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ABS-CBN franchise: A legal perspective

Victor Avecilla



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Legislative Franchises

The current corporate name of the ABS-CBN broadcast network is ABS-CBN Corporation. During the period covered by its legislative franchise, it operated an extensive radio and television network in the Philippines.

Act No. 3846, as amended, is the pertinent law in the Philippines which requires a broadcast station or network to first obtain a franchise from the legislature before the station may commence and later, continue its operations. That is why the franchise of a broadcast facility is also called a legislative or congressional franchise. A legislative franchise is a statute, or in common language, a law. Pursuant to the legal system obtaining in the Philippines today, a legislative franchise is embodied in a Republic Act.

Like every Republic Act, a legislative franchise must go through the same exacting process of legislation, e.g., three readings on separate days, done by both Houses; approval at the bicameral conference; the signature of the President; publication in a newspaper of general circulation, etc.

As of writing, Act No. 3846, as amended, has not been repealed, and it remains in force and effect in the country today. Accordingly, no broadcast facility may operate in the Philippines if it does not have a franchise, or if its franchise has already expired and the same was not renewed by Congress.

Under the 1987 Constitution, any bill concerning a legislative franchise must originate from the House of Representatives of Congress. The Senate cannot initiate it.

Likewise, under the Constitution, a legislative franchise cannot be enacted for a period exceeding 50 years, but the same is without prejudice to periodic renewals when Congress so wishes. The Charter also provides that any franchise issued by Congress shall be subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by the legislature when the common good requires it.

The ABS-CBN franchise

ABS-CBN has had a number of legislative franchises issued in its favor by Congress in the past decades. Its last franchise is Republic Act 7966, which was enacted in 1995. That franchise allowed ABS-CBN to operate for 25 years. Its expiration was set to 4 May 2020.

As early as 2014, attempts have been made by some members of the House of Representatives to sponsor legislation to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN. Be that as it may, at the end of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III in June 2016, the renewal of the network’s franchise was still nowhere in sight.

Since the 1970s, the Lopez Family, which owns the controlling interest in ABS-CBN and its affiliated companies, has been publicly known to be a political ally of the family of President Aquino III. It is common knowledge that both families consider President Ferdinand Marcos as their political foe.

Political analysts suspect that Congress did not act on the renewal of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN during the administration of President Aquino III because the ties between the Aquino and Lopez families soured in 2015, when the network began broadcasting news reports that were considered as very embarrassing for the President. At that time, leaders of Congress were staunch allies of the Aquino III in the Liberal Party.

President Duterte at the helm

The situation became more complicated for ABS-CBN in June 2016.

President Rodrigo Duterte won in the May 2016 elections, and his political allies in the PDP-Laban Party dominated the House of Representatives. By the time President Duterte had warmed his seat in Malacañang, he did not conceal from the public his resentment toward ABS-CBN.

It appears that during the 2016 election campaign, candidate Duterte entered into a contract with ABS-CBN for the broadcast of his television campaign advertisements, and that notwithstanding the P2.6-million paid in advance by Duterte to ABS-CBN, the network reneged on its agreement and did not air his advertisements.

That omission notwithstanding, ABS-CBN repeatedly aired a political advertisement about candidate Duterte, one which features him using foul language and making offensive gestures, and of children asking the viewer at the end of the advertisement if the candidate’s behavior is acceptable. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a known critic of Duterte, paid for the broadcasts.

President Duterte also resented that ABS-CBN did not provide him a satisfactory explanation for the breach of contract, or apologize for the breach. He also lamented that the network did not refund to him the money he paid to get his advertisements aired.

President Duterte’s disdain for ABS-CBN reached its peak in 2019. In several press conferences and similar speaking engagements, the President announced that the happy days of ABS-CBN are numbered, considering that the network’s legislative franchise was, back then, set to expire soon, and that its renewal was unlikely.

Toward the end of 2019, the situation looked bleak for ABS-CBN. With the expiration of its franchise under Republic Act 7966 set by law for 4 May 2020, and the renewal of its franchise still nowhere in sight, ABS-CBN was running out of time.

Cayetano installed as House Speaker

That Alan Peter Cayetano was installed as House Speaker in the aftermath of the May 2019 midterm election did not provide any comfort to ABS-CBN. The new Speaker, after all, is a prominent political ally of President Duterte.

Cayetano was Duterte’s running mate intheMay2016presidentialandvice-presidential race, but he was defeated.

Reputed to be a traditional politician, Speaker Cayetano periodically gave the news media and the general public equivocal statements on the fate of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal in the House of Representatives. His statements ranged from assurances that action will be taken eventually on the matter, to assertions that the House is independent of the executive department of the government.

Petition for quo warranto

On 10 February 2020, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed in the Supreme Court a petition for quo warranto by which he sought the revocation of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN.

As the legal counsel of the national government, the Solicitor General is authorized by law to seek, through a petition for quo warranto, the cancellation of the legislative franchise of any grantee who violates the terms and conditions of the franchise.

Calida alleged in his petition that, among others, ABS-CBN violated its franchise by allowing aliens to stealthily own and/or invest in the network through an elaborate corporate set up; ABS-CBN charged fees for certain broadcast transmissions which, under the law, should be free of charge; and that the network has not been paying the correct amount of taxes.

Regarding the issue of alien ownership and investment in ABS-CBN, Calida cited Section 11 (1) of the Constitution which prohibits aliens from owning and/or managing mass media in the Philippines.

ABS-CBN opposed Calida’s petition and denied the allegations.

Cayetano’s congressional resolution

Calida’s petition prompted Speaker Cayetano to conduct hearings in the House of Representatives to discuss the possible renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba were among those who attended the hearings.

When it was clear that the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN was set to expire soon, and that there was not enough time left for Congress to properly deliberate on the renewal of the franchise, Cayetano and his congressional allies came out with a resolution authorizing the NTC to issue to ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate even after the network’s franchise shall have expired on 4 May 2020. Cayetano said Congress needed more time to take up the franchise renewal.

It was also learned that on past occasions, the NTC had issued a provisional authority to each of several broadcast stations whose franchises had already expired, on the ground that Congress needed time to deliberate on their franchise renewal.

ABS-CBN apologizes; Apology accepted

On 24 February 2020, at a hearing conducted by the Senate committee on public services, ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak apologized for his network’s failure to air President Duterte’s 2016 campaign advertisements, and for allowing the repeated broadcasting of the negative political advertisements against Duterte and paid for by Senator Trillanes.

Two days later, President Duterte told news reporters that he accepted the apology offered by Katigbak. He stressed that the franchise of ABS-CBN is in the hands of Congress, and that he will not interfere in the matter.

ABS-CBN offered to refund the P2.6-million paid by President Duterte, but the latter told the network to donate the money to charity.

Equity considerations invoked

On 4 March 2020, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra informed Congress that equity considerations justify the issuance to ABS-CBN of a provisional authority to operate even after its franchise shall have expired.

Guevarra observed that in as much as the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise was already pending in Congress as early as 2014, and that the delay in the congressional deliberations is not the fault of the network, equity bids that ABS-CBN be allowed to continue its operations, albeit temporarily, pending congressional action on the renewal of the network’s franchise.

In view of those premises, NTC Commissioner Cordoba promised Congress that the NTC will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN so as to allow it to continue operations even after its franchise shall have expired on 4 May 2020.

The Gadon petition

On 5 March 2020, one Atty. Lorenzo Gadon filed a petition in the Supreme Court to stop the NTC from issuing to ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate once the network’s franchise shall have expired on 4 May 2020. No restraining order or injunction was issued by the Supreme Court against the NTC, and, as of this writing, Gadon’s petition remains pending before the High Tribunal.

COVID-19 health crisis

Thereafter, on 15 March 2020, President Duterte placed the entire Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” to address the alarming spread of the dangerous COVID-19 disease threatening the Philippines and the world. With the lockdown and the related restrictions that came with the quarantine, the matter of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal was forgotten by many, Congress included.

Calida’s communication to the NTC

On 30 April 2020, Solicitor General Calida wrote a letter to the NTC saying the NTC is not authorized by any law to issue a provisional authority to operate to any broadcast network whose franchise has already expired. To hold otherwise, Calida said, is tantamount to a usurpation by the NTC of the exclusive power of Congress to issue legislative franchises.

Calida also mentioned that the commissioners of the NTC may find themselves facing anti-graft charges if they violate the law.

Later on, Speaker Cayetano castigated Calida for what Cayetano considered as the Solicitor General’s “unconstitutional meddling” in the exclusive concerns of Congress.

Calida denied Cayetano’s accusation.

ABS-CBN goes off the air

The next day, 4 May 2020, the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN expired by operation of law. That notwithstanding, the network continued to remain on the air the following day, 5 May 2020.

On 5 May 2020, the NTC issued an order directing ABS-CBN to cease operations effective immediately because its franchise had already expired the previous day. In addition, the NTC required ABS-CBN to show cause why its frequency assignments should not be taken away from it, in view of the expiration of the network’s franchise. The proceeding against ABS-CBN in the NTC was docketed as NTC Administrative Case 2020-08.

By 8 o’clock in the evening of 5 May 2020, ABS-CBN radio and television facilities covered by its franchise under Republic Act 7966 were off the air, in compliance with the order of the NTC dated 5 May 2020.

ABS-CBN continues on ANC and TV Plus

The NTC order notwithstanding, ABS-CBN kept its presence felt through ANC (the ABS-CBN News Channel), a 24/7 cable television news channel carried by Sky Cable Corporation, a company affiliated with ABS-CBN, and on its TV Plus platform.

At present, the programming of ANC and TV Plus includes TV Patrol (which used to be on ABS-CBN Television Channel 2), and Teleradyo, which is, to all intents and purposes, the network’s old AM-band radio program DZMM Teleradyo, but without the radio station’s call letters DZMM.

Likewise, Cinema One, a cable television channel carried by Sky Cable Corporation, features periodic segments which urge the general public to protest the absence of ABS-CBN on the air.

ABS-CBN petitions the Supreme Court

On 7 May 2020, ABS-CBN filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Supreme Court, praying that the order of the NTC dated 5 May 2020 be set aside for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. More specifically, ABS-CBN alleged that the NTC ordered the summary closure of ABS-CBN without affording due process to the network.

ABS-CBN also asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the NTC so as to prevent the latter from enforcing its closure order dated 5 May 2020, and also to allow the network to continue its broadcast operations.

The ABS-CBN petition is docketed as G.R. 252119, and is assigned to the Supreme Court

Provisional franchise approved, aborted

Days thereafter, Speaker Cayetano announced that the House of Representatives approved House Bill 6742, that will pave the way for the issuance of a provisional franchise in favor of ABS-CBN, which is to last for a period of six months, or until 31 October 2020. It was also announced that the House was ready to transmit the bill to the Senate for the latter’s deliberation.

ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak expressed his satisfaction over the approval for House Bill 6742.

Some members of the House of Representatives, however, contested the bill on the ground that it did not comply with the procedure mandated by the Constitution, particularly the requirement that the bill must undergo three separate readings done on separate days.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile shares the view that House Bill 6742 was approved under questionable circumstances.

Other members of the House of Representatives came up with House Resolution 853, which calls for an investigation of ABS-CBN for the network’s alleged violations of its franchise under Republic Act 7966, and of the restrictions recited in the Constitution and applicable laws. Those alleged violations are recited in the petition for which Solicitor General Calida filed in the Supreme Court.

The members of the House who are pressing for the investigation include Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, and Representatives Abraham Tolentino and Eric Go Yap.

Cayetano’s plans were derailed when, on 18 May 2020, the House of Representatives plenary voted to recall House Bill 6742 in order to allow interpellations and possible amendments to the measure.

Protests from ABS-CBN supporters

Supporters and sympathizers of ABS-CBN, which include politicians and public figures critical of the administration of President Duterte, as well as actors and actresses with employment and economic links to ABS-CBN, and just about anybody else who had anything to say about ABS-CBN’s expired franchise despite their limited understanding of the law, were quick to decry the fate of the network.

These critics equated the absence of ABS-CBN from the airwaves to the suppression of press freedom, unemployment of network personnel, and the loss of a source of information during the on-going COVID-19 health crisis.

In a letter to the editor dated 18 Many 2020 and published in another newspaper (not the Daily Tribune), an organization that calls itself the International Commission of Jurists said the closure of ABS-CBN was in violation of international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty to which the Philippines is a signatory.


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Cayetano delays ouster

Aldrin Cardona



House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s allies suspended Monday’s session to give their leader a chance to buy time and avert plans for his ouster.

Telephones burned all day at the Batasang Pambansa despite Cayetano, his rival for the speakership Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and President’s son Davao City Paolo Duterte not making their presence felt in the Chamber.

The two budget hearings set yesterday — those for the Commission on Elections and the Department of Foreign Affairs — were suspended.

A break of one day would allow Cayetano the precious hours to regroup his forces, which threatened of collapse until Monday when the majority squabbled over funds inserted into the 2021 national budget.

Even members of the House staff were kept off the session. Video and audio monitors were put off to keep talks within the session hall just among the lawmakers present.

Cayetano’s camp tried to downplay the calls to declare the speakership vacant, aired by Duterte over the weekend, by saying the incumbent speaker would still retain his post if subjected to another vote.

Other lawmakers, however, said it’s unlikely.

Cayetano is being questioned for cornering about P20-billion worth of projects from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for himself, his wife Lani and his closest allies.

The other congressmen, however, will receive only P2 billion or less for projects in their districts.

Taguig City alone will receive P6,918,662,000 to fund rehabilitation of roads, highway extensions, construction of pumping station and flood control structure, slope protection, site developments, buildings, parking areas and multi-purpose buildings.

All these projects are to be distributed in the city’s two congressional districts which Cayetano splits with his wife.

Camarines Sur’s first district, with Cayetano as caretaker after the demise of its elected representative Marissa Lourdes Andaya, will receive P288,244,000.

His ally LRay Villafuerte’s second district will get P3,304,781,000.

But some congressmen claimed they have more.

These complaints sent the House crumbling before the weekend with the Mindanao bloc threatening to force a new leadership.

Cayetano’s camp then moved to revive the budget for the grumbling lawmakers, using the Bayanihan 2 funds which are supposed to alleviate the people’s fight against the new coronavirus pandemic.

These will be used for the congressmen’s soft projects through the Local Government Subsidy Fund (LGSF), which include funding for scholarships, medical assistance, livelihood training and similar light projects.

Villafuerte had sent the congressmen messages to announce that they will get their share from the Bayanihan 2 funds.

“Your allocated LGSF for 2020 which were missing are back,” a message attributed to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte stated.

“We reinstated them as per instruction of the Speaker in Bayanihan 2,” he added.

“Here with guidelines please. Favor, kindly as you LGU (local government units) beneficiaries (through) Katy to comply ASAP because deadline is end of October,” his message continued, mentioning a name whom Tribune sources identified as a media liaison.

Cayetano said he will step down if asked by his peers.

“I advised them, if there are lawmakers who want to move, let them be. I will voluntarily step down,” Cayetano stated.

While Duterte vowed to distance from the inequitable distribution of the budget, he said he will respect the decision of the House members.

“Most of these concerns shrouded doubts over the process and mistrust of the lawmakers ruling the House, those who are acting as if they are bigger than their colleagues,” he stated.

“Now as Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it — let me reiterate my position: I do not want to get involved. However, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”

“I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand, before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair.”

“I leave this issue to the members of Congress as I believe that it is within their rights as elected officials to come up with a favorable solution to an issue that could badly impact the development of their districts and their people.”

“As a collective body, the members of Congress have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them to and address a problem to ensure that the programs and projects for their people are delivered and delivered expeditiously.”

“The members of Congress have the power to correct everything that they perceive as wrong happening within the Lower House or change leadership as they demand fair treatment and reforms.”

“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker. I am ready to accept the consequences,” he added.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the Chief Executive cannot meddle in the affairs of the Lower Chamber, even if his son moves to oust Cayetano.

“The Constitution is clear. Only the members of the House of Representatives can decide who would be their leader. We leave (the matter) to the House of Representatives,” Roque said.

The Palace official, however, said the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year should be passed “on time” despite the ongoing disputes in the Congress.

“Let’s just say that because the 2021 budget is also our biggest stimulus package, it is non-negotiable to the President. It needs to be passed on time,” Roque said.

In 2019, President Duterte brokered a term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Velasco to put an end to the speakership deadlock which bugged the House for months.

Duterte publicly endorsed Cayetano to be the House Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco will sit in the remaining 21 months.


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‘Election year fund’ open to corruption

Hananeel Bordey



Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned that the infrastructure budget and funds for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the 2021 national budget are in danger of being used for the 2022 elections.

Drilon noted that the 2021 national budget is considered as a budget in preparation for the elections.

“I would like to attribute good faith. You cannot discount that this is part of the preparation for 2022. I have been in Congress long enough to know that if there is anything you should exercise extra vigilance, it is what is called the election-year budget,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker generally said that lump sum allocations in some projects are prone to abuse or corruption.

So far, Drilon said the Senate has flagged the P469-billion lump sum funds under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the at least P16.5 billion for NTF-ELCAC.

Several members of the House of Representatives also questioned the DPWH budget, which listed more than P20 billion in programs allocated to the City of Taguig and Camarines Sur.

The two congressional districts of Taguig were split by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife Lani.

Camarines Sur’s first district is also under the care of Speaker Cayetano after the demise of its elected representative Marissa Lourdes Andaya early this year.

The second district of the province is represented by Cayetano’s Nacionalista Party ally LRay Villafuerte.

The funds will be under the care of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, son of former Senator Manny and Senator Cynthia Villar — the NP’s power couple.

“That’s our concern. We don’t want to attribute malice. Certainly, it is open to corruption and abuse for the 2022 elections,” Drilon said referring to the lump sum funds under the DPWH and the NTF-ELCAC.

The minority chief said the lack of transparency on the NTF-ELCAC funds have raised red flags on the allocations made by the Executive Department.

He said it is worrisome to provide P20 million to each barangay cleared of insurgency and the description of some projects was tagged as “soft programs” that include livelihood training, assistance to indigents in the form of medical, educational and transportation assistance.

“These are precisely the items which you recall in the past enabled the corruption. We recall the P728-M fertilizer scam. These funds could no longer be accounted. You remember there were ghost scholars and ghost trainings at the TESDA,” he explained.

“This is the reason why we are opposing this. Even in a CoA (Commission on Audit) audit, it is almost impossible for CoA to perform to audit this,” he added, noting that the task force will be ‘playing God’ in the release of funds.

Drilon said they will push its abolition if possible and will ensure transparency in the programs implemented by the NTF-ELCAC.

Just like the funds for the task force, Drilon said they will scrutinize the lump sum and re-appropriations flagged by Senator Panfilo Lacson under the DPWH budget.

“This is something that we will watch out for. This P469-B must be disaggregated. Otherwise, this will become a lump sum fund where the participation of Congress will become again after the enactment, which is prohibited under a Supreme Court decision. It is very critical therefore that P469-B should be identified,” he said.

Drilon, on the other hand, declined to comment on the row among some congressmen over the alleged inequitable distribution of funds for infrastructure projects under the 2021 National Expenditures Program.

“I will not want to respond to that. Inter-parliamentary courtesy prevents me from doing so. But we note that a statement of a certain congressman who said that they are frustrated about lack of transparency on discretionary items,” he said.

Drilon said the Congress should also decide whether it will prioritize the supply side or the demand side in terms of funding.

This is a matter that should be resolved as the budget for the Department of Health (DoH) only came fifth in the ranking despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a good debate. This is an ongoing debate. We’ll look at the budget as a whole because we are in a pandemic. This is a very peculiar budget. This is the first time we are confronted by this situation,” he said.

“Congress must decide which one to support more — the so-called demand side, meaning those who are needing the funds such as the social services. It’s a debate as to what should be given more emphasis: social services of infrastructure,” he added.

For him, the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management are seen leaning towards funding the infrastructure more than providing cash assistance to the consumers.

“Where do we put our money at least for next year? Which should be given more support? The infra projects or social service? When the decision is made, then you carry out that policy,” he said.

“Who needs them most? Our fellows who are now out of work and have less to eat — they need amelioration? Remember there is no (Social Amelioration Program) in the 2021 budget. This is a debate that we will have to resolve. This is a very crucial debate,” he added.

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Catriona fights back; fans defend Xyriel

Kathleen A. Llemit




It’s a tale of two women subjected to unwanted attention. Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray went to court on 18 September to sue a tabloid that published nude photos allegedly hers, but which she claimed as fake. Former child star Xyriel Manabat, meanwhile, had netizens coming to her defense after lewd comments on her Instagram post.

The beauty queen was accompanied by her talent manager Erickson Raymundo and legal counsel Joji Alonso at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on 18 September.

“The first case has been filed before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office while we await the results of the NBI investigation on the identification of other respondents,” Alonso posted on her Instagram account (@attyjoji) on 19 September.

The tabloid Bulgar published the alleged topless photos on its Facebook page on 18 July and in a print article the following day, 19 July.

On 21 July, Catriona sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation to locate the source of the nude photos. The photos were published following a controversy involving Catriona, her current boyfriend Sam Milby, and ex-boyfriend Clint Bondad.

On 30 July, Catriona’s camp sent a demand letter to Bulgar, with editor Janice Navida and writer Melba Llanera as respondents.

On 4 August, Navida posted a statement on the Bulgar website. It read in part: “Hope, too, that you may see our intention to help you in clearing your name to the whole universe that the nude photo circulating online is fake and edited only, that’s why when we learned about your clarification on the matter, we quickly posted your camp’s statement on our Facebook page and website to enlighten everybody about that controversial photo.”

Xyriel victimized by maniacs
Meanwhile, former child star Xyriel Manabat was subjected to lewd comments after she posted a selfie on her Instagram account (@xyrielamanabat). She posted the same photo but with different angles of her wearing a tight white T-shirt that showed off her ample bust on Monday and last weekend.

These were captioned with the mechanics of a sponsored contest. Netizens reacted with suggestive and sexual comments.

But others called out the negative comments, asking to stop sexualizing the teen actress.

The 16-year-old recently graduated from high school. She took a break from showbiz to concentrate on her studies. She rose to fame after starring in several dramas, notably the inspirational 100 Days to Heaven in 2011.

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PNP bags Dawlah Islamiyah recruiter

Kristina Maralit



A leading member of the Dawlah Islamiya operating in Metro Manila was arrested by elements of the Quezon City Police on Monday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief PGen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan announced the apprehension of Kevin Madriñan, also known by the aliases Ibrahim Abdullah Madriñan and Ibrahim Khalil Al-Garaba.

Madriñan was presented to the members of the media by Cascolan after the weekly flag raising ceremony in Camp Crame.

The PNP Chief said Madriñan has long been in the wanted list as a liaison officer of the terrorist group in Luzon.

Madriñan is also said to be a close associate of Abu Sayyaf Group commander Mundi Sawadjaan, who is among the government’s most wanted terrorists.

Sawadjaan was responsible for last August’s deadly twin blasts in Jolo, Sulu and the explosions that rocked the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in January 2019.

“He (was) under investigation. We (were) monitoring him. What we are looking into is the recruitment he has been doing here in Manila. His recruits, those we call “balik-Islam,” are sent to Mindanao for exposure on said (terror) activities,” he stated.

Cascolan noted that Madriñan, also an Islam convert, was apprehended by security officers late afternoon of Saturday, 19 September 2020, at Atherton corner Burbank Streets, North Fairview, Quezon City.

Seized from him were one .45 caliber pistol with a high-capacity magazine, a hand grenade, and three pieces of P1,000 bills.

Madriñan, Cascolan stated, had links with Ysuf Macoto of Cavite and Muhammad Paras of Bulacan.

Madriñan was left in Luzon to continue with his recruitment of converts when the two joined the Dawlah Islamiya forces in the siege of Marawi City in 2017.

Both Macoto and Paras died in battle.

Madriñan took over as the terror group’s point person in Luzon following the arrest of Datu Omar Palte, also in Quezon City, at the start of the year.

Palte formerly belonged to a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter led by Commander Esmael Abubakar alias “Bungos” and later joined Dawlah Islamiya, led by Esmael Adbulmalik alias “Turaife/Turaypi,” in 2018.

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Congress squabble derails ’21 budget

Hananeel Bordey



Drilon assures safeguards in National ID

The power struggle shaking the House of Representatives may derail the passage of the 2021 national budget which the Philippines could not afford to have, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned on Monday.

This will not be good to the country’s chance to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and may derail efforts to put the economy back in harness.

“Certainly, a power struggle in the House of Representatives will affect our timelines and I hope not because we are still in the middle of a pandemic, we have about 10 percent unemployment and we expect to have a contraction of our economy,” Drilon said.

“A delay in the budget will be very critical. We can only express hope that this power struggle, which is a business of the House, will not derail our budget preparations. We cannot delay the budget for 2021 because of the condition we are in today,” he added.

On Sunday, President’s son and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte confirmed sending a text message attributed to him with a warning to declare all seats in the House vacant due to the ongoing quarrel over the infrastructure budget under the proposed 2021 expenditure program.

Some lawmakers exposed House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as being able to get a lion’s share from the infrastructure funds for his district in Taguig City, as well as the other district represented by his wife Lani.

A new document obtained by Daily Tribune listed 53 projects amounting to nearly P7 billion for Taguig City.

Cayetano is a Nacionalista partymate of DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.

Villar’s parents — Manny and Senator Cynthia Villar — head the NP.

Botched deal
Cayetano’s questioned share of the DPWH funds is seen by others as related to the term-sharing deal between the House Speaker and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco which Cayetano no longer wants to honor.

Cayetano and Velasco have agreed to a 15-21 term-sharing agreement as proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Cayetano is now reneging on that deal despite Duterte’s latest vague remark on their deal.

“Lord is pitiful,” the President was quoted as saying.

Cayetano ouster
A “coup” was said to have been planned yesterday but lawmakers loyal to Cayetano suspended the session to give their leader more time to reorganize his group.

Cayetano, according to several lawmakers, is now using money meant for the Bayanihan 2, funds which are supposed to alleviate the people’s fight against the new coronavirus pandemic to appease the ongoing revolt against him.

Parts of it will now be used the congressmen’s soft projects through the Local Government Subsidy Fund (LGSF), which include funding for scholarships, medical assistance, livelihood training and similar light projects.

As if to confirm the lawmakers’ claim, a message from Villafuerte was sent to many of their peers, saying: “Your allocated LGSF for 2020 which were missing are back. We reinstated them as per instruction of the Speaker in Bayanihan 2.”

Noting the House’s previous experience after the ouster of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Drilon said a change in leadership will affect the budget-crafting process.

“We are not talking in theory. We have actually experienced in the House of Representatives caused the delay in the budget. The budget provides the spending authority for the government. If there is no spending authority because of the delay in the budget, what would happen is, there will be a re-enacted budget and a re-enacted budget would mean that new programs will not be funded,” he said.

Terrible effects
“The effects will be terrible. We expect our GDP to contract by anywhere between 6 to 9 percent by the end of the year. If we again delay the budget for 2021, you do not expect a recovery or the recovery will be derailed. More than any other time in the past, it is critical that the budget be enacted on time,” he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III shared Drilon’s opinion but he said the Upper Chamber cannot interfere with the squabbles in the House of Representatives.

“If they do not settle their issues, yes, the budget might be delayed. But I’d rather no(t) meddle and speculate on what’s happening in their turf,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said the arguments in the House will also cause the deterioration of respect to the institution.

That’s pork
“More than the possible delay in the passage of the 2021 national budget, any ugly squabble in plenary over the distribution of earmarks aka “pork” is exactly that — ugly,” Lacson said.

“When statesmanship goes out of the window, our people’s respect towards the legislature as an institution as well as its individual members somehow dissipates. Any way we look at it, it is sad and lamentable, to say the least,” he added.

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Meralco discount for lifeline users

Maria Romero



The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country’s biggest distribution utility, on Monday said it has paid the P19-million fine imposed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for allegedly violating billing advisories during the coronavirus lockdown period, which resulted in “bill shocks.”

Meralco said it has settled the amount a month after the ERC imposed the penalties. The electricity retailer, however, wanted the regulator to reconsider the second component of the fine.

“Meralco filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration (concerning) the directive to provide a retail rate discount to lifeline customers,” Meralco told the local bourse. The company was referring to the discounted rate given to low-income households that cannot afford to pay at full cost.

The ERC previously directed Meralco to set the charges to zero for a month for some two million “lifeline” or low-income customers who use less than 100 kilowatt hours of energy, to provide them relief amid the health and economic crisis.

The total discount to be provided to all lifeline consumers was estimated to be around P200 million, which should not be charged to the non-lifeline consumers.

Meralco earlier announced it would voluntary provide power rate discount totaling P101 million as relief to 2.77 million lifeline customers to mitigate the impact of the health crisis.

Meralco filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration concerning the directive to provide a retail rate discount to lifeline customers.

The ERC pointed out that Meralco failed to inform consumers that their electricity bills were “estimated” during the strict quarantine period, or when restrictions prevented Meralco representatives from reading meters in households.

The ERC previously directed Meralco to set the charges to zero for a month for some two million lifeline or low-income customers who use less than 100 kilowatt hours of energy, to provide them with relief amid the health and economic crisis.

According to ERC chief Agnes Devanadera, Meralco also violated the installment payment scheme mandated by the commission, adding that the firm’s neglect “created chaos and confusion” among the public.

The backlash from customers over the power rates during the quarantine period has prompted the ERC, the Department of Energy and lawmakers to conduct separate probes.

Meralco has since apologized for the bill shock and assured lawmakers that customers were only charged for the actual electricity they consumed.

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Stop gap





All is not lost for tourism workers who lost their jobs when the coronavirus pandemic shut down business establishments. Take it from former Boracay acoustic singer Jason Plaza who was forced to return home to Capiz.

Plaza used to make P2,500 to P3,000 per night singing in bars in Boracay. When community quarantine shut down the nightlife in the world-famous resort island, the cash flow stopped. Plaza eventually found his “voice” through online busking and harana.

From his home, Plaza sings live on Facebook and earns tips from online viewers worldwide. He now earns P10,000 per session. He also does online serenades at P400 per song. His earnings now sustain his family.

The good thing about Plaza’s means of livelihood, including his acoustic shows in Boracay, is that he gets paid at the end of every gig. The same goes for other musicians like him.

In the gig industry, the practice of “perform now and get paid later” is rare. If it ever happens, performers should avoid performing live the out-of-this-world piano piece titled “As Slow as Possible,” created by the late American composer John Cage in 1985; it also has an organ version written in 1987.

Cage is well-known as the composer of “4’ 33”” in 1952. The piece is plain silence for four minutes and 33 seconds.

“As Slow as Possible” is more unconventional than “4’ 33”” in that its performance will last more than several lifetimes.

The organ recital started at the St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany in 2001 followed by an 18-month pause. It took another 12 years before a note changed.

The gap before the next chord change is long, but there is already a fan base waiting for it in February 2022.

Attendees to an organ symposium in the German town of Trossingen in 1997 decided that Cage’s piece should be performed for 639 years, the equivalent age of the world’s first large organ built in Halberstadt in 1361.

The performance, which is currently directed by Rainer O. Neugebauer with the help of other musicians, will end in 2640.

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Paolo nixes Cayetano

Aldrin Cardona



The hours leading to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s requested meeting today with Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte was quickly broken by the presidential son’s jig away from the squabble over the uneven budget distribution at the Batasang Pambansa.

Several lawmakers claimed Cayetano has sent an SOS to the young Duterte as his seat is now threatened with barely two months left in his 15-months of the term-sharing deal for the speakership brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

A meeting with the Davao City lawmaker, one congressman said, could save Cayetano from ouster if the planned call to declare all House seats vacant today transpires.

The young Duterte, however, opted to distance himself from the burning issue.

“As much as I am part of Congress with a duty to be involved in the goings on inside, I cannot discount the fact that I am a Duterte,” he said. “Anything that comes out of my actions or mouth could be construed or manipulated as having the blessing of my father. And so I would rather suffer or work in silence rather than sacrifice the supposed independence of the House from the Palace.”

That said, another Daily Tribune source stated, makes Cayetano’s hold on the speakership untenable despite the deal which he now reportedly wants to unilaterally scrap.

That “gentlemen’s agreement” was for Cayetano to lead the House of Representatives for 15 months — which his camp said would end in October — before Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco takes his turn at the House leadership for 21 months until 2022. The third party to that deal, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, agreed to sit as House Majority Leader for one full term.

Not so gentlemanly
Cayetano’s peers, however, are saying the Speaker is reneging on that deal. Last week, Cayetano had asked the President’s position on the deal but received a vague answer.

A day after, leading house members questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) over its distribution of projects in the billions of pesos to the districts of the City of Taguig and Camarines Sur.

Taguig City is divided into two districts, one of which is represented by Cayetano while the other has his wife, Lani, as representative. They used separate addresses and voted in separate precincts when they ran, despite being husband and wife.

Camarines Sur’s District 2 is represented by Cayetano ally Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.

District 1 has Cayetano, himself, as its “caretaker congressman” following the death of Marissa Lourdes M. Andaya on 5 July this year due to cancer.

The Cayetanos’ and Villafuerte’s districts received more than P20-billion worth of projects from the DPWH, whose secretary Mark Villar (son of Manny and Senator Cynthia), is a Nacionalista partymate of Cayetano and Villafuerte.

This sent a good number of congressmen grumbling about what they called was an “unfair treatment” from Cayetano. Many of them receive less than P2 billion in infrastructure funds yearly.

These congressmen said they are supporting calls to declare all house seats vacant. It could be raised today, they said.

The young Duterte had earlier expressed his frustration on the uneven budget distribution, a fact he admitted in his statement.

In his message to his allies, Duterte said he was never consulted by Cayetano on the budget distribution and opted to stay away from the wrangling bunch.

The young Duterte added: “I will ask the Mindanao bloc to declare the seat of the speaker and deputy speakers vacant on Monday. The Mindanao congressmen will not perish if they will not be given a share of the budget. I am also encouraging the minority.”

“Most of these concerns shrouded doubts over the process and mistrust of the lawmakers ruling the House, those who are acting as if they are bigger than their colleagues,” he stated.

“Now as Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it — let me reiterate my position: I do not want to get involved. However, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”

Spare chamber’s credibility
“I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand, before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair,” he explained.

“I leave this issue to the members of Congress as I believe that it is within their rights as elected officials to come up with a favorable solution to an issue that could badly impact the development of their districts and their people.”

“As a collective body, the members of Congress have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them to and address a problem to ensure that the programs and projects for their people are delivered and delivered expeditiously.”

“The members of Congress have the power to correct everything that they perceive as wrong happening within the Lower House or change leadership as they demand fair treatment and reforms.”

“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker. I am ready to accept the consequences,” he closed.


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Go: Medics need back up





With the unrelenting pandemic, the country direly needs to form a Medical Reserve Corps to address the health crisis and those that may emerge, Sen. Lawrence Christopher “Bong” Go said.

He expounded that the coronavirus disease contagion took the whole world by surprise since in just a span of a few months, the health crisis altered the way humanity lives.

“It will continue to influence the way we move forward in the foreseeable future,” he explained in his weekly “GOing Forward” column.

He noted that it has been a tough fight for the whole country, especially for medical professionals who are at the frontlines of this battle.

“While we continue to handle this crisis with a whole-of-society approach, we learn lessons on where our country lacks in resources and where we need to improve our response to this health threat,” the senator indicated.

As Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, Go said it is his duty to push for measures that will improve the well-being of Filipinos.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that our country of more than 100 million Filipinos needs proper and sufficient healthcare facilities to cater to all their medical concerns,” he averred.

Better health force
Go is advocating the swift passage of Senate Bill 1451 or the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020, which aims to mobilize a dedicated group to complement the existing health force and support emergency response efforts during a crisis.

The bill seeks to give the Secretary of Health the authority to mobilize, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Departments of National Defense, Education and Interior and Local Government, persons with degrees in medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields who have yet to obtain their licenses. Of course, they will be duly compensated once called for duty.

“It is a grim reality that our medical personnel are already strained by the number of COVID-19 patients. This, in turn, hinders our overall capacity to combat other diseases immediately and effectively. This also leads to the delayed treatment of our fellow Filipinos who are suffering from other ailments,” according to the close ally of the President.

“We believe the additional support provided by a medical reserve corps will be of great help to our limited healthcare system,” he added.

Measures pushed
The senator had authored and filed laws that aim to improve the country’s health infrastructure such as increasing the bed capacity of government hospitals, creating numerous quarantine facilities and testing laboratories and establishing different health units across the country to enhance the capabilities in epidemiology and disease surveillance.

In the 18th Congress, through the concerted efforts of legislators, Go listed several health-related measures which were eventually signed into law such as the Malasakit Centers Act; bill increasing the salaries of our civil servants, including our government doctors, nurses and other allied professionals; and bill increasing the hospital bed and service capabilities of several government hospitals scattered around the country.

“While I am glad that we are making good strides on this aspect, there remains another gap that needs to be addressed — and that is the low number of country’s medical personnel,” according to the solon.

Medical professionals can only handle so much during a health crisis, Go noted. “I have personally seen how exhausted and affected they are during this pandemic. In order to help them, we need to increase our medical human resource. President Duterte himself has acknowledged this and deemed this an urgent matter in his latest State of the Nation Address,” the senator related.

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