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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Addition of ninth ray to RP flag's sun proposed anew

Add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag, which would symbolize the Muslims who fought against foreign invaders, as the nation celebrates National Flag Day on May 28, reiterated Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today.

"Our national flag not only represents principles of sovereignty and solidarity of the Philippine nation, but also embodies the ideals and traditions of the Filipino people developed over the course of national history," he said.

Gordon said the Philippine flag symbolizes the nation's struggle for independence and victory against foreign colonizers.

The three stars in the flag represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; while the eight rays of the sun represent the eight provinces that revolted against the Spanish regime, namely: Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Tarlac.

Gordon said that behind the stories of the most celebrated names of national heroes, who fought for our independence, lie the stories of our mostly-forgotten Muslim heroes, including Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat and Rajah Sulayman, who displayed courage, bravery and integrity.

The senator explained that it is for this reason that he proposed to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag to acknowledge the courage, bravery and integrity of Muslim Filipinos who fought for the nation's independence.

"With their courage, bravery and integrity, our Muslim heroes left an imprint on national history that, at the very least, must be given due recognition in the most heraldic item of national importance--the Philippine flag," he said.

Gordon authored Senate Bill 2590, which proposes that the rays of the sun on the Philippine flag be increased from eight to nine, to symbolize the community of Muslim leaders who defended the country from foreign invasion.

He said that it is important to recognize the efforts and contributions of the Filipino Muslims in the country's history so that they would not feel marginalized and Filipinos would be united regardless of creed.

"By adding a ninth ray in the sun to represent our Muslim brothers, I think we make ourselves one with them. They are the Filipinos who were very successful in thwarting colonialism in our country," Gordon said.

Civilians should be prioritized over military men

The government should give priority to career officers over military men in appointing ambassadors who would represent our country abroad said Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today.

Gordon, member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), said that while military men are qualified to represent the country, there are many career officers who are equally qualified to hold ambassadorial positions.

"While I agree that military men are qualified to represent our country, nonetheless, the others who are equally qualified in the civilian bureaucracy must be considered first. They must be given priority over the retired military officials," he said.

During the CA hearing on Wednesday, Gordon said he wants to review the records of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff (Ret.) General Alexander Yano before he decides whether to vote for or against the retired general's confirmation of his appointment as ambassador to Brunei Darussalam.

"I nominated for his (Yano) confirmation as AFP chief of staff. But this time I am questioning the policy which affects the fitness and qualifications of Gen. Yano because it smacks of accommodation, it defeats meritocracy, and demoralizes the bureaucracy," Gordon said.

The senator explained that when ambassadorial posts are given to retired military generals rather than to career officers, it demoralizes the civilian bureaucracy and makes the military feel that they are entitled to rewards.

Filipinos will be crushed by House decision clearing Bolante

Filipinos will be crushed by the decision of the House committee on agriculture to clear former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante of involvement in the alleged P728-million fertilizer fund procurement scam Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, pointed out that the House committee report which is due to come out next month will only further incense the people because Bolante who has evidently made a mockery of the law will be allowed to get away with his misdeeds.

"This will not augur well for our citizens. Our citizens, I'm sure, will be totally crushed by this even if it has no bearing," he said.

"This is in aid of letting a guy, by the name of Joc-Joc Bolante who has committed travesties against the law, to get away with it," he added.

Reports said the House committee on agriculture is set to come out with a report clearing Bolante, alleged architect of the fertilizer fund diversion scam, of any involvement in the said scam.

The committee said the clearing of the former Department of Agriculture (DA) official was based on the report submitted to the panel by the Commission on Audit (CoA) in which no document showed Bolante had committed irregularities in the disbursement of fertilizer funds.

The COA, in its report submitted to the committee, said the fertilizer fund was a regular release to the DA, which was reportedly offered by Bolante close to the 2004 elections to the legislators and local executives for distribution as funds for farm inputs and implements to their constituents.

Last February, the Senate blue ribbon committee recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante and other personalities implicated in the alleged diversion of the fertilizer scam.

Gordon made the recommendation in a 130-page committee report as a result of the eight Senate hearings conducted from Nov. 13, 2008 to Jan. 26, 2009.

Aside from Bolante, also recommended to be charged for plunder are former DA assistant secretary Ibarra Poliquit, Leonicia Llarena, Feshan Philippines president Julie Gregorio, Feshan Phils. vice president Redentor Antolin, Marilyn Araos, Marites Aytona, Jaime Paule, and DA undersecretary Belinda Gonzales.

Gordon, who, when he took over the blue ribbon panel, was able to draw the other personalities involved and managed to establish the modus operandi used in the scam, was dismayed by the decision which he said is partisan.

"Nakakalungkot at palagay ko hindi binigyang-galang yung masusing imbestigasyon na binigay ng Senado dito sa kasong ito. Hindi dapat natin pinapaligtas ang mga taong lumilikha ng kabalbalan at karumal-dumal na pagsasamantala sa kanilang pwesto sa gobyerno," he said.

"Malinaw na nakita namin sa ebidensya ang kabalbalang ginawa ng taong ito. I think naging partisan (ang House committee on Agriculture). I can see na may nakiusap sa kanila dyan," he added.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Filipino director commended for winning at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival

Brillante "Dante" Mendoza was commended by Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today for attaining the distinction of being the first Filipino to be given the Best Director award at the recently concluded 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

In filing Senate Resolution 1090, Gordon lauded Mendoza's success not only because he won as best director, but also because his films have been chosen for screening at the esteemed festival for three years in a row.

"Mendoza is the epitome of a modern Filipino artist--independent, nationalistic, and with an unwavering desire to raise the consciousness of every Filipino to transcend the grim realities that plague daily life," he said.

In his film "Kinatay", Mendoza bested the likes of acclaimed directors Ang Lee, Pedro Almodovar, Jane Campion and Quentin Tarantino.

"Kinatay" is acclaimed for its powerful depiction of real-life violence and for touching the viewers' consciousness and emotion in its portrayal of a day in the life of a young trainee policeman winding up with a band of corrupt colleagues who inflict gruesome violence upon a female prostitute.

In 2007 and 2008, Mendoza's films "Foster Child" and "Serbis", respectively, were also chosen for screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Mendoza's success in film direction is attributed to the extensive research and conceptualization of his stories, which render his films a pragmatic and forceful representation of the lives of many Filipinos," Gordon said.

Senate committee amends Red Cross Charter

The approval in the committee level of the bill seeking to amend Republic Act No. 95, or the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Charter was lauded by Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today.

Gordon, chairman of the PNRC, said that Senate Bill 2591, which he and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri authored, clarifies that the PNRC shall not be considered a government corporation or institution.

He explained that being an independent organization, the PNRC should not be covered by government auditing, procurement and civil service regulations applicable to other government instrumentalities.

"This bill reiterates the actual intent of the law and clarifies it once and for all so that there can be no more questions as to the objective of the government to recognize the PNRC as an independent body. Although the PNRC is an auxiliary to the government, its purposes are humanitarian, its purposes are pursuant to the Geneva Conventions," Gordon said.

The senator said that the bill also clarifies the exemption of the organization from payment of all direct and indirect taxes, fees and other charges of all kinds.

He stressed that the PNRC does not receive a budget from the national government. It has been given tax exempt status on its donations of real property but remains subject to real property tax.

"The only reason why we are clarifying the incentives or tax privileges is because there is an inconsistent pattern, depending on the BIR Commissioner," Gordon said.

"We want to make sure this time that there can be no inconsistencies, that these tax benefits that are given by the government for donations as well as for properties owned by the Red Cross will be clearly tax exempt," he added.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ethics complaint only involves probe on Villar's conduct

The ongoing hearings of the Senate committee of the whole on the ethics complaint filed against Sen. Manny Villar is focused only on the conduct of the respondent, Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today clarified.

"I would like to make it clear that what we are investigating here is the conduct, the manner by which a certain act was done. The standards of the ethics committee are different from that of a criminal court," he said.

"Kung may nililitis dito, 'yun ay ang miyembro ng Senado na hindi sumangguni doon sa dapat na ulirang asal ng isang senador na makaka-apekto sa Senado o nakatatama sa reputasyon at integridad ng Senado," he added.

Gordon, vice-chairman of the Senate ethics committee, explained that the investigation will only determine whether the respondent's conduct has sullied the reputation of the Senate. A criminal case, if any, should be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Gordon also stressed that he will remain independent, firm and fair in the ongoing investigation.

"I will carefully study Sen. President (Juan Ponce) Enrile's report on the preliminary inquiry on the complaint against Sen. Villar. Kung sa aking palagay hindi dapat ma-convict, 'yun ang sasabihin ko. Pero kung malinaw ang ebidensya, dapat ituloy," he said.

"This is about the Senate. Ethics are inherent in any legislative body. We have to abide by our own rules of ethics and conduct. If you do not abide by these rules, then you are going beyond, you are subject to unethical conduct. This is not the first time this has happened in a legislative body," Gordon added.

In 1946, senators Ramon Diokno, Jose Vera and Jose Romero were denied their Senate seats for allegedly committing "fraud and terrorism."

In 1949, Sen. Jose Avelino was ousted as Senate President and suspended from the Upper Chamber of Congress for a year because of the scandals concerning his Senate and Liberal Party presidencies.

In 1960, Rep. Sergio OsmeƱa Jr. was suspended for 15 months for "serious disorderly behavior" when he criticized then President Carlos Garcia's veto of the anti-graft bill.

Commending Comelec-SBAC's grant of bidders' MR

For allowing the bidding process to continue and ensuring that the automation of the May 2010 presidential elections happens, Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) expressed elation with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Gordon, father of modernization of elections in the Philippines, said it is a welcome development towards the realization of the nation's quest for clean, honest and credible elections.

"I am glad that the Comelec is finally making a move to ensure the implementation of the automation law which would mean holding an election where the winning candidates are assured of having the people's mandate," he said.

"The success of the 2010 election automation is very important because a credible election system would restore people's trust and confidence not only in the country's electoral process but also in the government," he added.

The Comelec is preparing for the automation of next year's election, as mandated by Republic Act 9369 or the amended Automated Election System that Gordon authored. The opening of bids for the election automation technology to be used was held last May 4. However, all seven bidders failed to meet certain eligibility requirements.

After conducting deliberations this week, the Comelec-Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) decided to grant the motions for reconsideration of four bidders.

The SBAC granted the motions for reconsideration by Indra Sistemas (Strategic Holdings, Inc./Hart Intercivic); Smartmatic/Total Information Management Corp.; AMA Group of companies/Election System and Software; and Gilat/F.F. Cruz and Company, Inc./Filipinas Systems, Inc.

The four firms will have to undergo final eligibility screening to determine the accuracy and validity of the documents attached in their motions that served as the bases for reconsideration. After the validation, the companies will be asked to submit their technical and financial proposals for the project.

Gordon underscored the need for the poll body to be careful in choosing the most responsive bidder, stressing anew that automating the country's elections is a way of modernizing our democracy.

"The Comelec should act with circumspection in trying to get the best bidder because the automation of next year's elections will be a game-changer in Philippine politics," he said.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Youth reminded to register to vote and let voices be heard

The youth were reminded of their duty to vote and take part in the country's historic first nationwide Automated Elections in 2010 by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the law that mandates the full automation of the 2010 presidential elections, reminded the youth to register for the 2010 elections.

"With your vote in the 2010 automated polls, you can change this country. But before you can vote, you must first register," he said.

"Our youth ought to remember that bad government officials are elected by good people who do not vote," he added.

In preparation for the 2010 elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) started the continuing registration on Dec. 2 last year. It will end on Oct. 31 this year.

The Comelec expects at least 2 million new voters to register during the continuing registration. But as of January 19, only 10 percent of those who registered were first time voters.

Data from the poll body showed that the Comelec-Election and Barangay Affairs Division (EBAD) has approved 191, 872 out of 196,011 applications for registration.

Gordon, former chairman of the Joint Oversight Committee on Automated Election System, underscored that in renouncing one's right to vote, we are also passing the chance to choose for ourselves.

"Without registering, without participating, without getting involved, we are allowing unscrupulous groups to once again reign over our government. If this happens, we will again see deals like the Fertilizer Fund Scam or the NBN ZTE Deal," he said.

Books should be made more accessible, not taxed.

The Bureau of Customs' (BOC) decision to impose taxes on imported books may help the government reach its revenue targets, but it would deprive the public of their right to acquire information from these educational materials, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon said that the reported imposition of taxes on imported books hinders the flow of knowledge and ideas by making these educational materials less accessible to the people.

"Books and other informational and learning materials should be affordable, available and accessible to as many people as possible," he said.

"We must not limit the educational opportunities available to our people. Books, in whatever genre, are essential tools for knowledge. They should be made affordable so that more individuals can avail of them and can access the information contained in these materials," he added.

Gordon explained that books cannot be made affordable, available and accessible if unnecessary taxes are imposed on imported reading materials. He noted that there have been reports that for the past two months, virtually no imported books entered the country because of the BOC's new policy.

The Philippines is a signatory to the 1950 Florence Agreement, a United Nations treaty that mandates the tax-free importation of books in order to facilitate the free flow of educational, scientific, and cultural materials.

"If we allow this policy of the BOC to continue, book importers would reconsider future importations due to higher importation costs. Sooner or later, foreign books will become more and more expensive or even completely unavailable in local bookstores," Gordon said.

"The government should take an active stance on this issue and perhaps follow the example of Malaysia, which not only cuts book importation costs but even allows its citizens to deduct book purchase costs from their income tax," he added.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New tourism law to ward off impact of global fiscal crisis

The country will now have a shield against the impact of the global economic recession with the enactment into law of the tourism bill said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, principal author of the Tourism Act of 2009, made the statement as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to sign the bill into law tomorrow in Cebu.

"The tourism bill, once signed into law, will equip the tourism secretary and tourism stakeholders with all the power, funds, and tools that if used properly will lead to an exponential growth in foreign tourist arrivals," he said.

Gordon said he had crafted the bill with the vision of empowering the entire tourism sector and creating a policy environment conducive to the growth of the industry.

He pointed out that the tourism bill would, among others, spur the creation of jobs and increase the demand for locally-produced consumer items as well as services since the measure is expected to double the number of foreign tourist arrivals. In 2008, there were P3.14 million tourists who visited the country.

"If we reach four to six million foreign tourist arrivals a year, within two or three years, we will be able to provide enough jobs for new graduates as well as our OFWs who are coming home prematurely because of the global recession," Gordon said.

The Tourism Act will make the tourism industry an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development and strengthen the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies..

The senator explained that one of the salient provisions of the measure is the establishment of "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas in the country to lure foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

Gordon, former chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, proved that tourism can transform wastelands into havens for investment. In Subic, investments reached $3 Billion a few short years after the United States military abandoned it.

Meanwhile, during his stint as tourism secretary, Gordon had launched the "WOW Philippines!" campaign, which he used to transform the country's tourism industry then plagued by a negative image of kidnappings and SARS disease. Foreign tourist arrivals reached to two million a year in 2003 from just under one million in 2001.

New tourism law cuts wide path for billion dollar foreign investments

With incentives that are more generous than those given to export processing zones and one-stop shop processing, the new tourism bill slated for signing by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Cebu is drawing great interest from foreign domestic investors alike.

The Tourism Act of 2009, authored by Senator Richard Gordon, has cut a wide and deep channel for foreign investments in tourism to flow through.

"We are more than confident that the incentives under the law will attract investment in the billions. The Tourism Law which we sponsored is designed to replicate the success that is Subic all over the country," said Gordon.

Gordon's belief in the power of tourism to transform wastelands into havens for investment was proven true after investments in Subic reached $3 Billion a few short years after the United States abandoned it.

Dading Clemente, president of the Federation of Tourism Industries (FTI), compared the signing of the Tourism Act of 2009 to an anticipated announcement from Alan Greenspan - the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

"Almost every business that is involved in Philippine tourism is getting ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will be created by the Tourism Act. We're like stockbrokers waiting for a positive announcement from Greenspan, we're all banking on the imminent surge in Philippine tourism that is sure to follow," said Clemente.

The new tourism law provides measures that will make it easier for foreigners to set up business within tourism zones. Section 77 of the law mandates the TIEZA to establish offices where prospective Tourism Enterprise Zone investors can register to obtain incentives and benefits as well as all necessary licenses and permits.

Section 86 of the law provides for incentives such as income tax holidays spanning six years will be given to investors; gross income taxation of only 5 percent; 100 percent exemption on all taxes and customs duties on the importation of capital equipment; and the exemption of transportation and spare parts from tariffs and duties.

Foreign investors will also be allowed to lease land in the Philippines for a period of 50 years which can be renewed once for a period of 25 years.

The leasehold right acquired may be sold, transferred, or assigned subject to the conditions set by the Investor's Lease Act.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bill amending voter's registration act needed

The need for a reliable voters list, side by side with poll automation, to achieve the people's dream of clean, honest and credible elections in May 2010 was underscored by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections System Law, called on the Senate to pass a measure aimed at addressing irregularities in the voters' list by computerizing the registration process.

"RA 9369 seeks to address the problem of wholesale cheating that has eroded the credibility of past elections in the country. But the 2008 ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) elections showed that irregularities in the voting process have remained even with the use of automated machines," he said.

"The presence of flying or ghost voters, or underage or other ineligible voters, has remained prevalent because of insufficient safeguards to reliably identify voters. Hence, the need for a more effective voters' registration process," he added.

In February of this year, Gordon filed Senate Bill No. 3065, which seeks to amend RA 8189 or the Voter's Registration Act of 1996, by requiring new registrants or voters previously registered under the old application procedure to submit their biometric information.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was set to computerize the registration process in 2004 by capturing the biometric information of all voters under the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and enable it to purge the voters' list of double or multiple registrants.

However, several years after the program was begun, the biometric information of only a small portion of all registered voters nationwide has been taken, the AFIS not having been fully implemented due allegedly to lack of budget.

Last May 5, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill pushing mandatory biometrics registration for the 2010 national elections. But Gordon's proposed bill in the Senate has yet to be debated on the floor.

Gordon pointed out that just as the Senate saw the need for poll automation to rid the country of cheating-marred elections, it should also act with dispatch on the biometrics registration bill since it will further ensure honest and credible elections.

"The automation of the 2010 elections will be a game-changer in Philippine politics. But by passing the measure calling for mandatory biometrics registration, we will further ensure that our elections next year will no longer be marred by cheating," Gordon said.

Reiterating need for modernization of PAGASA

The modernization of the country's weather forecasting system to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters was reiterated by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, noting that two typhoons (Dante and Emong) have already hit the country in just a week, said that it is imperative to have a modern weather forecasting and warning system because of the numerous natural disasters that hit the country every year.

In Senate Bill (SB) 2080, Gordon proposed the modernization of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), to improve the quality of weather forecasting in the country and to ensure its accuracy and timely dissemination to the people.

"Our country has experienced the occurrence of several natural disasters, some of them deadly, on which PAGASA may have failed to give correct and timely information due to lack of modern equipment," he said.

"As a result, citizens were not completely warned of dangers to their health and safety and apprised of precautions they could take to alleviate, if not prevent, damage to their person or property," he added.

At present, PAGASA issues severe weather forecasts every six hours. The automation of its data processing will allow the weather bureau to cut by half the time needed for coming up with warnings and updates.

During the onslaught of typhoon Frank last year, the MV Princess of the Stars capsized off Sibuyan Island in Romblon which killed more than 800 passengers and crew of the ship.

If it had the capability to issue bulletins every three hours, rather than six, PAGASA could have released a weather update showing the change in the typhoon's direction, thereby preventing the ship from departing.

"We must not wait for another tragedy of this kind to happen before we act. This early, we have been hit by typhoons one after another. We have to prepare for upcoming storms, and we must prepare well," Gordon said.

"The capacity of PAGASA to rapidly deliver accurate weather information is critical in determining our ability to properly prepare for and handle natural disasters," he added.

Under SB 2080, PAGASA shall adopt a four-pronged modernization program.

These are: (1) establishment of regional weather service centers in strategic areas across the country to broaden PAGASA's bases for delivery of services to each region; (2) modernization of physical resources and operational techniques through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, with emphasis on weather and flood monitoring and warning system and agro-meteorological observational system to strengthen services for agriculture; (3) intensification of human resources development to keep pace with rapid international scientific and technological advances; and (4) upgrade of research and development capability through a more rationalized and integrated approach, with focus on improvement of operations, as well as the development of specialized services for cost recovery.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Keep your guard up to ensure transparency in poll bidding

Official observers were reminded to ensure transparency of the public bidding for an automated election system by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today to guarantee the success of the May 2010 automated presidential elections.

Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369 (RA 9369), made the call as the Commission on Elections Special Bids and Awards Committee (Comelec-SBAC) started the opening of bids for the automation.

"At first glance, the Comelec's bidding process appears to be transparent and organized. The official observers are given copies of the documents submitted, which can be seen through a projector by members of the media and other stakeholders observing the proceedings," he said.

"However, the Comelec has yet to choose the winning bidder. And until it does, we must not let our guard down if we want to ensure that the automation pushes through successfully and the preparations proceed according to the poll body's timetable," he added.

The official observers were the Commission on Audit (COA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Office of the Ombudsman, United States Embassy, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Consortium on Electoral Reforms, Procurement Watch, Inc. and the Transparency and Accountability Network.

The poll body is preparing for the full automation of the 2010 elections mandated by RA 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections Systems Law, which was pilot-tested in the Aug. 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

A week before the ARMM elections, Gordon personally went to Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan to talk with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee.

He went to there to convince the MILF that the ARMM election should not be postponed because there is a larger interest to be considered, that is the full automation of the 2010 elections.

During the election, the senator visited voting centers in Shari Aguak in Maguindanao, in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Shariff Kabunsuan and canvassing Centers in Cotabato City, also in Shariff Kabunsuan, to observe and ensure the successful conduct of the automated elections.

The opening of bids, originally set for April 27, was held on May 4 at the Comelec head office in Intramuros, Manila. Seven out of ten bidders, who paid P1 million for the Terms of Reference (TOR), tendered their bid for the poll automation project. The SBAC opened the first bid, which was that of Avante International Technology, Inc. The committee went over the documents that the group submitted. It checked the documents one-by-one, to determine if the consortium complied with all documentary requirements.

However, the group was later disqualified for failing to submit the last two pages of its proposed contract and certificate of acceptance. Gordon underscored anew that a credible election system will restore people's trust and confidence not only in the country's electoral process, but also in the government.

"This will be a lasting legacy for future generations. A fully automated elections will lead us to the reality of our dream of having credible leaders voted through a credible system of election," he said.

"The Comelec will greatly benefit from the poll automation because once the election is fully automated, the poll body would regain its credibility as an independent poll body and it can have its hand on other election-related matters, apart from electoral protests," he added.

Disaster preparedness measures key to survival against calamities

The establishment of disaster preparedness and mitigation measures to enhance the survival capability of the country against all types of disasters was reiterated by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), made the call as the latest typhoon, "Dante", to hit the country left at least 23 people dead and 10,137 families displaced in the Bicol Region, particularly in Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

"We have to end the cycle of disaster damage. We already know that every year an average of 20 typhoons hit the country and yet we still lack the necessary preparations to lessen or avert damages brought by these typhoons," he said.

"These disasters usually result in loss of life, human suffering, loss of income, and property loss and damage. Measures designed towards disaster preparedness and mitigation and emergency services are, therefore, necessary," he added.

Gordon, one of the authors of Senate Bill 3086, an Act strengthening Philippine disaster risk management capability, stressed the importance of crafting disaster preparedness and mitigation measures so that not only the government, but also the public know what to do in times of calamities.

According to the latest forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) another tropical storm, which would be given the local name "Emong", might soon enter the Philippine area of responsibility.

"If we have readied disaster mitigation measures we can easily organize local officials, volunteers and the public, especially those in typhoon-prone areas, to be prepared so that when disasters come, they can already help themselves and their neighbors because they know what to do," Gordon said.

The PNRC, under Gordon's leadership, has formed the Red Cross 143. It is a program that seeks to form a group of 44 volunteers in every barangay. They will serve as the eyes, ears, hands and feet of the Red Cross in every community.

The duties of the members of the Red Cross 143 include: (1) Predict possible threats, natural calamities or armed conflicts, in the community; (2) Plan what to do in times of disasters; (3) Prepare the community for what it would need, such as food, water, medicines, first aid kit, among others; (4) Practice or conduct first aid trainings and emergency evacuation drills; (5) Report instantly to the Red Cross pertinent information about the disaster; and (6) Respond immediately to those in need.

The PNRC continuously upgrades and acquires its equipment, including ambulances, fire trucks and rubber boats, to respond quickly to more victims of disasters and calamities.

During its the 62nd anniversary last April 15, the PNRC distributed new Emergency Response Units, including 32 ambulances, 10 fire trucks and four motorcycle ambulances to its local chapters across the country.