[6 Aug 2014 | Comments Off | 270 views]

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Continued prioritization of debt servicing slammed
 
At the first congressional hearing for the proposed 2015 national budget, a staunch administration critic grilled cabinet members over the new “savings” provisions inserted in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) which essentially legalizes the assailed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Right after the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) headed by Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad presented the macroeconomic assumptions and fiscal parameters of the 2015 national budget, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon proceeded to criticize what he described as “the Executive department’s overt attempt to usurp the …

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[21 Aug 2014 | No Comment | 95 views]

On former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.’s 31st death anniversary, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that it is “sad and frustrating” that the “sitting president is not living up to his father’s legacy.”

“If Sen. Ninoy was alive today, he would have been the first to call out his son’s dictatorial tendencies. It is sad and frustrating that the son is barely living up to the ideals and legacy of the father,” Ridon said.

The youth lawmaker pointed out that Aquino’s recent political moves are more akin to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, rather than Ninoy’s.

“Ninoy fought against the dictatorship through fiery speeches inside and outside Senate. The late senator fired up the Filipino nation’s fighting spirit by exposing the Marcos regime’s excesses and crimes. Yet, more than three decades after his death, here is his son, Noynoy, vainly trying to consolidate power for himself by floating the idea of clipping the Judiciary’s power and lifting term limits,” Ridon said.

“If Ninoy was alive today, he would have been President Noynoy’s staunchest critic. He would have called out Noynoy’s DAP for not only being unconstitutional but also a tool to consolidate power. He would have criticized his son for approving the controversial Cybercrime Law. Ninoy, and even the late president Cory Aquino, would have reprimanded Noynoy for raising the possibility of a second term,” the youth solon added.

Even in terms of promoting human rights, the president is not following the track of his martyred father.

“The president must remember that his very own father was a political prisoner, a victim of human rights violation during the Marcos dictatorship. It is appalling that Ninoy’s own son is not only ignoring the worsening human rights situation in the country, but is even denying the very existence of political prisoners in the Philippines,” the youth solon said.

In past years, the Aquino administration has repeatedly denied that there are political prisoners in the country.

“Up until now, Noynoy has refused to acknowledge that there are hundreds of political prisoners like Maricon Montajes, Guiller Cadano, and Gerald Salonga, who are languishing in jail because of their political views. It is disappointing that Ninoy’s own son acts in a manner more reminiscent of the late dictator than his own father,” Ridon said.

“Ninoy would have been the first to call for Noynoy’s resignation, following the recent developments that revealed the latter’s dictatorial tendencies. Mr. President, there is no more fitting way to honor your father’s death than by, first, granting a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners; second, stop pushing for charter change and the legality of DAP; and lastly, resign from office out of your own volition,” the youth solon called.

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[20 Aug 2014 | No Comment | 61 views]

Various national youth formations announced Wednesday that “sweeping protests” against the pork barrel system and the revival of charter change (cha-cha) attempts will be held in several schools and communities across the country in the last week of August.

In a joint press conference at the House of Representatives, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon and leaders of anti-pork barrel youth group YOUTH ACT NOW announced a series of protests in key cities and universities, particularly in Metro Manila in the coming days.

“The youth, fed up with the systemic corruption that has revived and transmogrified the pork barrel into other forms, will once again take to the streets in the hundreds and thousands to show our resolve to dissolve the pork barrel system and topple an administration that has not only bred and coddled corruption but is now also seeking to remain in power for a longer stretch of time,” YOUTH ACT NOW Spokesperson Victor Villanueva said.

YOUTH ACT NOW, Kabataan Partylist, and several other youth formations announced the following protest activities:

AUG. 22, Friday: #DAPatManagot, #DAPatMagIngay Decentralized Protests

Protest activities against pork barrel and charter change are set from 4pm to 6pm in schools and communities along Intramuros, Mendiola, España, Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, and Vito Cruz and Padre Faura in Manila

AUG. 25: STAND-UP, SIGN UP, ABOLISH DAPork!

By 8am, indoor protests are set in University Belt schools. This will be followed by the main protest activity at Luneta by 9am

AUG. 26: Youth trooping to House of Representatives

As the House Committee on Justice begins the deliberations on the pending impeachment complaints against President Aquino, youth and student groups will march by 10 am to the gates of Congress. The protest will continue well into the afternoon, as students of state schools call for higher budget for public tertiary schools in time for the congressional hearing on the budget of CHED and SUCs.

For his part, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that youth leaders including himself will also be trooping to Cebu City on August 23 for the launch of the People’s Initiative, which is concerned with passing a law that will abolish all forms of pork barrel once and for all.

“In the coming days, youth and students will maximize all avenues for dissent – from the halls of Congress to protests in the streets – to demand not only accountability but for the end of the pork barrel system, and the subsequent termination of the administration that has protected and reared said corrupt system through various means,” Ridon said.YAN logo

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[20 Aug 2014 | No Comment | 58 views]

The last-minute inclusion in the JBC shortlist and immediate appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as new Associate Justice of the Supreme is a blatant attempt of the Aquino administration to again undermine the independence of the Supreme Court, this time from the inside, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.

“Solicitor General Jardeleza’s 11th hour appointment is power play at its peak. President Aquino has unabashedly delayed the appointment of a new SC justice right until his government’s lawyer was included in the JBC shortlist. And in a matter of hours, poof, Aquino appointed Jardeleza as new justice. How can we expect Justice Jardeleza to exercise judicial independence when he practically owes this political appointment to his client, the president?” Ridon said.

“Jardeleza’s appointment will make an irreversible ripple in the high court’s judicial integrity. Remember that Jardeleza himself defended the government’s position in several critical cases, including the Cybercrime Law, the PDAF case, and even DAP and EDCA, both of which are still pending before the high court,” Ridon said.

“Isipin n’yo po, kumbaga ang nangyari ay ‘yung abogado, biglang naging hukom na. Kung dati, s’ya ang nagtatanggol sa nasasakdal, ngayon isa na siya sa magdedesisyon sa kaso,” Ridon explained.

“Even if Jardeleza inhibits in the pending cases where he has direct involvement, the Solicitor General’s presence in the Supreme Court is akin to putting a spy – a mole – inside the SC, a loyal infiltrator who will continue to report to his client and patron,” Ridon said.

“It’s a truly despicable act which reveals the President’s desperation to undermine his self-proclaimed archenemy, the Supreme Court,” Ridon stressed.

“Indeed, Jardeleza’s appointment will add another dimension in the ongoing debacle against the pork barrel system. It’s part of Mr. Aquino’s ploy to consolidate power for himself,” Ridon concluded.

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[20 Aug 2014 | No Comment | 65 views]

Piece-meal consti amendment to open floodgates for politically-motivated revisions

 

The seven-member Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives will go “all out” to block all efforts for charter change (cha-cha) – whether economic or political in nature – especially in light of the president’s expressed desire to lift constitutional term limits and clip the Judiciary’s power, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.

“Whether it be economic or political in nature, we will do whatever we can to block all cha-cha attempts,” the youth solon said, following reports that the Lower House is set to tackle House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 1 filed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte during the plenary session on August 26.

“Since the beginning of the 16th Congress, the Makabayan bloc has consistently opposed renewed efforts to amend the Constitution. We need to do whatever we can to stop the passage of HJR 1, especially as opening the Constitution to amendments will open the floodgates to self-serving revisions such as the lifting of term limits,” Ridon said.

Last year, Ridon and his colleagues in Makabayan have opposed HJR 1, saying that the economic amendments would “destroy the standards and limits set by the Constitution” and would also spell disaster for the Philippine economy.

“HJR 1 poses a double-edged threat: one, it will open new loopholes in the 1987 Constitution that would allow the haphazard revision of economic provisions. Second, the catch-all amendment pushed by the House Speaker will inevitably lead to the bastardization of constitutional standards and limits,” Ridon said.

More recently, the Makabayan bloc and several other members of Congress also opposed the president’s expressed desire to amend the Constitution to pave the way for the lifting of term limits and the clipping of judicial power.

“Constitutional amendment is a matter that will greatly divide the House. Most members of the Minority, and even some members of the Majority, are not keen on opening the 1987 Constitution to piece-meal amendments. I believe that charter change can still be stopped,” Ridon said.

Courting unconstitutionality

Ridon, a lawyer, said that even before deliberations on HJR 1 begins, he and his colleagues will question the constitutionality of the cha-cha through piece-meal legislation.

The lawmaker believes that the amendments sought by House Speaker Belmonte are “vague and overbroad” and would open loopholes that would render Article XVII (Amendments or Revisions) of the 1987 Constitution useless.

“I actually think the amendments are courting unconstitutionality for being overbroad and its potential to demolish the standards and limits set by the Constitution,” Ridon said.

While the Philippine Constitution allows only three ways for charter change – via constituent assembly, constitutional convention, or people’s initiative – the amendments pushed by Belmonte would open a new way in amending the Constitution: piece-meal legislation.

“By inserting the phrase ‘unless otherwise specified by law’ in clauses that set certain limits on foreign ownership of several industries, HJR 1 essentially destroys the standards and limitations set by the 1987 Constitution. If passed, HJR 1 would subject the Constitution to the whims and caprices of the ruling party in Congress,” Ridon explained.

By empowering Congress to revise standards and limits on economic provisions of the Constitution, powerful foreign and domestic lobby groups would also gain the upper hand.

“Passing HJR 1 would favor corrupt politicians who would file any bill at the right price. Belmonte’s amendments essentially subjects the Constitution to the influence of foreign and domestic lobby groups,” Ridon added.

Cha-cha to open floodgates for bastardization of Constitution

“Not only is the current cha-cha attempt courting unconstitutionality, it will also open the floodgates for politically-motivated amendments,” Ridon said.

“Once the deliberations of HJR 1 begins, there is no stopping Malacanang stalwarts to insert provisions amending political matters such as term limits.

“What’s more troubling is if HJR 1 passes, it will set a precedent for the piece-meal amendment of the Constitution. Any lawmaker with vested interest or direct orders from the president could simply file a joint resolution to reduce the Judiciary’s power, for example, or even remove essential portions of the Constitution, like provisions on political dynasties. Opening the floodgates to cha-cha through piece-meal legislation will result to the bastardization of the Constitution,” Ridon explained.

“We cannot let this grand scheme hatched by the president come into fruition. We need to go all out to stop cha-cha. I enjoin my colleagues, both from the Majority and Minority, who believe in the importance of preserving the integrity of the Constitution to cross party lines and collectively halt this disastrous move,” Ridon appealed.

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[18 Aug 2014 | No Comment | 86 views]

Transportation and Communications Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya will be returning to Congress sooner than he expects, with the House of Representatives gearing on investigating not only the August 13 MRT3 mishap but also the possible criminal liabilities and “gross neglect of duty” of operators of the train system, including DOTC, the MRT Corporation (MRTC), and private maintenance contractors.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has filed today a resolution to commence said congressional investigation.

In House Resolution No. 1387, Ridon called on the House Committee on Metro Manila Development to “conduct a thorough investigation, in aid of legislation, of the MRT 3 mishap that injured dozens of passengers and other accidents and service disruptions that make MRT 3 perilous and inefficient and likewise investigate maintenance procedures and services provided by the MRTC and its maintenance contractors for possible criminal liabilities and gross neglect of duty.”

The youth lawmaker stressed that the decrepit state of the MRT3 should be addressed once and for all, and officials involved in its operations be held accountable for the poor maintenance of the train system that has led to multiple incidents, the worst of which transpired last August 13, where dozens were rushed to the hospital after a coach carrying passengers crashed unto the barrier of the Taft station.

“The incident exposed the perennial threat that the beat up state of the MRT 3 poses to half a million Filipinos who ride it every day,” Ridon said in HR 1387.

The lawmaker also noted in HR 1387 that public funds to the tune of billions of pesos is being spent annually to subsidize the MRT3, yet the public still suffers from poor and perilous train service.

Constructed by the government through the DOTC via a Build-Lease-Transfer contract with the MRTC in 1997, the MRT 3 was realized through equities worth US$190 million from MRTC and obtained loans worth US$465 million from local and international commercial banks. The financial loans were granted to MRTC with a strong 15% return of investment (ROI) guarantee from the government of the Philippines.

ROI comes in the form of Equity Rental Payments (ERP). From 2000 to 2013, the government has paid MRTC a total of P35.2 billion (US$ 779 million) in ERP on top off other payments for maintenance, debt guarantee, insurance, and other charges.

For 2015, DOTC asked for a P52.9-billion budget where P6.6 billion will be allotted for MRT 3. The proposed budgetary allocation for MRT 3 will disburse P1.92 billion for “operation and maintenance” and P4.66 billion for “state subsidy” for the MRT 3. In exchange, the DOTC promised fewer service disruptions and “passenger unloading incidents.”

“DOTC as the operator of the MRT 3 and the MRTC and APT Global and former maintenance contractors should be held liable for the poor maintenance of the MRT 3. The MRT 3 as a public transport must uphold the public’s interest for quality, safe, and reliable mass transit system. Congress must therefore act and determine whether parties involved in the operations and functions of the MRT 3 committed criminal liability and neglect of duty,” Ridon said in HR 1387.