Daily Archives: January 8, 2008

PCCG Pursues Lucio Tan Anew: PCCG Pursues Lucio Tan Anew

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — THE Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) yesterday asked the Supreme Court to set aside its December 7 ruling nullifying the writ of sequestration orders issued against the shares of tycoon Lucio Tan in several companies including Allied Banking Corporation (ABC) and Fortune Tobacco Corporation.

In a 62-page motion for reconsideration, the PCGG through its special legal counsel Catalino A. Generillo, insisted that there is prima facie basis to justify the issuance of the sequestration orders covering ABC, Fortune Tobacco, Foremost Farms Inc., and Shareholdings Inc.

The PCGG, which is tasked to recover ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses,   further stressed that the decision of the Sandiganbayan which was upheld by the Supreme Court in its December 7 ruling was null and void as it has no jurisdiction over the petitions for certiorari, prohibition and injunction originally filed by Lucio Tan in the High Court, which the latter in turn referred to the anti-graft court.

The sequestration agency said that Presidential Decree No. 1606, the law creating Sandiganbayan, did not vest the said court with jurisdiction to take cognizance of such petitions.

The PCGG noted that Section 4 of P.D. 1606 gives Sandiganbayan the power to hear cases of violation of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; crimes committed by public officers and employees including those employed in government-owned corporations; and other crimes committed by public officers or employees in relation to their office.

Even if the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over to try and decide Tan’s petition, the PCGG claimed that it erred in holding that there is no prima facie evidence to justify the issuance of the sequestration orders.

“In the instant case, petitioner presented 190 documents as evidence. Respondents failed to rebut, explain or contradict the evidentiary facts upon which the questioned sequestration orders were anchored,” the PCGG said.

The High Court, in lifting the sequestration orders on Tan’s properties,  said there is no evidence presented by the government that the shares belong to the government or any of its branches, instrumentalities, enterprises, banks or financial institutions.

“Nor is there evidence that respondents, taking undue advantage of their connections or relationship with former President Marcos or his family, relatives and close associates, were able to acquire those shares of stock.” the SC said.

The Court noted that  the only evidence held by petitioner prior to the issuance of the writs of sequestration was the minutes of its meetings.

The PCGG, however, said that it is entitled to the legal presumption that its official duty was regularly performed and that matters discussed during its meetings have been carefully studied and reviewed by the commissioners.

“What is undeniable is the minutes of meetings indubitably prove that the decision to sequester was presented to the Commission. The approval by the PCGG of the recommendation to sequester shows it made its own independent determination of the existence of a prima facie case before it issued the writs of sequestration,” the PCGG added.

Furthermore, the PCGG noted that the anti-graft court failed to take judicial notice of the admission of former First Lady Imelda Marcos that her husband, the late President Marcos, owns 60 percent of the Tan’s companies.

“Sandiganbayan should have taken judicial notice of the admission of defendant Imelda Marcos that President Marcos owns 60 percent of the sequestered companies and his beneficial interests therein were held in trust by respondent Lucio Tan personally and through his family members and business associates who appeared as the recorded stockholders of said companies,” the sequestration agency stressed.

Mrs. Marcos’s admission, the PCGG said, should have put to rest the issue of whether there is prima facie evidence for the issuance of the sequestration orders.

The SC First Division, through Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez,  earlier affirmed the Sandiganbayan’s ruling that  there had been no prima facie basis to justify the government’s sequestration of the  subject shares of Tan.

“It must be emphasized that petitioner (PCGG)’s evidence does not show how the properties sequestered were acquired by respondents or that they are ‘ill-gotten wealth’ and whether former President Marcos intervened in their acquisition.” the High Tribunal  said.

The controversy involves the sequestration orders issued in 1986 and on January 7, 1987 by the PCGG covering the shares of stock of Tan and the other respondents in the firms. Soon after the issuance of the sequestration orders, the respondents petitioned to have the orders of sequestration lifted.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Habeas Corpus for Jalosjos Junked

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — THE Department of Justice (DOJ) Wednesday January 2, 2008 announced that the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City has dismissed the petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus filed by former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos for lack of merit.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said he has ordered the immediate return of Jalosjos from the San Ramon Prison and Farm in Zamboanga City to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa due to the dismissal of his petition.

“As far as we are concern we are pleased with the decision because it sustained the arguments we have raised…I have already issued an order to return him to the NBP because it is here where he originated,” the DOJ chief said in a hastily called press conference Tuesday.

Gonzalez said Zamboanga RTC Branch 16 Judge Jesus Carbon, who is handling Jalosjos’ petition for habeas corpus, based his decision on the resolution issued by the DOJ on January 1 which states that based on its computation of the former solon’s  good conduct time allowance (GCTA), he will be eligible for release by 2010.

The DOJ chief said he is expecting Jalosjos to file a motion for reconsideration before the lower court but this would not prevent his transfer to the NBP.

Earlier, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) argued that Jalosjos cannot avail of the writ of habeas corpus to secure his freedom since his detention is legal owing to his final conviction for statutory rape in 1997.

Devanadera noted that Jalosjos’s detention is pursuant to a final judgment of the Supreme Court convicting him of two counts of statutory rape and six counts of acts of lasciviousness.

Jalosjos escaped from the NBP compound on December 22 by virtue of a certificate of discharge signed by Superintendent Juanito Leopando. His escape also led to the removal of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Ricardo Dapat from his post.

But, the OSG said that the release order is not binding since Leopando failed to affirm its authenticity before the court and that the latter has no authority to allow Jalosjos’ release since Dapat has already issued a memorandum stopping his release.

“Petitioner evaded service of sentence. This is because his release date is still scheduled on June 24, 2010. Petitioner became a fugitive from justice when he fled from prison to avoid serving his full punishment. His warrantless arrest by PNP authorities on December 23, 2007 was, therefore, legal,” the OSG stressed.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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New Laws Take Effect in 2008

by Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — California lifestyle is expected to slightly change as new laws get implemented this year.

Among these new measures is the increase of the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8 per hour that took effect on January 1st. California, together with Massachusetts, now have the highest minimum wage rate nationwide.

The said law had been signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006 but only took effect this year. Last year, the governor approved a total of 750 bills but many of them have yet to get implemented.

New Road Rules

Several new traffic measures are also set for implementation this year.

Annual car registration fees will increase by $3 on July 1, partly to cover energy and clean-air programs of the State. The smog abatement fee will also be increased from $12 to $20.

While it has been circulating on the net as a hoax  for quite some time, California is set to enforce limited cellular phone use while driving on July 1. Under the new law, California drivers are required to use a hands-free device if they want to use their cellular phone while behind the wheel. As an accompanying measure, the law makes it illegal for drivers, seventeen years old and below to call or send text messages while driving.

Smoking in cars with a minor or minors as passengers is also prohibited. Violators can be fined up to $100. (See related story)

Other laws

This year marks the implementation of AB 976 which prohibits cities and counties from adopting ordinances the require landlords to check on the immigration status of tenants.

In the retail industry, a law is now in effect allowing consumers to redeem unused portions of gift cards and convert them to cash if the amount falls below $10.

For more information on various laws set for implementation this year, log on to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Smoking in Cars with Minors Faces $100 Fine

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — As California State health officials commemorated on Thursday, January 3 the ten-year anniversary of smoke-free bars, they also announced the immediate implementation of a new smoking ban. The “Smoke-free Cars with Minors” law, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle when a minor (17 years old and under) is present. A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

“Our efforts to address the dangers of second-hand smoke in California began over a decade ago,” said Kimberly Belshe, Secretary of  Health and Human Services Agency. “Today, our State continues to be a leader by ensuring that children and youth traveling in cars are not exposed to secondhand smoke in cars.”

She said that this law is no different from other safety laws enacted by California in the past, such as the law requiring children to be in car seats, the seatbelts law, and a law that prohibits people from sitting in the back of open-bed trucks.

“I am very delighted to be a part of this effort to provide education to the public about this important law,” said Senator Oropeza. “Our own children are the most vulnerable group that is subjected to secondhand smoke.”

The new law applies not just to parents. “Every smoker in a car with a minor can be cited,” Oropeza said.

The citation is given as a secondary offense. A motorist can not be pulled over strictly for smoking. A citation for violating the new law is given when the officer observes that the person is smoking when pulled over for traffic or other violations. “The main objective is not to collect fines but to get people to stop smoking in the car with their kids or other people’s kids,” Oropeza explained.

“Infants and children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Mark Horton, Director of California Department of Public Health.

To prove their point, Dr. Neil E. Klepeis, an environmental health scientist and consulting assistant professor at Stanford University, set up a demonstration during which pollution levels were measured by electronic equipment set up inside a car. A volunteer cigarette smoker then lighted up and puffed, while electronic devices measured pollutant levels in the car with the windows closed. At one point, the amount of particulate matter in the car reached over 6,000 micrograms.

“That’s an extremely high level of particulate matter in a car,” said Dr.Klepeis. “That is about 30 times the hazardous levels set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).” He noted that in the back seat, the accumulation of particulate matter took a little longer, but it reached about ten times higher than the level set by the EPA.

“With the windows (of the car) open, the levels did not go up as high, but the levels were still 10 to 20 times the EPA limit. “So the child in the back seat still is exposed to the high level of particulate matter,” Dr. Klepeis noted. He said that smoke could stay in the car for at least 30 minutes to two hours.
The State’s leadership and commitment to protecting residents from second-hand smoke began in 1994 with the passage of the California’s Law for a Smoke-free Workplace. The smoke-free bar provision of this law took effect in January 1998. “People should not choose between their health and their jobs,” commented Secretary Belshe’.

California’s public health policies are major contributing factors to the State’s low smoking rates. This state also has the lowest cigarette consumption per capita in the US and serves as a model for other States and countries.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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FilAms Join Annual Rose Parade

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

PASADENA, CA. — At 4 a.m., New Year’s Day, FilAms Jack Pimentel, 19, and Laarni Cordero, 16, woke up for a new experience.

While some kids their age were still in bed or barely getting home from their New Year’s festivities, Pimentel and Cordero were preparing to be part of the 119th Anniversary of the Rose Parade.

They were part of the Lions Clubs International Tournament of Roses that celebrated the New Year commemorating the United Nations.

Pimentel and Cordero are two of the 30 young Leos statewide carrying the flags of the countries that make up the United Nations.

“This is the first time that we’ve invited the young Leos to be part of the float,” said Mahendra Amarasuriya, the President of the International Association of Lions Club, one of the world’s largest volunteer service organizations.

The 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade featured 46 floats, 22 marching bands, and 19 Rose equestrians.

As the Lions group converged at the Double Tree Hotel in Montebello, excitement filled the chilly morning air.

“Oh yeah, I’m excited,” said Pimentel. “This is definitely an honor.”

Pimentel and Cordero sat in front of the bus resting for what would be a seven mile walk in front of millions of people in Pasadena and televised worldwide.

“I just hope I don’t trip,” said Cordero.

Rose Bowl

At 5:30 a.m.,  cars lined the entrance of the once empty parking lot beside the Rose Bowl. Parking was an adventure. Those who didn’t want to pay $30 parking rate, tried their luck circling the local neighborhood. Those fortunate enough to find parking in the nearby neighborhoods walked in pitch-black streets a good two to three miles away from the parade route. People were seen carrying blankets, seat warmers, and wear thick jackets to weather the chilly morning air.

Rose Parade Officials said people started camping on the parade route as early as New Year’s Eve afternoon.

“But this really start getting crazy until 6:30 or 7 a.m.” said Tom Fuelling, a Rose Parade Volunteer.

Tom O’Hara, Bob Spears, and a group of 20 friends were part of the Foothill Flyers Running Club. Every New Year’s morning, the group meets at the entrance of the Arroyo Seco Bridge known as the gateway into central Pasadena. The group runs three miles to preview the floats on the parade route on Orange Grove and heads back to the bridge to watch the fighter jets fly over.

“It’s become an annual tradition. We’ve been doing this probably for the past six to eight years,” said O’Hara. “But the club itself has done this for 20 years.”

“There is nothing like this in the world,” said Spears. “We run to the parade route, look at the floats, take pictures and run back just in time. We have the best view.”

“Afterwards, we all eat breakfast. We’re an eating club with a running problem,” O’Hara added.

International audience

Groups of weary eyed people wearing hooded sweaters inside their sleeping bags, or covered in warm thick blankets littered the sidewalks of Orange Grove Blvd. Some had slept perched up on their lawn chairs.

Ben Silva arrived at 11 p.m. the night before. He came to the event, along with a small number of El Salvadoreans,  to show their national pride. This year the Rose Parade featured a 230-member youth marching band Nuestros Ángeles de El Salvador.

“We’re all here for them,” he said, flanked by a few compatriots waving the blue-white-blue flag of El Salvador. “This is our chance to see them live.”

Filipino Daryl Famisaran, the field director for the Socio-economic Uplift Legacy Anthropological and Development Services (SULADS), traveled from Mindanao, Philippines. Famisaran, the National Awardee for Bayaning Pilipino Award, said he specifically wanted to see the bands and hear the music.

Famisaran arrived at 5 a.m. with friends Jocelyn Sonsona, and Dolly and Mike Sarsoza. Their small group perched up four lawn chairs just at the start of the parade route on Del Mar and Orange Grove.

“The last time I came here was 17 years ago with my kids,” said Dolly Sarsoza. “This is worth waking up early for.”

Protest

The parade filled with gallantry also had its share of detractors.

Protesters of human rights in China, anti-communist and anti-war activists peppered the streets. Mascots of President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary Condelezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld were seen in prison uniforms forming a chain gang. Some anti-war activists carried banners that read “Impeach Bush and Cheney.”

Meanwhile, protesters filled the corner of Ellis St. and Orange Grove where the Chinese Beijing 2008 Olympic float wait for the parade for begin. Some wore “Free Tibet” t-shirts, waved the Tibetan flag, and carried banners “In China, Human Rights is a Dirty Word.”

The President of the Los Angeles Friends of Tibet Tseten Phanuchares said that China has no business parading around in the New Year celebration.

“The situation in Tibet is getting worse,” she said. “China has a bad human rights record and should not be allowed to be in such a prestigious American tradition.”

Another protestor George Lee, who handed out leaflets to those passing by accused the Chinese government of organ harvesting.

“You know how long it takes for someone to get an organ in China?” he said. “One week. Here [in the US], it takes at least five years.”

Local Pasadena resident Annaliese Trejo praised the 2008 Olympic-themed Chinese float “One World, One Dream” as it passed by.

“I understand the protest but not here. Not on New Year’s,” said Trejo. “This is a day of peace and to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the US. The Rose Parade is a great way to start the year.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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