[15 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 122 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.

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[19 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 84 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Friday that the Aquino administration’s failure to secure Philippine custody over slay suspect Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton can be considered as “betrayal of public trust,” an impeachable offense under the 1987 Constitution.

“The Filipino people expects the President to exhaust all measures to transfer custody over Pemberton to Philippine authorities. Yet his cabinet’s failure to even appeal Washington’s decision to keep the suspect under US custody reeks of betrayal of public trust,” Ridon said.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it will not appeal Washington’s refusal to transfer custody over Pemberton to the Philippines, saying that under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the US has the right to retain custody.

Pemberton was ordered arrested on murder charges last Tuesday for the brutal slay of Filipina Jennifer Laude last October 11.

“The Aquino administration’s feeble-hearted response to the Pemberton case only highlight how the Philippines remains a neocolony of the US, a vassal state whose leaders are ready to surrender sovereignty to Washington at any given moment,” Ridon said.

“The Filipino people, especially the Laude family, do not deserve a treasonous presidency that cannot even demand custody over a foreign murder suspect,” he stressed.

The lawmaker added that a congressional review of the VFA is not enough.

“The situation we find ourselves in – a situation in which we hold a suspect in a Philippine detention facility yet we cannot decide on his activities without first consulting the US – is a result of VFA’s lopsided provisions. For decades, the VFA has made a mockery of Philippine laws, and it’s time that we put a stop to all this. What we need is not a review of the VFA, but its abrogation,” Ridon said.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker said that the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) should not commute the murder charges against Pemberton to homicide.

Earlier today, Pemberton appeared before the Olongapo RTC to file a motion seeking for the reduction of his murder rap to homicide.

“The evidence presented by the Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office is strong. The Olongapo RTC should not add insult to the injury by commuting the charges to homicide,” Ridon said.

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[17 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 155 views]

A lawmaker slammed US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Wednesday for the latter’s insistence that slay suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton remain under Washington’s custody despite the filing of murder raps.

“Mr. Goldberg’s recalcitrant stance on retaining Pemberton’s custody sends a grim and powerful message to Filipinos – that Washington can twist Manila’s arm over anything, even in cases of cold-blooded murder,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Earlier today, Goldberg told the media that even if Philippine authorities have already requested custody over Pemberton, the US “under the VFA can decide, as we will, to retain custody throughout the judicial process.”

“The escalating issue of Pemberton’s custody will be a litmus test for the Aquino administration and its priorities. If Aquino fails to transfer Pemberton’s custody over Philippine officials, he will again prove to be nothing but Washington’s puppet, a powerless figurehead who can’t even fight for his own people’s rights” Ridon stressed.

“This issue doesn’t stop with the filing of murder charges against Pemberton. Jennifer Laude will only attain justice if Pemberton is prosecuted under Philippine laws, and be incarcerated on Philippine soil,” the lawmaker added.

Ridon, meanwhile, warned that public outrage will escalate if Pemberton is given “special treatment” during the course of the court proceedings.

“May mga balita na pwedeng ilipat si Private Pemberton sa Olongapo City Jail o kaya sa Bilibid mismo. Pero dapat sa regular na kulungan siya ikulong. Walang aircon, walang jacuzzi,” Ridon said.

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[17 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 157 views]

A progressive lawmaker hit the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Wednesday for choosing Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. to be the lone bidder for the contract to supply direct recording electronics (DRE) machines for the 2016 polls.

“There are still unresolved anomalies with regard to the PCOS machines used in past elections. Instead of awarding another contract to Smartmatic-TIM, COMELEC should have blacklisted the joint venture,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

COMELEC has earlier announced through its Bids and Awards Committee that Smartmatic-TIM is the only supplier that passed the first stage of the bidding procedures on eligibility.

“COMELEC cannot simply discount the continuing objections of technical experts led by AES Watch on the competency of the machines previously supplied by Smartmatic to ensure the sanctity of the ballot,” Ridon said.

The legislator added that awarding the DRE machines contract to Smartmatic-TIM will “seriously affect the credibility of the upcoming presidential elections.”

“How can the Filipino people again put its trust on the automated elections if COMELEC is again procuring the machines from an anomalous supplier?” he asked.

“Even COMELEC knows that Smartmatic-TIM should be blacklisted. The only thing preventing them from doing so is the fact that such move will confirm reports of election rigging in past automated polls,” Ridon said.

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[15 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 140 views]

With the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office finding probable cause to file murder raps against US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for killing Jennifer Laude, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that the suspect must now be immediately transferred to Philippine custody and in a regular jail.

In a 23-page resolution issued Monday, the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office recommended the filing of murder charges, after finding “aggravating qualifying circumstances” in Laude’s death, including treachery, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty.

“With Pemberton now facing murder charges, there is truly no reason to keep him in a special facility. We also have to note that he is still — for all intents and purposes — under US custody,” Ridon said.

“If Washington and Manila still insists on keeping Pemberton in a special detention facility even after conclusive evidence revealed his criminal acts, it will only show lopsided our justice system is.”

“The Aquino administration should not let Pemberton remain under US custody. It is the obligation of the government, especially the president, to ensure that justice will be served for Ms. Laude’s death, and part of that obligation is to ensure Pemberton’s transfer to a regular jail facility under Philippine custody,” Ridon added.

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[15 Dec 2014 | No Comment | 147 views]

A party-list solon representing the youth sector has called on the House Committee on Social Services on Monday to conduct an onsite investigation of bunkhouses built for victims of Typhoon Yolanda that were easily destroyed by the recent Typhoon Ruby.

In House Resolution No. 1763, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon called on the Lower House to “look into bunkhouses built for victims of Typhoon Yolanda that were damaged or destroyed after the onslaught of Typhoon Ruby, to determine possible liabilities for substandard construction that compromised the safety and welfare of the survivors.”

The lawmaker also called for a probe on the slow-paced construction of permanent housing in Yolanda-affected areas.

Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit) was recorded as the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year. With maximum winds of up to to 195 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness at 220 kph, it barrelled through Eastern Visayas, making landfall in areas that were previously devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

Ruby left hundreds of bunkhouses built for victims Typhoon Yolanda roofless, compelling residents to use recycled tarpaulins as makeshift roofing. Some units were even totally destroyed, making them unfit for residence.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte has earlier explained that the bunkhouses were built only for temporary use, or until such time that permanent housing will be built, and could only withstand winds of up to 150 kph.

“The flimsiness of the bunkhouses can be proof that there is truth to the issue of corruption and substandard construction that were once raised at the onset of reconstruction efforts,” Ridon said.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, DPWH built hundreds of bunkhouses as temporary shelter to thousands of residents in Tacloban City and in some areas in Samar province. However, issues of substandard quality and overpricing have surrounding the rebuilding efforts since it began.

In HR 1763, Ridon noted that there has been a total of P13.5 billion appropriated for the construction of 46,129 permanent housing units for Yolanda-devastated areas. However, as of December 2014, only 1,595 permanent housing units were constructed.

The government aims to construct a total of 205,218 permanent housing, but it only targets 5,000 units by March 2015 despite the availability of funds. More houses are expected to be constructed with the approval of the P22.4 supplemental budget where P7.9 billion will be allocated for the construction of permanent housing.

“The slow-paced construction is clearly not commensurate with the massive amount of funds being poured in to provide permanent housing to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. An onsite investigation should clearly be done, for us to assess what’s really happening on the ground. Congress just cannot simply appropriate more and more funds even if pertinent issues such as overpricing and substandard build quality remain unresolved,” Ridon said.