Posts Tagged ‘supreme court’

During last week’s SC oral arguments, the Solicitor General said that the Disbursement Acceleration Program no longer exists thus making the petitions before the court moot. The line was new insofar as we’ve never heard this from the President, during his televised defense of DAP or during media interviews. Of course it is a bit of a stretch to argue that the petitions should be thrown out because the DAP has been terminated as early as mid-2013. Constitutional issues remain.

More importantly, accountability issues remain. Look at how DAP was probably used in 2012 based on a memorandum from the Department of Budget and Management.

In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, DBM secretary Butch Abad sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion. No other lucky province received such allotment for that year based on the memo. The project had prior approval by the President.

DBMs Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. The project had prior approval by the President.

Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, along with “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion. We suspect that these “priority local projects”, often considered priorities upon the recommendation of politicians, could be where the pork for lawmakers goes. At the time of the memo, the projects have not yet been approved by the President.

Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. Another P1 billion was allotted as a credit facility exclusively for agrarian reform beneficiaries, through the Land Bank in coordination with the Department of Agriculture. Both projects had prior approval of the President at the time the memo was submitted.

From the above, DAP has all the markings of presidential pork. It is a mechanism used to pool so-called “savings” then utilize these for “priority local projects” that are often upon the recommendation of the local and national politicians. Abad said that some 116 projects were funded through the DAP. All of these projects had presidential approval, he said.

One justice had asked Abad if the allegations of bribery during the Corona impeachment were true. Abad said there was no bribery and that the DAP funds did not go directly to the lawmakers.

Maybe. But isn’t that what the PDAF was all about? Those accused of corruption in the PDAF always say that they never touched the money; that they simply recommended projects and that implementation was done by government agencies. Yet everyone knows that in the course of implementation, the money does always end up with the politician. DAP is no different, especially when the budget secretary says politicians merely “recommend”.

DAP the stimulus mechanism may be “dead” according to the DBM, but the presidential authority used to pool “savings”, and utilize these for items not included in the General Appropriations Act, that’s a different matter altogether. The authority to utilize “savings” for the pet projects of politicians remains. That authority, if we are to believe the Solicitor General, is a valid exercise of presidential prerogative.

DAP’s not dead. And so is the corruption that comes with this serving of presidential pork.

Sa Enero 21, nanawagan ang Bayan ng pagkilos sa harap ng Korte Suprema at sa iba pang mga lugar, laban sa pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente ng Meralco. Panawagan ito sa lahat ng galit sa pang-aabuso ng power industry at sa sabwatang Meralco-Aquino.

Magkaano muli ang itataas ng singil sa kuryente ng Meralco?

 

Sa orihinal na plano, isang one-time P3.44kWh increase ang balak nila. Kung kasama ang VAT, aabot ng P4.14/kWh ang itataas ng singil sa kuryente.

Dahil sa public pressure, at para i-preempt ang House hearing, ginawang staggered ng Meralco ang rate hike. Sumulat ito sa ERC. Spread over 3 months na lang daw ang increase. Sa unang buwan pinakamalaki, aabot ng P2.00/kWh

Inaprubahan ng ERC ang mungkahi ng Meralco na gawing staggered ang increase.

Hindi nagkaroon ng public hearing. Ayon sa Meralco at ERC, automatic pass-on ang increase na ito at hindi na kailangan pang dumaan sa public hearing. Mahalaga ang puntong ito sa usapin ng due process at interes ng mga konsyumer.

Ano ang ginawa ng mga tutol sa rate hike?

Naghain ng petition ang Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan at ACT Teachers partylist sa SC para hilingin ang TRO sa increase. Kasama sa demanda ang Meralco at ERC. Naghain din ng petisyon ang Nasecore.

Nag issue ng 60-day TRO ang SC kontra sa rate hike bago mag-Pasko. Ipinatigil ang koleksyon ng dagdag singil. PERO MARAMI NA ANG NAKABAYAD. Dapat isapubliko ng Meralco kung gaano na kalaki ang nasingil nito bago ipataw ang TRO at kung nasaan ang pera at kung kumikita ito ng interes.

 Ano ang nangyari sa kaso ng Meralco sa SC?

Pinarami pa ng SC ang sangkot. Kasama na ngayon ang mga generation companies, ang DOE, PEMC (spot market) etc. Nakatakda ang oral arguments sa January 21. Halos buong industriya na ang sangkot.

Bakit nga ba tumaas ang singil sa kuryente?

Tumaas ang GENERATION CHARGE ng Meralco. Ang generation ang pinakamalaking item sa ating electric bill. Ang generation rates, hindi tulad ng distribution, ay deregulated. Sa practice ay ginagawang automatic pass through ang mga increases dito. Ipinapasa ng Meralco ang mga increase sa generation rates direkta sa konsyumer nang hindi na dumadaan sa anumang hearing.

Ano ang dahilan ng pagtaas ng generation charge?

Sinasabing ang scheduled Malampaya shutdown ang naging isang salik sa pagtaas ng gen charge. Ang Malampaya ay dumaranas ng scheduled maintenance shut down kada 3 taon. Ibig sabihin ay predictable ito. Alam na mangyayari ito. Pwedeng paghandaan para mapunuan ang shortfall sa kuryente na ireresulta ng shutdown. 

Nagpasya ang Meralco na i-dispatch ang mga planta ng First Gas, na tatakbo gamit ang liquid fuel sa halip na natural gas. Mas mahal syempre ito nang doble sa natural gas. Nagresulta ito ng P1.04/kWh na increase.

Nangontrata din ang Meralco ng kuryente sa ilang mga gencos. Kumuha din ang Meralco ng 11.5% ng kuryente nito sa WESM. Pero labis na mataas ang presyuhan sa merkado dahil sa mga naganap na unscheduled shutdowns ng ilang planta.

Ang 11.5% na kinuha ng Meraco sa WESM ay nag-contribute ng 70% increase ng generation rates ng Meralco. Napakaliit ng share ng WESM sa kabuuang supply na kuryente ng Meralco pero ito ang nagtatakda ng presyo. Ito ang nagpapataas ng presyo. Yung P2.38/kWh sa kabuuang P4.14/kWh ang galing sa WESM!

Source of power
Contribution to increase
WESM P2.38/kWh
Gas Plants P1.04/kWh
Other plants P0.02/kWh

 

 

Source
Share in Meralco input
October 2013 price
November 2013 price
Total price increase
WESM 11.5% P13.74/kWh P33.22/kWh P19.48/kWh
Meralco IPP’s 41.9% P4.90/kWh P6.35/kWh P1.45/kWh
Meralco Power supply agreements 46.5% P4.44/kWh P5.27/kWh P0.83/kWh

 

Paano nangyari na ang 11.5% na kinuha ng Meralco sa WESM ang syang pinakamalaking bahagi ng rate hike? Paano nangyari na umabot sa P33.22/kWh ang average price ng WESM noong Nobyembre?

Nagkaroon ng mga unscheduled outages, nagresulta ito ng “tight supply”. Kailangang imbestigahan bakit sabay-sabay ang outage ng mga plantang ito. May pagsasamantala ba dahil alam nilang magkakaroon ng shortage sa supply bunga ng Malampaya shutdown? Kaya sinabayan nila ng sariling shutdown na magreresulta ng mas mataas ng presyo sa merkado?

Case Study Therma Mobile- Pag-aari ng Aboitiz

May kontrata ang Therma Mobile (diesel plant) na magsupply sa Meralco ng 0.6% ng power requirements nito. Ang presyo nito para sa Nobyembre, ayon sa kontrata, ay P8.65. Pero ayon sa records ng WESM, ang Therma Mobile ay nag-bid sa presyong P62/kWh nang ilang ulit noong Nobyembre at Disyembre. At ito ang humatak pataas ng presyo sa WESM. Ito ang nagpataas ng clearing price.

Paano nangyari na may bilateral contract sila sa Meralco pero nag-bid sila sa WESM ng napakataas?

Bilang may hawak ng supply contract, ang Meralco ang may kontrol sa bid ng Therma Mobile sa WESM. Ang Meralco ang nag-utos na mag-bid ang Therma Mobile ng P62/kWh sa WESM. Lumalabas na Meralco ang may kasalanan sa mataas ng presyo ng WESM dahil inutusan nya ang Therma Mobile na magbid ng mataas, gayong alam niyang hahatakin nito ang presyo pataas, bukod pa sa kumukuha din ng kuryente ang Meralco sa WESM (11.5% noong Nobyembre).

Nakinabang ba ang Meralco sa mataas na bid? Sasabihin ng Meralco at Therma Mobile na kapwa sila hindi nakinabang sa mataas na presyo sa WESM. Dahil na may kontrata na sila na P8.65/kWh, yun lang ang babayaran ng Meralco sa Therma, anuman ang kalabasan ang presyo sa WESM.

Yung ibang mga planta sa WESM ang nakinabang sa mataas na clearing price. Kaya dapat imbestighan, may iba pa bang planta ang Aboitiz na nakinabang sa mataas na clearing price during that time? May sosyo din ba ang Meralco sa iba pang generators sa panahong iyon? Sa mga plantang nag-shutdown, may iba pa ba silang plantang tumakbo na nakanibang sa mataas na clearing price?

Ang nakakainis dito, walang pakialam ang mga generators at maging ang Meralco sa itataas ng singil sa kuryente, dahil nga automatic pass-on naman ito sa consumer. Kahit pa umabot sa P62/kWh ang generation charge, ipapasa lang nila ito sa consumer. Oo nga pala, tinatayang P17 bilyon ang kita ng Meralco noong nakaraang 2013.

Ano naman ang ginagawa ng gobyerno?

Hindi inimebestigahan ang ERC ang posibleng abuso sa merkado. Inaprubahan ang staggered rate hike nang walang hearing. Hindi inimbestigahan ang kakaibang sirkunstansya ng increase sa WESM. Samantala, wala daw magic wand ang Palasyo para ipatigil ang mga rate hike.

Paano ba naman, makikinabang ang gobyerno sa P3.44/kWh increase dahil may dagdag pa itong 70 sentimos na VAT kada kWH. Ipagpalagay na ang Meralco ay nakakabenta ng 2.8 billion kWh sa isang buwan, ang kikitain ng gobyerno sa VAT sa rate hike ay aabot sa P1.96 bilyon sa isang buwan.

That’s P1.96 bilyon for not doing anything! Parang binigyan pa ng reward yung kainutilan ng gobyerno!

Ano ang magagawa ng mamamayan?

Ang problema ay nasa batas at sa klase ng industriya meron tayo. Privatized na ang halos buong industriya ng kuryente, mula generation, transmission at distribution. Tubo na ang gumagabay na prinsipyo dito. Ang patakarang automatic recovery o automatic pass-on ay nagtitiyak na tutubo ang mga pribadong negosyante sa kuryente, anuman ang sitwasyon o kundisyon. Nagagamit pa nga ito para pumasok sila sa mga kwestyunableng kontrata.

Kumabaga, mandato ng Meralco dapat na maghanap ng supply ng kuryente sa least cost o pinakamura. Pero paano nila gagawin ito kung may pribilehiyo sila ng automatic pass-on sa konsyumer, kung saan kahit gaano ka-mahal ang kuryente, ipapasa lang nila ito sa mga customer nila.

Noong ipinapasa pa lang ang EPIRA, nangako ang gobyerno na bababa ang singil sa kuryente dahil magiging mas efficient ang power sector at mawawala ang kurapsyon na matagal nang bumagabag sa Napocor. Fast-forward 10 years, dumoble ang presyo ng kuryente, at ang industriya ay kontrolado na ng iilang makapangyarihang negosyante. May WESM nga pero ito pa ang dahilan ng arbitraryong pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente.

EPIRA ang ugat ng problema. Ang  privatized at deregulated na industriya, kung saan walang accountability sa publiko ang mga pribadong negosyo, ang nagpapahirap sa mga konsyumer. Ang gobyernong walang pakialam sa kalagayan ng konsyumer ang nagpapanatili ng ganitong bulok sa sistema. Ito ang kailangang labanan at baguhin ng mamamayan. ###

Photo by PDI

First thing I read today was the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s shocking banner story “Cory Aquino’s ‘glowing legacy’: Aquino kin back immediate distribution of land”.

The headline somehow makes it appear that land distribution was the intention all along of former president Cory Aquino when she embarked on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program some 25 years ago. That all this time, the Luisita landlords had the best intentions for the farm workers. And that, by implication, if the first Aquino regime wanted this, then surely the second Aquino regime shared the same vision.

The statements of the counsel for the Hacienda Luisita made me sick to my stomach, as I’m sure it did other farmer advocates.

“The Cojuangco family expresses its full confidence that the Supreme Court decision regarding the fate of Hacienda Luisita is a just resolution for all parties concerned,” said Antonio Ligon, hacienda counsel and spokesperson.

“Now that the high court maintains that land distribution is the only resolution, the Cojuangco family guarantees its full cooperation in the expeditious completion of this process and put all other issues to rest,” he said.

While the family had sought a reconsideration of the high tribunal’s Nov. 22, 2011, ruling, Ligon said the court’s final decision on the decades-old dispute was “a verdict the Cojuangco family embraces.”

“(This) should be a glowing legacy for the late former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino,” he said.

“It cannot be argued that Mrs. Aquino made decisive moves to place Hacienda Luisita in the 1980s under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program although the preference of farmer-beneficiaries for stock distribution option (SDO) prevailed in at least three referendums over land distribution.”

Now that the farmers are on the verge of claiming the land that is rightfully theirs, the Luisita management wants to rewrite history, give itself a pat on the back, and perhaps make the current president look good in the process. (Why PDI editors dignify and give so much space to HLI’s gratuitous and self-serving statements, I really don’t know.)

“Glowing legacy” ba kamo? How about a legacy of deception and failure? Because that’s what the last 25 years of Mrs. Aquino’s CARP has amounted to for the farmers of Luisita. The way the Luisita management speaks, it’s as if they had the best intentions for the farmers at the onset; that the management, like Cory, really wanted land reform.

Cripes, if this were true, then the farmers were wrong to rise up against the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The strike in 2004 was totally unncecessary. The massacre of strikers and the assassination of farmers’ supporters, all those were for naught because, as Ligon says, Mrs. Aquino had wanted to place the sugar estate under her government’s land reform program from the start.

Wow, that’s even worse than Joel Rocamora claiming that this is a victory for Benigno Aquino’s land reform program. (Isa pa itong mga nakikisakay na tagumpay daw ng CARPER itong Luisita ruling).

Anyone familiar with Cory Aquino’s CARP knows that a provision in the law allowed landlords to retain control of their estates by subjecting these to a “Stock Distribution Option”. Under this scheme, farmers will be given shares of stocks instead of actual land. The scheme ensured that effective control of the land remained with the big landlords. Such was the case in Luisita where the shares of the farmers amounted to only 33% while the Cojuangco-Aquino management was able to bloat its shares to 66%. From that time on, farmers worked in miserable and oppressive conditions.

The failure of the SDO to improve the lives of farmers became the subject of a strike by farmworkers, a decision by the DAR, the PARC and eventually, the Supreme Court. The final ruling of the SC effectively junked the SDO and paved the way for actual land distribution. The SC ruling is a partial rebuke of the SDO of Cory Aquino’s CARP.

Now that farmers are getting their due, the Luisita management wishes us to believe in its benevolence.  HLI tries to assure us of its full cooperation with the decision. It is after all, a decision that the Cojuangco family “embraces”.

Really?

The statement that HLI will cooperate is also calibrated to take the heat off President Benigno Aquino III who up to now has not released a statement on the matter. Ligon wants to end public speculation on whether Aquino will press his family to comply with the decision.

For the record, the HLI management has never stopped scheming and maneuvering to retain their vast estate. They are notorious for not showing good faith. One time, it drafted a sham “compromise agreement” and gave token amounts of money to the farmers for them to sign the pact, in order to preempt the decision the High Court. We have not forgotten that. Up to the end, the HLI management even makes mention of three sham referendums that allegedly affirmed the farmers’ support for the SDO.

If there appears to be a change of tone in the statements of HLI, it’s because they know that there a very little legal options left for them at the moment. They know that they have been soundly defeated in the main legal arena. They know that there is overwhelming public support for the farmers of Luisita.

I end this piece by paraphrasing a message from a journalist friend who has watched the legal developments closely. He says that the victory of the Luisita struggle “is a glowing legacy of the national democratic peasant movement” in forwarding the cause of genuine land reform.

This victory belongs to the farmers and the people, and not to any landlord/president, past or present. To those like Ligon and the HLI management who are claiming otherwise, di na kayo nahiya. Ang kupal lang.

Today farmers of Hacienda Luisita were overcome with tears of joy as they waited for the announcement of the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the Luisita dispute. The SC voted 14-0 in favor of land distribution, upholding an earlier ruling. The court also voted 8-6 in its decision to peg the value of the Luisita land at 1989 levels, instead of the 2006 valuation that management was pushing for. Obviously management wanted a bigger “just compensation” before they lose control of the land. Their motion however was denied.

Many have sacrificed their lives in the course of the struggle. A memorial marker stands at the Gate 1 of the Luisita Central Azucarera de Tarlac, where the names of the Luisita martyrs are inscribed.

The battle for land that has raged on for decades now reaches another turning point. The Luisita management said they will comply with the SC ruling, though they have yet to get a copy of the decision. Luisita lawyer Atty.  Antonio Ligon said that the valuation of the land, even if done based on the 1989 period of reckoning, will have to undergo a process. He hinted that even in 1989, the land had undergone “improvements”. So it is possible that HLI will still attempt to get more than what they should.  They may use these arguments to further delay land distribution until they get more for the land. “The actual value of the land will still be determined by the Special Agrarian Court because that is what is in the law. It is not automatic,” Ligon said. He cited “other factors that will be considered” and that this is “subject to study and investigation”.

When asked if HLI can still challenge the valuation done by the Special Agrarian Court, the Luisita lawyer answered in the affirmative.

This whole concept of “just compensation”, which has been echoed by President Aquino himself whose family owns Luisita, will likely remain a thorny issue.

In an attempt to downplay the importance of and distribution, Ligon said that once land is distributed to the farmers, “they’re on their own”.

The fight of the farmers is not yet over. Collective vigilance is now necessary in ensuring that the HLI management and the Aquino government comply with the SC ruling.Maneuvers of the management and the government to delay land distribution should be exposed and opposed.

We do intend to prove Ligon wrong. The farmers are not “on their own” since many continue to support them and their just struggle for land. The farmers will be fine even if they are divorced from HLI. And along with land distribution, government should provide support services to the farmers.

The road ahead for Luisita remains full of challenges, but on this day, the Luisita farmers have earned every right to celebrate their victory.

Image