Items filtered by date: Friday, 14 July 2017

How the government corrupts itself

Somewhere in this week’s issue of Philippine News is a story about a planned trip of Department of Tourism officials along with a handful of members of the House of Representatives to Iceland and Norway. The trip was ostensibly in compliance with the national government’s Gender Awareness and Development program.
What it really is, is a useless junket, one that would cost Filipino taxpayers millions of pesos. It is not just the plane fare – business class, of course! – and hotel where our tax money is wasted. The junketeers will also get a fat allowance, as well as other perks.
What’s interesting about the trip is the inclusion of the four congressmen as well as House secretariat employees who have noting to do with the country’s efforts to push tourism to the global market. It is also unclear what they have to do with gender awareness and development.
In truth, this is just one of countless examples of how our tax money goes down the drain. Billions of pesos are wasted because of the sense of entitlement of the top officials of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
I wanted to exclude the judiciary, but it is well known that our judges and justices also enjoy spending money as if there was no tomorrow whenever they go on leave. They find some excuse, usually to attend some meeting of jurists in some First World countries. There, they usually discuss the latest news and information over bottles of fine wine. Such data are all available on the internet, which is where they can also meet face-to-face in real time.
They don’t take this option because they would still be stuck back home.
Judges and justices are the least guilty of wasting the people’s money, though. It is Congress and Malacanang with their power over the budget and the power to dispose of the funds that extreme abuses are committed.
During their regular breaks, one would be hard put to find a senator or congressman here in the country. The majority will be abroad, and they don’t even pretend that their trips are “in aid of legislation.”
And if you think our legislators are an abusive lot, look at how the executive branch has been burning money with trip after trip of the president, bringing along for the ride a number of civilians who have no business in those junkets.
The records are pretty clear. President Duterte has taken more foreign trips in his first year in office than his predecessor did in his entire six years in office. Further, the entourage of Mr. Duterte has always been excessively large in each of those trips.
Just take a good look at the photos of the last couple of trips that the chief executive has taken, and see who joined him. Know that each one in the entourage is given an envelope with a fistful of dollars for “personal expenses.”
Foreign trips by government officials are rarely ever absolutely necessary.
It may be argued by some that the junketeers are just doing their job. But they should know if the trip they take is essential in delivering necessary basic services to the people. Most of the time, it’s not.
There are many other ways that government officials are corrupted by the system, of course. Trips with freebies and perks are one way, but there are many others. The old favorite remains kickbacks from government contracts.
During the time of Gloria Arroyo, kickbacks rose to a heady 50 percent of the project cost. During PNoy’s time, this slid to 20 to 25 percent. It is not clear how much the going rate is now under Mr. Duterte, but do not for a minute believe that graft and corruption has been eradicated under the current regime.
The saddest part is that kickbacks used to be the territory of mid to lower level government bureaucrats. But after Ferdinand Marcos, it became clear that graft and corruption flourished at the top.
After Macoy, Cory may have been clean, but her close relatives were not. Ditto with Fidel Ramos. Then of course, Erap was both corrupt and incompetent. Arroyo took corruption to greater heights, perhaps worse than Marcos.
And PNoy whom many now miss may have been relatively clean like his mom, but he too was surrounded by “smart” officials who gave themselves ultra-hefty retirement benefits.
And now we have Digong Duterte. He may not be padding his pocket, but he is turning a blind eye to what the incompetents around him are doing.
In the Philippines circa 2017, corruption remains a way of life.


Mamasapano town earns COA praise for women-friendly programs

MANILA – The Commission on Audit (COA) commended the local government of Mamasapano, Maguindanao for completing programs and projects targeted for women.
"The management should be acknowledged for their effective utilization of their 5% Gender and Development Fund and be commended for the completion of its various programs which are beneficial to its constituents, particularly the women," read COA's 2016 audit report on the municipality, released on June 29.
State auditors praised the Mamasapano local government's implementation of its Gender and Development (GAD) programs and use of its 20% Economic Development Fund and Special Education Fund.
Mamasapano was able to allocate the full 5% of its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) or around P3.37 million, for its GAD Fund, as mandated by law.
The local government funded projects such as livelihood trainings, enrolled women in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), conducted anti-sexual harassment workshops, built a GAD training center, and even worked on sanitation issues.
COA also said the municipality used 20% of its IRA or around P12.505 million to fix 4 existing farm-to-market roads, desilt and dredge waterways, and repair a flood-control dike, among others.
The Special Education Fund – P165,000 – was used to repair public school buildings in the municipality.
State auditors said the Mamasapano local government managed to make "optimal use" of its limited resources through programs that made a big impact on residents.
The local government wants to focus on social development and environment management projects for 2017.
COA recommended that the local government include disaster, calamity, and crisis-preparedness programs for women in their locality for 2017. It also recommended that the Special Education Fund be used to improve school facilities and equipment, conduct education research, purchase books, and develop sports programs.
Mamasapano is infamous for being the site of a deadly clash between local armed groups and members of the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force (SAF) in 2015. SAF troopers were on a mission to neutralize wanted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who was hiding in a remote village in the town.
The botched operation claimed the lives of more than 60 Filipinos, including 44 SAF troopers as well as armed men and civilians. –


Japanese teacher boosts livelihood capacities of SPED graduates in Bohol

MANILA – Life in Panglao, an island off the southwestern tip of Bohol province, has relatively been simple. But this has not stopped young people there from dreaming of achieving life’s endless possibilities.
Even persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) are inspired to continue dreaming and go beyond stereotypes with the help of a Japanese-run home that caters to special education (SPED) learners.
Babita House is a two-storey dormitory located in the town of Dauis, a 4th income class municipality in Panglao Island.
Here, young PWIDs – those who encounter developmental limitations in terms of intellectual functioning or learning practical skills – learn math, reading, writing, sign language, and livelihood activities. The institution was set up by Japanese volunteer teacher Akiko Sugiyama.
She was sent to Bohol through the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Sugiyama completed her volunteer work in 2015 but she has since returned to the Central Visayas province to establish the center for graduates of SPED institutions there.
“This is my personal project. I really wanted to help young people with disabilities lead productive lives,” said Sugiyama.bohol japanese teacher 3 ED0F424C278F4B30B5162D528FBF274C
A teacher in Yokohama and Kyoto, Sugiyama was inspired by the PWD centers in Japan. She has adopted these models in Babita House to help PWDs in Bohol learn skills so they can become financially independent.
Among the crafts they teach SPED graduates is creating toy tricycles initally out of matchboxes. A cultural symbol, the tricycle is the most common form of transportation when going out of Panglao Island to the city center.
Now students there create the toy tricycles by assembling chipboards designed by a fabrication laboratory in the province where Shiro Takaki, another Japanese volunteer, works.
The toys are now sold as souvenir items and the proceeds are given to the students as their allowance. Some go to Babita House’s funds.
Organizations in Japan also send donations to the center every now and then. Sugiyama said they sometimes host study tours for Japanese visitors to help them learn more about PWDs and the support they need.
The Philippines is one of the signatories in the United Nations' 2015 Incheon Declaration that seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all" by 2030. But the path to inclusion and zero discrimination for PWDs remain a struggle.
This is a challenge Sugiyama wants to continue working on as she stays in Bohol.
“Boholanos are kind people. Life here is slow, but for volunteers like me, it makes us happy to see that people with disabilities are able to enjoy life without discrimination," she said. –


ARMM gov, imams hit proposed Muslim-only ID

MANILA – The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Muslim leaders criticized the proposal to replicate in Central Luzon the reported Muslim-only ID system of Paniqui town in Tarlac.
In a statement on Saturday, July 9, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said his region "expresses alarm over reports" that the Paniqui local government is implementing a Muslim-only ID system.
"We believe this policy clearly discriminates against the believers of Islam and could set a dangerous precedent. It could also ignite anger among young Muslims who are the primary target for recruitment of extremist groups," Hataman said.
"If the requirement is security related, the ID system should be applied to every resident of the community, to every Filipino, not just Muslims," he added.
This comes as authorities in Central Luzon consider to replicate Paniqui's Muslim-only ID in the whole region, in the face of terror threats posed by the terrorist Islamic State and its local sympathizers such as the Maute Group.

In an interview with reporters on Friday, July 8, Imam Council of the Philippines president Ebra Moxsir also said the proposed Muslim-only ID is saddening.
Moxsir, 51, leads around 1,000 imams or Muslim clerics in the Imam Council of the Philippines, out of around 2,000 to 3,000 imams nationwide. He has also been a chaplain at the Philippine National Police for the past 21 years.
Speaking after the launch of the Pasa Lord interfaith prayer movement on Friday, Moxsir explained that their council supports an ID system if it will be implemented for all, not only for Muslims.
"Pero kung halimbawa ma-single out ang ating mga brother Muslim, nalulungkot po ang mga karamihan po (But if, for example, our brother Muslims will be singled out, majority would be sad)," he said.
"Bakit po ang mga Muslim lang? Ang mga Muslim ba, 'yun lang ang extremist (Why just the Muslims. Are only the Muslims the extremists?)" Moxsir asked.

Violation of human rights
Shariah lawyer Harun Ali, secretary general of the Imam Council of the Philippines, pointed out that the proposed Muslim-only ID "is actually a violation of human rights."
In an interview with Rappler on Friday, the 43-year-old lawyer explained that the proposal "is singling out the Muslims, because it means the Muslims are terrorists."
"If the government is only requiring Muslims to have an ID, that is unfair, unequal, an oppression, and contrary to the principle of equality and fairness. It should be imposed upon all Filipino people because we are one Filipino people and we should be united as one," Ali said.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV on Saturday also released a statement on the issue, pushing for a unified ID system through his proposed Filipino Identification System Act.
Aquino said an ID system should be used to promote safety and improve government services, not "to encourage discrimination."
"Singling Muslims out, giving them an ID and branding them as a potential threat will not make our communities safer. It will only sow animosity," Aquino said. –

Photo caption:
BAKIT MUSLIM LANg? Imam Ebra Moxir (center), chaplain of the Philippine National Police and president of the Imam Council of the Philippines says that the program must apply to all. Screenshot from Rappler.


LTFRB fines Uber and Grab ‘to put things in order'

MANILA -- The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board on Wednesday clarified that the P5-M fine it imposed on Tuesday, July 11, on Uber and Grab for various violations is a way of putting things in order.
"Because they are new players ... while we embrace the technology, we made it clear sa kanila yesterday that we have to put things in order," said LTFRB spokesperson Atty. Aileen Lizada in an interview on Unang Balita.
"If we follow the Memorandum Circular 2015-016 dated May 28, 2016, ang nakalagay dito is cancellation of accreditation. Ngayon there is such a thing as compassionate justice po no. And ang guidance kasi sa amin ng Congress is that continue to accredit TNCs [transportation network companies] while we await legislation from Congress," Lizada said.
"Kaya ang nangyayari ho ngayon sa LTFRB, whenever we see concerns that we need to address, then we act. Or kagaya nung December, we put a price cut on their surge. There is only two ngayon lang ho. And then we ask for their master list [of all their partner operators],"
On Tuesday, LTFRB imposed the P5-million fine on Uber and Grab for various violations of terms and conditions. These include allowing Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) drivers to operate even without Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) franchise or Provisional Authority (PA).
Grab Philippines on Wednesday, June 12, said it will comply with the P5 million fine.
"The fine itself is the message already why we needed to sanction them for violations of their terms and conditions, one of which is that only duly franchised TN vehicles should provide a prearranged ride," Lizada said.
The LTFRB spokesperson added that the board will create a technical working group with Uber and Grab "so we can understand them better."
Lizada clarified that the LTFRB accredits TNCs, but they give franchises to TNVS, who are the partner operators of the TNCs.
"Hindi ho colorum ang Grab, Uber, U-hop. They are accredited. Ang mga colorum dito, 'yun ho ang aming iniiwasan na malagay sa alanganin, 'yung mga ina-accredit nila. Because they think na pwede silang mag-book ng rides once meron silang app. Hindi ho. 'Pag may case number kayo, pag may PA [Provisional Authority] kayo, diyan na kayo pwedeng mag-book ng rides," Lizada said.
"So right now ang sinasabi namin, only those with PAs, I hope, Grab and Uber are listening, only those with PAs and CPCs [Certificate of Public Convenience] must be on the road to book a ride. We will fine-tune everything next week when we create the technical working group," she added.
Lizada added that Congress has given the LTFRB the authority to give a franchise. "Mananagot ho kami sa Kongreso if we do not comply also with our mandate," she said.
"We are balancing and looking at the bigger picture because to the patronizers of Uber and Grab, if we want to hit hard, ang penalty ho talaga ay cancellation ng accreditation. Then you will no longer have Uber and Grab. Is that what you want? Hindi naman siguro," Lizada added.
"Kaya nga inaayos natin because we see that there is a niche, there is a demand for them. But we have to put things in order," she said.
Grab's accreditation is up for renewal in July, while Uber's is up for renewal in August, Lizada said. — GMA News


Kobe Paras Joins CalState Northridge Men’s Basketball

By Lydia V. Solis


LOS ANGELES – FilAm basketball celebrity Kobe Paras will play for the Matadors starting with the 2018-2019 season.
“I’m so excited to be a part of the CSUN (California State University Northridge) family,” said Paras. “This is going to be a great move for me and I am really happy to be part of a great basketball program. Thank you, CSUN,” he added, “for making me feel like family from the very beginning. Go Matadors!”
“I’m excited to coach Kobe and mentor him both on and off the court,” stated Reggie Theus, who was both an NBA All Star and NCAA All American. “I’m thrilled to have him part of the Matadors family,” he added. “He’s a super athlete, with a great motor and high character, that has the ability to score in several different ways. I think he has the potential to be one of the best student-athletes in the Big West Conference and I’m expecting big things out of him on the floor.
CSUN is in the Big West Conference featuring schools like CalPoly, CalState Fullerton, CalState Long Beach, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, and University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Paras prepped at Cathedral High School here before playing his senior year at Middlebrooks Academy, both schools about 30 minutes from CSUN. At Cathedral, he averaged 15 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals as a junior and was an All-State nominee, First Team All-Del Rey League and ranked the 24th best player in California by CalHiSports. He helped lead Cathedral to the Regional Championship game and the team finished ranked #9 in the state and #1 in Division 3A of the California Interscholastic Federation.
At Middlebrooks Academy he earned a McDonald’s All-American Game nomination and the PEC-6 Conference MVP Award and helped lead Middlebrooks to the regular season PEC-6 Conference Championship.
In high school, according to a CSUN spokesperson, he was an honor roll student, a member of the National Honor Society, a Star Scholar Honoree and a summa cum laude graduate. He was rated as a four-star prospect by Scout and a three-star rating by 247 Sports, Rivals and ESPN. A four-star rating is awarded to a prospect that is considered one of the next 250 best players, ranked No. 51 to 300.

Paras competed for the Philippine National Team in the FIBA 3x3 U-138 World Championships in 2013 and 2015, where he emerged as the event’s back-to-back champion in the Slam Dunk competition. He also played for the Philippine National Team in 2014 at the FIBA Asia U-18 Men’s Championship.
The 6-foot 6-guard 200-pound athlete from Manila, initially signed with UCLA, but withdrew in June 2016. Late in July 2016, he joined the Bluejays of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he played sparingly in 15 games of Creighton U’s 35 games. Paras totaled 20 points and 15 rebounds in 70 total minutes on the floor. He scored a season-high six points in 12 minutes of action against Longwood Lancers (Longwood University in Farmville, Va.) He also appeared in Creighton’s NCAA opening round contest against the Rhode Island Rams where he scored three points and collected a rebound in two minutes.
After one season Paras made a ‘critical decision’ to return to California, and has joined the Matadors of CSUN. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he will sit out this season.


Photo: Matadors Coach Reggie Theus presents Kobe Paras with his #21 jersey.Kobe and coach theus


Text and photos by Lydia V. Solis

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