[22 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 320 views]

Youth organizations, student leaders, and campus journalists trooped to the House of Representatives Tuesday to file a verified impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fiasco.

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[24 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 51 views]

Stop claiming that DAP funds came from savings, solon tells Abad

 

“What savings?”

This is the question posed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon as the Senate conducted its hearing on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) today.

“Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon have both apparently overlooked what the Supreme Court said about the claim that DAP came from savings. In so many words, the SC clearly defined how and when public funds can be considered savings and why DAP funds cannot be considered as savings,” Ridon said.

During the Senate hearing, Abad confirmed that P237.5 billion were set aside by DBM for DAP, while P167 billion worth of projects were proposed for the said mechanism, and P144.3 billion was eventually released. Abad repeatedly told the Senate that the DAP funds were sourced from ‘savings.’

However, Rep. Ridon pointed out that in the SC decision on DAP, the high court said, “Unreleased appropriations and withdrawn unobligated allotments under the DAP were not savings, and the use of such appropriations contravened Section 25(5), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

“The SC decision is as clear as day. The Executive has withdrawn funds and discontinued GAA-listed projects illegally to fund DAP. Secretary Abad, repeating the word ‘savings’ over and over and over will not change that fact,” the youth solon – who earlier filed plunder raps against the budget secretary – added.

 “This is the same reason why Abad and Drilon’s comparison of DAP to the disbursement programs of past administrations does not hold water. In past administrations, the funds used were savings and not withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations,” Ridon explained.

 Drilon’s ‘nombra’ argument confirms Aquino’s liability

Meanwhile, Rep. Ridon said that Sen. Drilon’s argument that legislators only “nominated” projects for DAP – which Sec. Abad confirmed – only establishes the fact that DAP was created and executed by none other than the Executive Department.

“This is the very reason why Malacañang simply cannot pass the blame solely to legislators. If there were indeed DAP funds embezzled by certain legislators, as some quarters claim, they could not have done it alone. In such a scenario, it is highly probable that the Palace – DBM at the very least – would have acted in collaboration with probable unscrupulous lawmakers to malverse public funds,” Ridon said.

“Narinig na po natin sa paulit-ulit na pagsasabi ni Sen. Drilon na tanging pag-‘nombra’ lamang ang ginagawa ng mga mambabatas. Pinalalakas lamang ng argumentong ito ang katotohanang ang Ehekutibo, partikular sina Sec. Abad at Pangulong Aquino, ang pangunahing dapat managot sa isyung ito,” the legislator added.

Ridon also said that he was not surprised at how the Senate President acted during the hearing on DAP. “Of course, Drilon would defend DAP to the best of his abilities. E makakuha ba naman siya sa DAP ng P450 milyon para sa Jalaur Dam nang hindi dumadaan sa GAA, hindi nakapagtataka na todo-depensa si Senate President.

Underspending is Aquino admin’s fault

“Secretary Abad repeated the argument that DAP was necessary to fast-track public spending, following consecutive quarters of underspending. But Abad did not disclose the rest of the story: that it is also the administration’s fault why government has been severely underspending in the early part of Aquino’s term as president,” Ridon said.

“Kumbaga po, sinasabi ng DBM na para daw sa mabilis ng paglabas ng pondo ang DAP, pero ang totoo, sila rin naman ang nagpabagal nito,” Ridon said.

“What can be gleaned from the Senate hearing is this simple fact: that the Executive clearly usurped the congressional power of the purse and toyed with billions of public funds with impunity, using underspending as a cover for their criminal acts,” Ridon said.

Abad testimony in Senate bolstered impeachment bid

The legislator also said that Abad’s testimony in the Senate only made the arguments in the pending impeachment complaints “stronger.”

On Tuesday, Ridon endorsed the second impeachment complaint filed against Aquino in the House of Representatives over DAP.

Ridon told the budget secretary: “Secretary Abad, repeating a lie a thousand times – even on live television – cannot make it a truth. Why don’t you just call a spade a spade, and admit liability over DAP?”

Supplemental complaint vs. Abad

The youth representative disclosed that his group, along with Youth Act Now, will file a supplemental complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman tomorrow against Sec. Abad, to add 116 counts of technical malversation to the charge of plunder that they have filed a few weeks ago.

“Abad clearly committed technical malversation. From his Senate testimony, we can clearly see that he engineered the illegal program, and authorized the transfer of funds. We need to hold him accountable for this,” Ridon ended.###

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[24 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 117 views]

A lawmaker that sponsored one of the impeachment complaints now lodged against President Benigno Aquino III asked his colleagues to stop acting brashly and “blindly defending the president” by disregarding the impeachment move even before reading the complaints.

“There are reports of administration congressmen who want to shoot down the impeachment complaints even if they haven’t read the cases. This is a manifestation of patronage politics at its worst,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

On Tuesday, Ridon endorsed the second impeachment complaint against Aquino that was filed by youth and student groups.

“Instead of considering the merits of the complaints first, just as what any reputable legislator should do, some congressmen are so blinded in their defense of their teflon president that they are ready to junk the complaints even before the impeachment proceedings begin.”

“To my colleagues in the majority, this I tell you: for blindly defending the ruling president despite his culpability, history will judge you. The history books of the future will depict you as mindless minions, meekly kowtowing to the president at a time when dissent and genuine opposition was needed,” Ridon said.

The youth lawmaker also lashed out at legislators who say that Congress “should prioritize other pending legislations” like the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

“Congress should not use the FOI as an excuse to shoot down the impeachment complaint. Had the Palace wanted to really pass important legislation like the FOI, it would have already been passed by now,” said Ridon, who is one of the authors of the FOI.

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[24 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 118 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon slammed President Benigno Aquino III for “continuing in his hard-headed defense” of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

In his speech for the 150th birth anniversary celebration of Apolinario Mabini in Batangas, Aquino again defended the assailed disbursement program, even going as far as saying that the Supreme Court also have its own version of cross-border spending.

Aquino disclosed that the SC transferred savings to the Department of Justice to fund the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice in 2012, and again attempted such fund transfer in 2013 for the Malabon Hall of Justice.

“Mr. Aquino should stop meddling the issue at hand and face the music. A wrong cannot be corrected by citing another wrong,” Ridon said.

“The SC’s alleged cross-border transaction is a separate issue that needs to be addressed by the SC itself. Pero hindi uubra sa taumbayan na sabihing ‘ginawa ko ito kasi ginawa rin nila.’ Napakababaw at napakagarapal namang linya ng pagdadahilan ito,” Ridon said.

“Besides, with regard to the alleged SC cross-border transaction, again we have to ask: who disbursed the funds? Who approved the release of funds? Aquino’s distorted reasoning would just recoil and backfire to his administration,” the lawmaker added.

“For weeks now, the public wants Aquino to account for DAP, but instead of apologizing and admitting liability, he is just continuing in his recalcitrant stance. This is a behavior unbecoming of a head of state,” Ridon ended.

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[24 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 108 views]

The Department of Energy (DoE) may be creating conditions for generation companies (gencos) to do away with required government permits, especially environmental permits, a party-list lawmaker said Thursday.

“Before Congress rushes in to giving the president powers to immediately raise generation capacity, we have to remember that gencos need to comply with certain technical, financial, and environmental requirements. DoE’s rushed tone seems to imply that it wants such clearances, licenses and permits waived,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, who is a member of the House Committee on Energy.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla announced on Monday that he has suggested to the President the declaration of a state of emergency in the power sector, citing the looming supply problem in the first quarter of 2015.

Citing the bleak energy outlook for Luzon in the period between 2014 and 2016, Petilla said that a deficit of 400 to 500 Mw may be incurred at the peak of demand for power next year, which is pegged at 9,017 Mw.

The energy secretary particularly asked Aquino to invoke Section 71 of Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which authorizes the president to ask powers from Congress to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair and maintenance of power plants, and to compel independent power producers to supply power to distribution utilities.

“What the public is asking is why Secretary Petilla kept information on the looming power crisis under the wraps until more than midway this year. He knows how long it takes to establish new power plants and how difficult it is to raise additional generating capacity. I suspect that this urgent pronouncement is tinged with the motive of doing away with government requirements for gencos,” Ridon said.

“While there is indeed a huge issue on power supply that the government needs to address, we need to be wary of moves that would essentially allow gencos to build and operate power plants without complying with certain technical, financial, and most especially, environmental standards. Such hazardous move might prove to be inimical to our nation in the long run,” the lawmaker added.

Ridon earlier dismissed Petilla’s call to grant Aquino emergency powers, saying that authorizing the president to enter negotiated power deals is one of the main reasons why electricity rates in the Philippines are higher than its neighboring countries.

The lawmaker recalled that former President Fidel Ramos was also granted emergency powers that the former chief executive used to fast-track the construction of power plants by favored independent power producers (IPPs), and approve onerous supply contracts that guaranteed that all power produced by said IPPs would be bought by the government, regardless of actual power demand.

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[21 Jul 2014 | No Comment | 290 views]

As campus journalists throughout the country celebrate the Campus Press Freedom Week, a party-list lawmaker representing the youth sector has renewed calls for the passage of a bill that seeks to amend the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

Citing a growing number of violations committed against campus journalists and publications, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to expedite the passage of House Bill 1493 or the “Campus Press Freedom Act of 2013,” which remains at the committee level despite being filed last July 2013.

HB 1493 seeks to repeal Republic Act 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 (CJA) and replace it with a law that genuinely upholds campus press freedom.

Ridon explained that the CJA is flawed and being used to attack campus press freedom.

“Enacted to supposedly uphold and protect the freedom of the press at the campus level and to promote the development and growth of campus journalism, the CJA sadly contains serious flaws that resulted to even more campus press freedom violations that are even more clever and devious in form,” the youth solon explained.

Some of the weaknesses of RA 7079 include:

(1) It legalizes the non-mandatory collection of publication fee, which is considered as the lifeblood of most student publications. The law does not contain any provision that would mandate school administrations to collect student publication funds. Instead, it only enumerates the sources where the student publication funds may be taken.

(2) Section 7 of the law supposedly gives freedom and space for student journalists to write without fear of any threat of suspension or expulsion, the qualification made by the Supreme Court on the said provision by providing exemptions has rendered the security on tenure provision practically useless. One notable exemption is “material disruption of class work or involving substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others,” which is too broad that even a simple factual article may fall within its application.

(3) The law does not make it mandatory for all colleges and universities in the Philippines to establish student publications. Neither does the said law require that those student publications that remain closed until the present be re-opened for the benefit of students.

(4) The law does not contain a penalty clause, leaving erring administrations unscathed. School administrations are able to commit offense after offense yet suffer no retribution due to the absence of a penalty provision.

(5) The Department of Education, Culture and Sports Order No. 94, Series of 1992, the implementing rules and regulations of the law, contains simply guidelines on the implementation of its provisions with the additional rules on jurisdiction over cases that may arise from violations of the said law. As the implementing rules and regulations cannot lawfully narrow or restrict and expand, broaden, or enlarge the provisions of the law, DECS Order No. 1994 naturally carries the weaknesses of Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

According to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the oldest and broadest intercollegiate alliance of student publications in the country, several student publications were suddenly closed after the passage of the said law, including three major student publications in the country, namely, The Quezonian of the Manuel L. Quezon University, Ang Pamantasan of the Pamantasan ng Maynila, The White and Blue of the St.Louis University, The Pedon of Mindanao state University – Marawi, EARIST Technozette of the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, The Dawn of the University of the East, Monthly Quest of the Quezon City Polytechnic University, and the La Sallian of De La Salle University Manila.

Based on the cases documented by the CEGP since 1992, student publications nationwide faced systematic assaults including the following:

(1) harassment of student writers and editors;

(2) meddling with editorial policies;

(3) actual censorship of editorial content;

(4) withholding of publication funds;

(5) non-collection of publication fee;

(6) padlocking of the publication office;

(7) closure of the student publication;

(8) suspension and expulsion of student editors and writers;

(9) filing of libel charges against student journalists

CEGP has documented over 200 campus press freedom violations nationwide from 42 respondent publications. CEGP is one of the founding organizations of Kabataan Partylist.

HB 1493 was first filed in the 15th Congress by then Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

Important provisions of HB 1493 include the compulsory establishment or reestablishment of student publications in all school levels, autonomy of the school paper’s editorial board from any form of administrative intervention with regard to the handling of funds, content of articles the editorial board chooses to publish, and the selection of publication staff and members.

Section 7 of HB 1493 also states that “funding for the student publication shall be sourced primarily from student publication fees collected by the school administration. It shall be mandatory for the school administration to collect student publication/subscription fees during the enrollment period.”

“The campus press has an invaluable contribution in the restoration and preservation of free speech and expression inside and outside our nation’s campuses. I therefore urge my fellow legislators to immediately pass this bill into law,” Ridon ended.

CPF Week