Friday, May 29, 2009

Gordon proposes addition of ninth ray to RP flag’s sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By adding a ninth ray in the sun to represent our Muslim brothers, I think we make ourselves one with them. They are the Filipinos who were very successful in thwarting colonialism in our country,” Gordon said. (30/tgp)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vigilance needed for 2010 poll automation preparations - Gordon

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today called for perpetual vigilance from all stakeholders and the public; as well as meticulous adherence to the timetable of preparations to ensure that the automation of the May 2010 presidential election is implemented.

Gordon, father of election modernization in the Philippines, made the call as he expressed optimism that today’s demonstration by the “single complying calculated bid” signifies that the preparations are finally taking off.

“That is a welcome development because it raises hope that the Filipinos’ cherished dream of having automated elections is getting closer to being turned into a reality next year,” he said.

“But we still have to be perpetually vigilant despite the transparency showed by the Comelec (Commission on Elections) in conducting the bidding to ensure that nothing will impede the attainment of this dream,” he added.

The Comelec-Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) has announced that the consortium of Smartmatic International and Total Information Management Corp. (Smartmatic-TIM) had “the single complying calculated bid” for the contract to automate the 2010 polls.

The SBAC ordered Smartmatic-TIM, which submitted a bid of P7.2 billion, to undergo post-qualification proceedings immediately and that its machines be forthwith tested to determine compliance with the criteria set for one worthy of this historic leap in Philippine elections.

But it stressed that the announcement was made without prejudice to the consortium of AMA Group Holdings and Elections Systems and Software International (AMA-ES&S), which is expected to file a motion for reconsideration of its bid.

The Comelec is hopeful that the declaration of the firms with the complying bids would get its preparation back on schedule because it would hasten the bidding process that has been delayed by two weeks.

Gordon, author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the amended Automated Elections Law, urged observers to remain watchful during the demonstration to ensure that the system requirements prescribed by the law are strictly complied with.

“The law stipulated system requirements that act as safeguards to make automation work. Nevertheless, we need to keep our guard up to ensure that these requirements are rigidly met,” he said. (30/lap)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gordon: Surveys on candidates should be kept private to prevent mind conditioning

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said that political surveys should only serve as a guide for candidates and therefore should be kept private to prevent undue conditioning of people’s minds.

Gordon said the main purpose of surveys, particularly those about how well political candidates are doing, is to help aspirants decide for their political careers.

“Surveys must be used as a guide for candidates to inform them privately on where they are strong or where they are weak, or what issues they need to engage in or what platforms they need to embark on,” he said.

The senator added that since there is a cost involved in subscribing or sponsoring surveys, the results of such polls should not be used to massage the minds of the people or to create a bandwagon effect on the electorate.

“People who can subscribe or sponsor surveys should not be allowed to use survey results to get more money and support for their candidacies simply because they are ranking very high on these polls,” Gordon said.

He also cautioned the public on their basis in choosing the next leaders of the country, stressing that the qualifications of a candidate should be the primary consideration in deciding for the nation’s future officials.

Gordon said every vote is precious, which is why it is important that people use their right of suffrage wisely. The electorate should know every candidate’s position on issues crucial to the nation’s progress and development.

“We must be able to discern well for the common good of our nation. If we believe in a candidate’s qualifications and track record, we should vote for that candidate and not let others influence us,” he said.

“Election is not about popularity or money. It is about the careful choosing of our nation’s next leaders who should have clear vision, right values, track record, competence and integrity,” he added. (30/tgp)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Give poll automation a chance instead of derailing it – Gordon

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today called on detractors of the planned automation of the May 2010 presidential elections to stop inciting public distrust against automation by casting doubts about its feasibility.
Gordon, father of election modernization in the Philippines, made the call in the wake of a bill reportedly filed in the House of Representatives on succession to the presidency to foreclose the possibility of a vacancy in case of failure of elections and terrorist attack, among others.
“Papaano tayo magkakaroon ng demokrasya kung hindi natin aayusin ang ating pagboto? Why don’t we give automation a chance? Ang mindset kasi natin, hindi pa tayo nagsisimula tinatali na natin ang ating sarili,” he said.
“Yun ang gusto kong baguhin sa ating bayan. We have to break down the walls in our minds that were erected by the foreign colonizers which prevent us from having confidence in our capabilities,” he added.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has embarked on preparations to implement a nationwide automation of next year’s elections, as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the amended Automated Elections System that the senator authored.
The Comelec is in the process of selecting the company that would provide the automation technology and is looking towards announcing the winning bidder before the end of the month.
But some sectors have been trying to derail the preparations, casting doubts on the poll body’s capability to implement a nationwide automated election next year.
Members of the House of Representatives warned that the possibility of a failure of elections in May next year has become real in view of the difficulties that the Comelec is encountering.
Fears of a no-election scenario arose after the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) initially disqualified all seven bidders for failing to meet certain eligibility requirements.
“Maraming duda eh tapos na. Pinaghirapan namin ng apat na taon sa Kongreso yan. Bakit ngayon sasabihin hindi na naman kaya. Yun ang sakit natin. Hindi natin magawa-gawa yung dapat nating gawin pagkat duda tayo ng duda,” Gordon lamented. (30/lap)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gordon vows to remain independent on Senate investigation vs Villar

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today vowed that he would remain impartial in the ongoing probe of the Senate committee of the whole on the complaint filed against Sen. Manny Villar for the alleged double budget insertion in the C-5 road extension project.

“I would like to manifest that I am going to vote independently, fairly and firmly on this matter. There is no bias on my part on this hearing,” he said.

Gordon, vice-chairman of the Senate ethics committee, said it is unfair that he and other members of the panel are being accused of using the complaint against Villar to their political advantage.

“I would just like to make it clear that even before we convened into the committee of the whole, the Senate ethics committee has given Sen. Villar the chance to defend himself,” he said.

“I even heard him say that he is not afraid to face any inquiry here at the Senate. But his actions are different from what he says. He does not attend the hearings or inquiries on the case against him,” he added.

Gordon explained that the ethics panel was never remiss in its duty to keep the hearings fair to all senators facing charges before the committee.

He stressed that they even manifested that there should be a member of the Senate minority in the ethics panel to further ensure impartiality in the hearings and proceedings of the committee.

“The members of the ethics panel manifested that the minority should have a representative in the committee. We have given them the chance. I want to make that very, very clear so that we would not be accused of using the Senate for whatever personal or political gains,” Gordon said.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fortify law and order to end political killings—Gordon

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said that strengthening the country's law enforcement system is more effective, rather than putting up a reward system, in resolving the problem of extrajudicial killings.

Gordon's statement came following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's call on lawmakers to use part of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) to help raise P25-million, which will be used to fund a reward system for informants who could foil political killings or lead to the arrest of masterminds.

"While efforts to address the culture of impunity are always welcome, such efforts should be well considered in order to be effective. The high incidence of extrajudicial killings in the country reflects the weakening of our law enforcement and prosecutorial institutions," he said.

Gordon, noting that the government already created Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission to put a stop to political killings, said that more than putting up a reward system, what the country needs is to fortify law and order.

He explained that the country's police force should be strengthened by having police investigators undergo advanced trainings in obtaining pieces of evidence and on the proper conduct of criminal investigations.

"Our police force should improve their criminal investigation techniques and use intelligence funds to identify organized crimes in the country, perpetrators of assassinations and gun-for-hire syndicates," Gordon said.

He added that putting up a reward system would give incentives to people who, often only by accident, present an opportunity to help in the prosecution of suspects but not in the prevention of crimes.

"Rewarding informants will affect only the percentage of crimes solved but will not automatically lead to a decrease in the incidence of crimes. The fund should instead be used to equip and train our police and military," Gordon said.

The senator also said that the government should be more cautious in the use of financial resources because the fund could be more useful for many other important and immediate needs of the citizens.

"We need to be judicious in allocating scarce government funds especially at this time of financial turmoil. P250,000 taken from the priority development assistance fund of every member of Congress may spell life and death for a constituent in need," he said. (30)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Keep your guard up to ensure transparency in poll bidding - Gordon

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today called on official observers to ensure transparency of the public bidding for an automated election system to guarantee the success of the May 2010 automated presidential elections.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Disaster preparedness measures key to survival against calamities—Gordon

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


During its 62nd anniversary last April 15, the PNRC distributed new Emergency Response Units, including 32 ambulances, 10 fire trucks and four motorcycle ambulances to its local chapters across the country.(30)