House Democrats deliver Trump impeachment articles to Senate

UNTV News   •   January 16, 2020   •   237

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signs the articles of impeachment prior to their being walked across the Capitol to the Senate in Washington on Wednesday, 15 January 2020. EFE-EPA/SHAWN THEW

Washington – Articles of impeachment against Donald Trump were transmitted to the US Senate on Wednesday nearly a month after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to charge the Republican president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The seven “impeachment managers” appointed earlier Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prosecute the case carried the documents across the Capitol to the Senate.

The Senate majority leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, invited the managers to return to the chamber at 12.00 pm Thursday to read the articles of impeachment aloud.

Following the reading of the articles, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is to be sworn-in as the temporary president of the Senate for the duration of the impeachment proceedings.

Roberts will then swear-in the 100 senators as jurors in preparation for the trial, set to begin Tuesday, when the Senate will re-convene after the Jan. 20 holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

“This is a difficult time for our country – but this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate. I’m confident this body can rise above short-termism and factional fever, and serve the long-term best interests of our nation,” McConnell said.

“We can do this. And we must,” the majority leader said.

During an earlier signing ceremony, Pelosi said that the House was acting in accord with its “constitutional duty.”

“Today, we will make history, when we walk down – when the managers walk the hall, they will cross a threshold in history, delivering articles of impeachment against the president of the United States for abuse of power and obstruction of the House,” she said.

“This president will be held accountable,” the California Democrat said hours after the House voted 224-190 vote to send the impeachment articles to the Senate.

Pelosi selected Democrats Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Zoe Lofgren, Val Demings, Jason Crow and Silvia Garcia as the impeachment managers.

“The emphasis is on litigators,” Pelosi told reporters. “The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom.”

Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office.

Pelosi held back on sending the articles to the Senate because she wanted Republicans there to guarantee that they would allow new witnesses to be called in the trial, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Trump’s current acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

McConnell, however, wants an expedited process culminating in an all but inevitable acquittal.

Trump is only the third president in history to be impeached after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998-99, both of whom were acquitted.

The case against Trump unfolded after a complaint by a whistleblower from the intelligence community regarding a telephone call in July 2019 between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the US leader – in exchange for releasing some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and setting up a coveted White House meeting for Zelensky – pressured the Ukrainian to investigate Biden for corruption although no evidence seems to exist on that score.

Trump, however, has consistently claimed that he did nothing wrong and virtually all Republican lawmakers have toed the party line that insufficient evidence of wrongdoing to justify impeachment and removal from office was gathered by House Democrats in their impeachment investigation.

Meanwhile, Trump prohibited administration officials who have inside knowledge of the activities and motivations surrounding the phone call with Zelensky from testifying before the House and also denied Democrats access to documents that might shed light on the matter, and this stonewalling resulted in the passage of the impeachment article regarding obstruction of Congress in its oversight responsibility. EFE

llb-afs/bp-dr

Senators insist exemption from gag order plea on ABS-CBN franchise issue

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators believe that they should not be covered by the gag order that Solicitor General Jose Calida is requesting in relation to the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation.

 According to Senator Grace Poe, the Upper Chamber is expressing its respect and support to the Supreme Court (SC) but based on the court’s previous ruling, the Senate should not be affected by the gag order.

Poe is planning to start the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise on February 27.

Several senators also agreed that discussions on the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal should be given a chance.

 “I think it has to be established first, (before you curtail my freedom of expression), for me to speak freely,” expressed Senator Joel Villanueve.

“I think there is no compelling reason right now to do that,” he added.

“The Senate can pursue the oversight hearing in light of its oversight function,” believed Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa who is a known ally to President Rodrigo Duterte also supports the Senate’s discussion on the allegations against ABS-CBN.

“It concerns everyone, the public. So, hindi mo maiwawasan na pag-usapan iyan sa publiko, (You cannot stop the issue from being discussed in public,)” dela Rosa said.

“We have to give fair chance to everyone. Dapat malaman natin kung anong katotohanan. Pero pag sinabi mo na impluwensya ako sa desisyon ni Presidente, kayo may sarili kayong bias, ako naman (We should know the truth. But if you accuse me of being influenced by the President’s decision, like you having your own bias, I also am biased to my President,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, hopes that the Supreme Court will not include the Senate or any of its committees in the gag order.

“What may be covered, though, are the resource persons who will be invited to shed light on this instant case involving the franchise of ABS-CBN as they are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general,” Lacson explained in a statement.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who previously filed a joint resolution to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN to 2022, argued that the SC cannot bar a resource person from responding to a Senate invitation.

The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation. The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” Drilon said.

SC spokesperson Atty. Brian Hosaka, meanwhile, clarified that the Senate may still push through with their inquiry, even the House of Representative as they are not among the parties involved in the case.

The SC has given the Kapamilya Network five days to answer to the SolGen’s petition.

Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed support for the gag order.

“Tama naman siya doon kasi parang nagiging emotional ang issue on this particular topic,” Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“If ABS-CBN has committed a criminal act then the President will exercise his right and pursue a case against it before the court. But he will not use his office to stop ABS-CBN from continuing with its service. That’s for congress to decide, not for him,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado / Rosalie Coz)

Trump takes a limousine lap before Daytona 500 auto race

UNTV News   •   February 17, 2020

President Donald Trump took a loop around the Daytona 500 racetrack on Sunday (February 16) in the presidential limousine known as “The Beast,” drawing cheers from fans at NASCAR’S most prestigious race.

Ramping up his nationwide re-election effort after his acquittal in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial, Trump served as the grand marshal at the annual National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing event, which takes place in the electoral swing state of Florida.

After his motorcade made its way around part of the track, Trump took a break to take pictures with supporters.

After being driven a full lap in the limo before the race began, Trump delivered the opening line: “Gentlemen, start your engines” at the Daytona International Speedway before a crowd of 100,000.

Previous presidents who attended NASCAR events at the speedway include Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Florida is one of a handful of U.S. states that swing between Democrats and Republicans in presidential elections.

Trump won the state, where he has golf courses and a home that is now considered his primary residence, in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Reuters)

(Production: Pavithra George)

Senate adopts committee recommendation to file raps vs Faeldon, other BuCor and Bilibid officials

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has adopted the recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to file charges against officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over the alleged abusive implementation of the Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

In the Committee Report No. 42 sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday, the panel recommended the filing of charges against former BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon, BuCor Documents and Record Section chief Ramoncito “Chito” Roque, Corrections Senior Inspector Ma. Benilda “Mabel” Bansil, and Corrections Officer Veronica “Boday” Buno.

Also recommended to be charged were Bilibid Directorate for Health Services director Dr. Ernesto Tamayo, Medical Officer Dr. Ursicio Cenas and Nursing Attendant Meryl Benitez.

The panel wants Faeldon charged for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) for committing nonfeasance in not complying with the requirements of Department Order No. 953; Roque, Bansil and Buno for accepting money for the promise of early release of prisoners; and Tamayo, Cenas, and Benitez for accepting money in order for PDLs to be confined in the New Bilibid Prison Hospital.

“The New Bilibid Prison became a place of vulnerability. Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL), while they deserve to be in prison because of their crimes, does not mean that they should be exploited and be taken advantage of. Their vulnerable situation makes them prone to the many extortions done inside the Bilibid,” Gordon said.

To reform the penal system, the committee also recommended that:

  • There should be a Model System of Penology;
  • There should be full digitalization of the carpetas, which should be accessible to the public or the families of the concerned parties;
  • There should be transparency, especially with regard to the computation of time allowances and release of prisoners;
  • Full digitization of all prisoner records is a must;
  • Digitalizing records of BuCor and BJMP employees and personnel for easy monitoring and filing;
  • The New Bilibid Hospital should be maintained and be well-equipped with adequate medical services;
  • There should be an operations center which can monitor every prisoner;
  • The use of artificial intelligence, digital and video analytics with command center independent from each other, inside our prison facilities to ensure that the PDLs, guards, employees are constantly monitored; and
  • There should also be a Code of Conduct followed

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