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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tourism bill to enhance RP's tourism competitiveness

The Philippines can regain its spot, and even climb up, in the global tourism competitiveness ranking as soon as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signs into law the proposed Tourism Act of 2009, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon, chief author of the Tourism Bill, said the country's tourism industry will become more competitive once the law expected to be enacted into law soon allows the establishment of tourism enterprise zones (TEZs) in strategic areas in the country.

"The bill seeks primarily to promote the tourism industry through the development and integration of tourism concepts, to regulate standards for the operation of the tourism industry and to establish a tourism infrastructure program," he said.

"With the faithful implementation of this measure, the nation can have a better institution to regulate and promote tourism and install the necessary infrastructures to make our country truly world-class," he added.

In the World Economic Forum's third annual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, the Philippines placed 86th among 13 countries surveyed for tourism competitiveness, sliding from its 81st spot in 2008.

The country is also reportedly weak in areas of safety and security (113th), health and hygiene levels (87th), and transport, tourism and ICT infrastructure that require upgrading.

The report, however, cited that some aspects of the policy rules and regulations are conducive to the development of the country's tourism sector. These include the few visa requirements for foreign visitors and the bilateral Air Service Agreements that are assessed as comparatively open.

Gordon, a former tourism secretary, said the tourism bill aims to upgrade and develop the country's tourism industry by declaring a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development, primarily through the establishment of TEZs.

These TEZs will provide the necessary vehicle to coordinate actions of the public and private sectors to address development barriers, attract and focus investment on specific geographic areas and upgrade product and service quality.

The bill also seeks to strengthen the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies.

"The Department of Tourism would lead the establishment of a tourism infrastructure program and coordinate with other agencies to identify vital access roads, airports, seaports and other infrastructure requirement in identified tourism areas," Gordon said.

Education equates to finding future in RP not abroad

Through an improved educational system, Filipinos will find future in the country and not in foreign shores stressed Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of Senate Bill 2402 or the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), said the country will produce better graduates through his bill and will attract more investors into the country.

"If our people are educated, hindi aalis ang bansa, pupuntahan tayo ng ibang bansa dito at dito sila maglalagay ng hanapbuhay," he said.

"We can all find our future in the Philippines. We would not have to find our future in foreign shores," he added.

Appalled by the sad plight of the country's educational and health care systems, the senator filed the HEAP bill, also known as the "text-for-change" bill, to address the pressing problems plaguing the country's educational system.

Under the SB 2402, a HEAP Corporation will be established to manage funds that would be remitted by giant telecommunication companies from a small portion of their net revenues from local text messages which reportedly reach two billion daily.

The funds would be used to fill the gap in the country's health care and educational requirements.

Gordon stressed that there would be no need for Filipinos to work abroad if they can find a brighter future in the country and separation of families and the problems that go with it, would be prevented.

"Naghihiwalay ang mga pamilya kapag nagtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Kumita nga ng pera pero kawawa naman ang mga magulang. Kawawa naman yung mga bata, hirap na hirap, kung minsan nagdo-droga, natotorotot pa," he said.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Masayang nakikinig ang mga mag-aaral ng School of the Holy Spirit of Quezon City, kay Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon sa kanyang mensahe tungkol sa responsableng pagboto. Binigyan diin ni Gordon ang tamang pagpili sa mga kandidato para sa darating na 2010 eleksyon, ang tamang pagkilatis ng tamang plataporma – at hindi puro porma ang kailangan – sa pagboto ng ating susunod na mga lider ng bansa.


Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon inspects palay from the farmer’s grinding machine during his visit to Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija last March 17 where he was the guest of honor and speaker at the Philippine Rice Research Institute’s (PhilRice) “National Rice Research and Development Conference” and “Farmers’ Field Day and Forum” held at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station. With him are PhilRice Deputy Director Eulito Bautista and Executive Director Ronilo Beronio.


Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, with Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab and DOT Region XI Director Sonia Garcia, shows a poster designed to lure local and foreign tourists to “dare to climb” the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo, in Davao del Sur, during the Tourism-related Industry Congress (Tricon) at Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City where he was the guest speaker. Gordon, chief author of the 2009 Tourism Act which is expected to be signed into law by President Arroyo, said the measure will boost domestic tourism with the establishment of “tourism enterprise zones” in strategic areas in the country, including Davao. According to the former tourism secretary, the new tourism law would give the much-needed boost to the country’s tourism because it would generate more jobs and more revenues for local government units.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poll automation will regain public trust

The automated election system would be a game-changer in Philippine politics come May 2010 as it would regain the fast-waning public trust towards the country's electoral system said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Election Systems Law, logged as Republic Act (RA) 9369, issued the statement as he lauded the signing into law by President Arroyo of the P11.3-billion supplemental budget for poll automation.

"We have come a long way in fighting to modernize our electoral process. Let us make this work for our young and fragile democracy, and throw wholesale electoral cheating into the dustbin of our history," he said.

"In passing the automated elections law, Congress made a decision that changes the rules of the game. Once implemented according to Congress' intent, the automated election system will indeed be a game-changer in Philippine politics," he added.

More than a year before the 2010 elections, the senator moved for the passage of the P11.3-b poll automation budget to ensure that the Commission on Elections could no longer cite the same reason and postpone anew the automation of election.

He filed Senate Bill 3021 which proposed the Comelec's supplemental budget and pushed for its early passage to ensure that the funds will be released to the poll body on time.

"With the needed financial resources now at the Comelec's hands, we need to ensure that our hard labor shall bear the fruits of democracy. With political will, the automation of the elections will make us strong as a nation and as a people," he said According to him, the Filipino people would greatly benefit from an automated electoral system not only because it will get rid of massive electoral fraud that often marred past elections but also ensure speedy, clean, honest and orderly elections.

"It will change the way we vote. It will change the way we count votes. It will change the way elections are decided. It will also change the way politicians plan to cheat in the balloting," he said.

Gordon, former chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revisions of codes and laws, said next year's presidential elections would go down in history as the first automated elections in the country.

"Now, at long last, the system is about to change," he said.

RA 9369 prescribes the full automation of next year's election after its implementation was shelved in the 2007 elections for lack of sufficient time for preparations.

Monday, March 23, 2009

ICRC workers' safety is paramount

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today asserted his rights to be involved in finding immediate resolution to the 68-day ordeal of the three International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) workers who were held captive in Sulu.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said he had to intervene in order to stave off the Abu Sayyaf's threat to behead one of his three ICRC colleagues when military troops attacked their captors' lair in broad daylight.

"We have to act firmly and carefully at all times. It is simply holding the best interest of our people, our colleagues in the Red Cross, the soldiers and the high interest of our country at hand," he said in an interview over ANC.

Gordon also serves as a governing board member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He is also vice chairman of the Senate national defense committee.

According to him, his intervention had thwarted not only the execution of one of his ICRC colleagues but also freed them from what he referred to as "immediate clear and present dangers" of attacks the military troops launched against their captors.

"After that attack on Monday, there was an immediate threat (to behead) and we had to act. The Abu Sayyaf talked to me, and I was told they were going to kill one of the hostages. That is when I acted," he added.

Gordon denied he had ordered, and much less insisted, the withdrawal of neither the military troops nor the civilian volunteer officers.

"I never advocated any withdrawal (of troops). In fact, I have always told them (military) to put enough pressure so they (Abu Sayyaf) will continue talking. The only time we asked the withdrawal is when there was imminent danger to life," he said.

ASG leader Albader Parad had originally agreed to release one of the hostages in exchange for the repositioning of the troops. However, the order to withdraw had already been carried out even before the agreement was settled.

As a result, the agreement was called off and the Abu Sayyaf instead asked to grab two-thirds of Jolo through the further withdrawal of the military, including civilian volunteers.

Gordon said it was never his intention to interfere with the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group but was only compelled because there were imminent dangers posed against the three ICRC workers.

"We are talking about lives here. We have to be very, very judicious. Thank God we were able to stave off the execution and we were able to talk with the hostages, finally we have proof of life and we were able to prevent further attacks," he said.

LGUs - 'Replicate Subic as 'a model of change'

Barangay officials may learn from the lessons of Subic's transformation which is an example of how a country could change if the leader and the people will work together towards a common goal said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Speaking before the 7th Congress of the South Cotabato Provincial Liga Federation, Gordon noted that Subic is the forerunner of Bagumbayan where Filipinos can find a bright future without having to travel to foreign shores.

"When the US removed its military bases, Subic faced the dim prospect of unemployment and unsound economy. The Pinatubo eruption further aggravated this miserable condition," he said.

"But Subic was able to overcome and triumph over these unfortunate events. With the support of the people and the young volunteers who worked with us, Subic went out of the darkness and embraced a brighter future," he added.

Gordon spoke before barangay officials from 10 municipalities and one component city in South Cotabato on the theme "Grassroots Competitiveness: Tool for Inter-Governmental Effectiveness."

The senator, former chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), together with young volunteers and the people, proved the doomsayers wrong when they succeeded in creating a Freeport in Subic.

The Freeport has been a bustling hub for commerce and tourism, generating jobs and revenues from local and foreign investments that after only a few years of operation, it became self-sufficient and no longer received budget from government.

At present, Subic is host to several hotels that accommodate a large volume of tourists checking out its numerous attractions, as well as a number of other business establishments that are providing local employment.

It is also the location of the Hanjin Heavy Equipment, where huge ships are built. It could also be used as lay-up haven for their international sea-going vessels affected by the slowdown demands on imported products resulting from the global economic crisis.

Gordon stressed that what has been done to transform Subic could be replicated anywhere in the country, or even in the country as a whole, under the right leadership, thus the need to choose carefully the next leader in the 2010 election.

"Is it possible to change the Philippines? Hindi ako pumapayag na walang pag-asa sa ating bayan (I do not agree that we have lost all hopes for our country)," he said.

"Subic shows that we can change. It is an example of Bagumbayan. What we just need is the right leader who has the vision, values and who can motivate the people into doing their best, and there will be a great change in our nation," he added.

Gordon welcomes Panlilio-Padaca movement for 2010 polls

The emergence of a movement that intends to field Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio and Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca as its presidential and vice presidential bets in the May 2010 elections was welcomed today by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon said although the next election is still several months away, it is good that the Filipino people have begun to organize and initiate the process of scrutinizing the qualifications of those who wish to seek the highest political position of the land.

"The race is still far and wide open, the situation incredibly fluid. It is good that we are taking a closer assessment of our present leaders whom we believe can ably steer our nation towards peace and progress," he said.

"The emergence of a movement is a clear indication of a widespread disaffection towards our major political parties and now, our people are taking upon their hands the fate of our nation by scouting for best leaders they wish to elect," he added.

A movement composed of private organizations and individuals is reportedly planning to field Panlilio and Padaca as its presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, in the May 2010 elections.

Both Panlilio and Padaca reportedly expressed openness to the idea, but were not categorical that they would vigorously seek the respective offices.

Gordon however said the Filipino electorate should not be swayed by mere popularity or financial edge of the candidates, but rather by the proven track record of competence, unsullied integrity and reliability in choosing for the next leaders.

"The people should choose a leader that has the right qualifications, an unsullied track record of performance, a national vision, and someone who is least tainted by corruption or by the influence of the powerful," he said.

According to him, the Filipino voters have become smarter as they now look on the track record of the candidates and see what they have consistently done in their communities that made a difference in the lives of ordinary people that they serve.

"Our country needs a leader and not just a political figure. We need a leader who knows not only what the country needs, but also what should be prioritized among those needs and how each necessity should be addressed," he said.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Transcript of interview on ANC re ICRC hostages

Pia Hontiveros: On the repositioning of troops in exchange for one hostage..

Sen. Gordon: Kagabi ko pa nakausap ang mga yan. Last week pa yan na ang pinag-uusapan namin. Finally pumayag sila kagabi dahilan sa ang talagang gusto natin makuha na kahit na isang kasama namin. Unfortunately, hindi ko maintindihan merong mga tao na tila nasasaktan dahil hindi matuloy-tuloy yung giyera na gusto nila. Hindi natin makukuha ito sa giyera o sa barilan. Namatayan na tayo ng tatlong Marines, at mga 19 na sundalo na sugatan, eh dapat dahan dahan tayo. Ang hiningi sa akin i-pull out muna yung mga sundalo at nilinaw ko ito kay Gen. Yano, kay Sec. Teodoro at kay Sec. Puno because we want to be at the same page hindi katulad nung nangyari last week dapat aakyat na si Nur Misuari, nag-usap na kami ni Sec. Puno eh biglang nagputukan at namatayan pa tayo ng tatlong Marines. We have to really fix this problem.

Pia: Are you saying na may gusto ng giyera?

Gordon: Well, I'm saying that there is a problem within the hierarchy of the military. They have to control some of their people. It is important na dapat ayusin natin ito because we're very close. Katulad ngayon nakausap ko yung mga kasama naming tatlo, hirap na hirap sila, I feel their anguish but their pride is still there. I just feel for the Marines na mga namatay and I can tell you na ito ay namatay dahil nga inumpisahan yung giyera na hindi dapat umpisahan. Ang kailangan natin ngayon huwag natin payagan na makapasok ang mga ganyan at ang kailangan natin mailabas natin kaagad yung mga tao para sa ganun matapos ito. And then let's give the investments that are necessary to fix up our country especially in Sulu, in Basilan, and all these areas.

Pia: Are you saying that there are some in the AFP chain of command who want war and therefore are jeopardizing the negotiations for the release of the hostages?

Gordon: Yes, but at the proper time I will do so, I will report but at the proper time, not now. Because right now we are negotiating and I want some explanations because it is very patent and I have enough evidence. Marami akong ebidensya na magpapatunay na may mga attempts na talagang hindi matuloy itong ginagawa. Kung gusto nilang yan ang gawin, wag nila akong isama dito sapagkat ako hindi ako ang in-charge dito. Ang problema ko ako ang tinatawagan, ako rin ang nakakatawag sa kanila, wag silang sumama ang loob doon. Kailangan natin makuha ito na walang mamamatay pang additional na tao. Yan ang sinasabi ko na dapat lahat kami must be on the same page. Kaya nga ako na ang nagkusang loob na tawagin lahat yung apat para sa ganun alam ng kaliwang kamay yung ginagawa ng kanang kamay para maiayos natin ang tatrabahuhin natin.

Pia: Are you referring to Gen. Yano or Gen. Allaga?

Gordon: No. Gen. Yano knows what the problem is. I already told him, I discussed it with him and he should do something about it. Sec. Teodoro knows what the problem is. I'm glad that Gen. Yano finally bought Gen. Allaga from Zamboanga to go there to make sure na stay put ang mga sundalo doon kasi mawawalan kami ng negotiating strength dito sa mga kausap natin. Dahil ang kapalit niyan yung talagang makikita nila nagwi-withdraw yung mga sundalo at para bigyan tayo ng isang kapalit. At kanina habang ginagawa yan nagtataka ako biglang humingi na yung civilian volunteers alisin. Yun pala marami ng naka-withdraw na mga military na hindi namin nalaman na nag-withdraw, hindi sa amin sinasabi. Maganda naman ang usapan pa rin namin nitong kausap namin at kaharap naman ang mga representante ng militar at ng pulis. Yun nga lang sila rin naiibahan sa mga pangyayaring ganito. Sa katunayan ang nagsabi sakin nito yung army representative na kasama ko.

Tony Velasquez: It is pretty clear na kayo yung tinatawagan kahit hindi naman kayo yung head ng crisis management team, but you are in fact being contacted by the Abu Sayyaf directly. Ano ba ang papel pa ng ibang members ng team, like Gov. Sakur Tan, isn't he supposed to be the head of the team?

Gordon: I am the chairman of the volunteer organization that does not belong to the government, the Philippine National Red Cross.. I am also a member of the governing board of the International Red Cross.

Yun nga ang hindi ko maintindihan, somebody has to be accountable. I'm willing to be accountable for this if that's what they ask for. Pero gusto ko rin malaman ng tao na may mga tao dyan na talagang ayaw mag-succeed ito sapagkat naiinis sila dahil hindi nila makuha yung gusto nilang ipilit. Eh hindi pwede yan sapagkat ang buong bansa natin ang nakataya dito. These are International Red Cross people, one Filipino, one Swiss, one Italian, dalawang buwan na. At eto pa ang sasabihin ko, dapat ang foreign affairs minister natin pumupunta sa ambassador at tinatawag nila kung ano ang nangyayari. Inaangal sa akin ng mga taong yan na hindi nila namamalayan nagpuputukan na lang bigla tapos tatakbo sa ICRC, sasabihin naman sa akin ng ICRC. Talagang nahihirapan kami. Ito itutuloy natin hanggat gusto nila, kung ayaw nila edi sila ang mag-negotiate.

Tony: Yung away seems to be within the negotiating team and not just with the military?

Gordon: There's no negotiating team. I'm not negotiating, I'm talking. Wala akong away. But some people na nung nabago ang sitwasyon, hindi na war ang situation, ang ginagawa inuunahan. Si Gen. Saban yan dapat imbestigahan na ngayon yan. Ang sinasabi congratulations daw na he ordered a preliminary pullout without telling Gen. Yano and he's blaming Sec. Puno and me. Hindi ko na sana papatulan yan pero delikado itong ginagawa natin, buhay ang nakataya. Eh katulad ngayon nag-uusap kami aatras na dapat yung military, sabi ko pag umatras na tayo, yung sundalo palabas, papasok naman yung tinatawag na kapalit. Eh ang nangyari yun pala wala na yung karamihan ng sundalo doon.

Tinawagan ko kaagad ang Abu Sayyaf, dahil pag lumabas at nalaman nila baka hindi na nila ibigay yung taong ibibigay nila. Eto ang nakalagay sa text: "All your people will return to barracks effective tomorrow upon the insistence of Sen. Gordon, Sec. Puno, Misuari and the PNP for them to conduct negotiations. We welcome their peaceful solutions." Parang akala mo, ang lumalabas dito para kaming nakikialam eh wala naman kaming sinasabing umatras ang AFP. Ngayon na lang sinabi yan nung mag-usap kami ng mga ito at pinapaatras. I have never recommended any pullout until Sec. Puno asked me sige pangatawanan mo na Sen. Gordon. Una si Chairman Misuari nung nagkaputukan binalik ulit sa akin at yun ang nangyari at biglang lumabas ang text message na yan.

Tony: Hindi po kaya parang, katulad po naming sa media kung minsan ay nagkakaroon lang ng miscommunication although kina-clarify kung minsan ng ibang tao na ganito ang pangyayari, hindi po kaya nagkaroon ng miscommunication sa part ni Gen. Saban at ang interpretation niya ay katulad mo kanina na parang lumalabas sa reports na mayroon na pong deals, kinorek ninyo na wala pang deal so ngayon si Gen. Saban baka ganoon din po ang pagkaka-interpret niya sa meeting ninyo kagabi sa Camp Crame?

Gordon: I don't want to talk about this.. We are in the middle of the negotiation kaya nga sinasabi ko lang na tinawagan ko si Gen. Yano because of this. I complained about this last night, Sec. Puno complained about this last night and they have to fix this problem.

Tony: How?

Gordon: I don't want ... Nagkakagulo tayo dito ngayon pero yan ang totoo. We have to fix this problem before we move ... I think we can get this purpose already nag-uusap na kami biglang hiningi ngayon yun civilian volunteer dahil wala na yun sundalo. So ang problema natin ngayon ay maayos yan kaagad. Kaya nga ang nilagay ay si Allaga para hindi na magti-text si Gen. Saban.

Tony: So you see the need to confirm ... directing Gen. Saban on what the situation is?

Gordon: I call him and he doesn't call me. He called me last night once eh I was in the middle of talk pagbalik ko wala na tini-text na niya yun staff ko ... professional tayong pare-pareho. Sinasabi ko lang the national interest with faith ay mailabas natin itong mga tao natin properly.

Tony: Definitely. Sir just before we go, you are offering already to read one more text message, are you still willing to read that message?

Gordon: No, not now. I think what is more important here is ... I want to be very frank, we will continue with this effort. I just want the secretary of defense, I want the chief of staff to bring in anybody, any officer to think otherwise, otherwise I will pull out. Bahala na kayo. But right now we are getting words of getting these persons na ibibigay sa atin. Pagkatapos ng usapan, Nur Misuari will come in at makipag-uusap para sa dalawa. If they continue to do this, it is not productive so tapusin na lang natin ito at tatawagan ko nga si Al Bader sapagkat yan ang usapan namin ngayon. Nakapagtataka lang kung bakit nagkakaganyan.

Tony: Sir, very quickly. The offer to the Abu Sayyaf do you think has it already been received by the Abu Sayyaf?

Gordon: We talked to them today. Very, very difficult time because for the first time in a long time I was able to talk with our three associate from the Red Cross. I have the tape and if they will listen to the tape, you will be ... Mixed emotions. Maaawa ka. Mapapaiyak ka. Mabibighani ka sa katapangan ng mga taong ito. Sinabihan ko si Al Bader kako tratuhin ninyo nang maayos at wag kang pabago-bago ... nagtaka ako bakit biglang pumasok ang civilian volunteer eh mga taga-Sulu yun, mga Tausug yun. Aba'y ang sabi kaagad wala na yung mga sundalo dyan, naglipatan na . Nandoon na sila sa back to barracks, following the orders of Gen. Saban last night tapos ang nangyari and I want it to be very clear, I am taliking with Al Bader and all of the sudden I saw this text na medyo sarcastic upon the insistence of Sen. Gordon, Puno�we have never, for the record, I did not say anything, it is the military all the way pero nang makita ko yan ay dali-dali kong tinawagan si Al Bader para sabihin sa kanya na paaatrasin ko na yung mga sundalo, ibigay mo na sa akin yung isa. Pumayag. I have all the tapes, reams of tape na maririnig ninyo kung ano ang progress ng negotiation. Hindi ninyo maitatago.

Tony: You will allow us to air those tapes?

Gordon: In the proper time but I first want Gen. Yano and Sec. Teodoro to act on Mr. Saban. He should not intervene.

Tony: Sir isang mabilis na sagot na lang. According to the people you have spoken with wala na talaga yung military. Nag-pull back na sila?

Gordon: Nag-pull back na sila sa barracks, meron na lang kokonting natitira kasi ang usapan habang ipinapasok natin, habang lumalabas ang mga sundalo ipapasok natin unti-unti yung mga tao. In fact, nandito yung mga tauhan ng mga military at mga police. Ang probema compartmentalize ka na. Hindi kami nakapag-uusap doon sa kabila. We must put our trust on people who are reliably trying to do what is right, this is not the time to enhance our respective positions.

Tony: Sen. Gordon thank you very much we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

‘Rebelyn’s murder a war crime’

Davao City - Sen. Richard Gordon branded yesterday as a “war crime” the killing of Rebelyn Pitao.

In Senate Bill 2669, Gordon said Rebelyn’s killing may be considered a war crime defined as an act of violence to life and person, in particular murder, committed against persons taking no active part in hostilities.

“Whether or not the killing of Rebelyn Pitao is related to her father’s involvement with the NPA, we should not tolerate such an atrocious act,” he said.

“However, this incident highlights the need to enjoin the country to respect International Humanitarian Law.”

Gordon said Congress must pass a law allowing the prosecution of crimes against International Humanitarian Law in Philippine courts.

“If the killing of Rebelyn Pitao was connected to her being a daughter of NPA commander Leoncio Pitao, it is more urgent to pass the IHL bill that would punish such acts under domestic courts,” he said.

The IHL is a set of rules that seek, for humanitarian reasons, a limit to the effects of armed conflict such that persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities are protected and the means and methods of warfare are restricted.

Gordon said the Senate bill seeks to codify IHL within the country’s legal system to penalize and deny “safe havens” for those who committed war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

“A crime is a crime,” he said.

“When we adopt international law as part of the law of the land, it reinforces our position that we are a humanitarian country which respects the rights of people even in the midst of armed conflict.

“In other words, we are drawing a face of our country that we firmly ensconced in humanitarian law.”

Army major tagged in Pitao slay; 2 confined to barracks
By Edith Regalado
Updated March 12, 2009 12:00 AM

LGUs must reap benefits of new tourism law

Local Government Units (LGUs) must reap the big benefits of the tourism bill as soon as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signs it into law, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon said today.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee, issued the call as he urged them to take full advantage of the tourism bill since it provides for the establishment of tourism enterprise zones across the country, thereby boosting domestic tourism.

"The governors of our provinces should now begin looking at contiguous beaches and other areas that are suited as tourism enterprise zones. They should, this early, figure out how to handle the influx of people asking about how to go about investing in tourism enterprises in their province," he said..

Gordon explained that the entire tourism industry should make haste in preparing to lure investments in Philippine tourism by identifying areas that are ripe to receive investments, such as Pangasinan, Bohol, Palawan, Samar, Leyte, and other areas.

"When investors come here, we can present them with a menu from which they can pick an area for tourism investment and make it easy for them to set up their businesses," he said.

Gordon, a former tourism secretary, added that a boost in tourism would mean that more jobs would be generated and would result to an increase not only in the employment rate but also in the revenues of LGUs.

He also pointed out that LGUs would take a major role in developing these zones, which would be established to entice foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

The bill also aims to enhance the capabilities of LGUs in administering tourism activities and enforcing tourism laws through support and training programs from the Tourism Department.

"Once we establish these tourism enterprise zones, the local governments would have a big role in its development. They would also be the ultimate beneficiaries of this program because it will not only boost local tourism, but also increase their revenues," Gordon said.

"The key to a successful implementation of this measure is through a concerted effort between the national government and the LGUs," he added.

Gordon said the targets for the tourism enterprise zones are Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan and Iloilo, which could be developed into a haven for tourists.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Transcript of press conference Re: Bagumbayan Movement

I'm really considering running and maybe it's time to announce it in the sense that on the 27th of April we will have a big meeting of the Bagumbayan Movement at the Manila Hotel. The Bagumbayan Movement will be represented from all provinces of the country and we will meet there in the Manila Hotel because ang Manila Hotel nasa Bagumbayan. We will meet there on the day Lapu-Lapu repelled the colonial invader and we will meet in a place where Legaspi kicked Rajah Sulayman out and he created Bagumbayan, isang minimithing bayan na bago ang pag-uugali na may kakayahan, hindi natatakot sa malalaking tao, taglay ang tapang ni Lapu lapu at taglay ang talino at tapang ni Jose Rizal

(Will this be your political party?) Could be. If they will have to make a decision on who they want to become the President.

(Possible announcement of your candidacy?) I do not know. Because I don't believe na, ang nangyayari sa atin ngayon ay marami ng kumakampanya even if the law does not permit it. The spirit of the law says you cannot campaign long before. Ang lumalabas ang pinapairal dito ay ang patapangan ng apog. I stand against the coarsening of the culture of our country. Masyado ng matapang ang apog ng lahat. Nakikita natin ang corruption lumaganap na sa atin, sa SEC tinatamaan ngayon, tinatamaan lahat ang ating departamento, lahat ng bidding ng gobyerno naku-question.

So it's time we change the paradigm. It's time na magkaroon tayo ng Bagumbayan. Matagal ko na rin minimithi yan. Sa Bagumbayan lahat ng mga nag-aambisyon na magkaroon ng pagbabago sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng isang rebolusyon nung panahon ng Kastila dyan pinaslang lahat sila, Gomez, Burgos Zamora, Jose Rizal, dyan sila pinaslang. Hindi nila nakita ang Bagumbayan. Baka sakali ngayon sinasabi natin na tayo ay malaya baka magkaroon tayo ng movement na magbabagong isip, bagong ugali at bagong tapang ang ating bansa para mabago natin ang ating bansa.

When you run for the presidency you're asking for the trust of the entire country not only on your skill, not only on your experience, not only your integrity, but in your ability to motivate your people to take them into the promised land if you will, to take them into an era na bago na ang sitwasyon, na hindi porke mayaman ka ikaw lang ang talagang mamamayagpag, na kung ikaw ay mahirap wala kang pag-asa. Dapat kailangan ang presidente babaguhin ang paradigm ng ating bansa upang sa ganun pag naging presidente sya pantay-pantay ang lahat. Kahit na ikaw malaki pwede ka ikulong, kahit na ikaw ay sino walang sisinuhin. Dapat ang edukasyon maatim ng lahat ng Pilipino para parehas ang tao, para there will be choice in our country.

Ayokong ikinakahon ang pag-iisip ng tao na porke ikaw ay mayaman panalo ka, o porke ikaw in-anoint ka ng presidente talo ka. Dapat may sarili tayong pag-iisip, yung boto natin pagpasok natin sa botohan atin yun, tayo ang magdedesiyon, mahalin natin ang boto na yan kahit pa sabihing matatalo yung kandidato mo, kung naniniwala ka doon sa kandidato mo, iboto mo yun.

16 safeguards for automated elections

At least 16 safeguards required under Republic Act (RA) 9369 that would ensure the integrity of the automated elections in May 2010 have been enumerated by
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of RA 9369 or the amended Automated Elections System (AES) Law, issued the statement to allay fears that automated elections would equate to computerized cheating.

"Hindi tayo makakaabante sa bansa sapagkat kung manual voting na naman ang gagamitin, against ako dyan sapagkat may Ph.D na lahat yung nagbibilang dyan sa manual voting na lagging mayroong dayaan. Kaya itong automated elections na ginawa natin relies on being technology-neutral," he said.

Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod earlier warned against possible what he referred as "automated cheating" in the 2010 elections.

Monsod said the Precinct Counting Optical Scan, the ballot-based voting and counting system chosen by the Comelec, would not be transparent as it would place the election results in the hands of "software specialists" who could manipulate the votes.

Instead, he added, the Comelec should consider the Open Election System espoused by local information technology experts, which they claimed is more transparent.

Gordon said the law, which is technology-neutral, has mandated at least 16 "minimum system requirements" to ensure clean, honest and credible elections.

The minimum system requirements mandated by RA 9369 include adequate security against unauthorized access; accessibility to illiterates and disabled voters; vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite; accurate ballot counters; data retention provision; utilize or generate official ballots; and configure access control for sensitive system data and function.

It also mandates accuracy in recording and reading of votes as well as in the tabulation, consolidation/canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results; and error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device; and system integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording and counting process.

RA 9369 requires a source code for the automated election system (AES) to be selected and shall be made available by the Comelec to all interested parties for their review.

The AES shall also include a continuity plan in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality which shall result in the delay, obstruction or non-performance of the electoral process.

Other safeguards include provisions for voter verified paper audit trail; system auditability to provide supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results; and to provide for the safekeeping, storing and archiving of physical or paper resource used in the election process.

The law also requires that the machines should provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether the machine has registered his choice; and a random manual audit be done in one precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Comelec in each province and city.

Gordon said any difference between the automated and manual count will result in the determination of root cause and initiate a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error

"Dahil sa may paper audit trail, pagka hindi tayo nagkaigihan dun sa lumalabas sa computer, bukod dun sa random check pwedeng magprotesta at buksan ulit yung balota at basahin yung balota," he said.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Senate approves poll automation budget

Senate approved late last night the P11.3-billion budget that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) needed to fully automate the May 2010 presidential elections.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, principal author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections Law, lauded the Senate's approval of the budget, saying that this sends a strong signal that the Philippines stands firm in protecting and safeguarding the sacred votes of its people.

"We owe it to the Filipino people to have clean, honest and orderly elections. Automation will bring back our people's confidence in the elections," he said.

"With automated elections, our people can rely on the fact that their vote will be counted, and that their vote will mean change for the country, then they will stop being cynical. And once they stop being cynical, perhaps the focus will now be on the common good," he added.

Automating the electoral system to get rid of massive electoral fraud that often marred the country's electoral exercises and ensure clean, honest and orderly elections has been the promise of every president.

But it was not until Dec. 22, 1997 that RA 8436, the law that authorized the Comelec to use an automated election system, was passed.. However, the election modernization law was not implemented.

Gordon, who had been pushing for automated elections, authored RA 9369, which was passed into law in 2007.

RA 9369 was supposed to be implemented in the May 2007 elections but the Comelec sought a postponement, citing the lack of sufficient time for the necessary preparations needed.

To ensure that the provisions of the law would be met, such as the need to hold partial automation before fully automating the next regular national and local election, or the May 2010 elections, the senator pushed for the automation of the 2008 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) polls.

The success of the ARMM automated elections signaled that Filipinos are ready to modernize the country's antiquated electoral system and elevate it from third to first world class.

Gordon said the Senate would exercise its oversight power to ensure that the automation is aboveboard and fully implemented for democracy.

"Now all we have to do is implement the automation law and implement it well," he said.

"I am optimistic that the Comelec is keeping to its time-table. We already passed the law and allotted the appropriations. It is now up to the Comelec to ensure that the nation's quest to modernize our electoral process is enforced," he said.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Senate ratifies Tourism Bill

The Senate on Thursday dawn ratified the consolidated report of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the tourism measure that would grant incentives to tourism industry players, generate more jobs and increase revenues of local government units (LGUs).

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, principal author of the Tourism Bill, hailed the ratification by Congress of the measure, which aims to boost the country's tourism industry.

"After a long day's work, it is great to have the tourism bill finally approved by both Houses," he said.

The measure is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2213 and House Bill 5229, an act declaring a national policy for tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development and strengthening the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its attached agencies.

Gordon, a former tourism secretary, said President Arroyo is expected to sign the bill into law within the Lenten break, stressing that the measure could ward off possible effects of the global financial crisis to the country's economy.

He explained that tourism is the fastest and most efficient way of generating foreign exchange, investments and employment. Once the measure is signed into law, it will spur the creation of jobs and open additional channels for the infusion of the much-needed investments in the country's economy, he added.

"This measure will definitely boost domestic tourism as it will provide the needed infrastructures to reinvigorate local productivity. An increased productivity means more jobs for the people and more revenues for the government," Gordon said.

The senator said the measure also seeks for the establishment of "tourism enterprise zones" in strategic areas in the country to lure foreign investors and tourists to visit places rich with history and culture.

He added that LGUs would take a major role in developing these tourism enterprise zones, which will enable them to spur economic productivity and achieve higher levels of economic growth.

"With the faithful implementation of this measure, the nation can have a better institution to regulate and promote tourism and install the necessary infrastructures to make our country truly world-class," Gordon said.

"We can have more jobs for our people, who will no longer have to find for their future in foreign shores, but right here in our native Philippines," he added.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Let us not fail the people's dream for clean, honest and cedible elections in 2010 with full automation.

Congress must not to fail the Filipino people in their long-hoped-for dream of having a clean, honest and credible elections in May 2010 by removing all impediments to the holding of automated ,elections, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon said today

Gordon said Congress should pass the supplemental budget the Commission on Elections (Comelec) needed for full poll automation of the next elections as mandated by law he has authored.

"The people have, for so long, cherished the dream of having clean, honest and credible elections. Poll automation sends a strong signal that wholesale cheating that often marred the country's electoral exercises would no longer be easily carried out," he said.

"We should not disappoint our countrymen. It is within the power of Congress to pave the way for an automated election that would erase public suspicion that the Filipino people's sacrosanct votes would be stolen from them," he added.

The Comelec has asked Congress for a P11.3-billion supplemental budget for the planned automation of the 2010 presidential elections.

The poll body is considering using the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) technology, an improved Optical Mark Reader (OMR) system that was used along with the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology in the August 2008 automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

PCOS is a technology wherein optical paper ballots, hand-marked by the voters, are inserted for counting into optical ballot scanners placed in every polling precinct.

The House of Representatives had approved on second reading the Comelec's proposed poll automation budget but with the condition it be accompanied by special measure to ensure the 2010 polls are orderly, clean and free.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo expressed hope that the automation budget would be released not later than April to give the poll body sufficient time to prepare what is needed to be undertaken for the polls to be automated.

Noting it as a matter of national urgency, Gordon said he is even amenable to calls for the holding of a special session even while Congress is on recess just so they can pass the automation budget.

"Congress is scheduled to go on recess starting March 7. With Congress not resuming until April 13, I am open to holding special sessions during the break so we can pass the automation budget and release it on time to the Comelec," he said.