MANILA, Philippines - Rebel soldier turned senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan grabbed the attention of onlookers when he went around campaigning on a motorcycle.
The 65-year-old lawmaker, usually in a dark blue shirt, was accompanied by motorcycle-riding supporters, conjuring images of biker gangs that value freedom from convention.
Honasan and his companions were not wearing helmets despite a law requiring it. The senator, however, said the law’s implementing rules allow riders not to wear helmets if cruising at less than 10 miles per hour.
Asked why he chose the motorcycle gimmick, Honasan said: “(So that I can) go directly to the people, so that I can touch them and interact with them.”
From a swaggering officer who led uprisings to call for reforms, Honasan now projects himself as a politician who values independence and public welfare.
Honasan emphasizes the importance of an independent Senate that would advocate development.
MANILA, Philippines - Student groups yesterday urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) not to rush into granting petitions filed by over 400 higher education institutions (HEIs) to increase tuition and other fees that might have been filed without proper consultation with students.
Members of the Kabataan party-list group and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) staged a protest rally in front of the CHED head office in Quezon City on the last day of filing proposals for tuition increase and complaints yesterday.
Pursuant to CHED Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012, all HEIs that plan to increase tuition and other fees for the next academic year should submit a proposal alongside pertinent documents to CHED regional offices on or before April 1.
Prior to the April 1 deadline, it was reported that some 451 colleges and universities nationwide have submitted tuition and other fee hike proposals for school year 2013-2014, including 95 proposals in the National Capital Region and 38 proposals in Western Visayas.
CMO 3 mandates schools planning to increase tuition to conduct consultations with students and other constituents until Feb. 28.
Article VI of the memorandum also states that within 30 days after the consultation period, students can file complaints and grievances for proposed fee increases that did not undergo proper consultation.
MANILA, Philippines - Tina Tama and Boy Bawal are out to educate local candidates on the proper way to campaign.
Chairman Sixto Brillantes said yesterday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to come out with public service videos featuring Tina Tama and Boy Bawal to encourage candidates to comply with election regulations.
Tina Tama contradicts Boy Bawal: “Hindi naman lahat ay bawal, mayroon din tamang paraan ng pangangampanya (Not everything is prohibited, there is a right way to campaign).”
Brillantes said the Comelec expects more violations of election regulations since the campaign for local candidates has begun.
Violators will be charged accordingly, he added.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said Boy Bawal is the Comelec’s poster boy on illegal campaigning, while Tina Tama outlines legal, proper and novel techniques that local candidates can adopt in the campaign.
Tina Tama encourages candidates to be creative in their campaign, and be informed as to the location of common poster areas that the Comelec has designated.
Candidates must seek the permission of owners if they want to place their campaign materials on private property, Tina Tama said.
Tina Tama also discourages vote buying.
“Alam niyo na ang bawal, kaya gawin lang ang tama. Para maging maayos ang eleksyon, simulan sa tamang pangangampanya (You already know what’s prohibited, so do what’s right. For the elections to be orderly, start with correct campaigning),” advise Boy Bawal and Tina Tama.
Meanwhile, Brillantes said the Comelec may deputize the Armed Forces and police to monitor violations of campaign rules.
The lack of manpower is slowing down their crackdown against illegal campaign posters, he added.
Brillantes said they are relying on the public to inform the Comelec of campaign violators.
The Comelec is not inclined to tap barangay officials because they usually favor certain local candidates, he added.
Brillantes said he hopes to prosecute as many campaign violators as possible.
“We cannot improve on the manpower situation,” he said. “We just have to move a little bit faster and concentrate on the filing of charges and send the subpoenas.”
The Comelec’s Law Department and the Education and Information Department have been ordered to monitor closely the local campaign and send out notices to erring candidates as early as possible, Brillantes said. – Mayen Jaymalin
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is reportedly consulting Muslim scholars and experts who can give insights and provide historical context to the country’s dormant claim over Sabah, which has been under Malaysian jurisdiction for decades.
A Palace source disclosed yesterday that the Office of the President has tapped the expertise of some professors from the country’s premiere state schools, like the University of the Philippines, on the highly sensitive territorial issue. “We have been consulting with Muslim scholars, some of them are even elderly,” an insider told The STAR, noting President Aquino wants a comprehensive study on the issue.
The source, however, could not give a categorical answer when asked about the prospects of the Philippines insisting on its Sabah claim. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said she has already submitted to the President her report on the Sabah issue.
Aquino gave assurance that a careful assessment of the report would be conducted. The Chief Executive said the study on the country’s claim on Sabah might take a long time since all the stakeholders concerned would have to be consulted on the matter.
“So that has to go through the process. The concerned agencies, offices, etc., will have to provide comments,” Aquino said. He has tasked his legal team headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Benjamin Caguioa to study the country’s historical and legal claims on Sabah.
The President has also ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Office of the Executive Secretary to research and recommend a roadmap towards a peaceful resolution of the Sabah dispute.
The country’s claim on Sabah had been dormant since 1960s, until it was revived in mid-February by the Sulu sultanate, whose forces have refused to leave Lahad Datu.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras assured the public the government is doing its best and everything would be done based on international laws, and not by force or violence.
Aquino commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Jabidah massacre in Corregidor last week, and gave assurance that a roadmap to a peaceful resolution of the Sabah dispute, and not just of the standoff, was being drawn up.
He said both the massacre and the standoff were linked to the country’s claim over Sabah.
“The resolution of this issue will begin not through speculation, opinion or guesswork, but by pinpointing indisputable truths. My duty is to dig into history to find truths and from there, set the direction that the nation should take with regard to the Sabah issue. I’ll make sure that direction will not lead us to violence,” he said.
For his part, acting Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman said they were continuously talking with all parties, including Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, to end the standoff.
Hataman said Kiram’s brother Agbimuddin, who led the incursion in Lahad Datu, had asked him to fetch them after the firefight broke out on March 1.
“At that time, he wanted to be fetched. But I’m sure those in Taguig would say I wasn’t telling the truth,” Hataman said, referring to the sultan and other family members living in Maharlika Village in Taguig.
(UPDATE) The Philippines bagged a landmark vote of confidence as global debt watcher Fitch raised the country's credit rating to investment grade Wednesday.
For the first time in history, the Philippines is deemed as an econmy where it is safe for global investors to pour in capital.
Fitch Ratings said the country's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) is now up to BBB- from BB+. The long-term local-currency IDR has likewise been raised to BBB from BBB-.
An investment grade is seen to lower the Philippines' borrowing cost, thereby increasing opportunities for the government to save.
"The Philippine economy has been resilient, expanding 6.6% in 2012 amid a weak global economic backdrop," Fitch said in a statement posted on its website.
Key drivers for the credit rating hike, Fitch said, are strong external balance sheets, a persistent current account surplus and high remittances.
Fitch also lauded reforms implemented under the previous and present administrations, which it said led to "favorable macroeconomic outturns."
"Improvements in fiscal management begun under President Arroyo have made general government debt dynamics more resilient to shocks," Fitch said.
Fitch is the first debt watcher to give the Philippines an investment grade, even as two other rating firms place the Philippines only a notch lower.
Standard & Poor's considers the Philippines a BB+ market at present while Moody's Investors Service gave it a Ba1 rating.
Welcoming the long-awaited credit rating upgrade, President Benigno Aquino III said the development will "encourage even greater interest and investments in our country."
"This is an institutional affirmation of our good governance agenda," Aquino said in a statement posted on the Official Gazette.
"Sound fiscal management and integrity-based leadership has led to a resurgent economy in the face of uncertainties in the global arena," he added.
Also commenting on the upgrade, Asian Development Bank Country Economist Norio Usui said it "can trigger the kind of investment that will help carry the country into its next phase of development."
"Prudent measures to attract investment, improve the business climate and diversify the economy have paved the way for growth," he added.
The ADB official however challenged authorities "to make that growth more inclusive by creating more and better jobs."