Joselito Mendoza

SC affirms with finality Mendoza as Bulacan governor

SC affirms with finality Mendoza as Bulacan governor
By Dateline Philippines

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed with finality its ruling on the petition filed by Bulacan governor Joselito “Jon-jon” Mendoza that sought to prevent the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from ousting him from his post.

At a press briefing, Court Administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said Mendoza’s political rival and former Agrarian Reform secretary Roberto “Obet” Pagdangan failed to raise new issues that would warrant the reversal of its ruling issued last March 23.

“The motion for reconsideration has been denied with finality the basic issues has been passed upon and there being no substantial arguments presented in the MR,” Marquez said.

In its March 23 ruling, the Court nullified the resolutions issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ordering Mendoza to vacate his post after declaring Pagdanganan as the duly-elected governor of the province.

The Court earlier held that the Comelec en banc committed grave abuse of discretion in ousting Mendoza from his post.

The Comelec en banc, voting 3-3-1, denied Mendoza’s motion for reconsideration last March 5 and granted Pagdanganan’s motion for immediate execution of the decision of the second division installing him as Bulacan’s governor.

Supreme Court okays new district for Dato

Supreme Court okays new district for Dato
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Following its controversial decision giving President Arroyo the power to appoint the next chief justice, the Supreme Court (SC) has again rendered another ruling that is favorable to the Palace.

The SC junked yesterday a petition of Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III questioning the law signed by the President creating a new congressional district in Camarines Sur that will benefit her son, Rep. Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo, and her ally former budget secretary Rolando Andaya.

Voting 9-5 during a summer session in Baguio City, the High Court ruled that RA 9716, which created another district in the province after reapportionment of cities and municipalities, is constitutional, according to SC spokesman Midas Marquez.

The SC dismissed Aquino’s argument in his petition filed in October last year that RA 9716 “constitutes grave abuse of discretion” and “violates the principle of proportional representation.”

In the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez, the Court said that the required population of 250,000 for creation of a district only applies to cities.

“The Court said that this requirement under Article VI, Section 5, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution does not apply to provinces but only to cities. In this case, there is nothing wrong in the reapportionment of Camarines Sur, a province, that left the first district with only 178,000 residents,” Marquez explained in a teleconference.

Eight other justices concurred in the ruling – Senior Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Mendoza.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Arturo Brion and Martin Villarama dissented.

In his dissenting opinion, Carpio said that the 250,000 population is a default requirement in the creation of a district. The other four agreed with him.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad is on official leave.

Carpio argued that the new law signed by the President on Oct. 12 last year had violated the requirement on population for creation of a legislative district as specified in Article VI Section 5 of the Constitution.

He said that after the reapportionment of the province for the creation of the third district, “the first district will have a population of 176,383, way below the population requirement under the Constitution.”

Senator Aquino, in his petition, stressed that the creation of a new district should not be merely based on the benefits it would give to lawmakers.

“It is not a question of whether or not the congressman would agree to the creation of a new legislative district. It is a question of whether or not it would translate to better representation for the people living in the said locality, given that the population of a particular locality has grown so much as to entitle it a new legislative district,” he argued.

“Congressional reapportionment is an issue of the people represented, not the representative,” Aquino stressed.

The LP standard-bearer believes that the new law “would favor them (Rep. Arroyo and former Rep. Andaya)” as the extra congressional district would mean the two would no longer need to run against each other in the May congressional polls.

He was joined by Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo in filing the petition.

No constitutional requirement

RA 9716 originated from House Bill 4264 filed by 2nd District Rep. Luis Villafuerte and was approved by the House of Representatives on June 11, 2008. It was submitted to the Senate six days after.

During public hearings, Sen. Joker Arroyo and Rep. Villafuerte argued that the Constitution did not provide any minimum population requirement for the creation of congressional districts within a province.

They added that while the Constitution requires that cities must have at least 250,000 inhabitants to be entitled to a legislative district, there is no such requirement for provinces.

The provinces of Batanes, Camiguiin, Siquijor, among others, have less than 250,000 inhabitants and yet have their own legislative districts, they explained.

Before the new law was passed, the first district of Camarines Sur was composed of the towns of Del Gallego, Ragay, Lupi, Sipocot, Cabusao, Libmanan, Minabalac, Pamplona, Pasacao and San Fernando with a population of 417,300 two years ago.

The second district, on the other hand, was composed of the towns of Gainza, Milaor, Pili, Ocampo, Camaligan, Canaman, Magarao, Bombon, Calabanga and Naga with a combined population of 474,899 in 2007.

Under R.A. 9716, the municipalities of Libmanan, Minabalac, Pamplona, Pasacao and San Fernando in the first district were consolidated with the municipalities of Gainza and Milaor in the second district to comprise a new district.

The municipalities of Del Gallego, Ragay, Lupi, Sipocot and Cabusao shall continue to be designated as the first legislative district.

The second district shall become the third district composed of Naga City and the municipalities of Pili, Ocampo, Camaigan, Magarao, Bombon and Calatianga.

The new fourth district shall comprise the towns of Caramoan, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, Sangay, San Jose, Tigaon, Tinambac, and Siruma.

The fifth district shall be composed of Iriga City, Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula and Nabua.

The creation of an additional district prevented a face-off between Andaya and Rep. Arroyo.

Andaya, who served as the representative of the old 1st district from 1998-2007, is now making a comeback in his district and is facing Nacionalista Party’s (NP) Nestor delos Reyes.

The younger Arroyo, meanwhile, is running in the new 2nd district and is facing NP bet and San Fernando Mayor Fermin Mabulo.

NP bet Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. welcomed the SC’s decision and wasted no time in hitting Aquino.

“I think that’s the only battle Noynoy waged, and it was even slammed,” said Villar.

“It is irrelevant who will run and benefit from it. What we follow is the law. This went through the processes of the House of Representatives and the Senate, so we know this is legal,” he added.

Double whammy

One of the senators who debated with Aquino over the issue called the SC decision a double whammy.

Earlier, the SC ruled as unconstitutional RA 8754, which created a legislative district within the city of Malolos.

Aquino supported and shepherded the Malolos bill through the Senate as chairman of the Committee on Local Government.

Malolos residents questioned the bill before the Supreme Court and won.

The source, who debated against Aquino on the issue, noted the irony of the two measures where the senator supported the bill although the last census showed that Malolos had a population of only 227,000, short of the 250,000 constitutional requirement.

At that time, Aquino claimed that Malolos had a potential 250,000 population according to other government agencies, but the SC was not convinced.

In the Camarines Sur bill, Aquino refused to sponsor the House Bill of Rep. Villafuerte because according to him the new district has only 176,383 inhabitants and therefore short of the 250,000 requirement.

“As it turned out, the Supreme Court turned Noynoy down in both cases,” the source said.

“The poignancy of the Camarines Sur bill is that when it was voted upon by the Senate on third and final reading, Noynoy got the support of only one senator, fellow Liberal Kiko Pangilinan while the rest of the Senate went against him,” the same source added. – Artemio Dumlao, Christina Mendez

Stop ‘Villarroyo’ talk, Arroyo orders party

Stop ‘Villarroyo’ talk, Arroyo orders party
By Christian V. Esguerra, Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Fix the “Villarroyo” mess.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered ruling party officials to squelch reports that she is backing Sen. Manuel Villar and abandoning the administration’s standard-bearer, Gilbert Teodoro.

In response, the executive committee of the Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats party is set to issue a manifesto after its meeting on Tuesday, reassuring Teodoro of its support, said House Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, the new party chair.

“Do something about this talk—fix it,” Villarosa quoted the President as telling her and other party officials during their recent visit to St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City in Taguig City, where First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is confined because of a heart condition.

Talk that Villar was the “secret candidate” of the Arroyos gained traction after a ruling party official and an administration senatorial candidate said last week that Teodoro quit as chair of Lakas-Kampi-CMD on March 30 because the Arroyo couple were backing Villar, presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

The party official, who asked not to be named, said Teodoro uncovered the shift of support when members of the Garcia clan of Cebu decided to back Villar.

The official said Teodoro had learned from Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia that the other Garcias switched support to Villar after receiving a call from Mike Arroyo.

Villar has denied the he was the candidate of the Arroyos, saying that he has not sought money or help from Ms Arroyo and her husband. A lawyer of Mike Arroyo dismissed the allegation as false.

Defections

Reports of a Villar-Arroyo alliance has triggered defections by Lakas members to Villar’s camp.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles acknowledged that Lakas members were being driven to jump ship due to the confusion in the party leadership.

Villarosa said Ms Arroyo was taking “calmly” reports that the ruling party was disintegrating.

She said Ms Arroyo asked her allies to do “whatever needs to be done” to address the situation. “Is there such a problem? Take care of it,” Villarosa quoted the President as saying.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, the President’s elder son, said his family was not affected by speculations of a double-cross in the ruling party.

“It’s not true,” he told reporters in Lubao, Pampanga. “Our family has gone through so many false innuendoes. So, I don’t see anything new. You see all our mayors, our barangay captains. They’re wearing green (Teodoro’s campaign color). Right?”

In Malacañang, a deputy spokesperson of Ms Arroyo said the President was maintaining her support for Teodoro but just don’t expect her to campaign for him, with nearly a month to go before Election Day.

Gary Olivar said Ms Arroyo’s move to immediately replace the “top management team of the administration party” with people who included her close ally, Villarosa, indicated her support for Teodoro.

“She’s certainly showing concern and wants to stay on top of what’s going on,” he said at a briefing.

Changes in strategy

Following the President’s instructions, the party’s executive committee is set to hold a meeting on Tuesday to tackle reports that the First Couple was backing Villar.

Villarosa said the committee would also discuss changes in Teodoro’s campaign strategy to improve his ratings in surveys. Teodoro has remained in distant fourth in all major surveys.

She said Teodoro was welcome to attend the meeting at the Linden Suites Hotel in Pasig City at noon.

Sympathy votes

Villarosa said Teodoro could end up benefiting from the “Villarroyo” controversy on account of the “sympathy” he might get from voters. She noted that Teodoro was being portrayed as an “underdog” in the presidential race.

“He is, in a way, being helped with this,” Villarosa said. “At this point, we realized that everybody would do what (he has) to do to bring Gibo (Teodoro’s nickname) down. We are also determined to bring him up.”

The ruling party chair downplayed the departure of Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri and Luis “Chavit” Singson, former deputy national security adviser, from Lakas to join the NP.

“We have more than 100 congressmen. We have more than 40 governors out of 74. We have the organization at the local government units. We are not worried. We just have to keep our faith,” she said.

Villarosa said she had also talked with Gwen Garcia and had been assured that the influential Garcia family would keep their “word of honor” and maintain their support for Teodoro.

In Negros Occidental, Gov. Isidro Zayco said that contrary to rumors that the Lakas-Kampi-CMD was breaking up, the party in the province was intact.

Zayco, party chair in the province, said he and other members were loyal to Teodoro.

Fair treatment

In Iloilo City, Villar asked for “fair treatment” from the media.

Villar, who spent time speaking in three radio stations in the city denying the “Villarroyo” talk, lamented that reports against him had been given more attention than the negative reports about his closest rival, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP).

Villar said the allegations of his political rivals were “pure lies” but his rivals were very influential with the media.

Film on Ninoy, Cory

Villar cited the airing of the 1988 Australian film “A Dangerous Life” by television network ABS-CBN during the Holy Week.

The film, aired in three parts, is based on the 1986 Edsa uprising and depicts the last years of the Marcos dictatorship.

The film focuses on the assassination of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983 and the candidacy in the 1986 snap presidential election of Corazon “Cory” Aquino that led to the overthrow of Marcos. The Aquino couple were parents of the LP standard-bearer.

“I’m spending my own money and I’m painstakingly building the Nacionalista Party (but) end up (with accusations that) people join me because (the First Gentleman) said so. They have forgotten that I’m a former Senate president and (House) Speaker,” Villar said.

Lie detector test

Sen. Jamby Madrigal challenged Villar to undergo a televised lie detector test “if indeed he has nothing to hide and is not the secret presidential candidate” of the Arroyos.

“That will settle the matter once and for all,” Madrigal told the Inquirer Monday. Villar was “lying through his teeth” with his claim that there was no deal between him and the Arroyos, she said.

The independent presidential candidate said “a bare denial by Villar of his deal with Mike Arroyo and Mrs. Arroyo proves nothing.”

The senator said Villar “will make a deal even with the devil just to win the presidency.”

In Baliuag, Bulacan, Aquino and his running mate, Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, stood pat on their “Villarroyo” charges.

In a press conference hosted by Bulacan Gov. Joselito “Jon-jon” Mendoza, Aquino pointed out that Villar had not spoken against Ms Arroyo on any issue despite styling himself as an opposition leader.

Kiss of death

Political allies of Villar slammed the “dirty tactics” of Aquino supporters who were former members of the Arroyo administration.

“I think it’s about time that we reveal who are the brains behind this. This is the work of the ‘Topak ni Noynoy,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, NP spokesperson, said in a press conference.

Cayetano said “Topak” stood for “Trapo, Oportunista, at Kamag-Anak, Inc.” within the circle of Aquino.

He said it was this group that started linking Villar to Ms Arroyo, knowing that her endorsement would be a “kiss of death” to any candidate. With reports form Christine O. Avendaño, Jerry E. Esplanada, Gil Cabacungan and Nikko Dizon; and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas

In poll protests, freeze incumbents’ pay

In poll protests, freeze incumbents’ pay
By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer

AFTER procrastinating for years, the Commission on Elections is in a hurry to resolve election protest cases, now that new elections are just two months away. And candidates, both losers and winners, are complaining about the Comelec’s tardiness. In almost all the cases already decided, the results are next to useless. The cheaters, although eventually declared the losers, have already occupied the position, and collected the salaries and allowances, including the pork barrel in the case of congressmen, that rightfully belong to those declared the winners, for almost the whole term. The winners would be left with only a few weeks or days of the term. The losers have already spent the funds that belong to them. The winners are left with an empty treasury. Theirs are an empty victory. It teaches our people that crime actually pays. And encourages our politicians to cheat. Anyway, if they are caught cheating, it would take the Comelec almost the whole term before it can resolve the case. Even if the cheaters were declared the losers, they have already usurped the position for the whole term.

I think we should alter the process of resolving election protests to make it fair to everybody, especially the voters.

In case of a poll protest against a proclaimed candidate, there should be a quick preliminary investigation and if it shows that there is a prima facie case against the accused, all the emoluments of the position should be frozen, to be given to the candidate who is eventually declared the winner.

That is only fair to the winner, isn’t it? And it would discourage cheating because, if caught, the cheater wouldn’t get anything for his troubles.

Below, I will relate two poll protest cases resolved recently by the Comelec. One is the proclaimed winner, the other the declared loser. Both are protesting.

The first is Roberto Pagdanganan of Bulacan. He has been declared the winner in the Bulacan gubernatorial race of 2007. The Comelec has proclaimed him; he has taken his oath of office, twice, but until now he cannot occupy the governor’s seat because the incumbent governor, Joselito Mendoza, is using all sorts of dilatory tactics. Meanwhile, time is running out. By the time the case is resolved with finality, perhaps only hours would be left of the term.

Mendoza was proclaimed the winner shortly after the 2007 elections. Pagdanganan filed an election protest. Almost three years later, the Comelec finds, after a recount, that Pagdanganan had won by more than 4,000 votes. The Comelec proclaimed Pagdanganan the duly elected governor of Bulacan. But he still cannot occupy the gubernatorial seat because Mendoza has appealed to the Supreme Court, and the latter is notorious for taking its own sweet time in resolving cases.

With barely two months left of the three-year term, the clock ticks away and the rightful governor of the province waits outside the governor’s office while a usurper sits on the governor’s chair inside.

Even if the high court rules in Pagdanganan’s favor, the likelihood is that Mendoza will file a motion for reconsideration and at least another 15 days of legal skirmishes will follow while time runs out.

With only days or hours before the term ends by the time Pagdanganan is finally seated in the governor’s chair, what would he get in return for his three years of pain and patience? A piece of paper that says he is the duly elected governor of Bulacan and nothing else.

Pagdanganan’s case is not an isolated one. Cases of long drawn-out election protests are common in this country. They drag on and on and on. In many cases, election protests are overtaken by the election buzzer announcing that the game—the contested term—is over.

This is not to mention the fact that only moneyed people can afford to pursue an election protest. Poll protests cost a sackful of money. Poor candidates often just have to accept the blow even if in all honesty they won the votes but lost the count.

If the emoluments of the contested position are frozen—as I propose—and given eventually to the real winner, cheated and poor candidates will not be discouraged from pursuing election protests. At the same time, politicians will be discouraged from cheating because if they are found out, they would get nothing for their efforts.

* * *

The other case I want to talk about is the opposite of Pagdanganan’s case. He has been declared the loser in the 2007 gubernatorial contest in Camarines Norte and the Comelec has ordered him to vacate the gubernatorial seat. He is Gov. Jesus Typoco of Camarines Norte who has been ordered to vacate the governor’s seat and hand it over to his rival, Edgardo Tallado.

Typoco had been proclaimed the winner shortly after the 2007 elections. Tallado filed an election protest. After a recount, the Comelec had Tallado with 79,969 votes while Typoco has 79,904 votes, a hairline win of 65 votes by Tallado. Typoco went to the Supreme Court with a petition for certiorari, claiming that the Comelec did not consider the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation that poll results counted in favor of Tallado were spurious.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Edgardo Nachura, the tribunal said it is not a trier of facts and that it is the Comelec that is the expert in election cases and therefore it, the Supreme Court, will have to rely on the findings of the Comelec in the Tallado vs Typoco election case.

On the NBI’s report that some election results were spurious, the Supreme Court said “the Comelec, not the NBI, is the agency that has the competence to determine the genuineness of election documents.”

As I see it, in case of doubt, look again. In the case of two government agencies disagreeing on the genuineness of poll documents, a second look is in order to make sure there is no miscarriage of justice.

Palace lauds Verzosa; Aquino fears he may be retired

Palace lauds Verzosa; Aquino fears he may be retired
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa Thursday drew praise from Malacañang for his declaration that he would not back any move to keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power if the May elections failed.

Gary Olivar, a deputy spokesperson of Ms Arroyo, sought to put Verzosa’s statement in context and said the latter meant that he “would not support any illegal action or decision by his counterpart in the Armed Forces.”

“And I submit this is the proper attitude, anyway, that should be followed by the AFP and the police—not to follow any illegal orders or commit illegal actions,” Olivar said at a briefing.

On the campaign trail, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III said he did not trust Ms Arroyo or Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

Aquino also said that compared to Bangit’s, the career of Verzosa had had its ups and downs.

“If Verzosa will suddenly be booted out or retired early, one has to wonder what the reason is,” he said, adding that the man was not due for retirement until December.

“It’s been a long time since I trusted GMA [based on] what she says … I want to give General Bangit the benefit of the doubt, but it is better that we err on the side of caution,” Aquino said in a press conference at the Surigao City airport.

Aquino said Ms Arroyo had done a “meticulous” job in appointing Bangit and other members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978 in key positions in the AFP.

“The President has the right, but she should have done everybody better by [naming as AFP chief of staff] somebody not as closely linked to her. [It would] at least give the appearance of neutrality, given the importance of the transition,” he said.

“It is, I think, gratifying to note that PNP chief Verzosa has once again given us his assurance that he will abide by his duties as a uniformed officer,” Olivar added.

In answer to a question, Verzosa told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters on Tuesday night that he would not back Bangit, the new AFP chief of staff, should the latter try to install Ms Arroyo as holdover president in the event of a failure of the first automated elections in the country.

He said the 120,000-strong PNP would not back any violation of the Constitution, which mandates a new President after June 30.

Bangit’s promise

But he said there was no reason to suspect that Ms Arroyo, whose term ends on June 30, would use the military to create an artificial power vacuum.

Olivar noted that Bangit himself had said he would not allow himself or the military to be used for partisan politics.

“This is also something that General Bangit himself has promised to do, as required by his own oath as a soldier,” Olivar said.

At the turnover ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, Bangit said he would faithfully perform his duties and ensure that the military would remain neutral during the elections.

He also said he had not received any illegal orders from Ms Arroyo, which was why he had “so much respect for her.”

The President herself said her administration was committed to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

On Thursday, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the Commission on Elections would hold Bangit—the senior aide-de-camp of Ms Arroyo when she was the Vice President and the commander of the Presidential Security Guard in 2003-2007—to his word.

But Larrazabal dismissed rumors that Bangit’s appointment as AFP chief of staff was a prelude to election-rigging, saying these were running rampant because of the election season.

“We in the Comelec are mandated to conduct peaceful elections, and that is what we will do. People will have doubts and the best way to address these is to do our job and do it well,” he said.

Failure of elections

According to Sterling Bank Asia treasurer Roland Avante, foreign analysts were apprehensive that a tainting of election results could create political instability.

He said fears were growing that a failure of elections was a real risk.

Quoting Ms Arroyo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Olivar said a failure of elections was the inability of voters to fill out ballots arising from, say, a failure to print ballots, or a lack of ballots in a voting precinct.

“Once you have filled out the ballot, the electoral process is completed. That is the heart of it,” Olivar said.

He added: “It is so easy to talk about failure of elections, and yet nobody has bothered to define it.

“If you don’t define something clearly, how can you measure it? And if you can’t measure it, how can you evaluate the risk involved?”

Neric Acosta’s take

According to LP senatorial candidate Neric Acosta, Bangit’s appointment as AFP chief of staff and the recent behavior of the Comelec were worrisome.

“This government is not yielding an inch. There is no guarantee of a peaceful transfer of power, because Ms Arroyo wants to hold on to power for as long as she can,” Acosta said on Wednesday in Bacolod City.

He also said the Comelec’s removal of LP governors—Grace Padaca of Isabela, Ed Panlilio of Pampanga and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan—did not inspire confidence in its impartiality. With reports from Kristine L. Alave and Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. in Manila; Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas