Gwen Pimentel

PMA board goes for Noynoy, Mar

PMA board goes for Noynoy, Mar

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) board is backing Liberal Party (LP) bets Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for president and Sen. Mar Roxas for vice president.

The PMA board chose to endorse the 2 candidates to ensure the successful implementation of PMA’s various health programs, according to Dr. Mike Aragon, PMA chairman for media affairs.

The 2 candidates deserve the PMA’s endorsement because they have a legislative program that “protects the medical profession” and health of the country, the PMA secretary general said.

Aside from Aquino and Roxas, the PMA board has also decided to support several candidates for senator from different political parties.

They are:

former Senator Franklin Drilon (LP);
Sen. Pilar “Pia” Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP);
Dr. Martin Bautista (LP);
Binalonan Mayor Ramon Guico of Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Lakas);

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party (PRP);
lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel (NP);
Adel Tamano (NP);
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP);

Sergio Osmeña III (LP);
Ralph Recto (LP);
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (Lakas);
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada (PMP).

Church enlists Villar, de los Reyes in drive vs RH bill

Church enlists Villar, de los Reyes in drive vs RH bill
By Leila Salaverria, Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Better late than never.

One week before the May 10 elections, the Catholic Church has sought to enlist candidates running for public office in its campaign against a controversial reproductive health (RH) bill that seeks to curb a runaway population growth blamed for creeping poverty.

At least two presidential candidates—Sen. Manny Villar and Councilor JC de los Reyes of Olongapo—Sunday signed the covenant to protect life and to oppose the RH bill that both the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to enact at the close of their regular session in February.

A sprinkling of senatorial candidates was also on hand for the event that followed a Mass said by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.

But Rosales later told reporters that the candidates’ signing the covenant did not mean that the Church would support or campaign for them.

“Probably, you will give it a political innuendo, saying that those who signed will be the candidates of the Church or who will be campaigned for by the Church,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s the essence of the covenant. They are really intent on preserving the sacredness, unity, quality of the Filipino family that we have now.”

In his homily, Rosales reiterated the stand of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against the reproductive health bill and spoke at length against its sex education component beginning at Grade 5.

“There is a basic reverence and dignity that life demands, at whatever stage it is found,” he said. “No one should insult the value of both love and life and the values of the Filipino families and the fidelity they put in both.”

Rosales said this was why there was no need to teach the young the use of contraceptives and that sooner or later they would know how these devices worked.

The Constitution, Rosales said, states that the government should support the parents’ right and duty to rear the youth for the development of their moral character.

“Shall we say now that teaching the young how to put on those contraptions is developing moral character?” he asked.

“There is something wrong here. Let us pray that we have better thinkers for the country,” he added.

Vote pro-life candidates

Rosales also warned against the “power, the lobby and the money” behind those pushing contraceptives. “Do not sell the Filipino family down the drain. There are more people outside our country who welcome our values, our traditions and our faith,” he said.

Rosales’ Mass at Manila Cathedral was followed by the signing of the covenant for life wherein candidates pledged to block the RH bill as well as measures that will push for divorce, euthanasia, abortion, tyrannical population control and homosexual unions.

Before the Mass ended, Council of the Laity national president Edgardo Tria Tirona called on Catholic voters to elect only those who follow the Church’s pro-life position.

“We reiterate our solidarity with our Church leaders on the imperative of protecting the sanctity of life … Let us elect only those who have made clear their belief in the sacredness of life and vow to protect it,” Tirona said.

“We have always been pro-life. This (covenant) is an affirmation of our pro-life position,” Villar later told reporters.

“Of course, we will implement this. This is my belief and it will be my guide if I’m elected president,” Villar said. “I will not make it law. You decide for yourself. In other words, you have the right to do what you want.”

“I’ve always been pro-life,” he said, pointing out that he opposed the RH bill, along with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Commission on the Family and Life, said other presidential candidates had signaled their intention to sign the covenant.

Aquino position

However, Edwin Lacierda, spokesperson for Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the leading presidential candidate in the surveys, said that the Liberal Party standard-bearer did not get an invitation to the signing.

Aquino has been criticized by Catholic groups for his stand on the RH bill, but Lacierda said that Aquino did not support the measure in its present form.

He explained that Aquino maintained that the country’s high population growth “must be addressed.”

“The state should inform and educate the public, especially the poor, of their choices of family planning, both natural and modern,” Lacierda said.

“We should leave it to the parents to choose the size of their family and the method. So, our end-position respects the conscience of each individual,” he added.

Lacierda said Aquino would not restrict the public’s choice only to natural family planning, the only method approved by the Church.

“If you are Catholic and you choose only natural family planning methods, then that’s OK. But the government should not restrict the choices of the public,” he said.

Other politicians present at the Mass were Pimentel, his daughter Gwendolyn, who is running for the Senate, former Sen. Francisco Tatad, and Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidates Jo Imbong, Adrian Sison, Rizalito David and Manuel Valdehuesa.

Bill proquality life

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, the bill’s principal author, has said that the measure seeks to provide information and access to both natural and modern family planning methods which are medically safe and legally permissible.

“The bill is not anti-life. It is pro-quality life,” Lagman said. “It will empower couples with information and opportunity to plan and space their children.”

He denied that the bill would lead to legalization of abortion. He said that many Catholic countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Ireland, banned abortion while vigorously promoting the use of contraceptives.

The bill does not claim to be a cure for poverty, Lagman said.

“It simply recognizes the verifiable link between a huge population and poverty. Unbridled population growth stunts socioeconomic development and aggravates poverty,” he said, pointing to a 2004 study by the Asian Development Bank.

The National Statistics Office estimates that there were 92.2 million Filipinos as of 2009, a third of them surviving on a dollar a day, the poverty threshold defined by the World Bank. The population is projected to hit the 100-million mark by 2015.

Bong, Jinggoy statistically tied

Bong, Jinggoy statistically tied
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that two actors who are also re-electionist senators are again leading the senatorial aspirants in the May 10 elections.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. of the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) were “statistically tied” at first place, receiving 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively, according to results of the SWS survey published by the BusinessWorld newspaper yesterday.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party is still third with 43 percent, down from 44 percent last month.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of PMP and Sen. Pia Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP) both got 36 percent and are now in fourth and fifth slots, respectively.

Former senator Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) was in sixth place with 35 percent.

Former senator Vicente Sotto III of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (33 percent) and former head of the National Economic and Development Authority Ralph Recto (30 percent) maintained their seventh and eighth places, respectively.

Independent bet former senator Sergio Osmeña III improved to ninth spot from the previous 11th place after receiving 29 percent. Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan garnered 28 percent and is now in 10th place, while Sen. Manuel Lapid of the administration party is in 11th place with 27 percent.

The SWS said these candidates have consistently been in the list of 12 possible winners since the firm’s Dec. 5-10 survey.

Former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla of the NP got 21 percent to land in the 12th and last spot, followed by Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III of LP and businessman Jose de Venecia III of PMP, who both got 20 percent.

BusinessWorld reported that the SWS described as “not far behind” the PDP-Laban senatorial candidate Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, daughter of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr.; who got 18 percent.

LP bet Sonia Roco, widow of senator Raul Roco, Akbayan party-list Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel also of LP and detained Col. Ariel Querubin (NP) all got 16 percent while another LP bet, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, got 15 percent.

Emilio Mario Osmeña of Promdi and detained Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim (LP) both got 13 percent.

Remulla: I met with Andal Jr., but only for security reasons

Remulla: I met with Andal Jr., but only for security reasons
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Nacionalista Party (NP) senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla yesterday confirmed reports that he sought an audience with Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr., not to court votes, but for security reasons.

“Yes I did. I do not deny it but it’s for personal and security reasons,” Remulla said during yesterday’s NP press conference in Pasay City.

Remulla was quick to douse speculations that he struck a deal with the Ampatuans, a stark contrast to his earlier campaign to seek justice for the victims of the grisly carnage.

Emotions ran high during the press conference, especially when fellow senatoriable Adel Tamano expressed his disappointment over the former Cavite congressman’s action.

Remulla, a former TV reporter, took up the cudgels for the massacre victims by dramatizing their cause in various provinces during the start of the campaign.

“Let me reiterate that my stand against the Maguindanao massacre is ever stronger than before. As a former journalist I condemned what has happened and I believe that the victims of the Maguindanao massacre has to be given justice and the prime suspects have to be tried completely,” he said.

It was at this point that Tamano, who was seated at the far end of the table, made public his sentiments on the issue.

Tamano admitted that he and some of their fellow senatorial bets were saddened by Remulla’s visit because the NP has been vocal in seeking for justice of the Maguindanao massacre victims.

He reiterated that he has been saying from the start, in his capacity as party spokesman, that the NP will never make any deals with the Ampatuans.

“We will never seek any endorsement from them because an endorsement from the Ampatuan who is a creation of GMA is an endorsement from GMA,” he said.

The two NP bets were seen almost glaring at each other, while the other NP bets – Gwen Pimentel, Toots Ople, Mon-Mon Mitra, and Martin Loon (representing detained Col. Ariel Querubin) – seated at the long table seemed oblivious of the clash between the two NP spokesmen.

Observers noticed that NP secretary general Sen. Alan Cayetano tried to pacify Remulla who was seated beside him.

After the press conference, Tamano admitted being upset but said that he was not mad at Remulla and only wanted to make sure that the NP bets were not compromised by the visit.

“I think, (it was for) my own personal safety. I think anybody would do that. I think as a parent (I have to protect my family),” said Remulla, a brother-in-law of Sigfrid Fortun, who is among the lawyers of the Ampatuans.

Asked if he was “marked” or “blacklisted” by the Ampatuans, Remulla said, ”Let’s leave it at that. Because it’s a safety and security concern.”

Remulla later appealed to the media not to make an issue out of it.

Legarda: Why NP’s left, right, center fit together

Legarda: Why NP’s left, right, center fit together
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—If you can believe its vice presidential candidate, the Nacionalista Party is an oasis of calm compared to rival camps beset by infighting and clashes of egos among the big-name politicos running under their banners.

There is unity and coherence within the NP camp and a high respect for each other, said Sen. Loren Legarda, who is running as a “guest” candidate of the NP.

“The difference in this campaign—we have no tension between and among us,” Legarda told Inquirer editors and reporters recently.

She credited the pivotal role played by the party’s standard-bearer, Sen. Manuel Villar, in gathering under one roof candidates from every political spectrum—left, right and center.

“Manny is a calm person. You never hear him say anything bad about the candidates. And even with the senatorial candidates—they are easy to be with. We have a genuine camaraderie … just like friends,” she said.

Serene and effortless

She described Villar’s handling of the affairs of the campaign as “effortless… that’s why we fit together.”

If anything, Villar’s “serene character” needed a “fighter” like her to complement it, said Legarda.

To hear Legarda—who has run in three national elections since 1998 under different parties with different partners—tell it, running under the NP is pure heaven.

“In 1998, there was so much tension. In 2004, tension and internal bickering were also present. In 2007, I was also with the united opposition, which had its share of bickering,” she said.

Unity slate

But now, with the NP, “there are no clashes of personalities,” she said, adding that the members of the NP treat one another with kindness.

She cited the case of senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., two unlikely teammates in the Villar ticket whose differences—and past encounters—go beyond ideology.

Marcos’ father and namesake, the late dictator, was Ocampo’s jailer and tormentor when the latter was part of the underground communist movement. Ocampo still bears the marks of the torture inflicted on him while in detention during Marcos’ martial law regime.

Ocampo has long ago given up the armed struggle in favor of a peaceful “parliamentary struggle” and is now a candidate for senator after serving for three terms as a party-list representative.

After returning from exile with his family, Marcos Jr. and his family have succeeded in maintaining a firm grip on Ilocos Norte, alternating with his sister, Imee, in occupying the province’s second congressional seat. He has also served as the province’s governor.

Asked to explain this unexpected campaign alliance, Ocampo said: “We exercise mutual respect, mutual accommodation among ourselves in the NP senatorial slate.”

Were it not for Villar’s goal to have a “unity slate,” detained Col. Ariel Querubin would not be running in the same slate as Ocampo, either.

Some of the other members of the NP slate also have their own parties and are running as guest candidates.

The other NP senatorial candidates are Susan Ople, Gwen Pimentel, Ramon Mitra Jr. and Adel Tamano—the progeny of familiar political names—Gilbert Remulla, Liza Maza and reelectionist Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Pia Cayetano and Ramon Revilla Jr.

‘Feeling so loved’

Legarda said she felt most at home with the NP, which has coalesced with her party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and Sen. Edgardo Angara’s Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, which is in coalition with the NPC.

She said she felt “welcome and protected” in the NP, especially by Villar and his wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar.

“And they (the senators) are very protective and supportive of me. I feel so welcome, so loved by the group—left or right. It’s so easy (to get along) with Cynthia and Manny maybe because the leader is not emotional, is very calm and has a serene personality,” she said.

Legarda is confident she will succeed in her second stab at the vice presidency. She lost when she ran in 2004 with the late movie star Fernando Poe Jr. in what she described as one of the country’s “dirtiest” elections.

Come-from-behind victories

With less than a month to go before the elections, Legarda is lagging far behind LP candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas, but is undeterred.

“I’m a fighter. My victories are always come-from-behind. In 1998, I was No. 17 in the surveys,” she said, pointing to her No. 1 finishes in the 1998 and 2007 senatorial races.

“I just need to go around and cover more areas in this campaign as much as I can in the next few weeks,” she said.

The formula that will give her the vice presidency is a combination of media exposure and personal appearances, she said.

“Even if we have Internet, media and all of that, people still want to see the candidates in person to give them importance. I guess it’s a Filipino trait,” she said.

Senatorial candidates sign covenant for migrants

Senatorial candidates sign covenant for migrants

Asserting that the ‘Migrant Vote’ has not only become a potent force in the electoral exercise but also a compelling appeal to improve the conditions of migrant workers across the world, a migrants’ rights group Thursday revealed its seven-point covenant with the country’s next leaders.

Migrante International’s covenant, listing seven concrete ways candidates can help improve the lot of overseas Filipino workers (OFW), was signed by seven senatorial bets: Nacionalista Party’s Liza Maza, Gilbert Remulla and Gwendolyn Pimentel; Nationalist People’s Coalition Vicente “Tito” Sotto III; and Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino’s Apolinario “Jun” Lozada.

Pimentel’s husband Luigi Gana signed on her behalf, while Remulla sent his representative to manifest his support.

According to Migrante, most of the signatories have good records of advancing OFW issues.

Maza authored the Anti-Trafficking Bill while in Congress as Gabriela party-list representative; Lozada and Sotto were co-authors of the Overseas Absentee Voting law; and Pimentel helped repatriate OFWs in dire need to return home.

The covenant stated, “For nine years under the Arroyo administration the country’s overseas labor in 123 nations worked doubly hard to keep the Philippine economy afloat, delivering an unprecedented $17.3 billion remittance in 2009. But at an extremely terrible cost.”

The group cited cases of neglect, abuse and exploitation received daily by Migrante chapters abroad, but attention from government has been minimal.

“The neglect is unconscionable,” said Migrante chair Garry Martinez, who also vowed to push for candidates to implement the covenant as part of their platform of governance should they win.

The covenant’s seven points, in summary, are as follows:

1. Hold President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her key officials accountable for what it described as “crimes of corruption, plunder, and violation of human rights,” and punish abusive officials dealing with OFWs.

2. Work for the repeal of policies detrimental to OFWs, improve on-site services and protection for OFWs and their families.

3. Monitor problems in OFW work conditions; review agreements with receiving countries that contravene laws on rights of labor, migrants and women; seek legal and welfare protection in countries where OFWs have none; and oppose the criminal treatment of undocumented workers.

4. Work for the repatriation of OFWs in dire straits; ensure immediate legal and welfare services for jailed Filipinos; and work to save the lives of those on death row.

5. Give more teeth to laws against illegal recruiters; fight trafficking and exploitation especially of women and minors; and punish the violators.

6. Stop onerous exactions on migrant Filipinos, including the documentary stamp tax; fight schemes that bleed OFWs dry in the guise of education, training and livelihood assistance programs or as trust funds, tax exemptions or benefits, investments or savings.

7. Instead of encouraging migration, reverse the labor export policy by creating local jobs; work towards for national industrialization and genuine land reform; equitably distribute wealth; improve and modernize agriculture; and ensure incentives for domestic industries.—JV, GMANews.TV

Bong, Jinggoy, Miriam lead senatorial poll

Bong, Jinggoy, Miriam lead senatorial poll
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Re-electionist senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Miriam Defensor-Santiago emerged as the top three senatorial bets in a pre-election survey of Pulse Asia.

Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan survey, conducted from March 21 to 28, showed Revilla and Estrada leading the Senate race with voter preference of 53 percent and 52.1 percent, respectively. They are both ranked first to second places.

They are followed by three incumbent senators – Defensor-Santiago (46.2 percent) who occupies third to fourth places; Pia Cayetano, 42.7 percent, who is ranked third to sixth places, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 42.1 percent, who occupies the fourth to sixth slots.

Also, Pulse Asia said 14 out of 61 senatorial candidates have a “statistical chance” of winning Senate seats if the elections were held last month.

Ranked fourth to sixth is former Senate president Franklin Drilon with 41.1 percent.

Landing in seventh to eighth places is former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chairperson Vicente Sotto III with 35.1 percent while

former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) head Ralph Recto ranked 7th to 9th places with 32.5 percent.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. landed in 8th to 10th places with 30.6 percent; followed by former senator Sergio Osmeña III with 27.9, occupying the 9th to 10th places.

The other probable winners are Sen. Manuel Lapid with 23.9 percent (11th to 13th places); Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III, 22.7 percent (11th to 14th), businessman Jose de Venecia III, 21.4 percent (11th to 15th), and lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel, 19.6 percent (12th to 16th).

“In a best case scenario, these four individuals would land within the winners’ circle of 12 senators (11th to 12th) but their lowest statistical rankings (13th to 16th) would put them out of the running for a senatorial seat,” Pulse Asia said in a statement.

Pulse Asia noted that no significant changes in the voter preferences of these senatorial candidates occurred between February and March 2010.

It said the most marked movements are recorded by Defensor-Santiago (-3.2 percentage points) and Drilon (-3.9 percentage points).

The other candidates whose ratings improved but were not included in the list of probable winners were book author Alexander Lacson and detained Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim gaining 5.1 and 4.3 percentage points, respectively.

Electoral support for Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon and Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, on the other hand, declined by 4.2 and 5.1 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the survey also found that one in 10 registered voters (10.7 percent) does not express support for any senatorial candidate.

The non-commissioned survey used face-to-face interviews of 3,000 representative adults.

Bro. Mike Velarde keeps bets guessing

Bro. Mike Velarde keeps bets guessing
By Leila Salaverria, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The top candidates came a-courting, but the object of their entreaties—influential TV evangelist Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai—continued to keep them in suspense.

A 12-hour Easter vigil on an open field bursting with songs, dances and hymns of praise for the Risen Christ ended at 7 a.m. Sunday with no clear word from the leader of the Catholic charismatic group on which candidates he would support in the May 10 elections.

Velarde, whose blessing is coveted by politicians, insisted he had yet to make up his mind, saying he would decide a week before the polls.

“Many are running for the presidency and vice presidency … Up to now, we are still studying and looking for what will do us good and will not harm us,” Velarde said before a crowd estimated by police at 400,000 in a sprawling private compound called “Amvel City” in Parañaque City.

Three suitors, all aspiring to be president, came at different hours to address the crowd—Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party, Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP), and Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

Some of Velarde’s remarks appeared to tickle the hearts of the NP candidates, such as his references to the need to eradicate poverty, which is at the center of Villar’s campaign slogans.

Villar and his party mates were the last to speak. Before they did, Velarde asked the crowd to blow out their candles, plunging the vast assembly into darkness and leaving the stage, where Villar and his colleagues stood, the only area awash with light.

Loudest cheers

Villar earlier this year got what some thought was a virtual endorsement from Velarde when the two spoke at a Valentine’s Day rally of El Shaddai members in Hong Kong.

At the Parañaque vigil, Villar appeared to be the most confident among the three presidential candidates. But it was Estrada who got the loudest cheers.

Administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro Jr. did not attend. El Shaddai officials said he had been to a previous rally of the group.

“That’s why we are sure that the surveys will change,” Estrada told reporters after his 15-minute extemporaneous speech that had the crowd laughing and cheering “Erap! Erap!”

In interviews, Aquino and Villar said they would leave it up to Velarde and the El Shaddai leadership to make the announcement on whom they would endorse.

Villar said he felt that Velarde had practically endorsed his candidacy during the Hong Kong rally. “But I still want the announcement to come from them,” he said.

“I don’t want to speculate. I am just happy that I was welcomed here and we were able to share points of views,” Aquino said.

Similar themes

Velarde told the crowd that he was looking for a leader who could pull the divided country towards one direction, and was independent and not dictated on by others.

The only candidate that received a clear endorsement was the Buhay party-list group, which has the El Shaddai leader as its fifth nominee.

Velarde, who later changed into a hot pink blazer and clutched an orange microphone, said there was a need to stamp out poverty.

At one point, he said that he left business because his aim was not to enrich himself, adding that had he wanted to be rich, he would have stayed a businessman—themes similar to those espoused by Villar in his campaign.

Velarde even referred to a “condominium unit in heaven” for followers of Christ. Villar is a real estate magnate.

Villar came with running mate Loren Legarda and senatorial candidates Pia Cayetano, Susan Ople, Gwen Pimentel and Ramon Mitra.

Velarde said he had known Villar from way back. “But that doesn’t mean I’m endorsing him … Of course, he has the advantage because I know him personally,” he told reporters.

Aquino was the first politician to arrive, accompanied by his sisters Ballsy, Pinky and Kris, who came with husband James Yap. Running mate Mar Roxas was also with them.

Velarde said there was no bloc voting in El Shaddai, although he said many members chose to follow his lead when he proclaimed his support for a candidate.

Reelectionist bets dominate Senate races

Reelectionist bets dominate Senate races
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Reelectionist senators continued to dominate the Senate races, with only one new name entering the “Magic 12” of possible senatorial winners, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the private polling firm Social Weather Stations last week.

Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (53 percent) and Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada (52 percent) were ahead of the pack.

Following them were Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago (44 percent), Pia Cayetano (42 percent), former Sen. Franklin Drilon (36 percent), Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (35 percent), and former Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (33 percent).

Former Sen. Ralph Recto and Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. were ranked 8th-9th with 30 percent.

They were described by the report as “clearly above 13th place.”

Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid was ranked 10th with 26 percent while former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III was 11th with 25 percent.

Entering the Magic 12 at 12th place was Gilbert Remulla, Nacionalista Party spokesperson and former Cavite congressman, with 24 percent.

“Remulla, who was 18th a month ago with just 14 percent, displaced PDP-Laban senatorial candidate Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, daughter of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.,” BusinessWorld said in its report published Monday.

“The top nine candidates and Osmeña have always been in the winning circle since the SWS survey of Dec. 5-10, 2009,” the report said.

Following the Top 12 were Pimentel (23 percent), and Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III (21 percent).

Also cited in the report were businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III (19 percent), and Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (18 percent).

The survey was conducted from March 19 to 22 with 2,100 registered voters as respondents. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Reverse CJ ruling, NP bets ask SC

Reverse CJ ruling, NP bets ask SC
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Six senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party (NP) Monday asked the Supreme Court to reverse its “absurd” conclusion that the constitutional ban on presidential appointments during an election period did not apply to the judiciary.

The six NP candidates—lawyers Adel Tamano and Gwen Pimentel, former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, party-list representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople—filed a motion for intervention and reconsideration of the high court’s 9-1 decision that would allow President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint a new Chief Justice a few weeks before she steps down from office.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno will retire on May 17, which falls within the election period that began two months before election day and will end with the outgoing president’s term on June 30.

Section 15, Article VII, of the Constitution says appointments are prohibited during the election period save for “temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

A related provision, Section 4, gives the president 90 days to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court.

According to the candidates, the Supreme Court “failed to consider the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution and instead adopted a narrow interpretation of the two provisions resulting in an apparently absurd conclusion.”

“Hence, it is not surprising that a lot of people, especially from the legal profession, consider the decision to have been tailor-fitted to suit the interests of incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is widely suspected of plotting to extend her term or at the very least to perpetuate herself in power,” they said.

Defies common sense

They said that the high court erred in saying that the Constitutional ban does not apply to the Supreme Court because Article VII was titled “Executive Department.”

This interpretation, they said, was “not only too restrictive but defies the basic tenets of common sense.”

Aside from being “overly simplistic,” the interpretation “undermines the foundation of separation of powers,” they said.

They said it was “obvious” that the provision against “midnight” appointments was placed under Article VII “not to limit its coverage to the executive branch but to “curb the president’s immense power to appoint not only members of the executive department but also the judiciary, so it would not be abused to serve political or partisan interests.”

“This is the reason why midnight appointments are not allowed. This provision was clearly meant to check the power of the president. To hold that the provision does not cover the judiciary effectively allows the incumbent president to undermine the independence of the judiciary at such a critical period,” the NP senatorial candidates said.

They also argued that the constitutional provision giving the President 90 days to appoint members of the Supreme Court meant that the high court could survive as an institution without a permanent chief justice for a given period.

“There is no question and it is a verifiable fact that the functions of the Supreme Court which is a collegial body will not be affected by the absence of a permanent chief justice. If the Constitution recognizes the possibility of having an acting president, intervenor(s) finds no reason why there cannot be an acting chief justice,” they said.

Protect from power lust

Lastly, they reminded the Supreme Court to “protect the people from the incumbent president’s lust for power and other subsequent presidents who will have the same intention.”

In a separate statement Ople, youngest daughter of former Sen. Blas Ople, said the Supreme Court in effect amended the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will start the selection process for another associate justice to fill the seat of the magistrate who will replace Puno.

“We have not yet started the (selection) process but given the Supreme Court decision, that process could start now,” acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra told reporters Monday.

“There’s no vacancy at the moment but we can start the nomination process,” he added.

He said this would be included on the agenda when the eight-man JBC meets on April 5.

Agra said they would also resume their discussion on the shortlist of nominees for Chief Justice.

He said they would decide whether they would still interview the candidates and how they would tackle the complaints filed against certain candidates.

He said the JBC would also ask Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales to “clarify whether they are still willing to be nominated by the JBC.” The two earlier said they would accept the nomination on the condition that it would be the next president who would make the final choice.