"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 New Year's Message

Let us be the change our country needs

I extend my warmest greetings to my kababayans here and abroad as you, along with the rest of humanity, eagerly await the dawn of New Year 2009!

Each New Year is a symbol of hope and a herald for new beginnings. The year 2009 stretches across us like a horizon, filled with opportunities to be explored and challenges to be overcome. As we celebrate another milestone in our history, let us not forget the lessons we have learned from the past and continue to work together for the development of our country.

The New Year brings us closer to a time when we Filipinos will be called upon to direct our nation's course through the 2010 national elections. Let us use the coming year to prepare and chart a course that will lead to the renewal of our country's values. Let us chart a course for Bagumbayan where we will have a community of people who think, speak, and act for the common good; where everyone has asenso and kaginhawaan; and where Filipinos will find their future, not in foreign shores, but in their very own Filipinas!

The challenge for us now is to make Bagumbayan a reality. Let us all be volunteers in our quest to uplift the lives of our countrymen and be the catalyst for the implementation of much-needed national reforms. Let us be the change that this country needs!

Once again, I would like to wish everyone a prosperous and safe New Year! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang mamamayang Pilipino!

Early voting pushed by Election Code amendment

MANILA, Philippines - Aiming to decongest polling stations, Sen. Richard Gordon sought to amend the Omnibus Election Code to allow early voting during the elections.

In his explanatory note on Senate Bill 2972, Gordon said the goal of early voting will not only decongest polling precincts but also lessen the burden on election officers and increase participation in the elections.

The senator said the bill seeks to amend Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 and allow voters to cast their votes on a single or series of days prior to an election.

"Expanding voting to more than one day can reduce the risk of overworked poll workers making mistakes, and in the scenario of automated elections, the risk of having broken automated election machines," Gordon said.

He said national elections in the Philippines have traditionally been set on a single day particularly on the second Monday of May, as mandated by the Constitution.

The senator said in Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and 46 states in America, where early voting is allowed, a person may cast his vote in a designated early voting polling stations or by mail.

"With early voting, voters who may not be able to vote on a single Election Day are allowed to participate. Beneficiaries of early voting statutes include people who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, the elderly, and people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, among others," Gordon said.

Under the bill, the senator proposed that the early voting period begin on the 10th day before an election and end on the 3rd day before the date of the election.

He said the Commission on Elections shall designate an early voting precinct for each municipality 30 days before the date of the election and issue the necessary rules and guidelines to implement it.

The bill also seeks to amend the 8 am to 3 pm voting hours and start the voting period at 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening.

Gordon said the votes cast during the early voting period will still be counted only on election day.

Gordon pushes Election Code amendment to allow early voting
Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV
12/30/2008 | 03:46 PM

‘Break walls in our minds’

MANILA, Philippines -- On the National Hero’s 112th death anniversary on Tuesday, a senator lamented that Filipinos have yet to “break the walls in our minds as Jose Rizal did.”

Senator Richard Gordon urged all Filipinos to "break the walls in their minds built by the colonial past by regaining confidence in their capabilities and being courageous about the future as the country’s national hero did.”

In a statement, he encouraged Filipinos to emulate the values and vision exhibited by Rizal during his 35 years of existence, as the whole nation commemorated the national hero’s 112th death anniversary.

“Jose Rizal showed us that even if we were colonized by foreign nations, we can refuse to be bound by them by having a vision and strengthening our values. He showed that Filipinos could excel and compete with the best,” said Gordon, an independent senator allied with the administration.

“Jose Rizal made us in his own image in the sense that if you get an education and see the world at the same time and stick to your conviction about the vision for our country, stick to your values, you can indeed get the necessary country that you want,” he added.

He said Rizal’s short but meaningful life was an ideal model for Filipinos.

“(It) shows that a person can achieve far beyond what he may seem to reach if only he has a vision and he strives hard to achieve it,” he said.

Gordon, who championed volunteerism in rebuilding the former US military base in Subic, pushed for the “Bagumbayan Movement” to “revitalize the Filipinos’ identity by having a vision grounded on values and empowered by volunteerism.”

Guided by the values inculcated by Rizal, Gordon started this movement exactly a year ago.

He explained that Rizal’s death in Bagumbayan (the original name of Rizal Park in Manila) was not a mere coincidence “but a symbol of what he wanted for the Filipinos -- a new Philippines, a Bagumbayan.”

“Bagumbayan is not a place. It is an attitude. It is time we become horizon-chasers once again. We have to change ourselves, re-invent ourselves, and we must not cease from hoping. It is time we break our walls and say, we can do it.”

Gordon said that the Bagumbayan movement aimed to regain the Filipinos’ sense of responsibility, to reinvent the government that it may faithfully perform its duty to serve and protect the people, to fortify law and order, and to build a strong and growing economy.

It also strives to prioritize education, provide adequate health care, create jobs, assist people in securing homes and land, strengthen the family as the foundation of the nation, and protect and preserve the environment for posterity, he said.

“We must learn from Rizal. We have the power to shape our future and determine the destiny of our country. We need to do things, believe things, and think in new ways like Rizal did,” Gordon said.

‘Break walls in our minds’--Gordon
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:21:00 12/30/2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lying has become a contagious bad national habit

Saying that lying has become a bad national habit, independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee probing the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, has taken issue with the matter.

"Of course, we do not expect murderers, thieves and robbers to admit to their crimes even when they are caught red-handed," he said.

"What we do not expect - and should not expect - is for morally upright people to keep quiet when they know of a crime - especially in the case of the fertilizer fund scam, when people ought to be speaking up," he added.

Gordon said that lying - and refusing to testify against criminals - has become a bad national habit that ought to be broken. This, he pointed out, may be rooted in the sad fact that good citizens lack confidence in the police and the justice system.

"We've already undertaken steps to strengthen the witness protection program as well as give the Ombudsman funds to hire more prosecutors. We understand that people can be easily intimidated into silence and we want to make it harder for criminals to intimidate honest and morally upright citizens," said Gordon.

Over the course of the Senate's fertilizer fund scam hearings, Gordon has scored former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante several times for not telling the truth and continuing to be evasive.

The committee has filed a case against Bolante for violations of Articles 150 (disobedience to legitimate summons) and 183 (false testimony) of the Revised Penal Code now pending before the Department of Justice.

Gordon has also asked other "key players" in the fertilizer fund scam to be straightforward and honest as they testify before the Senate hearing so that they can clear their good name before the nation, especially among the poor farmers.

"It would not be good for them if they keep on being evasive and worse, hide the truth from us. History would not be kind to them. Let us remind ourselves, time and again, of the gospel maxim - the truth shall set us free," he said.

The Senate blue ribbon committee expects to bring in together other "key players" implicated in the P728-million fertilizer project in its next hearing scheduled on Jan. 20, 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Paule surrenders to Senate blue ribbon panel

Cornered by the arrest order issued by the Senate blue ribbon panel, Jaime "Jimmy" Paule, who is also being linked to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, today surrendered to the jurisdiction of the committee.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chair, said Paule, whose participation in the alleged scam was attested to by several witnesses, was finally driven into recognizing the Senate panel and submitting himself to its jurisdiction.

"I don't find it funny that he (Paule) had been evading us. He told me that he did not get our invitation. How can he receive them when we did not even have his correct address? Maybe he wants to clear his name now," he said.

Paule, accompanied by his counsel Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, arrived at the Senate a day after the latter wrote to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile seeking the lifting of the arrest warrant against his client.

He was the latest witness summoned by the Senate blue ribbon committee who surrendered after having been issued a warrant of arrest for repeated failure to attend the hearings.

Gordon pointed out that based on the testimonies of the other witnesses, the whole picture is now slowly coming out clearly and it appears that Paule is in the midst of the whole operation.

"Paule is not acting by himself. He is pulling the strings below and somebody is directing him how to do it. Almost all of the other witnesses are exposing his connection in the whole deal. It is now becoming clearer to the public how the alleged scam was orchestrated," he said.

Apart from Paule, others who also surrendered to the Senate committee after arrest orders were issued against them were Marites Aytona, Julie Gregorio and Reden Antolin, president and vice president of Feshan Phils, respectively.

On Cory's apology to Erap for EDSA 2

“To tell you frankly, maraming tumatawag sa aking mga kaibigan ko [a lot of my friends have been calling me]. They were so disappointed with Cory. Ang tawag sa kanya ngayon ay [they now call her] sorry Aquino,” Senator Richard Gordon told a press conference Tuesday.

Gordon admitted that he was equally disappointed and saddened by Aquino’s apology.

“I don’t agree with the fact that she [Cory] had to say to say sorry to him. Mr. Estrada has committed wrong in our country, he has already been forgiven. But I’m part of that [group] that removed him and I have no regrets about that,” he said.

While he was also disappointed by the present administration, Gordon said he would never use that as an excuse to condone what had happened in the past.

“I should not say but I really feel for Cory because she’s sick right now. But I think she overstated the point. Maybe what she really meant is I forgive you but to say you’re sorry for having removed him, we can’t do that. You have to stand by just as [what Trillanes] did, he stood by it,” he further said.

Gordon was referring to Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, who has been detained for mounting two failed coup attempts against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Being a leader, the senator said, Aquino should have stood by her decision to participate in the ouster of Estrada.

“I have nothing against the former president [Aquino]. I have something against the fact that when we are leaders, we must be called upon to teach our people. Leaders teach. Leaders must form a face for our country, what we stand for,” he said.

“We must be upright and we must be able not to be afraid to say in front of other people what we think of them if they had done wrong. I don’t want to confuse the public where we must stand. Malilito ang tao, malilito ang bata [The people will get confused, so with the children]. We must stand for the right thing,” he further said.

Aquino hit, defended for ‘sorry’ remark
By Maila Ager, Thea Alberto
First Posted 13:56:00 12/23/2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Outstanding 12-yr-old tour guide "Andoy"


Feeling a bit cold and out of place in his denim puruntong shorts and a simple shirt, a 12-old Andoy Dalimag seemed more suited for a romp at a popular mall than a visit to the Senate.

As best as he could, he tried not to mind the freezing breath of the air-conditioning at the Session Hall and offered a polite smile to strangers that filled it. Even without speaking or telling of his life story, he sat wide-eyed in the gallery and all the while, giving off an aura of quiet dignity.

Andoy was invited by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon as his guest after learning of his success story as the youngest of four teen aged tourist guides in Penablanca, Cagayan Province.

The Grade Six student explained that two years ago, he had taken on the challenge of qualifying for a tourist guide training program in their town. He proudly said that of the original 24 from his batch that had qualified for training, he was among the top four that was included in their town's official roster of tourist guides.

"Being a tourist guide is fun and is almost just like playing. I don't really do it for money because I am saving all that I am earning in a bank account so I can use it for college tuition. It's something I like doing because my town has a great tourist attraction plus I get to meet and learn from the people I tour," says Andoy who tours people to Callao Cave .

The seven-chambered Callao Caves boast of massive limestone and other rock formations, skylights, and a chapel. It is one of the best known tourist attractions of the Cagayan Province .

Senator Gordon, who met with the boy and his father at his office in the Senate, said that he found the boy's story worth sharing with others.

"For Andoy, tourism isn't just a job. It is about discovering what is best in themselves and what is best in their homeland. It is about building pride of place and communicating that to the world," said Gordon.

After asking about what Andoy wanted to do with the money he earned, Gordon was surprised to learn that the young boy was saving his money for college and that he wanted to study law one day, perhaps at the University of the Philippines .

Gordon assured him of a college scholarship and told him about a bill he had filed that would give children like him a better chance at finishing school.

"Andoy is fortunate because he has qualified for a job program in his town.. But there are millions of children like Andoy who are not as fortunate but have the ambition of earning a college education. This is the reason why we filed the Health and Education Acceleration Program or the Text for Change Bill," said Gordon.

Logged as Senate Bill (SB) 2402, has gained legislative and executive support, notably by House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves. It has also elicited wide support among several non-governmental organizations.

Under SB 2402, also known as the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), the funds needed for the country's education and health care requirements would be taken from the estimated two billion local text messages sent daily.

The special HEAP funds to be managed by a HEAP Corporation shall however be sourced from the annual net revenues of the telecommunication companies, thereby the brunt shall not be passed on to ordinary consumers.

"We hope that Andoy will bring this good news to children in his hometown. This is really a gift will keep on giving, not just on Christmas but every month of the year and for years to come," said Gordon.

Tour-guiding summer job for students

Qualified college and high school students may be trained and then hired as tourist guides in Intramuros under a summer job program of Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee, made the announcement at the recent re-opening of WOW Philippines where the government promotes Intramuros as the country's history town.

"We are giving students an opportunity to learn and earn about what is best about themselves and their country. Tourism creates jobs, and in this instance, it will give our students an opportunity to develop a pride of place," he said.

Under the planned summer job training program envisioned by Senator Gordon, qualified college and high school students will undergo a special training program under the Department of Tourism (DoT) and Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA)..

Students who pass the training program and who have been certified by the DoT will be included in a roster of tourist guides. Tourists requesting for guides in Intramuros will be assigned student tourist guides taken from the roster.

Alternatively, student tourist guides will be assigned to man areas within popular tourist areas in Intramuros where any tourist can hire them on the spot.

"In order to do a good job as tour guides, students will have to learn a lot about Intramuros and the history of their country. It will be an opportunity for them to discover that we have a heritage of greatness and their history is replete with victories - quite contrary to history lessons that overemphasize our defeats at the hands of colonial invaders," Gordon explained.

He further pointed out that apart from learning about the history of Intramuros, students will be able to learn from the visitors that they guide through Intramuros.

"It will, above all, be a mind-expanding and soul-enriching experience to tell others about what is best about your people, your homeland, and its history," he added.

He also explained that he intends to expand the tourism training program to other tourism stakeholders, including even the taho (soya) vendors, kutseros, and low income earners residing within Intramuros.

"We believe that all are stakeholders in tourism and this is because everybody benefits from it. Sa Intramuros, papatunayan natin muli na ang turismo ang siyang pinaka-direktang paraan para makalikha ng trabaho at oportunidad para sa negosyo," said Gordon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aytona surrenders to Senate blue ribbon panel



Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today brought Ms. Marites Aytona to the Senate after she surrendered and agreed to testify before the Senate blue ribbon committee probing the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Gordon, committee chair, arrived at the Senate with Aytona and immediately brought her to the Senate clinic to have her checked by the doctors for her high blood pressure.

"Ms. Aytona called me up last night, and I told her if she wants she could meet with me today. And that's what she did. We met at the Sofitel hotel and I brought her here at the Senate," he said.

Gordon said Aytona will be under the Senate's custody but could not divulge where she would be detained for her safety.

He added that Aytona has not yet revealed much about her knowledge of the fertilizer fund project. She only maintained that she knows Jaime "Jimmy" Paule, but not the former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante.

"I asked her about the statement she sent to the (Senate) blue ribbon (committee) a few weeks ago. The only thing she said is that the person who called her and gave her a three-percent commission was Paule," Gordon said.

The senator said she expects Aytona to be honest and to disclose everything she knows about the fertilizer fund scam as the committee resumes its hearing on Dec. 22.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday travelers must be safety-conscious

MANILA, Dec. 16 (PNA) -- With the expected influx of travelers going home to spend the Christmas holidays in the provinces, independent Senator Richard J. Gordon Tuesday cautioned travelers to take extra precautionary measures to ensure their safe travel.

Gordon reminded travelers that though concerned government agencies have the duty to take steps to ensure the safety of passengers, the public must also do their part and take care of their personal safety.

“With the long Christmas break, many of our countrymen will go home in the provinces to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Our sea and ports will be crowded and traffic in the expressways will be heavy,” he said.

“Though the government is tasked to ensure public safety at all times, the public should also help the government by taking care of their own personal safety, and not risk their lives and their families unnecessarily,” he added.

Gordon issued the warning a few days after the cargo-passenger vessel M/B Maejan capsized in Ballesteros, Cagayan last Dec. 14 which resulted to the death of 28 passengers and 28 others remaining missing.

As chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), Gordon also reminded the various PNRC field units as well as the disaster coordinating councils be alert for any emergencies that may arise.

“The disaster coordinating councils must always be prepared for any eventuality, more so in times like this when there will be huge crowds,” he pointed out.

The PNRC has formed the Red Cross 143, which aims to have 44 volunteers, one team leader and 43 members who will serve as eyes, ears and feet of any community during disasters or emergencies. (PNA)

Friday, December 12, 2008

No Cha-cha before 2010

"My position has never changed - I am opposed to changing our Constitution before 2010. If we have to change our Charter, we must do so after the elections and the Filipino electorate should be part of the democratic process," said independent Senator Richard J. Gordon who today opposed anew moves to introduce amendments to - or revisions of - the 1987 Constitution before the May 2010 elections.

Gordon, former chairman of the Senate constitutional amendments committee, said he has always been consistent with his stand against changing the Constitution, an issue he labeled as "ill-timed, divisive and incendiary."

"Our economy requires the undivided attention of the political leadership, and it is not a time to be divided. Rather, it is a time to focus on the real problems of the nation. I will not dance to Cha-cha before 2010," he added.

Gordon, the youngest delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, said he wants the issue of amending the Charter as an "election issue" so that the public can debate not only the mode but also the merits of changing the Charter.

"The issue of Charter change should be made an election issue and be part of the national discourse among candidates so the people will know the respective stand on the issue among those whom they are voting in office," he said.

"This way," Gordon explained, "the people will not be suspicious about the motives or about the vested political interest of those who are pushing for amending the Constitution."

Gordon also wanted that the Filipino electorate be part of the democratic process of amending the Constitution so that for the first time in the country's political history they can finally own it as their very own.

According to him, the Malolos Constitution is considered as a revolutionary constitution, the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution as a colonial constitution, while the 1973 Constitution was devised under the auspices of martial law, and the 1987 Constitution was drafted by a group of arbitrarily appointed persons.

"People should be part of the process of changing the Constitution. The people owns the Charter, therefore, they must be a part of any changes," he said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bolante charged in court for disobedience and false testimony

Formal charges against former undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante for disobedience to Senate's summons and for false testimony on his alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam were filed today by independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, filed the charges at the Department of Justice for violations of Articles 150 (disobedience to summons) and 183 (false testimony) of the Revised Penal Code.

"Formal charges for disobedience to summons and eight counts of false testimony have been filed against Mr. Bolante. This should serve as a strong warning not only to Bolante, but also to other witnesses who would testify before the Senate," he said.

"We expect the court to act promptly on the case," he added.

Gordon explained that the case for disobedience to summons was filed against Bolante for his failure and refusal to appear before the Senate committee on agriculture and food, and the blue ribbon committee of the 13th Congress.

Bolante was summoned to appear as a witness on the Oct. 6 and 26, Nov. 17, and Dec. 12, 2005 hearings of the Senate. But despite proper service of notices of hearings and subpoenas, Bolante failed and refused to appear and testify before the Senate committees.

Disobedience to the Congress' summons is punishable by a jail term of one month and one day to six months (arresto mayor), or a fine ranging from two hundred to one thousand pesos, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Gordon also filed eight counts of false testimony for Bolante's statements before the Senate blue ribbon panel during the Nov. 13, 25 and 28 hearings that were contradictory to the testimonies of the other witnesses.

In his testimonies under oath, Bolante maintained that the distribution of funds by his office was a regular program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), but was contradicted by the testimonies of DA regional directors (RDs).

DA directors Roger Chio and Leo Cañeda both said that there was no such program in previous years or at any time after 2004.

Bolante said his role in the implementation of the Farm Input-Farm Implement (FIFI) project was only to "download" the funds, leaving the RDs to implement it. However, all the RDs said their authority to enter into a memorandum of agreement was only limited to one million pesos.

Dir. Chio presented a purchase order signed by Bolante, while Dir. Ricardo Oblena said Bolante called him up and instructed him to change the beneficiary of the program.

On Bolante's statement that he did not know who recommended him to be undersecretary of DA, Gordon, in his complaint, argued that it is contrary to human nature that Bolante merely accepted the appointment without knowing the identity of the persons behind his appointment.

Gordon also said that Bolante could not have merely been invited to be a Trustee of the Government Service Insurance System by Bernardino Abes, as he stated before the committee, because members of the GSIS Board of Trustees are appointed by the President of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit (COA) qualified Bolante's claim that the funds for the FIFI project were fully liquidated, saying that the funds were traced but the use and the manner of procurement of the fertilizers are still improper.

The former undersecretary also said that the term 'farm inputs' includes 'farm implements', but the COA stated that it does not classify implements as inputs.

Bolante also continuously maintained that he had only four bank accounts, but Senator Jinggoy Estrada stated that he had at least 23, and may even have had more than 70, based on a decision of the Court of Appeals.

Finally, the story of Bolante's "lost passport" was disproved by a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that Bolante's name does not appear in the department's lost and stolen passport database.

"With these eight statements of Mr. Bolante, which were all contradicted by other testimonies or official documents, it would not be hard to establish that he testified falsely before the Senate," Gordon said.

Although a bailable offense, false testimony is punishable by four months and one day (arresto mayor, maximum period) up to two years and four months (prision correccional, minimum period) imprisonment. Each false testimony is considered a separate and distinct offense.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A leader with a clear vision can uplift his people in any crisis

In times of crisis, a leader with a clear vision of what he wants for his people and his country can always rise up to any challenge, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon said.

Gordon made the statement during the recently-concluded 10th Achievers and Leaders Summit at the RCBC Plaza , Makati City , where he shared his experiences and lessons learned in leading volunteers during times of crises and disasters.

"A leader should uplift the level of behavior of a people. He must give them a vision, show them where they are going, and at the same time, consult them too. That's what we did in Subic ," he said during his speech.

"A leader defines not only his character but when he uplifts his people he wants to define the kind of people he wants them to be," he added.

Gordon, also chairman and chief executive officer of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said having a vision was the key for progress in Olongapo and Subic .

As a mayor of Olongapo, he has defined his constituents as disciplined and responsible citizens by enforcing rules, which were initially disagreeable to them but eventually turned out to be the best for the community, turning Olongapo into a model city.

He had imposed the color coding scheme in jeeps, organized the garbage collection method, improved the peace and order system, and invigorated the people with slogans, "Aim high, Olongapo!", and "Bawal and tamad, lalong bawal ang tanga sa Olongapo!"

In Subic, Gordon has envisioned transforming the former US military base into a Freeport , an idea which sounded crazy to many, but nevertheless, he pursued with his vision and transformed Subic into a premier investment hub and tourism spot..

"I had a vision for Subic , and I was able to convince our volunteers that it can be done. After three years, we no longer got money from the national government. They were drawing money from us. After the first year, we got the tourism destination of the year award," Gordon said.

"And who did it? The people. People will always be part of the process of change. We hosted APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Conference) in 1996. It was the best proof that Filipinos can create a 'Bagumbayan' in their own minds as well as in their community," he added.

The Senator stressed that if he had introduced changes in Olongapo and Subic through a vision that he eagerly worked on with the people, the country can do it as well if all the leaders are focused on where they want the nation to be.

"The Philippines is a very exciting place, it's a development waiting to happen. It takes leadership and people. First, we have to change ourselves, re-invent ourselves. Second, you have to not cease from hoping, you have to look at the good side of things and try to find out whether you can do what needs to be done," Gordon said.

'Museum of Islamic Culture' to be built in Intramuros

MANILA, Dec. 9 — A "Museum of Islamic Culture" within the Walled City that would showcase the rich history and culture of the Filipino Muslims in the country will be built said independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee and former tourism secretary, made the announcement as he led the reopening of Intramuros as the Philippines' History Town last Friday.

"This is our sincerest effort to raise public awareness and promote greater understanding of the important cultural and historical contributions of the Islamic faith to the people of the Philippines," he said.

"We are certain that most would agree that the building of this Museum will also accomplish much in the way of promoting a greater manifestation of peace and harmony between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines," he added.

The senator said he has asked the support of ambassadors from Islamic countries to help in raising funds needed for the building of the museum, to be called as the Museum of Islamic Culture.

Gordon has filed the "Ninth Ray" Bill which proposes that the rays of the sun on the Philippine flag be increased from eight to nine, to symbolize the community of Muslim leaders who defended our land.

He explained that Muslim heroes left an imprint on national history that must be given due recognition in Philippine flag.

In 2003, he also fought for the installation of the Lapu-Lapu Statue in Rizal Park. This, he explained, was motivated by the intent to honor and recognize the contributions of Muslims and Visayans in shaping Filipino history.

Gordon has often pointed out that while the 2000 census placed the number of Muslims at 3.9 million, the history of Islam in the Philippines ante-dates the arrival of the Spanish by more than 200 years and their contributions to Filipino culture are greatly significant.

"Our Muslim brothers in Mindanao and elsewhere have never been conquered. From Lapu-Lapu to Rajah Sulayman and the other Filipino Muslim heroes that fought to remain free, all have demonstrated our people's great courage and indomitable spirit. We should do all we can to remember that every Filipino borrows greatly from his proud Muslim heritage," he said.

The Senator pointed out that the building of the Museum of Islamic Culture in Intramuros would be historically appropriate.

"Our proposal to establish the Museum of Islamic Culture is an effort to bring Islam back to the core of Philippine consciousness and in so doing propagate better appreciation for the faith, which will hopefully lead to a more encompassing peace between Muslims and Christians in this country," said Gordon. (PNA)

Gordon mulls 'Museum of Islamic Culture' in Intramuros
December 9, 2008 11:44 am by pna

Senators welcome SC ruling on Bolante

MANILA, Philippines -- Senators on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court decision granting former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said the Senate will abide by the decision of the Court, which he described as "procedural," adding that the ruling is not a victory for Bolante.

"No, no. It's procedural," he said over the phone.

Gordon' s committee is investigating the alleged P728-million fertilizer fund scam, which involved the alleged diversion, supposedly engineered by Bolante, of government money to the 2004 election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With the blue ribbon committee scheduled to meet on Wednesday, the senator raised the possibility that Bolante would be released even before the December 12 hearing set by the Court for the chamber to produce the former official.

The committee is considering filing a perjury case against Bolante and then release him from Senate detention.

"Baka mag-decide na kami na i-release siya before that Friday schedule [We might decide to release him before that Friday schedule]," Gordon said.

Senators welcome SC ruling on Bolante
By Maila Ager
First Posted 19:18:00 12/09/2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

On Bolante spending Christmas in jail

Malacañang should pity other people and not Bolante just because he might spend Christmas at the Senate said Senator Richard Gordon in an interview today

Gordon said the administration should feel more sorry about the Filipinos, particularly the farmers, who were deprived of the P728 million. He said they should also feel sorry for the children of journalist Marlene Esperat, who was killed for reportedly exposing the anomaly.

He said Malacañang should not politicize the issue because it was all about accountability.

Gordon stressed the Senate had been fair to Bolante and that he would be released once he had satisfied the senators or if a case against him had been filed before the Ombudsman or the courts for his culpability on the scam and false testimony at the Senate.

Bolante seeks habeas corpus
By Sandy Araneta
Updated December 06, 2008 12:00 AM

Blue Ribbon fertilizer probe to include Esperat slay

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will investigate motu propio the murder of Marlene Garcia Esperat who exposed an alleged illegal procurement of P432-million worth of fertilizer. Independent Senator Richard Gordon who chairs the said committee made the announcement at a press conference today.

While the Esperate murder case was mentioned in previous investigations at the Senate, Gordon explained that the predicate was not properly laid down about the complete circumstances that led to her assassination.

“This time we will investigate why a resident Ombudsman in the Agriculture Department in Mindanao was killed because she wanted to expose an anomaly. So far, the case has made some progress in courts but the masterminds have never been revealed,” he said.

“The anomaly allegedly involves as much as 460 million pesos involved, it was done by certain personalities, and the person who wanted to expose it was killed. This is what badly needs to be investigated,” he added.

The Independent Senator said that he is currently gathering complete evidence that will reveal and pinpoint who actually ordered Esperat's killing.

“Not only do we have corruption before us, but also we have a murder case. This points to the work of a powerful syndicate that orders the killing of people who would expose their criminal acts. We cannot let the country remain sleeping on cases such as this,” he said.

In 2003, Esperat filed a graft complaint against Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, former Agriculture Secretary Luis “Cito” Lorenzo Jr., and other officials of the Department of Agriculture.

Esperate, a resident Ombudsman in Central Mindanao, claimed that the fertilizer distributed under the P432-million Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program in 2003 were overpriced, the bidding was rigged and procurement was awarded to disqualified bidders.

Esperat was gunned down at her home in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, by an assassin on March 24, 2005, in front of her children.

Two weeks after the killing, Randy Grecia, one of the suspected lookouts, surrendered to police authorities, and subsequently pled guilty.

Grecia along with his three accomplices identified as Estanislao Bismanos, Gerry Cabayag, and Rowie Barua, testified that they were hired by two officials in the Department of Agriculture of Central Mindanao.

The suspected masterminds were identified as Estrella Sabay, Finance Officer, and Osmeña Montaner, Regional Accountant, DA Region 12. Murder charges were filed against the two in Tacurong City on October 20, 2008. (30/prf)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Revival of Intramuros as RP's history town

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today lauded the revival of Intramuros as the country's history town, showcasing historical events and cultures from the different regions in the country.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism panel, made the commendation as the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) revived Wow Philippines program featuring Intramuros as the country's history town.

"We are happy that the government has pushed through with the re-opening of Intramuros History Town in time for the Christmas season. The Walled City used to be known throughout the world as one of the best cities in Asia," he said.

"Today, we see the continuation of our efforts to revive Intramuros by making it a central showcase of our country's rich culture and heritage," he added.

The Senator lauded current Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab, the Intramurous Administration, and the heads of all the agencies that contributed efforts to open Intramuros History Town.

During his term as Tourism Secretary from 2001 to 2003, Gordon led efforts to revive the Walled City through the Wow Intramuros project - which preceded Intramuros History Town..

The project transformed Intramuros into a major tourist attraction with daily events, bazaars featuring crafts and products from all over the Philippines, entertainment ranging from ethnic shows to rock concerts, restaurants, and al fresco dining along cobblestone streets.

The former tourism secretary also commissioned the establishment of the Light and Sound Museum in Intramuros that tells the history of the Philippines.

"Before Wow Intramuros and the current Intramuros History Town, the Walled City only had Fort Santiago and the walls of the Walled City itself were in a sad state of neglect," he said.

"When we revived Intramuros, local and foreign tourists came in droves to have some fun but came away enriched with an improved, more positive view of the Philippines and its proud heritage. More than that, even ordinary taho vendors were making P2,000 a night in brisk trade in Intramuros and this speaks volumes about tourism creating jobs," he added.

In 2003, when the revival of Intramuros was first launched, the Intramuros administration recorded the number of visitors at 2,691,426 with revenues reaching P52 million and in the following year, the number of visitors went down to 1,771,395 with revenues reaching P30.2 million.

Intramuros History Town Philippines this year will be open daily until from Dec. 5 to Dec. 30. Highlights in its grand opening include demonstrations of indigenous games, an electric parade, performances from various bands and chorale groups, and a major fireworks display.

Sights to see include native architecture such as the new frontage of the Clamshell which is modeled after a 19th Century Bachelor's House, a new Torogan, Kalinga octagonal hut, Mayoyao house, and the pook Alitaptap. Various Filipino products will be available at souvenir shops along Sta. Lucia Street and the PC Barracks will be a daily venue for rock bands and concerts.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Senate blue ribbon panel orders the arrest of Bolante

The Senate blue ribbon committee today ordered the immediate arrest of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante for giving several evasive testimonies before senators probing his alleged involvement into the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon made the announcement after 11 of the 17 members of the panel he chairs have signed the resolution which cited eight evasive statements made by Bolante as bases for the Senate's contempt order.

"We have obtained a majority of votes to cite Mr. Bolante in contempt, arrest him, and have him detained here at the Senate," he said in a press briefing after a caucus with the members of the committee.

Among those who signed the contempt order were Senators Gordon, Mar Roxas, Aquilino Pimentel, Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Rodolfo Biazon, Francis Escudero, Ramon Revilla Jr., Pia Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, and Loren Legarda.

Gordon said they are only waiting for the signature of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to have the order served by the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

The blue ribbon chair said that Bolante's contradicting statements and continuous evasiveness during the panel's hearings last Nov. 13, 25, & 28, on the fertilizer fund program were enough bases to have the former agriculture undersecretary be held for contempt.

Gordon said that during the hearings, Bolante maintained that his only role in the program was to "download" the funds, and that it was a regular program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

However, DA Regional Field Unit (RFU) directors contradicted Bolante's statements, saying that the Farm Inputs-Farm Implements program was never a regular project of the department.

The regional directors also said that letters of instruction and purchase orders regarding the program were signed by Bolante, thereby opposing his statement that he was not part of the implementation of the project.

"During the hearings, we have already proven that Bolante was on top of these things. He was the one in-charge of this program. And the regional directors all attested to that," Gordon said.

Gordon said that during the caucus, the senators also agreed to amend the rules of the Senate and the Senate blue ribbon committee in citing a person in contempt.

In the amended rules, the committee, through a majority vote of its members, may punish for contempt any witness before it who disobeys the order of the committee, including refusal to produce documents pursuant to a subpoena duces tecum, or refuses to be sworn or to testify or to answer a proper question by the committee or any of its members, or testifying, testifies falsely or evasively.