Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Duterte to military: We won't allow ISIS to succeed

ORDERS TO MILITARY. President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the Armed Forces of the Philippines during its 82nd anniversary. RTVM screenshot

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MANILA, Philippines – At the anniversary of the Philippine military, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed that the government will make sure the Islamic State (ISIS) does not succeed in its bid to make the Philippines its base in Southeast Asia.

"We will not allow those who subscribe to the Daesh ideology to succeed. We will never allow the Islamic State to make the Philippines its regional center," said Duterte on Wednesday, December 20, during a speech in Camp Aguinaldo.

He was speaking to an audience of military and defense officials, soldiers, and government officials on the occasion of the 82nd anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Only a week ago, on December 13, Congress granted Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for one year, or until the end of 2018.

This was after Duterte and defense officials cited ISIS plans to establish a wilayat or province in Mindanao as basis for their recommendation to extend martial rule.

The Commander-in-Chief told soldiers he will need their help in purging the southern region of terror groups.

"Our fight is far from over. We will remain vigilant as we continue to intensify military operations against the remaining terrorist groups," said Duterte.

He also thanked the military, police, and other uniformed personnel for their sacrifice to ensure the liberation of Marawi City, held for 5 long months by ISIS-inspired terrorists.

He also spoke of them saving the Mindanao city from communist insurgents.

"I salute the brave men and women of our Army, Air Force and Navy for their courage, dedication and sacrifice to liberate Marawi from the clutches of extremist terrorists and communist insurgents," he said.

He cited the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader and supposed emir of ISIS in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon, as a major milestone in the fight against terrorists.

"The success, along with the recent neutralization of Isnilon Hapilon and his followers, further bolsters this administration’s firm thrust towards eliminating all terrorist groups in the country," said Duterte.

Through martial law, Duterte aims to "totally eradicate" terror groups and communist rebel groups in Mindanao. – Rappler.com

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Opposition congressmen get zero budget in 2018

NO BUDGET. Opposition congressmen lead by Raul Daza (left) and Edcel Lagman (right) hold a press conference at the House of Representatives in Quezon City. File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The leadership of the House of Representatives surreptitiously slashed or completely removed the budgets of several lawmakers, particularly those who have been critical of the administration, from the now-signed 2018 budget.

In separate statements on Wednesday, December 20, members of the "Magnificent 7," who brand themselves as the genuine opposition, called it an "assault to democracy" and a combination of "vengeance plus caprice."

“Exacting revenge on the genuine opposition solons by removing projects dedicated not to them but to their citizens shows their desire for autocracy, for dangerous dictatorship. The healthy exchange of opposing views is crucial in a democracy,” Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, a Liberal Party (LP) member, said.

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said the move was done in the bicameral conference with the Senate, "reportedly upon instructions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez."

“Why punish citizens and communities for the earnest and valiant efforts of their Representatives to maintain responsible dissent as the bedrock of democracy?” he asked.

Lagman said their respective budgets would not only fund "pet projects" but also "essential infrastructures" in line with no less than the Duterte administration's "Build, Build, Build" mission statement.

According to sources, House majority members belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) also saw their district budgets for infrastructure projects slashed. They include:

Quezon City 3rd District Representative Bolet Banal
Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte
Cavite 1st District Representative Francis Gerald Abaya
Quezon 2nd District Vicente Alcala
Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao
But the budget cut also affected non-LP members who are part of the majority. Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Imelda Marcos and Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floriendo were also slashed.

Marcos is a political rival of House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, while Floriendo recently found himself in a tiff with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Private meetings

While several sources attested to the reported cut, Rappler could not independently verify these with documents publicly available.

A copy of the General Appropriations Act (GAA), which would show the infrastructure allocations made per district, has yet to be released to the public.

“I cannot [confirm] as I do not even have a copy of the GAA. Please check with [House] appropriations committee chairman [Karlo] Nograles,” said Fariñas.

The changes, according to a source in the House, were apparently as late as a few days before the bicameral conference committee resolved the “impasse” between the two chambers’ version of the 2018 budget.

Allocations for districts, including those of dissenting legislators, were intact when the House passed the budget on 3rd reading.

The bicameral conference committee, composed of top officials from both the House and the Senate, had authorized Nograles and Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda to discuss the differences in the budget through a “small group.”

These meetings were done in private.

Baguilat said the actions of the congressional leadership went against earlier statements of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who had once pointed out that the budget had become a “political tool.”

“My constituents in Ifugao are taxpayers too. The allocations would have improved the national roads to the rice terraces and poor upland communities,” said Baguilat.

Several legislators had confronted Alvarez and Fariñas about the budget cut, according to an Inquirer report.

“Confronted? Nobody does that to me as I don’t cherish confrontations. Why don’t you ask her if she did confront me, or even thought of doing so?” said Fariñas, when asked about it.

To one legislator affected by the cut, the move came off as a warning to them for not following the House leadership’s directives.

“It serves as fair warning to the rest of the House members that all must obey and support the move for a Con-Ass (constituent assembly), no elections in 2019, and a shift to constitutional authoritarianism,” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin in a statement.

In particular, for those who belong to the majority, this meant it was time to move out.

Done before

Reducing or totally removing the budget of opposition legislators is nothing new.

In this administration alone, for instance, Camiguin Representative Xavier Jesus Romualdo saw infrastructure projects for his district removed from the 2017 budget.

It was in Camiguin, during the 2016 campaign, where local officials allegedly tried to sabotage a campaign event by now President Rodrigo Duterte. Romualdo, a former LP member, has since moved to the ruling PDP-Laban of Duterte.

Legislators themselves do not know how much was removed from their district. They also do not know where the money was reallocated instead.

But in a House where “opposition” lawmakers are actually members of the majority, things get tricky.

Belmonte and Bag-ao, for instance, are members of the powerful committee on justice since the LP is part of the majority. Parties who belong to either the majority or minority blocs are allocated slots in committees.

The two have consistently been voices of dissent as the committee tackled the impeachment cases filed against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.

If the Liberal Party itself leaves the majority, this would mean they lose all committee memberships, including the Deputy Speaker post for Marikina City 2nd District Representative Romero Quimbo.

If individual members, such as Belmonte and Bag-ao, decide to leave the majority bloc, that means they lose their committee members. They will then be replaced by other LP members.

The Liberal Party, according to sources, has yet to make a party decision. – Rappler.com

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AFP awards men of valor

Maria Ana Rosario Sandoval (right), widow of Army Capt. Rommel Sandoval of the 11th Scout Ranger Company, receives the Medal of Valor from President Rodrigo Duterte as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (left) looks on. (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte led the awarding of the medal to the late Army Capt. Rommel Sandoval of the 11th Scout Ranger Company for his courage, gallantry, and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in Marawi City.

His wife, Maria Ana Rosario Sandoval, personally received the honor.

Sandoval is the 41st soldier to be awarded AFP’s highest honor. Of the awardees, 17 are still alive while the rest are deceased.

Capt. Sandoval was also conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Magalong Medal).
Newly-installed AFP Public Affairs chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said 27 soldiers were also given the Order of Lapu-Lapu for their role in various military operations against the Maute-IS and New People’s Army.

The following 23 soldiers, wounded as a direct result of their participation during the Marawi campaign against Isis-inspired Maute terrorists, received the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kampilan Medal): Lt. Col. Ramon P. Flores, 1st Lieutenants Paul Albert L. Ematong, Jerwin F. Valencia, June Steve A. Puno, Jeffrey M. Odmen; Sergeants Elmer C. Dagohoy and Reymund G. Pocua; Corporals Leoprado K. Pendon, Erven M. Dacumos, Nestor B. Sombreno, Ivan G. Lirazan, Eden Charl T. Baul, Jerome R. Benavente, Eduardo L. Villanueva Jr., and Bryan Harris O. Naelgas; PFC’s Genesis L. Pancho, Francis J. Fabros, Albert Q. Layco, Reynaldo L. Ugali Jr., Sunmar A. Bactol, and Renie A. Abbang; and Privates’ Marl Clifford L. Caabay and Jhosel P. Servando.

For having been wounded-in-action while leading elements from the Philippine Air Force, Intelligence Service of the AFP and Philippine National Police in a series of encounters against more or less 30 fully armed communist terrorists on November 28, 2017 in Nasugbu, Batangas, the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kampilan Medal) was awarded to Major Engelberto A. Nioda Jr.

The encounter resulted in the death of 14 NPA rebels and recovery of 14 high-powered firearms.

Meanwhile, for acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry in action during the conduct of military operations against the Maute in Marawi City, Sgt. Edwin M. Osario was awarded the Order or Lapu-Lapu (Kamagi Medal).

For gallantry in action displayed as a member of the operating troops 84th Infantry Battalion during a series of decisive engagements with more or less 15 fully armed NPA rebels in Nueva Ecija on September 20, 2017 that resulted in the death of nine rebels, the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kamagi Medal) was awarded to Sgt. Marvin E. Paderan.

Lastly, for gallantry in action displayed as a member of the 73rd Infantry Battalion during a series of encounters against undetermined number of NPA fighters in Sarangani Province on February 12, 2017 that resulted in the capture of seven rebels and recovery of seven high-powered firearms, the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kamagi Medal) was also awarded to Corporal Andy O. Bitoon.

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Negros solons want probe on sugar prices, HFCS imports

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Due to the increase of imported HFCS in the country enjoying zero duty, the millsite price of sugar has drastically declined,” they said in filing House Resolution 1497.

Ferrer laments that the increased importation of HFCS from China took away nearly 30 percent of the refined sugar market from domestic sugar industry.

“As per record, the composite price of sugar dropped to P1,163.20 per l kg. as of November 12, 2018 compared to the P1, 720.23 per l kg for the crop year 2016 to 2017,” she said.

Citing the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cueva said the retail price of refined sugar and raw sugar had reached P55 per kg and P44.50 per kg., respectively.

He said the House panel should conduct an investigation and determine whether there is a need to implement remedial measures.

“The unregulated importation of the HFCS displaces the use of locally produced sugar and thereby, negatively affects the balance of production, threatens the livelihood of industry workers and impedes the growth of the sugar industry, ” Ferrer and Cueva said.

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China’s entry into local telco industry: Senate minority bloc warns of security risks

Senator Frank Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The entry of a Chinese company into the local telecommunication industry is a welcome development given the present state and quality of the Internet and telecom services in the country, which is among the slowest in Asia,” Drilon said in a statement.

“Indeed, a lot has to be done in order for the country to improve on this aspect. We need more competition,” he said. “However, we should exercise caution and the government should look into the security aspect of this undertaking,” he stressed.

The minority leader noted that these Chinese companies are state-owned while those operating in the Philippines are purely private.

“The Chinese government is already an investor in our national grid. The government should look into this matter,” he said.

Aside from Drilon, other members of the Senate minority bloc—particularly Senators Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV and Leila de Lima—also warned of the possible repercussions of giving Chinese businesses the right to be part of the telecom industry.

Aquino said the government should also consider opening up the telco industry to other countries that are also keen on investing in the Philippines.

De Lima, on the other hand, urged the Duterte government to look into the other countries that entered into an agreement with China and later on suffered in lopsided deals.

She also said the government should ensure that national security, communications and defense capabilities of the nation are not compromised.

Under Duterte’s order, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will allow China Telecom to start operating in the Philippines in the first quarter of 2018.

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936 new HIV case reported in Sept. ‘17

Credit: Pixabay / MANILA BULLETIN

The DOH said that based on the figure, 31 HIV cases are diagnosed daily, higher than the 26 cases diagnosed over the same period last year.

Of the 936 new cases reported to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), 86 percent or 806 were asymptomatic cases at the time of reporting.

According to the recent report, 97 percent of the reported cases involved males aged 15 to 69 years old.

Sexual contact remains to be the most common mode of transmission, covering 908 of the 936 cases.

Twenty-three were infected through needle sharing among drug users while the rest had no data on mode of transmission.

Five pregnant women, along with 40 other individuals aged 10 to 29 were diagnosed with HIV in September through sexual contact.

Sixty-five overseas Filipino workers were also diagnosed with HIV during the same period.

The regions with the most number of reported cases were National Capital Region with 348 cases followed by Southern Luzon (147 cases), Central Visayas (93 cases), Central
Luzon (87 cases), Davao region (56 cases), and Western Visayas (54 cases).

Forty deaths among people with HIV were also reported in September 2017.

Five were from the15-24 year age group, 18 from the 25-34 year age group,15 from the 35-49 age group and two from the 50 years and up age group.

From January 1984 to September 2017, a total of 2,343 HIV-related deaths have been reported.

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Duterte declares Christmas truce with Reds

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
(ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The President made the announcement during the Christmas Party with his Cabinet members held at the Malago clubhouse in Malacañang Tuesday night.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the 10-day suspension of military operations (SOMO) from December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018 aims to give the public a peace of mind while celebrating the Yuletide Season.

“This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill,” Roque said in a statement Wednesday.

“Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace in our beloved Philippines,” he added.

Roque also said that, as seconded by the Department of National Defense (DND), the SOMO only pertains to combat operations.
Earlier, the President announced that he will not declare a SOMO days before the collapse of the peace talks with the communist rebels. He later declared the communist groups as terrorist organizations.

However on Tuesday night, the President said that if he were to declare a ceasefire, it would be for the Filipino people and not for the communist rebels.

“If I declare a ceasefire, it is not addressed to the NPAs. Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos, na walang stress (sans the stress),” Duterte said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday expressed surprise with the Chief Executive’s decision but said that they will abide with the President’s directive.
In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Lorenzana said “I was actually adamant and was…ayaw ko sanang mag-ano (I don’t want to)… I did not recommend for the cessation of military operation against the CPP-NPA but if the President declared so then we are going to implement it,” he added. (Additional reporting by Francis Wakefield)

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