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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) has moved the awarding of contracts to three bulk water suppliers next year after the post qualification process of the bids and awards committee.

In an interview with Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta over Sky Cable Sunday, Engr. Adrian Moncada, MIWD director, the bulk water supply contracts will be awarded January 2010.

Moncada said they expect the contractors to start working on their facilities by February 2010.

“Six months after we awarded the contract, we can expect 20,000 cubic meters of additional water from the suppliers,” Moncada said.

Maynilad Water Services Inc., Solerex Water Technologies, Inc. and Abejo Builders Corp. offered the lowest bid for four injection points where the bulk water supply will be transmitted.

Maynilad won the contract for the Pavia injection point, which has a capacity of 10,000 cu m, at P11.98 per cu m.

Solerex got the Leganes injection point (2,000 cu m) at P14.28 per cu m.

Abejo will supply 8,000 cu m of water through the San Miguel and Ungka (Jaro) injection points at P13.98 per cu m.

Dr. Danilo Encarnacion, MIWD director, said the suppliers can draw water from surface or underwater sources depending on the location of the injection points.

Encarnacion said the winning bidders will have to construct their own facilities such as water treatment facility.

The MIWD also clarified the issue raised by a municipal councilor of Pavia who claimed that they were bypassed in the bidding process.

Moncada said the bidding was internal to the MIWD and there is no need to seek clearance from the host towns.

“Once the winning bidders start constructing their facilities, they will have to seek regular permits and other clearances from the municipal government concerned,” Moncada said.

Moncada reiterated that they will not jack up water rates after the bulk water supply is implemented.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Supreme Court must provide closure to the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao even if the government has military rule in the province Saturday evening.

In an interview with Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta over Sky Cable Sunday, Atty. Hans Sayno, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo president, said the high tribunal should decide whether Proclamation No. 1959, which imposed martial law on Maguindanao, was constitutional or not.

“The Supreme Court should discuss and decide the petitions filed against the declaration of marital law in Maguindanao to set the right precedent. If the SC does not act on these, the present administration and future presidents will be tempted to use martial law in any place of the country,” Sayno said.

Proclamation No. 1959 put Maguindanao under martial law last December 5 following the gruesome massacre of more than 50 persons, including the kin of a political clan and Mindanao journalists.

Military and police officials claimed that a rebellion was brewing after the arrest of key members of the Ampatuan clan who are the suspects in the massacre.

Seven petitions from various individuals and groups were filed with the SC questioning the constitutionality of martial law in Maguindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo lifted martial law in the province effective 9pm Saturday after the PNP and AFP said that they have neutralized armed groups planning to rebel against the government.

But Maguindanao remains under a state of emergency, according to Malacañang officials.

Sayno said the SC can opt not to act on the petition by ruling that the issue has become “moot and academic” with the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao.

According to the Supreme Court in Mitre v. Tan Torres, “a case is considered as presenting a moot question when a judgment thereon cannot have any practical legal effect, or in the nature of things, cannot be enforced.”

Sayno said that while the SC cannot be compelled to rule on the anti-martial law petitions, proper closure through the high tribunal’s decision must be made to avoid abuse of the martial law edict.

“The petitions can be dismissed for being moot and academic. But on issues of constitutional magnitude, like the declaration of the state of emergency, the SC can decide and put the issue to rest,” he added.

Sayno cited the declaration of a state of emergency on February 24, 2006, by the virtue of Proclamation No. 1017 after the government claimed that it foiled an alleged coup d’état attempt by Magdalo soldiers against the Arroyo administration.

The President lifted the state of emergency on March 3, 2006 by the virtue of Proclamation No. 1021.

Sayno said the SC rendered a decision on Proclamation No. 1017 and set the basis for the imposition of the policy on May 6, 2006.

In an 11-3 decision, the high court upheld President Arroyo’s right to declare a state of emergency, but said she exceeded her authority by allowing the military to make warrant-less arrests and raid media outlets.

Meanwhile, House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said Congress will continue the joint session on the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao today.

Defensor said the session must be adjourned properly now that the government has lifted Proclamation No. 1959.

The Senate and the House of Representatives went on joint session Thursday to hear the executive department’s justification for the declaration of martial law and decide whether or not to revoke military rule in Maguindanao.

A total of 40 lawmakers were scheduled to grill government officials today over the martial law declaration.

Defensor said he had a hunch that martial law will be lifted after the PNP and AFP arrested the main suspects in the Maguindanao massacre and recovered caches of firearms and ammunitions believed to be owned by the Ampatuan clan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MARTIAL law in Maguindanao may have been an experiment on the part of the national government to test the political waters, a lawyer said.

Atty. Hans Sayno said over cable TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday that the government may have had other objectives in declaring martial law aside from quelling a supposed rebellion looming in Maguindanao.

He said the martial law edict was also meant to gauge the actual application of martial law and the people’s reaction to military rule.

Also, martial law is also a way to measure the loyalty of the allies of President Gloria Arroyo in Congress en route to the 2010 elections.

“Even the withdrawal of martial law could be a strategy to show that Malacañang is listening to the people,” Sayno said.

The imposition of martial law in Maguindanao also spurred constitutional issues which could be remedied either by the Supreme Court and charter change which the Arroyo administration is pushing.

One amendment Sayno cited is Congress’ manner of voting on constitutional issues such as martial law imposition.

The 1986 Constitution provides that Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate), voting jointly, may revoke the martial law proclamation with a simple majority vote.

The House has 268 members while there are only 24 senators. At least 147 votes are needed to revoke martial law edicts.

Sayno said the “voting jointly” provision puts the Senate on unequal footing in debates on constitutional issues even if both legislative chambers are considered co-equals. 

“The ratio between the senators and congressmen is 1:11 approximately. A senator must convince 11 congressmen to join their cause. The voting jointly provision is unfair to the senators because they will always be outnumbered by the congressmen. This provision should be scrapped and replaced with ‘Congress voting separately’ so that the voices of each chamber will be clearly heard,” he added.

On the part of the SC, Sayno said it should rule whether the government can declare martial rule on a per province basis.

“This might be repeated so the SC should rule to it will not be repeated. The situation was a trial-and-error, an experiment with potential damage to the country,” he said.

Sayno said the government should have not declared martial law in order to go after the Ampatuan clan who are the suspects in the Maguindanao massacre.

“The massacre did not threaten the republic, it only tarnished its image. Ordinary government law enforcement powers were sufficient to go after the suspects. The PNP and the AFP can take care of the situation. What happened was an ordinary crime but considered savage in our modern time,” Sayno added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MUSLIMS in Iloilo City do not tolerate violence and bloodshed similar to the Maguindanao massacre in Mindanao Island a week ago.

This was the reaction of the Muslim community in the city in an interview with weekly TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor by Perla S. Zulueta over Sky Cable Sunday.

Imam Sammy Hadjimanan, spokesman of the Iloilo Islam Community Association, said true believers of Islam do not tolerate the killing of women and children.

Hadjimanan said they condemn the massacre of more than 50 persons, mostly women relatives of a political leader in Maguindanao, allegedly perpetuated by a rival political clan.

“We are saddened by the incident. The Muslims do not harm women and children. The Muslim community prays for the victims and peace in Mindanao and we hope justice will be given to them,” Hadjimanan said.

Imam Abdul Nasser R. Langcao said Islam prohibits the murder of women and children.

“Women are respected and loved, not murdered. The children must be taken cared of. We condemn such acts. You are not a true Muslim if you do that,” Langcao said.

Langcao said killing is only justified in defense of religion or ancestral domain when a jihad or holy war is declared.

“But Muslims are peaceful and God-fearing people. We obey God’s command at all times,” Langcao added.

Hadjimanan said they are concerned with the wrong impression that the massacre might cause on Muslims in areas outside of Mindanao.

“We feel bad about what happened and we condemn such act. Some people might think that all Muslims are troublesome and cruel. But not all Muslims are like that,” Hadjimanan said.

Hadjimanan said the incident has a great impact on their community, especially discrimination by other people.

“We include the victims in our prayers five times a day. We hope that they will not discriminate or think that all Muslims are like those who committed the massacre,” he added.

There are around 1,000 Muslims in Iloilo City, most of them traders.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OPERATORS and drivers of public utility jeepneys in Pavia, Iloilo invited their counterparts in Sta. Barbara town to join their newly-minted group if they want to continue the privileges under the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance (PBO) of Iloilo City.

Sangguniang Bayan Member Otoniel Gonzaga said in an interview over Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla S. Zulueta that the Pavia Jeepney Drivers and Operators Association (PJODA) are willing to accept drivers and operators who ply the Sta. Barbara based jeepneys    

Gonzaga said they have long invited their counterparts in Sta. Barbara to settle their dispute over two major routes in Iloilo City.

The formation of PJODA upset four Sta. Barbara jeepney groups claiming they have lost substantial income because of the new route.

Sta. Barbara jeepney drivers said they lost the “first town” privilege under the PBO because of the presence of Pavia jeepneys traversing the LaPaz and Diversion Road routes.

Under the PBO, 50% of jeepneys operating from towns right next to the city are allowed to ferry passengers into the metropolis.

For second towns, such as Sta. Barbara, only 15% of jeepneys in each association are allowed to enter Iloilo City.

The Sta. Barbara jeepney groups petitioned for a temporary restraining order (TRO) with prayer for injunction against the operation of PJODA.

Executive Judge Antonio Natino granted a 72-hour TRO for the petitioners while hearing the main motion for an injunction. Natino later lifted the TRO and trashed the petition.

Gonzaga said they still have room for Sta. Barbara jeepneys who want to join PJODA.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board granted 100 slots each for the Pavia-LaPaz and Pavia-Diversion Road routes, he added.

“There is still room for more or less 50 units per route. If they want to join us and enjoy the privileges we have,” Gonzaga said.

Gonzaga said the Pavia route has more than enough passengers because several barangays in New Lucena and southern portion of Iloilo City pass through their town.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will mount an information drive relative to its plan to tax campaign expenses of political parties and candidates during the 2010 elections.

In an interview with cable TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Commission of Elections (Comelec) regional director Dennis Ausan said the BIR will brief candidates and parties as regards the 5% campaign tax.

Ausan said the 5% campaign tax is in keeping with the three-decade-old provision of the National Internal Revenue Code.

The 5% campaign tax is embodied in BIR’s Revenue Regulations 8-2009 issued in October 2009, which amended RR 2-98 and imposed a creditable withholding tax (CWT) of 5 percent on the following:

–         Income payments made by political parties and candidates of local and national elections of all their campaign expenditures; and

–         Income payments made by individuals or juridical persons for their purchases of goods and services intended to be given as campaign contribution to political parties and candidates. 

The withholding agents who will collect the 5% tax are “all individuals, juridical persons and political parties, with respect to their income payments made as campaign expenditures and/or purchase of goods and services intended as campaign contributions.”

“The BIR will require parties and candidates, including the independents, to register as withholding agents who will collect the 5% campaign tax,” Ausan said.

While Republic Act 7166 (Synchronized Elections Law) provides that campaign donations reported to the Comelec are not subject to gift or donors tax, Ausan said the 5% tax will only cover income payment to third parties such as tarpaulin printers and broadcast and print media.

For example, if a party or candidate pays P110 (P100 cost + P10 income/profit) to a tarpaulin printer, the party or candidate will withhold the 5% tax on the P10 income and remit the same to the BIR.

“The tax will not be exacted on campaign contributions but on income payments for election related materials and services. It is up to the BIR to explain to political parties and candidates how this new regulation works,” Ausan said.

Ausan said the Comelec will provide BIR the list of candidates and political parties and their statements of contributions and expenses submitted to the poll body.

PREMATURE CAMPAIGNING

Meanwhile, Ausan advised candidates who already filed their certificates of candidacy to remove any material or advertisement that are laden with campaign messages.

“All bloctime programs, streamers and banners that campaign for or against any candidate must be removed lest they will face disqualification and criminal cases,” Ausan said.

Ausan said the Comelec central office will issue the rules and regulations as regards premature campaigning.

“If there is a banner of a candidate found hanging in a public place, we will write that candidate asking him or her to remove the material within three days or else they will face charges,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE law converting the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) into a powerhouse agency will complement the implementation of the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML), according to one of the principal authors of the two legislations.

In an interview with cable TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said Congress passed Republic Act 9711 or the Foods and Drugs Administration (FDA) Act of 2009 to boost the regulatory capacity of the FDA, formerly BFAD, by mandating the establishment of adequate testing laboratories and field offices; upgrading its equipment and personnel; and authorizing the agency to retain income.

Biron said RA 9711 will make FDA very powerful in terms of ensuring quality of medicines, particularly those covered by the CML, and food sold in the country.

RA 9711 can be used to curb reports on counterfeit medicines such as fake flu vaccines emerging in the market following the implementation of the CML.

The strength of RA 9711, which is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2645 and House Bill 3293, is in the creation of a separate center for every major product category to regulate the manufacture, importation, export, distribution, and sale of any product.

The products under these different centers will be regulated by the FDA in terms of importation, exports, manufacturing, distribution, advertising, marketing, and all the processes in the manufacture of these products

Under the new law, there will be a center for drug regulation and research; a center for food regulation and research; center for cosmetics regulation and research, and center for device regulation, radiation, health and research.

RA 9711 also allowed the FDA to establish a Regulatory Enforcement Unit (REU) to serve executive rulings of the FDA as well as execute and serve search warrants and arrests.

The REU will run for a period of not exceeding five years upon the implementation of the new law.

Modern and complete testing laboratory facilities will also be set up in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao under the new law. This would allow local registration of products, apart from the existing laboratory at the FDA’s laboratory office.

“With the new powers of the FDA, we can ensure that quality of generic medicines will be similar to branded medicines,” Biron said.

President Gloria Arroyo signed RA 9711 into law August 17.

Meanwhile, Biron said the House leadership is enthusiastic in working for the passage of a bill that will amend the CML.

Biron said the amendatory bill, which he filed last month, will give more teeth to the CML by retaining the maximum retail price mechanism for essential medicines and creating a drug price regulatory body.

These provisions initially pushed for by the House were scrapped in the final version of the law due to opposition from the Senate, particularly by Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Senate committee on trade.

Coops rile over PDDP sale

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE privatization of the National Power Corp.’s, (Napocor) Panay diesel-fired Power Plant (PDPP) in Dingle, Iloilo would be disastrous to electric cooperatives and their consumers if they fail to forge agreements with the new owner.

 

This was the contention of Engr. Wilfred Billena, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco-1), over cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday.

 

Billena said they get 66% of their 30 megawatt power requirement from PDPP which was sold to SPC Power Corp. for more than US$5 million.

 

Earlier reports said SPC might not operate PDPP after March 26 for two reasons – rehabilitation of the plant and uncertainty over the price of power it will produce.

 

Worse, the power supply agreements between Napocor and Panay electric cooperatives which are good until December 2010 were not included in the sale to SPC.

 

“This is disastrous because we don’t know where to get the electricity we will lose if that happens. The Northern Negros geothermal production field is not performing as expected,” Billena said.

 

Billena said if they negotiate a new power supply agreement with SPC, the price of electricity will surely increase because the new owner will have to offer the true cost of power from a diesel-fired power plant.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, Ileco-3 director, said they will sue Napocor if it fails to deliver electricity under their supply contract.

 

“Negotiating with SPC is one possibility but Napocor must fulfill their part to deliver power to the cooperatives because we have live contracts with them,” Ventilacion said over The Daily Guardian on Air Saturday program at Aksyon Radyo.

 

Ventilacion said the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) lacked foresight when it failed to include their contracts in the PDPP sale.

 

“We don’t care if PDPP was sold to SPC but we will demand the power we contracted with Napocor until 2010,” Ventilacion said.

 

Ventilacion, meanwhile, said their new power supply agreement with two renewable energy producers and two coal-fired power plants will be available January 2011. 

 

Even Panay Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, will also be affected by the looming shutdown of PDPP.

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, special assistant to Peco president Miguel Cacho, said they have a standing contract with Napocor to get 15MW from the Cebu-Negros-Panay grid. Presently, Peco only gets 8-9MW of the contracted electricity.

 

“Hopefully, Panay Power Corp.’s plants will not experience problems because if they do, we will suffer from brownouts because we don’t have reserve power which we ought to get from Napocor,” Pastolero said.

 

Presidential adviser for Western Visayas Raul Banias said the problems of the cooperatives and Napocor will be discussed during the March 13 power summit in Iloilo City.

 

Banias said among the proposals to address the problem is to rehabilitate Peco’ diesel-fired power plant and draw electricity from private generators.

 

“But it would take four months to rehabilitate Peco’s power plant and we have to inventory the amount of electricity we can get from private establishments,” Banias said.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE homeowners of Metropolis Subdivision in Jaro, Iloilo City are willing to talk with officials of Brgy. Bito-on regarding the curfew imposed on the gated community.

 

The daily curfew, which takes effect 10pm to 5am, was imposed by the Metropolis Homeowners Association (MHA) for security purposes.

 

In an interview over Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Atty. Perla Gauzon, MHA president, said they imposed the curfew after several commotions involving non-Metropolis residents happened in their community the past months.

 

Gauzon said they imposed the curfew because the developer Sta. Lucia Realty and Development, Inc. has yet to finish the perimeter wall of the subdivision.

 

The curfew prompted some residents to blockade the subdivision’s south gate leading to the coastal road area last December 2.

 

The residents said the curfew barred them from using the Metropolis Avenue when going towards coastal road and back.

 

Barangay officials led by Punong Barangay Raymundo Juntado dismantled the barricade with the help of the Jaro police.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, MHA immediate past president, said they are now fine tuning their curfew regulation to accommodate the residents who want to use the subdivision’s road.

 

The homeowners are also talking with Sta. Lucia Realty to finish the perimeter wall for the security of the residents.

 

Gauzon said they also had issues with the residents of Brgys. Bito-on and Tacas before “but we were able to resolve things through dialogues.”

 

(Serbisyo Publiko airs live over Sky Cable Channel 13 every Sunday, 10 am to 12 noon. Replays are: Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday – 8 to 10 pm; Thursday – 12 noon to 2pm)

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