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Monthly Archives: June 2012

US Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare

ObamaCare is constitutional – US Supreme Court

Download the US Supreme Court decision upholding ObamaCare here. This was originally uploaded in the US High Court’s website.

Robert Barnes of Washington Post filed this report:

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the individual health-insurance mandate that is at the heart of President Obama’s landmark health-care law, saying the mandate is permissible under Congress’s taxing authority.

The potentially game-changing, election-year decision — a major victory for the White House less than five months before the November elections –will help redefine the power of the national government and affect the health-care choices of millions of Americans.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sided with the majority in voting to uphold the law, Obama’s signature domestic initiative.

US Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare’s constitutionality

Passage of the legislation by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 capped decades of efforts to implement a national program of health care. The legislation is expected to eventually extend health-care coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack it.

Republicans in Congress and GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney have vowed to try and repeal the measure after the November elections.

The health-care issue thrust the Supreme Court into the public spotlight unlike anything since its role in the 2000 presidential election. The court’s examination of the law received massive coverage — especially during three days of oral arguments in March — and its outcome remained Washington’s most closely guarded secret.

The court reviewed four questions: whether it was within Congress’s constitutional powers to impose an “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance; whether all or any additional parts of the law must be struck down if the mandate is rejected; whether an expansion of Medicaid was unduly coercive on the states and whether all of those questions can even be reviewed before the mandate takes effect.

On the Medicaid question, the judges found that the law’s expansion of Medicaid can move forward, but not its provision that threatens states with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if the states declined to comply with the expansion. The finding immediately raises questions as to how effectively the federal government will be able to implement the expansion of the joint federal-state insurance program for the poor.

The most crucial issue before the court was considered to be the individual mandate, known technically as the “minimum coverage” provision, because striking it down would jeopardize the ability of insurers to comply with other, more popular elements of the health-care law without drastically raising premiums. Under those other provisions, for example, insurers can no longer limit or deny benefits to children because of a preexisting condition, and young adults to up age 26 are eligible for insurance coverage under their parents’ plans.

During oral arguments in March, conservative justices indicated they were skeptical about the individual mandate, the provision in the 2,700-page health-care law that requires nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty.

Arguing the case for the Obama administration, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. defended the law as a constitutional exercise of congressional power under the charter’s commerce clause to regulate interstate commerce. He said lawmakers were regulating health insurance to deal with the problem of millions of people who lack coverage and therefore shift costs to the insured when they cannot pay for their medical care.

(Continue reading this story in the Washington Post website.)

Also read:

Supreme Court Allows Health Care Law Largely to StandNew York Times

US Supreme Court Upholds Obama Law’s Requirement That Most Americans Have Health Insurance – Time Magazine 

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International group slams Aquino human rights record

Philippines: Two Years Under Aquino, Abuses Go Unpunished
No Successful Prosecutions of Security Forces for Killings, ‘Disappearances’ (press release from Human Rights Watch)

(New York, June 28, 2012) – President Benigno Aquino III of thePhilippines has not fulfilled his promises to hold accountable the security forces responsible for serious abuses since taking office two years ago, Human Rights Watch said today. The Aquino government has not successfully prosecuted a single case of extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance, including those committed during his presidency, Human Rights Watch said.

In his inaugural speech on June 30, 2010, Aquino gave “marching orders” to the Justice Department to “begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.” Five months later, at an event to commemorate human rights, he said that, “The culture of silence, injustice and impunity that once reigned is now a thing of the past.” And during his 2011 State of the Nation Address, Aquino reiterated this commitment, saying, “We are aware that the attainment of true justice does not end in the filing of cases, but in the conviction of criminals.”

“President Aquino has not lived up to his promises to bring those responsible for serious abuses to justice,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Concrete measures – rather than more promises – are needed now.”

Human Rights Watch today released a video, “Philippines: No Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” in which family members of the “disappeared” call on the president to live up to his promises of justice.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2011 report “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” documented 10 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances since Aquino took office. No one has been arrested in any of these cases, and the three “disappeared” people remain missing.

The Aquino administration has not taken the needed steps to bring recent cases of serious abuse to trial, Human Rights Watch said.

In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2010, President Aquino noted the case of Francisco Baldomero, an activist from Aklan province who was killed on July 5, 2010, as among those “on their way to being resolved.” An arrest warrant has been issued for Dindo Ancero in the case, but he has not been apprehended and the case was “archived” – put on hold – in January 2011.

An arrest warrant was issued but never served for one of two suspects in the killing of Rene Quirante, a left-wing activist who was beaten and shot by uniformed men on October 1, 2010, in Negros Oriental province. A relative of Quirante’s has alleged that the suspect has been seen in the company of soldiers. “Nothing is happening,” Quirante’s relative told Human Rights Watch in April. “We’re growing tired of waiting for justice.”

English: Human Rights Watch logo Русский: Лого...

English: Human Rights Watch logo Русский: Логотип Хьюман Райтс Вотч (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human Rights Watch has monitored progress on cases of killings and enforced disappearances under the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. If progress has been made, it is often because of the perseverance and courage of family members, rather than aggressive action by police and prosecutors, Human Rights Watch said.

For instance, in the 2006 disappearance of two university students, Karen Cadapan and Sherlyn Empeno, family action was crucial in bringing the two soldiers to trial for their kidnapping and illegal detention. The trial for the two soldiers started in May. However, the men are not in civilian custody but are being held in a military camp. Two others implicated in the students’ disappearance, including retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, the commander in the area at the time, have evaded arrest. Human Rights Watch has received information that military and business interests are protecting General Palparan.

In the past decade, state security forces in the Philippines have been implicated in the torture, enforced disappearance, and killing of hundreds of leftist activists, journalists, and clergy. The communist New People’s Army and other insurgent groups have also been responsible for killings and other serious abuses. Under President Macapagal-Arroyo, government security forces conducted a massive campaign targeting groups deemed to be Communist Party fronts and their alleged members and supporters. The number of killings and disappearances implicating the military has gone down under the Aquino administration, but they continue.

The Philippines’s human rights record was scrutinized at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during its Universal Periodic Review in May. Several countries – including the United States, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Holy See – raised alarm over the continuing killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. During the sessions, several countries urged the Aquino administration to end impunity for these abuses.

Human Rights Watch has longstanding recommendations to Aquino to initiate the comprehensive reforms necessary to end impunity for serious abuses. He should order the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate police and military personnel, including at the command level, who have been implicated in killings.

He should also make clear to the police that they are responsible for vigorously pursuing any crimes committed by government officials and police officers and that if they do not, they will become the target of a criminal investigation. He should order the military to cooperate with civilian authorities investigating military abuses or themselves face sanctions. And he should take immediate steps to ensure that the country’s witness protection program is independent, accessible, and properly funded..

“As President Aquino himself pointed out, the conviction of those implicated in abuses is the true test of his commitment to his promise,” Pearson said. “So the government needs to move beyond simply identifying suspects and obtaining warrants to actually apprehending the suspects and putting them on trial.”


July 2 2012 Special Holiday – Pasig City

Pasig City’s 439th anniversary is a local holiday,

according to Proclamation 410

If you are working in the Ortigas business district, this is good news for you.

President Benigno Aquino has declared July 2, 2012 a special non-working holiday in Pasig City. The city will be marking its 439th anniversary on the said day. The declaration was made by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 410, which you can access in this link.

Signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa last June 18, the proclamation aims to give Pasig City residents the “full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.” July 2 is a Monday, and this effectively gives the people of Pasig a three-day weekend.

According to pay rules laid out by the Department of Labor and Employment, workers who choose not to work on special non-working holidays are not bound to receive anything except if there is “a favorable company policy, practice or collective bargaining agreement (CBA) granting payment of wages on special days even if unworked.”

Meanwhile, employers are required to give employees who will report for work on this day 30% of their regular rate for the first eight hours of service rendered. Those who will work beyond eight hours (by necessity, perhaps?) should get plus 30% of their hourly rate for this holiday.

As per DOLE guidelines, employees are entitled to a holiday premium only when “he/she is present or is on leave of absence with pay on the work day immediately preceding the holiday.”

For example, if your work schedule is from Monday to Friday, then don’t be absent this June 29. That is indicated in DOLE’s Handbook on Worker’s Statutory Monetary Benefits (released in 2010).Download the handbook in this link.


Monthly Winner, AllVoices American Pundit Contest for June 2012

One submission stood out above the rest. With ‘A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan,’ Mark Pere Madrona of the Philippines earns the on-topic prize. This marks the second time that an American Pundit winner hails from outside the United States.” – Excerpt from the news article

AllVoices.com, an international online citizen journalism platform based in San Francisco, California, has announced today that I am one of the two winners in their ongoing American Pundit Contest.

Writers from all over the world can join the competition, which runs until November 5, 2012 (or a day after this year’s United States presidential elections). The other winner is Amee Ellsworth of Bennett, Colorado.

AllVoices is seeking “well-informed (and) well-written political reports that relate to the 2012 election” for the competition. Every two weeks, AllVoices also announces specific topics that interested parties may write about.

AllVoices.com American Pundit Contest - June 2012

A Philippine writer won in AllVoices.com’s American Pundit Contest. 🙂

For the first half of June, participants were asked to “write about how America and the world would be different if any of the eight U.S. presidential elections since 1980 had gone the other way” (Carter winning reelection over Reagan in 1980, and so on).   

I imagined how different things would have been for the world had Reagan, a close friend of former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, failed in his bid to unseat President Jimmy Carter. AllVoices gave this brief summary of my opinion piece titled “A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan”:

In writing about Reagan’s see-no-evil policy toward U.S.-allied strongmen such as Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti and the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, Madrona explains how the U.S. commitment to international human rights became a glaring sham under Reagan.

Had Carter won re-election, Madrona argues that “it is not realistic to believe Carter would have suddenly cut ties with all pro-American strongmen. Instead, he could have sent a strong signal about his stand on democracy by being more assertive in pushing for meaningful political reforms.”

You can read this prize-winning in this link. The article unsurprisingly triggered negative reactions from Reagan supporters. A user named “Anyvoice” called my piece the “most idiotic guess work,” saying that Carter “was the one who brought the rule of the Ayatollahs to Iran, (which) created the nuclear threat of today.”

Mark Pere Madrona - AllVoices

My opinion piece “A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan” has won in AllVoices.com’s American Pundit Contest for the month of June.

He added that had Carter won a second term, “the whole world will be like the Middle East now.” A commenter named Adrian Holman claimed that the scores of American hostages held in the US embassy in Tehran would still be in Iran if not for Reagan.

The citizen journalism website noted that this is only the second time since the competition was launched last January that a non-American writer had won. According to AllVoices, my win gives the competition organizers “a chance to reiterate that while The American Pundit deals with Campaign 2012 in the United States, writers from all over the globe are welcome to participate.” Looking at the roster of past winners, I am fairly certain about being the only winner from Asia so far.

AllVoices describes itself as “the world’s premier platform for citizen journalism.” It aims to provide “a community-driven platform for open, global news, and idea exchange.”

AllVoices - American Pundit Contest winners

Nice to see yourself in the gallery of winners, eh? 😀

Anyone can report news on AllVoices through its website or via SMS. The idea behind AllVoices first came about in 2005 during the aftermath of a strong earthquake in Pakitan, the native country of its founder Amra Tareen.

Speaking to About.com’s Tony Rogers, Tareen said she wanted to share her impressions of the disaster to the whole world but she has no platform to do so. According to Forbes.com, AllVoices has 300,000 site-contributors from 161 countries worldwide – as of 2010! Evidently, AllVoices, a site not affiliated with any mainstream media outlet, has further upped the ante of citizen journalism worldwide.

PS: This is the first time I’ve won in an international competition, and oh boy, being described as a “writer from the Philippines” gave me chills!


Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David withdraws HB 6195

Solon drops measure after drawing flak from OFWs

Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David (4th distrct) is now rescinding her initial sponsorship of House Bill 6195, which would have amended parts of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Protection Act of 1995. Rep. Bonoan-David’s camp sent to The Filipino Scribe a copy of the lady solon’s official announcement Friday afternoon.

Dated June 18 and addressed to House Majority Leader (and chair of the Committee on Rules) Neptali Gonzales, Jr., Bonoan-David said she is withdrawing sponsorship as principal author of HB 6195 “after some careful consideration on (its) provisions.” Curiously, a copy of the said bill is not uploaded in Bonoan-David’s page in the House of Representatives website.

trisha bonoan david HB 6195

Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David has officially withdrawn her sponsorship of House Bill 6185 (click to enlarge)

Filed last May 17, HB 6195 will require departing overseas Filipino workers to pay US$50 as contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration emergency repatriation fund. The Manila solon said her bill “intends to provide the necessary measures for the government to carry out its responsibility to assist distressed OFWs in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events, and promote their general welfare.”

The bill has received a firestorm of criticism in the social media, led by migrant workers’ rights advocate Susan Ople and other organization of overseas Filipino workers. In her blog, Ople described HB 6195 “bereft of logic” and “inimical to the welfare and rights of our OFWs.” The 2010 senatorial candidate added: “(The bill) touches a sensitive nerve because of its gross insensitivity to the heavily burdened life of an OFW.”

trisha bonoan david congress

Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David is now in her second term in Congress.

Bonoan-David is currently serving her second term in Congress. She has not indicated if she will seek reelection in next year’s midterm polls or if she will instead run for a higher post in Manila.

PS: Ms Susan Ople has mentioned this post in her latest blog entry.


Accepting the post of Chief Justice is Renato Corona’s original sin

In Christian theology, “original sin” refers to the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden upon the instigation of the evil serpent. This mistake, the story goes, made the entire humankind separated from the good graces of the Lord. The only way they can redeem themselves is to accept the Lord wholeheartedly.

The senate, sitting as an impeachment court, found Renato Corona guilty last May 29 of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution. Aside from losing his post as Chief Justice, Corona’s benefits, retirement pay, and pension are automatically forfeited. He is also permanently barred from holding public office. Meanwhile, he may soon have to deal with plunder and tax evasion charges. And if one House solon will have his way, Corona may also lose some of his properties.

Now besieged with an unending litany of problems, Corona must be regretful by now of his original sin – accepting the post of chief justice from then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo back in 2010. Of the five senior magistrates considered to succeed retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno, only Corona expressed willingness to be appointed to the post.

Then-President Gloria Arroyo swearing in now-impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 17, 2010. (credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piercingpens/4629094892)

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales (who are cousins) said they will only accept the post if the appointment is made by Arroyo’s successor. The Supreme Court eventually decided that Arroyo can appoint Puno’s successor because the judiciary is not covered by the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

Then-candidate Benigno Aquino III immediately issued a stern warning against Arroyo’s potential appointee. Manila Standard’s Rey Requejo reported that Aquino raised the possibility of impeachment, especially “if it can be proven the (abovementioned Supreme Court) decision was not done on sound legal principles.” This can be construed as an obvious threat against Corona, who was described then in the media as Arroyo’s fair-haired boy, having voted in her favor 78% of the time as of 2010.

Arroyo announced Corona’s selection as the country’s new top magistrate two days after the May 10, 2010 presidential elections. Aquino grudgingly emphasized this fact in a speech he made a week before his congressional allies initiated the impeachment bid against Corona.

During the impeachment trial, it was revealed that Corona has been under-declaring his total assets for years already. It can be recalled that Corona’s lawyers argued that 1) he has no obligation to declare his dollar accounts because of the absolute confidentiality clause in Republic Act 6426 (or the Foreign Currency Deposits Act), and 2) most of the money being attributed to him are actually commingled funds.

If Aquino was able to appoint Carpio back in 2010, does it mean that Corona will be able to get away from his supposed crimes? (credits: http://www.pinay-adobo.blogspot.com)

It is now up to history to judge if the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona did the right thing. Now, for the sake of discussion, it is worth asking: what if Corona had not committed his original sin? What if Arroyo decided to instead let her successor appoint the new chief magistrate rather than insist on bestowing herself that right? What if Aquino had been able to name his preferred chief justice (most likely Carpio or his cousin Carpio-Morales)? Will anyone bother to probe Corona’s alleged shady financial dealings if things had gone the other way right from the beginning?

Must read:

“Why nobody is criticizing Bongbong” – Editorial of The Freeman (June 2, 2012)


Presbitero Velasco – the dark horse in the race for Chief Justice

Will he appoint a Chief Justice compliant to his wishes? What is more important to him, a compliant Chief Justice or one who has a mind of his own? – Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila

Much of the attention in the ongoing search for the country’s next Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice is currently centered on three individuals – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. If there’s one person who might just become President Benigno Aquino III’s surprise pick for the post, then it is Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco.

Appointed in 2006 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Velasco is now the Supreme Court’s second most senior magistrate (next only to Carpio). Because of this, he is an automatic nominee to the post vacated by impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. The low-profile Velasco earned his political science and law degrees from the University of the Philippines. He placed sixth in the 1971 national bar exams.

Born in 1948, Velasco served as Court of Appeals justice from 1998 to 2001 and as Court Administrator from 2001 to 2006 prior to his promotion to the SC. He was recognized by the Consumers Union of the Philippines as the Most Outstanding Jurist in 2000. What makes Velasco a potential safe pick for the post is that he doesn’t share the baggage that his fellow nominees have.

Presbitero Velasco, Supreme Court Associate Justice, can be the dark horse in the race to succeed Corona (credits: http://www.sc.judiciary.gov.ph)

As the most senior SC magistrate, the 62-year-old Carpio is the logical choice for the post. He declined to be nominated in 2010, insisting that he’ll only accept the job if given by Arroyo’s successor. Three senators (Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jinggoy Estrada, and Francis Escudero) have publicly cautioned Aquino against appointing Carpio. Escudero noted that Corona had insinuated that Carpio is involved in the smear plot against him. For her part, Defensor-Santiago said that if Aquino appoints “someone close to him” to the post, then he accused of “deliberately getting rid of Corona in favor of an ally.”

Why Aquino may possibly appoint Velasco

Velasco’s son, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, is one of the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona, a move initiated by Aquino’s allies in the Liberal Party. Thus, the elder Velasco had to inhibit when the petition of Corona seeking to nullify the impeachment proceedings was assigned to him.

Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque signed the impeachment case against Renato Corona (credits: http://www.marinduquegov.blogspot.com)

His son’s decision to back Aquino’s effort to oust Corona will certainly put the elder Velasco in the president’s good graces. Another motivation for Aquino to appoint Velasco is the need to soothe relations with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). According to a report by Newsbreak’s Ariel Rufo, the influential religious group lobbied for Velasco’s installation to the SC.

Nonetheless, one issue that will surely weigh down Velasco’s chief justice prospects is his highly-publicized tiff with veteran journalist Maritess Danguilan-Vitug. Five months before the 2010 elections, Vitug published an article alleging that Velasco openly solicited support for his son’s congressional bid. One barangay captain accused Velasco of offering to underwrite the campaign expenses of those who run in his son’s slate. The justice filed 13 counts of libel raps against Vitug at the Manila prosecutor’s office four month after the story appeared.

If appointed, Velasco will serve as the country’s chief magistrate until 2018 just like Corona, or two years after Aquino’s six-year term ends. While Carpio remains the prohibitive frontrunner in the race for the top post in the Philippine judiciary, having Velasco as the next chief justice is not exactly far-fetched.

Read:

Aquino toady can’t be SC chief by Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila


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