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Poll body junked DQ case vs. Yap

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Joyce Cabral and Billy Javier Reyes

MANILA, Philippines- The Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has junked the disqualification case filed by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Pamalakaya received a copy of the 10-page resolution penned by Comelec second division presiding Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph dated May 13, 2010 denying the instant petition for disqualification of Yap.

“After thorough examination of the proofs presented by both parties, we are convinced that Respondent Yap has met such requirement. The term “residence” is to be understood not in the common acceptation as referring to “dwelling” or “habitation” but rather to “domicile” or legal residence, that is, “the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and remain,” the Comelec second division said.

The poll body further said: “It has been established that the domicile of origin of the respondent is in Metro Manila. When respondent Yap decided to make Loboc, Bohol as his residence, such a decision did not begin and end by his intimation to Judge Fernandez of his intention. In 2007, Yap was laying the groundwork for his transfer to the said municipality.”

The Comelec said Yap visited local government officials and neighboring towns whenever his regular visits to the place permitted him. The election body said Yap’s intention was made clearer when he finally purchased the house of his mother-in-law in Barangay Buenavista in Loboc, Bohol.

“Although property ownership is not an indicia of domicile, the fact that the respondent bought the property wherein he resides adds to his foothold to the municipality. His attendance in barangay assemblies as member of barangay is indicative of his desire to integrate himself in the community,” the poll body added.

The Comelec noted that Yap’s contributions in the community were recognized when he was conferred the title “adopted son of Loboc, Bohol by way of Resolution No. 131 adopted on October 24, 2005. The commissioners said the law does not state that in abandoning his domicile, the candidate must divest any and all of his properties and interest attached to his previous domicile.

“We must take note of the fact that prior to his running for a House seat; he was the secretary of agriculture serving as alter ego of the President. Close proximity to Malacanang entails regular visits to the Metropolis. To maintain properties in furtherance of his profession could not be seen as an indication of non-abandonment of his previous domicile as held in Fernandez vs. HRET case,” the Comelec asserted.

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya-vice chairperson Salvador France, both petitioners in the disqualification case said the fight for the disqualification of Sec. Yap is far from over, and in fact’ the protracted fight against the removal of the former agriculture secretary from public office has officially started.

“The junking of our disqualification case against Secretary Yap is highly predictable from the very start. It is not surprising to us that Comelec had junked our case against Yap. It will be a major surprise of the election season if Comelec decided on our favor,” the two Pamalakaya leaders said.

However, Hicap and France said they would ask their lawyer on what would be the next legal action to be taken in connection with the Comelec decision. They said a motion for reconsideration may be filed before the Comelec or they may bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

“We see the junking of the disqualification case against Yap as an opportunity rather than a tragic defeat. The venues for the all out exposition of and opposition to secretary Yap as a power hungry and opportunist bureaucrat capitalist and corrupt public official will further go places including but not limited to Comelec and other appropriate courts,” the Pamalakaya officials added.

Pamalakaya said it will explore all available legal remedies to stop Yap’s illegal and immoral claim to represent the people of Bohol in the third district.

“His electoral victory is a product of political horse trading, highly questionable and totally ridiculous. We will explore all legal remedies to stop Sec. Yap from misrepresenting the third district of Bohol and use his illegally acquired position to get away with high crimes of corruption he committed during his tenure as chief of the agriculture department,” the group said.

Prior to the May 13 decision of the poll body, the lawyers of Sec. Yap said the poll body should immediately dismiss the disqualification case filed by Pamalakaya on March 9, saying that their client was able to garner 126,390 votes out of 173,539 total votes cast. According to Yap’s lawyers, this represents 72.8 percent of the total votes cast or an overwhelming majority.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sinaca vs. Mula (G.R No. 135691, September 27, 1999, 315 SCRA 266,282), Yap’s legal counsel asserted that when a candidate has perceived popular mandate overwhelmingly and clearly expressed, all possible doubts should be resolved in favor of the candidate’s eligibility for to rule otherwise is to defeat the will of the people. Ex-sec. Yap lawyers said, the determination of the true will of the electorate should be paramount, and that the voice of the people should prevail which is the essence of democracy.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya will send appeal letters to incoming congressmen and senators to investigate cases of corruption involving Sec. Yap particularly the P 455 million overpriced ice-making machines. The militant group said they will also ask the new congress under the Aquino presidency to investigate the unchecked operations of the National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor), an attached agency of DA which is implicated the questionable importation of 98 quick freezing machines.

On top of the P 455 million ice making fund scam, Pamalakaya said Yap and other NABCOR officials should also be investigated on the P 7.14 billion which the Commission on Audit (COA) cited in its’ 2008 report was missing, diverted or bungled. #

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Sariaya fish freezing machine, defective, time-ticking bomb, says fishers group

by Kremlin Montenegro and Sarsi Pimentel

MANILA, Philippines-The leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on said on Saturday, the fish freezing machine installed in the Sentrong Pamilihan ng Produktong Agrikultura ng Quezon (SPPAQ) in Sariaya, Quezon province is defective and likened it to a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente warned end users especially vegetable farmers and fisherfolk on the extreme danger posed by the quick freezing machine to health and immediate surroundings where the unit is installed.

Reports reaching the headquarters of Pamalakaya in Quezon City revealed that the machine is not an ice-making machine, but a quick freezing machine the employs a type of highly combustible chemical alcohol and formalin to assure freezing and maintain the freshness of fish and vegetables once these are stored inside the machine.

“It is like a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time because of the highly flammable substance used for quick freezing. The safety and the health of the people are sacrificed at the altar of this graft-ridden and corruption tainted machine,” Hicap and Clemente lamented.

On January 26, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reform (BFAR) deployed the quick freezing machine, one of the 98 units acquired by the government from the Integrated Refrigeration Systems and Services Inc, (IRRS), which was bought at an overpriced cost of P 4.6 million per unit or P 455 million.

The unit was disposed along Maharlika Highway in the village of Sampaloc II in Sariaya, Quezon. Hernando Decena, inventor of the freezer machine using the new brine immersion freezing (BIF) technology, explained that unlike conventional ice-making machines, his invention can store agricultural produce like fish, meat, leafy vegetables and fruits in sealed styrofoam foam boxes for two to three days without ice.
“If these commodities are placed inside standard refrigerators or freezers after being frozen in BIF freezers, these can last from six months to one year and still preserve the quality of these goods,” Decena explained during the demonstration. It takes as little as three to 30 minutes (depending on type, size and volume of product to be processed) to freeze a product using BIF, compared to the conventional method, which takes three-four hours, the DA said during the demo activity.

The machine is capable of freezing a maximum of 500 kilograms of vegetables in one operation. But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list leaders refuted the claims of the inventor, asserting that the same technology was banned in different countries like South Korea and the United States 30 years ago because of its devastating impact to health and environment.

Both groups also said the dangerous machine was overpriced by P 3.9 million per unit and P 2.3 million per unit as originally claimed by their groups. They said the industry players argued that the quick freezing machine bought by the government should only cost taxpayers a little over $ 15,000 USD or P 700,000 per unit and not P 4.6 million per unit.

Pamalakaya pressed Malacanang to recall the contract between National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor) and IRRS Inc. following the discovery of the overpricing and the defective status of the freezing machine. The group also said the government should immediately pullout the freezing unit in Sariaya to prevent it from causing future damages to the people.

Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis filed a plunder complaint and other criminal and administrative charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, officials of Nabcor and the Bid and Awards Committee of the Department of Agriculture and private officials representing IRSS in connection with the highly questionable procurement of 98 ice-making machines. #

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GMA, Secretary Yap told: Account P 7.14 B missing funds in 2008

by Pepsi La Loma, Sarsi Pimentel and Lollipop delos Reyes

Manila, Philippines- Leftwing activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to account a total of P 7.14 billion in taxpayers’ money, which the Commission on Audit (COA) found missing or diverted to other purposes in 2008.

In press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said President Arroyo and Sec. Yap did not disclose to the public the report and findings of COA about the disbursement of more than 7 billion pesos, which the state-run auditing body said was lost to “wasteful operation, bungled project implementation or missing and diverted funds.

“Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Yap concealed the COA report to the public for obvious reason—first rate crimes of corruption were committed involving billions of public funds courtesy of the Office of the President and the Office of the secretary of Agriculture,” said Hicap.

Quoting the COA 2008 report, the Pamalakaya leader said a total of P 5.19 billion intended for farm-to-market road project were either missing or incomplete. Hicap said the DA only spent P 1.3 billion or 38.99 percent of the total project allotment for 2008. Another big item, the P 1.3 billion fertilizer fund project under the GMA Rice Program was also bungled because local government units refused to participate in the implementation.

“The projects were reportedly incomplete. So the next question is where are the unspent funds? Are they really missing? Were they diverted or juggled to other highly questionable projects? What happen to the farm-to-market road project? Did it become farm to pocket (of GMA allies) road project?” asked Hicap.

Pamalakaya also took note COA’s other findings like printing of P 2.2 million fertilizer discount coupons which were rendered useless, the construction of mini-dams in Regions VIII, IX and XI built at a cost of
P 7.35 million but were rendered useless due to inferior construction, the construction of 11 Barangay Food Terminals worth P 1.55 million but only one was functional, and the remaining 10 were condemned due to operational deficiencies.

The same COA report described DA as notorious in purchasing equipment which are overpriced, not really needed or cannot be utilized or run by intended beneficiaries, adding that many of the equipment bought are unutilized, undelivered and now rusting in storage.
Pamalakaya said the earth shaking COA report should stop the national government and the agriculture department from buying 300 new ice-making machines to the amount of P 1.5 billion on top of the 98 ice-making machines which DA purchased in 2009 at an overpriced rate of P 4.6 million, 100 percent more of the prevailing industry price.

On January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis led complainants to the plunder case filed against President Arroyo and Agriculture secretary Yap and officials of National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) in connection with the controversial P 455 million overpriced ice-making machines project said the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor).

Hicap said DA and Nabcor will join the same private supplier- the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) for the importation of additional 300 units of ice-making machines under the P 1.5 billion ice making project.

“P 1.5 billion is P 1.5 billion. That’s a lot of money for electoral campaign. It can be used as a standby fund by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to corner the speakership in the House of Representatives,” he said referring to Arroyo’s alleged plan to seek the speakership post once officially elected as congresswoman of the2nd district of Pampanga.

Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis leaders led by Rep. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod filed the plunder and other criminal and administrative charges against President Arroyo, Sec. Yap and 13 other public and private officials

Pamalakaya said the agriculture department through Nabcor awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“The same corrupt actors are behind this P 1.5 billion upcoming ice-making machine scandal. We will not allow this icing on the cake ice making machines scam. We will pursue another case in the Office of the Ombudsman. We will write lawmakers to investigate this latest raiding of taxpayers’ money, we will ask the Supreme Court to stop this plunder adventure of Arroyo and Yap and we will aggressively explore the parliament of the street to demand truth, justice and accountability,” the group added.

Senior citizens were waiting for their turn to get their relief goods from Pamalakaya and Anakpawis volunteers. They could have more if not for the government's all-season crime of corruption

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