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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Keep the transformational spirit of EDSA alive

Filipinos must keep the spirit of EDSA alive through action espousing transformational politics rather than the serving up of empty platitudes said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon issued the call as the nation observes the 23rd anniversary of the People Power 1 at the site of the first peaceful uprising to oust the dictatorial rule of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. At the same time, he lauded the role played by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in ensuring the peaceful uprising.

"EDSA was our golden moment as a nation and as a people. Twenty three years ago, we showed that if we acted as one people pursuing a vision for the common good, we can overcome the corruption and oppression of tyrannical rule," he said.

"Today, however, it is so sad to note that we find ourselves still in the midst of corruption and oppression - sans the gaiety and jubilance of the triumphant crowd in the first EDSA," he added.

Gordon explained that the country's current circumstances reaffirm that "what we need is not just a change OF men, but a change IN men."

"We have changed our leaders, four times but the country has remained more or less the same. Why? It is because we forgot to seek change in ourselves as well. Our country will remain the way it is, until and unless each one of us becomes the change we want to be," said Gordon.

He added that transformational politics calls for an active commitment to a common good and a return to values. He said this is the opposite of the transactional politics that continues to reign till this day.

"Transactional politicians ask, 'what good will this do for me?' Transformational politicians, on the other hand, ask 'what good will this do for my countrymen?' That's the difference, that's what we are committed to pursuing," said Gordon.

He said that Filipinos should seek and support transformational leaders in the coming 2010 elections.

He described transformational leaders as being responsive to fundamental needs and hopes of the people. They likewise raise the ability of the people to help themselves as well as others and instill in people faith in themselves, he added.

"It takes the right kind of leadership to bring out the best in the Filipino. Kapag ang lider at ang tao ang nagsama, lalabas ang galing ng Pilipino. Individuals perform best when they are respected, valued, and trusted by someone who genuinely cares for their well being," he said.

Monday, February 23, 2009




The Resolution sought to have the Senate conduct an inquiry in order to look into the alleged misuse and misapplication of government funds, i.e., the purchase of fertilizers that not only were overpriced but inappropriate for the intended purpose as well.

After a series of numerous hearings (six in all), and dialogues with farmer organizations, the Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) under Senators Ramon B. Magsaysay and Joker P. Arroyo, respectively, issued Committee Report No. 54 (CR 54).

Among many of their findings, they discovered that massive corruption accompanied the procurement and distribution of fertilizers all over the country. Commissions were offered to some, demanded by, and given allegedly to, elected and appointed government officials. There were supposed recipients who did not receive a drop of the liquid fertilizers. The P728M in funds purportedly used for the purchase and distribution of fertilizers to farmer beneficiaries were used instead primarily for the re-election efforts of administration candidates.

As the door was closing on the 13th Congress, the Senate approved CR54, which found, among others, that:

1) Some politicians' names were used to legitimize the operations; 1

2) The fertilizer project was a scam; and 2

3) There was massive overpricing in the fertilizer costs.3

Through CR 54, the Senate also recommended and approved the following, inter alia:

1) The filing of criminal charges against Sec. Luis Lorenzo, Usec. Jocelyn I. Bolante, Usec. Ibarra Poliquit, Usec. Belinda Gonzales, Asec. Jose Felix Montes and all Regional Directors of the DA who participated illegally in all the transactions related to the P728M fertilizer scam;4 and

2) Citing for Contempt of the Senate Sec. Luis Lorenzo and Usec. Ibarra Poliquit, as well as ordering the enforcement of the contempt citation against Usec. Jocelyn I Bolante.5

Normally, the work of a Committee is done after it has made its recommendations through its Committee Report and having it approved by the Senate in plenary session. But this work was not yet over; it could not have been finished because the architect of the whole scheme had not appeared to testify in the Senate. Despite numerous invitations to and subpoenas issued against Mr. Jocelyn I. Bolante, he did not honor nor heed any of them. He was cited for contempt for his repeated insolence. He was never around during any of the hearings. Finally, he fled to the United States (US) where he sought asylum. There were disturbing developments that led many, especially the previous Congress, to believe that there was an active attempt to obscure the trail left by the co-conspirators. There was an invocation of Executive Order 464 (EO 464) by officials, e.g., Undersecretary Ibarra Poliquit, in order not to testify. The Supreme Court, however, subsequently declared Sections 2(b) and 3 of EO 464 unconstitutional insofar as covered officials were concerned. The Supreme Court was clear that executive privilege does not refer to categories of persons but refers instead to categories of information. Mr. Bolante's sojourn to the US was deemed to be a deliberate attempt to escape the jurisdiction of the Senate. His flight was a clear indication of guilt.

The 14th Congress and the Blue Ribbon Committee Hearings

During the 14th Congress, two proposed resolutions were filed: Proposed Senate Resolution No. 637 and Proposed Senate Resolution No. 702, both authored by Senator Mar Roxas. A privilege speech was delivered by Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada entitled, "A Clarion Call to Conscience". All three were related to the P728M alleged fertilizer scam and the role/status of Mr. Bolante.

In the meantime, Mr. Bolante's petition for asylum in the United States was denied after a protracted process. He was finally deported back to the Philippines. It was not until November 13, 2008 that Mr. Bolante, at last, appeared in the Senate.

Eight (8) public hearings have been conducted.


I. We recommend that the following be further investigated and /or charged: A. Former Undersecretary Jocelyn I. Bolante 1. Plunder 2. Technical Malversation 3. Money Laundering 4. False Testimony/Perjury

B. Former Assistant Secretary Ibarra Poliquit 1. Plunder 2. Technical malversation

C. Ms. Leonicia Marco-Llarena 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering 3. False Testimony/Perjury In Solemn Affirmation

D. Ms. Deonilla "Julie" Misola-Gregorio 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering 3. Tax Evasion 4. Disobedience To Summons Issued By The National Assembly

E. Mr. Redentor Antolin 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering

F. Ms. Marilyn Araos 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering

G. Ms. Maritess Aytona 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering 3. Tax Evasion 4. False Testimony/Perjury In Solemn Affirmation 5. Disobedience to Summons Issued By The National Assembly

H. Mr. Jaime Paule 1. Plunder 2. Money Laundering 3. False Testimony/Perjury In Solemn Affirmation

I. Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales 1. Plunder 2. Technical Malversation

J. Joselito Flordeliza 1. Money Laundering

II. We recommend the passage of the following proposed measures: A. AMLA amendments Amendment: Extend the extension period of the freeze order from an additional six months to two years. The two year freeze should be applied for every six months to show that there is no grave abuse of discretion on the part of AMLC.

B. Procurement Act amendment Amendment: Include private institutions, NGOs, people's organizations and other private entities that receive government monies in the coverage of the Procurement Act.

C. AMLA Rules revision Amendment: Revise the Rules, as written by the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Anti-Money Laundering Law, to reinstate the provision allowing Congress some powers of inquiry relevant to its investigations.

D. Amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act Amendment: Amending the Bank Secrecy Act to include in the exception public officers charged before the Courts for violations of Sections 3(b) and (c), under Corrupt Practices of Public Officers.

E. Amendment to the Rules of Procedure Governing inquiries in Aid of Legislation re Direct Contempt Amendment: Include the provision on Direct Contempt, Indirect Contempt and Arrest in the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation.

F. Suggested standard provision to be added to the GAA every year Amendment: Include a provision in the GAA that will penalize officials and employees for failure to submit quarterly financial and narrative accomplishment reports.

III. We urge the Ombudsman to decide on the cases which have been pending with them for nearly 1,300 days. The Ombudsman has motu proprio powers to conduct an investigation into wrongdoings of government officers. Had it exercised its powers more aggressively, the resolution of the Fertilizer scam and other issues related to it could have been yesterday's news. Alas, such is not the case here. And so now is the time for the law enforcement agencies and the prosecution arms of government to perform what it was originally tasked to do. IV. We recommend that an amendment to the Constitution be made making the Ombudsman an elective rather than an appointive position. We can, by making the position elective, ensure more its independence from the Executive than what we have now. We need an Ombudsman beholden only to the people. The mode of election, and or nomination of candidates for this position, e.g., candidates who may be vetted first by the Supreme Court before they are allowed to run, need not be decided right now. But this issue has to be discussed and there is no better time than today. Needles to say, any changes to our existing Charter must be made only after the 2010 elections.


Insofar as this aspect of the Bolante case and his ilk are concerned our task has ended. We thank the Magsaysay and Arroyo Committees for starting the work that led to this current effort towards uncovering more personalities, and more acts - no less egregious, no less criminal. We are confident that our efforts have revealed many pieces of this fertilizer puzzle. But while this report is complete and this closure final insofar as this (Bolante) aspect of the case is concerned, we do not discount that there might still be out there things that remain for us to ascertain, e.g., former DA Sec. Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. has not testified yet. Has he stayed abroad to hide or has he resided overseas because he could not stomach what was happening in his department?

Agencies of the Executive Department, such as the DBM, including then Secretary Emilia Boncodin were so grossly remiss in their duties. That P728M was released without their knowledge is difficult to believe. At the very least, it could have exercised enough supervision over such a gargantuan amount to ensure that it was not wasted or stolen.

The Executive Department should have supervised its agents and subordinates well, rewarding those who do good work and punishing those who do badly, rather than, for example, allowing the appointment of Poliquit in December 2005 to a cushy position as GSIS Vice President even as the controversy remained unresolved. It should first have ensured that the investigation was concluded before such promotion was made. And for promoting Belinda Gonzales to the post of DA Undersecretary, without a very thorough vetting process that could have bared the scam, the Executive here committed twice the sin of omission. As early as the 13th Congress, the Senate had found that the President herself "must be held accountable in the mismanagement of the fertilizer fund and take it upon herself to institute measures to correct the flaws in her administration.6

The President is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Government. While the Constitution is not explicit about this position, by reason of her being the Chief Executive and the head of government, she exercises and wields all administrative powers inherent in her position.

A corollary rule to the control powers of the President is the "Doctrine of Qualified Political Agency." As the President cannot be expected to exercise all her control powers at all times and in person, she will have to delegate some of them to her Cabinet members. The Doctrine of Qualified Political Agency provides that all executive and administrative organizations are adjuncts of the Executive Department. The heads of the various executive departments are assistants and agents of the Chief Executive. Except in cases where the Chief Executive is required by the Constitution or law to act in person or the exigencies of the situation demand that she acts personally, the multifarious executive and administrative functions of the Chief Executive are performed by and through the executive departments. Thus, the acts of the Secretaries of such departments, performed and promulgated in the regular course of business, unless disapproved or reprobated by the Chief Executive, are presumptively the acts of the Chief Executive.7

Thus, while the Committee found no evidence directly linking the President to the fertlizer scam, the acts of the former Undersecretary of the DA, Mr. Jocelyn Isada Bolante and his cohorts, now Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales and now GSIS Vice President Ibarra Poliquit, are deemed acts of the President since they acted within the scope of their authorities given to them by then Secretary Luis Lorenzo, Jr. Since there was no reprobation or disapproval coming from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding their actions, it can easily be inferred that the President acquiesced to such acts. Does anyone really believe that Bolante, et. al., would have been able to malverse such a gargantuan amount and continue to evade all sorts of liability without the acquiesence of Malacanang?

The President's knowledge as to the fertilizer fund scam controversy had, in fact, been alluded to by former DBM Secretary Emilia Boncodin in her testimony during the 13th Congress: "When asked if the fertilizer fund request made by Usec. Bolante for the Department of Agriculture was upon the instruction of the President, Secretary Boncodin replied with, 'I would imagine so.'"8

Inspite of that knowledge, there was no close monitoring of how the money was spent, and, more importantly, whether the funds were spent wisely and well. The omission was so appalling that the people involved were allowed to get away with it. Despite storm clouds appearing in the horizon, promotions and new appointments were instead made. The gathering storm should have been a warning that something was amiss. The exposure that first appeared in the media should have been impetus enough to act, to investigate, to correct, to punish. None was done even after the Senate during the 13th Congress issued its findings in CR 54.

The AMLC was slow, the Bureau of Internal Revenue was absent, the DBM allowed it, the President and the DA Secretary did not move.

What we have heard instead from the administration is deafening silence. No investigation, no condemnation, not a whisper, not a whimper, nary a sound - not even a slap on the wrist. This lack of supervision, this negligence in monitoring, this lack of accountability, this omission was so gross; it was tantamount to bad faith, even criminal neglect.

This is not the first corrupt operation that has been committed and, if the leaders in the Executive Department are not careful and more circumspect, more deliberate, and more judicious in the release of funds, this will not be the last. This lack of monitoring by officials in the administration resulted in such wastage of vast amount of funds- akin to a faucet leak which every one notices but which no one bothers to report for repairs- with the water continually running until the water runs out.

This dearth of monitoring efforts led to a maldistribution of resources: favored (or priority) ones getting more than others. While many government agencies have to wrestle with others to get their fair share of inadequate resources, here the favorites get the lion's share without even having to go through the bureaucratic maze all in the name of greed and re-election. Worse, the absence of close supervision facilitated the malversation of public funds and allowed the conspirators to divert funds that had been allocated for, and should have otherwise gone to the benefit of, the farmers-constituents of the different LGUs and congressional districts. Upon the release of a huge amount of money, bells and whistles should have gone off in the DBM, warning them, telling them to monitor closely the manner by which the funds were to be distributed. They should have required regular reporting of how the money was spent, even before the COA came in. It was just but responsible. This way, no releases should have been allowed without first accounting for the past expense. The DBM, in this case, has underserved the people.

Particularly egregious are the acts of Jocelyn Bolante. He claimed to have exerted efforts to stamp out corruption at the DA by drafting a memo to Sec. Lorenzo to report allegations of corruption. However, no copy of any such memo was ever presented to us, and Sec. Lorenzo, in a phone call, even denies having ever received such a memo. At the same time, even assuming the truth of Bolante's claim, he should not have stopped at just drafting a memo for Sec. Lorenzo, after he was informed of the existence of a syndicate in the DA, if he was true to his duty. He should have filed and pursued a case with the Ombudsman or investigated until all people in the group were exposed and punished. The allegations of bribery, told to him, were so serious and so grave, that he should have acted with great dispatch. By his inaction, he failed to live up to the precepts of the Code of Conduct and Ethical standards for Public Officials and Employees, that "they shall enter public service with utmost devotion and dedication to duty. (Section 4(b), RA 6713) Worse, our hearings have established that Bolante, far from crusading against corruption, was instead himself engaged in a systematic scheme of corruption. By his acts he failed to live up, nay he violated his Rotary creed: what he said was not the TRUTH, what he did was not FAIR to the Filipino, what he did was not BENEFICIAL to all. He must have been able to rise up the Rotary International hierarchy by masquerading himself as a person who believed in its tenets, but in reality was violating them. He has brought shame to himself, to his family, and to his organization. He has done disservice to the nation, and has wronged his country.

We dread to see again the unleashing of packs of wolves feasting upon already-scarce resources of government. In all probability, there were other wolf packs involved in the disposition of the remaining P535M in fertilizer funds that have yet to be traced. The practice of allowing the appearance/insertion of "lump sums" in budget, especially in re-enacted ones; the non-transparency of these items' usage especially as they refer to projects already completed during the year previous, will give a free rein to these sharks, sensing blood, turning into a feeding frenzy- especially during times of elections and natural disasters. How many times have we seen this? How many times do we still have to suffer for this?

The Ombudsman failed to do its duty when no resolution was made on this case even after more than a thousand days. We denounce its inaction in the strongest possible terms. Instead of being part of the solution to corruption and justiying the existence of its office, it has instead become part of the problem, worsened the climate of corruption, and given cause for its abolition. By its blatant inaction and callous behaviour, it would seem as if it has been coopted by the corrupt. It seems that instead of apprehending the caravans of thieves, the Ombudsman has turned a blind eye and has allowed them to go on their merry way.

The gross inaction by the Ombudsman is one that must not be allowed or tolerated by the people and by the leaders of this country. Certainly, and at the very least, the Senate will not tolerate the Ombudsman's criminal negligence. The Senate's primary constitutional function is to pass laws; surely we can concentrate on that. We cannot punish corrupt officials, we cannot send them to jail. However, when the people's cry for justice and resolution to these problems remain unheeded, unanswered, and unaddressed by the Ombudsman, we will cast shame on the shameful, step up to the plate, and act.

To be sure, there are already serious and mounting calls for her resignation, and we support them. This Committee and this Senate are done repeatedly reminding her to act and discharge her duty. The Senate will not hesitate to exercise its power of the purse as well as other legislative and constitutional powers to enact wholesale reforms in the Office of the Ombudsman and remove its occupants, if not effect its de facto abolition. The Ombudsman must be held accountable for allowing people to get away with crime.

Our people are losing their patience. One time on a street of Tagaytay, a farmer, selling her produce, approached the Committee Chairman to tell him "sir napapanood namin kayo, ipakulong nyo yang Bolante na yan. Hirap na hirap na kami dito, at yang mga taong yan ay nagpapasasa lang pala sa kaban ng bayan," and that the Senate dispense with the formalities and just send the scoundrels straight to jail. Who can fault her? Our farmers and other needy sectors are being used by the corrupt as cover for their crimes. Our farmers are already on the streets. We must not stand idle. As if stealing from government wasn't bad enough, the nefarious acts of these corrupt people ended up victimizing the farmers: the real, direct and true victims of this scam. Again and again we read or hear of reports of graft here and corruption there - the recent World Bank report on collusion in the bidding process has again put our country's integrity in question. The Philippines has also been rated the most corrupt Asian economy by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). If we do not put a stop to corruption, we will be doomed to perpetual notoriety - a reputation most unfair to our people, millions of whom will be forced to find their future in foreign shores.

The anger of the people is palpable in the streets and in the fields. A social volcano is smouldering and unless we do something soon, it is bound to explode. It is hoped that we do not come to that - we still are a country of laws and not of men. But we must heed the voice of our people if we are to remain a Republic of the people.

Although it is our devout wish that there be less investigations by the Senate, there remains a duty to look at, and pursue the truth about serious allegations of many irregularities in government: the collusion among contractors and government officials in World Bank-financed infrastructure projects, the bribery allegations surrounding our drug enforcement agencies, the ZTE broadband scandal, and procurement anomalies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to name a few. We must get the rascals out of government.

We must stop the "coarsening of our political culture" that is facilitated by those who choose to be "silent witnesses to evil deeds." We will not accept scandalous behavior in government and in society. We will, instead, raise the standard of duty and accountabilty in our country.

The Blue Ribbon Committee will not hesitate to exercise political will in investigating and exposing malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance. Those who are summoned must be forewarned that no one should trifle with the Senate and the Blue Ribbon Committee lest they be cited for contempt and get their just deserts. Fiat justitia ruat coelum.

Moreover, because of continued Ombudsman inaction, the Committee has been forced to break ground and file cases (and when justified, will continue to file cases) against corrupt government officials, as it has done against Bolante. The Committee Chairman is rather surprised that the case the Committee filed with the DOJ against the fertilizer fund conspirators has yet to proceed. If the information we have is correct, they are awaiting our Committee Report. Why they have to wait, why they cannot investigate on their own utilizing our leads or the information we have discovered, escapes us.

Why have there been so many brazen shootings and murders within the DA over the years? We, therefore, find it a moral imperative to call on the appropriate agencies to resolve and to report on the slayings of Marlyn Esperat and Teofilo Mojica and the shooting of Estelita Jardino. Ms. Esperat filed a case against officials of the DA regarding the P544M allegedly scammed out of government. It is reported that because of this, she was murdered in front of her children in cold blood. Mr. Mojica, was shot in the head, as were his wife, child, and niece in the early morning of last September 13. His murder has been connected with another anomaly in the DA, involving the misuse of P168M for fertilizers. They would have died in vain if we do not investigate, in aid of legislation, these tragedies, and what led to the murders.

The public, for a long time, has demanded closure to this issue. We have done our part. Now, let the prosecution arm of government do theirs. Lest this be misconstrued as passing the buck, we do this only because the Constitution and our laws, through the principle of separation of powers, have assigned the subsequent function of prosecution to other agencies of government.

In conclusion, the totality of what we have seen, heard, read and ferreted out in the Committee's inquiry provides us not just details of specific wrongs and mistakes committed by certain persons in the fertilizer fund mess. They also point to the bigger picture of corruption and greed that is so prevalent in national life not only today, but which has been intensifying over decades.

The bigger picture shows us the distressing spectacle of veritable wolfpacks preying with impunity on government projects, having access to colossal sums of public money, using power and influence without compunction, and perverting public office into an opportunity for abuse and gain. A host of individuals endeavour to gain at all costs: through lying, cheating, killing, and stealing. Many more are voting for the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.

These irregularities uncovered at the DA have been painful and costly to the nation. But they do not stop there. Indeed, at the very same time that we were conducting our Blue Ribbon inquiry, other Congressional committees were similarly engaged by scandals and irregularities in other agencies and sectors of public life. Since the object of our inquiry is to come up with legislation that can effectively combat the menace of graft and corruption in our country, we feel the need to say something here about the formidable challenge we face.

Let us not pretend that when the international media tags the Philippines as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, it's only the grafters among us who are under indictment. The label shames us all.

Nor is our problem only the way that others see us. Our people are coming dangerously close to believing that nothing can be done about corruption and greed in our country, that everyone's on the take, that it permeates all branches of government, and that working for a larger common good is impossible - and that Senate inquiries like ours will come to nothing.

We can no longer be silent and callous witnesses to rampant acts of corruption and remain blas� and unaffected by the many storms of scandals that continually pummel our body politic. We can no longer tolerate the practice of the art of equivocation and pretense that breeds only suspicion and lies. Constant conflicts continue to sap our moral stamina and instigate our cynicism. A significant number believe the worst: that we have a flawed socio-political culture where judges and justices toe the administration line, where military officials will always say yes to those in power to ensure future employment in government. Independence of thought, belief, and judgment has become a rarity. Everyone is cowed by power, money, pelf, and influence.

The Senate must not allow this public cynicism to have the last word. But if we are to combat this culture of corruption and dispel this cynicism, we have to develop what one writer has called "a concept of enough." We have to say that this menace must be stopped for the sake of our own survival as a nation.

Change cannot be done overnight, or from a single inquiry, or a piece of legislation. But we believe that every step we take in the fight for integrity in government is a step forward to better governance. We believe that when we succeed in one resolute action to stop graft, we could set off or and inspire others to do the same. And sooner or later the time will come when all these efforts will gather together to become an irresistible force that will shatter the wall of graft and corruption in our country.

To this work and this goal, we in the Blue Ribbon Committee are committed!

Respectfully submitted:


Committee on Accountability of Public Officers
and Investigations (Blue Ribbon)


1CR54, page 31
2CR 54, page 26
3CR 54, pp. 28-29
4CR54, page 33
5CR54, page35
6Committee Report No. 54, 13th Congress, p. 36
7Agpalo, Ruben E., Administrative Law, Law on Public Officers and Election Law, p.28, Rex Bookstore, 2005 citing Juat v. Land Tenure Administration, 1 SCRA 361 (1961) and Carpio v. Executive Secretary, 206 SCRA 290 (1992)
8Committee Report No. 54, 1 March 2006, 13th Congress of the Senate, p. 13

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gov't must help FilVets claim benefits before one-year period lapses

Filipino World War II veterans should immediately file their application for claiming their benefits from the United States (US) government as they only have a year to do so Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon made the statement as he urged the government, notably the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), to extend all the necessary help to the veterans and their families for a more efficient procedure of applying for their compensation.

"The government should help our veterans in every way possible so that they may immediately file their applications to claim the benefits which they have long waited for," he said.

According to the guidelines released by the US Embassy in Manila, veterans have to file their application within one year from Feb. 17, 2009, the date of enactment into law of the $787-billion economic stimulus bill.

Under the US law, veterans with US citizenship will receive a one-time lump sum payment of $15,000; while non-US citizens will receive a one time lump sum payment of $9,000.

Those who MAY be eligible to claim benefits are veterans who are listed in the Revised Reconstructed Guerilla Roster (RRGR), and veterans under the New Philippine Scouts and Commonwealth Army (United States Army Forces in the Far East).

Gordon said the PVAO should aid claimants in availing their benefits by setting up help desks and hotlines and launching a massive and intensive information campaign to educate the veterans of the guidelines for obtaining the grant.

"We should make the process easy for our veterans because they have all the right to immediately obtain these benefits which are long overdue," he said.

Gordon had recently filed Senate Resolution 894 urging the government, particularly PVAO, to protect eligible Filipino veterans and their families from fixers who may take advantage of them in availing their benefits.

He also authored Senate Bill 142, signed into law as RA 9499, which provides that Filipino veterans would continue receiving pension and benefits from the Philippine Government even if they start receiving the same benefits from the US government.

Gordon also lobbied in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives for the passage of an equity bill which could remove much of the stain and dishonor done by the US government to the dignity and true sacrifices of Filipino WWII veterans and of the Philippines as a nation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Swift passage of automation budget for May 2010 elections sought

Both Houses of Congress should act with dispatch on the proposed P11.3-billion supplemental budget for the automation of the May 2010 presidential elections said
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

In a media interview, Gordon pointed out that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has a lot of preparations to undertake, thereby rendering it urgent for the House and Senate to pass the supplemental appropriation bill soon.

"We have to move fast. The Comelec, the executive and the legislature have to see to it that the (automation) law happens when the election takes place in May. Talagang dapat maipasa yan agad sa lalong madaling panahon," he said.

"The law says we have to publish and train everybody on this matter. That is why I filed the bill early this year. Dapat pag-akyat sa Kongreso ng panukalang batas,, tuloy-tuloy na sa Senado at maumpisahan na yan para wala ng excuse," he added.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Election System Law, filed Senate Bill No. 3021 which seeks to authorize a supplemental appropriation for an automated election system in the amount of P11.3 billion.

Comelec has urged Congress to pass the proposed P11.3-billion supplemental budget for the automated 2010 polls, adding that the budget allotted must be released by April this year if the country were to push through with poll automation.

Unless they are certain of the availability of funds, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo explained they cannot start the bidding for voting machines and the subsequent publishing of its terms of reference, which is very detailed.

He added that if the release of the funds will be delayed, the suppliers of the automation technology that would be used may not be able to meet the deadline.

Gordon expressed hope that the appropriations bill will be passed before Congress goes on a month-long recess to ensure transparency, credibility, fairness and accuracy of the country's electoral exercise through the automation of the 2010 polls.

Congress is scheduled to take a Lenten break starting March 7.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gordon thanks US Congress for Granting Recognition and Benefits to Filipino WWII Veterans

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today expressed gratitude to the United States (US) Congress for passing the $787-billion stimulus bill which contains provisions granting recognition and benefits to Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans.

Gordon stressed that the stimulus bill US President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law on Wednesday will finally give recognition to some estimated 13,000 Filipino veterans who fought alongside American soldiers in the WWII.

"After 65 years, the US government has finally honored its promise to the Philippines, one of its staunchest allies. I share the profound sense of joy that our nation and especially our Filipino WWII veterans now feel that the US recognizes their military service and grants them the benefits they so truly deserve," he said.

"Through the years, veterans and community organizations supported this effort. They deserve our gratitude. We also thank our champions in the US Congress," he added, referring to, to name a few: Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Bob Filner, among others.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contained the Filipino Veterans' Equity provision that provided a tax-free $15,000 for each of the Filipino veterans who are US citizens and $9,000 for each of non-US citizens, mostly living in the Philippines.

For years, the passage of the Filipino WWII Veterans Equity bill had been thwarted in the US Congress by US lawmakers who demanded equal responsibility.

The granting of benefits by the US government, according to previous Filipino laws, would cancel out benefits being granted by the Filipino government.

To remedy this, Gordon authored Senate Bill 142 which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into law, logged as Republic Act (RA) 9499 on April 9, 2008, which effectively amends RA 6948, or An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents.

RA 9499 allowed Filipino veterans to continue receiving pensions and benefits from the Philippine government without rescinding similar benefits from the US government.

He also lobbied in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives for the passage of an equity bill which could remove much of the stain and dishonor done by the US government to the dignity and true sacrifices of Filipino WWII veterans and of the Philippines as a nation.

Gordon stressed that more than any financial consideration, the passage of the bill gives justice to the Filipino veterans who, out of 66 countries that fought with the US in WWII, were the only ones not given recognition for their contributions and accorded US veterans status.

"The monetary benefit for our WWII veterans is only symbolic. What is more important is that through the passage of the bill, the US government finally honored the heroism and valor of our veterans who gave four strenuous and painful years fighting against the Japanese invaders under the American flag," he said.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Senate-House bicam panel sends tourism bill for Congress' ratification

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today hailed the passage by the Senate-House bicameral conference committee of the tourism bill he authored and sends it for Congress' ratification before it takes its month-long recess starting on March 7.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee and head of the Senate contingent, said he expects President Arroyo to sign it into law early next month.

"There is no superlative that can describe how important this piece of legislation will be to our people who are looking for jobs or looking for business opportunities," he said at the conclusion of the Senate-House bicameral conference panel meeting.

"This bill, when it becomes a law, will bring investments directly to our provinces and spur economic growth of unprecedented proportions there," he added, referring to Senate Bill (SB) 2213, also known as the Tourism Act of 2008.

SB 2213's counterpart consolidated measure is logged as House Bill 5229, principally authored by House tourism committee chairman Rep. Edgar Chatto.

Aside from Gordon, the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference includes Senators Manuel "Lito" Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Meanwhile, Chatto was joined by Reps. Raul Del Mar, Florencio Miraflores, Del De Guzman, Philip Pichay, Ma. Carissa Coscoluella, Bienvenido Abante Jr., Darlene Antonino-Custodio, and Juan Edgardo Angara.

The bill seeks to declare a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development. It also aims to reorganize the tourism department and its agencies to effectively and efficiently implement that policy.

It also seeks for the establishment of "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas, such as Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan and Iloilo, in the country to lure foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

Gordon pointed out that the urgent passage of the administration-sponsored measure will spur the creation of jobs and open additional channels for the infusion of the much-needed investments in the country's economy.

He added that the tourism bill would give people the power to pull themselves out of the vise of the economic recession that Filipinos are beginning to feel.

"Our favorite example of this is what is currently happening in Intramuros with History Town and the Best of the Regions. In a single weekend, Intramuros received over 6,000 visitors which resulted in taho vendors earning more than basic wage earners, calesa drivers earning more than cab drivers, and stall owners are doing more business than some locators in malls," he said.

Gordon said that tourism does not only provide jobs and spurs business, it also revives the ordinary Filipino's pride and compels him to take stock in himself.

"With tourism, we discover more than places. We discover and regain our pride as Filipinos. Maganda ang bansa natin at magagaling ang mga Pilipino! That is something money will never buy - pride, respect, and dignity," he said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I will take charge in drafting NBN-ZTE report

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said he will draft the preliminary report on the Senate's investigation into the alleged anomalous $329-million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.

Gordon, who believes that coming up with the preliminary report is the duty of his predecessor Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, said he has accepted the duty of drafting the report to ensure that the Senate honors its obligations to the people who elect them.

"Senator Cayetano said he does not want to do the committee report. Then, I will be the one to do it, and have it concurred with the other members. This is what we honorable men do," he said.

Gordon said he will issue the preliminary report before Senate goes into recess on March 7.

He explained that the committee is tasked to conduct investigations in aid of legislation, and is expected not only expose irregularities in the government perpetrated by public officials and their cohorts but also, and most importantly, to craft better laws.

He said it is because of his deep sense of his sworn duty as chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee that he is taking charge in coming up with a preliminary report on the Senate's investigations into the NBN-ZTE deal.

Gordon however maintained it is Cayetano's principal responsibility to come up with the preliminary report since he had presided over 12 hearings and steered six technical working group meetings the panel conducted on the controversy.

"It is not right to say that you are not comfortable doing the report because you are no longer with the majority. He started this investigation and headed it for 12 hearings, so he should have done even just the preliminary report," Gordon said.

"This is just a matter of simple courtesy and devotion to your duty. Hindi ako umiiwas sa trabaho. Kung ayaw ng isa na gawin ang tungkulin niya, sige, ako na ang gagawa," he added.

Cayetano earlier argued that the current chairman should do the report because he enjoys the trust and confidence of the Senate majority, to which Gordon replied, "It's about duty, and not mere comfort."

Meanwhile, after heading seven of the eight hearings on the P728-million fertilizer project, Gordon is poised to issue a preliminary report on the committee's findings.

The report includes proposed legislative remedial measures aimed at plugging loopholes in the country's laws, among them are the Anti-Money Laundering Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act, the Government Procurement Act, and the Omnibus Election Code.

Senators okay arrest order vs Paule

Majority of the senators have approved the immediate arrest and three-day detention at the Pasay City Jail of businessman Jaime "Jimmy" Paule for giving false and evasive testimonies on his alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon said 18 members of the Senate blue ribbon committee which he chairs have signed the resolution citing Paule in contempt for falsely and evasively testifying during the hearings on Jan. 20 and 26.

"For testifying falsely and evasively before the (Senate blue ribbon) committee� thereby delaying, impeding and obstructing the inquiry into the subject reported irregularities in the implementation of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program," the order read.

Gordon explained that Paule aggravated his lies when he implied that the photograph presented to him during a committee hearing was fabricated by "modern techniques".

"For his blatant show of disrespect during the hearing of Jan. 26, 2009 when, presented by the Chairman with photographic evidence, he had the gall and the temerity to deny the authenticity of the photograph even when four other witnesses had testified that the event captured therein indeed transpired," he said..

Upon Gordon's recommendation, the arrest order was signed by 16 other members of the committee and approved by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Among those who signed the arrest order are Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Gregorio Honasan, Ramon Revilla Jr., Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Ma. Ana Consuelo Madrigal, Mar Roxas, Rodolfo Biazon, Loren Legarda, Manuel Lapid, Francis Escudero, Francis Pangilinan, Pia Cayetano, Joker Arroyo, and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Only Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Antonio Trillanes and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada did not sign the arrest order. Santiago is on an indefinite leave, Trillanes under detention, while Estrada is reportedly recuperating in the hospital.

Gordon said Paule would be detained at the Pasay City Jail for three days.

Paule has earned the ire of the committee members after he failed to satisfactorily answer queries about his alleged participation in the alleged anomalous farm input-farm implement project amounting to some P728 million.

During the Jan. 26 hearing, Paule has repeatedly denied knowing Marylene Araos, Feshan Philippines president Julie Gregorio, and Feshan vice-president Reden Antolin, even as he was shown a photo with them during Leonicia Llarena's birthday celebration.

Paule also denied having any part in the planning and implementation of the project, even when Araos, Llarena and Marites Aytona all point to him as the one giving out orders to them.

Aytona told the senators that it was Paule who would tell which foundations would be accredited for the project and that other instructions in its implementation would come from him.

Llarena, owner of Dane Publishing, also testified that it was Paule who approached him to seek assistance in issuing checks for the project. Both Llarena and Paule and their respective families had been friends for some time.

Araos, for her part, admitted she was ordered by Paule to open a bank account for Feshan Philippines, the biggest supplier of the project, and sign blank checks for the firm, threatening her that she would lose her job if she would refuse to do so.

Further evidence against Paule are at least three Feshan checks endorsed to him as proven by the markings "c/o Mr. Paule" written at the back of the checks.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Consensus reached on 'text-for-change' bill among stakeholders

(photo from http://www.gmanews.tv/nation)

A consensus has been reached among stakeholders in education and health care systems in the country to thresh out their differences on the "text-for-change" bill aimed to address the ballooning backlogs in the more than 43,000 public schools nationwide.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises and author of Senate Bill (SB) 2402, made the summation at the resumption of today's hearing on the measure.

"We want everyone's help here; we do not have time to lose. We can discuss how to craft this law better. I hope the telcos (telecommunication companies) cooperate on this matter. Mas maganda kung bukal sa kalooban," Gordon said.

According to him, the stakeholders, including the representatives of giant telcos' Smart and Globe, have agreed to work with the Senate's Technical Working Group at the Lights and Sound Museum, Intramuros on Feb. 12, to discuss details of the measure.

Presidential Assistant for Education Mona Valisno, representatives from the Departments of Education, Health, and Science and Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, who were all present during the hearing, expressed support to Gordon's proposal.

The three telecommunications giants � Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms and Sun Cellular � through their legal representatives, also agreed in principle to SB 2402, an Act creating the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP) Corporation.

The HEAP bill proposes that telecommunications companies remit a small portion of their annual net revenues from local text messages to the HEAP Corporation, which will spearhead the rehabilitation and improvement of the country's public school system.

"We need to do this now because we are never going to do it if we do not do this now. We have no time to lose. I want to catch the wind in June. So, let us try and get this done," Gordon said, referring to the school opening four months from now.

"There are approximately two billion text messages sent a day. If we get 10 percent, that would be P200 million a day or P73 billion a year. That is more than enough to fill the gaps in health and education infrastructures in just a year's time," he added.

Government official figures reveal that at present the country's public school system lacks at least 12,000 classrooms, four million seats, 63 million textbooks, 39,000 teachers and 8,000 principals.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Opening of 16th Travel Tour Expo

Senate Tourism Committee Chairman Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon will lead tomorrow, 10 am, the opening ceremonies of the 16th Travel Tour Expo sponsored by Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA).

Gordon is the guest of honor and will lead the ribbon cutting during the event's opening which is expected to draw some 65,000 visitors at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

Stressing the need to boost the country's tourism, Gordon said key players in the tourism industry should think of ways, such as the Travel Tour Expo, to feature their products and services.

"Boosting our tourism industry is a must especially that the country should prepare to face the effects of the global crisis. We have to take advantage of the many opportunities we could gain in tourism," he said.

With the theme "Travel in Style", the Travel Tour Expo aims to draw some 65,000 visitors who are expected to purchase no less than P200 million worth of travel and travel related products from participating exhibitors.

Gordon, a former tourism secretary, authored the proposed Tourism Act of 2008, which seeks to establish "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas in the country aimed at enticing foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

The bill, now being ironed out in a Senate-House bicameral conference committee, also proposes to reorganize the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies in order to make it better equipped to undertake a consistent and more effective tourism development and promotions plan.

Gordon introduced "Wow Philippines!" which lured foreign and local tourists, generated jobs, and increased revenues at a time when the country was faced with problems, such as kidnappings and the severe acute respiratory syndrome disease.

The Philippines, through Gordon's brainchild, "Wow Philippines!" program, has generated more jobs from 668,000 jobs in 2001 to 693,000 to 749,000 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Candaba, Pampanga's 2nd Ibon-Ebon festival

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon will grace the 2nd Ibon-Ebon Festival in Candaba, Pampanga to promote awareness on the importance of protecting and promoting biodiversity while encouraging the people to become more productive.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee, will be this year's guest of honor. Last year, no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the guest of honor at the festival's opening ceremonies.

When he delivers his inspiration message, Gordon is expected to discuss the importance of developing the country's eco-tourism to generate more jobs as the country's economy begins to feel the effects of the global financial crunch

"Tourism means job. Eco-tourism in Candaba has a potential to become another major industry in the municipality that will provide more jobs and revenues for its residents and the government," he said.

The opening ceremonies of the Ibon Ebon Festival, which will run from Feb. 6 to 7, will be held at the Genuino Park in Barangay Poblacion in Candaba, Pampanga.

Candaba is fast becoming the country's favorite birdwatching site among local and foreign tourists.

Gordon, a former tourism secretary, has been batting for the development of the country's tourism industry to provide more jobs, which, according to the Ibon Facts and Figures, is expected to reach 11 to 12 million this year.

He filed the proposed Tourism Act of 2008 which seeks to establish "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas in the country aimed at enticing foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

The bill, now in the Senate-House bicameral conference committee, also proposes to reorganize the Department of Tourism and its agencies to make it better equipped to undertake a consistent and effective tourism development and promotions plan.

Gordon is also widely credited for introducing "Wow Philippines!" which lured foreign and local tourists, generated jobs, and increased revenues at a time when the country was faced with problems, such as kidnappings and the severe acute respiratory syndrome disease.

The Philippines, through Gordon's brainchild, "Wow Philippines!" program, has generated more jobs from 668,000 jobs in 2001 to 693,000 to 749,000 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Gordon reaffirms pledge to protect and defend Charter

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today reaffirmed his sworn duty to protect and defend the country's 22-year-old Constitution against any moves by some quarters to amend or revise it before the 2010 national elections.

Gordon made the statement during the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc.'s (VPCI) celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the 1987 Philippine Constitution at the Manila Hotel where the senator was guest of honor and keynote speaker.

"I did not vote for this Constitution. I campaigned against it. But I have taken several oaths of office under this Constitution, and I will die protecting and defending the precepts, the principles of this Constitution," he said.

"That is what we lawyers are for. We are men of the law and therefore no matter whether you disagree with something, there must be closure the Constitution was properly voted for. I may not have agreed with the process, but nonetheless it is our Constitution and we must honor it," he added.

Gordon reiterated his position that the Constitution should only be amended after the 2010 elections to dispel public suspicions that the initiative would be used to extend the term of incumbent public officials.

He noted that previous Constitutions were amended with the agenda of extending the incumbent president's term and thus, resulting to a "Charter of the President" rather than a "Constitution of the People."

"I am against any changes in the Constitution while the incumbent president is in office simply because our people seem to have learned their lessons from presidents who tried to amend the Constitution as (Manuel) Quezon and (Ferdinand) Marcos did to extend their term," he said.

"From then on, every time there was an effort to amend the Constitution, people will always have the belief that it is only being amended not for the national interest, not for the common good, but for the individual interest of the President concerned," he added.

Gordon, who served as the youngest delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention of the Philippines, also said that the Charter should be revised by the elected lawmakers of the Senate and the House of Representatives sitting as delegates of a Constitutional Convention.

He filed Senate Joint Resolution 20, which calls for a Constitutional Convention after the May 2010 elections with the newly-elected members of the 15th Congress as its delegates.

Gordon said his proposal is the most efficient way to propose amendments to the Charter as it will save on public funds that would be spent if there would be a separate election of delegates to the constitutional convention.