Rappler Newscast | October 8, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- Petitioners argue before the Supreme Court the pork barrel system violates checks and balances, and separation of powers.
- President Aquino defends the Disbursement Acceleration Program
- A former Chief Justice calls for people’s initiative to scrap pork funds.
Story 1: PDAF, MALAMPAYA 'ILLEGAL ON ITS FACE'
Petitioners urge Supreme Court justices to strike down the congressional and presidential pork barrel.
On day one of oral arguments, lawyers of the petitioners say the pork barrel system violates checks and balances, and separation of powers.
They say allowing lawmakers to identify projects and interfere with implementation after the passage of the budget bill, undermines executive power.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio says the pork barrel Priority Development Assistance Fund seems unconstitutional at face value.
During oral arguments at the Supreme Court Tuesday on the constitutionality of the pork barrel, Carpio says the pork barrel system in the 2013 budget law or General Appropriation Act was “riddled with unconstitutionality.”
Carpio says provision 45 of the 2013 GAA violated the constitution when it delegated the President’s power to realign savings to cabinet secretaries.
Alfredo Molo III, counsel for petitioner, concurs.
Carpio says these are not the only possible grounds for declaring the 2013 GAA unconstitutional.
Carpio adds the PDAF violates the President's power to veto line items in the budget.
He says, “ If you use the PDAF model where you pass the budget and the legislator will identify the project later on the president cannot veto it anymore. This destroys the check and balance between the legislature and the president.”
Carpio also says previous Supreme Court rulings upholding the legality of the PDAF are not applicable to the current case that’s based on the 2013 GAA.
The court upheld the constitutionality of the PDAF in Philippine Constitution Association versus Enriquez in 1994, Andres Sarmiento et al versus the Treasurer of the Philippines et al in 2001, and Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty versus Secretary of Budget and Management in 2012.
In questioning Molo, Carpio also says the use of the Malampaya fund for purposes beyond energy development may also be unconstitutional.
Petitioners question the provision in Presidential Decree No 910 that the fund may be used for energy exploration and development and --quote-- “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President.”
The presidential decree was enacted during martial law, so it was lawful then for the President to hold both executive and legislative powers.
In questioning Molo, Carpio also says the use of the Malampaya fund for purposes beyond energy development and the President’s Special Purpose Fund may also be unconstitutional.
Carpio says allowing the President to use the fund for any purpose is “an abdication of Congress of the power to appropriate.”
Story 2: EX-CJ CALLS FOR PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE TO SCRAP PORK
Former Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno calls for a people’s initiative to scrap the pork barrel.
Puno advises the leaders of the One Million People March Movement to use the people’s initiative mechanism under Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Law.
It allows the public to directly propose a bill which has to be endorsed by at least 10% of the total number of registered voters nationwide.
In this 10%, at least 3% of voters in each legislative district should be represented.
There are currently about 50 million registered voters in the Philippines.
Story 3: SC SETS ORAL ARGUMENTS ON DAP
The Supreme Court orders the government to comment in 10 days on petitions questioning the constitutionality of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP.
In a briefing, Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te says the court will hear oral arguments on the DAP on October 22 at 2pm.
There are 3 petitions questioning the legality of the government's spending acceleration program.
Named respondents are Senate President Franklin Drilon, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
The DAP came under fire after critics questioned its legality, with some saying it was an “invention” of the executive branch and had no legal basis.
The Constitution provides that government budget must come from Congress.
The President is empowered to realign savings from implemented programs.
The DAP attracted controversy after Sen Jinggoy Estrada said the senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona got P50 million each after the impeachment trial.
The budget department admits the amount came from the DAP but was not a bribe.
Story 4: AQUINO JUSTIFIES DAP: 'USE IT OR LOSE IT'
President Benigno Aquino justifies his government’s creation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP.
On the sidelines of the APEC summit, Aquino cites DAP’s importance, explaining his Cabinet's policy of using government savings which they called ‘use it or lose it.’
Aquino adds, “There is no reason for everybody to be delayed if there is an opportunity to accelerate that project.”
But Aquino also admits he does not know if lawmakers who requested funds from DAP eventually channeled the money to questionable non-governmental organizations, similar to the way some lawmakers misused their pork barrel.
Aquino says DAP is supposed to provide only "a small portion" to lawmakers which the administration felt had "legitimate requests."
The budget department says a total of P137.3 billion has been released under DAP, but critics say the government's spending of savings is a crime.
Story 5: RECTO TO DBM: WHERE'S P130-B MALAMPAYA FUND?
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants the budget department to account for the P130 billion left over from the Malampaya Fund.
Recto says the government’s royalties from the natural gas operations off Palawan amounted to P170 billion over the years.
Of that amount, less than P25 billion was spent during the Arroyo administration, and P15 billion under Aquino.
Recto says the last time he asked the budget department, he was told there was no P130 billion left from the royalties.
While the fund is intended for energy development projects, the President has discretion over the use of the fund, including using it for non-related projects under various agencies.
Since the start of the Aquino administration, Recto called for the transparent use of the multi-billion-peso royalties.
In 2010, he wanted a special account created for the fund to easily track its disbursement.
He asked why it was co-mingled with other unaccounted funds spread across some 400 government accounts.
In 2011, Recto suggested the Malampaya funds be taken out of the discretion of the executive and be formally listed as a source of financing for the General Appropriations Act.
At the time, he cited findings by the Commission on Audit showing that P19.4 billion went to non-energy projects.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad says Recto is confused and there is no P130 billion missing.
He says --quote-- “The cash portion of the Malampaya Fund goes to the general fund and supports the budget every year.”
Story 6: ISABELA MAYOR DISQUALIFIED FOR VOTE BUYING
The Commission on Elections disqualifies another local official for vote buying in the 2013 midterm polls.
In a tweet, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez says re-elected Mayor Benedict Calderon of Roxas, Isabela, is disqualified for vote buying.
Calderon received 16,168 votes against the 9,798 votes of his opponent, former mayor Harry Soller.
Jimenez says Soller filed the complaint.
He says witnesses submitted affidavits and videos of Calderon's vote-buying activities.
Calderon is the fourth local official to be disqualified by the poll body in 3 weeks.
He can still appeal the decision with the Comelec en banc.
The Comelec earlier disqualified Laguna Governor ER Ejercito for campaign overspending.
Mayor Alfredo Gemera and Councilor Rogelio Santos, Jr. of Norzagaray, Bulacan were charged with vote buying.
Story 7: NEGROS OCCIDENTAL SEEKS TO DECLARE STATE OF CALAMITY
Six people drown in flood caused by days of rain that affect at least 15 towns and cities in Negros Occidental province.
The governor recommends the declaration of a state of calamity.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is expected to approve the recommendation when it convenes session on Wednesday.
A declaration of state of calamity will allow the province to use its P28-million quick response funds.
Among the worst hit is Ilog, a low-lying town in the southern portion of the province.
Rep Mercedes Alvares says the town declares a state of calamity, with up to 5,000 families affected.
Story 8: CLASSES, WORK IN ZAMBO SUSPENDED DUE TO FLOODS
Classes and work in government offices are suspended Tuesday in Zamboanga City because of floods.
Heavy rains since Friday trigger flooding in the city, which is still recovering from the three-week fighting between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Among the areas affected by flooding are some evacuation centers, housing thousands of people displaced by the fighting.
The Philippine National Police says six barangays are badly affected.
On Tuesday, commercial operations at the Zamboanga International Airport are suspended from 9am to 9pm because of the floods.
Story 9: 5 DIE IN BASILAN FLOODS
At least 5 people die and one remains missing Tuesday after flash floods in Basilan province.
Authorities say the 5 were from the city of Lamitan.
The floods caused by days of heavy rain since Friday dislocate 253 families in 5 barangays in the capital city of Isabela.
Local officials say 72 houses are damaged.
Story 10: CHINA TO PH: DON'T FORGET HK HOSTAGES
China challenges the Philippines to address the demands of Hong Kong nationals hostaged in Manila in 2010, after President Benigno Aquino on Monday says he refused to apologize over the hostage crisis.
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says it supports the Hong Kong government and urges the Philippines to --quote-- “pay high attention to the requirements and concerns of the families of the victims.”
Aquino meets with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia.
Aquino says --quote-- "Again, we expressed our deepest regret (and said) that it's so contrary to how we treat visitors in our country."
But he refused to apologize, citing cultural differences.
Aquino says that in Philippine culture, an official apology means the Philippines is “at fault as a country, as a government, and as a people.”
He adds, "We pointed out, that from our perspective, there is one lone gunman responsible for this tragedy."
In 2011, Aquino released a similar statement of regret, while insisting no formal apology would be given.
Leung gives a less positive assessment of the talks.
He says --quote-- "The Philippine side, at the beginning, took the position that the matter has been resolved. I did not agree.”
Hong Kong has long demanded a formal apology plus compensation for the relatives of the victims.
The Luneta hostage crisis in 2010 left the gunman and eight tourist-hostages dead and seven more wounded.
In August, survivors and relatives of the dead sued the Philippine government in a Hong Kong court to demand compensation and an official apology.
The issue surfaced again this week during the APEC summit when Indonesia revoked credentials for nine Hong Kong journalists who shouted questions at Aquino about the incident.
Story 11: NORTH KOREA WARNS US OF 'DISASTER' OVER JOINT NAVAL DRILL
North Korea warns the United States of a "horrible disaster" and put its troops on alert over a massive joint naval drill, involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier alongside South Korean and Japanese vessels.
The warning comes after South Korea and the US signed a new joint strategy to counter the growing threat of a North Korean nuclear attack.
The naval drill in waters around the Korean peninsula involves South Korea, Japan and the United States.
The US deployed the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington.
In a statement on state-run Korean Central News Agency, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army says --quote-- "The US will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces."
Story 12: US MILITARY INTERROGATING WANTED AL-QAEDA SUSPECT
A senior US official says the US military is holding and secretly interrogating an alleged Al-Qaeda operative Monday.
Abu Anas al-Libi was captured by special forces in Tripoli on Saturday and is now "lawfully detained by the United States military in a secure location outside of Libya.”
Libi is on the FBI's most wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head for his alleged role in the 1998 twin bombings of US embassies in East Africa.
Libya denounces Libi’s capture as the “kidnap” of a Libyan citizen, but US State Secretary John Kerry says it is legal under US law.
Kerry says Libi committed “acts of terror,” and was a “legal and appropriate target for the US military."
The Pentagon also reveals US Navy SEALs were hunting a top commander of Somalia's Shebab rebel group in a separate weekend raid.
Story 13: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 1, Concerns over the United States' financial crisis is gathering steam.
The weeklong shutdown also nears the October 17 deadline on the government's borrowing limit.
China says the United States must act quickly to establish the credibility of the dollar.
The US government will be barred from borrowing after October 17 unless the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling is lifted.
In the resultant chaos, Washington would begin defaulting on its debts, global stock markets could plummet and the fragile world economy could take a hit.
At number 6, funding cuts in the US make it difficult for potential new generation scientists to break through as the 3 winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine did.
Nobel Prize winner James Rothman says funding is "in danger."
Rothman and Randy Schekman of the United States were honored for their work on how cells organize their cargo and move molecules.
They say the shrinking budget for the National Institute of Health leaves funding for only 17% of applications for grants.
And at number 10, Space disaster movie "Gravity" soars to the top of North America's box office in its debut weekend with $55.8 million.
The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts in space after a devastating accident.
It has already been winning rave reviews and Oscars buzz.
Newscast production staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|
|3D GRAPHICS||Sten Bautista|