Wake Up, Philippines!

Father President?

Posted in Church, Election, Filipino Catholics, Filipinos/Filipinas, Religion/Belief by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:57:00 03/25/2009

There is no Philippine law that prevents Fr. Ed Panlilio from running for public office, unlike in Mexico, where the constitution prohibits members of the clergy from holding public office. Ironically, what could stop Panlilio from running is his own Catholic Church, which has been ambivalent about “political” priests. Panlilio has in fact been suspended from “priestly duties” since he became governor of Pampanga province.

I use quotation marks for the word “political” because the Catholic Church has actually been political for 2,000 years, with popes themselves wielding great political power, while cardinals and bishops have actively intervened to make, or break, kings and queens and presidents.

In the last half century, the Vatican has set its sights on liberal priests. Up to 1980, canon law allowed priests to run if they had the permission of their bishops, but there were tensions here as well, especially if the bishops were conservative and the priests running for office were liberals. In 1980, Pope John Paul II mandated that priests should withdraw from electoral politics, and in 1983, a new canonical law went into effect with a broader prohibition on priests taking up “public positions entailing participation in the exercise of civil authority.”

Revolutionary priests

Nicaragua came to my mind almost immediately when I first read about a possible Panlilio candidacy. The late 1960s and the entire 1970s were a time of political ferment for the Catholic Church in Latin America and the Philippines because of harsh dictatorships. It was during these difficult times that liberation theology gained a strong following among both the religious and lay Catholics (as well as some Protestants). Liberation theology borrowed from Marxism, pointing out the structural roots of poverty, from US imperialism to the greed and corruption of local landlords and capitalists.

Liberation theology talked about a “preferential option” for the poor. Many religious and lay people went to serve urban and rural poor communities, getting involved in community organizing and militant politics. The film “Sister Stella L.,” whose 25th anniversary is being celebrated this year, was based on the lives of Catholic sisters in the Philippines who worked in urban poor communities, joining pickets and rallies and investigating human rights abuses, all amid a repressive martial law regime.

Liberation theology was also strong in Nicaragua, which was ruled by the Somoza family for several decades. As in the Philippines, Catholic religious were among those who opposed the dictatorship. This included a Maryknoll priest, Fr. Miguel D’Escoto, who headed the US-based Nicaraguan solidarity movement.

The Sandinistas overthrew Somoza in 1979 and the new government appointed Father Miguel foreign minister. He resisted his superiors’ orders for him to give up his government position and stayed on as foreign minister until 1990, when the Sandinistas lost power in elections. In 2007, when the Sandinistas came back into power, he was appointed as government adviser by President Daniel Ortega.

Father Miguel was not the type to mince words, calling Ronald Reagan a “butcher” and George W. Bush a “liar.” Last year, he became president of the UN General Assembly, and has taken a more diplomatic approach in his declarations.

There were two other Nicaraguan priests, the brothers Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, who clashed with their superiors, all the way up to the Pope. Ernesto, internationally respected as a poet and writer, was Nicaragua’s minister of culture from 1979 to 1988. Fernando was minister of education and launched one of the most successful adult literacy programs in the world. Both did not step down from their posts, arguing that the new canonical law came into effect after they had been appointed to the Nicaraguan government.

In 1983, when the Pope visited Nicaragua, there was tension when at one event, Ernesto Cardenal approached the Pope and knelt to kiss his ring. The Pope pulled back his hand and shook his finger at the priest.

Monsignor President?

Despite what seems to be a hardline Vatican stand, there’s actually a Catholic bishop who ran for president and won. This is Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, who also has roots in liberation theology. He trained as a teacher, and then became an SVD (Society of the Divine Word) priest. He served as a missionary in Ecuador and then returned to Paraguay, only to be expelled by the Stroessner military regime because of his activism. He returned in 1987, two years before Stroessner was ousted, and stayed on to serve Paraguay. He was outspoken on issues of social justice, eventually becoming bishop of the diocese of San Pedro.

In 2006, this “Bishop of the Poor” decided to run for president and applied for laicization or a temporary leave from the priesthood, but his request was turned down because, his superiors said, bishops were not eligible for laicization. Lugo decided to run anyway and was suspended. He ran against a woman candidate of the conservative Colorado Party. Lugo won in the 2008 elections, breaking the Colorado Party’s 62-year hold on Paraguayan politics. The Vatican has since granted Lugo’s request for laicization.

Lugo is one of several leftist presidents now in power in Latin America, refusing to accept any presidential salary because the money “belongs to more humble people.”

Jesuit congressman

I should mention one last case here, from the United States, where a Jesuit, Fr. Robert Drinan, was Massachusetts congressman from 1971 to 1980. He was a liberal Democrat and ran on an anti-Vietnam War platform, unseating a congressman who had held office for 14 terms. (You read right, 14 terms, not 14 years—the US has no limits on the number of terms you can hold office.)

Drinan was outspoken, advocated Nixon’s impeachment and pushed for government funding for family planning and abortion. But he gave up his post in 1980 after Pope John Paul II banned priests from running for office. Drinan remained active in teaching, and continued to speak out on political issues. He died in 2007.

Should Father Ed run or not? I’m ambivalent too. I respect the Kaya Natin team of alternative politicians but I worry about how effective Catholic priests can be, laicized or not. A recent article by Jonathan Chow, “Different Standards, Different Faiths” on the website “Religion, Politics and Globalization Project” (rpgp.berkeley.edu) looks at what seems to be a double standard, where Protestant ministers can run for public office without too many eyebrows being raised while people — from popes to bishops, Protestants or Catholics — hesitate when it comes to Catholic priests assuming public office.

Chow notes that there is a difference between Catholic and Protestant clergy, the former having to obey the Vatican, which technically is a “temporal state that is also a theocratic monarchy.” If Panlilio were to run, he would have to be very clear about his stand on a number of issues, from family planning to social justice, and if he has views different from the positions of the Vatican or the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, will he able to remain independent?

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090325-196035/Father-President

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Catholic hierarchy says no to Panlilio

Posted in Church, Election, Filipino Catholics by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:55:00 03/25/2009

The movement launched by a nebulous civil society group, oozing with messianic ardor, to draft Pampanga province’s Gov. Ed Panlilio for president in 2010 to save this country from the rapacity of the much-maligned “traditional politicians” has roiled the Catholic Church over the very secular notion of separation of church and state in a republican polity. The furor was sparked by the statement of Panlilio that he was “open to the possibility” of seeking the presidency in response to the civil society call.

The draft initiative seeks to make Panlilio run in 2010 with Isabela province’s Gov. Grace Padaca as running mate. The movement has described this tandem as credible “alternatives” to the widely reviled “trapos” [traditional politicos; literally, dirt rags], stigmatized as responsible for the degradation of politics over more than 50 years of representative democracy in this country.

It did not take much for Panlilio to succumb to, or to be titillated by, this flattery to consider himself as a much awaited messiah of Philippine politics.

We have always been exposed to the notion since the 1986 People Power Revolution that our political salvation lies in military coups and soldiers with messianic complex, of the likes of Lt. Col. Gregorio Honasan, Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes III, and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim — all failed coup makers. Now, the restless do-gooders in civil society, in a desperate search of alternatives outside the traditional political establishment and political elite, have narrowed their search to a member of the Catholic clergy as a political leader in times of crisis. This time the favored notion by civil society is if the trapos, and the soldiers have failed in reforming society, the man of the cloth might fill the leadership vacuum and become the inspired “man of the hour.”

Unfortunately for the promoters of this project in civil society, the Catholic hierarchy is not of the same mind. The Catholic hierarchy has been unsettled by the implications of this draft movement on the principle of separation of church and state.

Panlilio, who ran for governor in 2007 on a reformist and anti-corruption platform, defeated two administration-backed candidates, one of whom was identified with the underground lottery “jueteng” and the other with quarry syndicates in Pampanga. As governor, he wears two hats: that of a salaried public official and that of a priest on a vague status, considered by the hierarchy as “on leave.” As such, he stands astride a blurred line separating secular and priestly functions, which has bred conflict of interest situations as a secular power and minister tending to the spiritual needs of his flock as well to their secular concerns.

These conflicting demands have often been irreconcilable. For example, he was caught in a bind when he accepted cash handouts amounting to between P250,000 and P500,000 from Malacañang, distributed to congressmen, governors and mayors purportedly as assistance for their local projects, although the sums were actually intended to secure their support for a move to quash the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Panlilio later tried to return the money but Malacañang refused to accept it.

As a power holder and a priest, Panlilio unwittingly appeared to put into practice the dual secular and spiritual status of Iranian ayatollahs in a theocratic state, in a polity that declares a constitutional separation between church and state. The susceptibility of Panlilio to the inveiglement of a movement to draft him for the presidency and the embarrassing contradictions of his dual role were too much for the Catholic bishops to tolerate.

In what sounded like an ultimatum, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, read the riot act to Panlilio. In a statement titled, “On the Question of Political Leadership,” Lagdameo minced no words in warning Panlilio to quit the priesthood if he runs for president in 2010.

Lagdameo cited a decree of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, which forbids bishops, priests and religious from active involvement in partisan politics. Lagdameo said, “I presume that Governor E. Panlilio, who is a priest, has been told about this and knows it. If he plans to run for the presidency, in view of the separation of the church and the state, it is best for him to seek dispensation from the priesthood. And so he will be free to engage in partisan politics.”

Lagdameo explained that “dispensation from the priesthood” would mean removing Panlilio’s identity and authority as a priest. Panlilio was suspended from performing priestly duties when he ran for governor in 2007.

Lagdameo also reiterated the Church’s non-involvement in partisan politics. “The Church does not support and endorse any political candidate,” Lagdameo said. “This applies also to Governor Panlilio.” It would be up to civil society or members of the laity to identify and encourage potential and “non-trapo” leaders for political renewal. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI who said, “A big part of the vocation of Christian lay people is their participation in politics in order to bring justice, honesty and defense of true and authentic values of society.”

Lagdameo said there were alternatives to the kind of political leadership at present. “I believe that our country is not lacking in people from civil society who have the gifts of authentic, credible, moral and patriotic leadership,” he said.

In plain words, the message is: The clergy is off limits as a recruitment ground for political leadership. The Church cannot be more emphatic than that. Fold your tents.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090325-196034/Catholic-hierarchy-says-no-to-Panlilio

Gordon, Palace kiss and make up on hostages

Posted in Kidnapping, Mindanao by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:56:00 03/25/2009

STO. TOMAS, PANGASINAN—Malacañang Tuesday announced that Sen. Richard Gordon had agreed to bury the hatchet and work more closely with key government officials to restart efforts to secure the release of three international Red Cross workers being held by the Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf in Jolo Island.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the agreement came during a meeting on Monday involving Gordon, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Monday, four days after talks with the terrorists broke down.

“I’m happy to report that they talked and agreed to work as one,” Remonde told reporters in a briefing here.

Late last week, Gordon, who chairs the Philippine National Red Cross, threw a fit and accused Marine commander Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban of bungling the senator’s attempts to get at least one of the hostages released by “unnecessarily provoking” an armed clash last week, then by prematurely withdrawing his troops.

Sabban denied Gordon’s charges but the military has since sent him on a two-week education tour in the United States.

“They (Gordon, Teodoro and Puno) agreed to have better and greater coordination to avoid misunderstanding,” Remonde said.

The three Red Cross workers—Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba—were snatched by the armed group in Jolo on Jan. 15.

Remonde Tuesday maintained that the government was “doing everything right” in ensuring the safe release of the hostages.

“The government is doing everything by the book and in accordance with internationally accepted, proven and tested principles in dealing with similar situations,” he said.

“We are on top of the situation regardless of what has been said.”

Consistent with administration policy, the local crisis committee would be the main negotiator with the Abu Sayyaf, Remonde said.

Meanwhile, a military spokesperson, in a separate press briefing, said soldiers would continue to cordon a remote area of Jolo but would put off pursuit operations to give way to negotiations.

“We are holding our previous position because we would like to give way to negotiations to free the hostages,” Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo told reporters.

Arevalo revealed that the military was also limiting food, water and other supplies to the rebels.

“The modern principle of war is sustainability. We’re only trying to wear them down by preventing reinforcements and re-supply. We’re keeping up the pressure without having to resort to offensive actions,” he told wire agency reporters.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamist group with ties to regional terror network Jemaah Islamiah, had threatened to behead one of the hostages to ease military pressure after a firefight erupted last week, killing three soldiers and wounding 19 others. At least two Abu Sayyaf fighters were also reportedly killed.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090325-196066/Gordon-Palace-kiss-and-make-up-on-hostages

Charter change only 20 votes shy

Posted in Charter Change, Congress, Constitution, Legislation by Erineus on March 25, 2009

Villar: Arroyo’s sons behind Con-ass mode

By Michael Lim Ubac, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:47:00 03/25/2009

MANILA, Philippines—A move in the House of Representatives to amend the Constitution and bypass the Senate in the process is only 20 votes shy of the required number, indicating a plan to set aside next year’s balloting remains alive, Sen. Manuel Villar said Tuesday.

Villar was referring to the resolution drafted by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, president of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s party the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution.

“They will continuously try and get all the numbers,” Villar said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer a day after President Arroyo signed into law a bill providing P11.3 billion for the full automation of the 2010 elections.

Villar said the drive in Congress to abolish the presidential system and give way to a parliamentary or federal system was being pushed by Ms Arroyo’s two sons in Congress—Mikey and Dato.

Asked if the President was involved, Villar said: “I don’t think she will object to it if it’s there already. Right now, she’s leaving the matter to her children. She’s still undecided.”

Mikey told the Inquirer he had not withdrawn his signature from the resolution and that the Charter change (Cha-cha) issue would come to a head “very soon.”

Very soon

Villafuerte is gathering 197 signatures for the resolution before filing it. The number represents three-fourths of the combined Senate and House membership, which he said the Constitution prescribes for any Charter amendment under the Con-ass mode.

“It’s just 20 votes shy,” Villar said of the magic number.

But he pointed out that the House could not go it alone, reminding congressmen that the Constitution contemplated two-thirds of the Senate and the House, voting separately, to amend any provision of the Charter.

The Senate has objected to Con-ass, with majority of senators preferring a constitutional convention after the 2010 elections.

Villar said Ms Arroyo knew that her time in Malacañang was running out.

‘Hawks’ pulling strings

But “hawks” in the Cabinet were pulling the strings so that the administration-controlled House would finally endorse the move which will give Ms Arroyo a fresh new term—either as interim president or prime minister.

Asked if Ms Arroyo’s sons could muster enough votes in the House to force Cha-cha, Villar said it would depend on whether Ms Arroyo would “go all-out.”

Ms Arroyo has not taken a public position on the Con-ass move. Malacañang has said it was staying away from a purely legislative function.

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez of Kampi said that the House should be able to tackle the Con-ass resolution upon the resumption of its session on April 13 following the month-long Lenten break.

“We will not be able to come to a decision on the Con-ass if we do not debate it during the plenary. Until then, the issue will continue to hang over our heads,” Suarez said in a press conference.

Senate to SC

Mikey said that there was no reason to declare the Con-ass “dead” until he and the rest of the 180 congressmen who had signed the Con-ass resolution had taken their names off the list of endorsers.

The House interpretation of the majority vote creating a Con-ass is expected to provoke the Senate into seeking a ruling from the Supreme Court.

Should the high court uphold its position, the House will proceed with its move to change the Charter that critics fear could include lifting of term limits.

On Oct. 25, 2006, the Supreme Court dismissed by an 8-7 vote a petition for a “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution and adopt the parliamentary system, saying it would not allow itself to be a party to a “grand deception.”

The high tribunal then said that it would not allow the Constitution to be “set adrift … in uncharted waters, to be tossed and turned by every dominant political group of the day.”

With vacancies coming up in the Supreme Court that Ms Arroyo would fill, there are fears that an administration-dominated tribunal could rule in her favor if the Con-ass voting question comes up.

Nograles on way out?

Efforts to revive the Con-ass resolution have spurred rumors that Speaker Prospero Nograles, who has been criticized for his ineffective steering of Charter change, was on his way out.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, one of the major sponsors of the resolution, is reported to be meeting with Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. and offering him back his old post as Speaker.

Although De Venecia had a falling out with the President after his son exposed the scuttled NBN-ZTE deal, the administration apparently still considers him the best man to rally support in Congress for Charter change.

Mikey has denied leading efforts to oust Nograles or approaching De Venecia. But he said Nograles should take rumors of his ouster as par for the course.

“The Speaker of the House is the most vulnerable position in Congress because he can be changed anytime by the members once they lose confidence in him, he should know that,” Mikey said.

Best legacy

Villar called on Ms Arroyo to once and for all stop Charter change and spend her remaining months in office working for her legacy—“pull us out of the financial crisis and peaceful transition of power in 2010.”

“That’s the best legacy she can leave. That’s a one-two punch,” he said.

Villar said Ms Arroyo has two other options, besides Charter change: “Declare martial law—I don’t think it’s likely, but there’s still a chance it will be resorted to—and fund a winnable presidential candidate, or she will not support anyone at all.”

He said Ms Arroyo’s support for a friendly successor in Malacañang could be “hidden or declared out in the open.”

Another route

Besides the Con-ass mode, another route was proposed by Nograles under House Resolution No. 737.

In the resolution, he proposes to amend the Constitution’s economic provisions to relax foreign ownership of domestic businesses, including those that the Charter limits to Filipino citizens such as media entities.

Nograles said his resolution would take the legislative process route, which means that after the House approved it, the proposed measure would be sent to the Senate for its own action or concurrence.

The Nograles resolution is up for plenary debate when Congress resumes session next month.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090325-196029/Charter-change-only-20-votes-shy

With no Nicole, activists target SyCip law firm

Posted in Law Firms by Erineus on March 25, 2009
Hell hath no fury... Female activists led by former Nicole lawyer Evalyn Ursua, second from left, show copies of the petition they filed before the Supreme Court seeking the investigation of the Sycip Salazar law firm. MANNY PALMERO

By Rey E. Requejo

A WEEK after her controversial client “Nicole” terminated her services, lawyer Evalyn Ursua yesterday asked the Supreme Court to investigate the largest law firm in the country for its role in the deposition that raised questions on the rape conviction of American serviceman Daniel Smith.

Ursua, along with six other people and five groups, asked the high court to reprimand the SyCip, Salazar, Hernandez & Gatmaitan law firm for allowing one of its junior partners, Abraham Rey Acosta, to notarize Nicole’s controversial statement when the law firm was also representing Smith.

“Petitioners respectfully pray that the Honorable Court conduct an investigation of the questionable circumstances of the execution of the supposed sworn statement of Nicole, dated March 12, and to discipline, if warranted, the lawyers, including SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, who may have violated ethical rules in its execution and notarization,” the petitioners said.

The controversial sworn statement was filed with the Court of Appeals, along with the notice terminating Ursua’s services, by SyCip Law partner Jose Justiano and junior partner Carlito Zaragoza on March 16, the day Nicole departed for the United States.

The petitioners also asked the high court to investigate the alleged leak to news media of a supposed draft of a Court of Appeals decision, supposedly authored by retired Associate Justice Agustin Dizon, that would have reversed Smith’s conviction by Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon.

Dizon was in charge of the appellate court division that handled the rape case, but he retired on June 27 last year. The case has since been re-raffled and is now pending before the Twelfth Division led by Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa.

Smith was accused of raping Nicole in Subic, Zambales, in 2005 and was convicted in 2006. He was then moved to the US Embassy in Manila from a local jail pending his appeal.

But on March 12 this year, Nicole executed a sworn statement saying she doubted if she had indeed been raped.

“The investigation should determine who was responsible for the release of the document and the motives behind its release,” the petitioners asked the high court.

“In the meantime that the investigation is being conducted, petitioners respectfully ask the Honorable Supreme Court to stop the Court of Appeals from resolving Smith’s appeal until all the issues… that seriously affect the People’s right to due process as well as the integrity of the judicial process are all addressed and resolved,” the petitioners added.

They also questioned the steps taken by government lawyers and their supposed “conflict of interest.”

“The Office of the Solicitor General has not taken any step to ensure that the interests of the people are protected. For example, it has not made any move to ascertain whether the People’s principal witness, Nicole, indeed freely, voluntarily and intelligently executed her alleged sworn statement of March 12, 2009,” the petitioners said.

“In the light of the Office of the Solicitor General’s insistence that Smith should be detained in the US Embassy until the final resolution of his appeal, despite the Supreme Court ruling of Feb. 11, 2009, the office evidently suffers from a serious conflict of interest,” they said.

“From the sequence and timing of events, it is not difficult to conclude that everything has been orchestrated so that in the end Smith will get acquitted and the public will accept the acquittal,” the parties said.

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news2_mar25_2009

E-procurement compliance low — ADB

Posted in E Procurement by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Roderick T. dela Cruz

Government agencies have yet to comply with a law passed in 2003 that required them to publish contract awards on the Internet.

“Since the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System was first implemented in 2006, compliance with the publication of procurement notices has been high, but the requirement to publish contract awards as well has still to be fully complied with,” the Asian Development Bank said in a technical report.

The bank has recently approved a $600,000 technical assistance grant to help finance the strengthening of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

“End users also need regular training. Despite having unlimited access to the system. not all government agencies use it,” the report added.

In January 2003, Congress passed Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which replaced more than 100 laws, rules, and regulations on government procurement.

The law provided for the modernization, standardization, and regulation of the procurement activities of the government. It was designed to streamline the Philippine procurement system and reduce opportunities for graft and corruption, harmonize the system with international standards and practices and promote transparency, competitiveness, streamlined procurement, accountability and public monitoring.

A recent review of the pilot use of the system for official development assistance projects found that agencies register and post notices more to comply with the implementing rules and regulations of the law, rather than to use the system in their procurement.

“Published bid notices sometimes provide insufficient information and instructions to prospective suppliers about the items being procured, or insufficient online access to the bid documents,” the report said.

The ADB also noted that while the system was designed to provide information about procurement opportunities and contract awards, it did not cover bidding and had no payment facility.

“Thus, the current functionality falls short of addressing the efficiency and economy objectives of public procurement,” it said.

The president of ADB approved the provision of technical assistance amounting to $600,000 to improve the system. The technical assistance will cost $800,000, of which the remaining $200,000 will be shouldered by the Philippine government.

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business4_mar25_2009

Budget deficit could swell to as high as P300 billion

Posted in Budget, dof by Erineus on March 25, 2009

By Iris C. Gonzales Updated March 25, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s budget deficit could swell to a range of P257 billion to P300 billion this year if the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) fail to meet their revenue targets and if the government is unable to privatize state-owned assets this year, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said yesterday.

Recto said the figures are based on the latest assessment of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the economy this year.

“The worst case scenario is that the deficit will hit P257 billion if BOC will not get enough revenues because imports are down but it could even hit P300 billion if BIR collections are also down,” Recto said.

NEDA is set to recommend this worst-case scenario to the interagency Development Budget and Coordination Committee (DBCC) for consideration, Recto said.

The P257 to P300 billion also considers the possibility that the government may not be able to privatize any state-owned asset this year because of poor economic conditions.

Recto, however, stressed that the DBCC has yet to consider NEDA’s latest assessment.

The Finance department has revised its budget deficit ceiling for 2009 to P177.2 billion from the previous assessment of P102 billion due to the impact of the global financial turmoil.

The government has reduced the target of the BIR for 2009 by P45.2 billion to P865.5 billion from the revised assessment of P910.8 billion. Under the proposed 2009 budget, the BIR is tasked to collect P965 billion this year. Last year, it missed its P845 billion revenue target after it only managed to collect P778.2 billion.

The government also slashed the revenue target of the BOC by P39.8 billion to P277.2 billion instead of P317 billion. It was originally tasked to collect P310 billion this year.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=451606&publicationSubCategoryId=66