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Ruling backed, assailed; there’s no Constitutional crisis, solons assure

By ALFRED GABOT | Executive Editor

 

(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

MANILA — In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court on May 11 voted to nullify the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for being unqualified due to her failure to submit a complete set of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth to the Judicial and Bar Council when she applied for the post of chief justice in 2012.

 

Sereno, who was given 15 days upon receipt of the decision to file a motion for reconsideration, is the first Chief Justice to be removed from office through quo warranto proceedings.

 

"The petition for quo warranto is granted, respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is found disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice. Accordingly, respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is ousted and excluded therefrom," the High Tribunal's decision stated.                                                                                                                                                                 

With the decision, senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who voted against the ouster of Sereno but acknowledged her “misdeeds,” will continue to be acting Chief Justice until a replacement is appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

 

The decision prompted the House of Representatives Committee on Justice to hold in abeyance its final consideration and endorsement to the plenary session of the impeachment proceedings against Sereno. Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, said it will await for the finality of the decision before making its recommendation. 

 

Malacanang called on the public to respect the decision, as the Supreme Court is a co-equal branch of the government.

 

“The SC is the final arbiter of the law. The high court has spoken. Let us respect its decision granting the quo warranto petition as the proper remedy and the quo warranto petition ruling against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said even as some Senators and other leaders questioned the High Court’s decision.

 

Some senators and legal experts said the decision could trigger a constitutional crisis but this has been played down with the seeming acceptance by the public of the decision. Even judges and officials and other officials of the Supreme Court and other courts led by Philippine Judges Association (PJA) president Judge Felix Reyes and SC Employees Association (SCEA) president Erwin Ocson had joined the calls for Sereno to resign.

 

Both PJA and SCEA had earlier issued a joint manifesto calling for the resignation of Sereno "to give the entire judiciary the opportunity to move forward and get back to order."   

 

Deans and professors representing various law schools in the country had pushed for Sereno’s trial at the Senate as impeachment court.

 

Sereno, who denied up to the end any transgression of laws, had shrugged off the calls for her resignation, stressing that such gesture is an act of cowardice.

 

Walang katuturan yang resignation na yanYan ay para sa mga duwag. Kailangan natin sa isang bayan ng may magigiting na bayani, hindi isa kundi milyon milyong bayani (The resignation has no sense. That’s only for cowards. We need to have brave heroes, not just one, but millions of them),” Sereno had said.

 

President Duterte said he will have to wait for a short list of candidates for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post before he could select a replacement for the ousted top magistrate.

 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President will follow the process of waiting for a shortlist of candidates from the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) before appointing a new one to fill Sereno’s vacated post.

 

Aside from Sereno, Roque said that another post will also be vacated by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., who will be retiring on August 8.

 

“The JBC will have to submit a short list for the candidates of Chief Justice, as well as another seat for the Supreme Court ‘no. Bukod pa po doon sa seat na iba-vacate po ni (This will be aside from the seat which will be vacated by) Justice Velasco, who will be retiring,” Roque said.

 

Velasco was among those who voted against the quo warranto petition against Sereno.

 

According to reports, magistrates applying for Velasco's post are Court of Appeals Justices Jose Reyes, Rosmari Declaro-Carandang, Ramon Bato, Ramon Hernando, Ramon Garcia, Oscar Badelles, Manuel Barrios, Apolinario Bruselas, and Amy Lazaro-Javier.

 

 Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez also applied for the third time for a seat in the 15-member court.

 

The other hopefuls are Ateneo College of Law Dean Cesar Villanueva and Davao City Regional Trial Court Judge Carlos Espero.

 

Velasco’s replacement would be Duterte’s fifth appointee to the high court, the others being Associate Justices Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., and Alexander Gesmundo.

 

Apparently, still undecided on whether to appeal the High Court decision ousting her, Sereno said she would "focus on fighting for democracy". 

 

"Ang mga bagay na iyan ay hindi ko pa pinag-iisapan. Ang importante ay ipunin lahat ng pwersa or lakas ng bayan na maaring makatulong para maadvance ang democracy natin. (I am not thinking about those things. What is important is that we gather our forces that can help in advancing our democracy.)," Sereno said after the Supreme Court voted 8-6 to unseat her by granting the quo warranto petition filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

 

Under the Rules of Court, Sereno may still file a motion for reconsiderationwithin 15 days, especially since she would need only a concurring vote to switch sides and reverse the decision.

 

Sereno said she is not thinking whether or not her motion will reverse the decision, but promised to "do what is right".

 

"It's not up to my optimism or pessimism. Just do what is right. Just fight," she said.

 

After the High Court ruling, Sereno faced her supporters and said a coalition was created by volunteer organizations to join her in fighting for the right of the Judiciary to be independent.

 

In its ruling, the High Court also ordered the Judicial and Bar Council to begin the application and nomination process for Sereno's replacement.

 

"The decision is immediately executory without the need of further action from the Court," the decision stated.

 

The Supreme Court also gave Sereno 10 days to explain why she should not be sanctioned for her alleged violations of laws. 

 

 The justices who voted to remove Sereno were Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Teresita De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes, Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo.

 

 Those who dissented were Senior Associate Antonio Carpio, who served as the acting chief justice for over two months while Sereno was on indefinite leave of office; and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Bernabe, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

 

Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution provides: “The President, the Vice President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

 

“We hold, therefore, that by its tenor, Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution allows the institution of a quo warranto action against an impeachable officer. After all, a quo warranto petition is predicated on grounds distinct from those of impeachment. The former questions the validity of a public officer's appointment while the latter indicts him for the so-called impeachable offenses without questioning his title to the office he holds,” the SC decision stated.

 

Under the allegations against Sereno, she failed to file before the JBC in 2012 her SALNs that she was supposed to have filed when she was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) from 1985 to 2006.

 

“Respondent could have easily dispelled doubts as to the filing or non-filing of the unaccounted SALNs by presenting them before the Court. Yet, respondent opted to withhold such information or such evidence, if at all, for no clear reason,” Tijam pointed out. “Respondent firmly latches on to her allegation that she filed her SALNs, only that she has no records of the same. It is, however, too shallow and impetuous for this court to accept such excuse and disregard the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

 

The magistrate cited Section 17, Article Xi of the Constitution, which states: “A public officer or employee shall, upon the assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.”

 

With this, Tijam said, “One who fails to file his or her SALN violates the Constitution and the laws, and one who violates the Constitution and the laws cannot rightfully claim to be a person of integrity, as such equation is theoretically and practically antithetical.”

 

“Her inclusion in the shortlist of candidates for the position of Chief Justice does not negate, nor supply her with the requisite proof of integrity. She should have been disqualified at the outset,” the magistrate stressed.

 

Although the JBC eventually decided to do away with the submission of the SALNs in 2012, following requests made by Sereno over alleged difficulty in securing them, Tijam stressed that the Constitution provides that the JBC was created “under the supervision of the Supreme Court”.

 

“Thus, in interpreting the power of the Court vis-a-vis the power of the JBC, it is consistently held that the Court's supervisory power consists of seeing to it that the JBC complies with its own rules and procedures,” Tijam said.

 

The high court noted that even the rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) allows a petition for quo warranto to question the eligibility of the President and the Vice President, both impeachable officials.

 

“…Fraud and irregularities in elections cannot be countenanced, and the will of the people as reflected in their votes must be determined and respected. The Court could not, therefore, have unwittingly curtailed its own judicial power by prohibiting quo warranto proceedings against impeachable officers,” the high court said.

 

The PET decides election protests involving the election of the President or the Vice President of the Philippines. It is composed of the justices of the Supreme Court. It is currently conducting a manual recount and revision of ballots for the protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

 

Unlike in the quo warranto provision under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, which states that the Solicitor General can initiate the petition, under PET rules (A.M. No. 10-4-29-SC), specifically Rule 16, a verified petition for quo warranto may be filed by “any registered voter who has voted in the election concerned. But the same rule set a deadline for filing of within 10 days after the proclamation of the winner".

 

“To subscribe to the view that appointments or election of impeachable officers are outside judicial review is to cleanse their appointments or election of any possible defect pertaining to the Constitutionally-prescribed qualifications, which cannot otherwise be raised in an impeachment proceeding,” the high court added.

 

Carpio agreed with the defense of Sereno that the SC has no jurisdiction over the case because only the Congress can oust a sitting magistrate through the impeachment process as provided under the 1987 Constitution.

 

But Carpio said Sereno "is liable for culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust".

 

The senior magistrate said such finding could only be "endorsed to the Senate for the impeachment trial".

 

"If a court finds that an impeachable officer has committed an impeachable act, the court should refer the matter to Congress, for Congress to exercise its exclusive mandate to remove from office impeachable officers," Carpio said in his 25-page dissenting opinion.

 

"No court, not even this Court, can assume the exclusive mandate of Congress to remove impeachable officers from office," he stressed.

 

With Sereno's ouster, Carpio will again serve as acting chief justice just as he did in 2012 after the ouster of the late chief justice Renato Corona after an impeachment trial at the Senate.

 

Leonen, one of the six Associate Justices who voted to dismiss the quo warranto petition, said in his dissenting opinion: “Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court, is a legal abomination.”

 

He said, “A better reading of the Constitution requires us to read words and phrases in the context of the entire legal document,” noting that the general grant of jurisdiction for quo warranto actions under Article VIII Section 5 (1) of the 1987 Constitution should be read in the context of the provisions of Article XI Sections 2 and 3, as well as the principles of judicial independence and integrity inherent in several sections of the Bill of Rights.

 

Article VIII Section 5 (1) provides that the high court” exercises original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus”.

 

On the other hand, Article XI Sections 2 and 3, which he said should be read in the context of the first-mentioned provision, enumerates the officials that can only be removed by impeachment, the specific grounds, and who has jurisdiction to initiate all cases of impeachment.

 

“This petition should have been dismissed outright and not given due course. It does not deserve space in judicial deliberation within our constitutional democratic space,” Leonen said.

 

Another dissenter, Associate Justice Velasco, agreed with Carpio's opinion that the Solicitor General's quo warranto petition against Sereno should be dismissed by the Court, but based on another ground.

 

He disagreed with Carpio and believed that Sereno could be covered by quo warranto despite her being an impeachable official.

 

In his separate dissenting opinion, Velasco stressed that the SC ruling on Calida's petition was premature, as it still needed a trial in court. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano (3rd from right) with members of the Filipino community in Washington, D.C. during the town hall meeting held at the Philippine Embassy on 27 September 2017.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (via PhilAmPress) —  President Donald Trump will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his 12-day trip to Asia and Hawaii next month, the White House reported.

 

Trump will have bilateral meetings with the Philippine president and "other leaders" when he goes to the Philippines for a dinner celebrating the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

 

Trump will have multiple bilateral meetings during the trip, including with Japan's Shinzo Abe, South Korea's Moon Jae-in and China's Xi Jinping. But talks with Duterte, whose government is accused of widespread extrajudicial killing amid a crackdown on drugs, will raise the most eyebrows.

 

Trump received swift blowback in April for taking a call with Duterte, which the U.S. president described as "very friendly." He drew further criticism by inviting the Philippine leader to the White House.

 

In the call with Duterte, Trump congratulated him for doing "an unbelievable job on the drug problem," according to a transcript cited by The New York Times.

 

 

SECRETARY Alan Peter S. Cayetano (left) meets with US Solicitor General Noel Francisco (right), the first Filipino-American to hold the senior position in the US Government.

 

When the White House announced Trump's trip last month, it said he would travel to the Philippines. But it did not previously highlight the meeting with Duterte.

 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the Duterte meeting.

 

During the 12-day Asia trip, Trump plans to discuss curbing North Korea's nuclear and missile program, as well as trade deals with Asian nations.

 

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sees a stronger Philippine-US alliance.

“From my meeting with the first Filipino-American Solicitor General of the United States, to my interaction with various FilCom groups throughout my visit, and to my conversations with the Filipino waiter at my hotel in Washington and the Filipina airline employee who assisted us at the Dulles Airport, it was clear that the Philippine diaspora is the foundation upon which were built over the years, the deep friendship and vital partnership between the Philippines and the United States, and their peoples,”  Cayetano said in a statement shortly before returning to Manila.

 

The Secretary expressed the hope that members of the Filipino diaspora would view themselves as active partners for change in the Philippines, and in their communities here in the United States.

 

“Whether in big things or small things, it is our hope that you will always strive to make your own contributions to the change that we are all moving towards, as a people. Give back to our people, to your communities here and at home, the knowledge, the expertise, the experiences, the learning, the wisdom, that you have gained, from over the years since when you left,” Secretary Cayetano told audiences of his Filipino community events in the US, extolling the Filipino values of bayanihan and pakikipagkapwa-tao.

 

He also highlighted the importance of sharing the Philippine narrative with the American people, from the shared sacrifices of our soldiers in war-time; and our peoples’ shared commitment to democracy and human development in peace. He recalled that in one roundtable discussion, a law professor remarked that many Americans may think they know the Philippines and Filipinos, when actually they don’t.

 

“In sharing our story with Americans, we will be able to affirm how our separate histories have been woven by the threads of our common experiences, our shared values, and our mutual commitment to development. And may we strive to ensure an enduring friendship between our two peoples,” Secretary Cayetano also said.

 

The Secretary likewise reminded the Filipino-American community that a very important aspect of the Philippine story is our culture. He urged them to always treasure our culture, which is constant and a defining element of the national identity.

 

“Culture transcends technology, time, distance, and place. Our culture and traditions go with Filipino families wherever they go. The Filipino diaspora and families overseas bring our time-honored traditions all around the world. Into households in Hong Kong, the churches of old Europe, tiny communities in Africa, and wherever else we find ourselves,” the Secretary said, emphasizing the importance of people-to-people ties and urging Filipino Americans to be ambassadors of Philippine culture.

 

During his visit to the United States, Secretary Cayetano met with Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the first Filipino-American to hold the senior position in the US Government; held Town Hall Meetings in Washington DC and New York; interacted with various groups of Filipinos in the United States, as well as individuals; and had discussions on Philippine issues with Americans.

 

He then joined Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and other economic managers last week for the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. ###    

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By ALFRED G. GABOT

 

(Photo from Instagram | @whitehouse)

 

WASHINGTON/MANILA (PhilAmPress) – White House has confirmed officially that United States President Donald Trump will visit Manila next month to attend the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) leaders summit where he is finally meeting for the first time Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

 

Last week, President Trump’s travel to the Philippines was already reported by Philippines Today as announced by US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim in a speech at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) in Intramuros, Manila.

 

The White House announcement came on the heels of a reversal by Mr. Duterte on his pronouncements on the United States by now praising it as an ally and thanking it for helping the Philippines in many ways, including the war on terrorism in Marawi City and the campaign against illegal drugs.

 

It also came in the wake of the launch of new week-long joint military exercises between the Filipino and American forces.

 

The U.S. embassy said the military drills "will increase overall US and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance."

 

"(The operation) perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage between freedom-loving countries," said Philippine Marines spokeswoman Captain Maria Rowena Dalmacio. 

 

About 900 U.S. troops are taking part in the training in various locations in  Luzon, including the former U.S. military base of Clark. Some 2,000 Filipino soldiers are part of the training.

 

Also, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, taking the place of the President in the United Nations assembly and meetings with US officials like Senators Cory Gardner and John McCain, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was a recent guest in Malacanang.

 

Duterte surprised Tillerson last month with a warm reception in Malacanang, describing himself as a "humble friend" of the United States.

 

Some commentators have attributed his softer tone to the Trump administration refraining from criticism of Duterte's signature war on drugs.

 

Secretary Cayetano, who met Tillerson in Washington on Wednesday, said the Philippines was open to receiving foreign observers to examine its human rights record and war on drugs, which has killed thousands.

 

In Washington, Secretary Cayetano told Sen.  Gardner of Colorado that the Philippines wanted to go beyond security issues and intensify economic cooperation with the US.

“For so long, it was security that defined Philippine-US relations and we think it is about time we started looking at the socio-economic milieu as another defining characteristic of our relationship,” Cayetano told Gardner.

 

“Let us use the present to re-examine the relationship with the objective of advancing our core interests together,” Cayetano added.

 

This was a reversal of the President Duterte’s announcement during the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum in October 2016 that the Philippines would cut its military and economic ties with the US.

 

For his part, Gardner expressed optimism on the availability of opportunities to increase trade, investment and other economic exchanges with the Philippines.

 

He said a “robust and dynamic” Philippines-US relationship contributes to the strength of the national economies of both countries.

 

Cayetano also briefed Gardner about the Philippine government’s efforts to engage international partners on human rights and counterterrorism.

                                                                                                                     

Mr. Trump’s visit will be part of his five-nation swing in Asia on Nov. 3 to 14, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. 

 

The US leader is expected to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in the Philippines, where top officials from the bloc's global partner nations like China, Japan, Australia, and Canada are set to attend. 

 

Trump is set to tackle trade issues and the North Korean nuclear threat during his Asian trip, the White House said last week.

 

"The president's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," it said in a statement.

 

President Trump will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump in his travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hawaii from November 3-14, the White House said.

 

The President will participate in a series of bilateral, multilateral, and cultural engagements—including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, it was reported.

 

Demonstrating his continued commitment to the alliances and partnerships of the United States in the region, President Trump will discuss the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region to America's prosperity and security.

 

White House said the American leader will also emphasize the importance of fair and reciprocal economic ties with America's trade partners.

 

The President's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to the White House.

 

During a visit to ASEAN's Jakarta headquarters in April, Vice President Mike Pence had promised allies -- anxious about waning US engagement in the region -- that Trump would attend the bloc's summit in Manila this November.

 

Since then Trump's souring bromance with Duterte -- prompted, in part, by Duterte's rights record and his vow in July to never visit "lousy" America -- had thrown those plans in the air.

"He invited us so we're going to see," Trump said, while announcing he would go to Japan, South Korea, China and, maybe, Vietnam for a regional APEC economic summit.

 

Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who met Duterte in the Philippines earlier this year, has urged Trump to attend the ASEAN summit in Manila.

 

"I think it's very important that the president travel to the region to the summit," Gardner said. "Now more than ever the United States needs to show its leadership not just in rhetoric, but in action, in visible ways."

 

Early in his tenure, Trump courted controversy by praising Duterte for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem."

 

In his reversal of stance on US, Duterte voiced rare praise for the US during the 116th anniversary of the Balangiga massacre in Samar, calling it an important security ally, and dismissing historic grievances and his slew of past tirades against Washington as "water under the bridge".

 

Last year, at his first international summit in Laos, the maverick leader stunned regional leaders when he showed them pictures of that Balangiga massacre in which many Filipinos and Americans were killed.

 

Then U.S. President Barack Obama cancelled a bilateral meeting there with Duterte, who had called him a "son of a bitch" days earlier for expressing concern about his bloody war on drugs.

 

On Thursday, Duterte said he had been advised to tone down his anti-American rhetoric and had positive words for the U.S. military, with which he has repeatedly threatened to sever ties, besides accusing it of supplying ineffective combat hardware and of making the Philippines a potential target for war.

 

"This is all water under the bridge, I was under advice by the Department of Foreign Affairs, that I would temper my language and avoid cursing, which I am prone to do if I get emotional," Duterte said in a speech.

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US defense chief Carter flies to Manila as Justice Carpio warns of confrontation with China
 

 

By ALFRED GABOT

 

(Photo from Rappler)

 

MANILA/CLARK FREEPORT (PhilAmPress) ― Some 10,000 Philippine and American troops have started their new joint military exercises amidst the growing tension with China over disputed claims on islands, shoals and reefs in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

 

This year's war drills are bigger considering that Australian and Japan defense forces are also participating in the war drills even as several countries have sent their troops to observe the exercises.

 

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter flew to the Philippines on April 13 to personally observe Filipino and US troops during the exercises on land and at sea called "Balikatan," according to US "Balikatan" exercise director Lt. Gen. John Toolan.

 

This developed as Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court warned of a possible military confrontation in the South China Sea over the conflicting claims of the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei in the region.

 

Carter’s visit indicates the growing concern of the US on the disputes and on challenges to free navigational and air access in the region as earlier expressed by US President Barack Obama who has ordered the US Pacific Fleet to patrol the region.

 

The opening of the military drills came on the heels of the port calls of several war ships of the United States and Japan, although officials claimed that the visit was not related to the exercises.

Aside from Japanese observers, Australian defense forces are joining the war games for the third time, according to Armed Forces chief Gen. Staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri who welcome the foreign troops during the formal launching ceremonies.

 

Aside from US and Philippines military, this year's "Balikatan" exercise will be made more fruitful and dynamic with the return of the Australian Defense Forces, who are joining the US and the AFP for the third time, Iriberri said.

 

"We welcome the participation for the first time of the members of the Japan Self Defense Forces as observers in this exercise. And we are much pleased to see the delegations in our 'Balikatan' 2016 international observers program from eight other countries - Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam," the AFP chief stressed.

 

Iriberri said these multinational forces were invited to increase multilateral collaboration and provide a common platform for regional engagement on development of partner nation military capabilities.

 

Gen. Toolan explained Secretary Carter’s role in the military exercises. "The secretary is (going) to be here toward the end of the exercise and he’s (going), actually observe a couple of things, he’s very interested in, what I mentioned earlier about the high mobility rocket system and how that works and he’s also (going) spend some time out at sea with the US Navy ships that’s gonna be out there and so and I believe that really his main purpose here is to come and reaffirm that the relationship that we have with the Philippines is rock solid, and we’re side-by-side," Gen. Toolan said.

 

The high mobility rocket system, also known as HIMARS, or the "M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System," is a US light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army medium tactical vehicle truck frame. Two HIMARS units will participate in the "Balikatan" exercises.

 

Aside from HIMARS, the US has committed a number of air and land assets to this year’s Balikatan for the combined beachhead landing in Antique province and other joint maritime, air and land exercises in Palawan, Zambales, Pampanga and at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

 

Each HIMARS platform is worth over US$5 million and can carry six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on the US Army's new family of medium tactical vehicles five-ton truck, and can launch the entire multiple launch rocket system family of munitions.

 

It is interchangeable with the MLRS M270A1, carrying half the rocket load. The launcher is C-130 transportable.

 

The US Marines participating in the Phl-US Balikatan 2016 joint military exercises test-fired one of their lethal weapons, the HIMARS, at the gunnery range in Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac at the periphery of the Clark Freeport, the former US base.

 

Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Balikatan spokesman for the Philippines, said US Marines from the 4th Marine Regiment delivered six rounds containing non-explosive rounds using two M142 High Artillery Rocket System.

 

“They fired six rounds yesterday using the HIMARS platform at a reduced range of 15 kilometers in preparation for the final exercises on April 14,” Sayson said.

 

The testing, part of the on-going joint war games, was intended to find out possible interference during the conduct of live fire drills, which would be open to the media on April 14.

 

With a maximum range of 300 kilometers, HIMARS is considered among the newest mobile and land-based lethal weapons in the US Marines’ inventory which they used during their Afghanistan campaign against the Taliban.

 

“It used non-explosive material and is safe,” Sayson said, adding that this type of rounds will be used in the forthcoming live-fire exercises with the media around.

 

"Balikatan 2016" formally opened Monday, April 4, and will end on April 15.

 

Some 3, 773 Filipino soldiers and 4, 904 US troops take part in the two-week military maneuvers. The number of troopers from Australia, Japan and the other participating and observer countries have not been disclosed.

 

Justice  Carpio aired his warning  if the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) fails to discipline China from violating international maritime laws, particularly in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

 

This could lead to an arms race between the rival nations and their allies against the self-isolating China, Carpio told reporters.


"[If the] UNCLOS cannot settle the most important maritime dispute today then it's useless. People will not go to avail themselves of the remedies under UNCLOS. They will just buy warships, warplanes and anti-ship missiles to defend their maritime zones," Carpio said.


The UN international court at The Hague is expected to issue its verdict on the arbitration case filed by Manila against Beijing for the latter's aggressive actions at some maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea that are well within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country as prescribed by UNCLOS.

Beijing has been using force and coercion against claimants of the disputed sea, and even went on a reclamation binge converting reefs and atolls into artificial islands for apparently military purposes banking on its controversial "9-dash line" that effectively corrals in about 90 percent of the entire sea.

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U.S. Court asked anew to declare Filipinos
US citizens when PHL was a US 'territory'
 
WASHINGTON (JGL) – For nth time, a U.S. District Court has been asked to declare that Filipinos born from 1899 up to 1946 when the Philippines was a territory of the United States as U.S. Citizens.
One of the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision used by Filipino American priest Prisco E. Entines in chipping away at a series of Insular Cases that rejected other Filipinos’ U.S. Citizenship claims was the Afroyim V. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967) that upheld the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause that guaranteed a citizen to keep his or her citizenship without his assent.
Father Entines is asking the U.S. District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) to declare the non-application of Section One of the Philippine Government Act of 1902 and the Philippine Independence Act of 1934 passed by the U.S. Congress as “unconstitutional.” The Act of 1902 provided for temporary civil government in the Philippines while the Philippine Independence Act (Tydings-McDuffie) of 1934 divested Filipinos of their status as “U.S. citizen nationals” when the Philippines declared its Independence from the U.S. on July 4, 1946.
The section in Act 1902 excludes the Filipinos from exercising section 1891of the Revised Statutes of 1878, which gives “force and effect to the Constitution and laws of the U.S., not locally inapplicable, within all the organized Territories, and every Territory thereafter organized, as elsewhere within the U.S.”
Section 4 of the Act of 1902 declares “all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands continuing to reside therein who were Spanish subjects on April 11, 1899, and then resided in the Philippine Islands, and their children born subsequent thereto, shall be deemed and held to be citizens of the Philippine Islands and as such entitled to the protection of the United States, except such as shall have elected to preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain signed at Paris December 10, 1898.”
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By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
 
CHICAGO (JGL) – Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona-Robredo of the third district of Camarines Sur in the Philippines has accepted the invitation of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest (BUSAM) President Evelyn R. Tolledo to attend the July 25-27, 2014 annual 34th national convention of the Bikol National Associations of America (BNAA) to be held at Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, 5550 N. River Road at Chicago's suburb of Rosemont, Illinois.
 
 Robredo will be joined by a group of tourism, trade and investment government officials from Bikol region led by Department of Tourism Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, Gov. Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte; Vice Governors Harold O. Imperial of Albay and Vicente Homer B. Revil of Masbate; Senior Board Member Glenda O. Bongao, chair of Albay Tourism Committee; Board Members Ralph A. Andes, Albay Chair of Committee on Budget and Appropriations, Neil I. Montallana, Albay Chair Committee on Transportation, Communication and Public Utilities; Joseph Philip Lee of Albay; Sangguniang Panlalawigan Chito B. Baldo, Chair Committee on Environment; Sangguniang Panlalawigan Melissa A. Abadeza, chair Committee on Laws and Rules, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Vicente F. Baltazar, Chair Committee on Finance, all of Legazpi City.
 
Provincial Administrator Robert Lee-Rodrigueza of Sorsogon; Provincial Tourism Officer Gerardo Presado of Masbate; Mayor Tito S. Sarion of Daet, Camarines Norte; and Mayor Ian Peter S. Sepulveda of Esperanza, Masbate.  
Among the past BNAA presidents, who are attending the annual convention, are Zayda O. Baron, 1983-85; Wilfredo R. Ramin, Esq., 1989-91; Delia S. Evangelista, 1995-97; Dr. Cyrill P. Mendez-Llaneta, 1993-95; Roger R. Odiamar, 2003-05; Armando P. Placides, 2005-07; Angelita de Leon-Pena, 2009-11; and Adolfo R. Manlangit, 2011-2013.
 
Rep. Robredo is the widow of Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government who died in a plane crash. A lawyer by profession, Ms. Robredo is going to deliver her keynote address during the Welcome Night Reception (Hawaiian Luau), which starts at 6 p.m. and lasts up to 12 midnight on Friday, July 25. The junior congresswoman will also attend a breakfast session from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, and will hold a town hall meeting/press conference afterwards. She will leave after lunch for Manila so she can catch the State of the Nation Address of President Aquino on Monday (July 28) afternoon at the House of Representative Complex in Quezon City.
The convention will open with a tourism presentation on Friday, July 25, at 3 p.m. and will last up to 5:30 p.m.
A voting delegate will be charged $125 cover the breakfast, lunch and convention materials. A non-voting delegate will be assessed $100. Regular guests attending the formal Gala Night dinner dance starting at 6 p.m. and lasting until midnight on Saturday, July 26 at the Grand International Ballroom of Hilton/Rosemont Chicago O’Hare will pay $55.
A farewell/send-off picnic is slated at Schiller Woods Forest Preserve Grove No. 1 at 8400 West Irving Park Road, Forest Preserve District of Cook County near Cumberland and River Road from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 27.
 
Among the programs and projects of BNAA are to purchase of pump wells for Bikol’s depressed areas chaired by Senen and Zayda O. Baron; surgical operation of children with cleft palate, called Operation Smile, chaired by Armando P. Placides; medical missions chaired by Dr. Lilian Obrero-Gines; disaster relief headed by Roger R. Odiamar; and scholarship chaired by Dr. Cyrill P. Mendez-Llaneta. 
Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, like BNAA, is a registered 501c (3) non-profit organization, which accepts tax-deductible donations. Among its upcoming projects is the distribution of Calamansi seedlings/plants in Bikol's depressed areas. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
 
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NAGA CITY -- The Philippine National Railways will put back on track its trains that travel the Manila-Bicol route this September, in time for the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
 
 
Joseph Allan Dilay, PNR general manager, said this will, however, depend on safety clearance.
Dilay added that part of the activities in preparation for the re-opening of the railway’s operation is to rebuild community awareness and to gather inputs/feedbacks from stakeholders in order to provide safe and affordable train services.
He said that in view of this development, the PNR is inviting various stakeholders and representatives of different business and civic organizations like the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry to a familiarization/dinner meeting at 8 p.m. on June 27 at the Villa Caceres Hotel.
Those interested to attend, Dilay said, may coordinate with Constancio Toledano Sr. of the PNR Naga Station who can be contacted at his number 09067251412.
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QUEZON CITY -- The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has lifted its moratorium on the opening of undergraduate and graduate programs on three common courses effective on Academic Year 2015-2016.
Based on CHED Memorandum Order 17, the three courses which had its moratorium lifted by CHED are Business Administration, Hotel and Restaurant Management, and Information Technology.
The three courses were ordered a moratorium by CHED last November 2010, which became effective since School Year 2011-2012.
CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said these courses were labeled as "oversubsribed" and must be granted moratorium to address the growing mismatch in the number of graduates.
The order covered courses offered by the country's 109 SUCs, private HEIs, as well as local universities and colleges (LUC).
According to the current memorandum, the lifting of moratorium is in accordance with the pertinent provisions of RA 7722 or the "Higher Education Act of 1994" and by virtue of Commission en banc Resolution No. 272-2014 dated May 5, 2014.
The continuous recruitment and hiring of graduates or professionals in the said courses by the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), the tourism industry, and both local and international IT industry has been considered by CHED to lift the moratorium on the said courses.
Other factors considered are: the market uptrend and leadership position of the Philippines in ITBPO; regional and global increase in labor mobility; emergence of new demand for competencies such as Business Analytics; and international agreements on borderless economy.
The CHED has been conducting a stepped-up monitoring starting 2011 until 2013 on higher education institutions (HEIs) offering the said courses if they are complying with CHED's minimum requirements.
CHED allows the opening of programs for HEIs which shall possess the following qualifications: autonomous/deregulated status for private HEIs and SUC Level III status for SUCs; Center of Excellence/Center of Development (COE/COD) in the aforementioned courses; and at least Level II accredited status in any of the said programs from CHED recognized accrediting agencies.
CHED advises HEIs with the above mentioned qualifications to submit their application to CHED Regional Offices following the prescribed timeline for submission.
 
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By SAMMY F. MARTIN
 
QUEZON CITY -- Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the House of Representatives is inclined to pass the anti-dynasty law as mandated under the Constitution.
Belmonte said the proposed measure which is limited only to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity had been tossed to the plenary for debates after the unanimous approval of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro.
This is the first time this kind of measure passed the committee level. It is also one of the priority bills of Malacanang submitted to Congress.
“I want to see the bill pass in this Congress although there is no counterpart bill yet in the Senate,” Belmonte told reporters at the weekly forum, Ugnayan sa Batasan, at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
Under the second degree of consanguinity, he said that cousins and nephews of sitting politicians are not included, “meaning that they can still run to any public office.”
“But I am open to amendment by extending the measure up to the third degree of consanguinity,” Belmonte stressed. Personally, he said he wants this measure to become a law as decreed in the Constitution.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, Gabriela party list Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan Emmi de Jesus, Anakpawis party list Rep. Fernando Hicap, Kabataan party list Rep. Terry Ridon and ACT Teacher party list Rep. Antonio Tinio have filed separate bills on Anti Dynasty and it was consolidated under House Bill 3587 under Committee Report 19.
“A political dynasty exists when two or more individuals who are related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity hold or run for national or local office in successive, simultaneous or overlapping terms,” the committee report reveals.
Under the proposed law, excluded from the second degree of consanguinity are the elective positions of barangay chairpersons and the Sanguniang Barangay (barangay councilmen).
Belmonte said he would like to make some amendments by pushing it further to the third degree of affinity or consanguinity when the debates open on this issue.
“But I may withdraw my amendment if there will be violent reaction and will not agree with me. What is important to me is to pass the measure into law because this is what the Constitution mandates,” Belmonte pointed out.
 
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QUEZON CITY -- The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) officially declared the start of the rainy season in the country while Low Pressure Area (LPA) near Basco, Batanes has developed into a Tropical Depression named "Ester."
PAGASA weather forecaster Buddy Javier said that all the criteria in declaring the onset of the rainy season have been met.
Javier said that the criteria include the presence of southwest winds and the amount of rainfall is at least five weather bureau stations across the country reached 25 millimeters in volume in five straight days.
Vicente Malano, officer in charge of PAGASA, said that during the next two (2) months (July-August), near (81-120%) to above normal (120%) rainfall conditions are expected in most parts of the country.
He said that during the rainy season, the prevailing weather system is the southwest monsoon or “habagat” and monsoon breaks are likely, which may last for several days.
He added that El Niño will also develop in the next three months (June to August) due to the unusual warming of sea surface temperature.
“Starting September, rainfall patterns in some parts of the country will be affected, ” Malano said.
He said the country is battered by an average of 20 storms per year. With the El Niño, drier conditions but stronger storms are expected.
“PAGASA will continue to monitor the tropical Pacific and updates will be issued as appropriate. Concerned agencies are advised to take precautionary measures,” Malano said.
 
Last year, PAGASA officially declared the start of the rainy season on June 10.
Meanwhile, Javier said that the LPA intensified into tropical depression locally named "Ester", the first cyclone for the month of June and the fifth for this year.
According to Javier, the month of June expects two to three tropical cyclones to affect the country.
 
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