[27 Sep 2014 | Comments Off | 273 views]

As the House of Representatives passes the P2.6 trillion national budget on second reading, members of the Majority Coalition will go on holiday in the next weeks, assured that a budget laden with hidden pork, lump sums, and back alleys for realignment of funds has been secured.

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[24 Oct 2014 | No Comment | 85 views]

Alarmed over the reported killing of another transgender woman in Quezon province just days after the death of Jennifer Laude allegedly in the hands of a US military serviceman, a party-list group representing the youth announced Friday that it will be filing a resolution next week to prompt the Lower House to conduct hearings in aid of legislating a landmark law against hate crimes.

“We are deeply saddened and enraged by the news that another transgender woman has been killed in an apparent hate-motivated crime in Tayabas, Quezon. The proliferation of hate-motivated crimes against vulnerable sectors especially members of the LGBT community should prompt Congress to pass a law that will accord special protection for them,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

The lawmaker disclosed that Kabataan Partylist has just concluded initial consultations on hate crime legislation with several cause-oriented groups including LGBT organization Kapederasyon.

“Based on the results of the consultations, our next move will be to file a resolution in aid of legislation next week to begin the drafting of the Anti-Hate Crime Bill. We want to be very careful in crafting each and every provision in the proposed law, and we want every concerned sector to be involved in the legislative process – that is why we plan to file a resolution first, rather than go ahead and file the bill immediately,” Ridon explained.

The legislator noted how the government has neglected hate crimes in past years. “The lack of basic figures and statistics is telling. Even data on hate crimes is not updated. The best data we have is from the Philippine Hate Crime Watch that has recorded 157 cases of hate crimes against members of the LGBT from 1996 to 2011,” he noted.

Protect vulnerable sectors

Ridon said that the proposed Anti-Hate Crime legislation will cover crimes committed against a person on the basis of his/her sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, and political beliefs, among others.

“In crafting an Anti-Hate Crime Law, we need to ensure that all vulnerable sectors are protected, and that their specific needs are taken into consideration,” Ridon said, explaining that the LGBT, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable sectors should all be covered by the Anti-Hate Crime Bill.

While details of the proposed bill will be further fleshed out in the upcoming the congressional hearing, Ridon said that the Anti-Hate Crime Law will surely contain provisions that “will make crimes committed on the basis of protected characteristics an aggravating circumstance in criminal cases.”

“At the minimum, we would like to amend the Revised Penal Code to provide for one-degree higher penalties for hate crimes,” Ridon said.

The legislator added that provisions on education, welfare and protection of vulnerable sectors especially the LGBT community will be included.

“Based on the initial consultations, there is also a need for specific provisions on the role of all branches of government, including LGUs, in the promotion of rights and protection of vulnerable sectors especially the LGBT community,” Ridon said.

“The bill we are envisioning is a comprehensive and holistic bill that should serve not only to protect individuals from hate crimes but also ensure that the government will be made responsible in looking after their welfare,” the legislator stressed.

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[24 Oct 2014 | No Comment | 73 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Friday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should recommend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), instead of the planned creation of new implementing rules and regulations for the treaty.

The lawmaker was referring to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s announcement that the DOJ is currently drafting new implementing guidelines to clarify on the issue of custody under the VFA, following the controversy over the killing of 26-year old Jennifer Laude allegedly in the hands of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.

“The problem with drafting new implementing guidelines is that it gives Washington the opportunity to sneak in new provisions and interpretations that are favorable for them. We need to emphasize the fact that any changes in the VFA need to be approved by both parties. The DOJ drafting the new IRR doesn’t necessarily mean that the US will not have any hand in the crafting of the new guidelines,” Ridon said.

“What’s more dangerous in Secretary De Lima’s proposal is that it opens an opportunity for the US to further undermine our sovereignty through the expansion of VFA’s coverage. That is why we are calling on Secretary De Lima to recommend the termination – and not the review and expansion – of the VFA,” Ridon explained.

The lawmaker said that merely drafting new guidelines on custody of US military servicemen involved in criminal offenses “will not solve the manifold faults of the VFA.”

“Concocting new implementing rules will not suffice to address fundamental flaws in the text of the agreement itself. It’s like saying that we can fix a flawed law by revising its IRR. No, it doesn’t work that way,” the legislator said.

Ridon reminded De Lima that aside from the provisions on custody of accused US servicemen, there are several other contentious provisions in the 15-year old VFA, including:

  • Vague definitions for terms such as “activities” and “temporary visit” in Article I of the VFA, which gave the US military unlimited access to the Philippines for any “activity” they would like to do at any time they want to do it. The VFA is also silent on who among Philippine government officials will approve such “activities.”
  • The lack of a provision that limits the number of American troops that can enter the country within a period of time.
  • The granting of special privileges to US military servicemen under Articles III, IV, VII, and VIII. These privileges include exemption from laws and regulations on passport and visa, driver’s license, vehicle registration, and payment of custom duties and taxes. It should be noted that not even the highest officials of the AFP are given such privileges. Diplomats visiting the US are also not afforded such.
  • The contentious rules on criminal jurisdiction under Article V, which includes the issue of custody and the one-year period to finish criminal proceedings. If a year has lapsed after the start of the trial, the US no longer has the duty to present the accused US serviceman in court. Also, the VFA prohibits the trial of its servicemen in the Sharia’h court in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, despite the fact that US military operations are also conducted in said areas.
  • The unfair provision on claims for damages under Article VI, which states that both countries voluntarily waive their right to claim damages caused by “activities” under the VFA. This is despite the fact that US soldiers use heavy ammunition during military exercises conducted In Philippine territory.
  • The lack of a provision prohibiting the entry of nuclear arms. In several instances, US warships known for carrying nuclear arms have conducted routine port calls in Philippine territory.

“Secretary De Lima and the US embassy might think that the Filipino people have forgotten how unequal and how atrocious the provisions of the VFA are. They are wrong. Clearly, the VFA undermines Philippine sovereignty and in no instance should it be expanded. Now, more than ever, the Philippine government must cast aside its mendicant foreign policy and decisively recommend the termination of the VFA. Anything short of this demand should be viewed as an unpatriotic and traitorous act,” Ridon concluded.

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[23 Oct 2014 | No Comment | 100 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon slammed President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday for the latter’s “callous, insensitive, and utterly illogical remarks” in connection with the death of Jennifer Laude.

Ridon was referring to the president’s response to the question of why he has not attended Laude’s wake.

“In general, I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know…I’m not comfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me,” Aquino told reporters Wednesday.

“This is the most callous and insensitive remark that any president could give. Instead of offering condolences to the Laude family, just as any self-respecting statesman would do, Aquino decided to blurt out these obtuse statements,” Ridon said.

“Apparently, Aquino is not content with brandishing his administration’s powerlessness in failing to assert for Private Pemberton’s custody, he even has the gall to insult the family of the victim. This is a very low blow, Mr. President – an act unbecoming of any public official,” the legislator added.

“First of all, as president, don’t tell us that you haven’t been to hundreds of wakes of people you barely know. It is a fact, for example, that he attended the wake of the soldiers who fought in the Zamboanga siege. Did we hear any such ridiculous statement from the president back then? No. This just highlights Aquino’s double standards.

“Besides, whatever does the president mean when he says, ‘I’m not comfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me’? That just sounded like the rant of a privileged haciendero teenager.”

Ridon added that Aquino’s “obtuse remarks” further “highlight the fact that he is nothing but Washington’s lackey.”

“The first time he opened his mouth on the issue, he defended the VFA. Now, he even has the gall to insult the Laude family. He’s a US lapdog – and an insensitive one at that.”

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[23 Oct 2014 | No Comment | 87 views]

Two prominent sports personalities-turned-lawmakers have thrown their support to a bill which seeks to expand incentives for national athletes winning in international competitions.

Boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, and Philippine Basketball Association coach and Pampanga Rep. Joseller “Yeng” Guaio recently signed as co-author to House Bill No. 4915, a bill authored by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9064 or the “Sports Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001” to expand cash incentives for national athletes and include more international competitions in the coverage of the law.

With the support of the two legislators, Ridon is optimistic that the proposed amendment to the Sports Incentive Act will pass into law.

“We are thankful that the likes of Rep. Pacquiao and Rep. Guiao are supportive of our effort to expand incentives for our athletes. We believe that the Congress leadership will take cognizance of this bill and let it pass into law at the soonest,” he said.

In the explanatory note of HB 4915, Ridon explained that the proposed bill “aims to correct the error of the 11th Congress” in drafting RA 9064, which strictly defined international competitions thus barring national athletes competing in new sporting events “from enjoying the benefits that they so deserve.”

“RA 9064 grants cash and other non-monetary benefits and incentives to national athletes and their coaches. However, the 13-year old law has no provision to adjust its scope to cover new sports competitions,” Ridon said.

“Such limit resulted in the recent case of world-class Filipino archer Gabriel Luis Moreno, who bagged the nation’s first gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China last August 24. Since the Youth Olympic Games was only introduced in 2010, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) sadly announced that Moreno is not entitled to any cash incentive,” the legislator explained.

Sixteen-year old Moreno made history when he won the gold medal in the mixed team event in archery in the recently-concluded Youth Olympics in China. Under RA 9064, Olympic gold medalists are entitled to a P5-million cash incentive. However, the PSC announced that Moreno’s win is not covered by the said law.

HB 4915 seeks to amend the definition of “international competitions” to allow the inclusion of newly-established international sports events like the Youth Olympics in the coverage of the Sports Incentives Law. The proposed bill also contains a provision allowing for the retroactive application of the law’s revisions, thus ensuring that medalists like Moreno will be covered once the amendments are passed into law.

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[22 Oct 2014 | No Comment | 124 views]

While the transfer of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton to a detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo this morning is a “positive development” in the search for justice for slain Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude, a lawmaker insisted that Philippine authorities should still demand for full custody of the suspect.

At 8:45 a.m. today, Pemberton was transferred to Camp Aguinaldo via helicopter.

AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. announced in a press conference that Washington and Manila will have “joint custody” over Pemberton.

“Transferring Pemberton to a Philippine detention facility is the result of the mounting public pressure for the suspect’s custody. While it is indeed a positive development, Philippine authorities must still demand for full custody,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker explained that under the so-called joint custody, Philippine authorities may still need to consult Washington on “each and every move they will make with regard to Pemberton’s case.” “Besides, joint custody is not stated even in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Putting Pemberton in this grey area is akin to not granting custody over Pemberton to Philippine authorities at all,” Ridon said.

Having joint custody will still not help expedite the criminal investigation for the slay case, Ridon continued. “The Aquino administration must still demand for clear, unequivocal surrender of Pemberton’s custody to the Philippines,” he stressed.

The lawmaker, meanwhile, called on the AFP not give Pemberton “special treatment.” The lawmaker questioned why Pemberton is in a separate detention facility equipped with air conditioning.

“The AFP must not treat Pemberton like a VIP. After all, he’s not a distinguished visitor – he is the suspect in a heinous crime,” Ridon said.

The lawmaker maintained that the Pemberton case is enough justification for the abrogation of the VFA.

“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,” Ridon concluded.