Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fruits of Hope gains funding support

Bicam Approves Gordon Amendment in ACEF Budget for Agricultural Products Transportation Earmarked

Senator Richard J. Gordon reported today that the Bicameral Conference Committee on the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) has concluded the bill ready for PGMA’s signature. “The ACEF is a massive source of funding originally envisioned to enhance competitiveness of the agricultural and fisheries sector. It is an important piece of legislation that will change the lives of our farmers and their families. Through the ACEF, the government’s support can be clearly felt through the implementation of support projects for credit, infrastructure, research and development, and the like,” Senator Gordon explained.

During the Bicam, Senator Gordon as co-author of the bill fought for the earmarking of funds to increase supply chain efficiency and other infrastructure including access, as well as an established transportation mechanism towards speedy delivery of products. The Gordon Amendment was accepted by the committee and is included in the final draft.

“The amendment sealed the government’s commitment to agriculture by allotting funds for the transportation of goods to markets where the goods can actually be sold and consumed,” Senator Gordon noted. “I laud Senator Angara for sponsoring this measure in the Senate and pushing the Committee to work hard for this early Christmas gift for our farming and fishing sectors.”

As the catalyst of “Fruits of Hope”, a project that assisted in the transport of fruits from Sulu and other provinces from the South to supermarkets here in Manila, Senator Gordon said that “this amendment will solidify the efforts we have already started. With this amendment, the law will allow government to work with our people by giving our people the opportunity to sell their products so they can earn to lead better lives.”

“With this law, we help eradicate poverty and give insurgency one less reason to gain support all throughout the nation. When we give the people a government that will work for the betterment of their lives and their future, we are one step closer to a unified stand towards development.” Senator Gordon concluded.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Justice in Estrada trial appointed to Supreme Court

Justice in Estrada trial appointed to Supreme Court

By Jomar Canlas, Reporter

A JUSTICE in the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada was appointed to the Supreme Court on Monday.

Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, the Sandiganbayan presiding justice and chairman of the Special Division that heard the Estrada case, confirmed the appointment, but she denied it is a reward for the conviction of Estrada.

De Castro believes she got the job because of merit and her qualification, she told The Manila Times, adding, "It is the grace of God."

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has sent a transmittal letter containing de Castro's appointment to Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Monday, The Times has learned.

To date, President Gloria Arroyo has appointed 13 justices to the High Court, but only 11 are still serving, as justices Romeo Callejo and Cansio Garcia have retired. De Castro fills the slot of Associate Justice Garcia, who retired October 20 when he turned 70.

There are 15 members of the Supreme Court in all. The four other justices were chosen by former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Estrada—with two appointees each. Chief Justice Puno was named to the Supreme Court by ex-President Ramos, but the appointment as chief justice was made by President Arroyo.

De Castro reportedly got seven votes from the Judicial and Bar Council, along with Court of Appeals Justices Edgardo Cruz and Martin Villarama Jr. Other names that made it to the shortlist are Sandiganbayan Justices Edilberto Sandoval and Francisco Villaruz who reportedly received five votes each. Labor Secretary Arturo Brion also made it to the council's shortlist and got five votes.

The Constitution gives the President the power to appoint members of the Supreme Court, but the Judicial Bar Council makes a shortlist of candidates.

Legal career

De Castro graduated cum laude with a degree in political science at the University of the Philippines in 1968. She took up law, also at UP, graduating in 1972.

She worked as a legal and judicial assistant at the Supreme Court from 1973 to 1978. Afterwards she joined the Department of Justice as state counsel in 1978 and stayed until 1995, eventually becoming assistant chief state counsel.

She was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 1995 by then-President Ramos. She became presiding justice of the antigraft court in December 2004.


Sen. Richard Gordon welcomed de Castro's appointment. "She is highly qualified. She is independent and very intelligent."

Gordon said de Castro had a lot of experience, and the senator finds her independent-minded and tough. "I named her to the board of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority because she is capable of making me go straight," he said, referring to the time when he was chairman of the free port.

He added that he does not believe that de Castro's appointment is a reward for Estrada's guilty conviction. "President Arroyo pardoned Erap despite [de Castro's] decision, so it is not a reward," Gordon said, referring to Estrada by his nickname. "That was even a slap in [de Castro's] face."

Estrada himself declined to comment. His son, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

In the House of Representatives, opposition lawmakers also welcomed the appointment of de Castro to the Supreme Court.

House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo of the left-leaning Bayan Muna party-list said he sees no point in criticizing the appointment of de Castro as "she has done her work very well."
--With Efren L. Danao and Maricel V. Cruz

Monday, December 3, 2007

PNRC Chair Gordon Helps Settle the Ambu-plane Transport of Stranded Filipino Coma Patient

A Filipino tourist who suffered a heart attack while onboard a plane en route back to the Philippines has finally come home today after lying comatose for two weeks at a regional hospital in Siberia, Russia. Romulo del Rosario, 78, together with his wife Leticia and son Gary, was on his way back to Manila from a week-long vacation in Lourdes, Italy when he suffered a heart attack while in flight. The British Airways flight carrying the family made an emergency landing in Irkutsk City in Siberia last October 19 to bring Del Rosario to a hospital. Del Rosario was finally brought home through Flight Ambulance International Plane which landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 5:15 A.M today.

Emergency medical technicians from the Philippine National Red Cross - emergency response unit took the patient from the ambu-plane right at the Tarmac Ramp of NAIA straight to the Philippine General Hospital.

Del Rosario had been confined comatose in the Irkutsk regional hospital for more than two weeks though his attending physician already gave the clearance to repatriate the patient back to Philippines.

In a text message forwarded by his son, Rolando, to PNRC Chairman Richard Gordon, he said that the travel insurance provider of his father, the Blue Cross of Hongkong, refused to settle the payment for the ambu-plane which cost more than six million pesos.

“We sought the help of Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) for assistance but they said that they can only assist OFW’s so they have to endorse our request to the office of the President. Given no other option, we therefore, decided to appeal to the PNRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon, if it is possible for the Red Cross to help us repatriate my husband which is really too expensive because an ambulance plane is needed with doctors on board,” Leticia recounts.

Chairman Gordon immediately carried the request of Mr. Rolando del Rosario and settled everything with the insurance company until everything was arranged.

“Gordon immediately followed-up everything for the transport of my husband. We are very lucky to have the support of the Red Cross, especially of Chairman Gordon. Thank you very much,” she added further.

Del Rosario is now in the Intensive Care Unit of the Philippine General Hospital, being attended to by Dr. Paul Pasco.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Senator Richard Gordon urged the national government to impose a clear state policy that will protect the Filipino people against the commercial export and sale of human kidneys and other human organs.
" We end up with a "bidding war" where the healthy organs are up for sale to the highest bidder. We're playing God — he who has the money lives longer. It is a sign of very dark times for the Filipino people when reports show our country to be one of the top sources of organs for sale " Gordon said.
Gordon explained that the supply-and-demand scenario only increases inequality between the impoverished and the wealthy. "A poor person who donates a kidney – or any other body part, for that matter – holds risks in terms of post-operative care. Does he or she receive the necessary medicines as well as the medical follow-up after the operation? Does he or she have access to a healthy diet and environment?"
Gordon also cited a news story posted in dated September 28, 2007 which revealed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was looking into possible involvement of doctors and other medical personnel of prominent hospitals in the illegal human organ trade.
During an interpellation at the Senate, National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) mentioned that there are about 3,000 to 5,000 registered kidney transplants a year but in Isla Puting Bato in Baseco Tondo alone, a community of 45,000, 3,000 people already 'donated' their kidneys.
"I suspect that there are a lot of unregistered kidney transplants happening. The danger is that no one either supervises or monitors these unregistered operations. What is the national government doing to monitor this organ trade? It is not like an abortion that anyone can just do at home. You cannot do that with a kidney transplant. You have to be in a hospital for an operation like this. Government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) should be able to monitor these" he lamented.
Gordon said that "the proliferation of organ trade especially amongst poor communities begs the following ethical challenges: Is the sale of an organ voluntary when the seller is forced by poverty to engage in the trade? Is the sale of an organ a justifiable means to fight poverty."
United States television network CNN, last week reported that perfectly healthy men and women in the Philippines have their kidneys harvested and sold. They told the story of Leo Coca who built a house with the money he got from selling his kidney, of the unemployed Ricky Villegas who sold his kidney for $2000 because his family needed the money; and of the 19-year old Joey Ebanyez who sold his kidney to help his sick mother and whose share of money was gone within three months of his operation. The recipients of their kidneys were foreigners – two Chinese and one Saudi. --30--

Monday, November 19, 2007

Senate ways and means committee OKs more tax exemptions

Senate ways and means committee OKs more tax exemptions
By Veronica Uy
Last updated 04:59pm (Mla time) 11/16/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Senate committee on ways and means on Friday approved two bills seeking to give bigger deductions on estate taxes to allow heirs to keep the family home.

Senate Bill 285, which was sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon, increases the maximum allowable deductible medical expenses in the computation of the net estate for the estate tax from P500,000 to P1.5 million.

Senate Bill 286, also sponsored by Gordon, allows the deduction of the full current fair market value of the family home (exceeding P1 million) from the net estate of the deceased person if he or she leaves a surviving spouse behind.

“This intends to ease the burden of the surviving spouse from the ordeal of putting up cash to pay for the estate tax on the family home, especially after having suffered the death of the decedent, mourning the loss of the family, and shouldering many other expenses, particularly medical and burial expenses of the decedent,” Gordon said, explaining the rationale of the bill.

The senator said sick people tend to spend a lot of money during their illness and many are forced to sell their homes to spend for their treatment. The twin bills, he said, would ease the burden on the heirs, who are usually left with no family home left after all their assets are spent on the treatment of their sick relative.

However, Senator Francis Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on ways and means, said that while his committee approved the bills, it cannot submit a committee report until the House of Representatives submits its version of the two measures.

“But at least one step is over. We’re on to the second step, the plenary debate when the House version is submitted,” he said.

Escudero noted that revenue measures like the national budget and tax exemptions need to start with the Lower House.

On the measure to exempt the bank deposits of senior citizens from withholding tax, the senator said senior citizens invited to the hearing themselves say that most of them don’t have money in the banks. He said the senior citizens are more amenable to the proposal to exempt them from the 12 percent expanded value-added tax.

“They said that the 20 percent discount they get as senior citizens are effectively cut down to eight percent because of the EVAT,” he said.

A bill seeking to repeal the EVAT from Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Ana Consuelo Madrigal was opposed by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue at the hearing.

The DoF and the BIR argued that a repeal of the law would result in revenue loss of P76 billion.

“The BIR is currently computerizing its operations, and with this we expect higher efficiency in collection,” Escudero said, adding that the Senate would oppose any new tax revenue measures from the government.

He said he is waiting for figures from the DoF and the BIR on the effect of computerization on collections to help the committee in considering the measure to repeal EVAT.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gordon: Open new Silay airport,

Gordon: Open new Silay airport,
convert old site into tourism


Senator Richard Gordon yesterday called on Western Visayas not to fall into a pall of gloom following the bombing in the House of Representatives that left four dead and nine injured, but to continue to remain focused on its tourism thrusts.

“If Manila stumbles, it is the turn of Western Visayas to fight on and spread the sunshine of tourism in the Philippines ,” said Gordon, who spoke at the WV Tourism Assembly at the Business Inn in Bacolod City .

Gordon also called for an end to arguments over the opening of the new Bacolod–Silay Airport and for the province to maximize its use right away to boost tourism in Negros Occidental.

He said to sustain two airports – the Bacolod airport and the new one in Silay, is probably not the right direction.

Gordon suggested that the site of the old Bacolod airport be converted to create a new tourism boom area in the city.

At the same time he lauded the tourism thrust of Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia and the growth of the MassKara Festival.

He also called on Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella and the rest of the country's congressmen to pass a tourism bill in the House that will ensure funding for the promotion of Philippine tourism internationally.

Promotion of tourism is necessary to draw the tourists to the country, he said.

“Tourism is a magnificent industry, it is a catch all basin that provides opportunities for those who are willing to risk it,” he said.

“We must walk forward never mind the bombing,” he said.

Gordon, who supervised Red Cross assistance to the bombing victims Tuesday night, said he condoles with the victims and condemns the dastardly act but “we cannot have a pity party and loose our focus for the country”.

“We must not put on a sad face, we must have a happy face and keep the culture of tourism alive in the country,” said Gordon, who called the Visayas the beach capital of Asia .

We must destroy myth and the walls in our mind that we cannot conquer the world. We should not take on the doom and gloom scenario, what we have is the resoluteness and we must never lose our stride, Gordon said.

“We must be focused, fast, friendly, flexible and forward looking at all times,” Gordon said.

Gordon also called for respite from negative news about the Philippines so that the rest of the world can also see its good side.

Participants at the WV Tourism Assembly were welcomed by Leonardia and Board Member Edgardo Acuña, representing Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon.

Also at the assembly were Tourism Undersecretaries Salvador Sarabia Jr. and Oscar Palabyab.*CPG

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Presidential aspirants dared: Start debates now

Presidential aspirants dared: Start debates now

Senator Richard Gordon yesterday challenged presidential wannabes to start public debates among themselves even if the next election would still be held two-and- a-half years from now.

Debates will enhance the chances of candidates with limited resources to present an alternative platform of government, Gordon said.

Gordon, who said he is available for the presidential race, did not name names but only recently, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay floated his plan to join the 2010 presidential derby.

Chairman Bayani Fernando of the Metro Manila Development Authority also dropped hints of his political plans but said his party, Lakas, has the final word on its standard-bearer.

Gordon said the Philippines should take a cue from the practice in the United States where the Republican and Democratic parties start early the process of selecting their prospective standard-bearers as what is happening now.

“In my view, it is in the best interest of the people for presidential aspirants to come out and engage in debates among themselves like what they are doing in the US,” he told an interview with newsmen.

Unless the presidential debates are held—and as early as possible, Gordon said the surveys will again influence the judgment of the people which, he said, is favorable to well-funded candidates but unfair to people like him who could not match the resources of the former.

He said that in previous presidential elections, the candidates had the tendency to shy away from debates especially if they were super-rich or very popular figures from show business.

Gordon said it is through public debates that the people will really know who are capable of providing leadership and solving the multifarious ills of the country.

Gordon has no qualms in presenting himself as a presidential aspirant, saying he dreamt of being catapulated to Malacañang as early as 1992.

“I am available, but I haven’t made any announcement yet,” he said.

“I think my options are open. At present, I am working as a senator but I am available for the presidency because like what other people have said, I should have run in 1992 or in 1998. But I didn’t have enough resources or experience at that time.”

“I think having been a mayor [of Olongapo City], having been a Constitutional Convention delegate, having been chairman of the Subic Bay Authority, having been a secretary of tourism promoting our country, having been governor of the Philippine National Red Cross helping our people in all major disasters in the country, I think I have now enough experience.”

Gordon admitted that it would give him tremendous advantage if he will be chosen as the standard-bearer of the ruling Lakas party or the administration coalition.

“I am always referred to as an administration senator. But I don’t always vote for the administration. I have been critical of the pardon for [former President] Erap [Estrada]. And I’m not with Erap either.”

Lakas sounding board

Fernando said the ruling coalition, Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrat is announcing possible standard-bearers for the presidential polls to know the sentiments of the electorate this early.

“The party is deliberately floating names so we would know who the people would support. It would also come up with a survey,” he said.

He said the track record of a leader is a factor being considered to become a presidential standard-bearer than one’s popularity.

MMDA general manager Robert Nacianceno said Fernando is qualified to run for the “highest post in the executive branch.”

“In the bureaucracy, who could be a good president, but one who has the political will, managerial capacity and the executive experience. He must know how the government works and how to manage the budget,” Nacianceno said. Fel V. Maragay and Rio N. Araja

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Statement of Senator Richard Gordon


Recently we saw a news report on CNN where Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca of the Philippine National Kidney Institute broached the idea of legalizing the export or sale of human kidneys.

We think that such a proposition is unethical and immoral.

The act of donating any human organ should be done with the intention of saving and extending another's life. It should be an altruistic act, where the donor or the body of the donor is treated with utmost dignity and respect. It is also a situation where the receiver of the human organ receives it as a gift of life.

The commercial export and sale of human kidneys or any human organ for that matter dehumanizes and desecrates this act. It treats the human body as a mere commodity, a potential scrap heap of body parts up for sale for the highest bidder and to profit from this trade is unconscionable.

We have already learned of cases in recent years where poverty stricken men and women sold their kidneys out of desperation. Proposing the legalization of the sale of human organs will, with all certainty, give rise to an industry that will feed off and add to the suffering of millions of our people caught in dire financial straights.

We will block off any such proposal to legalize the sale of human organs.


Statement of Senator Richard Gordon

Deputy Speaker Ma. Amelita Villarosa of the House of Representatives and regional head of Kampi made a recent admission to distributing cash gifts to various local government officials during a gathering at Malacanang. This admission, for whatever reason, puts to light the basest manifestation of our transactional political culture and should challenge our people to rise up to make political parties more accountable for their actions.

We can't say that what had transpired in Malacanang was bribery or an attempt to secure some kind of action in return for a generous sum of money. However, millions of pesos changed hands under circumstances where the resident of Malacanang was being assailed by scandals and an impeachment complaint had just been filed. It is hard to believe that money, from 20,000 pesos to 500,000 pesos were being distributed without anyone telling anyone what it was for and where it had come from. It is even harder to believe that the President, who we assume is also the leader of Kampi, did not know that money was being distributed like rain or sunshine.

Kampi and other political organizations should be compelled by a law to divulge the sources of their funds and show the manner in which these funds are disposed of.

Just as we are fully intent on pushing for a law that will stop party switching and regulate the practice of mainstream politics, the bigger aspect and the wider view of this action is to craft a body of laws that will make political parties more accountable for their actions and win for everyone a chance to sow the seeds of transforming our rotting political culture.

Gordon calls for younger, more aggressive Comelec nominees

Gordon calls for younger, more aggressive Comelec nominees
By Veronica Uy
Last updated 01:09pm (Mla time) 11/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Nominees to the Commission on Elections should be “younger, more aggressive,” Senator Richard Gordon said Monday.

Gordon, who heads the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, was reacting to reports that retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo would be appointed as Comelec chairman.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Iligan City regional trial court judge Moslemen Macarambon as Comelec commissioner.

“We need a young leader who is savvy about information technology because we have an antiquated election system. There are going to be pressures. We need someone who can move fast and decide cases, and who can have a tight rein on commissioners and Comelec people like [former election commissioner Virgilio] Garcillano and [missing Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang] Bedol,” said Gordon.

He said he would have to check if retired justices could still be appointed to the Comelec, even after they had received their retirement paychecks.

With Macarambon's appointment, there are three more vacancies at the poll body -- the one vacated by resigned poll chief Benjamin Abalos, and the two to be vacated by acting Comelec chairman Resurreccion Borra and commissioner Florentino Tuason in February next year.

Gordon said that aside from appointing people of proven integrity, independence, and competence, electoral reforms must be instituted.

“There are so many things that you need to fix in the Comelec. Number one is the pride problem. There is no pride in the Comelec, and their reputation as independent arbitrator is shot. And they are in charge of the most basic and fundamental right of the people,” he said.

Gordon, who is set to file a bill seeking to penalize “political butterflies,” said automation of the electoral system should be the administration’s top priority.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


The Senate passed on third reading Committee Report No. 13, entitled "An Act Providing Stiffer Penalties for the Crime of Theft and Robbery of Portable Telecommunication Devices."
Senator Richard Gordon said that the passage of the Anti-Cellphone Snatching Bill by the Senate is an important piece of legislation to protect people from cell phone and computer snatchers.
"Our cellular phones and our personal computers are important tools we carry around everyday. Vital, private and even confidential information are stored in these devices. With this bill, we seek to discourage or eliminate altogether the high incidence of thievery of portable mobile devices. We hope to restore confidence and enhance personal safety of our people while punishing the snatchers and thieves," Gordon added.
Gordon also explains that "the law imposes a penalty one degree higher than those prescribed by the Revised Penal Code to the crimes of Robbery and Theft when the object stolen is a portable telecommunication device. Cellphones, digital assistants, laptops, portable radios and other portable telecommunication devices are covered by the bill."
Under the approved bill, any cell phone theft resulting in death shall be punishable by life imprisonment.
"With this bill, we hope to trump the snatchers and increase personal security, Gordon emphasized. --30--

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pardon one offense, and you encourage the commission of many.
--- Publilius Syrus
(~100 BC), Maxims

The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
--- Robert F. Kennedy (1925 - 1968),
'I Remember, I Believe,'
The Pursuit of Justice, 1964

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arroyo reaps whirlwind of protests over Estrada pardon

Inquirer, Northern Luzon Bureau, Southern Luzon Bureau, Associated Press
Last updated 00:16am (Mla time) 10/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines--PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reaped a whirlwind of protests with her pardon of convicted plunderer Joseph "Erap" Estrada.

Ms Arroyo's allies in the Senate used strong words in airing their disapproval, and Luis "Chavit" Singson, the man who set in motion the beginning of the end of her ousted predecessor, lamented the "rush" and demanded to know if a "compromise agreement" had accompanied the move.

Even her staunch ally, former president Fidel Ramos, spoke out in China where he was attending a conference to bewail the pardon as "a terrible, terrible calamity to the great, great, great majority of the Filipino people who have suffered from the plunder."

In a press conference Friday, Sen. Richard Gordon said the President "wasted a chance to leave a legacy of justice."

"I am revolted by the whole scenario," Gordon said. "I am not questioning her right to pardon but I am questioning her responsibility. She did not use her authority properly. [You] use your power to benefit the people. You do not use your power to make yourself survive."

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan also cited survival as Ms Arroyo's motive in pardoning Estrada.

He said Ms Arroyo's act was "meant to appease the Erap camp, score political points and ensure her own political survival."

"This is a plain and simple maneuver by the Arroyo administration to remain afloat. It does not serve the cause of justice. It is highly questionable and inappropriate for the Arroyo administration to go into a mad rush to grant the pardon just as her government faces all these serious charges of corruption and bribery," Pangilinan said.

Veiled warnings
Other reactions were veiled warnings that Ms Arroyo could face Estrada's fate.

"Let him (Estrada) have his pardon. All I can say is, 'Goodbye Gloria,'" said Eugenia Apostol, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism and founding chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of

Carol Araullo, chair of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and of PlunderWatch, which filed the plunder case against Estrada, described the pardon as "part of a cover-up most foul" with the immediate goal of diverting public attention from the scandals hounding the Arroyo administration.

"The more sinister objective is to draw Estrada and his followers away from the Oust GMA Movement, entice [him] to instead utilize the electoral arena to rebuild his political and economic clout, and meanwhile allow the Arroyo regime to weather its latest crisis," Araullo said in a statement.

She said Ms Arroyo would "not get away with this latest abuse of power because the people, including Erap's followers, are fed up with the poverty and misery wrought by her antipeople policies."

In a phone interview, Chavit Singson said the pardon was a mockery of the justice system that would set "a very bad precedent."

"We fought hard for [Estrada's] ouster and we offered our lives to that struggle. Now, why are we ready to forgive him when he has yet to suffer for his sins?" the former governor of Ilocos Sur said in Filipino.

He declined to comment when asked if he would withdraw support for Ms Arroyo. But his words were ominous: "Let us wait and see."

Senator Gordon said Ms Arroyo's move was a desperate attempt to win her fight with Speaker Jose de Venecia: "She must be allies with Erap now. Joe de Venecia will have to find a new ally.

"She chose to survive rather than be right, rather than be just. It's not even a question of mercy. It's a question of survival for her. It's transactional leadership at its purest form.

"We have become a laughingstock of the world. People are hungry for justice; they were robbed. This weakens the moral fabric of our country.

"Until we show our people that there are no special exemptions, there will be no justice in the country ... Is this just a game? Then let us free all the rich and powerful people in jail."

Sen. Joker Arroyo decried the President's "lightning and tasteless haste" in pardoning Estrada.

"Why did we go through six years of trial if the President was predisposed anyway to pardon Mr. Estrada the moment the decision was rendered? It rendered the trial so inutile. Remember, Erap was convicted of a political offense; he was not convicted of a common crime," Arroyo said in a statement.

He said that while the President's power to pardon was beyond question, she "must answer to her conscience and the reaction of the people to her decision to pardon [Estrada] too soon."

Ultimate betrayal
For Akbayan, a party-list group that was among those that initiated the impeachment case against Estrada, the pardon reflected, not national unity, but "honor among thieves."

"The President treats justice like a mere transaction among thieves. Who else but the most incorrigible of thieves would not hesitate to do a shameless act like this? This mockery of justice is unpardonable," Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said in a press conference.

Hontiveros said Estrada's plunder conviction and formerly expected imprisonment were supposed to prove that high officials could be held accountable for their acts.

Freeing him is "the ultimate betrayal of People Power," she said.

Etta Rosales, a former lawmaker and Akbayan's chair emeritus, said corruption was prevailing "because we have high officials who abuse their authority to coddle corrupt officials."

"The capacity to grant executive clemency to an official convicted of corruption could only come from a President who's all too willing to commit the same crime and expect the same privilege," Rosales said.

Added Hontiveros: "This act normalizes corruption, sending a wrong message to the youth and other public officials. Who else is she willing to forgive? The Marcoses?

"In one swift act, Mrs. Arroyo demolished the integrity and credibility of our anticorruption institutions."

Black every Friday
The Black and White Movement called on Filipinos to wear black every Friday in "mourning the death of justice in our country."

"Let us paint this nation's heart black, for that is its color at its core," the civil society group said in a statement.

"Today [Friday] will be marked as a miserable day in our nation's history," it said, adding that the pardon was "a reflection of the culture of transactional politics that has characterized GMA's regime, which has brought our country to a state of moral bankruptcy."

Recalling the time and public funds spent in Estrada's four-year plunder trial, the citizens' group Maypagasa said: "It's a grand zarzuela, after all.

"Is this the concept of justice that this government knows? We will not be surprised if corruption will continue to flourish under the Arroyo administration. They just have to apply for pardon and presto, they can even enjoy their loot."

Maypagasa also said it would hold Ms Arroyo "accountable for this travesty of our justice system."

"This government has lost all moral ascendancy to talk about curbing corruption," it said.

Poet Axel Pinpin, one of the "Tagaytay 5" young men imprisoned for more than a year without charges, said the pardon "only showed what kind of government and justice system we have."

"It's simply unacceptable and deplorable. While convicts like Estrada go scot-free, innocent prisoners, especially political detainees like us, rot in jails," Pinpin said.

No difference
According to House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, the pardon makes no difference in the opposition's plans against Ms Arroyo.

Zamora, a close ally of Estrada who once served as his executive secretary, said Ms Arroyo would still face impeachment if evidence of her culpability and the opportunity to pass a complaint in a House dominated by her allies presented themselves.

"We are not affected by [Estrada's] pardon.... We will continue to hold the President accountable according to standards of public accountability," Zamora told the Inquirer.

"[The pardon] does not make one wisp of difference," he said.

Asked if the opposition in the House would actively participate in impeachment proceedings if the evidence merited a serious complaint and if, by some way, a stronger case was allowed despite the one-year ban on new impeachment information, Zamora replied in the affirmative.

He said there was a need to look into the alleged bribery of lawmakers and local government officials in Malacañang on Oct. 11, but he expressed doubt that an inquiry into the cash handouts would prosper in the House.

House Deputy Minority Leader Roilo Golez of Parañaque said the opposition in the chamber was never a party in the negotiations for Estrada's pardon.

He said the opposition would naturally go on with its business of looking into excesses in the government.

"The minority did not join the appeal for and was not a party to the request for pardon for former President Erap," Golez said.

Asked if the opposition would continue to check the administration, Golez said: "It goes without saying. Fiscalizing is one of the principal responsibilities of the minority."

Reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Fe Zamora, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jerome Aning and Norman Bordadora in Manila; Leoncio Balbin Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Marlon Ramos, Inquirer Southern Luzon; AP

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gordon receives standing ovations at PCCI’s 33rd Philippine Business Conference and Exposition

Gordon receives standing ovations at PCCI’s 33rd Philippine Business Conference and Exposition

Senator Richard J. Gordon received standing ovations for a speech made before the 33rd Philippine Business Conference and Exposition organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) today even as he challenged the chamber to let its collective voice be heard more loudly on crucial issues facing the country.

While the times urgently call for “transformational leadership” in order to take the nation to the next level, our politics is hopelessly dominated by “transactional leadership.” Instead of transforming and modernizing the conduct of government to meet the challenge of global competition, our public officials are preoccupied with negotiating deals, rigging contracts, trading favors, and rank opportunism. And when they’re not cooking deals, they are engaged in their zero-sum political warfare," said Gordon.

He cited a number of instances where the PCCI’s voice should have been heard. He pointed out the times when Comelec refused to implement the amended Automated Election or RA 9369 in May 2007 and for the Barangay Elections in October 29. He said that Automated Elections would have had far reaching effects towards transforming our country’s political culture.

This single innovation in the electoral process might have had far-reaching effects not just on how we vote and count the votes, but on how candidates and parties shape their strategies and run their machines,” said Gordon.

He also pointed out that the PCCI could have raised its voice during the time when the House of Representatives had failed to work on the passage of vital bills in the last congress, including the Tourism Bill which could have resulted in higher economic growth that would have been felt directly by the people.

Nevertheless, Gordon said that he was optimistic that the PCCI could help the government catch the second wave of economic growth flooding Asia and one area that private businesses could focus on would be the field of education, particularly to address the education/employment gap as well as to address the need to equip our labor with skills that would get them better jobs abroad.

“It is not enough for us to keep sending our workers abroad and to rely on cheap labor. We have to invest in our people’s education, training and health, so that they can be more productive workers here at home and abroad. This will require more commitment than we have traditionally made in this field. We need not only more resources, we need better teachers and training facilities. And we need the public and private sectors to collaborate in meeting this challenge. I see hopeful signs in the fact that Government is moving to increase its focus on education, and that many of our taipans have moved to invest in colleges and universities and taken the lead in their modernization.

He said that by uplifting our people through high quality education, they would be able to get better jobs here and abroad. This would translate in an incease in purchasing power which would in turn enable businesses to reap higher earnings and achieve greater growth.

In response to the business sector’s calls for the jailing of big fish or big time law offenders, Senator Gordon reiterated his view on moves to grant pardon to Estrada.

He said that after the government had taken the high road in bringing former President Joseph Estrada to trial and securing a conviction against him, pardoning the former President would have the nation retreating to international ridicule and disrespect by cravenly trying to appease him.

Gordon said the law and justice should not be tempered with mercy, saying that the former President should at least have a taste of life in a real jail cell.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flash Gordon to the rescue
FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Glorietta bombing last Friday, October 19, showed us that in times of disaster and crisis, Dick Gordon of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) is someone you can rely on to always be there for you.

It was just like Gordon rushing to the scene like the MV Asuncion sinking in 1987, the earthquake in Central Colleges in Cabanatuan in 1990, and the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

Dick and PNRC volunteers were the first response teams to arrive at the Glorietta shortly after the blast at 1:20 p.m. Deployed were six ambulances with 20 staff and volunteers of medical and rescue teams from different PNRC chapters to provide search, rescue and medical assistance to the victims. While the law enforcement authorities had to secure and collect evidence from the carnage site, Gordon and the PNRC teams, amidst the ensuing chaos and confusion, immediately addressed the concerns of both the victims and their loved ones by coordinating information bulletins with the hospitals and funeral homes.

Ten of the injured were treated by the PNRC team on-site while Welfare Desks were installed immediately near Ground Zero and at the Makati Medical Center and Ospital ng Makati to assist those trying to locate their loved ones who might have been inside the mall at the time of the explosion. A good number of those missing or unaccounted for were successfully located by the teams.

When the rest gave up hope and called it a day that early evening, Dick Gordon returned and stayed behind to comfort relatives still waiting at the blast site for news about their missing relatives. The scene was like that of the Zambales fishermen in 2005 who were lost at sea for 19 days and given up for dead until Sen. Gordon tapped the US Navy to track via an Orion plane the whereabouts of the men to be picked up the Philippine Navy along the coast of Palawan.

At the Glorietta 4 Friday evening, Norlita Tan, looking distraught, approached the PNRC Welfare Desk to seek help in locating her husband, Renier, who had been with her inside the mall shortly before the explosion. She just had her eyeglasses repaired at an optical shop at Glorietta 4, leaving her husband to pass time by himself strolling around the area. Little did she know that that would be the last time she would see him alive.

Gordon sought clearance from law enforcement agencies and the mall management who had secured the area and were now on clearing operations before he deployed the PNRC search-and-rescue team back to the site to search for Norlita's husband.

Utilizing search cameras and an audio probe, the team found a wallet belonging to the reported missing Maureen De Leon among the debris, near where the bodies of her companions, Gee-Ann de Gracia and Carlo Niño Vigamo, were found earlier that afternoon.

Gordon inspected the wallet and found the telephone number of Gerardo De Leon, father of Maureen. On the phone, De Leon told Dick that Maureen was not home. Dick advised him to proceed to the site since Maureen was not on the list of victims taken to hospitals and funeral homes. Dick also tried to track Maureen through her employer, Tots Romualdez, who was his classmate and who also joined in the vigil for news.

At that time Norlita was waiting at the site for word about her husband, with Dick and PNRC people never leaving her side, offering comfort and encouragement in that time of uncertainty. Gerardo and his wife Mercedes also received the same kind of support and comfort while they were at the site for hours on end waiting for their daughter, Maureen, to be found. Both Norlita and the De Leons believed that Renier and Maureen were still inside the building.

Dick once again deployed the PNRC search-and-rescue team back on site this time, armed with hooligan tools, a portable chain saw, K7 circular cutters and hydraulic rescue rams, a spreader, and cutters to break through piles of concrete and steel at the pinpointed target area.

Barely an hour later, at around 2 a.m., of Saturday, October 20, the PNRC team found the lifeless body of Reinier Tan buried in debris at the foot of the escalator at the atrium of Glorietta 2. With some difficulty, Dick told Norlita that Renier had been found.

Maureen's body was found at 10:30 that evening — 33 hours after the explosion — by the joint search and rescue teams of PNRC and Makati City. Upon being informed of the discovery, Dick excused himself and returned to the blast scene, leaving his wife Kate with their friends to watch the New Minstrels show.

"Even if we can't provide relief to the family members by finding their missing relatives alive, at least we provide closure to their search. This is all part of the efforts of the Red Cross to alleviate human suffering," Dick said. "We are relentless in our search. We don't give up until we find them simply because their respective families do not have plans of giving up themselves."

Those still seeking missing relatives may contact the Social Services Group of PNRC though 5270000.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Comfort In Times of Uncertainty

Once again, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has proven that it is the premier humanitarian organization in the Philippines, ready to provide assistance in any way to those affected, in the light of the recent tragedy brought about by the Glorietta 2 explosion.

The death toll has now risen to 11 with the passing of Ricardo Petras, 24, at 2:23 AM, October 21 and the discovery of the body of Maureen de Leon, 24, at around 10:30 PM, October 20. Over a hundred were injured and there are a few individuals still being traced by their families and friends.

The PNRC was one of the first response teams to arrive at the scene shortly after the blast last October 19. Around 10 of the injured were treated by the PNRC team on-site while Welfare Desks were installed immediately near Ground Zero and at the Makati Medical Center and Ospital ng Makati to assist those who are trying to locate their loved ones who might have been inside Glorietta mall at the time of the explosion. A good number of those missing or unaccounted for were successfully located by the PNRC. But, as expected, not all stories in this kind of tragedy had happy endings.

Norlita Tan approached the PNRC Welfare Desk on-site, seeking help in locating her husband, Renier, who had been with her inside the mall shortly before the explosion. She just had her eyeglasses repaired at an optical shop at Glorietta 4, leaving her husband to pass time by himself strolling around the area. Little did she know that would be the last time she would see her husband alive.

At around 2:00 AM of October 20, the search and rescue team of the PNRC found Mr. Tan buried in debris at the foot of the escalator at the atrium of Glorietta 2. PNRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon had to take on the unpleasant task of informing Norlita that Renier had been found.

All that time that Norlita was keeping vigil at the site for word about his husband, the PNRC staff never left her side, offering comfort and encouragement in that time of uncertainty.

Gerardo and Mercedes de Leon also received the same kind of support and comfort from the PNRC staff while they were at the site for hours on end waiting for their daughter, Maureen, to be found. They did not waver in their belief that Maureen is still inside the building despite hours of search. Maureen’s body was found 33 hours after the explosion.

“Even if we can’t provide relief to the family members by finding their missing relatives alive, at least we provide closure to their search. This is all part of the efforts of the Red Cross to alleviate human suffering,” said Chairman Gordon to members of the press outside Glorietta 2. “We are relentless in our search. We are not giving up until we find them simply because their respective families do not have plans of giving up themselves. We can only do as much,” Godon added.

The PNRC is still providing assistance to those affected and would continue doing so long after the smoke has cleared. The PNRC had earlier sent 36 bags of blood, 18 to the Makati Medical Center and 18 to the Ospital ng Makati, right after the incident. Fortunately, they have not been used up but more would be available should there be a need in these hospitals which are still treating some of the wounded.

The Social Services Group of the Philippine National Red Cross is now taking care of assisting those whose relatives have not yet been accounted for. They can be reached thru 527-0000.
Red Cross on Continued Assessment and Aid to the Victims of the Glorietta II Bombing

It was around 1:30 PM last Friday, 19 October when the operation center of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) got the news on the explosion that occurred at Glorieta II Mall, Makati City. Upon receiving the news, the PNRC immediately deployed six ambulances with 20 staff and volunteers of medical and rescue team from different PNRC Chapters to initially provide search, rescue, and medical assistance to the victims of the blast incident. Then, three Social Workers were also sent to the Hospitals where the patients had been taken to set-up welfare desk and assist the families who where looking for their loved ones suspected to be in the blast-site and to provide stress debriefing to other affected persons.

The PNRC was the very first team to lead the retrieval operation since last night till present. Subsequently, at around 2:30 PM the PNRC rescue and medical team successfully located the missing body of Mr. Rennier Tan, buried under the debris of the ruined building.

To date, the PNRC operation center is still monitoring and assessing the needs of the victims and answering the calls of their loved ones round – the – clock. The action officers on duty had been continuously monitoring the updates and situation of the victims.

The latest report received by the PNRC from the Acute Cure Center of Ospital ng Makati as of 5:45 PM today, two patients confined in their hospital were already discharged this afternoon at around 4:45 PM respectively. The only person who is still in their care is Monie Amamag 34/F who is about to be transferred to Makati Medical Center.

In the Makati Medical Center, the persons still under their care are: Ma. Rebecca Aruyal 37/F, Cecilia Alfonso 49/F, Cesaria bajar 50/F, Kristina Dungca 19/F Bonnie Escolo 30/M, Ma. Melissa Estrada 31/F, Rolando Ganaban, 19/M, Hae Kim 24/F, Maricel Marcelo 42/F, Orlando In Ospital ng Makati, Pembo Makati, Ricardo Petras is still in their care. Robinson M, Robby Ross Serrano 22/M, and Shiela Mae Tingson 21/F.

On the latest news tonight, the remains of the reported missing person Maureen De Leon was located by the PNRC team and Makati rescue team at around 10: 30 PM. The body of the victim was excavated below the stair of the basement of the ruined building. The body was identified by Maureen’s cousin who is among the rescuer.

To date there are still two persons reported missing: Vergel Baron and Cristy Sulit. Len- len Tan and David Enriques who were reported missing earlier were already united with their families.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Restoring faith in government service

Address of Sen. Richard J. Gordon

29th Annual National Convention

Government Association of Certified Public Accountants
Waterfront Hotel, Cebu City
11 October 2007

You honor me by inviting me to keynote this 29th Annual National Convention of the Government Association of Certified Public Accountants. And I welcome the fringe benefit that this provides me to visit Cebu City once again.

When I address your association, I am aware not only of your numbers – 10,000 members and 25 chapters nationwide – but of your great importance to the machinery of government in our country.

What is not well-known is the work that GACPA is doing to enhance the professional well-being and improve accounting and auditing practices for the ultimate benefit of our country and our people. Even less known is the fact that some in your ranks have fallen in the line of duty – the victim of violence.

No work truly is more critical to the reputation of our government today than yours. And none, I daresay, will prove more vital in the years ahead to successfully fulfilling our aspirations to progress.

A Time of Opportunity and Challenge

You convene at a pivotal time of both opportunity and challenge in our country. Opportunity because our economy is performing well for a change and there is a sense of hope abroad in the land. But challenge also because there is disunity today in our society and political lines are hardening instead of closing.

As you all know, just over a month ago, we saw the unprecedented conviction of a former president on charges of plunder and corruption by our Sandiganbayan. While it saddened me to see a popular president disgraced in this way, I was lifted also by the fact that our graft court courageously meted out justice after a prolonged and exhausting trial.

The Sandigabayan verdict was huge and far-reaching in declaring that all our public officials, however high their position, are accountable for their acts in office. Many of us long ago despaired that a big fish would ever be caught and convicted in our country. And our country has long enjoyed internationally a reputation for world-class graft and corruption.

No one expects, of course, this one act of justice to whitewash the long history of corruption in our government. But I said at the time that this verdict could usher in a tsunami of investigations and convictions in corruption cases in our country.

I think the tsunami is already here – if you have been following the Senate hearings in the Senate and the many charges being hurled in the media and being investigated by the Ombudsman. And if we can keep an eye on the ball, we have a decent chance of turning a corner in our fight against corruption.

I mention this now in your convention because our successfully coping with corruption is critically wedded to your convention theme of “Harnessing GACPA potentials for Productivity, Value and Quality Service.” And you, as trained accountants, know better than most what really goes on in the underbelly of our government, and you too long to see accounts in order in agencies and units of the government.

Understanding the Problem

Aa a Filipino and as a public official, I do not relish being told whenever I go abroad about our huge corruption headache. Whenever they rank the competitiveness of nations, we are cited for corruption. Whenever the World Bank issues its Doing Business index, we are at the bottom of the list for the corruption problem we face.

But what really are the facts? Are things really as bad as they are saying?

Is it a case of one or a few rotten apples in the barrel? Or is the barrel itself hopelessly rotten?

During the budget hearing for the Office of the Ombudsman just last week, I asked its representatives how many of the 15,000 cases or complaints they receive _________ are just cases of harassment, and how many are really cases of corruption.

They answered that 70 percent are just cases designed to harass certain officials in government. 30 percent are the real thing.

Further, under my questioning, they said that the Ombudsman’s office has a 63 percent success rate in convicting grafters they hale to court.

The percentage of success is impressive. But then comes the downer. The great majority of the cases have to do with the small fry. Most of the really big grafters never have to answer for their misdeeds in office.

The other thing that is revealing about the phenomenon of corruption in our country is that most cases don’t really have to do with the malversation of public funds. The really prevalent kind – and the costly ones – are those that have to do with bribery, cornering government contracts, and misusing the discretionary power of public office. They relate to the difficulties of doing business in our country.

Here lack of transparency and accountability runs roughshod over the public good. Project costs become inflated. Transaction costs are high. Public services become derailed. And the spectacle of graft breeds our horrible international reputation for corruption because it is usually people doing business who are asked to pay the price.

Ultimately, of course, it is the economy and our people who pay the price – in terms of lost opportunity, lost job, and lost growth.

Solving the Problem

Lamenting the problem is never good enough, however. Solving the problem is what counts.

I know that there is a lot of cynicism about the public service in our country. Whenever we advocate ambitious change – such as reforming government service in our country -- there are always be those who are ready with the arguments to discourage us.

Some preach “the perversity thesis” -- that any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social or economic order only serves to exacerbate the conditions you wish to remedy.

Others offer “the futility thesis” – which says that any attempt at government transformation will be unavailing, that it will simply fail to make a dent.

And still there are others who will give you “the jeopardy thesis” -- which argues that the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high as it will endangers some previous, precious accomplishment.

This is the rhetoric of cynicism and reaction.

I do not concede this, however. You and I both know there is a way forward.

Whenever we talk about improving transparency and accountability in government, we don’t have to look for lessons abroad. We only have to look as far as our Commission on Audit.

I have much admiration for what COA and its government accountants have been doing in recent years to enforce processes and procedures in the expenditure of public money. I know this because I have been a Cabinet secretary and a local government official.

Indeed, COA auditors are sometimes so strict that they risk choking the life out of public service.

Given this tradition for scruples, COA I believe can have a pivotal role to play in effecting transparency and accountability in the government service. I would even venture that you can help in building more efficiency and effectiveness in government.

Beyond your focus on your role as watchdog, you could also perform a signal service in helping our public officials and public servants to do things right and better. You could assist in making them more transparent and effective.

As things stand today, our public and the world community only know only about the shenanigans in government. Little is known about the daily work that goes on that has to do with keeping agencies in check and accounts in order. We hear and read about the scandals. We know nothing about the graft that is daily being averted. Little do our people and the world know about the professionalism that goes into being a Filipino government public accountant.

It is on this tradition of professionalism that we can build the redoubt for honesty and probity in government. As long there is no moral inertia within your ranks, we can make a start toward change in our government bureaucracy

Public Advocacy of Accountability

Let us remember that all the advanced countries of the world went through their own dark nights of corruption before they were finally able to set to right their civil service.

Let us remember also that in recent years -- from Brazil to Japan, from Italy to Venezuela -- heads of state no less have been subject to charges of corruption. Corruption at all levels seems to be the hallmark not only of developing countries but also of a number of industrialized countries.

Yet at the end of the day, after all is said and done, governments are able to set things aright. Grafters are haled to court and sent to jail. And yes, even Presidents and prime ministers, are held to account. The business of the nation is able to move forward.

This is how it should be. This is what we must aspire for in our civil service.

We can’t do it all in a day. But the work must begin somewhere. And I would suggest to anyone who doubts that we can bring honesty and probity to government in this country, that they look at what our Commission on Audit and its auditor-accountants are doing. Here in your ranks can begin the transformation we all hope for.

Thank and may you have a most fruitful convention.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Adventures in Sulu

Team Gordon Baguio had remarked that there was hardly anything posted on the internet about the island province of Sulu.

Scanning the internet just today brought me to this blog post about Sulu and thought I'd repost this article from the Mindanao Examiner for everyone to read.

The sad and sorry fact about common perceptions about Sulu, Basilan, and other so called 'war zones' in Mindanao is that these perceptions are fueled by anecdotes from people who have either not been to these provinces or reporters who have gone to these provinces to cover military operations conducted in these areas. Naturally, to a reporter covering armed conflict stories in these areas, the tendency is to label the areas they visit as a 'war zone' if only because that is they story they are focusing on and that is all they see. Reporters sometimes focus only on the story that will make the headlines and not necessarily the whole story. If they go to Sulu with the military, their editors or producers will expect them to come up with stories about military encounters with armed groups and not stories about the best mangosteens and durian in the pacific. These latter stories are perhaps more fit for other kinds of publications and shows, certainly not newspapers and radio or tv newsprograms. They won't sell paper or airtime or will it? This is why we think that The Mindanao Examiner should be commended for this post.

Senator Richard Gordon's recent visit to Sulu (in August and September) helped bring into clearer light the conditions in Sulu, Basilan, and other areas in Mindanao suffering from being called war zones. His vision for these areas have been talked about but have not been exhaustively discussed.

One vision is to fully harness the agricultural potential of Sulu, Basilan, North Cotabato, and other areas in Mindanao. Another vision is to promote these areas as tourist destinations.

Sen. Gordon's Fruits of Hope program has already begun to break the negative perceptions about these provinces. People tasting the mangosteens, lanzones, durian, and marang coming from Sulu and North Cotabato have begun to think of these provinces as sources of premium exotic fruits. Beyond fruit, Sulu offers the most delicious organically grown coffee and the biggest, tastiest lobsters -- better than Palawan's. North Cotabato also has great goat meat -- not the usual goatmeat you'd find in Manila with all the bits of bone and sinew, but real goat meat that is all meat and tender.

Some have laughed at the idea of promoting Sulu, Basilan, and North Cotabato as tourist destinations. But laughing at the idea just betrays more of their ignorance about tourists and tourist destinations. Consider Mexico and the idea that fugitives are always said to go for its border when they are trying to escape the law, then consider Cancun. Consider Sao Paolo in Brazil, consider places in South Africa, etcetera... A great number of tourists, besides looking for some relaxation, are also looking for exoticism and adventure.

What can be more adventurous and exotic than Sulu? Think about it. Boracay is fine on any other day, everybody I know has been there. But if you're looking for some really great pictures and some really great stories to tell, you gotta go to places that people haven't been to before and then think about Sulu.

And, while we are on this topic, did you know that Sulu was once at the center of the Majapahit Empire, which was among the greatest empires in Asia around the 15th century?

Anyway, enough of this, if you want to read more about Sulu... here's the story from the Mindanao Examiner.

Sulu Province – The Land Of Treasures

SULU, Philippines - Far-flung Sulu is the southernmost part of the Philippines, lying between the Sulu Sea on the north and the Celebes Sea on the south. With fishing as its most important industry, it is classified as a First Class Province in terms of income.

The glorious Sulu Sea is dotted with coral reefs, such as the pearl farm at Marungas Island, and provides some of the world’s best dive spots. Tubbataha Reef is its best known site, a 33,200-hectare underwater splendor drawing divers from all over the world with its marvelous marine wilderness and special ecosystem.

Because of its fabulous beauty, the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park was honored by UNESCO in December 1993 as the first natural site in the Philippines to be inscribed in the prestigious World Heritage List.

It is the best known site in the Sulu Sea, drawing divers from all over the world with its underwater splendor and the rich marine life that abounds in the reef. Snappers, sweet-lips, groupers, angel fish, and morays can be found amid huge fan corals and sponges.

Large schools of barracudas, jacks, rainbow runners, and surgeons pass by while tunas race about.

The Sulu provincial capital is Jolo town. Its walled city is the smallest in the world, with its historic brick walls that lay proof to the city’s historic past.

Another attraction of the city is the Provincial Capitol with its moorish-inspired architectural design.

The province nurtures a harmonious coexistence of the two most dominant religions in the Philippines, Islam and Catholicism. There are beautiful Muslim mosques situated in each village, most notable being the majestic Tulay Mosque which now towers the Sulu skyline.

The existing churches of Christian faith in the province are the Jolo Parish Church, Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel, and Jolo Evangelical Church.


Sulu consists of over 400 scattered and almost isolated islands, stretching from the tip of Zamboanga southwestward towards Borneo.

It forms one of the three connections of the Philippines with Sabah. Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan is planning to convert some of these islands into world-class resorts because of their pristine and white sand beaches to help promote tourism.


Sulu is outside of the typhoon belt. Its climate is warm. Humidity is generally moist, but precipitation is constant throughout the year. February is considered the coldest month while May to August are the hottest, with mean relative humidity of 86%, one of the hottest in the country.

January to April is considered the dry period, with a monthly average of 7 to 9 inches of rainfall. The mean annual temperature is 26 degrees centigrade and the maximum is 27 degrees centigrade.

Language and Dialect

The principal dialect of the natives of Sulu is Tausug. The rest speak Samal and other dialects such as Visayan, Chavacano and Tagalog. English is widely spoken in Sulu.

Major Industries

While there is an absence of huge mineral deposits, Sulu nevertheless abounds in marine and timber resources and is believed rich in fossil fuel. Lying outside the typhoon belt, it is blessed with a year-round bounty from both land and sea.

Due to the character of the soil and climate, the province of Sulu grows a greater variety of products than any other part of the country. In addition to all the crops of the islands, which are abaca, coconut, and fruits like oranges, lanzones, and jacks, other fruits that do not grow in the northern islands are harvested here, such as the mangosteen berries and durian.

In September, some six tons of mangosteen and durian were shipped out to supermarkets in Manila and the fruits were completely sold out in hours. The shipment, Sulu Gov. Tan says, is part of the Fruits for Hope program. The international non-government organization, the Asia-American Initiative and Filipino Senator Richard Gordon also helped in the Fruit for Hope program.

Fishing is the most important industry. Sea turtles and fish of all kinds are caught. Otherwise the people engage in the industries of boat building, mat weaving, coffee processing, and fruit preservation (durian and mangosteen).

Trepang and pearls are extensively gathered in Sulu. Trepang, also called bêche-de-mer, is a sea cucumber of the genus Holothuria of the southern Pacific and Indian oceans, and is often dried or smoked for use as an ingredient in soup, especially in China and Indonesia. (Department of Tourism/Sulu Provincial Tourism Council)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Senate adjourns 4 days ahead of Oct. 12 schedule

Senate adjourns 4 days ahead of Oct. 12 schedule
Gordon wanted debate on village poll postponement By Veronica Uy
Last updated 03:31pm (Mla time) 10/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Senate adjourned Tuesday, four days earlier than the October 12 schedule in the calendar of Congress.

The early break elicited a reaction from Senator Richard Gordon who said that he would have wanted a debate on his measure to suspend the barangay (village) and sangguniang kabataan (youth council) elections this October to May 2008.

Gordon said he wanted a postponement of the October 29 elections so that the automation of the polls might be pilot-tested in several places around the country.

Gordon referred the sponsorship of the measure to Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri last week when he, as chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, went to Geneva for a board meeting of the international humanitarian organization.

But on the objection of Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the measure was set aside, killing all possibility for such a postponement. Pimentel said Zubiri could not defend the bill on the Senate floor without the corresponding committee formally delegating it to him.

Gordon belied this, saying anyone assigned by the Senate committee chairman could sponsor any bill, although he pointed out that the majority floor leader should be able to sponsor any bill.

“What’s more important, the automation of the elections or the barangay elections?” he asked.

Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada presided over the session attended by Senate Majority Floor Leader Francis Pangilinan and Senators Joker Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Panfilo Lacson.

Before this, the Senate suspended its session so that there would be no roll call this Tuesday. At least five senators, led by Senate President Manuel Villar, went to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Congress in Geneva. Those who went with him were Pimentel, Senators Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Loren Legarda.

Gordon conceded that the polls would push through this October 29. He said he would thus exert all effort so that the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in August 2008 would be fully automated.

Red Cross Seeks Blood Donations for Dengue Alert

Philippine Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard J. Gordon has raised an urgent call to the public to support the Red Cross blood drive in response to the Department of Health's alert on the rise of dengue cases.

Gordon, who just arrived from a meeting of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, wasted no time in checking and reporting on the PNRC's readiness to respond to the dengue alert.

"The Department of Health's dengue alert should be taken seriously by everyone. The Philippine National Red Cross is working to maintain ample blood supplies, but we must ask the citizenry to do their part and volunteer in our ongoing blood drive," said Gordon.

The senator stressed that apart from ensuring ample supplies in areas where dengue is widespread, citizens volunteering to donate blood to the PNRC will ensure themselves and their families of blood for their own use when they need it.

For the past four months, the PNRC Blood Services was able to collect an average of 2,800 to 3,200 blood units/day. The daily national blood demand is 2,000 units per day.

Dengue hotspot cases were noted last month by the PNRC in Region 6 (Iloilo and Bacolod City) and Region 7 (Cebu City) and 5 barangays in Pangasinan. Last year's reported cases as per PNRC data for the month of August and September 2006, were 817 dengue cases as compared for this year at 1056 cases. Blood units served for August and September 2006, were 2,375 blood units against this year at 3,189 blood units.

The Department of Health declared a nationwide dengue alert after recording more than 24,000 cases and 283 deaths so far this year. The National Epidemiology Center reported that there were 4,000 infections in September alone.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that as of July this year, Indonesia recorded about 68,000 cases, Thailand 24,000, and Cambodia 17,000. #

Impeachment vs GMA

Excerpt from ambush interview on October 9, 2007


Sir, anong implikasyon na taga-KAMPI yung namimili ng boto…?

SEN. GORDON: Sa akin, kung sinasabi ni Ka Bel yun then he should file a case against them. That is the best way, kase speculative lahat yan. Pwedeng sabihin ang kahit ano until you are serious about it. Pag-file mo ng kaso. That is bribery.

Kahit tinanggihan?

GORDON: Kahit na tinanggihan. The mere offer is bribery already.

Yun taga taga-Kampi would…?

GORDON: I don’t know the guy so I can not comment on that. Hindi naman ako KAMPI, LAKAS, at hindi naman ako NP. Wala naman akong partido.

Sir political party yan ni Pres. Arroyo?

GORDON: I think LAKAS si Pres. Arroyo diba?

KAMPI sir, pero allied with PGMA?

GORDON: I don’t know who the people are and I think the proper thing to do would be to file a case against this person. It is just like Neri -- Neri should file a case against Abalos.

Sir, do you find it odd na ang KAMPI allied with GMA will push for the opposition member?

GORDON: I find it odd na si Ka Bel pa ang ia-approach nila at o-operan ( offer) ng P2M. I really find it odd.

Why sir?

GORDON: Syempre outspoken yan. Sisigaw yan kaya duda din ako doon. Kaya sabi ko para malinaw, file a case.

Pinagdududahan ninyo din si Ka Bel?

GORDON: Paano mo naman lalapitan kung maglalagay ka…Maglagay ka doon sa mga hindi maingay. Maingay yan. Kapag inoperan mo yan syempre sisigaw yan.

Pero bukod kay Beltran may iba pa yatang opposition congressman na umamin na tinangka din silang suhulan.

GORDON: Well, then they have a case. Magsama-sama sila at may kaso sila.

Paano kaya dapat mag react ang Palace sa ganito isyu?

GORDON: I don’t speak for the Palace. I am not even a member of their Coalition here. I just vote on the basis of the issues.

Pero ang naging kalakaran ay puro pera-pera lang talaga.

GORDON: Hindi ba yan ang uso sa Pilipinas. Pera-pera na lang palagi? Lahat naman diba. Tignan mo sa ZTE, may pera. Hello Garci may pera. Ganoon na lahat dito kaya nga kailangang baguhin ang lipunan.

Kahit dito sa Senate?

GORDON: I would not be surprised. There have been allegations like that with other senators in the past. Ang impeachment is a numbers game and that is why a lot of allegations will come out. Maraming ingay na lalabas dyan kaya dapat sukatin natin kung sino ang nagsasabi, ano ang sinasabi, seryoso ba yan. At para malaman nating kung seryoso, mag-file kayo ng kaso.

Senate President and Company attends IPU soiree

While important bills and contentious issues remain unattended, Senate President Manuel Villar along with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano (and wife), his sister Senator Pia Cayetano, and Senator Nene Pimentel (and wife) are cooling their heals in Geneva, Switzerland.

What follows are Sen. Gordon's reactions to the Senatorial junket. (Excerpts from ambush interview on October 9, 2007)

Sir, ilan sa senador umalis para sa IPU ang leaving hanging po yun mga dapat na gawin…?

GORDON: Kailangan ba, everybody has to go to IPU? Look at the delegations and the accompanying people. You have a session until Wednesday. We have to have session and we cancel the session yesterday. Where are they this time. Ano pakisamahan na lang. Pagbigyan na natin. Pagbigyan mo na. Tahimik lang tayo.

Anong comment nyo sa Senate leadership kapag ganito lagi…?

GORDON: Dapat magkaroon ng liderato sa Senado na matino, na mayroon priority. Hindi puro imbestigasyon ng imbestigasyon na umaabot ng 12 hours na hanggang ngayon ay wala pang committee report. Dapat pwede na tayong makakita ng linaw dito sa mga nangyayari. Di pa ba malinaw sa tao? Kung talagang seryoso yan, dapat mag-initiate na sya ng filing ng kaso doon sa mga taong involved.

Kung kayo ang senate President ganoon ang gagawin ninyo?

GORDON: Hindi naman ako nag-a-aspire ng Senate President.

Kung sakali lang, dapat ganoon..?

GORDON: Ako ang uunahin ko, ano ba ang priority ng Senado? Hindi ako sumusunod doon sa mga senador, dapat namumuno ka—ito ang priority. Wala namang priority yata eh? Tatanungin ka kung ano ang priority tapos hindi naman umaandar. Katulad nito, para bang kailangang kausapin lahat at oo bago ka magkaroon… dapat iri-risk mo. Dapat Itutulak ko ito dahil kailangan ng bayan ito. Kung matalo eh di malalaman kung sino ang ayaw, hindi yung kailangan mag-OO muna ang lahat. Hindi pwede yun. Iyan ang kahinaan ng sistema, hindi lang sa Senate President. Kahinaan ng sistema dahil hindi umiiral yung policy system.

Hindi ba kayo nakakahalata na tuwing nag-a-adjourn lagi na lang nakabitin yung bill mo?

GORDON: Okey lang yun. Dismayado lang ako dahil parang naglolokohan tayo dito. Yung iba nagagalit sa porma pero yung substantive ay hindi hinahanap.

Noon ko pa sinasabi na bago mag-election na let us prepare for barangay. Nag-election ng Mayo—let’s prepare for barangay. We keep allowing our institutions to get away with it.