Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 22 November 2017

DOJ junks drug raps vs Faeldon, 11 BOC officials

Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon/PHILSTAR PHOTO BY EDD GUMBAN

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday dismissed the criminal charges filed against former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and 11 other BOC officials in connection with the PHP6.4 billion shabu shipment seized in Valenzuela City last May 26.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DOJ panel headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes dismissed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) complaint for conspiracy to import illegal drugs and protecting or coddling of drug traffickers under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), negligence and tolerance under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, and corrupt practices of public officers under Section 3 of R.A. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) for lack of probable cause.

According to Aguirre, the DOJ cited PDEA’s “failure to state with clarity the acts or omission supposedly committed by the above-named BOC respondents that would constitute violation of the offense charged” as basis in clearing Faeldon of the charges.

“Further, the evidence adduced by the PDEA in support of the charges were insufficient to establish probable case. Thus, the Panel is constrained to take into consideration the defense raised by the respondents,” read the resolution.

Aside from Faeldon, also cleared from raps were then BOC Director Milo Maestrecampo, Director Neil Estrella, Intelligence Officer Joel Pinawin, Intelligence Officer Oliver Valiente, Atty. Jeleena Magsuci, Atty. Philip Maronilla, Alexandra Y. Ventura, Randolph O. Cabansag, Dennis J. Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor.

The DOJ panel likewise dismissed PDEA’s complaint for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) regulation under Sec, 32 of RA 9165 against the agents and investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti Organized and Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD), namely: Atty. Dennis Siyhian, Atty. Marie Catherine Nolasco, SI Marfil B. Baso, SI Joselito C. Guilen, SI Darwin Francisco and SI Edgardo C. Kawada.

The panel found that under the circumstances attendant to the case, and pursuant to relevant DDB Regulations and jurisprudence, the NBI-AOTCD is justified to retain custody of the 500 kilograms of shabu which they seized, examined and investigated.

PDEA’s complaint against the corporate officers of Hong Fei Logistics was also dismissed for failure of the PDEA to show that these corporate officers knowingly consented to or actively participated in the importation of the subject shipment.

Also, the case against Emily Anoche Dee for maintaining a drug den is likewise dismissed. The Panel finds lack of knowledge on the part of Emily that her property being rented will be used as a transshipment point of the subject drugs.

Regarding the case against Fidel Anoche Dee filed by the NBI-AOTCD, the same was also dismissed in view of the existence of an earlier case filed against him by the PDEA before the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City.

Pursuant to Department Order No. 004 Series of January 4, 2017, the dismissal of the cases against the BOC personnel, the NBI-AOTCD agents and investigators, the corporate officers of Hong Fei Logistics and against Emily Anoche Dee and Fidel Anoche Dee shall be subject to automatic review by the Secretary of Justice.


Senate tackles TRAIN, okays higher P250K ceiling for income tax exemption

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara. INTERAKSYON FILE

MANILA – Starting 2018, workers with a take-home pay of less than P250,000 annually will be exempted from payment of income tax. This, after Senate ways and means committee chief Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara accepted an amendment raising the exemption ceiling from P150,000 to P250,000.

The amendment was proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto as senators resumed plenary deliberations Wednesday on the House-approved version of the Duterte administration’s tax reform package.

As a result of the amendment approved Wednesday, the tax relief will be given in one blow, no longer on staggered basis as first outlined in Angara’s proposal as the main sponsor of the Senate version of what’s billed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

The higher exemption ceiling for income tax will also cover professionals and the self employed, and the informal economy, so that even sari sari store owners or traders in merchant hubs like Divisoria can enjoy it.

Angara said the amendment will substantially boost the take home pay of workers starting next year, if it is enacted.

Right now, the exemption from income tax only applies to the minimum wage earner. The current setup is so regressive that many compensation income workers would rather decline salary hikes as these could only result in bloating the taxable income but have no impact on take-home pay.

Progressive rates

Workers earning P250,000 and above annually will be paying different rates, calibrated as income rise, but lawmakers said the new brackets are still more progressive than the existing tiers.

For example, those earning over P250,000 but not more than P400,000 will pay tax of 20% of the excess over P250,000.

Revenue goals on target: Angara

In a statement issued just before the plenary deliberations began, Angara said the Senate version of TRAIN has met the revenue goal of the government after the ways and means committee chairman introduced his amendments to Senate bill 1592.

Based on the estimates by the Department of Finance (DOF), SB 1592, taking into consideration the proposed amendments, would yield P159.5 billion in revenue—a hundred billion more than the previous revenue estimate of P59.9 billion.

“We were able to meet the revenue target using the more comprehensive and accurate data that the DOF has provided the committee after the filing of the committee report,” said Angara.

The revenue boost was significantly sourced from the amendments to the provisions on the expansion of the value-added tax (VAT) base. From the repeal of certain VAT special laws alone, the estimated revenue gain is raised from P14 billion to P45.5 billion.

Another major source of revenue is the doubling of the prevailing documentary stamp tax rates which will approximately yield P40 billion.

Documentary stamp tax is a tax on documents, instruments, loan agreements and papers evidencing the acceptance, assignment, sale or transfer of an obligation, right or property incident thereto.

These include stamp tax on bank checks which will be doubled from P1.50 to P3; on original issue of shares of stock, P1 to P2; sales or transfer of shares of stock, P0.75 to P1.50; certificates of profits or interest in property or accumulations, P0.50 to P1.

Such amendment was first brought up by Recto during the period of interpellations.

“The stamp tax rates are already due for updating since such rates were set two decades ago just like our income tax rates. This increase in stamp tax rates will also improve the progressivity of the tax reform package, as this will mostly affect the rich who have the ability to pay additional taxes,” Angara said.

Angara explained that the ways and means committee sought to come up with a version of the TRAIN bill that would raise the take-home pay of Filipino workers by providing tax relief to 99% of individual income taxpayers and, at the same time, meet the revenue target so as not to impair the government’s capability to finance its programs and projects.

The Senate version likewise provided more specific earmarking provisions so that revenues will be allocated to programs that will directly benefit the poor. These include the funding of the free college law, unconditional cash transfer for the bottom 50% poorest households, free medicines for poor families and feeding programs in areas with high incidence of hunger, infrastructure programs to address congestion and improve mass transport, among others.


Sen. Kiko: ‘Gaguhan na! Peke ang drug war’

Senator Pangilinan, right, and President Duterte.

“Gaguhan na talaga!” (They’re really taking us for fools now!)

Senator Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday posted on Facebook this not-so-mild reaction to the Department of Justice’s dismissal of drug smuggling charges against former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and 11 other BOC officials.

“Ang lakas naman ng mga ito … Kapag kakampi pinapalusot. Kapag katunggali iniipit(Such influence … Cronies get let off, but opponents get squeezed),” Pangilinan remarked, seething at the junking of the charges against Faeldon et al in connection with a P6.4-billion shabu shipment seized in Valenzuela City last May 26. The senator said the development was emblematic of the Duterte Administration’s uneven and unjust waging of its anti-drug program.

See also: DOJ junks drug raps vs Faeldon, 11 BOC officials

“Akala ko ba galit sila sa droga? Kapag maliliit at mahihirap at ilang gramo lang ng shabu, pinapatay. Kapag tone-toneladang shabu ang pinupuslit ng malalapit sa mga nakaupo, pinapalusot (They hate drugs? The small fry with grams of meth are rubbed out, but when it’s tons of shabu by those close to the powers that be, they go scot-free),” Pangilinan added.


“Peke ang drug war ng adminsitrasyon na ito (This administration’s drug war is a sham),” Pangilinan remarked.

Senator Francis Pangilinan criticized the government’s campaign against illegal drugs in a Facebook post Wednesday, November 22, 2017.

The senator called on the public to join him in expressing outrage on social media, recalling the flood of anger when legislators attempted to slash the operating budget of the Commission on Human Rights to just P1,000 next year.

He urged netizens to let DOJ feel the public’s revulsion at the way the department is supposedly trashing justice and truth.


Suspected NPA kill construction site caretaker, fire at responding cops in Nueva Ecija

The body of construction site caretaker Sixto Tabon after he was shot dead by suspected rebels in Nueva Ecija. (photo by Cris Sansano, InterAksyon)

CARANGLAN, Nueva Ecija — Suspected communist rebels shot dead the caretaker of a construction site and opened fire on responding policemen in Caranglan town, Nueva Ecija early Wednesday morning.

Senior Superintendent Eliseo Tanding, provincial police director, said Sixto Tabon, 44, of Barangay Putlan, died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The killers also hit the rear of a police patrol vehicle that rushed to the scene of the crime. No policeman was hurt.

Investigators recovered 18 .45 caliber and 9 mm slugs.


Backstreet Boy Nick Carter denies girl group member’s 2002 rape allegation

Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys poses at 30th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Hollywood, California April 17, 2013. (Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

LOS ANGELES | Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter on Wednesday denied an allegation that he raped a teen pop singer 15 years ago, saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the accusation.

Melissa Schuman, who was a member of girl group Dream in the late 1990s, claimed in a lengthy blog post earlier this month that Carter forced her to have oral sex and raped her in 2002 when she was 18 and he was 22.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm Schuman’s allegation.

“I am shocked and saddened by Ms. Schuman’s accusations,” Carter, now 37, said in a statement that was emailed to media outlets.

”Melissa never expressed to me while we were together or at any time since that anything we did was not consensual.


”It is contrary to my nature and everything I hold dear to intentionally cause someone discomfort or harm,” he said in the statement.

The girl group Dream on the cover of its 2001 debut album ‘It’s All A Dream.’ Melissa Schumann is second from left.

Schuman could not immediately be reached for comment on Carter’s statement. She left Dream in 2002, and after the band made a brief comeback in 2015, it disbanded again in 2016.

She wrote on her blog in a Nov. 2 post titled “Melissa Explains It All” that she had decided to come forward after women made accusations against other prominent men in entertainment and politics, and the #MeToo social media movement.

The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest boy bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with hits like “Quit Playing Games With My Heart.”

Carter and the band are currently playing a concert residency in Las Vegas that is scheduled to run through February 2018.


Returning war on drugs to PNP will mean more bloodshed – HRW

Policemen inspect the body of a man, with tape wrapped around his head and feet, who police said was a victim of a drug-related vigilante execution in Manila. (photo by Ezra Acayan, Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — Returning the government’s war on drugs to the Philippine National Police, as President Rodrigo Duterte has suggested, would mean more of the bloodshed that has already claimed thousands of lives since he assumed office last year, a human rights watchdog warned.

Last month, Duterte handed the campaign against narcotics to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to appease “bleeding hearts” and the media, an apparent reference to the growing anger over the deaths blamed on the drug war, which some tallies place at more than 13,000 and counting.

It was the second time Duterte, who had promised a “bloody” war on drugs when he ran for president, had ordered the PNP to step aside. He first did so in January following revelations policemen were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a Korean businessman, only to call in the PNP once more about a month later following what he said was a resurgence of drug activity.

On Wednesday, addressing troops at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, he again signaled a change of heart, saying the police were indispensable to his “all-out war” against drug syndicate.

“But as of now, just to parry, I placed it under PDEA. But whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely, it will increase the activity of the shabu (crystal meth),” he said. 

Reacting to Duterte’s statement, Phelim Kine, Asia division deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said this “was not wholly unexpected,” citing PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa’s reaction after the war on drugs was given to PDEA: “Drug pushers are saying hallelujah.”

HRW has long been critical of Duterte, accusing him of creating the so-called “Davao Death Squad” when he was mayor of the Mindanao city to execute suspected criminals, and of replicating this on a nationwide scale through his war on drugs.

Kine also said Duterte may “have been emboldened by (the) unwillingness of either U.S. President Donald Trump or fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders to publicly challenge the drug war slaughter during the ASEAN 2017 Summit, which the Philippines hosted earlier this month.”

Before hosting the regional summit, Duterte had warned visiting world leaders, including Trump, against discussing human rights or the war on drugs with him.

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ignored the warning and said he had brought up the matter with a “receptive” Duterte.

An angry Duterte blasted Trudeau for what he called “a personal and official insult.”

Kine said Dutrte’s “apparent desire to resume the murderous drug war underscores the need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings.”

“Until that happens, the number of victims denied justice and accountability will likely only continue to grow,” Kine added/


Duterte cancels peace talks with communists

Fr. Pete Montallana recalled that the people in remote areas, particularly the indigenous people in the Sierra Madre, felt safe when the government and rebels stopped hostilities in Christmases past.
“Let the people celebrate Christmas without the feeling of fear around them,” Montallana said as he called on Mr. Duterte and the communist leaders to resume the talks and continue the traditional Yuletide ceasefire.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, advised the communist rebels to just surrender, saying the defense establishment would be relentless against the NPA. —With reports from Jeannette T. Andrade, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., and AFP

The government has canceled all planned meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of peace talks with the communist insurgents, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said on Wednesday.

Dureza said the national government was terminating the talks after the failure of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in reciprocating peace overtures from the President. But he said he was still hopeful that this would turn out to be a temporary setback.

“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” he said in a statement.


The NDFP is the political arm of the CPP.

“Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision. We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations,” Dureza said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said Malacañang was preparing the official proclamation terminating the peace talks and categorizing the NPA as a terrorist organization.

“I no longer want to talk, especially after their last ambush of a police officer where a 4-month-old girl who was in the arms of the mother [was killed],” he said.

The baby was killed when NPA members ambushed a police vehicle in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon, on Nov. 11. The baby and her mother were in a Toyota Fortuner that was behind the police vehicle.

The CPP has been waging an insurgency since 1968 to overthrow a system that has created one of Asia’s biggest rich-poor divides.

On and off

Peace talks to end the conflict, which the military says has claimed 30,000 lives, have been conducted on-and-off for three decades.


They were revived last year after Mr. Duterte, a self-declared socialist, was elected President, with Norway and the Netherlands hosting the negotiations.

Dureza said the termination of peace talks with the communist rebels was an unfortunate development.

“Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said.

He said Mr. Duterte had taken unprecedented steps and had walked the extra mile to bring peace. “However, the CPP and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity,” he said.

Dureza said there would be “no peace negotiations anymore” with the insurgents “until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

He said the government would continue to “closely watch the developments” to determine if the talks could resume later on.

Gratitude to Norway

“We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events,” Dureza said.

Norway has been a facilitator in the peace process between the government and the NDFP since 2001.

“Despite this setback, [hopefully only temporary], we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace,” Dureza said.

“I now call on everyone: Let’s all stay the course together,” he added.

The peace talks bogged down in May when the government peace panel withdrew from the fifth round of negotiations in the Dutch city of Noordwijk after the CPP ordered the NPA to step up attacks against security forces.

The CPP issued the order after Mr. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after Islamic State-inspired terrorists laid siege to Marawi City in late May.

Formal talks between the government and the CPP were supposed to resume in September but the President was angered by the NPA ambush on convoy of the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato, in July.

Mr. Duterte insisted that there should be a ceasefire before the talks could proceed.

Gloomy Christmas

A Catholic priest predicted that the coming Yuletide season would be gloomy and violent because of the scuttled talks.

Fr. Pete Montallana recalled that the people in remote areas, particularly the indigenous people in the Sierra Madre, felt safe when the government and rebels stopped hostilities in Christmases past.

“Let the people celebrate Christmas without the feeling of fear around them,” Montallana said as he called on Mr. Duterte and the communist leaders to resume the talks and continue the traditional Yuletide ceasefire.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, advised the communist rebels to just surrender, saying the defense establishment would be relentless against the NPA. —With reports from Jeannette T. Andrade, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., and AFP

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