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President Duterte

EDITORIAL: ABS-CBN should be thanking SolGen Calida for presenting opportunity to clear its name

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ABS-CBN should be thanking SolGen Calida for presenting opportunity to clear its name
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

Instead of frowning or whining over the quo warranto case filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) before the Supreme Court (SC), ABS-CBN and its supporters should be welcoming this development as a perfect opportunity to finally prove that the allegations of wrongdoing against the network are not true right before the highest tribunal of the land. 

Everyone knows that it is always the wish of an innocent individual to have his day in court. And this is what the case filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida last February 10 has presented to ABS-CBN.

While ABS-CBN’s management has already issued a public statement claiming it has not broken any law, clearing its name in the court of public opinion will not suffice in the face of numerous legal challenges to its very existence.

Calida, in seeking the forfeiture of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise that is due to expire on March 30, 2020, outlined four major violations that the country’s largest broadcast network allegedly committed.

These are:

—ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view operations via ABS-CBN TV Plus and the KBO Channel are broadcasting for a fee without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission;

—The “ingenious corporate layering scheme” used by ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. to transfer its franchise without the necessary Congressional approval;  

—ABS-CBN issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners; and

—ABS-CBN failed to publicly offer any of its outstanding capital stock to any securities exchange within the Philippines within five years from the start of its operations, which is an indispensable condition in its franchise.

Former Press Secretary Rigoberto Tiglao, in his column published by the Manila Times on Wednesday (February 12), said ABS-CBN has sold 22 percent of its shares to US and Singaporean firms, a violation of the Constitution, which only allows 100-percent Filipino ownership for the mass media.

Merely harping “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expressions”  via the mainstream and social media is certainly not the proper response to these serious allegations. These are alleged infractions of the Constitution and laws that should be answered at the proper venue.

So instead of attacking Calida, ABS-CBN and its supporters should be thanking the Solicitor General for his initiative. 

Remember that in this age of digitalization, the mainstream media—where ABS-CBN is the king in the Philippines—is no longer just the source of information. Today people get more information from the social media. 

With this, the public’s opinion will not just be swayed by powerful media organizations or groups, contrary to when former President Joseph E. Estrada was ousted via a popular revolt buoyed by the rush of negative reports from the traditional media that was not sympathetic to his administration. Estrada then was very popular with the masses, but their voices could not be heard because they did not have the means afforded by social media today.

Now, Duterte, with an “excellent“ net satisfaction rating of +72, has in his side millions of followers that are adept at using social media as a tool to thwart any attempt by the traditional media to put him and his administration in a bad light. 

Against this backdrop, it would be futile for ABS-CBN, or for any group for that matter, to merely rely on traditional media in swaying public opinion against Duterte by claiming that he and his administration are violating “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expression” with Calida’s filing of the quo warranto case.

Proof of this was the hashtag #YesToSutdownabscbn that trended on Wednesday (February 12) on Twitter. The popular sentiment there was instead of whining in public, ABS-CBN should just prove its innocence in court.

And this is what ABS-CBN should really do. 

For many people, especially the poor, having a day in court is often difficult. ABS-CBN is a multi-billion peso corporation owned by a conglomerate. It should not have any problem getting the top lawyers in the country to defend its cause. In presenting its case before the SC, it will be able to fight its battle on two fronts: the legal arena and the media via the network’s own resources and sympathetic media outlets. This should give the corporation a fair chance.

Also, if ABS-CBN and its talents and supporters are saying that President Duterte is really bent on putting them out of existence, then the judiciary should be a welcome venue for them, simply because it is a separate and independent branch of government.

So having its day in court is really a welcome development for ABS-CBN. It should make good use of it.

Fitch Ratings bucks naysayers’ claims vs Duterte administration, may upgrade PH’s credit rating

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Fitch Ratings bucks naysayers' claims vs Duterte administration, may upgrade PH’s credit rating
Image Credit: financial-regulation-matters / PCOO GOV

Debt watcher Fitch Ratings is apparently not being swayed by attacks against the Duterte administration, particularly its economic policies, noting that the agency is likely to raise its credit rating for the Philippines.

Sagarika Chandra, associate director of sovereigns team at Fitch Ratings, said the Philippines could see its credit rating improve to “A” from the current “BBB”. Its outlook could also be upgraded to “positive” from “stable”.

This is due to the “very strong” macroeconomic fundamentals of the country. 

“The macro story of the Philippines is very strong and it has stayed intact. Also, to add the infrastructure program of the government, that still remains on track,” Chandra said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

Chandra noted that to get an “A” rating, the Duterte administration must sustain its “strong performance” in the macroeconomic front and further bring down its debt-to-GDP ratio.

An “A” rating and “positive” outlook will allow the country to borrow money at much lower rates. It is also an encouraging bet on the economic progress of the country, which will impact positively in its bid to attract more investments.

This also shows that what the naysayers are saying about the Duterte administration is not based on sound assessment. For instance, Chandra said what the administration critics are claiming that the review being done by the government on several state contracts with the private sector will drive away investors is not an accurate statement.

Also, Chandra said the effect of the novel coronavirus to the economy will not be that much because tourism only contributes 3 percent to the GDP.

“Looking at these factors together, it’s a credit that’s moving at the right direction,” Chandra said in the interview with ANC’s Market Edge.

Here are the alleged ABS-CBN violations that could cost the network its legislative franchise

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Here are the alleged ABS-CBN violations that could cost the network its legislative franchise

Even before it could see its franchise get extended by Congress, ABS-CBN’s existence is now also threatened by the quo warranto case filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to forfeit its legislative franchises.

@abscbnNEWS

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the case on Monday, and Malacanang immediately said it has nothing to do with the OSG’s actions, even if President Duterte himself had repeatedly expressed his disgust over the biggest TV network in the country for alleged biased reporting and the management’s refusal to air his campaign ads in the 2016 presidential elections even they had been paid already.

What are some of the ABS-CBN’s alleged violations outlined by Calida as grounds for the revocation of the network’s legislative franchises?

*  ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view operations via ABS-CBN TV Plus and the KBO Channel are broadcasting for a fee without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission

  • The “ingenious corporate layering scheme” used by ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. to transfer its franchise without the necessary Congressional approval  
  • ABS-CBN issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners
  • ABS-CBN failed to publicly offer any of its outstanding capital stock to any securities exchange within the Philippines within five years from the start of its operations, which is an indispensable condition in its franchise

In a statement: Calida said: “We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years.” 

@abscbnNEWS

Rule 66 of the Rules of Civil Procedure states that a quo warranto case is a legal procedure against a person or a corporation that “usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise.” Former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, for instance, was removed from her office via a quo warrant case.

It may be filed against “a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise; a public officer who does or suffers an act which, by the provision of law, constitutes a ground for the forfeiture of his office; or an association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act.”

ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise is due to expire on March 30, and lawmakers are not moving a finger to renew it.

Locsin defends Duterte’s decision to end VFA

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Locsin defends Duterte’s decision to end VFA
Photo: EPA-EFE

Although he doesn’t share the Chief Executive’s opinion, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. defended the decision of President Duterte to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States over Washington’s “insult to our sovereignty”.

Locsin said Duterte’s reaction to the “senatorial shit” from the US is warranted and shows that the country has a leader with strong political will.

“We need a President who blows his top when his country gets senatorial ‘shet’ from the US. Let me tell you this, he has the constitutional power and authority to abrogate any treaty for any reason especially an insult to our sovereignty,” the country’s top diplomat said. 

On Friday night (February 7), Malacanang announced that Duterte has already given instruction for Locsin to send the official notice informing Washington that Manila is terminating the two countries’ VFA.

“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) is instructing ES (Medialdea) to tell SFA (Locsin) to send the notice of termination to the US government,” Duterte’s Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

This happened just after the Senate conducted a hearing on the matter, where Locsin said he was only pushing for a review—not termination—of the VFA. 

“The DFA at this point proffers no preference for any of these options, but at this point I think a review, a vigorous review of the Visiting Forces Agreement is called for,” Locsin said in the Senate hearing on the agreement forged in 1999 that governs the conduct of US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines.

He added: “While the Philippines has the prerogative to terminate the VFA anytime, the continuance of the agreement is deemed to be more beneficial to the Philippines compared to any benefits were it to be terminated. Our contribution to regional defense is anchored on our military alliance with the world’s last superpower.”

Some senators and other officials also dissuaded the President from terminating the VFA.

Duterte said the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was the last straw that drove him to end the VFA, noting that he first had the idea when the US Senate included in the 2020 budget bill of the US a provision barring the entry of Philippine officials who have something to do with the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima.

The US senators were demanding the release of de Lima, who, they claim, was a victim of political persecution.

But Locsin said the lesson here for the US Senate was “plead, don’t demand”

Duterte proves he is not afraid of nCoV, plans to personally welcome Filipino repatriates from Wuhan on Saturday

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Duterte proves he is not afraid of nCoV, plans to personally welcome Filipino repatriates from Wuhan on Saturday
Image Credit: PCOO

President Duterte will continue to lead by example and show that his governance will not be hindered by the health risks posed by the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory syndrome (2019-nCoV ARD), even expressing his desire to personally receive the initial batch of Filipino repatriates from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the new coronavirus strain— on Saturday.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the Chief Executive wants to join Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in welcoming at least 42 repatriates when they arrive at the Clark International Airport and head straight to the designated quarantine area in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

This is now being discussed by Duterte with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Nograles said. “The President wants to be there. He’d like to be there on Saturday pero tingnan na muna natin sa PMS and PSG…That’s going to be a debate between the President and the PSG and the PMS.”

The President, Nograles added, is also not heeding the advice to limit his public engagements and even shake hands.

“He (Duterte) just wants to keep on doing the things he’s doing without imposing limitations sa kaniyang movement. He doesn’t want to change the way he conducts his business,” Nograles said.

Duterte earlier said that “there’s nothing really to be extra-scared of that coronavirus thing.”

The Philippines recorded the first 2019-nCoV ARD death outside of China, a 44-year-old Chinese whose 38-year-old companion is now being treated for the disease. A third confirmed case in the country is a 60-year-old woman.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that as of the afternoon of February 5, there were already 133 PUIs [patients under investigation] for nCoV, 63 of them Filipinos, 54 Chinese and the 16 others of different nationalities. “Of the 133 PUIs, 115 are admitted and isolated while 16 have been discharged under strict monitoring.” 

The DOH, with the help of the police, is now also locating over 300 individuals who had contact with the Chinese fatality and his companion. The two traveled to Dumaguete and Cebu via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights.

PH may ban travelers from all countries with 2019-nCoV cases depending on WHO report

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PH may ban travelers from all countries with 2019-nCoV cases depending on WHO report

The Philippines could impose travel restrictions, not just for people coming from China, but also for all the other countries that reported confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are now waiting for the risk assessment reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine what actions to take regarding the travel ban.

The initial subject of the restriction, he said, is only Hubei Province in China, the place where the new coronavirus strain originated. But this could extend to the whole of China and other countries.

“We have to look at the numbers also. We have to be careful because some of the numbers might be very few in some cases and there are some countries reporting also, and we might also extend that ban to al the other 14 to 17 countries, so kailangang pag-isipan maigi,” Duque said in an interview with ANC on Friday (January 31).

He said he will convene a meeting among the members of the inter-agency task force that includes the DOH, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism and Department of Transportation, among others.

Duque said extending the coverage of the ban is the direction they are taking, pending the risk assessment report from the WHO. The recommendation approved by President Duterte, he added, already included this possibility of extending the ban to other places.

“That is the direction we are taking. I recommended a temporary restriction of travelers to Manila from Hubei, with the possibility that as soon as we get the risk assessment by the WHO, that many other provinces are in fact reporting increasing numbers of nCoV infection, we will include them in the travel restriction. The President already approved this recommendation,” he said.

This ban, he clarified, is not just for Chinese tourists, but all travelers.

Right now, Duque said the government already put in place a 14-day quarantine procedures for people coming from areas with nCoV cases, and this will include Filipinos that will be repatriated from Hubei.

The WHO has already declared the 2019-nCoV as a global heath emergency, which means all governments are advised to take measures that will prevent the cross-border spread of the novel coronavirus.

In the Philippines, one confirmed case has been reported, with 31 other individuals identified as persons under investigation. 

Duterte says he already decided to end VFA when US Senate moved to ban entry of PH officials

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Duterte says he already decided to end VFA when US Senate moved to ban entry of PH officials
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte takes a bow before the guests during the 69th founding anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at the DSWD Central Office in Quezon City on January 29, 2020. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte clarified that he had long decided to terminate Manila’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington, or right about the time the United States Senate moved to ban the entry of Philippine officials who may have a role in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima.

Duterte said on Wednesday night (January 29) that contrary to what his critics are saying, his decision to end the VFA was not prompted by the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who was the chief of the Philippine National Police when de Lima was detained for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade. 

“It started when they mentioned the US resolution in the US Senate. Noon pa lang ‘yung utak ko gumagalaw na. Ganoon ako. Hindi ako naghihintay. I just announce late. Pinapauna ko. Pero at that time I decided if they do this; I do it not only for Dela Rosa but for every Filipino,” the Chief Executive stressed.

He made it clear that the decision to terminate the VFA  was not just out of whim.

And to further show how disgusted he is, Duterte ordered the members of the Cabinet to refrain from travelling to the US indefinitely. “I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there at this time.”

To set the tone for the “boycott” on the travel to US, Duterte also rejected the invitation from President Donald Trump for the Philippine leader to attend a meeting in the US with other Southeast Asian heads of state. He is also not sending a representative to the Trump-proposed US-Asean Summit on March 4 in Las Vegas. 

Duterte said he declined the invitation for “strategic, geopolitical considerations.”

The VFA, like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, are the military agreements that the Philippines currently has with the US. It will end 180 days after a notice was given by either party. 

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the process for terminating the VFA  has started. “The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly.”

UPDATE: Duterte won’t be cowed by world’s most powerful nation

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Duterte won’t be cowed by world’s most powerful nation
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech after leading the distribution of benefits to former rebels at the San Isidro Central School in Leyte on January 23, 2020. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte again showed that he will not be cowed by the most powerful nation in the world after he decided not just to turn down the offer of US President Donald Trump to visit Washington but also to end the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

These actions from Duterte were in retaliation to the Washington’s travel ban versus Philippine officials who had something to do with the prosecution of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, as contained in the 2020 budget law of the US. Already, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the Philippine National Police chief when de Lima was detained, has been cancelled. 

Duterte initially gave Washington one month to reverse dela Rosa’s visa cancellation or the VFA will be terminated by Manila. But on Friday afternoon (January 24), Panelo said the process to terminate the VFA has been started

Panelo said: “The process for terminating the same has started. The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said they are of the opinion that the Executive branch can end the VFA on its own, or without waiting for the Senate’s concurrence, similar to what Manila did when the country opted out of the International Criminal Court. “There is a view which I think I shared once—on pulling out of ICC as I did as UN ambassador—that while Senate concurrence is required to make a treaty; none is required to terminate it which is an entirely personal Presidential power. But that’s just a view.”

This view was shared by former Senate President Franklin Drilon and other senators.

The VFA, like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, are the existing military agreements that the Philippines currently has with the US. It will end 180 days after a notice was given by either party.

Duterte wants assurance from Trump of a hitch-free travel to Washington in face of ban vs PH officials

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Duterte wants assurance from Trump of a hitch-free travel to Washington in face of ban vs PH officials
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech after leading the distribution of benefits to former rebels at the San Isidro Central School in Leyte on January 23, 2020. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Update: JAN 24, 2020 ( 4:39PM ) – https://tabloid.ph/2020/01/24/update-duterte-wont-be-cowed-by-worlds-most-powerful-nation/

Malacanang did not say it directly, but it appears that for President Duterte to accept US President Donald Trump’s invitation, there should be an assurance from Washington that the Philippine leader’s visit to the White House would be hitch free.

This is in the face of Washington’s move to prevent entry of Philippine officials who have a role in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima, as demanded by the US Senate.  Already, Senator Ronald dela Rosa confirmed that his US visa had been cancelled. Dela Rosa was the head of the Philippine National Police when de Lima was detained for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade. The ban against travel of Philippine officials is included in the United States’ 2020 budget law.

Lawyer Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, told reporters on Thursday (January 23) that the President believes that his presence in the US would not be appreciated by some American senators, and that he might not even be issued a US visa.

Repeating Duterte’s own words, Panelo said: “I do not even know if the US will even issue me a visa, I do not know if I will be allowed entry.” 

Panelo added: “He (Duterte) said he has to ponder over it because he doesn’t want to go there and if he’s already there, some US senators might be unhappy seeing him there.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Trump really wants to meet with Duterte in Washington, which is why another invitation from the White House was sent to Malacanang dated January 9, 2020.

Trump also invited Duterte and other Southeast Asian leaders last November to a US-Asean Summit in Washington in March.

Duterte had repeatedly said that he wouldn’t set foot on American soil, as he declared his pivot to China for the Philippines’ trade and diplomatic stance.

But Panelo said it is now likely that Duterte would accept Trump’s invitation, given certain conditions.

“The ball has been thrown to them then they have to do something about it,” Panelo said. “Let the US receive whatever signals it wants to receive from the statements of the President.” 

EDITORIAL: Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?

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Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

Does Resolution 142 passed by the US Senate (or S.Res. 142) carry weight? In Washington, maybe; but in Manila, especially under a maverick Chief Executive like Rodrigo R. Duterte, nada.

The world knows that the Philippines gained its complete independence from America in 1946 through the “Tydings–McDuffie Act”, or the Philippine Independence Act, signed by President Harry S. Truman.

This means that for the Philippines, S.R. 142 should be nothing but an expression of the sense of the US Senate regarding the detention of Senator Leila de Lima, the oft-criticized bloody war against illegal drugs launched by the Duterte administration, and the perceived muzzling of critical press and political opposition in the country.

S.R 142, titled “Condemning the Government of the Philippines for its continued detention of Senator Leila De Lima, calling for her immediate release, and for other purposes”, calls on the Philippine government to immediately release de Lima, “drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate, especially as Chair of the Committee on Social Justice.”

It also urges the government of the Philippines to “guarantee the right to the freedom of the press, and to drop all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.” The resolution also calls on the President of the United States to impose sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114–32822 U.S.C. 2656 note) with respect to—

(A) members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings; and

(B) officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima.

There is no way Malacanang would heed these calls of the US Senate. President Duterte had declared too many times that he wouldn’t mind losing the support of Washington and would prefer to be an ally of Beijing.

Not only that, Malacanang had repeatedly said also that the case of de Lima is now in the hands of the Judiciary. Any intervention on the case of de Lima from the Executive Branch, as what S.R. 142 is demanding, would prove the claims that— as mentioned in the resolution— “indeed, she has been the target of partisan persecution”.

President Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, in response to S. R. 142, said de Lima and Ressa “have been criminally charged in accordance with the law. They have availed – and are still availing – of legal remedies for their defense.”

So let the wheels of justice grind. If the prosecution couldn’t prove the guilt of both de Lima and Ressa, they would be freed in due time—with or without S.R. 142. The Philippines is an independent country with an independent judicial system. S.R. 142 should not carry any weight in their cases. Otherwise, the resolution would just be contradicting itself.

Will Sharon Cuneta’s appeal to ‘Tatay’ Digong help save ABS-CBN from impending closure?

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Will Sharon Cuneta’s appeal to ‘Tatay’ Digong help save ABS-CBN from impending closure?
Image Credit: PCOO

Megastar Sharon Cuneta, who is known to be close to President Duterte, publicly asked the Chief Executive to reconsider his decision to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which will expire at the end of March 2020.

Sharon calls Duterte “My Tatay”. Duterte supported the candidacy of Sharon’s brother Cesar “Chet” Cuneta, who ran for Pasay City’s mayoral post in the May 2019 elections. Chet eventually lost to Imelda G. Calixto-Rubiano, who formerly represented the city in the Congress and sister of then-incumbent Mayor Antonio Calixto.

Duterte even joked during the celebration of 156th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio in Caloocan last November 30 that the Megastar wanted to throw her husband, Senator Francis Pangilinan, out of their house. The President was then angry at Pangilinan, who is a member of the rival Liberal Party.

After signing her contract renewal with ABS-CBN last January 9, the Megastar said: “I’ll just say this before saying goodbye—I pray that our dear President reconsiders his decision about ABS-CBN, not just because I just renewed [my contract with the studio, because] I can always find a job. But because everybody I grew up with here—who have remained loyal to the station and have grown up here having learned from the school of hard knocks and have become family and good friends—will lose almost everything they’ve built over the years, and even those that might choose to stay—if indeed, unfortunately goes that way—it won’t be the same.”

She continued: “So, I hope in my heart that our dear President reconsiders the thousands and thousands of Filipinos who have grown up here and learned the ropes here, and that includes me.”

The question now is: Will Sharon’s personal appeal to Duterte carry weight and help save ABS-CBN? 

Right now, with all the hate that the President harbors against the network, it would probably take more than just Sharon’s plea. It’s barely 78 days before the deadline, and if Sharon’s appeal would just fall on deaf ears, the country’s biggest network could just be signing off indefinitely, or forever.

Competitive salaries for state personnel to allow the government to retain, attract talented workers

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Competitive salaries for state personnel to allow government to retain, attract talented workers
Image Credit: PhilippineRetirementVisa

Malacanang is hopeful that the salary increase for state employees under a new law signed by President Duterte on Wednesday (January 8) will allow the government to retain human resources that are either opting to go to private firms or work abroad due to their meager income.

Secretary Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said the 8-percent to 30-percent hike to be granted under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, or Republic Act (RA) 11466, puts the compensation of government personnel on a par with their private sector counterparts.

This, Panelo noted, will help the government retain—and even attract—talented state workers.

He said: “The Palace hopes that this latest round of salary adjustment will motivate everyone in the public sector to work doubly hard and put more dedicated and competent service in their respective jobs.”

RA 11466 hikes the salaries of employees with Salary Grades 10 to 15 by 20 percent to 30 percent. Those with Salary Grades 23 to 33, meanwhile, will get an 8-percent increase.

The adjustments will be given in four tranches beginning this month up to 2023.

President Duterte has a Salary Grade 33, although he is not included in the compensation adjustment under the law.

Also excluded are Vice President Leni Robredo, the present members of Congress, military and uniformed personnel, employees of government-owned or -controlled corporations covered by RA 10149, and individuals whose services are engaged through job orders, contracts of service, consultancy or service contracts with no employer-employee relationship.

“The Office of the President notes that the law is at the initiative – and has the strong support – of President Duterte pursuant to his desire to upgrade the standard of living of government employees,” Panelo said. “The law is aimed at benefitting those hardworking men and women in the government, including our teachers and nurses who unfortunately have been neglected in the past.” 

Newly purchased vessel BRP Gabriela Silang redirected to Middle East for repatriation of OFWs

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Newly purchased vessel BRP Gabriela Silang redirected to Middle East for repatriation of OFWs
Image Credit: Dung Tran / Youtube

Newly purchased Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Gabriela Silang just received its first mission order even before it could reach Philippine waters after it was designated to head to the Middle East to help in the repatriation of Filipinos in the region as tension between the US and Iran escalates.

The French-made BRP Gabriela Silang is on its maiden voyage and was supposed to reach the Philippines on February 20 after it left Saint-Nazaire, France last December 30.

However, with Iran already starting its retaliatory actions against the US for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, BRP Gabriela Silang’s course was redirected to the Middle East for its first tour of duty.

The Philippine Mission in Baghdad just announced on Wednesday (January 8) that Alert Level 4 has been declared over Iraq, which means Filipinos there need to be evacuated immediately. Alert Level 4 means there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack in the subject country.

This was after a series of missile attacks was launched by Iran on a military base in Iraq housing American forces.

In a Facebook Live advisory, Chargè d’ Affairès Jomar Sadie in Iraq said : “Inatasan na po ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, kasama na po ang Embahada ng Pilipinas sa Iraq para ilikas ang mga Pilipino dito sa bansa. Ang marching order sa amin ay mandatory repatriation.” 

BRP Gabriela Silang will now had to Dubai and Oman as a standby vessel for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East. 

Around 1,600 Filipinos are currently situated in Iraq alone. Sadie advised them to contact the Philippine mission in Iraq at 07816066822, 07516167838, 07518764665 and 07508105240 for any concern regarding their documents and release from employers.

He said: “Kung wala kayong employer at biktima ng human trafficking, tumawag po kayo sa amin para matulungan namin kayo o pumunta directly sa embassy,” he added, noting that appropriate travel documents will be issued to them by the embassy. Kapag gusto ninyong umuwi at ayaw kayong pauwiin ng employer at hindi ninyo siya mapakiusapang mabuti, tawagan ninyo po kami at kami ang kakausap sa employer ninyo.”

Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

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Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

President Duterte is ready to ditch his anti-United States sentiment and even side with Washington if Filipinos are hurt in any retaliatory move by Tehran against American soldiers and installations.

This will be the message that Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao will be delivering to the leaders of Iran and Iraq, Duterte’s legal adviser and spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters on Tuesday (January 7).

Panelo said Mamao has been dispatched to the Middle East to personally inform the governments of Iraq and Iran of the “friendly caution” of Duterte.

“Hindi tayo magiging neutral. The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans. The President will not sit idly and watch,” Panelo said. As to what action that support to the US would translate into was not detailed by Panelo.

Duterte is known to have pivoted toward China in his diplomatic and trade policies. He didn’t like the criticisms he was getting from the US government over his administration’s bloody war against drugs.

Just recently, he banned US senators from entering the Philippines for espousing the release from prison of Senator Leila de Lima, a known political enemy of Duterte.

The President gathered his Cabinet and security advisers Monday night to discuss the impact of the tension between the US and Iran over the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

The government is preparing to repatriate Filipinos in Middle Eastern areas that would be put in harm’s way should the rift between Tehran and Washington escalate into actual military tussles.

There are around 4 million Filipino workers in the Middle East, and around 6,000 of them are in Iran and Iraq.

Duterte earlier said he fears that “so many lives of our countrymen” could be put in jeopardy. “Kinakabahan ako. Iran seems to be hell-bent on a retaliation, which I think will come. It’s a matter of time. I do not have anything, nary a worry, were it not for a fact that there are a lot of Filipinos there… We need the money. I need it before it actually starts.”

Robredo to reveal all she discovered about Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs

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Robredo to reveal all she discovered about Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs
Image Credit: bise_leni / IG

If the Duterte administration believes that it has seen the last of Vice President Leni Robredo in the campaign against illegal drugs, it is mistaken.

Robredo, just a day removed from her former post as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), said on Monday (November 25) that she will reveal everything that she knew about Duterte’s flagship program in her brief stint at the agency. 

“Kung sa tingin nila, matatapos ito dito, hindi nila ako kilala. Nagsisimula pa lang ako,” Robredo said, as she threatened to expose all the things she discovered in the coming days.

She also vowed to continue her crusade to bring to justice all those who abused their authority in the administration’s bloody war against narcotics.”Kahit tinanggalan ako ng posisyon, hinding-hindi nila kayang tanggalin ang aking determinasyon — determinasyong itigil ang patayan, determinasyong panagutin ang kailangan managot at ipanalo ang kampanya laban sa ilegal na droga.”

Robredo earned the ire of President Duterte over reports that she was conferring with and inviting foreign governments and organizations to help in the war against illegal drugs. These include the United Nations, whose Human Rights Council wants to try Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity.

Robredo denied doing this, saying the President should not believe in “fake news”. Still Duterte decided to remove her from ICAD after just 18 days of leading the agency.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Robredo was just using ICAD for grandstanding.

Robredo said when she accepted the post, she already asked what the Duterte administration does not want the public to know about the anti-drug war.

“Noong tinanggap ko ang trabahong ito, ang una kong tinanong sa kanila ay, handa na ba kayo sa akin. Ngayon, ang tanong ko, ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo?” she asked.”Ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo na malaman ko? Ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo na malaman ng taumbayan?”

Aside from revealing what she discovered, Robredo said she will also report to the public her recommendations to reform the anti-narcotics campaign.

DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban

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DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban
Image via e-cigarette Reviewed

The Department of Health (DOH) welcomed the policy pronouncement of President Duterte banning vaping in public places.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo said they will now wait for the executive order (EO) to be issued by the Office of the President to determine how it would be properly implemented.

“Very clear yung words ng Presidente, kung saan bawal magsigarilyo, bawal din mag-vape,” Domingo said.

For the enforcement side, Domingo said the DOH will coordinate with the police and the local government units.

As for the ban, the DOH will be working with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Domingo is also the officer in charge of the FDA.

Domingo said the DOH already released last August an administrative order (AO) tasking the FDA to regulate the sale of vapes. However, sellers managed to secure temporary restraining orders from two regional trial courts against the AO. 

“Because of the TRO, we had to put the regulation on hold; but we are fighting for it. So now they can continue selling vapes unregulated. But when we see the actual EO of the President, we will work on that immediately,” Domingo said.

He stressed that they would not just accept the argument that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. “Even if you say it is less harmful, still it is harmful, and we need further studies on that.”

He recalled that some 40 years ago, regulators were saying that “cigarette smoking may be harmful to your health.” Now, it has confirmed that smoking really kills. “So we should not wait for another 40 years to say that vaping can really kill people,” he said.

Quiboloy accepts Vice’s challenge, will not just stop ‘Ang Probinsyano’ but operation of ABS-CBN as well

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Quiboloy accept’s Vice’s challenge, will not just stop ‘Ang Probinsyano’ but operation of ABS-CBN as well

Kapamilya Vice Ganda’s challenge to Pastor Apollo Quiboloy to put a halt to the airing of ABS-CBN’s primetime hit “Ang Probinsyano”— just like how the leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name claimed to have ordered the earthquakes in Davao to stop—has been accepted.

And based on the answer of Quiboloy, it appears that he won’t be needing heaven’s help, but that of Malacanang.

“The challenge is accepted,” Quiboloy said, referring to what Vice said in an episode of “It’s Showtime” last November 5 that he should also stop the airing of “Ang Probinsyano” starring Coco Martin, as well as the traffic in Edsa. Vice, in that episode, said: “Ipahinto mo na ang ‘Probinsyano’. Napahinto mo pala ang lindol eh. Napakayabang niyo pala, eh..Sabi niya raw, stop. Sige nga! Punta ka ng gitna ng EDSA, stop mo ‘yung traffic du’n!”

Quiboloy, in accepting Vice’s challenge, said: “Kailan mo ba gustong mapa-stop ang ‘Ang Probinsyano’? Isang buwan? Dalawang buwan? Tatlong buwan? Apat na buwan? Ikaw, pili ka.”

Then he continued with a political overtone, dragging the feud between President Duterte and the ABS-CBN management: “Baka sa apat na buwan, hindi lang yung ‘Probinsyano’ ang mai-stop, baka pati yung network mo stop na ‘yan.”

Quiboloy is a known big supporter and ally of Duterte, with his religious group based in Davao City. Duterte has threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which is set to expire in March 2020. Without the franchise, ABS-CBN’s operation will cease. The President and his allies in Congress keep on reminding ABS-CBN of their disgust over the decision of the network not to air Duterte’s commercials during the 2016 elections campaign period even if they were paid already.

True enough, the House of Representatives has not acted on the 25-year renewal of the network’s franchise. 

As to the Edsa traffic, Quiboloy told Vice: “Sinabi mo na pahintuin ko ang traffic sa EDSA, paano ko pahihintuin, nahinto na!…Naging parking lot na nga ang EDSA, e, nakahinto na.Hindi siguro yun ang right word na sinabi mo. Pabilisin.”

Duterte criticizes major economic powers for protectionist policies that hurt Asean

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Duterte criticizes major economic powers for protectionist policies that hurt Asean
Image Credit: https://pcoo.gov.ph/

While not directly naming them, President Duterte criticized the “major economic powers” for their protectionist policies and trade skirmishes that are threatening the growth of the Asean region.

In his address at the 35th Asean Summit Plenary in Thailand, Duterte said the rise of protectionism and ongoing trade wars undermine the progress of the Asean economies. “The far-reaching consequences may adversely impact on food security in the developing world.”

With this, the President called on the Asean to strengthen and deepen their economic integration to counter protectionism and trade-related tensions happening in other parts of the world.

Currently embroiled in trade wars are China and the US, as well as Japan and South Korea, among others.

“We need an open and rules-based trading system to sustain growth. Thus, we should ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the World Trade Organization. And, Asean must accelerate deeper economic integration through concrete programs and projects, such as RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership],” Duterte said.

The RCEP is an emerging economic bloc composed of the 10 Asean member-countries plus their free-trade partners China, Japan, India, South Korean, Australia and New Zealand. Collectively, they account for about 40 percent of world GDP and about half of the world’s population.

Duterte noted that the Asean declarations and joint statements that aim to protect the region’s population, especially the most vulnerable, are steps toward sustainable and inclusive development.

He also called for more measures that allow the greater direct benefit to certain sectors of the population, including the expansion of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and the empowerment of women, migrant workers and persons with disabilities.

Key components of these MRAs are the harmonization of standards on nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Duterte also called on Asean to ensure environmental sustainability and protect biodiversity in the region’s pursuit for development. 

“Asean should not sacrifice the environment and the region’s rich biodiversity, particularly in the maritime domain, in its quest for progress. We must work together to address the problem of marine debris. And we must build resilient and stronger communities to adapt to the effects of climate change,” he stressed.

Duterte added that the regional grouping should support economic sectors of high productivity and follow sustainable business practices.

DOJ to formalize Duterte’s order to NBI to take over probe of Mayor Navarro’s murder

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DOJ to formalize Duterte’s order to NBI to take over probe of Mayor Navarro’s murder
Image Credit: Romeo Marantal / Twitter

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will issue a directive to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formalizing the order of President Duterte for the bureau to take over the probe of the murder of Clarin, Misamis Occidental Mayor David Navarro.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters that the verbal directive of Duterte to the NBI should suffice, as he is the head of the government’s Executive branch. 

“Given the circumstances surrounding the killing of Clarin Mayor Navarro, the President’s directive for the NBI to take over the investigation of the incident should quell any doubts regarding this government’s commitment to solve the case and bring to account those responsible,” Perete said.

The DOJ, he added, will still issue a formal order to the NBI “purely for record-keeping purposes.”

On Monday (October 28), Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to let the NBI conduct the investigation, as he believes the police may have had something to do with the slaying of Navarro.

“PNP, anong ginawa ng PNP? Baka sila ang pumatay, sila ‘yung malapit,” Duterte told reporters, referring to the circumstances surrounding the ambush slaying of Navarro in Cebu City last October 25.  Navarro was then inside a police vehicle in the middle of a police convoy when he was shot to death by several armed men in a “lightning attack”.

He added: “Mas gusto ko ang NBI na lang para walang…kasi nung nangyari ‘yan, may kasamang pulis eh. To make it really fair. I’d like the police to terminate their investigation and hand it to the NBI, whatever documents and or proof or evidence that they have in their hands.” 

Police investigators earlier said they would look into politics, business and Navarro’s reported link to the drug trade as possible motive behind his murder. Navarro had received several death threats before the incident.

A day before his ambush slaying, Navarro was arrested for mauling a massage therapist.

The many ‘surprises’ unraveled by Marjorie Barretto

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The many ‘surprises’ unraveled by Marjorie Barretto
Image Caption: ABS-CBN / Youtube

Marjorie Barretto’s interview with Karen Davila of ABS-CBN News revealed to the public many surprises, heightening the public’s interest in the rift among the Barretto children, which culminated with a fight in front of President Duterte at the wake of the family’s patriarch Miguel.

Here are some of Marjorie’s revelations:

  • She had been at the receiving end of character assassinations for five years already
  • Controversial businessman Atong Ang was a boyfriend of her niece Nicole; Atong and Nicole had a relationship for five years, even before Nicole turned 18
  • Atong Ang is now the boyfriend of her sister Gretchen, who used to be the wife of businessman Tony Boy Cojuangco
  • Atong Ang triggered the tension at the wake of Miguel when he tried many times to make Nicole and her family leave before his, Gretchen’s and President Duterte’s arrival at the wake
  • She refused the gesture of Duterte to reconcile her and Gretchen because she saw the insincerity in Gretchen’s face
  • Claudine disrespected her when she refused to patch up with Gretchen in front of Duterte
  • Atong Ang tried to reach for her that may have started the scuffle  
  • After the Presidential Security Group separated them to secure the President, Gretchen attacked Nicole
  • It was Gretchen who had a nervous breakdown, and not her, as claimed by Gretchen in an earlier statement
  • Miguel was hospitalized for 16 days and Gretchen did not even bother to visit
  • Their father died of acute respiratory failure, not heart attack, as claimed by Gretchen 
  • For 25 years, Gretchen did not invite their parents to any of her properties even once
  • She became a mistress of Caloocan Mayor Recom Echiverri, who is the father of her younger daughter
  • Claudine sought financial help from Echiverri, but it was a setup for a molestation claim against the mayor
  • Her daughters, including young actress Julia, are “not for sale”, or not being offered to rich businessmen as rumored
  • She is open to reconciliation with Gretchen and Claudine, but not with the “fanfare”

ABS-CBN devoted close to 20 minutes of airtime for the interview with Marjorie over its primetime news TV Patrol on Tuesday night (October 22).

Barrettos quarrel, fight in front of Duterte at wake of family patriarch Miguel

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Barrettos quarrel, fight in front of Duterte at wake of family patriarch Miguel
Image Credit: IG

Actress Gretchen Barretto confirmed that her sister Marjorie turned down the request of President Duterte to forget about their dispute for at least during the wake of the Barretto patriarch Miguel, which heated things up at the reunion of the quarreling sisters and eventually led to a scuffle on Wednesday.

Then, in an Instagram post on Friday, Claudine Barretto said: ”Are you proud of who you have become?””

View this post on Instagram

I hope not.

A post shared by Claudine Barretto (@claubarretto) on

“I hope not.”

The cryptic message did not say who Claudine was referring to. However, it was after she was hospitalized on Thursday night due to an alleged physical confrontation with Marjorie, according to ABS-CBN News. It was a sequel to the scuffle between Gretchen and a niece that occurred in front of Duterte on Wednesday.

Gretchen, in a statement released to ABS-CBN News, narrated that “it was all so nice until Marjorie had a nervous breakdown.”

Duterte earlier asked Marjorie to shake Gretchen’s hand “for the sake of respect of my father.” “But Marjorie was not happy that I was there to reunite with family,” Gretchen said.

Sources told ABS-CBN News that while Gretchen was talking with some friends, a girl, who was later identified as a niece of Gretchen, attacked her.

Cooler heads tried to prevent a fight between the relatives. However, Gretchen managed to grab her niece by the hair, resulting in a scuffle. The two were separated by members of the Presidential Security Group.

According to the ABS-CBN News source, the niece suffered a cut on her face. 

Duterte, although aware of the feud between the sisters, was shocked, the source added.

Sisters Gretchen, Marjorie and Claudine had a falling out, although Claudine and Gretchen already patched things up recently. Claudine even praised her sister for appearing at the wake in an Instagram post.

Gretchen and Marjorie, on the other hand, remained at odds with each other, triggered by a controversy involving Marjorie’s daughter Julia.

Marjorie, during the wake, even branded Gretchen as a hypocrite for pretending to be nice just because the President was there. Gretchen is a known supporter of the Chief Executive. 

When Duterte asked the two to shake hands, Gretchen tried to oblige, but her gesture was turned down by Marjorie, who was described as fuming. 

An ABS-CBN source narrated: ”Marjorie was obviously mainit (fuming), you can see it in her body language. Si Gretchen, kalmado lang (she was calm).” But that was before things turned from bad to worse.

EDITORIAL: Garage as a prerequisite to car ownership: Individual rights vs public order

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Garage as a prerequisite to car ownership: Individual rights vs public order
Image Credit: Wikipedia / Tabloid PH

Two bills seeking to regulate the sale of motor vehicles—by requiring buyers to show unassailable proofs of ready garage or parking space—are now undergoing committee deliberations at the Senate.

Senate Bill (SB) 368 authored by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian and SB 679 authored by Sen. Bong Revilla are timely, with the road-clearing operations of the local government units and concerned state agencies already underway, as ordered by President Duterte.

Already, streets in the metropolis have been rid of mobile and ambulant obstructions, including parked vehicles, which eased the flow of vehicles and people. 

However, as what Filipinos have become accustomed to, concerns were raised over the sustainability of this campaign—with the government’s resolve feared to eventually give in to ningas kugon (fiery at start only die down easily) again. And don’t forget, hard-headed Filipinos would always try to sneak in and test implementation if it would really be round-the-clock.

This is why we believe that in a way, the bills of Revilla and Gatchalian will greatly contribute to institutionalizing the campaign of keeping the streets free of obstructions.

Gatchalian’s SB 368, which covers Metro Manila only, adds as a requirement to vehicle registration a duly notarized affidavit attesting to the availability of a permanent or leased parking space or facility specifically intended for the vehicle to be purchased.

Revilla’s SB 679 expanded the coverage to other traffic-prone areas, such Angeles, Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Dagupan, Davao, Iloilo, Naga and Olongapo.

But during the Senate hearing last October 8, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III already raised possible constitutionality issues that these bills might encounter, particularly the right to ownership and discrimination. “I would like to invite the lawyers’ association to look into the constitutional angle of this, if this is discriminatory or not,” he said. “From the very start, we are disqualifying a certain segment of society from owning motor vehicles.” 

So now, it boils down to this: individual rights versus public order and safety. 

Pimentel is probably worried that even if the bills are passed into law, their implementation would only be stopped once some groups have questioned its constitutionality before the Supreme Court, thus, putting the time and efforts of the lawmakers, as well as public funds, to waste.

Supreme Courts in different countries have had varied decisions when justices were faced with the task of weighing public order and safety versus individual rights.

In the United States, for example, the court has ruled in favor of protecting individual’s right to own guns against laws that sought to curtail it.

What happens now? 

We share the concern of Sen. Pimentel—we don’t want a law with good intentions to just go down the drain because of technicality or constitutionality issues. The lawmakers should do their homework. Consult all stakeholders, especially legal luminaries.

It’s easy to always side with the common good, or the public’s sake. But individuals have their rights too. 

Offhand, we can see some balancing acts happening; as the cliches goes: win-win solutions.

This is the beauty—or undoing—of a democratic society. 

Govt launches free wifi access program in 23 sites throughout the country

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Govt launches free wifi access program in 23 sites throughout the country

The Duterte administration has taken the initial steps toward its promise of providing free wifi access throughout the country by 2022 with the rollout of 23 free public wifi stations on Tuesday (October 8).

Secretary Gregorio Honasan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said all the regions were represented in the simultaneous launch of the free public wifi access, which has speeds of up to 30 mbps.

These areas are: Dagupan City (Region 1); Tuguegarao City (Region 2); Mabalacat City (Region 3); Morong, Rizal (Region 4A); Victoria, Oriental Mindoro (Region 4B); Sorsogon and Camarines Sur (Region 5); Iloilo and Negros Occidental (Region 6); 

Cebu City (Region 7); Eastern Samar (Region 8); Zamboanga City (Region 9); Cagayan de Oro (Region 10); Davao City (Region 11); South Cotabato (Region 12); Agusan del Norte (Region 13); Cotabato City (BARMM); and Baguio City (CAR).

“The issue here is connectivity. Connectivity means getting access to data real-time. That is the beauty of technology today, because it’s almost free; it’s a global phenomenon,” Honasan said.

The target for the year, he added, is to put up 8,073 sites all over the country. When Duterte steps down from his post in 2022, the DICT should have already established free wifi access sites in 250,000 areas.

This is consistent with the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, or Republic Act 10929, which was signed by Duterte in 2017.

For next year, Honasan sought a budget of P36.3 billion, 88 percent higher than its allocation for the year. This, the former military official and senator, said will start turning into reality its plan of transforming the Philippines into a digital nation.

Aside from the government’s free wifi service, the telecommunication firms and several malls are also giving free wifi access in select areas.

“We’re applying the principle of convergence. All institutions, all agencies, and the principle of public-private partnership,” he said. “You connect government to other governments — domestic and global, you connect government to business, connect government to our citizens, and connect government to our armed men who are protecting this country.”

Duterte deferring action vs ‘ninja cops’ until end of Senate, DILG investigations

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Duterte deferring action vs ‘ninja cops’ until end of Senate, DILG investigations
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with the members of his delegation at a hotel in Moscow, Russian Federation on October 2, 2019. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte is deferring any action against police officers—including the current chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)—who were implicated in the alleged recycling of seized illegal drugs until the Senate has completed its probe on the so-called “ninja cops”.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement that the President is closely monitoring the developments in the Senate hearings even while he is fulfilling his commitments in his second state visit to Russia.

“As our Chief Executive has mentioned in many occasions, there will be hell to pay for those who become worse than criminals. The President, however, will let Congress do and finish its investigation in aid of legislation before taking any formal action on the issue of these ninja cops,” Panelo said.

He added: “The President’s unyielding posture against illegal drugs and those who destroy the country, regardless of whether they belong to the government, by spreading these substances in our communities, will not waver.”

Aside from the Senate probe, Duterte has tasked Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo to conduct a parallel internal probe on the “ninja cops” controversy, which dragged the name of PNP Chief, General Oscar Albayalde. 

“He will wait for the recommendation of the DILG Secretary when he is finished with his internal investigation,” Panel said.

In one of the hearings of the Senate, Albayalde’s name was mentioned by former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as one of the personalities linked to the recycling of illegal drugs that were seized during police operations. Albayalde denied Magalong’s allegations.

Panelo said at this time, Albayalde still has the backing of Duterte. “Until such time that he (Duterte) says that he doesn’t have, the presumption is the General has his trust and confidence.”

Duterte is currently on a five-day official visit to Russia.

In a forum in Valdai, Russia, Duterte said: ”When I took over, I found out about nine generals were involved in the trafficking of drugs. And right now, even as I fly here and go back, there are about again two generals who are still playing with drugs. And I said, ‘Well, I told you do not destroy my country because it is being flooded with drugs.’” 

Economists say Duterte’s tax reform program will end poverty in PHL

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Economists say Duterte’s tax reform program will end poverty in PHL

Former secretaries of the Department of Finance (DOF) and top economists in the country have signed a joint manifesto urging the Congress to speed up the passage of President Duterte’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) Package 2, 3 and 4 to put the Philippines in a better position to eliminate extreme poverty in two decades.

Signing the joint statement, which was presented to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III; Senator Pia Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on ways and means; and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who chairs the House committee on ways and means, were:

Former Prime Minister and ex-DOF Secretary Cesar Virata; former DOF Secretary and Senator Alberto Romulo, who also served as Executive Secretary, Foreign Affairs Secretary, and Budget Secretary; former DOF Secretary Margarito Teves; former DOF Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB); former DOF Secretary Jose Camacho, who was also a former secretary of Energy and is currently Managing Director in the Asia Pacific Division of Credit Suisse; former DOF Undersecretary Romeo Bernardo, who is also vice chair of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF);

Cielito Habito, professor at the Department of Economics in Ateneo, who had served concurrently as the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary; Arsenio Balisacan, chairperson of the Philippine Competition Commission and former NEDA Director-General and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary; Fermin Adriano, former vice-chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) and board member of the Asian Development Bank Institute; and Filomeno Sta. Ana, coordinator of the Action for Economic Reforms (AER).

They said the Duterte administration’s CTRP and other key reform measures, once enacted into law, will help fulfill its goal of reducing poverty incidence from 21 percent in 2015 to just 14 percent by 2022. They will also catapult the Philippines to an “A-minus” sovereign credit rating in the next few years.

Package 2 of the CTRP is known as the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA); Package 2+ is the “sin” tax reform further increasing excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes; Package 3 is the Real Property Valuation Reform; and Package 4 is the Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA).

The joint manifesto also pushed the amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA), the Foreign Investments Act (FIA), and the Retail Trade Act (RTA).

Package 2, which was approved by the House of Representatives on final reading last September 13, will gradually reduce the corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 percent to 20 percent to make the country’s corporate tax regime more competitive in the ASEAN.

Package 2+ seeks to increase the excise taxes on alcohol products and further increase the excise tax on heated tobacco and vapor products, both seen to lead to better health and social outcomes while helping ensure the financial sustainability of the Universal Health Care program.

Package 3 seeks to promote the use of uniform real property valuation standards. This will help resolve right-of-way (ROW) acquisition issues that have stalled infrastructure projects for up to 10 years or more given valuation disputes.

“We support Package 4 of the CTRP as it makes the taxation of passive income and financial services and transactions simpler and more efficient by reducing the number of combinations of tax bases and rates from 80 to 40,” the manifesto said.

“All these reforms are necessary if the Philippines is to move forward to a future with no extreme poverty by 2040,” it added.

The signatories also lauded the economic feats that the government achieved in the first half of the Duterte presidency despite global financial headwinds.

“We commend the implementation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program to support inclusive economic growth, the quick measures taken to address elevated inflation last year, and the close coordination with both houses of the Congress that led to the passage of landmark reforms, such as TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion), the additional increase in excise taxes on tobacco, the Rice Tariffication Law, the National ID Law, and the Ease of Doing Business Law, among others,” they said in their joint statement.

Surrenderers near 700 as De Lima refuses to answer Ombudsman query on GCTA IRR

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Surrenderers near 700 as De Lima refuses to answer Ombudsman query on GCTA IRR

As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday (September 17), at least 692 convicts that were granted early release purportedly for good behavior have surrendered to authorities, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

These convicts, according to Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, are among the 1,914 life termers that were freed due to the “erroneous” application of the good conduct time allowance of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

They heeded the call of President Duterte to surrender on or before September 19 or risk becoming the subjects of manhunt operations with accompanying bounty.

Perete said these convicts will have to serve out the remainder of their sentence, especially under the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10592 that was signed by the Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano on Monday.

The new IRR clearly stated that escapees, habitual delinquents, recidivists and heinous crime convicts are excluded from the application of the GCTA benefits.

Around 22,000 prisoners have been granted early release since 2014 when RA 10592 was implemented.

However, based on the Senate inquiry into the GCTA application, some of these convicts did not deserve to be freed, as some benefited from what is now called “GCTA for sale”. This illegal scheme was uncovered in one of the Senate hearings, after a witness said Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials demanded P50,000 from her in exchange for the early release of her husband.

Around 30 BuCor officials were already ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman due to alleged involvement in this scheme.

Analysts say the ambiguity of the law and its IRR allowed the liberal application of the GCTA. This prompted the revision of the IRR so rules can be clarified while Congress is working on a revised version of the law.

Senator Leila De Lima, the DOJ secretary when RA 10592’s original IRR was crafted, has been asked by the Ombudsman to comment why they did not clearly exclude heinous crime convicts in the GCTA application.

She answered:  “[I] would like to clarify that I am no longer the Secretary of Justice. I am now a Senator of the Republic. I cannot in my official capacity as a Senator reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice whose present Secretary is Menardo Guevarra.” 

De Lima, added in her three-page letter to the Office of the Ombudsman: “Whatever query you may have regarding the IRR, therefore, may be properly and officially answered by the DOJ and the DILG, being the institutions and agencies responsible for the implementation of said IRR.”

“It is not clear in your letter whether you are requiring me to do so in my personal capacity or in my capacity as Senator. Either way, I find no relevance in either capacities or as former Secretary of Justice to be able to officially annotate on the language of the IRR beyond what it provides in its provisions.”

House justice committee to conduct own GCTA probe, eyes revision of RA 10592

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House justice committee to conduct own GCTA probe, eyes revision of RA 10592
Photo Release on the Committee on Justice meeting

The House Committee on Justice is likely to conduct its own hearing on the application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10592, with the revision of the law to “avoid absurdity and confusion” as the end in view.

Assistant Majority Leader Fidel Nograles, who is also the vice chair of the justice committee, said they will focus on reviewing Article 29 and Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by RA 10592, noting that these two need to be reconciled.

“In Article 29, which speaks of credit for preventive imprisonment, has certain exclusions which are not found in Article 97…The conflicting part, these exclusions are not found in Art. 97 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by the GCTA, because all that we can find in Art. 97 is that persons who are entitled to credits for preventive imprisonment and persons convicted by final judgement and detained in penal institutions,” Nograles said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday (September 13).

“You have to reconcile because you have to harmonize the two provisions , such as to give effect to all of the provisions of the law so there has to be specific exclusions, specifically in Art. 29, you need to adopt these exclusions on Art. 97 as well in order to avoid confusion.”

Article 29 excludes habitual delinquents, escapees, persons charged with heinous crimes and recidivists from the GCTA scheme.

Nograles also said they are looking at giving a clearer definition of what “heinous crimes” are.  Right now, heinous crimes, as defined by the death penalty law, are those that are ”grievous, odious, hateful offenses of such monstrosity as to spark public outrage”.

The Senate justice and blue ribbon committees are now conducting hearings on the GCTA, with illegal practices such as the “GCTA for Sale” and “Hospital Pass for Sale” already uncovered. 

Former and current officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), as well as several experts, had said the ambiguities in RA 10592, and even its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), led to liberal application of the GCTA that resulted in the early release of some 2,000 heinous crime convicts since 2014. The controversy became the talk of the town after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced last August 20 that even convicted killer-rapist Antonio Sanchez was set for early release because of the GCTA scheme.

More than a hundred life termers who were released due to RA 10592 have already surrendered after they were given by President Duterte 15 days to present themselves to authorities. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a revised IRR is due for release next week. This is the product of the joint review conducted by the DOJ and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). “The Joint Review Committee has completed its work and submitted the draft IRR to the Secretaries of Justice and of the Interior and Local Government,” Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters. “Both will now review the draft IRR and decide on its promulgation.”

BuCor officials in alleged ‘GCTA for sale’ scheme agree to lifestyle checks

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BuCor officials in alleged ‘GCTA for sale’ scheme agree to lifestyle checks

Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials, who were reported to have demanded money in exchange for the early release of heinous crime convicts, accepted the challenge of senators that they be subjected to lifestyle checks at the resumption of the Senate probe into the application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law on  Monday (September 9).

Those who agreed to voluntarily submit themselves to lifestyle checks were BuCor Legal Division chief Fredric Anthony Santos; Staff Sergeant Ramoncito Roque, head of BuCor’s documents division; Correctional Senior Ins. Maria Belinda Bansil and Corrections Officer 3 Veronica Buño.

They will submit their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) in the last six years, as raised by Senator Risa Hontiveros during the Senate hearing on the GCTA mess.

In the previous hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice committees last week, witness Yolanda Camilon revealed that some BuCor officials demanded P50,000 from her in exchange for the early release of her husband through the GCTA provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

He identified Roque, Bansil and Buño as some of the BuCor officers who demanded money from her, in what is now called as the “GCTA for sale” scheme. Camilon was forced to come out and disclose the scheme after her husband was not released.

Roque, Bansil and Buño had already denied Camilon’s accusation.

In an earlier hearing of the Senate, former BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon and Regional Superintendent Melencio Faustino also told senators that they are willing to be subjected to lifestyle checks.

At the resumption of the hearing on Monday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said another witness will corroborate Camilon’s revelations on the alleged GCTA for sale scheme. A third witness is still not sure if he/she will come out. 

The application of the GCTA provisions of RA 10592, which was enacted in 2013, has been in the national spotlight since Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed last August 20 that convicted killer-rapist Antonion L. Sanchez and several other convicts of heinous crimes could be released soon due to their reduced prison terms for good behavior under the law.

Since 2014, more than 22,000 convicts had been freed under the law, around 2,000 of them life termers.

President Duterte himself stopped the early release of Sanchez, stressing that the law does not cover those who were convicted of heinous crimes. He also gave those who have been released 15 days to surrender to authorities. As of Sunday, more than a hundred of these convicts have already surrendered, although some were reported to have fled to other countries. The Philippine National Police said it will now seek the help of the Interpol to effect the arrest of these convicts. 

Duterte junks bill giving fiscal autonomy to PUP

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Duterte junks bill giving fiscal autonomy to PUP
Image Credit: PCOO / @ThePUPOfficial

The bid of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) to gain fiscal autonomy as a “national polytechnic university” has been shelved by President Duterte pending a full review of its performance.

In a letter dated September 4, 2019, and with the unsigned consolidated Senate Bill No. 2124 and House Bill No. 9023  (The Charter of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) attached, Duterte enumerated to both houses of Congress his reservations that made him veto the proposed PUP Charter.

“While I recognize the noble objective of the measure to promote, foster, nurture, and protect the right of all citizens to accessible quality education, I have serious reservations on the suitability of the means chosen to attain this end, namely, granting the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) the status of a national polytechnic university, with all the benefits and privileges such status entails,” Duterte said.

He continued: “I cannot disregard the fact that the PUP, despite its stature in our education sector, is but one of many state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country. As such, its proposed designation as national polytechnic university needs to be reassessed in light of its current performance ranking among other SUCs. The comparative performance of its satellite campuses and extension programs needs to be similarly evaluated before granting the PUP system as a whole such a privileged status.”

This assessment, Duterte noted, is needed because the proposed PUP Charter grants full fiscal autonomy to the university, which is a departure to the policy of granting only institutional autonomy to SUCs.

He added: ”The proposed provision on appropriations would also have a significant fiscal impact on the government, which may be avoided only if the PUP budget would continue to be subject to the need for prioritization and the usual budgetary and monitoring processes.”

“These concerns taken together put in question the suitableness of the passage of the measure at this time. In view of all these considerations, I am constrained to veto the above mentioned Enrolled Bill,” Duterte closed.

Moral integrity is top consideration in choosing Faeldon’s replacement

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Moral integrity is top consideration in choosing Faeldon’s replacement
Image Credit: Twitter

Amid the controversies surrounding the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor)—from the perennial problem of illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison to the early release of heinous crime convicts that has been on the national spotlight since last month—Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is now putting more emphasis on moral integrity in determining who will replace Nicanor Faeldon as the new head of the agency.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said Guevarra will be looking at moral integrity and sound judgment in his evaluation of the candidates for the BuCor chief. “The most important factor for the Secretary (Guevarra) is integrity issues. That is his yardstick; integrity is very important,” Perete said in an interview with radio station DZMM on Wednesday (September 5).

He said under Republic Act (RA) 10575 (An Act strengthening the Bureau of Corrections), the DOJ secretary is tasked to recommend to the President the candidate for the head of BuCor, which is under the supervision of the DOJ.

Perete said: “We know how very important the position is, especially now, so we are fast-tracking the process.”

In the meantime, Guevarra will designate an officer-in-charge from the current deputy chiefs of the bureau. Perete said the DOJ secretary will make the announcement today.

Faeldon was fired by President Duterte on Tuesday over the early release of heinous crime convicts due to erroneous implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of RA 10592, including three of the seven persons convicted in the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters. 

The Senate convened today the Blue Ribbon and Justice committees for the third of its probe of the GCTA mess. The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission is also conducting its parallel investigation, with end view of filing criminal charges against current and former BuCor officials who had a hand in the early release of close to 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes since 2014.

Duterte said he wants the DOJ and the police to re-arrest these freed convicts if they would not voluntarily surrender to authorities.

Faeldon said he accepts the decision of the President “without any hard feelings”.

“My commander-in-chief/appointing authority has spoken. I am a marine and a marine does as he is told,” Faeldon said in a statement released by his legal team. “I most humbly bow to commander-in-chief’s order without any hard feelings.”

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