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President Duterte

Duterte to promptly suspend, detain officials who will pocket COVID-19 funds

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte on Monday (March 30) warned officials who will embezzle funds meant for programs to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that they will be promptly arrested and detained.

In a taped message aired late Monday night, Duterte said those that will be reported to have misused parts of the P275-billion emergency funds will also be suspended.

“Kung mamumulitika ka tapos mabalittan ko na ‘yun ang ginawa mo, I will suspend you ora mismo…I will detain you, and maybe I will release you pagkatapos ng Covid. Hindi ako nananakot,” the President said.

Duterte signed into law last March 24 Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan Act).

He said he already issued the executive order detailing how the government will use the emergency funds granted by Congress to the Executive Branch via the Bayanihan Act.

Duterte said the money will go to the cash subsidy to the families affected by the lockdown, purchase of medical equipment and other needs to strengthen the country’s health system, and initiatives to shield the economy from the negative impact of COVID-19.  

He again thanked health workers in the frontline of the fight against the spread of the disease.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa hlahat ng ating mga doktor who are honest at talagag nagtratrabaho; sa inyo po personal kong gratitude na hindi mababayaran ng pera. Nagpapasalamat din ang tao bayan sa inyo, salamat po,” Duterte said, “at ako ay regularly makipag-usap sa inyo until this crisis is over. Huwag kayong matakot ngayon, may pera ako; kung may palpak man diyan ay aayusin namin.”

Duterte also identified and personally thanked the private companies and individuals who are donating massively to the government and private institutions that are involved in the coronavirus programs.

Duterte pleads to Filipinos: Stay at home

in Tabloid PH News

Like a father imploring obedience from his children, President Duterte asked Filipinos to follow the government’s advice to stay at home, as this will make or break the efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“I repeat: Stay at home. Huwag matigas ang ulo. The outcome of this war depends largely on you as well,” Duterte said in his latest televised message to the nation.

He stressed that the government will extend financial assistance to almost all Filipino families, “especially to those in the margins and the vulnerable groups.” “Huwag kayong matakot. Nandito ‘yong gobyerno ninyo para kayo pagsilbihan at totoong pagsilbihan,”

Duterte added: ”I now call on every Filipino to participate in this war by following the guidelines set by the national government and your local officials. Nothing is more important [now] than your cooperation…Gagawin namin ang lahat. Hindi namin kayo pababayaan.”

He also assured that government agencies will ensure the speedy delivery of essential medical supplies and equipment to health facilities, “from the approval, importation and to the delivery.” “Everything must go smoothly to make sure that we do not waste time…I do not want red tapes. I do not want so many questions. Pagka sinertify ng isang government employee ‘yan. I said, do not commit a mistake and we will all be happy and comfortable…Kung gusto ninyong magluko, huwag ngayon itong panahon na ito.”

“Yes, things will not be easy. [But] we Filipinos are tough. Mas malakas ang Pilipino sa anumang hamon. Now, we all must do what we can and must, para sa ating bayan. I look forward to the day that we Filipinos can finally claim victory in this war and emerge as a stronger and more united Filipinos and Philippines,” Duterte declared. 

The President also thanked the different sectors that are giving their all in the fight against COVID-19, especially the health workers. ”First, let me reiterate my sincerest gratitude to all our courageous frontliners in this war, especially our healthcare workers—our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, and other allied health professionals. Maraming-maraming salamat. Asahan niyo ang suporta ng inyong gobyerno.”

“I am saddened by the news that the virus has claimed the lives of our doctors along the way. Lahat po sila ay bayani and not only that, talagang bumilib ako. Bihira akong sumasaludo ng tao pero ‘pag mga doktor natin, mga health workers na nadisgrasya, talagang saludo ako sa inyo. Wala na kayo dito sa mundong ito pero ganun na lang ang pagtingin ko sa inyo.”

“To the able officials and staff of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, thank you for staying on top of this situation,” he added. ”To the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, thank you as well for ensuring peace and order in these trying times.”

“I also thank the rest of the frontliners who ensure that basic services are provided to our people, from those manning various government agencies, groceries, banks, food establishments, and delivery services, among others. Maraming, maraming salamat po.”

“To the gracious members of the private sector who are foregoing profit to alleviate the suffering of our people; to the valiant volunteers who are bravely supplementing our frontliners; to the noble civil society organizations who are working tirelessly in calling for donations and performing charity work— Thank you very much for your kindness, compassion and generosity.” 

Malacanang tells Filipinos to be wary of fake news as Congress grants Duterte special powers

in Tabloid PH News

With Congress granting President Duterte the much-needed special powers to better tackle the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019), Malacanang asked Filipinos to be on guard against people who are out to sow disorder and undermine government efforts by circulating fake news through social media.

“Once again, we urge our countrymen to be wary of rumors and false news designed to create panic and confusion propagated by the enemies of peace and order,” Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

The Palace was reacting to numerous fake reports that are popping in social media sides that make people worry, including an alleged plan by Duterte to impose food rationing as he implements his emergency powers.

The two houses of Congress have already passed the bill titled “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act” granting stand-by powers to the President to carry out effectively the national policy of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“There is an urgent need to implement measures that will help address the health scare brought about by the spread of COVID-19 in our land. They include the effective detection of the virus among the populace, prompt testing by health facilities of patients, protection and access to transportation in favor of our health workers who are at the frontline of this battle, maintenance of availability and pricing of essential and basic commodities for consumers, and provision thereof to those belonging to the vulnerable sectors of society, among others,” Panelo said.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act authorizes the President to immediately implement measures, such as:

Effective education, detection, protection, and treatment of Filipinos versus COVID-19; 

Expediting the accreditation of testing kits and facilitating the prompt testing by public and designated private institutions; 

Providing allowance or compensation and shouldering medical expenses in favor of public and private health workers; 

Directing establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution locations, as well as public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel; 

Ensuring the availability of essential goods, in particular food and medicine, and protecting the people from illegal and pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of certain essential items; 

Directing the extension of statutory deadlines for the filing of government requirements and setting grace periods for payment of loans and rents; and 

Providing subsidy to low-income households and implementing an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Program.

Panelo assured the Filipino people that the powers granted the President shall be enforced strictly in accordance with the Constitution. “The grant of powers is for a limited period and subject to the restrictions contained therein.”

President Duterte, in a taped message, said: ”I particularly thank Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the strong and decisive leadership you have demonstrated in shepherding this measure to fruition during this critical time in our national history.” 

“To the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for this measure, I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests. Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis.” 

Duterte admin to give 18M families P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidy under emergency bill

in News/Tabloid PH News

Lawmakers are now fast-tracking the passage of a bill that will give President Duterte the authority to re-allocate existing budget to fund various emergency programs, including the grant of P5,000 to P8,000 to 18 million families to tide them over the enhanced community quarantine.

These 18 million families are those belonging to the so-called informal sector, or those considered poor and with “no work – no pay” types of livelihood.

Both houses of Congress held special sessions starting on Monday (March 23) to speed up the passage of the emergency powers bill.

The House version of the bill, if passed, will allow President Duterte to gather about P275 billion from the unused 2019 budget and 2020 national appropriations.

Around P200 billion will go to the cash subsidy for the 18 million families. The Philippines is estimated to have about 22 million families.

The remaining P75 billion will go to other expenditures, including the purchase or medical equipment and goods that will allow the health sector to better combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The bill will also empower the President to direct private hospitals and hotels to operate under the direction of the government in managing COVID-19.

Duterte has already approved the grant of hazard pay to government personnel that are still reporting for work despite the lockdown. Administrative Order No. 26 grants a maximum of P500 daily hazard pay to them.

“Government employees and workers engaged through contract of service (COS) or job order (JO), whose services are urgently necessary and who physically report for work during the period of the Enhanced Community Quarantine are inevitably exposed to health risks and hazards,” Duterte said in his order.

PH under state of calamity as more measures put in place vs COVID-19

in News/Tabloid PH News

The entire country is now under a state calamity, which means prices of all products are already frozen, and the national and local government units can use available resources to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) while cushioning its economic impact down to the vulnerable sectors.

President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929, which “will, among others, afford the National Government, as well as LGUs, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population.”

The state of calamity is effective for six months, unless changed by the President.

Memorandum Circular No. 77, meanwhile, directs the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Trade and Industry to continuously monitor the prices of basic commodities and enact price control measures as provided by law.

It said: “The ongoing global concern on the spread of the COVID-19 has increased the demand for essential emergency drugs and medical supplies, and basic food commodities, thereby making these products susceptible to acts of illegal price manipulation.”

Duterte has already placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine, to further limit the movement of people, and consequently possible carriers of the coronavirus.

At least P27.1 billion has been readied for various programs to contain the spread of the disease and support the public and businesses via various interventions.

“As directed by President Duterte, the government will provide targeted and direct programs to guarantee that benefits will go to our workers and other affected sectors. We have enough but limited resources, so our job is to make sure that we have sufficient funds for programs mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on our economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said they are now closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government and LGUs for proper implementation of the food resiliency protocols – including the identification of food lanes and the implementation of quarantine measures for the movement of food and other agricultural commodities.

The DA chief said that only trucks and suppliers with accreditation from the agriculture department could use the proposed special lanes. “All vehicles carrying essential food commodities, agri-fishery products and inputs bearing government-issued stickers must be allowed passage at quarantine checkpoints through these food lanes.” 

Meanwhile, the Department of Health announced its emergency hotlines for all concerns regarding COVID-19: 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.

Duterte: Every Filipino is a soldier in war against coronavirus

in News/Tabloid PH News

In expanding and enhancing the community quarantine to cover the entire Luzon starting Tuesday (March 17), President Duterte rallied every Filipino in the war against the “invisible enemy” known as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“We are in a fight against this vicious and invisible enemy. In this war, we are all soldiers, bata lalaki, bawat Pilipino ano mang estado sa buhay ay maituturing na sundalo sa laban na ito,” Duterte said in his address to the nation as he announced his decision to lock down the entire Luzon.

Duterte assured this is not leading to a Martial Law.

“Let me make this clear, this is not Martial Law. Under the Constitution Martial Law is declared when there is invasion rebellion or if public safety requires it.  Huwag kayong matakot, walang magdi-display ng baril dyan, except the armed forces and police,” Duterte stressed.

The enhanced community entails the closure of almost all establishments and ban on public transport in Luzon for the duration of the quarantine to control the movement of people, and subsequently the spread of the contagion.

Households should be confined to their respective homes.

“Ang general rule ay stay at home. If you leave your home to buy necessities, only one person ang puwede bumili, hindi puwede isama ang buong pamilya,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said .

These are the only establishments that will be allowed to operate: public markets, supermarket, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drug stores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, manufacturing and processing plants of basic food products and medicines, banks, money transfer services, power, energy, water, and telecommunications supplies and facilities.

Restaurants will be allowed to operate if they have delivery services. 

For those who can’t afford to buy food and other supplies, the national and local governments, though the barangays, will deliver their needs to them.

Duterte places Metro Manila under lockdown

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte has placed the entire Metro Manila under community quarantine on Thursday night (March 12) as a way to contain the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has now taken the lives of five persons in the country.

Duterte, in nationally televised address, also said the Philippines is now under Code Red Sub-Level 2 alert, the highest level.

Community quarantine means there will be no land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila from March 15 to April 14. However, intra-region travel via mass transports like trains and metro rail transit will be allowed.

Duterte assured that this “lockdown” is now a Martial Law but is necessary in the fight against COVID-19.

“Ayaw naming gamitin yan kasi takot sa lockdown, but it’s a lockdown,. There is no struggle of power here, it is a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19,” he said.

Duterte added: “It’s subject again for review day to day, tingnan namin nangyayari if there is a slowdown in the contagion… Hindi ito martial law. It is not a martial law. It is not even something extraordinary. But what is sought to be solved here is the again, walang iba except to fight the virus, and to exact compliance.” 

Duterte also suspended work in the government’s Executive Branch, except for those dealing with health and emergency matters. Offices, however, need to ensure there will be a skeletal force manning their agencies.

Private firms, while encouraged to continue operations, will need to practice strict social distancing measures. 

Classes for all levels in Metro Manila have been suspended up to April 12.

“Mass gatherings, defined as a planned or spontaneous event, where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, shall be prohibited during said period,” he also declared.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 52 as of Thursday night, with fatalities at 5. Four of those who died were Filipinos. The first fatality was a Chinese.

Several national government officials, local executives and lawmakers, meanwhile, have placed themselves under self-quarantine after they appeared in events that were attended by COVID-19-infected persons.

President also had himself tested for COVID-19 after he attended an event last March 5 where a COVID-19 patient was present.

Duterte to continue attending public events but suspends classes to shield children from COVID

in News/Tabloid PH News

With local transmissions causing the number of confirmed 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country to rise from 2 to 24 in just a matter of days, President Duterte on Monday night (March 9) ordered the suspension of classes for one week in Metro Manila as a preemptive move.

But Duterte said despite the suspension of classes up to March 14, barangay officials will help ensure chidden will still be studying their lessons as home, as recommended by Education Secretary Leonor Brions.

“The reason being that parang tignan natin yung incubation period which is not ordinarily like a normal virus, 3 or 4, ito umaabot ng 14 days. So itong 14 days na ito, one is to keep safe the children; second is we’re going to establish a benchmark kung ilan pa ang madagdagan. At ngayon kung itong walang klase, would it somehow reduce the number of the victims, if we keep our children sequestered at home and study there,” Duterte said.

Several cities in Metro Manila already had confirmed COVID-19 cases, including San Juan, Quezon City and Taguig.

The President said parents will be lectured “on the responsibilities of being a parent, that the children should study even while they are detained in their respective homes.”

He made the announcement shortly after his meeting with Metro Manila mayors and members of the COVID-19  interagency task force.

But while keeping the children from harm’s way, the President will not be distancing himself from public occasions and would still continue shaking hands with guests and participants of the events he will be attending. 

“Trabaho ko ‘yan eh. Puwera na lang kung ‘yung participants nila, matakot,” Duterte said. “No, I will not decline invitations. I will shake hands with everybody. I will go to Mindanao to visit my dead soldiers, if they are still there, and to congratulate my warriors. Namatayan ako ng apat na sundalo.”

He reiterated what he always says that if it is time for him to die, he will have no problem with. “Sinasabi ko sa inyo, na kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayong oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako.”

‘Fatalistic’ Duterte to continue riding choppers even after PNP chief’s near-fatal crash

in News/Tabloid PH News

The helicopter crash that injured the country’s top police officials on Thursday (March 5) will have no effect on President Duterte’s preference for choppers in getting to his sorties on time, his spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said.

Panelo told reporters that knowing Duterte’s “fatalistic” orientation, a mishap occurring while he is riding a helicopter is something that the President just dismisses. This is why he is often seen taking helicopters to his official functions. He also joins aerial inspections via choppers.

Panelo said this makes it very unlikely that Duterte will stop riding choppers, even after the near-fatal crash of a 2-year-old Bell 429 chopper in San Pedro, Laguna carrying PNP Chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, Major Generals Jovic Ramos and Mariel Magaway, his comptrollership and intelligence heads, respectively; Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, the PNP spokesman; an aide, a technician and 2 pilots.

“You know the President, the President naman always says ‘if it’s my time, it’s my time.’ Fatalistic siya eh,” Panelo said.

Gamboa’s condition is already stable, with a picture of him on a hospital bed beside Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Duterte’s first PNP chief, already posted on social media.

Only Ramos and Magaway were reported to be still in critical condition. 

“Initial accounts reveal that the mishap was caused by the helicopter getting in contact with a high-tension wire due to poor visibility. With this, we ask the public to refrain from making speculations relative to the circumstances as we wait for the official results of the probe on the incident,” Panelo said.

He said Duterte will most likely visit the PNP officials, just like what the President always does when a uniformed personnel was injured while on official duty.

Duterte removes red tape in release of funds for quick rehabilitation of Marawi City

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte committed to speed up the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged Marawi City by removing all the bureaucratic hindrances to the quick release of funds while ensuring there will be no repeat of the terrorist attack in 2017 that displaced more than 40,000 residents.

This was the message of the Chief Executive to local government officials and leaders of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Marawi City in their meeting with related state agencies in Malacanang on Wednesday night (March 4).

He tasked Eduardo del Rosario, Task Force Bangon Marawi, to coordinate efforts of around 56 government agencies that will fulfill the President’s commitment to complete reconstruction works in Marawi City before he steps down in 2022. He vowed to personally monitor the ongoing improvements and rehabilitation work.

The rehabilitation initiatives were delayed by circuitous approval process in the bureaucracy. Del Rosario, will now work directly with the Department of Budget and Management for the quick release of funds and handle allocations for the projects.

The actual rehabilitation works started in September 2018 by clearing the city of unexploded bombs and debris. The task force reported that the city is now 99 percent cleared of explosives. The second phase of the rehabilitation effort involves the construction of structures and buildings in the city.

The President also sought the cooperation of Marawi residents in ensuring the attack launched by terrorist cell Maute Group in May 2017 will no longer be repeated by having permanent military installations in the city.

“I’m not after the Maranao, ang akin d’yan is the military should be there to avoid a repeat of… ‘yang military hindi ‘yang Maranao ang hinahanap n’yan, the terrorists that terrorize everybody,” he said. “Now, if you are bothered by my explanation to you, just look at what happened to the Middle East.”

But the government must also consider the local community’s sensitivities, its religion and culture, which is why Duterte said he would favor Muslim members of the armed forces to be deployed in Marawi City.

Under the security component of the Marawi City rehabilitation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducts military operations against the remaining members of the ISIS-Maute group. 

“It’s the age of terrorism so we will just have to do something about it. Come up with something that can mitigate. Anyway, pagka-peaceful na, then it’s about time na the military will go out. My decision to build a military camp there will remain.”

Duterte: Next PH president should be ready to kill or be killed for country

in News/Tabloid PH News

President Duterte just raised the minimum qualifications for politicians who will be seeking his endorsement in the next presidential election in May 2022.

Duterte, speaking at an event in Malacanang on Tuesday (March 3), said only those who are willing to kill and be killed for the sake of the country have the right to succeed him in 2022.

The President stressed: “Sa totoo lang presidente, ka at hindi ka marunong pumatay at takot ka pumatay, eh wag ka na maging presidente. Walang mangyayari sa bayan kung puro utos ka lang.” 

Because of this, Duterte said he is starting to doubt that someone has these qualifications among the current breed of politicians in the country.

“We’re getting old and the young are there. Wala pa akong nakitang new crop of politicians dito sa ating bayan. Frankly, wala akong nakita na pwede talagang maging presidente,” the Chief Executive said.

Duterte is known globally for his bloody war against illegal drugs, his flagship program and top campaign promise. He has repeatedly threatened to eliminate drug pushers, which was often realized owing to the thousands of drug peddlers that were killed during police operations. There were also rumors that Duterte has his own death squad that liquidates drug pushers.

“Ikaw na ang gumawa para ikaw talaga ang bida,” Duterte said.

This does not mean that Duterte also does not see his daughter, Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, as a worthy successor. This is because Duterte has been saying he does not want her daughter to run for president.

Despite this, experts are saying that Sara will most likely succeed her father if she opts to run for president in 2022.

OPINION: Humility produces instant results

in Editorial/News/Tabloid PH News

Even a giant should practice humility.

This was probably the lesson learned by ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ broadcast giant, as the company’s management finally opted to apologize to President Duterte instead of playing hardball with the Chief Executive that has already jeopardized the network’s very existence.

During the Senate hearing on the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal last Monday (February 24), ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak aired the company’s apology to Duterte. He said: “We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network.” 

The display of humility produced instant results, based on the reactions from people close to the Chief Executive. 

Senator Ronald dela Rosa said he was already “one step closer” to supporting ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. Senator Bong Go said he was willing to talk Duterte into forgiving ABS-CBN and supporting a fresh franchise for the network. 

Then came the statement from the President himself that he has accepted the network’s apology, although he is still letting Congress decide on the renewal. 

The best statement of support that ABS-CBN got, however, was from Duterte’s favorite daughter, Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is being touted as the likely successor of Duterte in 2022.

She said: ”Davao City fully supports ABS-CBN sa kanilang pagpapa-renew ng kanilang franchise. Of course malaki din ang suporta ng ABS-CBN sa Davao City at sa buong bansa…Hopefully ma-resolve in a very positive way ang issue ng franchise ng ABS-CBN…Of course, alam niyo si President Duterte, maawain ‘yan na tao. Iniisip din niya ‘yung trabaho ng maraming employees ng ABS-CBN.”

At the House of Representatives, the committee that has shown reluctance in acting on the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bills just directed the National Telecommunications Commission to give the network a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, or the day when its franchise would expire if still not renewed by Congress.

With all these developments, it is now hoped that the words are turned into action and the goodwill reciprocated.

President Duterte and his supporters have repeatedly said that ABS-CBN has shown bias in its reporting on numerous occasions, and evidently slanting its stories against the Duterte administration.

But Katigbak said: “Today, we want to make a categorical statement together with our chairman Mark Lopez that ABS-CBN does not and will not have its own political agenda.” It is high time that the network translated this into action via its reporting. 

With the crises—both manmade and natural—faced by the country today, Filipinos don’t need the kind of reporting that only fans division among the people. ABS-CBN should prove that it is really not allowing any political camp or group to advance its interest through its reporting.

ABS-CBN can always exercise its freedom of the press and expression, but not in a manner that is obviously slanted toward an agenda.

This doesn’t mean the network will now just turn a blind eye to wrongdoings or inaction on the part of the government. But these reports should be based on facts and balanced, not just focusing on the allegations of one side.

Of course, those in the political opposition and the leftist groups wouldn’t like this idea. Surely, Duterte and ABS-CBN patching up their differences would bring frowns to their faces. Leave them be. 

Just imagine the country’s largest broadcast network working together with a President that has an approval rating of 87 percent. This should do wonders in calling Filipinos into collective action in tackling the crises being faced by the country today.

Duterte wants PH to strengthen military on its own, not keen on defense pacts with China, other nations

in News/Tabloid PH News

Contrary to insinuations that President Duterte will also be pivoting toward China for the country’s defense policies, Malacanang stressed that the Chief Executive will not entertain a joint military pact with Beijing after he junked the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, said the President would rather that the country rely on its budget and capabilities in strengthening its military prowess than continue relying on foreign powers.

“Talagang desidido siya (Duterte) na tumayo na tayo sa ating kakayahan. If that will mean you will be spending more, then let’s spend more,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Friday (February 21).

Panelo narrated that he asked if Duterte is looking at having a pact similar to the VFA with China or any other country, and the President answered “no”.

Manila has already informed Washington of its decision to end the 20-year VFA, which legalizes the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and the joint US-Philippines military exercises. 

This was after Washington included in its 2020 budget law a provision that bans the entry of Philippine officials who had  something to do with the incarceration of opposition Senator Leila de Lima. 

Subsequently, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was scrapped.

But there is still a possibility that the Executive Branch’s move to end VFA without prior approval from the Senate could be questioned before the Supreme Court.

Panelo said for the President, the country’s only enemies are the terrorists and Moro rebels, which can be handled by the government troops. “Sabi niya ito lang ang kalaban natin. Kaya natin iyon dahil kung hindi natin kaya ito, wala tayong karapatan maging gobyerno.”

Duterte to boost PH shopping festival by joining tours around the country in March

in News/Tabloid PH News

Despite the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), President Duterte will be personally supporting the local retail and tourism sectors by joining promotional tours around the country in conjunction with the monthlong “2020 Philippine Shopping Festival” in March.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Duterte will be joining them in touring the major islands in the country, including Bohol, Cebu and Boracay.

This is to impress upon foreign and local tourists that it is safe to travel around the Philippines even with the COVID-19 reaching the country.

The DOT said this will boost the first-ever shopping festival in the Philippines, which will run from March 1 to 31 in Metro Manila, Agusan Del Norte, Antique, Bacolod, Baguio, Bataan, Bicol Region, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Butuan City, Cagayan De Oro, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Cebu, Davao, Ilocos Norte, Iloilo, Lanao Del Norte, Legazpi City in Albay, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, South Cotabato (General Santos City), and Zambales (Olongapo City).

The DOT said it aims to position the country as a destination where shopping is fun, unique, and affordable. Based on DOT’s Visitor Sample Survey in 2018, shopping is the most common tourist activity in the country at 38 percent.

“It’s not hard to see that elevating the shopping experience will go a long way to enhance the attractiveness of our tourist destinations all over the Philippines, whether it is our big cities or in our beautiful provinces. We’ve recognized this in the National Tourism Development Plan of 2016-2022, where leisure, entertainment and shopping tourism is one of the 10 products we want to further develop in the next few years,” Puyat said.

The campaign goes by the slogan “There’s Fun in Every Find”, a tweaking of the DOT’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” official marketing pitch. #FunFinds2020 is the official hashtag.

Puyat said the shopping fest will also feature variety of Philippine-made items. “Buying local helps support our craftsmen and artisans, as well as their communities; more importantly, it helps preserve our culture, traditions, and Filipino way of life.” 

During the shopping fest, foreign and local tourists alike can expect 15 percent to 70 percent discounts on many exciting Philippine-made products, including food and dining, jewelry and fashion, crafts, furniture, and decor, and beauty and wellness products, enabling shopping an integral part of visitors’ itineraries.

Travelers can also look for affordable airfares and cheaper hotel accommodations for the promotion period.

“We invite all tourists to ‘Be Part of the Fun’ by supporting the 2020 Philippine Shopping Sale this March. We also look forward to it becoming a yearly and anticipated feature on the nation’s event calendar,” said Puyat.

Interested consumers can revel on the shopping sale through participating malls such as Araneta Group, Ayala Land Malls, Inc., Duty Free Philippine Corporation, Filinvest Land Inc., Greenfield Development Corporation, Vista Malls, Megaworld Corporation, Oritgas Land, Power Plant Mall, Robinsons Land Corporation, Rustan Commercial Corporation, Shangri-La Plaza Corporation, SM Supermalls, and Stores Specialists, Inc.

Associations supporting the event are the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, Philippine Franchise Association, Philippine Owners Association Inc., Philippine Retailers Association, Philippine Tour Operators Association, Philippine Travel Agencies Association, and Tourism Congress of the Philippines.

Airlines including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia, Air Carriers Association of the Philippines will be slashing off airfare tickets to spur domestic tourism.

“This ambitious project, designed to increase tourism expenditure in the country, would not have been possible without the full support and cooperation of the nation”s mall operators, retailers, franchise holders, hotel and tour operators, and travel agencies,” added Puyat.

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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?

in Entertainment/Tabloid PH Showbiz

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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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 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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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

in News/Tabloid PH News

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

in News/Tabloid PH News

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.

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