A2 Thursday, November 8, 2018
Gunmen slay human-rights lawyer in Negros Occidental
By Rene Acosta @reneacostaBM & Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco | Correspondent
HUMAN-RIGHTS lawyer who assisted farmers after the massacre of nine sugar cane workers on October 20 was shot and killed on Tuesday by two motorcycleriding gunmen in Negros Occidental, drawing condemnation from different groups, including the Philippine National Police (PNP). Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, director of the Police Regional Office 6, said the suspects shot lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. at around 10:30 p.m. while he was talking to an owner of a sari-sari store along Rojas Street, Barangay 5, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. Ramos, 56, and a resident of Barangay Binicuil in the same city, sustained three gunshot wounds in the chest and was rushed to the Holy Mother Mercy Hospital in Kabankalan City but was pronounced dead on arrival.
“We condemn the shooting to the death of Atty. Benjamin Tarug Ramos Jr., 56 years old, resident of Barangay Binicuil, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, at about 10:30 p.m. on November 6, 2018, in Rojas Street, Barangay 5, Kabankalan City,” said Bulalacao in a news statement. “I have already ordered for the immediate conduct of investigation to resolve this incident,” he said. Bu la lacao said R amos is a founding member of the National
Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a group of human-rights defenders in the country providing free legal support to Filipinos. “We assure the family of the victim of a thorough investigation to ensure the immediate arrest of the perpetrators so that justice will be served to the victim and his family,” Bulalacao said. At the time of his death, Ramos was NUPL’s secretary-general in Negros Occidental and was assisting the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) following the killing of its members. The massacre, which occurred at Hacienda Nene in Sagay, Negros Occidental, was blamed by the police to the New People’s Army, which the rebel group has denied. The PNP has already filed multiple murder charges against seven members of the NFSW over the carnage. T he NUPL condemned the killing of Ramos, saying it was “shocked, devastated and enraged at the premeditated cold-blooded murder” of its officer. “The passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly Ben, was a founding member of NUPL. Despite limitations, he was for the longest time the ‘go-to’ pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political
prisoners and mass organizations in Negros,” it also said in a statement issued through its president, lawyer Edre Olalia. Olalia said Ramos was the 34th lawyer killed under the twoyear administration of President Duterte. “Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the eighth in the Visayas,” he said. “These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in ral-
lies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities and in fact-finding missions,” Olalia said. Olalia revealed that members of the NUPL have been receiving death threats of late for handling cases of “political prisoners, suspected rebels, environmentalists and suspected poor drug users.” He also said that the NUPL and its key officers have themselves been “increasingly labeled and branded pejoratively by the police, military, vigilantes, some bigoted columnists, and online trolls, in open contempt of basic principles of the role of lawyers in society.”
The passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly Ben, was a founding member of NUPL. Despite limitations, he was for the longest time the ‘goto’ pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.”—NUPL
‘Only OFWs themselves can claim unrefunded terminal fees’
By Recto Mercene @rectomercene
HE Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) clarified on Wednesday that unrefunded terminal fee collection amounting to almost P300 million is intact and deposited in a trust fund. “The amount is kept by Miaa in
a trust account and is distinct and separate from the agency’s corporate funds,” General Manager Ed V. Monreal said. He added: “The money does not belong to Miaa. It will remain in the trust account until fully refunded to the passengers who own them.” He added that only overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), can
China Telecom. . . Beauty contest
MISLATEL garnered a total score of 456.8 points, based on the terms of reference for the third telco selection. The government is basing its decision on naming the official new major player through a socalled beauty contest, wherein contenders will get points for exceeding the minimum for the following categories: speed, coverage and financial capability. The consortium is composed of Udenna Corp., Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and China Telecom Corp. Ltd. The first two Filipino companies are owned and controlled by Uy, known to be a close associate of President Duterte. It used the congressional franchise of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. Inc. to qualify to bid. According to Udenna Spokesman Adel A. Tamano, whose group has a prepared printed press statement, should it be declared the winning bidder, the consortium is thankful for the “fair and transparent process.” “We are humbled to be chosen, and once we are confirmed as the new major player, we promise to work very hard to give Filipinos the best telecommunications services that Filipinos have been aspiring for,” he said in a chance interview. (Related story, “With 3rd player, Poe sees telecom reforms” in Companies section, page B1.) Udenna’s win didn’t come smoothly, though. Two other parties that submitted their bids—Sear Telecommunications Inc. of politician Luis Chavit C. Singson and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp.—were disqualified from the process, after submitting incomplete bid documents. Sear, corporate vehicle for TierOne Communications International Inc., Fujian Torch Electron Technology Co. Ltd., Miller Pte. Ltd. Southeast Asia Telecom (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. and LCS Holdings Inc. of Singson.,
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was disqualified from the selection process after it failed to submit the P700-million participation security, a form bid bond, which should be in the form of “cash, check, draft, or irrevocable letter of credit issued by a universal or commercial bank in the Philippines.” PT&T was also taken out of the bidding process after its failure to include the certification of technical capability in its bid. Only three parties submitted bids for the third telco spot. Together they represent 4 out of the 10 parties that bought bid documents earlier this quarter. The others have backed out due to issues on economic viability and legal tussles, among others.
CITING the bidding rules on objection, Selection Committee Chairman Ella Blanca B. Lopez of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said the parties may exercise a relief option of filing for a P10million motion for reconsideration. “They have three calendar days to file, and we have three days to act upon it,” she said. The two groups manifested that they will be filing for separate motions of reconsideration, with PT&T President James G. Velasquez also citing their company’s pending case before a Makati local court for a declaratory relief. Tuesday saw the listed company filing for declaratory relief from a local court to allow its bid to be accepted given alleged discrepancies on the definition of one of the auction’s top requirements—a proven track record of providing telco services on a national scale. “We are still hoping that our bid will be considered. The court has asked the oral arguments tomorrow [Thursday],” he said.
claim their unrefunded terminal fee, anytime. Monreal made the clarification after Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III was reported to have written the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) to remit the unrefunded fee to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. The Miaa chief said domestic terminal fees remitted to Miaa
amounted to P172,333,700. This amount came from Cebu Pacific Air and CebGo. Monreal added that P105,320,679 was remitted to Miaa by 18 international carriers representing the unrefunded international fees from OFWs and non-OFW passengers. “ The total amount remitted to Miaa by all air carriers is
P277,654,379 as of November 6, 2018. [The amount obviously doesn’t tally with] the P500-million [figure] which came out in news reports earlier this week,” Monreal pointed out. “OFWs only need to present their copy of their Overseas Employment Certificate and ticket among others, to avail of their refund,” he said.
Mislatel bid illegal–Sear
bought bid documents were: Mobitel Holdings Gmbh, European telco Telenor, Now Corp., Converge ICT Solutions Inc., Ama Telecommunications Inc., and an unknown group. Juan Miguel M. Honorico-Lopez, who heads the investor relations division of Now Corp., said his group decided to back out of the bidding because of its outstanding case against the telco regulator. The injunction case, which was denied by a local court in Manila, involved the questioning of certain provisions of the terms of reference for the selection process, specifically the following financial provisions: the P700-million participation security, the P14 billion to P24 billion performance security, and the P10-million nonrefundable appeal fee. “We are withdrawing from the new major player bidding due to our case with the NTC,” Lopez said. “We are choosing to elevate this to the Court of Appeals.” He explained that if it submitted a bid for the third telco spot, it could “potentially affect the case,” hence its withdrawal. For its part, Converge ICT Solutions Inc. and partners KT Corp. and Teltech Group, pulled out of the bidding after noting a discrepancy in the playing field that is already dominated by incumbents Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. “It’s not a level playing field because the existing players right now were not asked to do what we’re being asked to do,” Aristoteles Z. Elviña, special assistant to the president of Converge, said in a chance interview. “What is demanded from the bidders today were not asked from the dominant players before.” Unlike the two existing players, the third telco has been required by the government to exceed the minimum thresholds for speed, coverage and capital. Elviña also alluded to the participation
of a “state-owned” company as another issue in the bidding. “If one of the bidders won, it’s a state-owned company. Can they now go against the state if they do not fulfill the requirements? Can we file charges or go against them? I don’t think so. Because even what they did with the South China Sea, we didn’t do anything,” he said. It was an apparent reference to Mislatel’s partner China Telecom.
THE winningest bidder should not celebrate too soon, as it may soon face court cases, according to officials from Sear. Raoul C. Creencia, a managing partner at Creencia Carillo and Velasco law firm, which represented Sear, said his group will file legal cases against Mislatel for allegedly allowing other parties to use its franchise despite having an outstanding agreement with his group’s partner, Digiphil Technology Inc. “Mislatel cannot allow and is not allowed to have its franchise and permits used by somebody else without a prior official consent of Digiphil. In other words, Digiphil has the right of first refusal,” he said. Creencia noted that the “prohibition is not absolute.” “For as long as we get the consent of Digiphil, Mislatel can actually consort and partner with someone else but they did not,” he explained. He added: “If Mislatel will be adjudged to have breached the contract, it is, therefore, not eligible to partner with, so there’s no congressional franchise for Mislatel Consortium—that’s a fatal flaw.” The case being eyed might be filed either in a Makati or Pasig court, Creencia said.
DESPITE all the legal tussles, amid the somewhat-subtle shouting here and there, and the disqualification of 2 out of 3 parties, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. said he is “generally satisfied” with the turnout. “I just wished that there were more parties that submitted their bids,” he said. There were 10 parties that bought selection documents throughout a onemonth buying period for the P1-million selection papers. Aside from Udenna, China Telecom, TierOne and PT&T, the other groups that
‘Start of reforms’
MARY GRACE MIRANDILLA-SANTOS, who sat as the representative of Freedom for Media Alternatives, a consumer group that was appointed as an observer in the process, said the whole selection exercise was transparent. “Generally, we find the section process to be very transparent from the start. I think this is one of a kind because the public has been involved from the drafting of the memorandum circular to the opening and evaluation,” she said in an interview. Santos added that this could be the starting line for the reforms in the local telco industry, which has been tagged as one of the worst in terms of Internet quality in the Asean region by different third-party and independent organizations. “We hope that this is just the start. We also need reforms in terms of spectrum management. We need open access, and we also need our telcos to follow these new standards set during the third telco bidding,” she said. The third telco player is seen to spur competition in a market dominated by two large corporations, potentially bringing price down and service levels up. Rio said barring all other delays, the official third telco player will be named sometime this month. It could start offering its services by the first half of 2019.
New import tack unlikely to spoil 500,000 MT rice tender, NFA says By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas @jearcalas
HE National Food Aut hor it y ( N FA) on Wednesday ex pressed confidence that bidders are unlikely to back out from the open tender for the supply of some 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice via open tender, amid some traders’ concerns over import regulations. Some 13 Asian firms have already signified interest to participate in the NFA’s open tender bidd i ng a f ter t he y bought bid documents priced at P75,000 each set. However, some of the possible rice suppliers are worried about the changes in the terms of reference (TOR) for the open tender bidding during the prebidding conference on November 7. At least two participants questioned why the NFA imposed a penalty on short-delivery and short-landed shipments with one seeking to delete the provision. Others questioned the specified guidelines over fumigation, citing possible internal problems that would make it difficult for them to comply with the rules. The concerns of the traders were also some of the worries of Hanoi and Bangkok during the 203,000 MT bidding via government-to-government mode on November 6. The concerns forced Vietnam and Thailand to shun the tender. However, NFA Spokesman Angel G. Imperial Jr. said he doesn’t see pr ivate traders backing out of the race to supply the NFA with its buffer stock due to some questions over the TOR. Imperial explained that the TOR used in the open tender is just the same with the previous ones and the NFA just specified some of the provisions for better language and understanding. “We don’t think so,” Imperial said in an interview with reporters on Wednesday when asked if traders may not participate in the open tender just like what Bangkok and Hanoi did. Furthermore, Imperial said, the NFA maintained that the TOR provisions are acceptable and doesn’t need any review to meet the demands of the traders. “We cannot remove the provisions on the short-landed. We have to protect the interest of the government,” he said. “There’s no tightening of regulations. We [are] just spelling out what they should do. Basically it is just the same TOR,” he added. NFA OIC-Administrator Tomas R. Escarez told reporters that the food agency decided to impose penalty for short shipment, citing “abuse” by some suppliers. “Before there was no penalty and we did not pay attention to it. But they abuse[d] the deliveries, wherein for example shipments lack 1,000 bags or 2,000 bags,” he said. “So, the tendency is that we expect this amount of inventory but it would not fully arrive.” Furthermore, Escarez explained that the TOR has specified guidelines to ensure the food safety of the rice imports, particularly to avoid the issues of weevil infestation that happened in the past.