA-Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto has filed a measure seeking to increase the cap imposed by law on the amount of 13th Month Pay, Christmas bonus and other benefits exempted from income tax.

Present laws exclude the mandated 13th Month Pay and the Christmas bonus from the coverage of income taxes, but only up to the extent of P30,000. Any amount in excess forms part of an individual’s gross income and therefore subject to the operation of the National Internal Revenue Code.

In filing Senate Bill No. 256, Recto wants the exclusion raised to P75,000, explaining that the present ceiling was set by a law enacted almost 20 years ago.

“We owe it to the people to amend laws that tend to be more repressive rather than be beneficial to the people. In this bill, we intend to breathe life again to the spirit of the law that, during the time of its passage, intended to allow the people to enjoy more of their hard-earned money,” the senator said.

Recto said his proposal is premised on the fact that the prevailing conditions in 1994 – the year Republic Act No. 7833 or the statute that imposed the P30,000 cap was enacted – no longer apply to present circumstances.

“At that time, the lowest monthly basic salary for government employees (Salary Grade 1, Step 1) was P2,800 and that of the President of the Philippines (Salary Grade 33) was at P25,000,” he said.

At present, he added, the basic salaries have been adjusted such that SG-1 Step 1 now stands at P9,000 and SG-33 is at P120,000.

To bolster his position, Recto said that the National Tax Research Center (NTRC) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) peg the exemption ceiling estimates as of 2011 at P72,000 and P75,000, respectively, if adjustments for inflation were reckoned from 1994.

Furthermore, the measure also provides that the ceiling of P75,000 shall be adjusted to its present value using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as published by the National Statistics Office (NSO) three years after the measure’s enactment and every three years thereafter.

If passed into law, Recto said the increase in the tax exemption ceiling would translate to a higher take home pay for employees in the private and government sectors alike, particularly during the Christmas season, when the 13th Month Pay and other bonuses are usually released.

“It is of paramount importance that our laws be responsive to the needs of the people. An increase in the ceiling of the 13th Month Pay and other benefits to be exempted from income tax is one of the reliefs the people need during these hard times,” the senator said.


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