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Archive for January 2009

‘Rise above parochial politics’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:32:00 01/30/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Politics

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chief political adviser called on members of the two main parties in the administration coalition to “rise above parochial politics” and heed her call to merge in preparation for the 2010 elections.

On Thursday, Arroyo said the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of the Free Filipino) should merge and “fight side by side” in next year’s general elections, despite the opposition of some of their members.

“Of course, there are some difficulties because of difference[s] between certain personalities, as well as political conflicts at the local level, but these obstacles are not insurmountable,” said Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio.

“What is important is for both Lakas and Kampi to rise above parochial politics as they foreswore to do and look at the bigger picture of national interest,” he said.

Arroyo has appointed Claudio to head a committee that will pursue the merger of Lakas and Kampi.

Claudio is senior deputy secretary general of Lakas.

Arroyo is chairman of Lakas and the founder of Kampi.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002009-01-30T13:15:54+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Fri, 30 Jan 2009 13:15:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm01

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Arroyo spells out recession antidote

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:01:00 01/30/2009

Filed Under: World Financial Crisis, Banking, International Economic Institutions, Economy and Business and Finance, Government

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has proposed three “radical” changes to reverse the global economic downturn.

At the same time, Arroyo warned against a total overhaul of the present economic system, saying it could result in more suffering for the poor.

In a speech before farmers in Palayan City, Arroyo said there should be “fundamental changes” in financial regulations to avoid a repeat of the sub-prime lending crisis in the United States.

“Kailangan ng saligan pagbabago ang global financial regulation. Di ba bumagsak ang ekonomiya dahil bumagsak yung sub prime? [There should be fundamental changes in global financial regulations. Didn’t the economy crash because of the sub-prime crisis?],” she said.

Second, Arroyo said rich nations should not “dictate” the course of the global economy, adding, “Sila nga ang bumabagsak, tayo ay nakatindig pa [They are the ones who crashed, but we are still standing].”

“Ang leksyon dun ay umasa tayo sa ating sariling pondo. Umasa tayo sa ating sariling patakaran. [The lesson there is that we should rely on our own funds. Let us rely on our own regulations],” she said.

Lastly, the President said countries must not close themselves to international trade.

“Huwag nating isarado ang ating pintuan sa isa’t isa sa mundo. Kung di tayo mangangalakal, liliit nang liliit ang bawat ekonomiya, yan ang nangyari nung Great Depression, mas lalong babagsak, pati tayo babagsak. [Let’s not close our doors. If we close trade, the economy will shrink, like what happened in the great depression. We will all go down],” she said.

Arroyo laid out her proposals hours before she left for Davos, Switzerland on Friday evening to attend the World Economic Forum, where she is expected to share the Philippines’ experience in cushioning the blow of the global recession.

Addressing calls to “abolish” the current world economic system, Arroyo said: “Lives are at stake. It’s arrogant to think that we can wipe the slate clean for the common good if large segments of our population are to suffer in the meantime.”

“Before we implement radical change, we must be sure that we don’t inflict more damage, or neglect the hardships of those most hurt by the global downturn,” she said.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002009-01-30T05:36:07+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Fri, 30 Jan 2009 05:36:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Lakas has enough ‘winnable’ bets

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De Castro among potential standard bearers

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:37:00 01/29/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Politics

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga — The Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) has enough “winnable” candidates in its stable of potential presidential bets, including Vice President Noli De Castro, the spokesman for the administration party said Thursday.

Although an independent, De Castro is “part of us [Lakas],” having been President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s running mate in 2004, said Lakas vice president for Mindanao and party spokesman Prospero Pichay.

The Lakas executive committee met here to map out the party’s strategy for next year’s elections.

Arroyo ordered the creation of a committee that would pursue the merger between Lakas and the party she founded, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of the Free Filipino), and set the criteria for choosing the administration coalition’s candidates.

Pichay said that, initially, Lakas would require its standard bearer to be “sensitive to the needs of the people,” abide by government’s economic policies, and be “winnable.”

But he added that Lakas would support presidential candidates from other parties if the administration coalition decides to do so.

“Kung mapapagkasunduan, bakit hindi? [If it can be agreed upon, why not?]. But at the moment we have enough presidentiables [sic, presidential candidates] in our party and, I think, winnable ones,” he said.

Asked who the “winnable” candidates were, Pichay replied: “Noli de Castro ran under our party. He has not officially joined our party but he is part of us. He’s actually ahead in the surveys.”

Pichay said Lakas has also coalesced with the Liberal party faction led by Environment Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza, and is “open” to a coalition with the Nacionalista Party headed by Senator Manuel Villar, who has announced his intention to seek the presidency.

But Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando is the only Lakas member who has signified his intention to run for president and seek the party’s nomination.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, meanwhile, said he could not confirm a Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of report that a faction of the Lakas wants Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno to be standard bearer.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002009-01-29T12:13:46+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Thu, 29 Jan 2009 12:13:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm01

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RP economy grew 4.6% in 2008

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By Joel Guinto
Agence France-Presse, Reuters,
First Posted 10:20:00 01/29/2009

Filed Under: Economic Indicators, World Financial Crisis, Economy and Business and Finance

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE3) The Philippine economy grew by 4.6 percent in 2008, down from a 30-year high of 7.2 percent the previous year, the government said Thursday.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the last quarter of the year was 4.5 percent, above market expectations.

The government had said it expected growth of 3.6-4.4 percent in the fourth quarter from a year before. It had expected the financial crisis to depress 2008 growth to between 4.2-4.5 percent.

The government also Thursday said it had revised growth in the third quarter to an annual 5.0 percent against the original 4.6 percent reported in November.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded the stronger-than-expected growth figures.

“Two-thirds of the world is in recession but we should all be proud that our country is growing at 6.0 percent GNP (gross national product) and 4.6 percent GDP (gross domestic product) in 2008. Congratulations,” she said in a speech during a Lakas party meeting at Clark Field, Pampanga.

“We meet at a crucial moment in history. The global financial turmoil has spread and jeopardized the well-being of people across the globe,” she said.
Looking ahead, the government said its 3.7 to 4.7 percent economic growth target this year was a “welcome challenge,” and the economy would likely weather the impact of the global financial crisis.

“As the government implements fiscal and monetary policy to mitigate the impact of the crisis, our economy is expected to remain resilient and prepared for the eventual economic rebound,” Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto told reporters.

“It’s a welcome challenge,” Recto said of the growth target.

He said construction will be the key driver of growth.

“As the government implements fiscal and monetary policy to mitigate the impact of the crisis, our economy is expected to remain resilient and prepared for the eventual economic rebound,” Recto said after the release of the data.

Vincent Tien You Tsui, economist at Standard Chartered Bank, said that although the economy slowed in the fourth quarter, and may slow further in 2009, the Philippines could escape outright recession.

“Overall, the Philippines will be better insulated from the collapse of external demand compared with other Asian economies” as exports account for just 32 percent of GDP.

Luz Lorenzo, an economist and market strategist at ATR-KimEng Securities, believes the economy got a strong boost from private consumption because of lower commodity prices and increased government spending.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002009-01-29T08:13:00+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Thu, 29 Jan 2009 08:13:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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‘Fight side by side in 2010’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:13:00 01/29/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Politics

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga – (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo pushed for the merger between the two major parties in the administration coalition, saying they should “fight side by side in 2010.”

Speaking at the National Executive Committee Meeting of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats here Thursday, Arroyo ordered the creation of a National Consolidation and Unification Committee to be chaired by her political adviser Gabriel Claudio to pursue the merger between Lakas and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Partner of the Free Filipino, Kampi) and alliances with other political parties that would be “in the interest of the administration coalition.”

The same committee will also set the criteria and mechanism for choosing the coalition’s bets for next year’s general elections.

“The unification and merger of Lakas and Kampi must now proceed in earnest and with deliberate speed,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo said merging the two parties would consolidate support for government programs to keep the economy afloat amid the global recession.

“It will also ensure that we fight side by side in 2010… Even as we strengthen our ranks, let us also commit ourselves to the holding of orderly and credible elections in 2010, principally ensuring the successful automation of our electoral process,” she said.

In an interview with reporters during a break from the caucus, Claudio said the unification committee hoped to finish the merger in three months.

“I have every hope and expectation that all leaders and members of both parties will listen intently to what the President says on this matter. It’s not only a matter of direction or order coming from the chairman of the coalition. There is political logic in being able to conclude the merger of Lakas and Kampi,” he said.

When the two parties merge, they will hold 65 to 70 percent of all incumbent positions, said Claudio, senior deputy secretary general of Lakas.

Claudio also maintained that Lakas would be the surviving entity after the merger, as agreed upon when Arroyo first called for Lakas and Kampi to unite in early 2008, as she consolidated support for her administration in the wake of bribery allegations surrounding the botched $329-million national broadband network project.

Claudio added that the Commission on Elections has recognized Lakas as the dominant majority party.

Among those present in the meeting were former president Fidel Ramos, Lakas chairman emeritus and Speaker Prospero Nograles, Lakas party president.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002009-01-29T07:36:49+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Thu, 29 Jan 2009 07:36:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Arroyo orders review ARMM law

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:04:00 01/29/2009

Filed Under: Laws, Local authorities, Politics, Agreement (general)

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the creation of a committee that will review and recommend amendments to a law that provides for the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as part of efforts to move the stalled peace negotiations with Moro rebels.

Amending Republic Act 9054, which strengthens and expands Republic Act 6734, or the Organic Act for the ARMM, will be a “very good alternative” to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

The MoA-AD, which was crafted by government and MILF peace negotiators, was never signed. It would have paved the way for the expansion of the ARMM into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Arroyo issued Executive Order 777 last January 19 ordering the creation of a National Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to “formulate and recommend to the President within six months from the issuance of this [the] Executive Order, a package of amendments to RA 9054, that will serve the basis for the crafting of a new organic act that is reflective of the Moro interest.”

According to the order, which was signed last January 19, but was released to reporters late Wednesday, the PrepCom was also tasked to “conduct dialogues and consultations with various stakeholders to solicit their views and recommendations on the proposed amendments to the organic act.”

The President acknowledged in the order that “there is a need to amend RA 9054 to achieve full autonomy in cognizance of the Filipino Muslim’s aspirations for self-determination.”

Republic Act 9054 was an offshoot of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has since taken charge of the ARMM, said Ermita, who was among those who negotiated the peace accord with the MNLF.

The more radical MILF broke away from the MNLF after it struck a deal with government.

Peace talks ground to a halt after negotiators failed to sign the MoA-AD in early August 2008, after questions were raised on its constitutionality. Days later, MILF forces raided civilian communities in the provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

Referring to the review of RA 9054, in relation to the MoA-AD, Ermita said: “That could very well be a very good alternative. The negotiators will not resume the negotiations in a vacuum. There is something for them to look at.”

Ermita added that amending RA 9054 could be “more feasible” than amending the Constitution, as implied in the MoA-AD.

“It can make the situation more feasible. And we are not negotiating in a vacuum. There is reference material by law existing in this RA 9054. That is very important, ” he said.

The order said the PrepCom would have 14 members, including one representative each from the ARMM regional government, the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Regional Legislative Assembly, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, the Lumad community, and the Christian community, and two representatives each from the academe and civil society.

The President will appoint the chairman of the PrepCom upon the recommendation of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, whose office will serve as the secretariat for the review body, according to the order.

Arroyo’s new peace adviser, former national police chief Avelino Razon Jr., will assume office on February 1, taking over from incoming Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Arroyo also directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release P20 million from the President’s Contingent Fund for the PrepCom.

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Thu+00:002009-01-29T07:35:30+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Thu, 29 Jan 2009 07:35:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Misuari, actor welcome as negotiators

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:43:00 01/28/2009

Filed Under: Kidnapping, Red cross kidnapping, Crime

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang welcomed proposals for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari and movie actor Robin Padilla to help negotiate for the release of a three-man International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team in Sulu.

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. would evaluate Misuari’s proposal for him to negotiate with the abductors, said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita Wednesday.

“I will not be surprised if Chairman Misuari would succeed,” Ermita said, adding Sulu folk have high regard for Misuari, currently being tried but out of jail on bail for leading a failed rebellion against the government in 2001.

Padilla, a popular movie and TV action star who converted to Islam, is in Zamboanga City with MNLF members to negotiate for the release of the ICRC team, according to a newspaper report.

“I’m sure Robin will be very, very helpful. I hope he plunges into it,” Ermita said.

Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped while on a humanitarian mission in Sulu on January 15.

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Wed+00:002009-01-28T14:30:05+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Wed, 28 Jan 2009 14:30:05 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm01

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Palace: Danga to keep ballots secure

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:35:00 01/28/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Government, Hello Garci

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is confident retired Navy vice admiral Tirso Danga, who was linked to the so-called “Hello Garci” scandal, can secure the printing of ballots and other government documents when he is named director of the National Printing Office (NPO).

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he has not seen the appointment papers of Danga but said he would be “very glad” if the retired Navy officer gets the post because there are “no questions” on his qualifications.

With his intensive background in intelligence work, Ermita said Danga could set up measures at the NPO to “ensure [the] security” of the printing of government documents, especially ballots.

“Danga, by the nature of his [stint] in the military, especially having retired as an intelligence officer, definitely he is very, very qualified for that job,” Ermita said.

“It is very important that you place people there who can safeguard the printing of official government stationery, ballots [and] receipts so that the government would get a fair return on the amount of money they spent for the printing,” he added.

Danga was chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) during the 2004 elections, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s phone conversations with then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano were allegedly wiretapped by military agents.

The purported wiretaps of Arroyo and Garcillano allegedly discussing plans to rig the vote with the help of military generals were leaked in June 2005.

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Wed+00:002009-01-28T10:31:31+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Wed, 28 Jan 2009 10:31:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Arroyo to push Lakas-Kampi merger–exec

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:21:00 01/28/2009

Filed Under: Politics, Elections, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will press for a merger between two major political parties in the administration coalition to ensure victory in the May 2010 elections, her political adviser said Wednesday.

The President will make the pitch for a merger between the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Partner of the Free Filipino, Kampi) when she addresses an executive committee meeting of Lakas in her home province of Pampanga on Thursday, Secretary Gabriel Claudio said.

Arroyo founded Kampi in 1998, when she initially intended to run for President, but slid down to vice president in support of then Lakas presidential candidate Jose de Venecia Jr. She is also the chairman emeritus of Lakas, which served as the vehicle for the 1992 election victory of former president Fidel Ramos.

“She is also expected to give broad directions for strengthening the party in the context of the proposed merger with Kampi, in preparation for the 2010 elections,” Claudio said in a text message.

“The administration’s victory can be better ensured by a unified political organization, fielding and supporting the same line-up of candidates at all levels,” he added.

Arroyo first called for a merger between Lakas and Kampi in early 2008, as she moved to consolidate support for her in the wake of allegations that she and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo benefited from the alleged overprice of the government’s $329-million contract for the botched national broadband network project.

But both sides were cool to the proposal and the merger failed to move forward. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the Lakas secretary-general, said that the merger was “on hold” due to infighting at Kampi.

Aside from the merger with Kampi, the Lakas executive committee will also discuss “exploring alliances with other parties” and mechanisms for the selection of candidates, said Claudio, also senior deputy secretary-general of the party.

Last week, Ramos said the administration coalition was looking at six or seven possible presidential contenders.

Asked about Ramos’ statement, Claudio said: “I’d rather not mention names. Among the things to be discussed tomorrow [Thursday] is whether the presidential candidate of the party has to be a Lakas member or not.”

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Wed+00:002009-01-28T10:30:28+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Wed, 28 Jan 2009 10:30:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Palace backs First Gentleman vs critics

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:16:00 01/27/2009

Filed Under: Congress, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s critics should come up with something more than “indirect implications” to link him to alleged corruption in government, a spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Tuesday.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza issued the statement after Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned Mr. Arroyo’s links with Eduardo de Luna, president of E.C. De Luna Construction, one of the firms blacklisted by the World Bank for alleged corruption.

Mr. Arroyo’s lawyer also came to his defense, saying his client “does not interfere and will never interfere” in government transactions.

“We hope people who unduly malign the First Gentleman come up with something more than indirect implications. The First Gentleman, just like any other private citizen, deserves fair treatment,” Dureza told a news conference at the Palace.

“They have been dragging the name of the First Gentleman many times over in the past but up to now, there is no iota of evidence that had been brought to court,” he said.

Mr. Arroyo’s lawyer, Ruy Rundain, told reporters in Malacañang: “As we have been saying right from the start, the First Gentleman does not interfere and will never interfere in government matters and transactions.”

The First Gentleman wants to devote his time to charity work and “it is his sincere hope that he be left alone in these endeavors,” Rondain added.

This is not the first time Mr. Arroyo has been accused of trying to interfere in a government contract.

He was earlier linked to the alleged bribery and overpricing surrounding the botched $329-million national broadband network project with China’s ZTE Corp.

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Tue+00:002009-01-27T14:02:20+00:00+00:0001b+00:00Tue, 27 Jan 2009 14:02:20 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm01

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