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SolGen’s plea vs. ABS-CBN won’t infringe Congress powers: Palace

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MANILA — A quo warranto petition that will be lodged by the Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida’s office before the Supreme Court to revoke the 25-year legislative franchise of broadcast network ABS-CBN is not an encroachment on Congress’ powers, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo disputed Senator Panfilo Lacson’s claim that the proposed quo warranto petition to cancel ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise could lead to a “constitutional crisis” in the event that the high tribunal rules in Calida’s favor.

In an interview with dzIQ, Panelo said Calida has grounds to file a plea against the 25-year franchise of the local media giant.

“May trabaho ang SolGen na mag-file sa mga lumabag sa batas. Iba yung prangkisa na manggagaling sa Kongreso (The SolGen has the mandate to file a case against lawbreakers. The franchise that will come from Congress is a different issue),” the Palace official said.

“Iba naman yung nilabag mo ang prangkisa. Dalawang bagay yun (Violating the terms and conditions of the franchise is also a different issue. Those are two different things) and then both can independently be taken together,” he added.

On Saturday, Lacson said there was no need for Calida to pursue the filing of a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN, since Congress has the jurisdiction over issues concerning legislative franchises that have been granted to private corporations.

Lacson also stressed that intervening in the issue about the ABC-CBN’s congressional franchise would infringe the legislative branch’s constitutional authority.

Quizzed if he agrees that there might be a constitutional crisis in case SolGen’s plea was approved by the high tribunal, Panelo said: “Wala. Bakit magkakaroon ng constitutional crisis (There will be none. Why will there be a constitutional crisis?”

“Well, with due respect to my good friend, Senator Lacson, it’s not only ‘yung portion na ‘yun. ‘Yun siguro ikonsulta niya muna (The petition does not only focus on that portion — issue on congressional franchise. That’s what he has to consult first),” he added.

Under Republic Act 3846, television and radio broadcasting firms in the Philippines are mandated to secure a franchise from the government before they can operate.

ABS-CBN’s supposed biased reporting and failure to run Duterte’s political advertisements during the 2016 presidential race prompted the President to make a vow that he would ensure that the broadcast network would not be successful in renewing its franchise.

The network’s 25-year franchise will expire on March 30, 2020, unless Congress and the President grant its renewal.

A congressional franchise bill needs to be first approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives before Duterte can decide on its fate.

As president, Duterte has the power to sign into law or veto bills that Congress approves. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

3M devotees join Sto. Niño foot procession in Cebu

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SOLEMN PROCESSION. Devotees walk with the carroza carrying the miraculous image of the Sto. Niño in a 6.5-kilometer route of the foot procession on Saturday (Jan. 18, 2020) on the vesper of the 455th Fiesta Señor. Cebu City Police Office officer-in-charge Col. Engelbert Soriano estimated the crowd who joined the procession at 2.5 to 3 million. (PNA photo by John Rey Saavedra)

CEBU CITY — About 3 million devotees on Saturday joined the solemn foot procession of the miraculous image of Sto. Niño on the vesper of the 455th Fiesta Señor.

The devotees indulged in a 6.5-kilometer walk along the stretches of major thoroughfares in the city center’s downtown and uptown areas.

Col. Engelbert Soriano, officer-in-charge of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said the solemn procession was generally peaceful and successfully conducted.

Lt. Col. Rowel Gavilanes, director of the 701st Community Defense Center (CDC) of the Army Reserve Command that supervised Army reservists securing the passageways of the Sto. Niño image carroza, said the devotees were cooperative to the crowd control personnel.

“Generally, the procession started and ended smoothly,” he said.

The Army reservists manned the Osmeña Boulevard close to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño to control the ingress and egress of the churchgoers during the foot procession.

They also barricaded the corner of Colon and D. Jakosalem Streets to ensure the way of the carroza back to the Basilica after the procession.

Despite the signal shutdown, uniformed police personnel deployed by the CCPO to secure the procession route were able to coordinate with the Basilica’s Augustinian friars, the Army reservists, ROTC cadets, and paramedical personnel due to different volunteer radio communicator groups who made their services available.

As the Sto. Niño image emerged from the frontgate of the Basilica and marked the start of the foot procession, the devotees at the pilgrim center recited all the mysteries of the Holy Rosary in different Filipino dialect and foreign languages.

In between mysteries, the devotees sang the Bato Balani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love) while waving their hands or Holy Child images in different sizes that they carried with them while pacing through the beat of the drums and praying the rosary broadcasted in sound boxes spread on the street-sides.

Local radio stations here aired live the coverage of the foot procession.

From the Basilica, the procession went off along the Osmeña Boulevard and turned left at the Colon up to Leon Milat Streets, then entered J. Alcantara Street traversing V. Rama Avenue then to B. Rodriguez Street and proceeded to the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda.

From the Fuente Osmeña, the devotees proceeded through Osmeña Boulevard then took Junquera Street before taking a hard left towards Colon Street and went back to the Basilica via D. Jakosalem Street.

Before the procession, the image of the Holy Child Jesus and the Our Lady of Guadalupe were venerated by over 40,000 devotees who witnessed the Sinulog 2020 fluvial procession on Saturday dawn.

As the Galleon that carried the images at her hull sailed by the Mactan Channel, Spanish colonial soldiers-clad guards stood at attention as unending sound of sirens were heard from all over the waterfront.

Upon its arrival at the Pier 1, the devotees welcomed the Sto. Niño image and paraded it towards the Basilica to be readied for the afternoon’s foot procession.

The fiesta’s vesper mass celebrated by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones was centered on Sto. Niño “as a magnet of love and hope.”

“This is the theological core of the conviction of the mystery, of the incarnation, to the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. As an act of love, that crib that leads us to the cross, Bethlehem that leads to Calvary and the Sr. Sto Niño is one and the same Christ Jesus of Nazarene,” Billones said in his homily during the 6 p.m. mass. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Palace open to proposed Taal Commission

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MANILA — Malacañang is open to a lawmaker’s proposal to create a commission that will oversee the rehabilitation of areas in Batangas and Cavite affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.

“Lahat ng magagandang proposal, siyempre pag-aaralan natin at ipapatupad natin pag makakabuti sa ating mga kababayan (All good proposals will be studied and we will implement it if it will be for the benefit of the public),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador said in an interview over dzIQ on Sunday.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, a native of Batangas, earlier expressed his intention to file a bill creating a Taal Commission to be patterned after the Pinatubo Commission that helped victims of the 1991 volcano eruption in Central Luzon.

Panelo said it will be up to President Rodrigo Duterte to decide whether he will certify the soon-to-be-filed bill as urgent.

Under Republic Act 7637, the Mt. Pinatubo Assistance, Resettlement and Development Commission was created in 1992 which set aside PHP10 billion funds to help victims in the communities affected by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption.

The 11-member commission had the power to formulate policies and plans for the relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and livelihood services as well as infrastructure support in affected areas in Central Luzon.

However, Panelo rejected the suggestion of Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero to create a Taal task force to centralize efforts to address the crisis.

“Wala akong nakikitang pangangailangan diyan sapagkat in place lahat (I don’t see a need for that because government efforts are already in place),” Panelo said.

Panelo also assured that the Office of the President is open to releasing more funds for those affected by Taal Volcano’s unrest.

On Monday (January 20), Duterte is expected to lead the ceremonial distribution of food packs to families affected by the Taal Volcano eruption at the PUP Gymnasium in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

Panelo said the President also decided to inspect the areas since he was unable to do so when he went to Batangas Sports Complex on January 14.

Duterte’s second visit to Batangas is meant to determine whether there is a need to come up with additional contingency measures for evacuees who were forced to evacuate.

He first visited Batangas three days after the volcano started spewing ash to lead a situation briefing and comfort those who fled their homes due to the volcano’s unrest.

He also handed over PHP7.5 million to farmers and another PHP3.5 million to the fisherfolk for their livelihood.

To protect residents living near Taal Volcano from the threat of a hazardous eruption, Duterte has approved the recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to declare Taal Island as “no man’s land” or that it has no permanent habitation.

Alert Level 4 is still raised over Taal Volcano and a state of calamity has been declared in Batangas and Cavite.

Despite steady steam emission and infrequent weak explosions” in the volcano’s main crater, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the threat of the Taal Volcano’s eruption remains high.

Phivolcs earlier said it was still dangerous for evacuees to return to their homes, even if Alert Level 4 is lowered to Alert Level 2 or 3. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Duterte gov’t achievements ‘far better’ than predecessors: Palace

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DUTERTE LEGACY. PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon enumerates the government’s strategies in addressing the illegal drug problem in the country during the launch of the Duterte Legacy campaign at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Jan. 17, 2020. Malacañang on Sunday said the achievements of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration during his three years in office is “far better” than its predecessors. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA — The accomplishments of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration during his three years in office is “far better” than his predecessors, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the current administration is trumpeting its feats halfway through Duterte’s six-year term because it was proud of the President’s legacy as the country’s chief executive.

Panelo’s statement came after Senator Panfilo Lacson said it was “too early” to flaunt the Duterte administration’s achievements.

Duterte’s spokesperson, however, believed otherwise.

“Hindi totoo ‘yun (That’s not true),” the Palace official said in an interview with dzIQ, when asked if it is premature to present the government’s accomplishments under Duterte’s leadership.

“Kaya nga pinangangalandakan ‘yun kasi nga kakaiba ‘yung accomplishments na nagawa ni Presidente in three years’ time kung iko-compare mo sa mga (nakaraang) administration (It’s being trumpeted because the President’s accomplishments in three years’ time are exemplary compared to the past administrations’ achievements),” he added.

On Friday, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) launched the “Duterte Legacy” campaign that touts the successes, gains and even the sacrifices of the present administration to improve the lives of the Filipino people.

The campaign focuses on the Duterte administration’s progress in three pillars, namely peace and order, infrastructure development, and poverty alleviation.

The government’s legacies on education, infrastructure, health, labor, freedom of information, press freedom and media protection, peace and order, and environmental protection were highlighted during the campaign launch.

Various narratives from beneficiaries of the administration’s landmark projects were also presented during the launching of the “Duterte Legacy” campaign.

A magazine, podcast, and a documentary featuring the government’s priority policies and programs were also unveiled.

Panelo said the President remains focused on bringing peace and development to the entire country.

“Naka-focus siya sa pagpapaunlad ng bayan at gawing mapayapa ang ating kapaligiran at paunlarin natin ang bawat buhay ng ating mga mamamayan (He’s focused on developing the country, bringing peace to communities, and improving the lives of the people),” he said.

During the launch of the “Duterte Legacy” campaign, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar bragged that the President has been able to fulfill his promises “with great resolve and confidence.”

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, meantime, was elated that Filipinos appreciate the Chief Executive’s resolve to bring “positive” and “real” changes to the country. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Indian national gunned down in Camarines Sur

in Latest News

LEGAZPI CITY — An Indian national was shot and killed by unidentified gunman on Sunday morning inside his car along a road in Bula town in Camarines Sur province, a police report said.

Police Maj. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, Bicol police spokesperson, identified the victim as Surjit Singh, 40, an Indian national residing at Barangay (village) San Miguel, Iriga City.

The victim was found by police with bullet wound on his head as he was inside his parked car along the road of Barangay Balaogan in Bula at around 9:30 a.m.

Police investigators believe the incident was a robbery holdup since the victim was said to be carrying an undetermined amount of cash which is now missing along w…

Keep on reading: Indian national gunned down in Camarines Sur

Another Taal evacuee dies

in Latest News

MANILA, Philippines — Another evacuee from Batangas province died as the Taal Volcano still threatens to expel an explosive eruption.

Agoncillo Mayor Daniel Reyes, in an interview with Radyo Inquirer, identified the 70-year-old evacuee as Benny Mendoza, who died in the custody of a relative in Alfonso, Cavite on Saturday.

The cause of death has not been confirmed as of posting time.

In recent days, some evacuees have also died while in evacuation centers due to cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, other survivors in evacuation sites have also started to catch cough and colds after the Taal Volcano began releasing large clouds of ash last Sunday, according to Reyes.

Agoncillo town …

Keep on reading: Another Taal evacuee dies

Seamstress makes free face masks for Taal-affected individuals

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FREE FACE MASKS. A 61-year-old seamstress Rosalina Mantuano of Lipa City, Batangas sews thousands of face masks for the evacuees affected by the Taal Volcano eruption. Mantuano plans to make more face masks and give these for free to her kababayans until the volcano calms down. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

BATANGAS — You don’t need to have a lot of money to help.

A 61-year old seamstress, Rosalina Mantuano, of Lipa City has proven her generous and kind heart by sewing thousands of colorful masks and giving it for free to her ‘kababayans’ affected by the Taal Volcano eruption in Batangas province.

Mantuano began Monday sewing masks after the volcano spewed heavy ashfalls. Shortly, the supply of face masks dropped and prices increased by twice or as much as three times the usual price. The volcano erupted on Sunday afternoon.

“After I heard the masks prices have commercially increased, I decided to make more of it using some of my tailoring scraps and fabrics,” she said.

Mantuano did not have a second thought of making face masks when she learned from television news that these masks have become so expensive and the supplies run out in stores. Supplies are exhausted even in pharmaceutical stalls in Metro Manila.

“I thought I have nothing to offer and a lot of people needed masks. It can be bought but expensive, (so) I decided to make these face masks and give it away for free,” she said, as the Taal Volcano is continuously spewing ash and blasted steam to neighboring towns.

Mantuano is currently busy making 100 face masks every day that she sews two to three minutes each.

As the day passed, Mantuano’s neighbor lent her tailoring machine and her children helped in sewing face masks. She increased her finished products up to 150 pieces per day.

Her son-in-law, who is a member of a motorcycle riders club, delivered relief assistance to the evacuation centers. She then requested him to bring the home-made masks to the evacuees.

She knows the pain of her “kababayans,” a tagalog term for countrymen, thus Mantuano said she targets to make face masks “as long as it is needed by her kababayans.”

When people heard of her inspiring story about helping her kababayans in times of crisis, cloth donations and financial aid poured.

The heartwarming part was she set aside her livelihood to cope with sewing more masks for the evacuees.

But Mantuano said she does not regret setting aside dressmaking at the expense of helping others.

She is already receiving cloth donations which allow her to produce more face masks, she added.

Life as seamstress

Inay Rosalina, as known to her family and neighbors, earns her living by sewing for the past four decades or so. A widow, she was able to raise her five children through dressmaking. She makes several types of clothing, uniforms, gowns, wardrobes, curtains and many more as requested by her clients.

One of her children also turned out to be a dressmaker, who also helps her to make face masks.

Mantuano recalled she had a rough start in life, that’s why she knew how hard it is for the evacuees to be away from their homes.

As much as Inay Rosalina is grateful that in her “own little way” she was able to extend a helping hand to her kababayans, her family is pleasantly surprised at how many people are expressing their gratitude to her.

Mary Jane Mantuano, 35, who posted the compassionate act of Inay Rosalina in her social media account, said she did not expect that many people would be inspired by her mother.

“I am very proud of my mother. We are happy that she had able to help many people,” she said adding they did not expect their mother would have thought of doing such a good act.

Mary Ann said their mother was able to inspire others that anyone can help.

“We (are) happy because there were so many people thanking her for giving the face masks for free,” she added.

Nanay Rosalina plans to make more free face masks in the next few days until Taal Volcano calms down. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

SC orders Nazario heirs to settle Espinosa prize in 1998 bout

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MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the heirs of the late boxing promote Rodolfo “Rudy” Nazario to complete the payment of prize money due to boxer Luisito Espinosa for his victory in the World Boxing Council World Featherweight title fight against Carlos Rios in Koronadal, South Cotabato, 22 years ago.

In a resolution dated Nov. 13, 2019 and released on Saturday, the High Court’s Third Division ordered Nazario’s heirs, led by his widow retired SC Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, to pay Espinosa the sum of USD130,349 plus interest at 6 percent per annum reckoned from May 26, 1998.

“The scheduled fight pushed through and the respondent (Espinosa) has not been given his prize money too long to be ignored. From the time of their agreement on October 16, 1997 to the present, it has already been 22 years but the respondent (Espinosa) has not yet received the full amount of the prize money due to him,” the court said.

The court, however, reiterated that the heirs are not personally responsible for the debts and that their extent is limited to the value of the estate which they inherited.

“To rule otherwise would unduly deprive the petitioners of their properties,” the SC said.

Nazario died on September 24, 2009. He had signed as guarantor for the prize money by then South Cotabato Provincial Governor Hilario de Pedro III and fellow boxing promoter Joselito Mondejar.

Under the original contract, Espinosa was supposed to be entitled to USD150,000 and training expenses of USD10,000.

With days to go before the scheduled fight, only USD29,000 had been paid to Espinosa.

In the weigh-in on December 5, 1997, Espinosa had still not been paid the full amount even though it was customary in the boxing world that the fighters be paid in full right after weigh-in. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Taal volcano simmers, officials brace for long crisis

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AGONCILLO, Batangas — Officials said Saturday they are bracing for a long crisis whether the Taal volcano erupts more disastrously or simmers precariously for weeks or months, as massive numbers of displaced villagers languish in emergency shelters.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said more than 900 villagers who fell ill have been treated, mostly for exposure to volcanic ash, in evacuation sites since the volcano began erupting in Batangas province near Manila, the capital, last weekend.

About 125,000 people fled from ash-blanketed villages and crammed into hundreds of emergency centers in Batangas alone and many others took shelter in relatives’ homes, disaster-response officials said, appealing for masks, bottled water, portable toilets, food and sleeping mats.

“It’s really massive because you’re talking of more or less 100,000 evacuees in evacuation centers, so the infrastructure and services needed are really huge,” Duque said. “This is not going to be for the short term, but for the medium if not long term.”

After belching a massive plume of ash and steam more than 15 kilometers (nine miles) into the sky when it rumbled back to life last Sunday, Taal has been spewing smaller emissions and shuddering with fewer earthquakes in recent days. But despite a perceived waning of its restiveness, continuing volcanic quakes, the drying of Taal’s crater lake and other signs indicate magma is moving beneath, said Renato Solidum, who heads the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“We have this perception now that it’s waning versus underground sub-surface activity, which indicates otherwise,” Solidum said at a news conference, adding that experts “have not seen a definite trend that it’s weakening.”

The 311-meter (1,020-foot) -high Taal is one of the world’s smallest but the second-most restive of about two dozen active Philippine volcanoes. It has remained at alert level 4, the second-highest warning, indicating a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days.

Duque said hundreds of villagers have been treated for respiratory infections, hypertension, diarrhea, skin lesions, flu and coughs in evacuation centers. About 300,000 masks, including those from regions unaffected by the volcanic eruption, have been sent to calamity-hit areas.

The government’s main disaster-response agency will hold a meeting next week to discuss concerns, including hygiene in evacuation camps, Duque said. He has sought the help of the military to build latrines and repair toilets in emergency shelters, mostly school buildings.

In the hard-hit town of Agoncillo, Mayor Daniel Reyes said all 42,000 residents abandoned their homes, including 8,000 who are now encamped in evacuation centers and need food, water and aid. “They rushed out of their homes without bringing anything, so they will really be dependent on our help,” Reyes said.

Agoncillo still has about two weeks worth of food, water and aid packs and will need help from the provincial and national governments when supplies get depleted, he said.

While tending to the thousands of displaced residents, Reyes said he and other officials were preparing contingency plans in case Taal erupts violently.

“There is a great possibility that it will erupt,” Reyes said, citing a briefing by government volcano experts.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a string of faults around the ocean basin where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. (AP)

Gamboa’s honesty earned him PNP top post: Palace

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Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa

MANILA — It was the honesty of incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa that earned him PNP’s top post, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday announced that he is going to appoint Gamboa as the next PNP chief three months after the post was vacated by Oscar Albayalde.

“Ayon sa kanya isa lang naman ang kanyang basis pag nag-appoint siya, honesty (According to him, the only one basis for his appointments, honesty),” Panelo said in an interview over dzIQ.

Panelo explained that although honesty and competence were the two qualities in the President’s criteria in the search for new PNP chief, honesty carried more weight because competence was already expected from his appointees.

“Yung competence kasi, he already assumes na competent ka. Trabaho mo ‘yan (As for competence, he already assumes you’re competent because that’s your job),” he added.

During the Thanksgiving Gathering of Fraternal Orders of Eagles in Davao City on Friday, Duterte bared that he is going to appoint Gamboa as PNP chief but only after having a long talk with Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

Duterte earlier gave Año blanket authority to supervise the PNP as well as procurement powers.

The President wanted Año to cleanse the PNP before he named the next PNP chief.

Asked if Año would still be in charge of the PNP’s procurement powers despite Gamboa’s appointment, Panelo said he would still have to ask the President.

Last year, Gamboa was appointed as PNP officer-in-charge while the President has yet to name the next PNP chief.

The President said he saw Gamboa’s sincerity in his stint as leader of the 160,000-strong police force.

“I want you to leave something that you will be remembered by the country,” Duterte said.

Gamboa is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Sinagtala Class of 1986. A native of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, he has been assigned in various capacities in the Davao Region.

Other contenders for PNP’s top post were Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, deputy chief for operations and Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, erstwhile Metro Manila police director and now head of the directorial staff among others.

In October 2019, Duterte said he would be more careful in selecting the next PNP to avoid “stumbling” again.

Panelo said he did not know if Duterte was referring to former PNP chief Albayalde, who is accused of being involved with “ninja cops” or policemen who recycle and sell illegal drugs confiscated during police anti-narcotics operations.

The President admitted that he found it difficult to name a new PNP chief, noting that honesty was a rare trait. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Vilma Santos, Luis Manzano warn public of fake account posing as her

in Latest News

Vilma Santos-Recto and her son Luiz Manzano slammed a fake Twitter account which is using the former’s name and photo to pose as her.
Manzano retweeted one of the said page’s posts on his own Twitter account last Thursday, Jan. 17. The impostor used the actress-politician’s photo and the handle @vilmaSRecto.
“Please dont be [duped]… I am the star for all season #TaalEruption2020,” the poser said on Jan. 16 in response to a fan page (@therealluisters) dedicated to Manzano, which asked others to report the impostor.

Manzano echoed his fans’ appeal, saying, “Please report this fake account spreading fake news and [harassing]…

Keep on reading: Vilma Santos, Luis Manzano warn public of fake account posing as her

Taguig holds another relief operation for Taal Volcano victims

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RELIEF OPERATIONS. The team from Taguig City unloads relief packs for victims of the Taal Volcano eruption in an evacuation site in Laurel, Batangas on Jan. 17, 2020. The city also held a medical mission for 122 families or 500 individuals. (Photo courtesy of Mylene Gregorio)

MANILA — After sending aid to affected residents two days after the Taal Volcano eruption, a team from City of Taguig returned on Friday to provide free medical assistance and relief packs to over 122 families displaced by the calamity in the town of Laurel, Batangas

The city conducted a medical mission and relief operation for the 500 individuals staying in an evacuation site in Splendido Taal Country Club near the vicinity of Laurel, one of the affected towns by Taal Volcano eruption on January 12.

The charitable effort began with a medical mission led by the Taguig City Health Office responding to the call of the local government of Laurel to provide medical services for its evacuees. An onsite pharmacy was set up for those needing medication and supplements.

The relief operation team composed of employees from the government’s different departments also offered psychosocial support by holding parlor games and a show featuring magic and puppetry for the affected children.

After the evacuees were given medical help, they were given food packs, bottles of drinking water, hygiene kits, beddings, and N95 masks, among others.

Taguig Rescue team distributes water for the hygiene and cleaning needs of evacuees in Laurel, Batangas.

Each household also received water jugs and packs of sodium hypochlorite, a liquid that purifies water for drinking purposes. The Taguig City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office also taught the evacuees how to chlorinate water so that it would be safe to drink.

Taguig Rescue brought truckloads of water for the hygienic and cleaning needs of the evacuees. Also joining the medical mission was the Taguig City police.

The medical and relief effort was in cooperation with the offices of Senator Pia Cayetano, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Taguig second district Rep. Lani Cayetano. (PR)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

'Ate Jane': Pinay with a big heart helping Filipinos in France

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ATE JANE. Mary Jane Souterre (right) poses with husband, Patrick, and two children, Kevin and Tifanny, in this photo. Jane, fondly called as Ate Jane, is the founder of Coeurs à Coeurs, a charitable foundation in France that provides assistance to the Filipinos who in dire need both in France and the Philippines. (Photo courtesy by Mary Jane Souterre)

MANILA — Living in comfort in France never hinders a Filipina from lending a helping hand to her fellow Filipinos who are in dire need in Paris and even back home.

Mary Jane Souterre, who hails from Aklan, began helping hapless Filipinos in 2013, when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the most powerful storm that struck the disaster-prone Philippines that year, unleashed its fury in most parts of the Visayan region, including her hometown.

In November 2013, Souterre founded Coeurs à Coeurs, a charitable foundation that initially aims to improve the quality of life of victims of natural disasters in the Philippines.

Coeurs à Ceours eventually expanded into a profit association that also extends help to Filipino migrants who are victims of modern slavery in France.

Souterre, 62, is married to Patrick. They have two children, 34-year-old Kevin and 30-year-old Tifanny, who now both have successful careers.

She has a big heart for Filipinos because she also experienced the same before living a good life with her husband and two children in Paris.

Souterre, the eldest female and third oldest of 10 siblings, was unable to finish high school since she came from a poor family.

But even if life was then cruel for her when she was still in Aklan, Souterre stayed a steadfast and persevering woman.

In 1979, she met Patrick while she was vacationing at the world-famous Boracay Island in Malay town in Aklan. Four years after, they decided to stay in France for good where she strived hard to live a comfortable life.

While in France, Souterre opened her home to neglected Filipinos.

Souterre’s Coeurs à Ceours, based on its official Facebook page, also took the initiative to launch the “Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut)” program, which intends to help Filipinos residing and working in France.

Coeurs à Ceours also offered a skills-building program for Filipino migrants in France.

Dubbed as “Ate Jane,” Souterre has been receiving high regard not only from Filipinos whom he had helped one way or another but from from other nationalities as well.

Her acts of kindness and compassion have helped her earn recognition after bagging the “Global Pinoy Idol” award from Manila-based ABS-CBN Corp. in London, United Kingdom on Nov. 17, 2018.

“Global Pinoy Idol” was organized by ABS-CBN’s official AM radio station dzMM, in partnership with its international arm, The Filipino Channel, to pay tribute to overseas Filipinos who exhibit benevolence that makes a difference to the lives of other people.

Despite her achievements, Souterre continues to help unfortunate Filipinos in France, and those in vulnerable and marginalized communities in the Philippines.

Apart from typhoon victims, those who were affected by series of deadly earthquakes that shook Mindanao last year also received aid from Souterre’s Coeurs à Ceours.

Coeurs à Ceours also continued to give assistance to the Aeta community in Central Luzon.

Indeed, a comfortable life will never stop kind-hearted persons like Souterre from being a blessing to others. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

Albay to send off disaster response team to Batangas

in Latest News

LEGAZPI CITY — The Bicol Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) will send off on Sunday afternoon a disaster response group to assist disaster responders in Batangas province where most towns were affected by the recent Taal volcano eruption.

The One Bicol Emergency Response Team (OBERT), composed of 102 local disaster responders, was organized by the RDRRMC and would leave for Batangas at around 1 p.m., said Marygizelle Mesa Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol spokesperson.

The hundreds of OBERT responders will be onboard 16 vehicles and will be accompanied by trucks, including a water lorry, travelling in a caravan through 427 kil…

Keep on reading: Albay to send off disaster response team to Batangas

Soleimani had sheltered al-Qaeda leaders, claims author

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ANKARA — Although high-profile slain Iranian military leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani is known for extending Shia arc or Iranian influence beyond his country’s borders to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and up to Yemen, little is known that he had also sheltered fighters of al-Qaeda terrorist group and senior members of its military council, a British author claimed.

“Soon after the US-led military campaign began in Afghanistan that led to the overthrow of Taliban regime in Kabul, al-Qaeda’s top leader Mahfouz ibn Ali Walid, also known as Mauritanian, knocked at the Iranian border,” said Adrian Levy, a renowned British author and investigative journalist, in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed on Jan. 3 in a US airstrike on their convoy at Baghdad airport.

He led the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guards and had a key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq, acquiring celebrity status at home and abroad.

Asked how the act fits into Soleimani’s image of a hardline Shia leader, Levy said he had laid hands on interrogation reports, letters and other communications of al-Qaeda leaders, proving their presence in Iran.

In his extraordinary inside story on al-Qaeda in the years after 9/11, the author in his book The Exile has chronicled the astonishing tale of evasion, collusion, and isolation of its leader Osama bin Laden.

Talking to Anadolu Agency from London, Levy said Mahfouz, the religious head of al-Qaeda, had approached Soleimani in December 2001, when Pakistan had joined the American war in Afghanistan.

”Previously, al-Qaeda had gone to Iraq seeking help but gained nothing from Saddam Hussein. The US would claim it was an Iraqi dictator who was their historic sponsor as one of the grounds for war in 2003,” he stated.

He said that even when the extremist group was shifting from Africa to Afghanistan, Iran had given various promises — then offering al-Qaeda training in the Beqaa Valley, alongside Hezbollah.

“So, when Mahfouz reached Taftan, crossing point into Iran in Balochistan province of Pakistan on Dec. 19, 2001, from Quetta, he was following a path used before and pushing on an open door. Quds Force wanted al-Qaeda leaders and Osama’s family for several reasons,” said the author, known for his investigative reports.

The exodus of al-Qaeda leaders began in March 2002. The Quds Force agents set up a desert refugee camp on the Afghan border.

“They were later escorted to Tehran, where women and children were put up at the four-star Howeyzeh Hotel on Tehran’s Taleqani Street, just down from the former US mission. Others stayed across the road at the Amir Hotel. They were issued papers presenting them as the Arab fighters and their families as Iraqi Shia refugees from the Iran-Iraq War,” said the author, quoting interrogation reports of various al-Qaeda fighters.

Engagement between US, Iran

At the Howeyzeh Hotel, there was room service, a ladies-only gym, movies, and a swimming pool for children. In the Amir Hotel, former fighters sat down together in comfort for the first time since 9/11.

Bin Laden’s family and several high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders — including group’s military chief Saif al-Adel — who were on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list had arrived in Iran. Their letters show how they established a funding pipeline through Iran and began plotting new attacks, including the Riyadh compound suicide bombings of 2003 in which 39 people were killed.

Iran and the US were actively engaged through the backchannel throughout 2002 and in the first quarter of 2003 in a bid to seek normalization of relations. Iran had offered hand over of al-Qaeda leaders, members of religious council and family of bin Laden as a bargain and in return they were asking for safety and normalization.

But Dick Cheney, who served as the 46th vice president of the US from 2001-2009, refused.

“Those involved said he [Cheney] argued that after the US had dealt with Iraq it would deal with Iran and it did not require a deal,” said Levy.

“The Quds Force gathered the al-Qaeda leaders, their families, and family of Osama and moved them to Tehran — finally camped them inside their base. These people then became bargaining chips to protect Iran from attack and offered as gambits to other countries,” the author added.

Also, another reason for the US developing cold feet on Iranian offer was that the White House had deep skepticism about Quds Force and the IRGC. The US did not feel sure to trust Iran.

Asked why the US refused to take the easier route rather engaging in wars, the British author said at times countries benefit from enabling insurgencies far more than they do by quashing them.

Some al-Qaeda leaders spent 13 years in Iran

The Bush administration could have seized al-Qaeda’s religious council and part of its military council, and held almost all of bin Laden’s family to force al-Qaeda heads to come out into the open, as far back as in 2002. Instead, Bush accused Iraq of aiding the extremist group and possessing weapons of mass destruction to justify a long-held agenda to topple Saddam Hussein.

The author lamented that the war that had begun to make the US safe by offensive action after the 9/11 attacks had turned into an ideological war to reshape the Middle East.

“This chaotic process has not helped either to wrap up al-Qaeda or contain Osama’s family. The US has prolonged the chaos and it could be argued that it is responsible for the massive loss of life — to its servicemen and women — as well as civilians of the region,” he said.

Many of Al Qaeda’s leaders remained in Iran until the summer of 2015 when four of them were secretly flown to Damascus.

In 2016, after spending 13 years in Iran, military chief Saif al-Adel was quietly flown to Syria.

Bin Laden’s adult sons were with Saif al-Adel in Shiraz, accompanied by the operational planner Abu Mohammed al-Masri and by Mohammed al-Islambouli, whose brother Khalid had been executed for his part in the murder of the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and whose daughter was married to Othman bin Laden.

Osama’s reluctant spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was hiding with a Sunni family in Zahedan. Also in Iran were the commander Abu Laith al-Libi and Thirwat Shihata, an aide to Aymen al-Zawahiri. (Anadolu)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

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