DOST

The Daily Roundup: 3 February 2011

Aquino on corruption in gov’t: I’ve reached saturation pointby Regina Bengco and Gerard Naval

PRESIDENT Aquino yesterday said he was no longer surprised by former state auditor Heidi Mendoza’s statements about corruption in the Armed Forces because he has already reached the saturation point so early in his presidency.

“Marami na ang na-discover natin, at walang tigil ito. Naabot ko na rin ang saturation because ang reaction natin kadalasan, ‘Pati ba naman iyan, pati ito hindi na pinalampas.’ Akala malaki na iyan, yun pala (may mas malaki pa),” Aquino said in an ambush interview in Laguna.

“Parang nahirapan na akong magulat,” he said.

Read more at Malaya

Heidi Mendoza: May her tribe increaseby Solita Collas-Monsod

The Garcia plea bargain hearings have taken some unexpected but very welcome turns that give the country greater reason to hope: the emergence of a role model in the fight against corruption — Heidi Mendoza, may her tribe increase; and maybe, just maybe, the much lesser likelihood now of the rank and file following blindly in their officers’ coup attempts — nothing like realizing that their so-called gods have feet of clay.

At the same time, it opens the door for a closer scrutiny of what has been going on at the supposedly independent constitutional body called the Commission on Audit which seems to be turning out to be not so independent after all.

Heidi Mendoza exemplifies what social psychologist Philip Zimbardo (of Stanford Prison Experiment fame) calls heroism. But his hero is not a hero-cum-celebrity, or a hero cum-larger-than-life. Zimbardo defines his hero as a person who performs an ordinary action in an extraordinary manner. And an ordinary action becomes extraordinary when three requisites are met: it is an action in behalf of other people in need, or for a moral cause or principle; it is an action which costs the actor — there is a sacrifice involved; and finally it is an action which is done without thought of reward.

Read more at Business World

New taxes needed for devt goalsby Cai U. Ordinario

NEW taxes must be imposed, if the Aquino administration is to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, according to a study released by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

The state-operated think tank said in its study, titled “Financing the MDGs and Inclusive Growth in the Time of Fiscal Consolidation,” that while improving tax collection helped increase revenues, new taxes were still needed.

The study said the new taxes could be done by restructuring the excise tax on sin products; the rationalization of fiscal incentives; and reforming the road-user charge.

Read more at Business Mirror

DOST: ‘Creeping disaster ‘ in PHL due to La Ninaby Mia M. Gonzalez

A SCIENCE official on Wednesday warned of a “creeping disaster” in the Philippines due to La Niña, as shown by larger-than-usual flooding in parts of the country since November last year, and the expected stronger typhoons this year compared with those in 2010 due to the weather phenomenon.

In a Palace news briefing, Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul Jr. cited the amount of rainfall experienced in Surigao City in January, which was 300 percent more than the normal rainfall for the month, and said that even more telling is the 1,000 millimeters of rainfall observed in some other areas.

Read more at Business Mirror

“Lower minimum wage seen on poverty data” by Darwin G. Amojelar

THE Philippines’ minimum wage is likely to contract as a result of the government’s new way of measuring poverty, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

“The poverty threshold went down under the new method so the minimum wage could go down,” Romulo A. Virola, NSCB secretary general told reporters.

Under the new official poverty estimation methodology approved by the NSCB Board, the Philippine poverty line would drop an average of 4 to 5 percentage points.

Read more at The Manila Times

Gov’t offers four PPP dealsby Jessica Anne Hermosa

A LIST of public-private partnership (PPP) projects up for bidding before July has been trimmed to the sale of two light railways and an airport plus construction of an expressway.

To be privatized are the Metro Rail Transit Line (MRT) 3, Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 and Misamis Oriental’s Laguindingan Airport as well as implementation of phase two of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) expressway worth a total of $579 million, data from the Investment Relations Office (IRO) showed.

The latest list was bared in Tokyo on Tuesday where several Cabinet members attended gatherings of business leaders from both countries, the IRO said.

Read more at Business World

Budget deficit may be smaller, says Paderanga by Iris C. Gonzales

The government’s 2010 and 2011 budget deficit as a percentage of the economy’s total output or gross domestic product (GDP) may be narrower on the back of strong economic growth last year, the country’s Socioeconomic Planning chief said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. said that with last year’s GDP expansion recorded at 7.3 percent or the highest since the post-Marcos era, the deficit-to-GDP ratio would likely be below 3.9 percent for last year and below 3.3 percent for this year.

In the fourth quarter alone, the economy grew by 7.1 percent.

Read more at The Philippine Star

House leaders foreign chambers meet on pending vital measuresby Paolo S. Romero

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other leaders of the House of Representatives held a dialogue yesterday with representatives of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFCC) on the need for the swift approval of pending bills on various concerns, including taxes, mining, and environment.

Leading the dialogue for the House was Belmonte and Hubert D’Aboville, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. Also present were chairmen of the key committees of the chamber.

Also present in the dialogue were representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce; Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce; Board of Airline Representatives; Business Processing Association-Philippines; Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Capital Market Development Council; Employers Confederation of the Philppines; and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Read more at The Philippine Star

ADB cited for organizational effectivenessby Edu Lopez

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is an effective, transparent, client-focused organization, and should continue with current efforts to further improve its effectiveness, according to a new donor assessment report.

The report, commissioned by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) consisting of 16 donor countries, gives ADB satisfactory to high marks in most key performance indicators, including in areas such as making transparent decisions in allocating resources, focusing on achieving results, reporting results information clearly, and harmonizing procedures with other development partners.

“Over the past four years, ADB has been implementing a number of reforms designed to improve its effectiveness and the findings suggest that these reforms are providing the foundation for organizational effectiveness,” the report said.

Read more at Manila Bulletin

SC tells Comelec: Bare all preparations for May 10 polls

SC tells Comelec: Bare all preparations for May 10 polls
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Citing “alarming developments” concerning the reliability of the automated elections system, including the glitches that have developed in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines’ software, the Supreme Court Thursday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make public the complete details of its preparations for Monday’s polls.

Voting 12 to 3, the high court directed the Comelec to disclose to the public “the nature and security of all equipment devices such as software and hardware components; the source code for review by interested parties; the terms and protocols of the random manual audit; the certification from the technical evaluation committee that the entire automated system is fully functional and continuity plan is already in place; and the certification protocol and the actual certification issued by the Department of Science and Technology that the 240,000 Board of Election Inspectors all over the country are trained to used the automated election system”.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, said the Comelec must comply with the requirements that are provided for under Republic Act 9369, or the Amended Automated Elections System Law of 2007.

Civil action

The high court was acting on a special civil action for mandamus filed last April 23 by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Protestant Bishop Leo Soriano Jr., Quintin Doromal, Fe Maria Arriola, Isagani Serrano and Rodolfo Lozada Jr.

The justices said they were granting only the specific reliefs asked for in the petition because of the proximity of the elections. The petitioners can press the Comelec for other reliefs after the May 10 polls, they said.

The resolution cited news reports on Tuesday that with just six days to go before the May 10 elections, the Comelec has recalled 76,000 compact flash cards because of the widespread failure of the PCOS machines to read and tally votes during the testing conducted by the Comelec and Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp., the systems supplier.

In its comment submitted on May 4, the Comelec said the petitioners had no legal standing to file the petition and that there was no proof that they had requested the release of the information contained in the documents mentioned in their petition.

The justices said the petitions had “overwhelming support” in the Constitution, citing in particular the provisions on the right to information and the state’s corresponding duty of full disclosure of all transactions involving public interest.

The court also cited the provisions in the Omnibus Election Code, requiring the Comelec to carry out a continuing and systematic campaign to educate the public about elections laws, procedures, decisions and other matters related to its duties; the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which mandates all public documents to be made accessible to, and readily available for inspection, by the public; and the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 9525 (which appropriated P11.3 billion for the automated election), that required transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts.

Democracy’s last bulwark

“[The] Comelec cannot shirk its constitutional duty to disclose fully to the public complete details of all information relating to its preparations for the May 10, 2010 elections without violating the Constitution and relevant laws. No less than the Constitution mandates it to enforce and administer election laws. The Comelec chair and the six commissioners are beholden and accountable to the people they have sworn to serve,” it said.

Calling itself “the last bulwark of democracy in this country,” the high court said it would spare nothing to ensure that the people’s right to information on matters affecting democratic processes is “fully guaranteed, protected and implemented”.

Concurring with the resolution were Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Portugal Perez and Jose Mendoza.

Dissenting were Associate Justices Renato Corona, Roberto Abad and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

DepEd, teachers unprepared for manual count

DepEd, teachers unprepared for manual count
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – The public school teachers tasked to serve in the country’s first nationwide automated polls are not ready to conduct a manual count.

This admission was made during a pre-election briefing on Wednesday at the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig.

Education Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, DepEd spokesman, told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday that the DepEd and its teachers are not prepared for a manual vote count if the automated count fails.

Malaya said they have to depend on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to provide the necessary materials in case a manual vote count is necessary.

“We expect that they (Comelec) will give us paraphernalia in the event of a manual poll count,” Malaya said. “There is no way we can do it without the forms.”

Malaya also confirmed that many teachers serving in the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) were worried after most of the more than 3,000 PCOS machines tested last Monday in Luzon malfunctioned.

The DepEd spokesman told the worried teachers that the Comelec will fix the problem.

“The Comelec has assured us that the automated elections will happen,” Malaya said. “Failure is not an option. We give our trust and confidence to them. We are just Comelec deputies.”

Despite Malaya’s assurance, the leader of the DepEd National Employees Union said many teachers serving in the BEI were worried.

“The BEI is not prepared for a manual vote count,” said lawyer Domingo Alidon, president of the DepEd National Employees Union. “We should have a contingency plan. We have very little time to get ready for a manual vote count.”

He believes it would be better for everyone if the DepEd and the Comelec have a Plan B.

Not everyone at the briefing was pessimistic, though.

“I’m positive,” said a BEI member after the briefing. “I am going to give Comelec a chance.”

InfoTech savvy teachers

In a related development, DepEd Secretary Mona Valisno said every BEI in each precinct in the country has at least one teacher who is certified as information technology capable.

She said the Department of Science and Technology had certified 137,200 teachers as information technology capable with an average passing rate of 91 percent.

“The DOST Certification Program for BEIs is an important step to ensure the success of the first automated elections in the country. With all the trainings and seminars they had, our teachers are fully prepared to perform their electoral duties,” Valisno said. “Hopefully this certification will reduce, if not take away, any doubts for the coming May elections and boost our confidence for an orderly election.”

Don’t take youth vote for granted

Meanwhile, a youth group organized by the Philippine National Police (PNP) is about to conclude their campaign for peaceful elections.

Young Vote of the Philippines spokesman Neil Lim said his group was reminding the youth and first time voters to be “vigilant and careful in choosing their candidate.”

He said the youth vote should not be taken for granted because the youth makes up a large segment of the country’s voters. Records show that the youth account for 54 percent of the voting population.

Young Vote Philippines was organized by the PNP’s Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly Peaceful Elections). — reports from Niña Corpuz and Gus Abelgas, ABS-CBN News

Larrazabal: Comelec won't allow poll failure for GMA power grab

Larrazabal: Comelec won’t allow poll failure for GMA power grab
By Ryan Chua
ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will never allow failure of elections to happen, especially if it’s designed to let anyone perpetuate himself or herself in power, a commissioner said on Friday.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said speculations that failure of elections will happen to let President Arroyo serve longer as president have no basis.

“We won’t allow failure of elections to happen to favor anyone,” he said. “We simply won’t allow failure of elections to happen.”

Larrazabal added that although the poll body has had a past marred by accusations of fraud, corruption, and incompetence, “this is a different commission now.”

He also said the poll body has been working hard to ensure this year’s elections will be successful.

“The elections is bigger than PGMA’s administration…bigger than all the candidates combined. This is the future of the Philippines, and people should realize that,” he said.

Larrazabal also answered certain points of the latest study by Pacific Strategies and Assessment on the automated elections. The report criticized the Comelec, saying it is not prepared for poll automation.

ON DELIVERY OF MACHINES

– “All machines have been delivered. All machines have been tested.”

– “We’ll be having a testing and sealing of the machines at the municipality where the voting will be conducted … Three to seven days before the elections, you’ll know that the machine is accurate.”

ON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF VOTING SYSTEM’S PHYSICAL COMPONENTS

– “The testing of the machines was conducted at the Cabuyao warehouse in the presence of the Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM, DOST, and COA. … PPCRV was there to observe, political parties were invited to observe.”

– On why political parties were not present: “You can’t tell a person to do something if he or she doesn’t want to do it.”

ON PCOS MACHINES’ ABILITY TO RUN ON BATTERY

– “In Hong Kong and Singapore (OAV), the batteries are connected to the PCOS machines.”

– “We would suggest to the political parties to fly to Hong Kong and Singapore at their own expense to see the voting … The best way to see that it works is to just fly to Hong Kong and see that it works.”

ON LACK OF SOURCE CODE REVIEW

– The source code review and certification was done by US-based SysTest Labs, “one of the leading companies accrediting election systems in the world.”

-“We did a walk-through last February with representatives of political parties and some civic organizations. During the walk-through, we also gave them the guidelines for review. Some complained, some said it’s restrictive. The walk-though was just the start of the source code review.”

– Unfortunately, Larrazabal said, some groups like CenPEG did not attend the actual review and just kept complaining. Larrazabal said they did not even give suggestions on how the review should be conducted. “They just went there, has themselves interviewed, and left.”

– Source code is now kept in escrow at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

ON SWITCHING OF COMPACT FLASH CARDS TO RIG ELECTION RESULTS

– “The configuration of flash cards were done in the presence of Smartmatic-TIM, the Comelec, NCC, and CIA. There’s an audit of it. Even if you go to a ship where you buy flash cards, that flash card is useless (to rig election results) because it doesn’t have the files.”

ON POSSIBLE TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS, BLACKOUTS

– “What if on election day, buong Pilipinas mag-blackout? Will the machines work? Yes, because it has a 16-hour battery.”

– “What if mag-brownout sa munisipyo? Can they still canvass? They can. The canvass of the municipality has a laptop which can last four hours. If they run out of battery, you have a generator asset.”

– “Not all areas in the Philippines have (cellular) coverage. What do you do? There’s satellite transmission-BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) and VSAT (Very Small Aperture Transmission) to transmit data from areas that have no cell phone coverage.”

– “Can you manipulate the (electronic) results? You cannot manipulate it because it’s encrypted. Even if you do, you’ve already printed 30 copies of election returns at the precinct level. You have people going around town with the results.

ON TEACHERS’ TRAINING FOR BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS (BEI) DUTIES

– “They were already trained, tested,” he said, referring to training in March. Training was two days–lecture on first day; test and certification on second day.

– To reinforce what they have learned, “We will be giving them last-minute guidelines and instructions. IFES is coming up with pamphlets to be given to BEIs.”

ON SMARTMATIC NOT HAVING ENOUGH PERSONNEL

– “Smartmatic gave us a document that says that there are people needed for the positions vacant. They are oversupplied now.”

ON PRECINCT CLUSTERING CAUSING VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT

– “We don’t cluster barangays. We cluster established precincts. What will happen is that you’ll still be going to the same barangay elementary school. Probably in a different classroom but the same school.”

– He advised voters to look for their precincts as early as now by asking the local election officers or using the Comelec’s online precinct finder at comelec.gov.ph.

ON COMELEC’s FAILURE TO CLEANSE LIST OF VOTERS

– “Poll automation is not a solution to cleansing the list of voters. We’ve ordered election officers to manually cross out voters with multiple registration.”

– However, “The AFIS (automated fingerprint identification system) is ongoing. So there are steps.”

Clef two-factor authentication