Monday, July 30, 2012

On JBC impasse: Exhaust all efforts to de-escalate tension

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) should not hurry to vote for the selection of shortlisted candidates for the next Chief Justice. We have ample time to wait for the resolution of the motion for reconsideration regarding the legality of having representatives to the JBC from the House and the Senate. The JBC should wait for the court's ruling on this motion. We have four weeks. Let us wait for the court's decision to resolve this and not rush into voting. Let us not have any issues hanging over the selection process.

The issues, including questions raised by having replacements for the Chief Justice and Secretary of Justice to sit in as ex-oficio in the JBC, must be properly ventilated.

We are talking about the power to select from nominees and about submitting a shortlist to the President for the appointment of the next Chief Justice. It is but normal that tensions will rise. We need to de-escalate the tension. After all, we do not want the next CJ to be appointed in a process wherein there are questions that have remained unresolved. We need to ease the tensions. Let us de-politicize and remove all issues.

Perhaps the JBC should initiate moves on how to proceed. Even without the ex-oficio members—the Chief Justice, the DOJ Secretary, and members of House and Congress—they would still have quorum with just its regular members. Let the body rule on resolving the issues and move on with the process. Perhaps all ex-oficio members should just inhibit themselves on the process so that there would be no cloud of doubt in the shortlisting of candidates to be submitted to the President.

No less than Fr. Joaquin Bernas has admitted that they made a mistake in not amending provisions that will accommodate a bicameral Congress. It was a mere inadvertence on the part of those in the Constitutional Convention. The question is: do you perpetuate the mistake, or correct it? I say it's about time we correct this inadvertence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Food security is a matter of national security

We express our support for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's challenge to the Senate to crack down on food smuggling rings and address food security in the country.

Food security is a national security matter so I call on colleagues in government to get to the bottom of food smuggling rings to help ensure the sustainability of local agriculture.

We are ready to get to the bottom of this latest attempt at smuggling agricultural produce into the country. It is hoped that by getting to the bottom of this reprehensible act we will prevent its repeat. Flooding the market with smuggled rice deprives our rice farmers of their incomes and serves as a major disincentive for them to continue planting rice. It severely undermines our rice sufficiency program because it takes away from the farmers the opportunity to get fair market prices for their produce.

Smuggling is the surest way to drive our local farmers and fisherfolk out of business and kill our local agricultural industry. This is one major factor why we are unable to bring our farmers out of poverty, and the smuggling of agricultural products threatens our food security efforts.

Rampant smuggling must be stamped out if food security is to be achieved for close to 100 million Filipinos.

When we undertake this investigation on the incident of smuggling and other incidents of smuggling, we are actually addressing a national security matter. Smuggling threatens the existence of our agricultural industry, and without an agricultural industry, up to 60% of our labor force will lose their jobs, the prices of food will skyrocket, and we could be facing a serious food crisis in the coming years.

This is why the problem of smuggling is a national problem, and we—government and the private sector alike—must put an end to this once and for all.

BOC's seizure of hot rice will help increase farmers' incomes

We laud the Bureau of Customs' efforts in curbing illegal importation of rice, a commodity which has long been abused by certain sectors due to its impact in the political, economic, and social landscape.

For so long our farmers have been at the short end of this stick, rendering them impoverished and powerless. Imagine earning a meager 23,000 pesos per year? That means they are living on less than 2,000 pesos a month. That is not even enough to meet their basic needs. This concerted effort by the BOC to curb smuggling will definitely have an impact in the livelihood of our farmers.

In 2011, we convened Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 and gathered for the first time all the major stakeholders of the agriculture and fisheries sector, including the farmers and fishermen. We also initiated Sagip Saka, an advocacy to provide to farmers and fisherfolk much-needed interventions and access to markets, investments, and technology.

The concerns of our farmers and fisherfolk have been left unheard for so long. If we fail to address their plight, there would be no one left to till the lands for the next generation, especially since the average age of our farmers is 57. The government must continue to push for agricultural reform in order to increase the incomes of our farmers and fisherfolk. Efforts such as the ones being undertaken by the BOC will definitely help in alleviating the economic plight of our farmers.

Di dapat pangambahan ang pagpiyansa ni GMA

Walang dapat pangambahan ang taumbayan sa pagpiyansa ng dating Pangulo na si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, lalo pa sa ipinapakita ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino na mabigyan ng hustisya ang mga tiwali sa gobyerno.

Kailangang respetuhin ang ang pasiya ng Korte. Ang mahalaga ay may hold departure order ang Sandiganbayan laban sa akusado at hindi ito makakaalis nang basta-basta. Ang mahalaga ay haharap ang akusado sa mga paratang laban sa kanya.”

Nahaharap sa maraming kaso ang dating pangulo, kabilang na dito ang graft and corruption, taumbayan na mismo ang tututol sakaling magpumilit si GMA na makaalis ng bansa.

Iba na ang panahon ngayon. Taumbayan na mismo ang masigasig na nakaabang at nagmamasid laban sa katiwalian at pagpataw ng hustisya. Natuto na tayo sa nakaraan.

On the live media coverage of JBC selection process

We welcome media coverage of JBC selection and believe that it will increase the quality of public debate.

Politically, we have long been hung up on personalities instead of issues and platforms. The live coverage of the JBC interviews gives our countrymen a deeper understanding of the pressing issues in our justice system and allows us all to look deeper beyond names and first impressions. The quality of public debate is improving, and this should put the needed pressure on our government to wisely select the next leader of the judiciary.

We earlier wrote the JBC requesting that the selection process be made available to the public. In our letter to JBC we suggested that the body ask nominees difficult questions regarding increasing conviction rates, filling up vacancies, and curbing corruption.

Now that we have achieved a small but crucial victory in making the JBC process and interviews more transparent to the public, hard part begins. We must make judicial reform a top priority and choose a Chief Justice based on competence, moral ascendancy, and the determination to institute much needed-reforms on an antiquated and slugging justice system.

My statement on the murder of Nixon Cua

We are deeply saddened by the killing of Mr. Nixon Cua. The circumstances surrounding his death reveals that we still have a lot of work ahead to ensure that criminality, lawlessness and disrespect for our laws is stamped out.

We reiterate our position that criminality and lawlessness will be significantly reduced only if there is swift punishment and conviction of the guilty in a functioning and effective justice system. Putting fear in the hearts of would-be criminals is the best deterrent to crime, and this can only be done when the guilty are punished swiftly and resolutely.

Monday, July 2, 2012

On Bam Aquino's senatorial bid

We welcome the forthcoming senatorial bid of Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, a former student and youth leader who is best known for his advocacy in providing microfinance opportunities to women through the social enterprise Hapinoy, an organization that provides business coaching, leadership training, store branding, and other support services to a network of over 10,000 sari-sari stores all over the Philippines.

We welcome Bam's decision to seek a senate post, and we will support his bid. His credentials are outstanding. If he wins, he will probably be the first summa cum laude graduate in the Senate.

His having been a student and youth leader is a big plus. He will be the voice of the youth in the upper chamber.

Nearly ninety percent of the voters are below fifty years of age; we need youthful leaders in the Senate who will represent the next generation of Filipinos who hunger for progress and genuine change.