Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Even before court victory, Trump’s pick to lead consumer watchdog began reshaping agency

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to block President Trump’s pick to be the temporary leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, denying a request by a high-ranking agency employee that she be put in charge instead.

In turning down Leandra English’s request for a temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly acknowledged that the case raised constitutional questions, but he ruled that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney can remain acting CFPB director. Former CFPB litigation counsel Deepak Gupta, representing English, said they would weigh their options to resolve an issue they say has left the six-year old agency and its 1,600 employees in legal limbo.

“There needs to be an answer, and there needs to be a final answer. There needs to be a resolution of this cloud of impropriety hanging over the bureau,” Gupta told reporters after the hearing.

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The Trump administration applauded the decision and said the ruling supports its contention that Mulvaney is the rightful acting director.

“It’s time for the Democrats to stop enabling this brazen political stunt by a rogue employee and allow Acting Director Mulvaney to continue the Bureau’s smooth transition into an agency that truly serves to help consumers,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

Even before the decision, Mulvaney was moving aggressively to reshape an agency he has criticized in the past. On his first day in the office, he announced a 30-day freeze on the issuance of new rules and hiring. On Tuesday, he started a new Twitter account — @CFPBdirector — and posted a picture of himself at a desk with an American flag in the background. “Busy day at the @CFPB. Digging into the details,” the tweet said. On the agency’s website, Mulvaney is now listed as director with a note that says “Bio coming soon.”

“Anyone who thinks that a Trump administration CFPB would be the same as an Obama administration CFPB is simply being naive,” he told reporters Monday. “Elections have consequences at every agency, including the CFPB.”

That is probably just the beginning of the changes the CFPB could see under the Trump administration. Republicans and the banking industry have complained that the agency, created in reaction to the global financial crisis, lacks accountability and that its rulemaking has made it harder for consumers to get loans. House Republicans approved legislation this year that would strip the CFPB of many of its powers.

“I would expect a sea change,” said Alan Kaplinsky, head of the consumer financial services group for the law firm Ballard Spahr. It could be “a very significant shift in direction, but it won’t happen overnight.”

While Democrats and consumer groups acknowledge it is inevitable that a Trump nominee will lead the agency, they worry that the White House could leave Mulvaney as acting director for months, or longer, before nominating a permanent replacement.

Instead, they say, the Trump administration should be forced to nominate someone who would have to go through an extensive vetting and Senate confirmation process. Then there would be a better chance of securing a director who is less hostile toward the CFPB, they say.

“I do think there is a difference between Mulvaney, and the actions he would try to take as acting director, and a permanent, Senate-confirmed nominee,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “Some of the Trump nominees have been rejected.”

The tug-of-war over the leadership began last week after former CFPB director Richard Cordray resigned and promoted his chief of staff, English, who he said would run the department on an interim basis. Trump quickly appointed Mulvaney, a longtime critic of the bureau, to the job instead. Each camp claimed that the law was on their side and that they were in charge.

In court, English’s attorney argued that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which established the agency after the financial crisis, laid out a specific plan of succession authorizing the deputy director to take over until a White House nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Also, they said, Mulvaney cannot wear two hats by simultaneously leading the independent financial regulator while serving as director the Office of Management and Budget.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate argued that Trump had authority under an earlier law, the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, and cited supporting opinions by the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel and the CFPB’s general counsel.

Kelly, a Trump appointee who joined the federal court in Washington in September, sided with the Trump administration, allowing Mulvaney to stay in place for now. “On its face, the VRA does appear to apply to this situation,” Kelly ruled.

The independent structure of the agency, which Democrats fought to keep under Cordray, now gives Mulvaney a freer hand to operate. Instead of having to consult a multi-member board, the acting director can make many changes alone, industry experts and consumer advocates note. While English would have been likely to keep the status quo, they say, Mulvaney can now make significant changes without much oversight — such as abandoning investigations or shrinking the agency’s budget.

The CFPB, for example, has been working on rules for the past few years to address bank overdraft fees and the tactics used by debt collectors. It has also finalized regulations targeting the billions of dollars in fees collected by payday lenders offering high-cost, short-term loans. Those regulations don’t go into effect until 2019, giving Mulvaney time to alter the rules or get rid of them, consumer advocates say. “The payday rule is certainly at risk,” Donner said.

The agency has also announced cases against dozens of financial institutions that are pending in court or under investigation. Mulvaney or another Trump appointee could decide to abandon or rethink those efforts.

“I think he [Mulvaney] will take a fresh look at all of the CFPB pending investigations and decide whether or not CFPB should continue them,” said Kaplinsky, who has represented firms against the agency.

The industry is also looking toward more fundamental changes to the way the agency operates. The banking industry, for example, has been critical of a CFPB database of consumer complaints against financial institutions. They say the database sometimes includes incorrect information or unproven grievances. Community banks have rumbled that the agency unfairly hobbles them with the same regulatory burdens as their much larger competitors.

Before the Tuesday court hearing, protesters assembled outside the CFPB’s Washington offices, holding signs and chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Mick Mulvaney has to go” as employees entered and exited the building. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who came up with the idea for the CFPB, told the crowd that the fight was not about politics. “This is about what is fair. This agency has forced the biggest banks in the country to return more than $12 billion directly to people they’ve cheated,” she said. “Some of those people were Democrats and some of those people were Republicans. It didn’t matter.”

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

  • Published in U.S.

CNN reportedly boycotts White House's Christmas party

President Donald Trump walks alongside a CNN logo. AP Images / Alan Diaz

  • CNN reportedly will boycott the White House's annual Christmas party, due to President Donald Trump's "continued attacks" on the press.
  • The party is meant for members of the press and White House officials to socialize.
  • "Christmas comes early," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, following the announcement.

Citing President Donald Trump's "continued attacks" on the press, CNN is boycotting the White House's annual Christmas party, according to a Politico report Tuesday.

"CNN will not be attending this year's White House Christmas party," a CNN spokesperson told Politico. "In light of the President's continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests."

Despite not taking part in the festivities, the CNN spokesperson said that they would provide coverage for the event: "We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants."

Following the announcement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared to be elated: "Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN," Sanders tweeted to Politico's story.

The event, in which members of the press and White House officials can escape from their ongoing, daily feuds, is being overshadowed by Trump's hostile stance towards certain networks, particularly CNN.

 "[Fox News] is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly," Trump tweeted Saturday. "The outside world does not see the truth from them!"

CNN reporters have since condemned Trump's statement, one of many about the network, and replied to his original tweet.

"At CNN we dodge bullets to bring you the news," tweeted Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent. "Nothing fake about that."

"If President Trump knew the facts, he would never have sent that tweet," Amanpour said in another tweet.

  • Published in U.S.

Analyze info provided by militants, Philippines urged

The observation was based on a report, which showed that terrorist recruitment is not driven by poverty or lack of opportunity as previously observed by the military and security experts, according to IPAC director Sydney Jones. AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Philippine security officials should analyze thoroughly all information gathered from arrested Marawi siege suspects in order to fight terrorism effectively, a Jakarta-based think-tank said yesterday.

The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said that despite the decline in the influence of Islamic State (IS), the tools being used by the terrorists in promoting extremist violence remain strong.
The observation was based on a report, which showed that terrorist recruitment is not driven by poverty or lack of opportunity as previously observed by the military and security experts, according to IPAC director Sydney Jones.

She said the IPAC also examined the debriefing conducted on seven suspects in the 2016 Davao City bombing, which was perpetrated by a pro-IS group from a Cotabato terror cell.

Jones said the IPAC used the Davao data to show how information from detainees could help map a university-based recruitment network of radical clerics and training patterns.

She said the assessment focused on the patterns of recruitment and radicalization, training, financing and coordination with other pro-IS groups like the Mautes.

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“Even with the decline of the IS influence, the narratives used on extremist violence recruitment remain powerful, particularly among the educated, urban Muslim youth,” Jones said.

The IPAC chief said a majority of the members of the Cotabato terror cell were university students who were not suffering from poverty or lack of opportunity.

The report noted the role of Muslim converts from Luzon, which showed the movement‘s reach beyond Mindanao.

“The radicalized converts and the urban recruits suggest a possibility of sleeper cells not only in and around Marawi but in Cotabato, Cagayan and Manila,” it said.


11 men nabbed in BGC drug bust

Eleven men facing drug charges are presented during a press briefing at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City Monday night. Inset shows ecstasy tablets, sachets of shabu and bottles of gamma butyrolactone seized from them during a drug bust at a hotel in Taguig City last Sunday. Boy Santos
MANILA, Philippines — Eleven men were arrested in a drug bust at a posh hotel in Taguig City on Sunday, an official said yesterday.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives walked in on a supposed sex party fueled by drugs when they raided Room 609 of the hotel in Bonifacio Global City at around 10 a.m.
The suspects, most of them “professionals” ranging from doctors to insurance agents, were clad only in their underwear when PDEA operatives arrested them and seized around P300,000 worth of illegal drugs, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said in a press briefing Monday night.


Operatives were supposedly able to buy liquid ecstasy from models Edmond Remegio, 33, and Pedrito “Malik” Coronel Jr., 33, before they raided the hotel room.

Also arrested were insurance agent Manuel Valdes, 34; insurance agent Jake Tolentino, 33; engineer Jose Carlo Torres, 38; makeup artist Mario Aclan, 27; office staff Angelo Padasas, 28; student Jevel Ucero, 22; physician Carlo Kasala, 25; account manager Legui Brylle Gonzales, 28; and software developer Bryan Dizon, 20.

Flashing lights, typically used for parties, were found in the room. The lights which supposedly increase the effects of the drugs on the brain.

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Aquino said the suspects used the drugs before they engaged in orgies, which they allegedly performed with other groups as well.

Remegio allegedly organized the sex parties and was the one who sourced drugs from a partner based in Thailand, but also got illegal drugs from China and Indonesia.

Seized in the hotel room were 20 tablets of ecstasy, two plastic sachets of shabu, and 12 bottles of gamma butyrolactone (GBL) weighing a total of one liter.

GBL, a precursor of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, is more commonly known as a date rape drug or a club drug because it induces euphoria and increases the sex drive.

Aquino said this is typically used by people at bars, clubs, rave parties and orgies and is often placed in alcoholic beverages.

The suspects underwent inquest proceedings on Monday on charges of violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Aquino issued a stern warning against drug users and sellers who hide behind the facades of posh hotels and high-end bars, “The time will come na titirahin rin namin kayo (that we will take you down).”

The PDEA chief said they saw the names of many celebrities – at least three of them well-known – on the suspects’ cell phones.

“You will be surprised when you see the names of the celebrities in their phonebooks. We will subject them to surveillance and casing,” he said during the press briefing.


MILF member nabbed with P2.5-M in shabu in buy-bust

Authorities have impounded the vehicle that the suspects used. John Unson
COTABATO, Philippines — Anti-narcotics agents seized P2.5 million worth of shabu from an alleged member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front arrested in Pigcawayan town in Cotabato province on Tuesday.

Juvenal Azurin, director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Wednesday that Mohammad Tuankali Macalimpas, 47, was nabbed in a drug sting laid with the help of the police and local officials.

Also arrested were his companions Samsodin Kato, 30, and Noraida Samaon Alamada, 20.

Macalimpas, known to friends and relatives as a member of the 105th Base Command of the MILF, is included in PDEA's list of more than a dozen “high-value targets” in central Mindanao.

The MILF, which has an existing peace agreement with the government, signed a protocol of cooperation in June to join the government's war on drugs. The MILF considers drugs "haram" or forbidden and has banned the use,sale and proliferation of narcotics in its communities since 2015.

Azurin said the suspects were caught in the act of turning over the P2.5 million in shabu to agents posing as drug dependents in an agreed trade off site near a money courier shop along a highway in Pigcawayan town.

Azurin said the operation was carried out with the help of agents of PDEA-12, the Pigcawayan municipal police and local officials.

“We are very thankful to the local government units in Cotabato City and in Pigcayawan for helping us locate the suspects who are now in our custody,” Azurin said.

Azurin said agents also recovered a Norinco 9-mm pistol with seven rounds of ammunition from Macalimpas.

The PDEA-ARMM also impounded the vehicle of the suspects.

Azurin said Macalimpas and his two accomplices will be charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. Macalimpas also faces a charge of illegal possession of a firearm.

Despite its official name, Cotabato province is often referred to by its old name North Cotabato.


SC allows justices to testify vs Sereno

Voting unanimously in session yesterday, Sereno’s fellow magistrates decided to allow members of the judiciary invited by the House justice committee to testify in hearings on issues raised in an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon. Efigenio Toledo IV/, File
MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court (SC) magistrates and officials will attend the hearings by a congressional panel on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno if invited.

Voting unanimously in session yesterday, Sereno’s fellow magistrates decided to allow members of the judiciary invited by the House justice committee to testify in hearings on issues raised in an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
The voting was done in Sereno’s absence as she was on leave.

House justice committee chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali thanked the justices for their decision.

“This is very important to us so that we can resolve these issues the soonest,” he said.

The committee is trying to establish probable cause to impeach Sereno.

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Three magistrates – incumbent Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Noel Tijam and retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion – have manifested to the House panel their intention to testify in the impeachment case.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te said any official of the high court would be allowed to appear before the House panel and testify on administrative matters of the Court raised in Gadon’s complaint.

“Those who are invited to testify on administrative matters may do so if they wish. The Court is not requiring them but the Court is granting them clearance if they so wish to appear and testify on administrative matters,” he explained.

But on matters involving decisions of the Court, Te said only Justice De Castro has been authorized by the SC with specific conditions.

“On adjudicative matters, meaning matters that go into the decision of cases, which would include deliberation of cases, only Justice Teresita de Castro has been authorized to appear and testify before the House committee on justice and only in relation to three matters,” he added.

De Castro is allowed by the Court to discuss the exchange of communications with Sereno on the issuance of the temporary restraining order in a case involving senior citizens.

She may also testify on the merits of the decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan.

De Castro has also been authorized by the Court to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the JBC’s decision not to include the name of then solicitor general Francis Jardeleza in the shortlist of nominees for SC justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.

The magistrate, however, is barred from discussing matters involving the deliberations of the Court on those three cases, which are covered by the confidentiality rule under SC rules.

Apart from De Castro, Tijam and Brion have also been invited by the House panel.

Tijam has been invited by the House committee to shed light on the complaint that Sereno had caused delay in the transfer of the rebellion cases against arrested members and supporters of Maute terrorist group in Marawi City to a court in Metro Manila.

Brion, for his part, has been asked to talk about his concurring opinion in the SC ruling on Jardeleza’s appointment.

Also invited by the House panel were Te, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, Clerk of Court Felipa Anama and chief judicial staff officer Charlotte Labayani.

The SC had allowed in August the release of court records and documents sought by impeachment complainants to bolster their case against Sereno.

Among the records ordered released were the SC’s revocation of Sereno’s order in 2012 to reopen a regional constitutional administrative office (RCAO) in Cebu without the collegial approval of the Court.

The SC also allowed the release of Sereno’s memorandum on the appointment of lawyer Solomon Lumba as her staff head and the subsequent letter of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio withdrawing his signature from the appointment paper over an internal issue.

But the high court rejected the request for the release of a memorandum from De Castro questioning Sereno’s orders regarding the appointment of a Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) official and the allocation of travel allowances for her staff.

The SC explained that such memorandum could not be released pending resolution from the Court.

With the SC decision, Umali said he told committee members – many of whom are lawyers – to work among themselves some ground rules or guidelines for propounding questions to the SC justices, to make sure they would not feel disrespected.

Before the committee adjourned yesterday, Umali discussed the guidelines with his colleagues Vicente Veloso of Leyte, a former Court of Appeals justice; Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental and Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia, among others.

Umali said the justices would be notified of the dates or time of their appearance before the committee. The next hearings will be on Dec. 4 until Dec. 6.

“We will invite them one at a time and on a particular date para naman hindi masayang ang oras nila (so we’ll not be wasting their time). There will be an allocation of one hour each per (impeachment) charge,” he said on Monday. – Delon Porcalla


Love scores 38, LeBron ejected as Cavs beat Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love (0) drives against Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (21) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Cleveland. | AP Photo/Tony Dejak
CLEVELAND — Kevin Love scored 32 of his 38 points in the first half, LeBron James was ejected for the first time in his career and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their longest winning streak since 2015 to nine games by downing the Miami Heat 108-97 on Tuesday night (Wednesday Manila time).

Love had his way with every defender Miami put on him, finishing 10 of 16 from the field and 14 of 17 on free throws. He scored 22 in the first quarter and the Cavs opened a 27-point lead before halftime.

James added 21 points before he was slapped with two technical fouls by referee Ken Fitzgerald and tossed with 1:59 left in the third quarter and the Cavs leading by 23. It was the first time James was thrown out in 1,082 career games.

Dwyane Wade added 17 points for Cleveland, which has shaken off a slow start and is again playing like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Dion Waiters scored 21 and Bam Adebayo had 19 for the Heat, who had won three in a row. Goran Dragic finished with just seven points — 12 below his team-leading scoring average.

With the Cavs leading 93-70, James drove to the basket and missed a layup while getting bumped by James Johnson and Waiters. James felt there should have been a foul called and he stormed after Fitzgerald and screamed at the official, who quickly blew his whistle twice and pointed for the superstar to leave the floor.

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The Heat closed to 93-76 early in the fourth, but Wade scored Cleveland’s first six points in the quarter and fed Kyle Korver for a 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 102-79 lead.

At the end of the first quarter, Miami had 24 points to Love’s 22 and there didn’t seem to be anything Heat coach Erik Spoelstra could do to stop Cleveland’s All-Star center. Love was able to pull Heat shot-swatter Hassan Whiteside away from the basket, and he was too physical for Kelly Olynyk, who went to the bench with early foul trouble.

Love also overpowered Josh Richardson and tied the record for the most points allowed by the Heat in one half. Tracy McGrady and Lafayette Lever also dropped 32 on Miami. It was also the most points any player scored on Miami — in a game — all season, topping the 31 by San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge on October 25.

Love, who set an NBA record for points in a first quarter with 34 last season against Portland, made three 3-pointers in the opening 12 minutes as the Cavs built an 18-point lead.

Love also forced one-time playoff nemesis Olynyk to commit three fouls in four minutes. It was Olynyk who dislocated Love’s shoulder during the 2015 postseason, an injury that knocked him out for the remainder of Cleveland’s run to the Finals.


Heat: Spoelstra didn’t get too nostalgic when was asked about his time coaching Wade and James in Miami. “When you see these guys in different uniforms it’s always like, ’Really, that looks strange,’” he said. “When I see them, it’s always nice to have that split-second going back memory lane. But my focus is what these guys in here right now.” ... Spoelstra isn’t surprised that Wade has embraced his role coming off the bench for Cleveland. “Any role that has to do with winning suits him,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what he’s been about his whole career.”

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue said the next step for G Isaiah Thomas in his comeback from a serious hip injury is to play 2-on-2 and 3-on-3. That hasn’t happened yet, and Lue does not know if Thomas will make his debut earlier than the team’s original projection of the end of December. ... G Iman Shumpert was not available after playing seven minutes in Monday’s win at Philadelphia. Shumpert has been sidelined with a swollen left knee. ... J.R. Smith wrote “RIP Petey” on his sneakers to honor a cousin who died last weekend in a fire.

  • Published in Sports

Duterte closes door on coalition gov't with Reds

Duterte said a coalition government would mean sharing a part of the Philippines’ sovereignty, something that he is not allowed to do. AP
A coalition government with communists would spark a mutiny among security forces, President Duterte said Tuesday, as he blamed the rebels anew for the collapse of the peace talks.

Duterte said a coalition government would mean sharing a part of the Philippines’ sovereignty, something that he is not allowed to do.

“I studied the working papers and the sum total is a coalition government. I told them I cannot give what I don’t have. It’s a thing of sovereignty and you know...the one that represents sovereignty are the elected choice of the people,” Duterte said in an anti-corruption summit in Pasay.

“It cannot be shared by somebody just because you’re fighting a revolution and you want to fix it by having a coalition government. The military, even the police, will launch a coup d’état and I will lose my head. That’s for sure,” he added.

Duterte said several policemen and soldiers have died because of the armed struggle waged by the Maoist guerillas.

“There are policemen and Army men who have died and then I will coalesce with them and the wound runs deep? They (military) will kill me and they will arrest me and what? This is not something I can distribute,” he added.

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The President previously said he terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels because they wanted to establish a coalition government, something he described as “pure nonsense.” He also cited the New People’s Army (NPA) attacks that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians including a four-month-old infant in Bukidnon.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said a formal notice is not necessary to terminate the negotiations with the communists.

“What else do they want? The President already issued a proclamation saying it’s been terminated. It’s not as if the NDF (National Democratic Front) has a status of a state. It’s not as if we’re dealing with a treaty entered into between state parties. That’s enough that there is a formal proclamation,” Roque said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Whether or not they will be given a formal letter of termination, to me, that would be superfluous. Get a copy of the proclamation and it’s very clear: Peace talks are over for now,” he added.

Roque was referring to Proclamation No. 360 formally ending the peace negotiations with the rebels.

Duterte said security forces would also oust him If he establishes a dictatorship, one of the allegations hurled at him by his critics.

“That’s why there is always a revolution. If you overstay? I become a dictator? Yayariin din ako ng military (the military will go after me) same with what happened in the past,” the President said.

“You overstay, you abuse...there will always be attempts of coup d’état and mutiny,” he added.

Duterte said the issue of graft and corruption can always be used to overthrow a leader.

He also reminded government forces to be ready as terrorists can always stage retaliatory attacks

“They will seek revenge. It could be more lethal,” the President said.

But the tough-talking leader is unfazed by the threats, saying he is prepared to skin terrorists alive.

“You bring out the worst in me, I’ll eat you alive,” he added.


DCG Ascalon, wife accorded rousing sendoff at SF Consulate

 SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a very well-attended standing-room-only sendoff farewell dinner that was tendered at the newly-remodeled San Francisco Philippine Consulate General to Deputy Consul General (DCG) Jaime Ramon Ascalon and wife Cecille with guests ranging from the young to the senior ones across the political and social spectrum.

Recognitions, acknowledgements, appreciations and a lot of kind words were heard from leaders of different groups and organizations led by no less than Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr, himself who presented DCG with a certificate of recognition. . .

The certificate was given to Ascalon “to express a deep appreciation for the outstanding leadership and invaluable service that he has provided to the Philippine Consul-General in San Francisco (PCG-SF) during his tenure from November 2011 to November 2017. We commend you for the untiring sense of commitment and dedication especially in promoting and imbibing the consulate’s vision to spark, connect and empower the Filipino community in the Bay Area and beyond.”

In an interview later, Bensurto shared his happiness to see the Filipino community come over here not just to see the Consulate but also to pay their last farewell and appreciation to DCG Ascalon who has always been a part of what we are trying to do.

“He has been a leader and I feel the community feels the warmth and the love the DCG has shown and I think it is their way of giving back and showing their affection to DCG. I am personally so happy to see that there is a personal connection the DCG and the community,” Bensurto added. “The person to person skills of DCG is phenomenal so as the sincerity and genuine desire of DCG to really help and do public service in all its authentic form. That speaks a lot and I am proud of that because that is what we public servants are all about to do service in all sincerity and happy to do that. The DCG exemplifies and personifies all those values and all those virtues. That is what we want the consulate to be known for.”

Aside from the Consulate, Ascalon was also given plaques and certificates by the office of State Senator Scott Weiner, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Baguio-Vallejo sister city committee on behalf of Vallejo City Mayor Bob Sampayan. .

In his response, Ascalon extended his and his family’s appreciation to all particularly the PCG-SF family led by Bensurto, the leaders and members of the Filipino community and other supporters. He did not forget to thank the Lord Almighty watched after them through all the challenges that confronted them.

“To the Filipino community, we appreciate your kind words and praises but please know that you have equally inspired us with what you have been doing, with your passion and with the service, for sending kids to school back home, helping young Filipino technopreneurs succeed, for going on your annual dental/ medical missions, for your quick response during crises in the Philippines and here in the U.S., for helping Kababayans here facing various challenges, whether it is legal, domestic abuse, labor, for promoting Philippine culture, Filipino cuisine, our heritage, Filipino-American history and many many more. It has been an honor and pleasure working with some of you on may initiatives that benefits our kababayans,” an appreciative Ascalon responded.

Mrs. Cecile Ascalon disclosed that they not made a lot of friends in San Francisco that they will never forget but also was able to grow professionally as a person.

“We had a lot of friend here. I feel that I was able to grow here in my chosen advocacy and ministry which is to serve the underprivileged especially children and seniors. It is very overwhelming to see friends, relatives with a brother coming straight from the Philippines even the seniors who are supposed to be already sleeping,” Cecile uttered.

Cecile’s younger brother long-time Philippine Basketball Association coach Ryan Gregorio who is now in the management team of Meralco PBA team was also definitely overwhelmed and happy to be associated with DCG.

“It is a great experience I am very happy that we were able to fly in here to see the love and tremendous support that Jaimon and my sister were able to generate in all six years that they were here. It is such a great feeling that they are so loved here in this part of the world. I wasn’t surprise on the sincere love that they got but I am definitely overwhelmed by the number of people that attended this standing room only event. I really did not expect this many people really loved them and for sure these were the people that were touched by the genuine service that they were able to render to our countrymen,” conveyed Gregorio who flew straight from Manila for the occasion.

Consul Rachel Oronce, one of Ascalon’s wing women together with Consul Carlyn Monastrial, admitted that along with ConGen Bensurto, DCG Ascalon “have become our guides, mentors and role models.

“It was unexpected that DCG called us his wing women but was at the same time very flattering. We have been fortunate enough to serve under DCG besides ConGen. I will miss most his sense of humor and his rendition of the song Laklak. I wish that I can follow his footsteps.”


PG&E contributes $1M to launch funding challenge as part of Respond, Rebuild and Resilience strategy for CA communities

San Francisco, CA -- PG&E Corporation this week announced the contribution of $1 million in shareholder funds to launch the “California Climate Challenge,” a new corporate-giving initiative dedicated to helping communities prepare for, withstand, and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.

Jumpstarting the challenge effort, organized by the Bay Area Council, is part of PG&E’s larger strategy to assist communities in confronting the consequences of climate change. The strategy has three major pillars: Respond -- help first responders be more effective; Rebuild -- help communities rebuild; and Resilience -- identify solutions to increase infrastructure resilience.

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California -- more severe and more frequent storms, heatwaves, wildfires, and drought, along with the threat of rising sea levels. PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation.

Respond: To help communities respond, PG&E will continue working with first responders, including firefighting agencies, on increasing their effectiveness in both preventing and combatting wildfires. For example, PG&E donated $25,000 to the Potter Valley Volunteer Fire Department in recognition of their heroic success in stopping wildfire flames from destroying a facility essential to the town’s water supply. The company also donated $15,000 to Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 to fund their relief efforts.

"The hardworking people of PG&E and the Santa Rosa Fire Department work side by side in the field during emergencies to keep our community safe, which is why we are now excited to work together in bringing our community together and begin the road to recovery," said Tim Aboudara Jr., President of the Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401.

Rebuild: To help communities in the North Bay rebuild, PG&E donated $2 million to the North Bay Fire Recovery Fund, distributed $1 million to local communities, organized volunteer efforts, and created resources for customers and builders. We will continue to partner with federal, state and local government agencies around critical community needs related to both temporary assistance and longer term, sustainable campaigns.

“These funds are immensely helpful as we support our local immigrant families to get back on their feet. It?s going to be a long road back for many of the people we serve and all help is appreciated,” said Josefina Hurtado, Executive Director of Puertas Abiertas, a community resource center in the Napa Valley.

Resilience: In addition to funding the California Climate Challenge, PG&E is to helping to support resilience through other public-private partnerships, including this year’s launch of the Better Together Resilient Communities grant program and state-level participation in the Tree Mortality Task Force and Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program.

PG&E’s participation in the California Climate Challenge is designed to attract resources from across the California business community, while also providing a framework for corporate, government, and environmental leadership concerning the risks that climate change is creating for the state’s infrastructure and economy.

The challenge will raise money to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level “climate resilience” projects focused on California’s water, energy, and telecommunications networks, as well as natural ecosystems and wildland-urban boundaries. The total amount raised -- and the process for selecting projects -- will be announced during the September 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate. Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.

The California Climate Challenge Fund will be administered by the Bay Area Council Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports initiatives to build stronger, more vibrant communities, a healthy economy, and a more innovative, globally competitive and sustainable Bay Area region.

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California. Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of Ceres and a member of PG&E’s Sustainability Advisory Council.

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