"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kapihan sa Senado Interview

On India and Thailand incidents

Q: Do you think what happened in India and Thailand can also happen here?

Gordon: Yes. In fact, the Thais are merely taking a cue from us from EDSA 1 and 2. But they're more aggressive, they have taken over the airports, that's very serious. And the army is still not doing anything about it. I hope that for the sake of Thailand, I really don't want a situation where the army always comes in and interferes in political action like this. It's a very bad precedent.

Q: What could possibly trigger that? Could it be Cha-cha?

Gordon: Well, sometimes people remain quiet and docile and then something breaks. The unabashed attempt to try and change the Constitution ... I'm glad it's dead. I hear it's dead. Many congressmen are taking heed, they're withdrawing their signatures in Congress on the Cha-Cha bid. It really is untenable. It cannot be, to have the Congress act jointly and vote jointly is an impossibility because the Constitution has really delineated the time when Congress can act jointly and vote jointly, and that is only in the case of lifting Martial Law or habeas corpus.

On Bolante

Q: What do we expect tomorrow?

Gordon: Tomorrow we're going to have the hearing. We have invited the regional directors that were not able to come simply because they have been replaced. So now the actual directors who are no longer the regional directors but were the regional directors during the time of the distribution will now be called, so they are expected to shed more light especially to sustain what Dir. Chio has stated that directions were taken from Mr. Bolante and at the same time to sustain the statement made by Dir. Oblena of the fact that Bolante commanded to change the NGO concerned. We will also get the AMLC to come down, Vicent Aquino, to make that report. As you know we have also ordered that Ms. Aytona be brought here. Right now we have the lawyers say that they are going to bring her here, we're not quite sure whether that is going to happen. But tomorrow also we expect more breakthroughs in the matter because of the fact that the AMLC will shed light on the deposits. In the meantime, I have written a letter to the Ombudsman, asking for the action that she has taken on Task Force Abono, something that was given to her almost three years ago. And now it's important that we get her actions especially since we don't want her losing again in the Sandiganbayan for being slow and violating the rights of the people that she hails in court for a very slow process of justice. Tomorrow's going to be, we will really accelerate the pace of the investigation. And hopefully, depending on Mr. Bolante, I already warned him. I just want you all to know that there are about 10 signatures already, I expect it to have 11 by today, they signed it that Mr. Bolante be detained by the Senate and brought either to the Senate or the Pasay detention center.

Q: When are you going to decide on that motion?

Gordon: Tomorrow. Depending on the committee, I'm preparing the instances when Mr. Bolante had been caught lying or had been practically evasive.

We have not issued a warrant of arrest yet on Mr. Bolante. There's a motion.

Before the court is a habeas corpus petition for Mr. Bolante. A habeas corpus petition says, produce the body. I want to make it clear here to all, that Mr. Bolante is not under arrest, he's not under house arrest. He's in his house, he is escorted by the Senate principally because he has said that he fears for his life. He's under protective custody of the Senate. The Court of Appeals, I'm sure, will throw out that proposition because he can go out freely, nakakpasyal sya. I'm told by the Sergeant-at-Arms that he is able to go wherever he wants.

Q: Where will he be detained?

Gordon: That's for me to know, and for him to find out. We can detain him in any detention center that we see fit. We detained Sabio here, and he said he was sick so I had doctors and an ambulance ready.

Q: Most likely he will be detained?

Gordon: We have the votes. That's why he should prepare himself very well. Be frank and candid and not evasive tomorrow. I mean, this is a big hint. We're gonna have 11 signatures already. Seventeen lang yung members, we only need nine.

On shame-on-you sanction

Gordon: Let me tell you what I intend to do later on with the case of Mr. Bolante or other people who will be there. The blue ribbon committee cannot put him to jail. That's clear. We can recommend that a case be filed against them. But the Ombudsman, we cannot push the Ombudsman. We can call her but if she says I'm not ready, wala din mangyayari. So, you and I can either impeach him. And you know impeachment is a political exercise. It's the number of votes. So kung ganun, it's time we come out with a sanction, a "shame-on-you" sanction. With a recommendation that these people should never be allowed to enter into government office at any time in the future. Hindi natin ginagamit yung hiya eh. Yung hiya ginagamit natin na hindi pagiging assertive. Pero yung hiya gamitin natin ngayon para ang tao talagang they will ostracize them.

Bolante must answer questions or spend jail time

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday threatened former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante with jail time if he continues to evade questions related to the P728-million fertilizer fund mess on Friday's hearing.

In a press conference, Gordon said Bolante faces detention either at the Senate or in Pasay City Jail and even in the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City if he refuses to cooperate in the proceedings.

"He should prepared and be frank and candid. We can detain him in the Senate premises or in Pasay City jail or in Muntinlupa and will remain there until he decides to be more cooperative," Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, said.

"There are a lot of things that matter which he, allegedly, cannot remember. You can really see that he is being evasive. Who would not remember earning P200,000 a month? He evades things like that," Gordon said.

Gordon said there are at least 10 senators, going on 11, who signed the resolution citing Bolante in contempt for being evasive in answering the questions during Tuesday's hearing on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

"There has been a motion to cite Mr. Bolante in contempt because of his evasiveness and what appears to some members of the committee as outright lying. The Senate's contempt order is just waiting to be served," Gordon said.

The senator said Friday's hearing would be a make-or-break for Bolante as his fate – whether he would be cited in contempt by the Senate – will depend on the testimonies he will give during the hearing.

"Bolante should tell the truth in tomorrow's hearing. He should stop trying to run circles around the members of the committee because his continued freedom depends on what he would be willing to tell us tomorrow," Gordon said.

The senator clarified that Bolante is not under house arrest but under the protective custody of the Senate.

Last Tuesday, three regional directors – Roger Chio of Region 11, Leo Caneda of Region 8 and Ricardo Oblena of Region 7 – contradicted Bolante's claim that he had nothing to do with the implementation of the project.

Chio said it was Bolante who signed a purchase request for 2,000 pieces of foliar fertilizer at P1,500 each. While Oblena testified that Bolante had asked him to replace a non-government organization, named by the Kalibo local government as recipient of the funds, with the NGO National Organization for Agricultural Enhancement and Productivity Inc.

Gordon said Bolante's evasion was further magnified when he claimed that he could not recall how much salary he was getting from the GSIS.

It was Gordon who said in the hearing that Bolante received P200,000 a month from the GSIS as a member of the Board of Trustees.

The senator said Bolante and other past and present agriculture regional directors are expected to meet again in a Senate hearing Friday.

Also expected to attend are officials of the Anti-Money Laundering Council and private bank executives.

Gordon also expects the presence of Maritess Aytona, the alleged runner in the fertilizer scam. The senator said he also asked the National Bureau of Investigation to locate the "missing" fertilizer trader.

Bolante: Answer questions or spend jail time
Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV
11/27/2008 | 01:11 PM

No Senate, no Con-Ass

Senator Richard Gordon, the new chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said Thursday that the Senate will not agree to form a Constituent Assembly and change the charter through joint voting by both chambers.

In an interview with dzMM, Gordon said the upper chamber will not give in to the administration congressmen's view that the Senate and the House should vote jointly, instead of separately, on charter change (cha-cha).

He said the constitution clearly states that the two chambers can only vote jointly on whether to concur with the President's declaration of martial law.

"They (congressmen) cannot have a Constituent Assembly without the Senate. The constitution is clear when it says you can amend the constitution by a vote of Congress. Legislative power is vested in two chambers of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives," he said.

Gordon said he personally believes that charter change (cha-cha) should be discussed in the 2010 elections. He said candidates should clearly tell the voters their views on the issue.

The senator said this is the only way the people can be assured that cha-cha will not be used by incumbent government officials who want to extend their stay in office.

Two cha-cha resolutions have been circulating around the House. One resolution, authored by House Speaker Prospero Nograles, seeks to pass economic reforms to attract foreign investors, while the resolution being pushed by Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) President Luis Villafuerte, wants to force the Supreme Court (SC) to rule on charter change.

Administration congressmen have confirmed that the KAMPI resolution will be brought to the SC after mustering at least three-fourths signatures of legislators regardless of whether it is signed by senators.

“Paano ito kung puro tayo satsatan dito, eh di pirmahan tayo at dalhin sa Supreme Court para magkaalaman (What will happen if we're all talk? Let’s sign [the resolution] and bring it to the Supreme Court),” Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said when asked about the real motive of the KAMPI resolution.

Villafuerte said that at least 156 congressmen have signified their support for the KAMPI resolution. However, there were also reports that at least administration congressmen have withdrawn their support.

Gordon also warned Thursday that the Philippines will be shifting back to martial rule if the Supreme Court decides in favor of Charter change (cha-cha) proponents.

Gordon, who retained his post as chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revisions, said that as a lawyer he is banking on the SC's independence when it is asked to rule on the cha-cha issue.

"I have to rely on the Supreme Court...The day the Supreme Court becomes beholden to a president, it is the end of democracy in the country," he said, adding that a magistrate should stay independent even if he's appointed by the president, because the high court is "the court of last resort."

Gordon said if ever the SC decides in favor of proposals to convene the Senate and the House of Representatives into a Constituent Assembly before 2010, the country may be shifting back to martial rule.

"It happened during the martial law days. I hope it will not happen with this Supreme Court," Gordon said.

Gordon: No Senate, no Con-Ass
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 11/27/2008 12:51 PM

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Mr. President, I rise on a matter of personal privilege.

Today is the day when the Americans in Subic Bay, which they formerly held, struck down a foreign flag in our country for the last time. For the first time no foreign flags fly in our country, and that occurred on November 24, 1992.

I was in Subic Bay this morning together with the thousands of volunteers who accompanied us when we took over Subic Bay so that it could be converted into a Freeport. I just wanted to point out that, I think, we owe these volunteers that served in Subic Bay, the gratitude for having preserved the honor of our country. Nothing was stolen and at the same time have been able to move Subic into a new level of development. And I will file the necessary resolution after this, Mr. President.

I also rise, Mr. President, on a matter of collective privilege principally because up late, there have been noises in the Lower House that talks about calling for a Constituent Assembly, a Constituent Assembly that would occur before the elections of 2010. And having said that, Mr. President, it would appear that they are even positing a theory that we are going to vote jointly and not separately.

Mr. President that would be a travesty of the Constitution, because it is very clear in the Constitution that Congress is a bicameral body with two houses. Under Article VI, Congress is identified and defined as the legislative power being vested in two houses of Congress, which are the Lower House and the Upper House.

Going further in the Constitution, the Constitution has really delineated the times when Congress can vote jointly and must vote separately, although meeting jointly. The time when they can meet jointly, but vote separately is enshrined in the matter of, under Article VII, in the matter of the powers of the president when he declares Martial Law, and the Congress would like to reject Martial Law or the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus. And it provides there that Congress meets jointly and vote jointly. Now in the matter of a situation where the Congress meets in joint session but votes separately, that is the time when we have to declare an existence of a state of war. And this is provided for in Section23 of Article VI of the Constitution. And it's very clearly delineated there that Congress can meet jointly but vote separately on the matter of declaration of war. While the provision on Constitutional amendments is stated, it states that Congress can amend the Constitution by two-thirds vote when calling for Constitutional Convention or two-thirds vote when acting as a Constituent Assembly. That's already pointed out, Congress is composed of two bodies.

Having said that, Mr. President, I feel that we must counsel and admonish our friends in the Lower House that such a move would be disastrous to the country, especially during these difficult times of the world. Today there is a contagion happening in the whole world today, where the mightiest nations like the United States have practically been diminished. There is no in the United States right now, they have to conduct a bail out and this is creating a situation where credit is constricted and when credit is constricted there will be factories that will have to close down because they do not have the credit to continue their operation as GM, Chrysler and Ford are currently undergoing and at the same time that will result in the loss of jobs. The loss of jobs as well as the closing of these factories will result in diminishing productivity. We are a country that is exporting auto parts to Japan and the United States and this is why I feel that to call a Constituent Assembly right now is really a situation where I think this will be a shameless act as well as an untimely act.

I would like to say this, the economy slowed down significantly in the first half of this year. The gross domestic product, adjusted to inflation, grew only 4.6% in the first half of this year compared to 7.6% in the same period last year. The inflation rate, meanwhile, is still in double digit and very slow to decelerate. The growth slow down came about even before Japan, the second largest market for Philippine exports and now that these economies had entered a recession�this would only mean further weakening of the Philippine economy.

When the country stopped manufacturing products of semi-conductors for the (inaudible) global retrenchment of the information technology sector, the dot.com mess, real GDP of the Philippines grew only 1.8 percent. The real income of every Filipino decreased as a result. This time, all sectors in the US and Japan are retreating which can only mean further dampening of our economic growth, the operation will be impeded an the unemployment rate will rise. This is not to ignore the fact that England is also under the heel, Belgium, even China, even Russia are now under the heel of this contagion, Mr. President.

All these are bad news for Filipinos, they're actually poor, the truly disadvantaged members of our society are bound to swell and standards of living will deteriorate for everyone. We must do all we can therefore to mitigate these dire outcomes if not prevent them altogether.

Mr. President, calling for a constituent assembly today will be a step in the wrong direction and will be giving off stupid signals to our country. At the most fundamental level, what this means is the economy will require the undivided attention of the political leadership. It is not a time to be divided, it is a time to focus on the real problems of the nation. Constituent assembly will divide us, rather woefully.

In this regard, Mr. President, I propose two approaches:

1. a public sector employment program based on countryside industrialization; and

2. an enhanced social protection program.

First, Your Honor, the government must take a lead role in creating jobs. The private sector's ability for job creation has been weakened by the recession in the US and Japan and the looming slowdown in China, India and Europe. The government cannot just stand by the road as workers in large numbers lose jobs, according to National Statistics Office, 7.4% are unemployed in this country while 21% are underemployed, and find it nearly impossible to put food on the table. An SWS survey, conducted last June 27-30, 2008, revealed that 2.9 million Filipino families or 14.5 million Filipinos are experiencing involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food.. Even more telling is that those experiencing severe hunger increased to 4.2 percent, equivalent to 760,000 families in June.

With problems in unemployment and underemployment, Filipino families find it hard to seek health and medical care. The IBON Foundation reported that 73.38% of families are having difficulties in paying for medicine and treatment.

The problem spawned by unemployment and underemployment does not end with hunger and lack of health and medical care. It also affects children's education since most families will have difficulties in sending their children to school. According to Department of Education September 8, 2008 Factsheet, National dropout rate in elementary is 5.99% while 7.45% in highschool. This means that, for every 100 children who enter grade 1, only 68 will reach grade 6, only 48 will finish high school and only 17 will enter college.

There is a proven way for the government to engage in job creation and stimulate the entire economy. This is by increasing its spending for infrastructure, particularly, in the countryside. Economists have a word for it - PUMPPRIMING. Secondary and farm-to-market roads, for instance, are labor-intensive. The potentials for job creation are immense. And here is where this country and the government should try to accelerate development by taking advantage of the infrastructure that is being built. For example, The 94 kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, which opened this year, has generated more than 3,400 jobs at its peak level by hiring site workers, heavy equipment operators, engineers, SCTEx-PMO staff and other construction-related professions.

These road projects integrate rural agricultural areas to the urban centers resulting in increased incomes for farmers and fisher folks. As rural and urban markets get integrated, the private sector is encouraged to invest and locate in the countryside.

We are seeing this kind development occurring days in CALABARZON and Central Luzon. There is no reason why they cannot be replicated in other parts of the country.

For example, if you look at the SCTEX program, you will find that it comprises three airports and two seaports and are separated by high-speed highways. And beside these high-speed highways, vast lands that are empty. This is great opportunity now to invite investors to come down to our country and utilize these lands so they could be attractive to foreign investors because they would have access to three airports and two seaports and in the process find very, very great sourcing and opportunities (inaudible) on everybody because there will be less traffic to export their products and to import their raw materials by using this area.

Mr. President, In Mindanao, development is underway with the proposal for the creation of the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA) and the implementation of the Fruits of Hope Program, which we started in the Red Cross.

The creation of the MEDA will strengthen the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) which was created on 19 March 1992 by virtue of Executive Order No. 512. The MEDA shall promote, coordinate, and facilitate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socio-economic development of Mindanao. It shall also act as an implementing agency for Mindanao-specific interregional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects, whenever necessary.

The continued implementation of the Fruits of Hope Program will connect the fruit producers of Sulu to palengkes and market vendors in the metropolis. The program will initially tap the products of Sulu, Basilan and Cotabato. But eventually will cover all areas of Mindanao that can benefit from direct links to the markets of Metro Manila.

These two programs are mere proposals, Mr. President. But we can formalize these so that our people will find opportunity and perhaps (inaudible) we'll find hope so that instead of carrying a weapon or firearm to kidnap other people or to go and join banditry or bandits or for that matter, go against the government, these people can find hope by making sure that when they plant, it can all be sold to Manila or to the adjoining areas, Mr. President.

I am happy to note that the US government is building an airport in Sulu. And I don't mind saying here, one of the amendments that I made in last year's budget was the ear that we construct an airport in Lanao which should reward the people of Cotabato, North Cotabato that has dramatically improved its economic condition coming down from a very, very lowly bottom 20 of the poor or the poverty affected provinces to become number 27 on the totem pole of developing provinces.

Moreover, investment in roads and other countryside infrastructure, render tourist spots more accessible. Tourism can be relied on to generate additional employment, especially, if the Department of Tourism (DOT) can put additional resources in active promotion and marketing. These new promotional efforts can be realized with the enactment of the Tourism Act of 2008 which would create the Tourism Economic Zone Authority (TEZA), the sole body responsible for the creation of tourism economic zones throughout the country. Among the areas where tourism economic zones will be set up are Bohol, Cebu, Naga and Davao.

Establishing tourism economic zones would pump prime development, create jobs, investments and dollars in the farthest regions of the country, and create model communities of sustainable development. These benefits are achieved through the implementation of the following incentives: (1) in a tourism zone, any developer or investor will deal directly and only with the TEZA; (2) new enterprises, or Greenfield tourism zones, are entitled to a six-year income tax holiday, which period may be extended depending on the completion of certain requisites; (3) every zone must follow a development plan; (4) the TEZA will have the resources to clear beaches, plant forests, rebuild and preserve historical sites, and create sustainable business opportunities for local communities and indigenous peoples.

Clearly, a public sector employment program anchored on investing and modernizing our country's infrastructure, especially, in the countryside is consistent with the short-tem concern of job creation, and long-term goals of poverty eradication and balanced regional industrialization.

Secondly, enhancing the government's social protection programs has taken on a new sense of urgency. We need to have a national response based on streamlining and strengthening all government institutions responsible for social insurance and line agencies in charge of social welfare.

The Social Security System (SSS) must think in terms of an employment insurance program, one that encourages private enterprises to retain workers not to lay them off. Unemployment insurance as practiced in many developed countries distorts incentives of both workers and firms to forge new job-worker matches at the soonest time possible and must be avoided.

An employment insurance program works much like previous programs where the government pays part of the cost of hiring and training young unskilled workers on the job. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) can work out the details of such programs in partnership with private firms.

At the same time, we can expect no less from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). The GSIS must refocus its benefit programs towards assisting its members in a meaningful way, whether retirees or active members. Salary loans can be upgraded to cope with the rise in the inflation rate. It can reinstitute education loans for children of its members to help address an absent credit market for post-secondary education.

In terms of social welfare, we must support the conditional cash transfer program of the Department for Social work and Development (DSWD). By making cash support to families conditional on putting children of school age in school and parents availing of maternal and child health care, this program is aligned with our goal in the long run to increase the country's human capital and skilled manpower base.

We should not be throwing money away without making conditions on the people who receive them such as making their children go to school in return for the largesse of the government.

But the government must take care of the supply side. It must solve the perennial shortages in school buildings and health and medical clinics. According to DepEd's 2009 Budget proposal, there is an estimated requirement of 7,087 new classrooms for elementary and secondary and an additional 2,667 new classrooms for pre-school levels in almost 43,000 public schools nationwide. Actually, 42,917, which is the actual number of public schools). In this regard I urge this body to enact the bill that I have sponsored on a Health and Education Acceleration Program. I pray that the new leadership will give due priority to this measure in order to bail out our public school pupils, 88% of the total enrolment are in Public Schools or 17,430,666 public school pupils, from the pitiful state of our educational and health care program.

Why is it that we allow our children to go, especially in the urban areas like Dasmarinas and Caloocan, to go to school in a classroom of 100 pupils, Mr. President? How can the teacher get to the student? In fact, the figure of 7,087, you really need 40,000, because the 7,087 talks about a three-tiered class. There are two sets of classes, morning and afternoon, and in more cases there are also third classes. In other words, three classes. And our teachers, their salary today is an average of P12,000. Ang kanilang social backbone when it comes to borrowing loans is "LONDON"�Loan dito, Loan doon. Kaya hindi nila nakukuha ang pera na kanilang sinusweldo sapagkat gipit na gipit sila sa nagpapautang ng pera sa kanila. And that is why we should really pay attention in schools as a way upon which we can generate other resources. If we can, for example, get the telcos to cut out from the two billion text messages a day, 200 million pesos na lang a day, we'll have P73 billion, and from that we can speed up the construction of 40,000 classrooms, pump prime the economy, I think you will run out of carpenters, I think you will run out of yero and pako, and all that because that will certainly pump prime the economy. And when you have 40,000 classrooms, you can even charge not just P600,000 but P1 million per classroom, including computers in the classrooms, including toilets where is an absence of toilets, the national ratio is 151 students to one toilet bowl.

So much so that all these can help pump prime the economy and improve our social infrastructure, and put out the necessary investments that will create a very bright future for the very poor in our country.

There are two programs�public sector employment and enhancing social protection�that I am proposing. We cannot afford to have runaway deficits in the national government budget as we adopt these twin programs. As we begin deliberations on the proposed P1.4-trillion national budget, it behooves every senator to look at the large and persistent budget deficits amounting to P62.3 billion as of October as compared to P41.5 billion last year, which if left unchecked would continue to raise interest rates, dampen investment, and unduly raise the cost of public debt servicing. For 2009, the government will be allotting P700.6 billion to pare debts next year. Hence, we must continue to guard against rising interest rates.

Mr. President, this humble representation proposes that we scrutinize every spending item in the national government budget and cut those that are not socially efficient. Let us examine deficit-ridden government corporations like the National Food Authority (NFA) and excise their socially wasteful programs and projects.

The NFA's delayed implementation of family access cards that would limit the sale of government-subsidized rice to poor families allowed rich families to take advantage of the government's subsidy program and has cost the government billions of pesos.

Mantakin nyo, Mr. President, yung mga bigas na ibebenta para sa mga mahihirap, ay ginamit pa ng mga mayayaman at nilamangan pa ang mga mahihirap, at lumaki pa ang utang natin.

A World Bank study revealed that 40 percent of funds intended for the Philippine government's rice subsidy and food-for-school programs did not reach the poor.

The study found that in 2006 only 31 percent of all the NFA rice went to the poorest sectors while as much as 41 percent ended up in non-poor households. The top two richest income groups consumed some 16 percent of the NFA rice.

This is a travesty, Mr. President. The study said "design weaknesses, mis-targeting, and significant leakage to the non-poor" in the subsidy programs have compromised the efforts of the government to protect the poor through social protection schemes. It estimated that the cost of the subsidy program could possibly be as high as P60.9 billion in 2008.

Mr. President, let us wake up to this reality because we cannot be apathetic to this situation.

The NFA, being a corporation, must mimic a private corporation. It cannot claim that it was created to lose money. This is irresponsibility at its highest level. Instead, the NFA must rise to the challenge of providing a public good without wasting taxpayers' money.

At the same time, having been the Chairman of the Committee on Government Corporations, I believe that we must think in terms of having a merged social security system focused principally on the retirement benefits and pension funds of its members. At the very least, such an institutional reform will reduce the cost of running the system and making it responsive to the needs of the membership.

Tignan po natin. Pwede kaya ipagsama ang SSS at GSIS para mas mabawasan ang gastos sa mga empleyado nyang mga korporasyon na yan at para lalong masisilip natin kung ang patakbo nyan ay nasa tama sapagkat isa na lang ang sisilipin natin. Siguro it's time to look into that and try to find out if whether in fact we can merge these corporations..

Furthermore, the government must in the interim strengthen oversight functions over the SSS and GSIS to make sure that they do not incur huge losses in their investment activities. (According to the SSS, it has no overseas investments. Its investments, which amount to P216.9 billion, are all in the local market. In 2007, the GSIS declared a net income of P40.6 billion. Its total Global Investment Program portfolio is estimated at P26.54 billion.) It is unfortunate that not even the Department of Finance (DOF) is represented in the boards of both the SSS and the GSIS. This arrangement is untenable and could lead to the recurrence of financial crises in these institutions in the future. (The GSIS has 1.3 million active members; the SSS has 27 million members.)

Mr. President, I propose a burden-sharing scheme. We can do no less in these trying times. Let us look at all lump-sum items in the national government budget for all branches of government and be prepared to cut them.

This way, hindi na tayo pwedeng bolahin ng mga Bolante. Because yung mga lump sum na yan hindi natin nahahagip ay ikinakalat at ipinamamahagi at talagang napakalaking mga kurakot ang ginagawa ng mga yan.

In addition, let us have a genuine partnership with local government units by doing grant-matching programs with their Internal Revenue Allotments. Much of the benefits from national government assistance to LGUs are captured by the latter's jurisdictions. It is right that the LGUs share in the cost of delivering those benefits.

For other infrastructure programs and other public investments that have cost-recovery features, we must adopt public-private partnerships. The possibilities for partnering with the private sector, which encompasses business, civil society, and volunteer organizations, are huge and promising. I have seen these partnerships thrive with my experience as chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. I assure you, Mr. President, that the potentials for delivering remarkable outcomes from these partnerships are indeed great.

We can then responsibly reallocate all of these spending cuts in the budget to the public sector employment and enhanced social protection programs that I am proposing.

Meanwhile, the DSWD must accelerate the preparation and implementation of its national targeting scheme. A system of identifying truly deserving beneficiaries in delivering government programs is crucial to avoid leakages. In addition, the DSWD must have a mechanism for exiting from the program. In other words, the program must not encourage welfare dependency.

Times are going to be hard. The Senate must lead the national response in dealing with our economic problems. In this regard, it is highly irresponsible, if not insane, to think of amending the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly at this juncture.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to talk with my good friend, the Speaker of the House, Prospero Nograles. I used to call him Pros-PERU when we were in the Ateneo when we were staying in the dorm together. We have created a friendship. At times he would come to Olongapo and stay in our home and spend his weekends there. But in spite of this friendship I told him in no uncertain terms, I was warning him that he was creating a very serious situation if he persists in allowing his members to coming out with a Constituent Assembly without including the Senate at a time when we are supposed to be preparing the ramparts against this tsunami-like cord of economic contagion or financial crisis that are about to hit us.

And therefore, Mr. President, I repeat that admonition today, such an exercise is divisive, ill-timed, and wasteful. The Constitution has not even been shown to be the root cause of our weak capacity to modernize and transform our economy and society. Even for the sake of argument, there would be no immediate investments in the next two years of any serious proportion because there is no credit availability for many of this investment firms. A ConAss will not make the economy more resilient. It will not equip it with a newfound ability to thwart the decline in employment and income.

Mr. President, this august chamber must resist the Charter Change initiated by some of our colleagues in the House of Representatives. It would be better for them to abandon their plan, lest they stand to face the public wrath. I strongly warn our colleagues in the Lower House, as I warned their Speaker, not to disregard the Senate in their attempt to railroad Charter change. They cannot by-pass the Senate and they will not succeed in doing so. If they truly represent the people and feel their sentiments, they should not tinker with our Constitution at all. Much less, we will not allow the Senate's voice - and vote - on the matter of Charter Change be diminished or laid aside. WE SHALL NEVER YIELD.

Mr. President, I have already said that Article XVII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution provides that any amendment to - or revision of - the Constitution may be proposed by Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

I have already pointed out the instances when Congress can vote jointly and separately. I think that is clear enough..

Changing the Constitution at this time is not only divisive and ill-timed, but also incendiary when our people are hard-pressed with the skyrocketing prices of commodities and the deleterious effects of the global financial crisis upon them.

Now is not the time to change the 1987 Constitution. We should instead focus our energies and attention on the problems confronting us, especially on the impact of the global financial crisis. We cannot remain divided at this time as a nation and as a people.

This representation, Your Honor, strongly proposes that the issue of introducing any amendments to or revisions of the Constitution should be an election issue among our national candidates so that the move to change it only will occur after May 2010. That way we can have a wiser election, where people go out in the campaign, and when they campaign they can tell the people, in effect asking permission to amend the Charter, what position they would take, so that when they are elected, people would know whether they want the terms to be extended, or for that matter, whether the president should be given a second term, formally.

Mr. President, it is important that we have this wise election and at the same time, I would like also to caution everybody that indeed, time is running out on automated election. The Commission on Elections has brought down the value from P21 billion to P13 billion. I believe that we can still bring it down by imaginative legislation such as early elections so that we can have less machines that have the capacity to count the votes more in a longer time allotted for the voter for the elections to transpire.

Mr.President, we just had a vendor fair recently, sponsored by International Federation for Election Reform. I was made very hopeful that, indeed, this can happen.

The upshot is this, Mr. President: (1) Responsible and vigorous public sector employment and enhanced social protection programs stand a good chance of overcoming the adverse effects of the looming global recession spawned by the financial crisis in the United States; (2) The ConAss is an irresponsible act. The country needs it like it needs a hole in the head. I beg to move that The Senate must resist this initiative; (3) Ensuring clean, orderly, honest, and credible elections in 2010 is non-negotiable.

I will end by citing where I began, Mr. President.

Sixteen years ago, 8,000 volunteers went into Subic Bay believing in their future. They were not divided, they were focused on protecting and preserving the facilities left by the Americans, so that they will prosper.

Today, Mr. President, there are 87,000 people employed in Subic Bay. They make ships. Not just small ships, but big ships. They make computer parts, they make computers, in fact. And they make everything. And certainly by focusing on this, we have proven that the Filipino can find his future in our own native Filipinas.

This is my plea today, it is my hope that we can, in fact, focus on the proper things in life for our country so that we could provide life for our people.

And to make the long story short, Mr. President, I would like to challenge this Senate to live up to the expectation that this is indeed Senatus Populi Filipinae.

Mr. President, thank you all very much.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Video: Senate threatens to detain Bolante

GMA 7 News Video:

NBI directed to locate Bolante's runner

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today ordered the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) to locate the whereabouts of Maritess Aytona, former agriculture secretary Jocelyn Bolante's alleged runner in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, issued the order to the NBI after the Senate failed to serve the invitation for Aytona to appear before today's hearing as the Senate resumes its investigation on the fertilizer fund scam.

He added they wanted to invite Aytona and compel her to appear in a face-off with Bolante, the purported architect of the fund scam.

Aytona was earlier identified as the one who proposed a 30-30-40 sharing scheme for the P5-million fertilizer allocation-30 percent for the congressman, 30 percent for Bolante, and 40 percent for the purchase of liquid fertilizer.

Bolante had denied knowing her and Capiz Rep. Antonio del Rosario, who claimed that Aytona and her cohort, Jose Barredo, had offered him a cut of the P5-million fertilizer fund.

Singaporean Feshan executive's deposition sought

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today requested the Philippine Embassy in Singapore to secure immediately the deposition of Derek Glass, the Singaporean incorporator of Feshan Philippines, the alleged supplier of liquid fertilizers for the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, issued the request to Ambassador Minda Cruz on Glass company's participation in the fund scam allegedly engineered by former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante.

Gordon wanted to clarify a statement purportedly attributed to Glass that the latter was not aware of the contract his company entered with the government.

He also wanted to verify reports that the liquid fertilizer delivered were allegedly of sub-standard quality.

Based on media reports, Glass earlier claimed the company and the Bio-Nature fertilizer brand might have been "used" unscrupulously by his local partners. He disavowed involvement in the scam and said he was surprised to be linked to it.

Glass also reportedly denied that Bio-Nature fertilizer, made by the Singapore-based Bio Nature Technology of which he is a major stockholder, was "substandard" as reported.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairmanship

"The Senate's vote of confidence to head an important committee humbled as it honored me. As an independent senator, I freely embrace the trust and confidence to lead the august chamber in reinvigorating its collective commitment of restoring integrity and exacting accountability in public office.

"The tasks ahead of us are indeed great. The war is long and arduous; the fight is neither easy nor popular. But many, as I have, have come prepared for the battle. We shall persist and prevail upon those who have grown complacent with the status quo; upon those who take advantage of the weaknesses of our democratic system.

"I shall draw strength and inspiration from the people who want to see that their government honestly works for them. Under the new Senate leadership, I have no doubt of our collective strength to carry out our duty of advancing a good cause and of breaking down the walls that divide us as a nation and as a people.

"We shall exercise our oversight power with focus, decisiveness, caution, and most importantly, with transparency and responsibility. But make no mistake about it - the axe of the Senate's oversight arm will fall on whomever, wherever they may be.

"There is neither a day nor an hour to lose.

"It is time to roll up our sleeves.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Credible tech in 2010 elections

Inquirer Video: Gordon wants credible tech in 2010 elections

MAKATI CITY, Philippines--Senator Richard J. Gordon inspected the offerings of election technology vendors at the third day of Election Technology Conference. As part of the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on poll automation, he says the technology should be feasible and cost-effective to ease its implementation for the upcoming elections. In addition, he says early voting in areas such as ARMM in Mindanao could help decrease costs and cheating. Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, chairperson of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) says the conference helps inform poll experts to ensure security in the 2010 elections. Video report conducted by INQUIRER.net multimedia reporter Anna Valmero.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cha Cha after 2010

Senator Richard Gordon, for his part, maintained that he would not dance the Cha-cha until before the 2010 elections are conducted.

“If we're going to have Cha-cha, people must be part of the process… To be able to make people part of the process of change, it should be done after the elections, one. Two, during the elections, it should be raised as an issue. The candidates, possible candidates, would they be asked if they were for Cha-cha or not or what issues they would raise on the Cha-cha, whether they are for Con-ass or for Con-com.

If you look at the previous Cha-chas, Con-com was done by Cory, by people that she appointed pero who are not even known by the people. And we just simply voted. in 1971 we were elected but Marcos finished it and then we were just asked to raise our hands. There was no discussion. So the people don't own it, we don't own it. People have to own it, we have to own the Constitution.

The Constitution does not belong to the powers that be, it belongs to the people.

I've been consistent with that." Gordon said

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Privilege Speech on slain journalist Aristeo Padrigao

On November 17, another journalist was shot and killed in Gingoog City. Aristeo Padrigao was a blocktime commentator, radio show host of DZRS Radyo Natin and a columnist in the Mindanao Monitor Today. He made frequent exposes on illegal logging and other forms of graft and corruption in the city of Gingoog. He was shot dead at 7:15 a.m. in Gingoog City and died from a single .9 mm bullet in his right jaw.

Mr. President, my own father was assassinated and I hope this will be the last time that I would rise here but it seems that I've always made a commitment that when something like this happens, so dastardly an act, I am constrained to rise principally because it would appear that we have never learned, or we have never really pursued killers who kill with impunity in this country, especially judges, public officials, or for that matter, even the lowly

And so Mr. President, I rise on this matter again, hoping that it would be the last time, hoping that our policemen will finally take action on matters involving killing such as this.

Already, this country has been accused in the halls of Congress in the United States of America as being perpetrators of extra-judicial killings mainly because we had not been able to conduct any cogent investigation or for that matter, been able to arrest any of the suspects in these dastardly deeds.

Mr. Aristeo Padrigao was exercising his right as a citizen of this country, his right as a radioman, who take his role, seeing to expose things that are abusive and are certainly inimical to the interests of our communities.

Now Mr. President, this person, Aristeo Padrigao, was at the time he was killed, taking his children to go to school. A seven-year old child was with him and two motorcycle-riding men wearing dark jackets came by and shot him in the jaw and killed him instantly before the eyes of his seven-year old child.

Now Mr. President, what could be more dastardly than that, what could be more, so brazen in so far as our society is concerned? It is as if people of his ilk feel that they can go ahead and do it with impunity in broad daylight, in front of a school, in front of the families of these victims.

Having said that, it behooves the Senate which should be the forum upon which people can freely redress their grievances to their duly elected representatives such as us to move to finally put a stop and perhaps awaken our law enforcement authorities as well as our local officials to the fact that these killings must be contained. How many killings have been perpetrated using motorcycles? This is not the first time I've risen on this platform because in the past years, more and more killings have been conducted by people who are riding motorcycles.

We have filed a bill to make sure that people riding motorcycles should have a crash helmet and they should have a body number corresponding to the plate number so that anybody riding motorcycles could be stopped if there is no crash helmet with a body number. Unfortunately, it has been in the committee for so long. And I would like to awaken the committee concerned to perhaps take a look at that. Perhaps we can stop the killings if we create a way upon which we can take a bite out of crime, of making it difficult for them to commit these dastardly acts.

According to Uriel Quilingging, a friend of Padrigao, that the killing might have been due to the radio commentator's exposes about illegal logging.

All of us rise here from time to time. We conduct investigations here. We're not immune from the acts of these people and for that matter, so all the people who blow whistles on dastardly crimes in our country. If we do not act, we are encouraging in effect, these people who have no morals, who have no qualms of killing people in front of their families, to continue these acts.

My father was assassinated in 1967. It is now 2008 and it continues on and on, and so much so that it has become ho-hum to most of our people. It would appear that we just yawn and say, "These things happen. Talagang ganyan, wala tayong magagawa."

We should not be willing to accept it. And this Senate should call in the law enforcement authorities and haul them to task and bring in all the list of all those people whose families had been killed so that they can explain what they are doing to make sure that people don't get away with these criminal acts. And that is why, I rise once again to remind ourselves as well as the law enforcement authorities. We cannot just accept the statement of Supt. Leonroy Ga, Gingoog Police Chief, who said that his men were investigating reports that Padrigao had received death threats days before he was killed but found no other leads, except that the killing was related to Padrigao's work. Anybody can say that. What kind of policemen do we have, when all they can say is "we're investigating, we're making a follow-up. We're looking at this event but sorry there are no witnesses and we think it was related to his job that's why he was killed."

We must say no more. In fact, if the policemen of this country keep on saying that, this country has a right to start hauling the police chief concerned right here to let them know that the Senate of this country will not tolerate even the local police chiefs from saying "I cannot solve the case." We must tell them it's not gonna be business as usual anymore. And we should recommend that he be relieved and that the PNP chief himself explain to us what he is doing about it, what kind of programs he is doing about it to answer for all these motorcycle-related killings and public executions that have gone array in this country.

We call these policemen to task for taking P10-million out of the country. What is more dastardly than people who get away with killings when these policemen are supposed to be doing their jobs, making sure that they have criminal investigation techniques and they should be using the intelligence fund instead of using it for travel, they should have used that intelligence fund to identify organized crimes in this country, perpetrators of assassinations, guns for hire so that we can get these people to task.

And yet we heard the silly statement that day, "Ok na, bahala na ko jan. Pwedeng gamitin yung intelligence fund para gamitin natin pagpunta natin sa Moscow and spend the P10-million out there.

We can no longer tolerate this. I pray that is the last time I will rise on matters like this. But I'm afraid it will not be the last time because it has been my personal advocacy and the Senate president is aware of that, because as a young man when I was still in Law school, I went to the Department of Justice, at that time headed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. And while with my mother went to him three years after my father had been, five years after my father had been assassinated and continued with every Secretary of Justice at that time to try to get the assassins or the masterminds of the killing of my father.

There are people who are killed and they do not have the voice as strong as we have here. So we must speak for them, we must speak for the seven-year old child of this individual who was killed. He cannot just be a statistic, so much that every time I go to Washington with the Ambassador of the Philippines and I speak with senators, lobbying for the guerillas, for the veterans so that they would be paid. I would not be threatened by a senator and say "We cannot give this to you, because we cannot give American money to people, whose record, whose government has a record of having extra-judicial killings.

Balewala yun, ang tunay na sitwasyon dito ay yung pinapatay na tao because he speaks. And if he can no longer speak, no one is safe. If judges cannot govern because they are shot, they cannot make decisions because they are killed in public and you know that I have risen there and when we did, we were fortunate enough because when they investigated they found out that mastermind was in Muntinlupa.. When I spoke here last time, on an incident involving a child whose parents were both Muslims and Christians. A Muslim-Christian wedding occurred and she was the daughter of this wedding and she was killed. Somebody grabbed her bag while she was going out of her job early in the morning and she was shot. When we spoke, the policemen acted. But we cannot speak all the time every time somebody is killed. However, if we make sure that when we call the policemen this time and we ask them and we tell them that we would no longer tolerate the kind of "ok lang situation, wala tayong magagawa, bahala na, pipilitin namin magawa yan." We must demand more of law enforcement, we must demand more of our community and our country. Let me just cite today the glaring statistics insofar as journalists are concerned.

Are we aware that this guy Mr. Padrigao who was murdered is the 6th journalist killed in this year alone. And are we also aware that he is the 61st journalist to be killed since 2001. Are we just gonna say, "hey, another statistic; another one bites the dust; another daughter orphaned." A community that remains silent, and what do we have? A community that is deadened by fear, that is afraid to speak up, that no longer feels it can handle situations like this because "wag ka na makialam baka ikaw pa ang barilin."

We must strengthen the resolve of our people. We must awaken their righteousness. We must tell them that there is a Senate in this country that will not tolerate this and that will do something about this. And let it be impressed upon our minds once again, according to a sage once upon a time, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, religious rights. If that palladium is destroyed, if that palladium that privilege of being able to report on matters that are important for people to know, that their environment is being destroyed, that their trees are being cut by those who are greedy in this country. If they start becoming afraid, then we will have as we have had in past incidence mudslides that kill other people. And that is why this gentleman was killed because he dared spoke up like that.

And so I would like to ask the Senate to refer this to the proper committee right away. And so that we can call no less than the Chief PNP, and no less than the people who are in charge of Intelligence in this country and make a demand upon them that they must come out with a report of all these unsolved crimes in this country so that finally we could have some action on this matter.

I would like to thank our members of the Senate for having had the patience to listen, but I think this cannot be ignored and we cannot be complacent or apathetic about it

Thank you Mr. President.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Early voting and longer voting hours for 2010

Comelec chairman Jose Melo said on Monday they would ask Congress to lengthen voting hours and allow early voting for 2010 so that the Comelec could maximize the election machines they would use for the computerized national elections.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the joint committee on the automation of the elections, said he would support both proposals and said he would file the bills in the Senate.

In his speech at the conference on Monday, Gordon said he was backing the proposal to have voters in remote areas vote using the election machines a month before those in urban centers.

This way, he said, the machines could still be transported to other areas and be used by other voters.

“The machines are expensive. I can only buy 10,000 machines so I'll do early voting so that at a certain point, I can pull out the machines,” Gordon said.

Longer voting hours eyed for 2010
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:49:00 11/17/2008

Concern over growing public apathy

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon has expressed serious concern over the growing public apathy and cynicism towards the government even as he sought to reverse it by introducing significant political changes the country badly needs.

Speaking at the 34th Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Conference, Gordon noted that the low voters' turnout in recent elections is a veritable evidence of the growing apathy and cynicism among the Filipino electorate.

"Today we have a country that has lost its confidence all together. We are filled with self-doubt; we are filled with cynicism; and it is largely because the leadership of this country has been generally a colonial hangover that does not exact ideology," he said.

"Change will not happen unless people buy into it, unless we decide to be part of the leadership, unless we can say that the government succeeds, (that) our nation rises, because its people have become part of the process of change," he added.

In the 2004 elections, there were 43,522,634 registered voters in the country, of whom only 33,510,092 actually voted. In 2007 elections, there were 45,029,443 registered voters, of whom only 29,491,488 actually voted - or a decline from 76.99 percent to 65.49 percent in 2004 and 2007 elections, respectively.

Gordon pointed out that it is definitely important to have a credible system of elections to encourage the public to exercise their right to vote and regain their trust in the electoral processes. One effective way is to have fully automated elections, he added.

"If people see the credibility of the electoral system and realize that their votes will be correctly counted, then we might just encourage them to actively participate in the country's electoral process," he said.

He also cited the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) automated election last August where the voters' turnout was at 84 percent, which is a far cry from a measly 21.99 percent voters' turnout in the Nov. 26, 2001 ARMM elections.

Gordon explained that the big difference between the 2001 and the 2008 elections in ARMM is a clear indication that people want and would very well accept change in the electoral system.

"Our Muslim brothers were eager to become part not just of history but of change. It started with them casting their votes during the automated polls. They were more confident to vote because they know their votes would be rightly counted," he said.

"This is a clear sign of the importance of automating our electoral system. It makes our people participate in the electoral process. And we must realize that citizen participation in the election is an indication of a vibrant and healthy democracy," he added.

Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369, the Amended Automated Elections Law, has been eagerly pushing for the full automation of the 2010 presidential elections to give way to a clean, honest, fast and credible election.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Military tradition of PNP hit

Senator Richard Gordon criticized the alleged “militaristic tradition” among PNP officers.

“[There is a] military tradition in the PNP na pagka matataas na ang gumagawa, oks na lang yan (that if an officer does this, it’s OK). Honestly, as a responsible officer. Do you think that that is the case? Because we’re trying to solve that problem here. And I’m beginning to get the impression na hindi pa naaalis yung mga sistema niyo diyan (that this has not been removed from the system),” Gordon said.

PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa admitted the existence of this tradition, particularly among senior police officers.

“As I see it, we still have the culture of the military that we have before. Some of us, especially the senior officers, came from the Philippine Constabulary, and we are slowly going towards the civilian character…Military tradition still persists…Pertaining to the seniority and we are trying to get away from that,” he said.

“No, trying is no longer good enough. As far as the people are concerned, trying is no longer enough. It must be a fact that the PNP should be a civilian organization; it is not subject to chains of command, it is subject to the law of civilians. [It is not an] uncontrolled organization that people take it upon themselves to handle the funds,” Gordon said.

Gordon also questioned why retired comptroller Eliseo Dela Paz was allowed to go to the Interpol Conference even if he was nearing retirement.

“I understand there is a policy that travels should be given priority to those who are 45 years old so that the PNP can benefit from the training and exposure you will get. But in your case, why were you allowed to travel on the eve, literally, talagang bisperas ng (on the eve of your) retirement?” Gordon asked.

Dela Paz could only affirm the travel priority policy of the PNP.

Gordon questioned the alleged “reward for cooperative conduct,” granted to Dela Paz by former PNP chiefs.

“Is this a reward for cooperative conduct from former PNP chiefs? Mabait kayo eh, liberal kayo magbigay ng pera. Magbiyahe ka naman. Hindi ka pa ata nakakabiyahe (You’re nice, liberal in giving out money. Go on a trip. You’ve not been on a trip),” Gordon said.

“I wouldn’t know, your honor,” Dela Paz said.

Gordon suggested that Dela Paz should have, out of courtesy, refused the trip since he is about to retire.

“Tapos kasama niyo pa yung misis niyo, tapos humawak pa kayo ng P10 million. Parang may golden parachute na reward sa inyo for your long service. Sige bibiyahe ka. Ganon ba ang sitwasyon (Your wife even went with you, and you even had P10 million. It’s like a golden parachute that’s your reward for your long service. Go on a trip. Was that the situation)?” Gordon asked.

“I wouldn’t know, your honor, but I was included in the delegation I would only surmise since the comptroller during that time is me,” Dela Paz said.

‘Puno, Verzosa should be investigated’
Gordon hits ‘military tradition’ in the PNP
By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 16:06:00 11/15/2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interpellation of former Department of Agriculture Usec. Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante

Gordon: Sir nung bago kayo napunta sa agriculture you were with prudential insurance, right?

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: What was your position there?

B: I was the president of Prudential Life Plan Incorporated.

Gordon: You were the president of Prudential. Certainly dapat napaka-ingat nyo dahil insurance yan di ba?

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: Kayo na-appoint kayo dito at sinabi pinili lang kayo ng search committee. And wala kang alam na lumakad sa appointment mo di ba? Samakatwid nilagay ka dyan dahil maganda ang qualifications mo, galling ka sa private sector. Tama ba yun?

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: At meron kang talent sa finance.

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: Meron kang talent sa accounting.

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: Ang hindi ko maintindihan ay bakit in spite of that, tila ba ang lumabas sa atin eh bibili kayo ng mga abono, magpo-provide kayo ng abono pero yung prudence mukhang iniwan mo sa Prudential. Naging very imprudent ka eh kasi ang lumalabas sa naririnig ko kanina pa eh tila bumili ka ng abono o fertilizer ang mga tao mo, o yung sabi mo sa baba, na yun pala eh hindi naman nababagay sapagkat ito ay for ornamental crops. Alam mo ba yun?

Bolante: Your honor, una sa lahat, hindi po kami bumili ng abono. We had no hand whatsoever on the procurement. Pangalawa po, as I said earlier, yung foliar fertilizer per se is not necessarily inappropriate, depende pos a purpose at saka usage.

Gordon: Andun na ko, but nonetheless, kahit na hindi kayo ang bumili, ikaw ay pinagkatiwalaan ng P728 million, di ba? Ang pinagtatakahan ko, yung P728 million biglang lumabas on the eve of the elections of 2004. Now, hindi ako magtataka dahil karamihan ng nakikita ko rin naman sa mga dating mga pangulo, nag-aabang ng pera yan para pag dating sa kampanya meron sila magagamit either kalsada, eskwela na ilalabas. In fact, alam nyo yan sapagkat kumuha pa kayo ng exemption sa Comelec para ma-distribute ito at nagkaroon kayo ng exemption. So lumalabas sa aking pananaw na talagang hinanda ito for 2004. Whether I'm right or wrong is immaterial. The fact is, yun ang nangyari. May perang sobra on the eve of the election at yun ay ginastos sa 2004. Now, having said that, alam nyo you commit a crime by commission or omission. Sa tingin ko parang commission yun eh. Para bang nagbigay ng pera na sobra na timing sa eve of the election, at pagkatapos, kahit na sabihin mo ang gumastos ay iba, tungkulin mo bilang a prudent executive na bantayan yung magpapagawa ng proyekto, hindi ba?

Bolante: Your honor, it is on record as you said, that the funds were actually released to us by the DBM on February 3, 2004. Therefore, it was not on the eve of the election because as far as I can remember the election was..

Gordon: In the eve of the election campaign period

Bolante: Second point is, as I have said this morning, we actually started talking with the DBM to release to us the unutilized funds under the high value crop and the rice and corn on September 4, 2003. But the DBM was not in the position to approve it immediately so we finally received the approval on February 3. But we actually, on record, requested for the release of the fund on September 4, 2003.

Gordon: Be that as it may, it was during the campaign period when it was finally released. In fact, you said 40% was released. Nagulat nga ako, humingi ka ng SARO sabay NCA on the same day 40% ang nakuha ninyo. Matindi yun. Kaming mga senador di kami makakuha ng ganyan eh. Secretary of tourism din kami hindi rin kami makakuha ng ganyan na mai-re-release yung SARO at NCA on the same day. Kasi yung NCA ibibigay lang sayo pagka-sinubmit mo na kung sinong bibigyan ng allocation di ba? Yung mga beneficiaries? Yung mga proponents?

Bolante: Not necessarily.

Gordon: Ah ganun ba? Bago yan ah?

Bolante: Actually, we could request for a lump sum release because as I said it is for an existing program.

Gordon: And it was a very urgent program di ba? Fertilizer is very urgent. So urgent in that particular year na doon lang lumobo yung requirement for fertilizer, P728 million. I remember last year or early this year meron tayong rice crisis, meron tayong oil crisis, nagmahal ang fertilizer pero wala akong nakitang urgent na move para tulungan ang mga tao sa fertilizer. Pero on that particular year 2003, on the eve of 2004 election biglang lumobo yung pangangailangan. And that was the first and last time. Before that walang lobong ganun. Hindi lumobo nung 2003. Hindi lumobo nung 2005. Nung 2004 lang nag-balloon yung fertilizer requirement, hindi po ba?

Bolante: Your honor, as I said it was not intended merely for fertilizers. As far as the DA is concerned, we opened the use of the fund for any farm input.

Gordon: It doesn't matter. Kahit na ano pa ang hatian mo ng fertilizer at other input, the point is ang pinakamalaking component nun ay fertilizer at ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay liquid at ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay isa lang ang supplier sa kabila ng napakaraming supplier. At ang fertilizer na ginamit nyo ay hindi naaangkop para sa rice. Sapagkat unang una ang stalks ng rice eh pag nilagay mo ang tubig dun tutulo yun sa baba. Eh hindi naman dapat ganun ang paglagay ng fertilizer. I don't have a green thumb. But the point is, bilang isang executive ng isang malaking kumpanya na ginagalang sa Pilipinas at bilang isang magiging kandidato ng president ng International Rotary Club, I would imagine that you have enough experience na pangangalagaan mo, you would exercise the necessary diligence in spending the people's money even though this coincidence, na pinalalabas mong coincidence na nagkaroon ng malaking requirement ng fertilizer, dapat in-exercise mo yung pagka-presidente mo noong araw ng Prudential. Ang nakikita ko salat yung exercise mo nung prudence na kinakailangan.

Bolante: Your honor, the choice of the fertilizer was not of the DA. It only came out later when we came to know, based on the reports, that much of the fund was reportedly used for the fertilizer.

Gordon: Alam nyo sir, nakakagulat. Nakakagulat, sabi nyo bigla na lang kayo nagulat panay fertilizer. Pero mas nakakgulat isa lang ang brand.

Bolante: There's no way for me to tell that, your honor.

Gordon: Ako rin eh. Doon din ako nagtataka. So coincidental naman na isang brand lang at pare-parehong liquid lamang ang ilalagay. Nakakagulat talaga yun. Sobra sobra no. Siguro kung minsan ang tingin nyo sa amin mababa ang intelligence pero di naman ako papayag, nag-aral din naman ako maging abogado. Di naman ako papayag na panay coincidence yang sinasabi natin, especially coming from somebody that I look up to, magiging presidente ng International Rotary Club, naging presidente ng Prudential. Ang nakita ko nagkulang tayo sa tinatawag na attention sa ating duty na prudence required of an executive, the due diligence required when you handle public funds because a public office is a public trust, and so much trust is given to an undersecretary na yung iyong secretary binigyan ka pa ng authority na below five million ikaw ang pipirma, di ba?

Bolante: Your honor, we are not even certain of the information that only one brand was use. We are not even certain that only one supplier was involved.

Gordon: Are you saying that the COA is wrong?

Bolante: I think that is something you must examine.

Gordon: In-examine na and you were measured although you were not here. And you were found one thing, because the COA, talo ka sa COA. Dumaan sa Senate investigation talo ka rin because sinabi hindi mo ginamit nga yung dapat na ginamit mong liderato. Hindi naman siguro lahat ng tao nagkamali at ikaw lang ang tama.

Bolante: Your honor I have not really read the COA report fully but based on the information given to me by Mr. Montes, the COA did not say that only one supplier was involved for all the 181. I think, COA got samples and on the samples used by COA there appears to be one or two or three suppliers involved.

Gordon: Meron nga pero ang pinakamarami yung Feshan. At saka hindi po ba nyo alam, hindi ba kayo nagulat 1,250%. At hindi nyo pwedeng sabihin wala na kayo hindi nyo alam, sapagkat ang totoo nyan pagkatapos nyong umalis sa DA, in-appoint kayo sa GSIS. Hindi po ba totoo yun?

Bolante: As a trustee.

Gordon: Samakatwid nasa gobyerno pa rin kayo. At sa lakas ninyo pwede nyong silipin, 'Oy, ano ba nangyari dyan?' Ang lakas ninyo, napapalabas nyo ang SARO at NCA in one day. Ang lakas ninyo na-appoint kayo na hindi kayo dumaan sa halos sa search committee, walang lumakad sa inyo. Napakalakas ninyo, samakatwid nasa GSIS kayo pwede nyo pang silipin, 'Pare ano ba nangyari dun sa liquidation nyan?' So that we don't have to rely on hearsay. Like narinig mo ngayong araw na ito sinabi 91%, sasabihin mo liquidated na lahat.

Bolante: Your honor let me clarify that when I was the trustee of the GSIS I only attended board meetings and most of the time I was not actually in the country.

Gordon: It doesn't matter. You're still in the government. You're still within striking distance of DA because that is a very influential position. Secondly, noon bang kayo ay nasa Department of Agriculture, did you have an office in the DA?

Bolante: Yes po.

Gordon: Did you go to the DA religiously?

Bolante: Yes po.

Gordon: Are you sure? Where was your office there?

Bolante: At the fourth floor po.

Gordon: Did you attend execom meetings?

Bolante: Yes po.

Gordon: Many timed?

Bolante: Yes po.

Gordon: Because there are some people who tell me that you were rarely seen in the DA, that you were really operating outside. I could always check the records there.

Bolante: That's a bad rumor po that was given to you, your honor.

Gordon: Well, I always listen to rumors because rumors are like smoke. Where there is smoke there is fire. Because you know rumors are not gonna start just like that. Having said that, let me just ask you, nung in-accuse ka na, isa pang nakakasama sa aking pananaw ay ito, in criminal law, flight is an indication of guilt. At ang lumalabas sa pananaw ng maraming tao, noong pumunta ka sa America hindi ka bumalik at nung dumating ka doon sabi mo kinansela yung iyong visa at yun ang pinaglaban mo. Humingi ka na tuloy ng asylum. Sabi nga ni Sen. Pimentel nagulat sya bakit instead for asking for reconsideration on your visa lumabas you were already asking for asylum because of a perceived threat. Is that correct? Now ang pinagtatakahan ko, for somebody who is running for president of the International Rotary Club, which is a very, very esteemed position, there's only one guy, I think, if I'm not mistaken who has done that, Mark Caparas, hindi ba?

Bolante: Yes po. But your honor, I'm not running for that position.

Gordon: But you were at that time. You were considered.

Bolante: Nobody runs for office in the Rotary International.

Gordon: But you were one of those being considered to be president. I heard that. I read about that, I heard that, I speak in the Rotary Club many times and I've been asked 'Sayang naman si Joc-Joc, sana presidente sya ng International Rotary Club.' Is that another bad rumor?

Bolante: I'm honored to hear that.

Gordon: Is that a bad rumor?

Bolante: I would say your honor that it's possible people are talking about but I would not really speculate to say that�

Gordon: But even in spite of the fact that you don't believe that and I've heard that many, many times because I speak a lot at Rotary Club functions, I have a lot of friends there, my father founded the Rotary Club in Olongapo, let me just point out na merong malaking kaso na hinaharap ka dito, instead of going back and saying I will rectify my honor, I will fly back, take the quickest plane back to Manila, you decided to stay for three years. There was no attempt on your part halimbawa, did you get your lawyers to ask for a deposition on your part para mabigay yung side mo dito?

Bolante: Yes po.

Gordon: Nagbigay ka ba ng deposition dun?

Bolante: As a matter of fact, as I told you po, I wrote on December 9

Gordon: But that's writing a letter saying that you were going to come back on January 23rd. And when that happened January 23rd, hindi ka pa rin bumalik.

Bolante: Natakot na po ako kasi may bounty na sa ulo ko.

Gordon: But is the bounty more primordial to you than your honor? In other words, the stigma that is going to be brought upon you na nagkaroon ng malaking gulo dito, na ang sinasabi ikaw ang mastermind, mas malaki ba yun sa takot? Because all of us have threats. My father was assassinated, there were three attempts to his life. He never left his job, he went on. There were two hand-grenade attempts on his life. He continued on. Kung sabagay, relative naman kung ano yung tinatawag nating real courage no. But in your case napakalaking tama yan na hindi ka bumalik. Instead of coming back here you chose to seek asylum in the United States. I did not see any press releases coming out of the United States saying 'I am not guilty of that. I'm going to come back at some future time.' Wala akong narinig na public pronouncement on your part na ganun.

Bolante: First of all, as I said, I was afraid for my life and the safety of my family. Second po, I had a pending petition with the Supreme Court of the Philippines, I was waiting for the ruling of the Supreme Court of my petition for certiorari. And third, believe it or not, we tried to publish our side on the story but unfortunately, the stories that we asked to be published were not printed at all for reason I do not know. My lawyer they tried to allow himself to be interviewed so that my side could be aired. But unfortunately, even his interviews were either not aired or they were even spliced and they were quoted out of context.

Gordon: But sir, don't you think if you had come back then instead of just now, many months or many years later, two years later, you would have more credibility and the Senate would have more respect for you because of you coming back in spite of the threat to be able to rectify or to be able to uphold your honor, instead of coming back now na after all these things na sinasabi na sa madla na yun ang nangyari. Kung bumalik kayo ng mas maaga siguro mas kapai-paniwala ang estado nyo, di ba?

Bolante: I agree with you, your honor. As a matter of fact, as I mentioned this morning, I would have even elevated again my US case to higher court and my deportation could have been postponed had I decided to do that. But finally I said, enough, I want to go home.

Gordon: That's precisely the point, your visa was cancelled upon the request siguro upon the request of the Senate committee di ba?

Bolante: I do not know.

Gordon: Biglang kinansela yung visa mo di ba?

Bolante: Opo.

Gordon: Eh kung bumalik ka noon at ni-rectify mo yung sinasabi doon siguro baka bibigyan ka rin ng visa ng amerikano.

Bolante: Well I'm not really interested in their visa, I'm just interested doon sa sinabi nyo po that maybe had I gone back as you said, I would have been able to clear my name much earlier. I agree with you po and that's one of my regrets in life.

Gordon: You know I really regret that eto ang nangyari sa inyo because sa akin ang nagiging conclusion ko, kasi we cannot convict you here. We have already made a recommendation at the Ombudsman to take care of your case. Siguro one of my recommendations will be to have the Ombudsman become an elected position kasi hindi lumalakad eh. So, in aid of legislation, wala akong nakikita dito except to advise future presidents not to appoint people who may have qualifications of a president of a major company who is supposed to be smart in finance but nonetheless very short on responsibility and accountability and is very derelict in his functions, allowing other people to take the blame rather than to take responsibility and say 'I should have checked, I did not check.' I never heard you say all throughout that 'I should have checked.' Because if I were in your shoes I would have probably said, 'I would have checked.' Because kahit na hindi ikaw ang responsible, you're holding on to P728 million-worth of funds pero I never heard you say, 'I would have checked' because napakalaking halaga yan na dapat alagaan natin. And that is my problem. And to my mind, this is really a project that was not niche-driven, it was demand-drive. Demands by politics, timing kayo on the campaign period, which is done also, by the way, in fairness to everybody, ginagawa talaga yan, but on the other hand, it was really, nadagdagan pa nung hindi nyo chineck kung saan napupunta yung pera kaya napakalaking gulo ang ginawa nito. And talagang the people are the poorer for it, and our honor has been tarnished again and again and again and once again.

Value of Education

EXPLAINING TO A YOUNG PUPIL THE VALUE OF EDUCATION: A sixth grader Victor Nepomuceno listens attentively to Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon who explained to him the value of education during a brief interview at the Senate, Nov. 12. Stressing that a lot of pupils in public schools are not given quality education due to lack of government resources, Gordon said he is vigorously pushing for the immediate passage of the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP) that aims to zero in backlogs in education and health infrastructures by requiring telecommunications companies to remit part of their net income from local text messages.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Support for COMELEC to cleanse voters' list

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today welcomed the call made by the Church-based election watchdog for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to purge the voters' list against flying voters and dead persons as the poll body is gearing for the start of the continuing voters' registration on Dec. 1.

Gordon, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Election Automation System, said Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) was correct in saying that upgrading the electoral system also includes the registration process to be really effective.

"Ambassador (Tita) De Villa is right.. In order for the automation of our electoral process to ensure a clean, honest and credible elections, the voters' list should be purged first," he said.

De Villa was hopeful that the use of biometric data capturing machine, where the voters' identity will be captured and stored in databases through fingerprints and signatures, will be reviewed as it guarantees an accurate voters' list.

The senator, however, noted that the Comelec has also thought of this as a solution to the problem of the voters' list as it has earmarked P366.56-million in its budget for 2009 for the cleansing of the list through digitized capturing of the voter's biometric and personal data.

"Based on the proposed budget submitted by the Comelec for 2009, the poll body also considers the use of data capturing machines would be effective in cleansing the voters' list," he said.

Gordon reiterated the necessity of immediately approving the General Appropriations Bill of 2009 and the P21-billion supplemental budget requested by the Comelec so it can embark on its preparations.

"The Comelec cannot start on its preparations until the budget is assured. This just means that the proposed General Appropriations bill and the Comelec's supplemental budget have to be approved immediately.

Statement on Mayor Binay's decision to ran in 2010

"I welcome Mayor Binay's plan to seek the presidency. His decision undoubtedly opens up not only a wide array of presidential aspirants by which the Filipino electorate may choose from but also our chance to evaluate his competence, integrity and reliability to lead the country.

"As a local chief executive, Binay will definitely add a new perspective to the country's political discourse.

"This is indeed good for our democracy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Support for televised presidential debates

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today supported the call by some quarters for the need of presidential debates on television that would enable the Filipino electorate to evaluate the candidates in the May 2010 elections.

Gordon lauded the call made by Pastor Boy Saycon and his group, Halalang Marangal, for prime time debate in major networks, at least for presidential candidates, as practical and sensible.

"That is what we need, an avenue for presidential candidates to present their platform of government. This way, the electorate will get to know the candidates and they will be able to evaluate their competence, integrity and reliability to lead the country and would not have to rely on surveys in choosing the country's leaders," he said.

Gordon has earlier filed Senate Bill No. 2079, which seeks to mandate major television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice presidential candidates. Each debate shall not be less than sixty minutes, exclusive of airtime for commercials and advertisements.

"The debates would be very useful as they would help the electorate get to know the candidates. We will see the last of meeting the avances usually attended by candidates who are only full of promises but offering no concrete action plans. The debates would enjoin a candidate to prepare concrete action plans in consonant with his or her platform of government in order to weigh more favorably against the opponents," he noted.

The senator noted that though the Fair Elections Act requires the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to procure free airtime from at least three national television and radio networks for equal allocation to all candidates for national office, there is currently no mechanism that requires nationally elected candidates to make known their position on matters of national significance through intelligent debate.

Gordon pointed out that in the recent presidential elections in the United States, the electorate gained an insight on the two candidates through the debates that were strategically held throughout the campaign period.

"Look at the recently-held presidential elections in the US, the debates helped the electorate decide on which candidate to vote for because the debates gave the electorate an insight on the two candidates' position on matters of national significance," he said.

Government must provide funds for poll automation

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today tossed the challenge to President Arroyo and leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives to provide the necessary funds for the automation of the synchronized elections in May 2010.

Gordon, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System, said it is now up to both Mrs. Arroyo and Congress to make allocations for the P21-billion budgetary request of the Commission on Elections to enable it to implement Republic Act (RA) 9369, or the Amended Automation Elections Law.

"Let us put our money where our mouth is. Or were we merely paying lip-service to the Filipino people when we promised them that we are for modernizing the electoral process to ensure that the next elections would be clean, honest and credible?" he said.

"It might be expensive, but how much is our democracy worth? The law is there, and it is ripe for implementation. Let us live up to our commitment to the Filipino electorate by funding the full automation of the 2010 elections," he added.

The automation of the electoral process is included in President Arroyo's 10-point agenda, which will be implemented through the use of the latest technology for voting, counting, canvassing, transmission of election results.

"President Arroyo will be leaving a great legacy at the end of her term if she exercises strong political will now and support nationwide poll automation program. Our commitment to safeguard the sanctity of the people's vote should stand firm," he added.

Gordon said Congress' continued failure to allocate the budgetary requirement has already caused glitches in the Comelec's tight timetable in its bid to implement RA 9369.

In the poll body's timetable submitted to the Senate, the budget should have been released last Oct. 24, the invitation to bid should have been published last Oct. 27 and it should already be holding a pre-bid conference last Nov.10.

"Our continued delay in providing the necessary funds will only cause further setback for the Comelec unless we provide the needed wherewithal to them," he pointed out.

Gordon also stressed that the conduct of an honest, clean and credible election has been an elusive dream for every Filipino.

"If we fail, or even refuse, to act and stand for what should be done to achieve that dream, then we miserably fail as a nation and as a people. For that dream to be realized, the modernization of the country's electoral exercises is a step in the right direction. The full automation of our country's electoral process is a sine qua non condition for a vibrant democracy," he said.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Final closure to Senate probe of fertilizer scam

MANILA, Nov. 10 — The Senate should expeditiously bring to final closure its investigation into the alleged abuse and misuse of the P728-million fertilizer fund diversion scam, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

While he favors a reopening of the Senate's investigation in aid of legislation into the controversial fertilizer fund scam, Gordon said the Senate should expeditiously finish it and submit whatever new findings it may bring out to the Ombudsman.

"Let the Senate do what it has to do within its power. But in determining whoever is liable, let us do so swiftly and allow every prosecutorial arm of the government run after them. It is time we find final closure to this controversy," he said.

As a member of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Gordon pointed out that in Joint Committee Report No. 54, one of the recommendations was to enforce the order of contempt and serve the arrest warrant against Bolante and his cohorts.

"The fertilizer fund scam will never be closed without the testimony of its brains and implementor - Jocelyn Bolante," he said, as he read the joint committee report's 9th recommendation.

According to him, he hopes that the Senate will focus on resolving issues that remained in vexing obscurity and not be dragged into partisan politics as it decides to reopen the investigation into the fertilizer fund scandal in aid of legislation.

"This has now become a moral issue pleading for our immediate action. We must therefore rise above partisan politics, and ferret out the truth that has long evaded us. If we are to move forward, we have to settle this controversy now," he said. (PNA)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Senate Opening Prayer

‘They will listen to my voice.' said Jesus (John 10:16). How do I imagine that voice? A hectoring father? A nagging mother? A moralizing preacher? A roaring sergeant-major? No, it is the voice of a lover, who knows me in my uniqueness and calls me by name. Of all that you say here, Lord, your last words hearten me most: ‘I must bring the other sheep also, so there will be one flock, one shepherd.'

Today, as we gather before this august hall, let us be reminded of the horrors brought about by greed, selfishness and hatred which resulted in the loss of millions of innocent lives and which occurred during the early weeks of November. Let us learn from the harsh lessons that they brought.

On November 9 - 10, 1938, Crystal Night (Kristallenacht), in almost all large German cities and some smaller ones that night, store windows of Jewish shops were broken, Jewish houses were destroyed, and synagogues were demolished and set on fire.

On that fateful night, over 7,500 Jewish shops were destroyed and 400 synagogues were burnt down. Ninety-one Jews were killed and an estimated 20,000 sent to concentration camps.

Crystal night heralded the Holocaust where 6,000,000 Jews died in the hands of Nazis, 1.5 million of them children. These deaths represented one-third of world Jews.

On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s martyr for peace and a Jew, was assassinated by Yigal Amir who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords, the intended framework for the future relations between Israel and the anticipated Palestinian state.

On November 11, 1918, The Armistice was signed between the Allied Nations and Germany which ended the First World War, where over 40 million casualties resulted, including approximately 20 million military and civilian deaths.

As humankind grows older, we long for unity, and for an end to the needless divisions that cripple us. Be a good shepherd to all who visit Sacred Space that is this Senate. We find here a unity in hearing Your words and communing with You.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


"I join the rest of the world in extending our warmest congratulations to US president-elect Barrack Obama for his historic electoral victory. His ascendancy to the most powerful post in the world as the first African-American President signals a political and cultural paradigm shift as it sends a clear and loud message to all peace and freedom-loving nations - CHANGE IS IN OUR HANDS. The impossible has happened. Change has indeed come to America, and it was made possible by the power of the ordinary people.