[15 Dec 2014 | Comments Off | 250 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon dubbed today’s twin passage of the 2015 General Appropriations Act and the supplemental budget as a “double whammy for the Filipino people” and “double delight” for the Aquino administration.

Read the full story »

News »

[27 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 88 views]

Officials of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), particularly outgoing COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes, are “evading the essential questions on the integrity of the automated election system,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said, following the hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms this afternoon.

“While it was a good thing that the committee invited a representative from the AES Watch to propound hard-hitting questions in today’s hearing, it is very noticeable that Chairman Brillantes is just brushing aside the more important questions, and narrowing the issue to mere technicalities,” Ridon said.

During the hearing, AES Watch Coordinator Evita Jimenez asked Brillantes why COMELEC chose to go against the advice of its own Law Department and went ahead and decide to tap SMARTMATIC-TIM’s diagnostic services to check the state of the 82,000 precinct count optical scanner (PCOS) machines even without the benefit of a public bidding.

Jimenez also questioned the lack of an “independent and comprehensive audit” on the current status of the PCOS machines. She emphasized the lack of a system of “check and balance,” particularly with regard to the upkeep of the machines.

Brillantes, however, repeatedly told the House panel that the diagnostics and refurbishment contracts are still under negotiation.

“It is very apparent that Chairman Brillantes has no answer to give on the very essential question posed by AES Watch on the current status of the PCOS machines. All he could explain was that the price of the diagnostics contract has yet to be finalized,” Ridon observed.

“The House of Representatives conducted this hearing to find answers to the controversies hounding the preparations for the 2016 automated elections. Yet I think we will be leaving with more questions in our minds than answers,” he added.

“The issue here is not only the highly irregular process in which COMELEC chose SMARTMATIC-TIM to do diagnostic work with the PCOS machines. The issue here is the lack of transparency, the lack of check and balance within COMELEC, the lack of openness and accountability to the public.

“AES Watch is correct to point out that the vendor of the PCOS machines should not be trusted in conducting the diagnostics for its own products. For how can the public know if there are indeed glitches in the machines? There have already been serious questions on whether automated election fraud was committed? And the public may never truly know the truth, especially if SMARTMATIC-TIM comes in the picture and destroy possible evidence left in the machines,” Ridon said.

The youth solon said that it was very apparent that a “larger force” is behind the “highly-orchestrated move” to keep SMARTMATIC-TIM in control of the automated elections.

“The chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms is warning about the effect of putting COMELEC in a bad light. Yet how can we stand silent if even the most essential questions on the PCOS machines’ integrity are being cast aside?” Ridon asked.

News »

[27 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 80 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has filed a resolution on Tuesday which urged the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to “conduct an inquiry on the use of public funds to fly cabinet members and their staff using Bombardier GL50, an executive private charter plane for their travel from Manila-Tacloban-Manila during the papal visit.”

In House Resolution No. 1848, Ridon said that not only has the Bombardier GL50 “compromised public safety” when it skidded off the runway, it was also an “obscene show of extravagance” on part of the government, especially since public funds were used to hire the plane.

“Congress should invite the Cabinet members who were passengers of the executive private charter plane for them to explain such display of extravagance at the expense of the public,” Ridon said in HR 1848.

On January 17, several Cabinet members accompanied Pope Francis during his visit to Tacloban. The Cabinet members flew to Tacloban using an executive private charter plane, Bombardier GL50 that is reportedly owned by a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation.

Passengers of the private charter plane include Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Secretary Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista and Undersecretary Felizardo Serapio Jr. from the Office of the President (OP), along with eight other staff  members and three crew members.

Thirty minutes after the Pope flew back to Manila, the Bombardier GL50 skidded off the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. According to the findings of the Civil Aviation Authority, the airport’s Runway 18 threshold “were displaced by 638 meters” after the private charter plane was hit by a “strong crosswind that made it roll 50 meters from the grassy portion at the end of the runway.”

The incident disrupted Tacloban airport operations for days.

News »

[27 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 55 views]

As the House plenary continues its marathon deliberation of Resolution of Both House No. 1 (RHB 1) this week, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon took the floor on Monday night to question proposed amendments in the 1987 Constitution which concerns mass media and advertising.

“It is important to highlight that RHB 1 is attempting to amend pertinent portions of the Constitution that affects mass media and advertising, which play an important role in shaping Filipino culture,” Ridon said.

In the plenary hearing on Monday night, Ridon grilled Rep. Rodel Batocabe – the sponsor of the legislation – and reminded him of the intention of the 1986 Constitutional Commission in including restrictions on foreign ownership of mass media and advertising.

“First of all, Item No. 7 of RHB 1 opens the ownership and management of mass media and the advertising industry to legislative revision. We can even go as far as saying that this revision may indeed allow greater if not total foreign control and ownership of mass media and advertising,” Ridon told Batocabe.

The youth legislator told the sponsor that amending paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article XVI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution poses the danger of having a mass media and advertising industry that is fully owned and controlled by foreigners.

Ridon reminded Batocabe that this is exactly the fear of the framers of the Constitution.

“As debated by members of the Constitutional Commission (ConCom), this provision is in recognition of the need to change the orientation of mass media and advertising, which at that time highly valued the Western and urban lifestyle, and consequently, inculcated consumerism and strong urban bias, elitism and undue favor to foreign products,” Ridon said.

He also quoted a portion of the Proceedings of the 1986 ConCom which said, “Mass media and advertising have a very high impact on ‘value orientation’ and our national leadership has embarked on such a crusade – a reorientation of the values of the Filipino people – and media, particularly advertising, have a very important role in the molding of the kind of orientation and national consciousness that people must have. If we cannot liberate ourselves from this kind of control, then we will never get started to what we envision to be a self-reliant and independent country.”

The youth legislator also argued that the reason why a 30% foreign equity limit was placed on media and advertising is because of the argument that these industries are not capital intensive, but “talent intensive.”

“As the ConCom debates point out, we shouldn’t let our local talents be slaves to foreign bosses, just because they had the capital to run a media company. Given the importance of media and advertising in supposedly upholding Filipino values, foreign equity limits were shoved to a minimum—with 10% on TV, 20% on radio and no possible ownership, whatsoever on other forms of broadcast media,” Ridon explained.

“If passed, charter change will twist this principle to grossly favor foreign interests. In effect, foreign entities will be allowed to own more than 30 percent in media and advertising, granting them more opportunities to lure our minds to be more consumerist, materialistic, to favor their products more than our own, and by consequence, shove our sense of patriotism and love of country to the dustbins of history,” Ridon told the House plenary.

The plenary debates on RHB 1 is expected to resume this afternoon, with Ridon again taking the floor to question the amendments to provisions concerning education.

News »

[27 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 92 views]

With reports showing that the deadly clash between elements of the PNP-Special Action Force and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the town of Mamasapano was the result of a plan hatched by top executives in Malacanang, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Tuesday that top government officials should be the first ones to be held accountable.

“There have been reports that the Mamasapano operation was hatched by no less than the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to ‘neutralize’ terrorist forces. However, the tone that Malacanang is adapting towards the resulting bloodbath seemingly gears the blame away from those who masterminded it in the first place,” Ridon said.

“Both Malacanang and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas are quick to point out that it was a ‘mis-encounter’ which was caused by lack of coordination between government forces and the MILF. This statement is condemnable because the national government makes it appear that the loss of lives were just caused by ‘lost command’ at the ground – even if there are reports that this attack has been carefully planned by top officials since 2011,” the legislator explained.

“Right now, the government is whitewashing its prime involvement in the clash to save the necks of big shots like Ochoa, Roxas, and of course the president,” Ridon added.

The youth solon also pointed out that if the Palace is aware of the SAF operation in Mamasapano, it should also be at fault for not coordinating with the MILF Peace Panel or even the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“It is truly a big question that baffles the public: What is the cause of this lack of coordination? Is the government unnecessarily compartmentalizing operations that in effect the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing?”

Ridon also questioned the involvement of US troops in the Mamasapano operations, saying that US intelligence may have in fact prodded the PNP SAF to conduct the operations without coordinating with the AFP or the MILF Peace Panel. “It is no secret that US forces have been pursuing Marwan for years. It may have been Washington’s plan in the first place to use the PNP SAF without informing the AFP so as to minimize conflicts with the ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF,” he said.

“There is really a lot of explaining to do, especially as the clash comes right at the moment when the Bangsamoro Bill is being deliberated. The government should stop trying to insulate top officials from accountability. Lives have been lost on both sides – it is not simply a ‘mis-encounter.’ If reports are correct, it was truly the result of a failure of leadership,” Ridon stressed.

The youth solon also lamented the impact of the Mamasapano clash to the congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro Bill, adding that the incident also exposed several exigencies in the region that have yet to be addressed by the peace negotiations.

“The Mamasapano clash opens our eyes to the fact that the ongoing peace negotiation has yet to fully encompass all concerns in the region, and shows us that we are a long way from fully attaining the Moro people’s demand for genuine self-determination,” Ridon concluded.

News »

[26 Jan 2015 | No Comment | 92 views]

Three lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc filed a resolution on Monday urging the House Committee on Metro Manila Development to “conduct an inquiry on the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCTP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), specifically on the program that involved the transfer of some 490 families in a luxury resort in Batangas during Pope Francis’ five-day visit to the Philippines.

This afternoon, Reps. Terry Ridon (Kabataan Party-list), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers Party-list), and Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party-list) filed House Resolution 1839, which seeks to summon DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman to the House of Representatives to explain the controversy.

In HR 1839, the three lawmakers noted reports that the DSWD transferred 490 homeless families to luxury resort Chateu Royale in Batangas in an attempt to “hide” the poor and street dwellers from the Pope.

Various media outlets have reported that the families were taken off Roxas Boulevard, a major thoroughfare that was passed by the Papal convoy several times during Pope Francis’ visit to the country. The families were brought to Chateau Royale, a beach resort in Nasugbu, Batangas.

According to Sec. Soliman, the DSWD spent at least P4.3 million for the six-day “training.” The cost per participant was around P1,193.50 which covered three meals, two snacks, and other amenities and accommodations.

The legislators noted, however, that the DSWD estimate “is very conservative,” considering that rooms at Chateau Royale cost around P24,000 per night.

“This was not the first time that DSWD made an attempt to cover-up the sprawling homelessness and poverty in the country. During the World Economic Forum in the country last year, some families under the same program were brought to Island Cove Resort in Cavite, again, for a “training,” the solons added.

The legislators also wanted Congress to check how DSWD spends its budget for CCT, saying that the choice of a luxury resort for the implementation of the MCCTP may have violated procurement laws.

“In this resolution, we also would like to again open the debates on the need for the CCT, especially in the light of this controversy which exposed the frivolous manner in which the government implements its anti-poverty programs,” said Rep. Ridon.

The youth solon added that the chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo, has already committed to schedule a hearing on HR 1839 as soon as it gets referred to his committee.