Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 09 August 2017

Sandigan closes without Honasan posting bail

Sen. Gringo Honasan at the 31st EDSA Anniversary commemoration program held in Camp Aguinaldo. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

The Sandiganbayan Second Division closed at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday without Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan posting bail from graft over the alleged anomalous use of his P30 million Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) in 2012.
The court division did not wait for Honasan to arrive on Thursday for him to post bail, after the court issued the warrant of arrest against the senator having found probable cause to try him for violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Graft is a bailable offense. The bail is set at P30,000 for each count.
Albert Dela Cruz, officer in charge of the Sandiganbayan Security and Sheriff Services, told reporters that Honasan may be held in custody if he is served the warrant by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

In its resolution, the anti-graft court found probable cause to hold Honasan on trial and thus ordered his arrest for graft.
“After perusing the information… as well as the supporting evidence… the Court finds that there is sufficient probable cause to hold the accused in this case for trial and issue a warrant of arrest against them,” the court said in its resolution.
The resolution finding probable cause is signed by division chairperson Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr., and members Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna.
Ombudsman prosecutors last week filed two graft informations against Honasan for violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the alleged anomalous use of his P30 million Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) in 2012.
Ordered arrested with Honasan are his co-accused sacked National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) officials former Secretary Mehol Sadain, Chief Accountant Fedelina Aldanese, Director III Galay Makalinggan, Acting Chief Aurora Aragon-Mabang, and Cashier Olga Galido; Honasan’s political affairs chief Michael Benjamin; and Giovanni and Salvador Gaerlan of Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc., the project partner of the NCMF.
Honasan is the fourth senator to be charged over alleged anomalies involving lawmakers’ use of their pork barrel funds or PDAF, which was abolished by the Supreme Court at the height of public outcry over the Janet Lim-Napoles pork barrel scam.

Honasan’s graft indictment involved his P30 million PDAF coursed through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) as implementing agency and was intended to finance small and medium enterprise/livelihood projects for Muslim Filipinos in communities in the National Capital Region and Zambales.
The Ombudsman noted that Honasan’s PDAF was disbursed without complying with the procurement regulations.
Ombudsman prosecutors said Honasan endorsed Focus to implement his PDAF without the benefit of a public bidding in violation of procurement rules, in spite of the absence of the appropriation law or ordinance allowing the negotiated procurement.
The NCMF officials were charged for releasing Honasan’s PDAF to Focus “with unusual accommodation and haste.”
“The above acts of the accused public officials of failing to follow the requirements of Republic Act 9184 as well as its implementing rules and regulations, GPPB Resolutions and national budget circulars shows that unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference was given to private individuals without the benefit of a fair system for determining the best possible offer for the government,” the charge sheet read.
“Focus, as endorsed by Honasan, unduly profited from the questionable transactions, to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines,” it added.
The other senators charged for PDAF misuse are former senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, who were charged in 2014 with plunder and graft for allegedly pocketing kickbacks from purported ghost PDAF projects.
Revilla and Estrada are detained in Camp Crame since 2014 for the non-bailable offense of plunder, while the elderly Enrile was allowed to post bail over humanitarian reasons. JE



Taylor Swift shaken and humiliated by groping, mom tells trial

TAYLOR SWIFT. The singer alleges that DJ David Mueller sexually assaulted her during a photo-op before one of her concerts in 2013. Screengrab from 

DENVER, USA – Pop superstar Taylor Swift's mother recounted before a US jury on August 9 the moment her "shattered" daughter said she had been groped by a local radio host.

The 27-year-old singer alleges that David Mueller grabbed her by the buttocks during a photo opportunity at a 2013 concert in Denver – while he is counter-suing, arguing that the accusations are false and cost him his job.

Andrea Swift, a member of her daughter's senior management group, told the Denver federal court she knew something was wrong as soon as they returned to the "Bad Blood" singer's dressing room.

"When she told me someone had grabbed her, I was very upset," Andrea Swift said, describing her daughter as "really shaken" and humiliated.

"I know what happened. I heard it from my daughter's mouth," Swift told the jury.

"That guy," she added, pointing to Mueller. "He sexually assaulted her."

Since the Denver incident, the singer has changed how she handles meetings with fans, cutting back on meet-and greet opportunities, her mother said, and avoiding going into the audience during gigs.

"It absolutely shattered us, this incident," Andrea Swift said.

Frank Bell, the Grammy Award-winning chart-topper's radio liason, backed up Swift's version of events, what she said to him immediately after the photo session.

Bell told the court Swift had said: "This guy from radio stuck his hand up my skirt and grabbed my bare ass."

Mueller had given evidence in the morning session, conceding that a picture taken during the alleged assault could be interpreted as incriminating.


"Someone could have concluded it appeared she was trying to get away from me," Mueller said.

The photograph of Swift, Mueller and his girlfriend at the pre-show meet-and-greet shows the morning presenter on radio station KYGO with his hand behind the singer. Mueller claims his knuckles may have touched her ribs, well above where his arm is shown.

Swift maintains he sexually assaulted her by lifting her skirt and fondling her buttocks.

Mueller denied the charge, but admitted he did not know where his hand was because he was looking at the photographer.

"If anyone touched her rear, she had a right not to like it. I didn't want to hurt Ms. Swift," Mueller told the court.

The singer, who was 23 at the time, did not file a police report because she did not want the incident made public, her attorney Doug Baldridge said.

Swift's security guards threw Mueller out of the Pepsi Center and told him he was banned for life from Swift concerts.

The star's staff reported the incident to KYGO executives who fired Mueller two days later for violating the morals clause of his contract, the court has heard.

Mueller filed a lawsuit seeking almost $3 million in lost and future wages because of "slander" from members of the Swift camp, while Swift has counter-sued for the alleged sexual assault.

The singer, who was joined in court by her mother and father Scott Swift, has said she will donate any damages awarded in her suit to charities that fight sexual assault on women. –


Driver of police commander caught posing as a cop for extortion

IMPOSTER. Joseph Ruallo is brought inside the Camp Crame in Quezon City. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler 

MANILA,Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) nabbed on Wednesday, August 9, Joseph Ruallo, a fake cop who extorted from a couple whose son was arrested for possession of illegal drugs.

Ruallo acted with real cops.

According to the PNP Counter-Intelligence Task Force (CITF) Commander Senior Superintendent Chiquito Malayo, Ruallo coordinated with 4 cops who catch drug suspects.

The policemen who caught the suspect told his parents that they know of another cop who can bring their son out of detention. They gave Ruallo's number.

"Ang sabi ng nakahuli, according to the complainant, pwede silang matulungan kausapin lang ang isang tao at nagbigay sila yung telephone number. Nagpakilala yung may hawak na pulis," Malayo said.

(According to the complainant, they were told that they can get help from someone. They were given a number. The voice on the other end introduced himself as police.)

Ruallo promised the son's freedom, in exchange for P50,000 in cash. The parents begged him to bring down the amount, so they agreed to P15,000. Suspicious, the parents reached out to the CITF, before the meeting.

A caliber .45 pistol was confiscated from Ruallo along with the P15,000.

Upon apprehension, police revealed that Ruallo was the driver of no less than the chief of Quezon City Police Station 5, Police Superintendent Bobby Ganipac.

Malayo said Ganipac denied knowledge of Raullo's racket.

The 4 cops in collusion with the scheme were relieved of their positions, after interogation.

Still, the Quezon City Police District chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar launched a station-wide investigation into the incident, from fear that other personnel may be involved. –


Duterte gov't eyes taxes on coal

COAL-FIRED POWERPLANT. The Duterte administration seeks to increase taxes on coal, considered the 'dirtiest' but cheapest power source. File photo 

MANILA, Philippines – After taxes on petroleum products, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte plans to tax coal, dubbed as the “dirtiest” source of fuel.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said this on Thursday, August 10, during a Senate hearing.

Before the Senate ways and means committee, Chua said the proposed taxes on petroleum products would also benefit the environment. 

But Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito questioned it: If that's the case why is the government not prioritizing taxes on coal, considered the most harmful to nature

Chua, in response, said the DOF would “soon” propose taxes on coal and carbon sources.

“In fact, coal, carbon taxation will be included in the proposed [tax reform] package 5, which will be presented soon,” Chua said, adding that the fifth package will also revisit taxes on health, environment, and mining.

But Ejercito asked: “Why not the first and second? I think coal is one of the dirtiest because everytime it runs, it emits elements in the atmosphere."

Chua explained it is difficult to rush it. More studies have to be done, he said, because it would be the first time the government would do it.

On the other hand, he said taxes on oil products have already been done and have been left untouched for the past 20 years.

At present, the House of Representatives has already approved Package 1, which seeks to lower income tax in exchange for higher taxes on petroleum, automobiles, and sugar-sweetened beverages. The measure remains pending in the Senate.

Some senators have expressed concern about the possible price increases on basic commodities because of higher fuel prices.

Package 2 eyes lowering of corporate income tax and changing fiscal incentives to remove perks from sectors that have long been benefitting from it through the years.

Package 3 seeks to review property valuation while Package 4 focuses on capital income taxation such as dividends, interest income, and capital gains, among others.


In discussing coal, Chua said the government also has to balance the country’s need for renewable energy and cheap sources, especially in Mindanao, which is highly reliant on fossil fuels.

"It's the first time we are taxing coal. While on automobile, fuel, we thought we were ready. The other reason is, Mindanao is relying on coal. We need to balance reliable cheap sources without abruptly affecting prices,” Chua said.

Hontiveros pointed out that while Mindanao relies on several coal power plants, it is also very rich in natural sources for renewable energy – something that Senate energy committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian agreed to.

“Yes, Mindanao is largely dependent at the moment but the region is very rich in underdeveloped renewable resources, including hydro,” she said. –


10 Vietnamese poachers arrested off Palawan

PATROLLING THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA. BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is one of 3 former U.S. Coast Guard ships acquired by the Philippine Navy. Rappler photo

MANILA, Philippines – Ten Vietnamese allegedly caught poaching off Palawan province were arrested and will face poaching charges, according to the Philippine military.

The naval warship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was patrolling the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Tuesday, August 8, when it sighted foreign fishing vessel Hua Houng off Palawan's Tapuitan Point.

Captain Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the military Western Command (Wescom), said the crew of th warship boarded the fishing vessel and found that the Vietnamese crew had on board fine meshed fish net and dead sharks.

The warship escorted the fishing vessel to El Nido where further inspection was conducted by representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) alongwith the police and coast guard.

Tindog said Wescom has turned over custody of the fishing vesel to BFAR, which recommended the filing of charges against the Vietnamese crew. –


CHED lifts moratorium on field trips, off-campus activities

LIFTED. CHED lifts the moratorium on all off-campus trips 

MANILA, Pilippines – Higher education institutions (HEIs) can once again send students out on field trips or other off-campus activities like competitions after the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) lifted its moratorium.

CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera made the announcement in a press conference at Malacañang on Thursday, August 10. 

“So the other statement that I would like to give is that the CHED has lifted the moratorium on off-campus activities of higher education institutions,” said De Vera.

“And this includes not just field trips but students who go on competitions outside their school, when they attend conferences and symposia, when they do immersion programs, when they go on sports activities,” he added.

CHED had imposed a moratorium on all off-campus activities after the Tanay bus accident in February. 

A bus, carrying over 50 college students from Bestlink College of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City, lost its break and crashed into an electric post along Sitio Bayucan in Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, leading to 15 deaths.

According to De Vera, CHED had closely worked with the Department of Tourism, Department of Interior and Local Government, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation and Regulatory Board and the leagues of cities and municipalities to craft the new guidelines covering all off-campus activities. 

CHED Memorandum Order Number 63, series of 2017 now has stricter provisions to help ensure the safety of students. 

“So now we’re requiring higher education institutions to make sure and be accountable that when they send their students outside the university, there are faculty or persons in charge that will monitor what the students are doing,” said De Vera.

A student must also have his or her parents’ consent and must be medically cleared before going on an off-campus activity. 

“We will require them to have insurance for students, check the registration, insurance, franchise, and road-worthiness of vehicles used in the transportation of students, coordinate with local government units, because there have been incidents in the past, like in Bulacan State University, where students went on a field trip and the students drowned,” he added. 

De Vera was referring to the drowning of 7 students from the Bulacan State University (BSU) in August 2014. About 180 BSU students were on a field trip to Madlum Cave in San Miguel, Bulacan when heavy rains swelled the Madlum River, triggering a flash flood.

The Office of the Ombudsman already ordered the dismissal of 9 BSU officials over the tragedy. – with reports from Pia Ranada/


Duterte to fire gov't officials who connive with his children

EQUAL TREATMENT. President Rodrigo Duterte says he'll file charges against his own children if they are involved in corruption. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – Days after his eldest son's name was dragged into the Bureau of Customs (BOC) controversy, President Rodrigo Duterte warned that he would fire any government official who will connive with his children in corrupt acts.

"Kaya sabi ko, kung sinuman 'yung official (That's why I said, any official) who entertains the intervention of any of my sons and daughter that is enough for me, I will fire you," said Duterte on Wednesday night, August 9, during the 2017 Sulong Pilipinas forum in Mandaluyong City.

The President added that he will file charges against officials and even his son or daughter if they fill their pockets at the expense of government.

"And I will press charges against you and my relative, whoever he is, and you'll have the luxury of seeing me go down," he said.

He was reacting to a Customs broker, among the key resource persons in Congress hearings about a P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China, who claimed that Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte or "Pulong" was being "name-dropped"by individuals in the BOC.

"Pati 'yung anak ko ngayon sinasali diyan sa Customs. I told you before and I'm telling you now again, kung sino sa anak ko ma-involve sa corruption, I will immediately resign. That, you have my word," said Duterte.

(Even my son is being included in the Customs issue. I told you before and I'm telling you now again, if any of my children are involved in corruption, I will immediately resign. That, you have my word.)

But he added that, anyway, he doesn't "need" the presidency.

"I don't need this job. I mean, I have enough," he said.

Duterte, however, did not directly refute or deny the claims of Customs broker Mark Taguba. 

Previous links

It's not the first time that Paolo Duterte has been linked to smuggling. Former Davao City policeman Arthur Lascañas, in Senate hearings, said Paolo was involved in a shipment of shabu also from China. 

Last March, Lascañas said the younger Duterte asked for his help in speeding up the release of a supposed furniture shipment from China.

Lascañas said during the same hearing that a certain Davao-based "Charlie Tan," whom Paolo had met in China, had asked that he insert "souvenirs" in the container van.

Paolo then suspected that drugs – shabu in particular – had been inserted in the container van, Lascañas said.

Tan was supposed to have been arrested on the spot after the van was to be opened, but according to Lascañas, Paolo instead called him up and said he would take care of Tan himself.

Resigning for 'Pulong'?

It's not the first time either that the President is putting his position on the line for Paolo.

Back when he was congressman, Duterte offered to resign after Paolo had been accused of mauling a hotel security guard. 

When Duterte learned about the incident, he said Paolo must face the consequences of his actions and that the guard should file charges. The guard was understandably afraid and did not bother to file charges.

When Duterte learned about it, he offered to resign. This was rejected by then president Joseph Estrada.

And just as Duterte says now that he has no need for the presidency, he has frequently admitted he did not enjoy being a congressman. –


Unable to stand the heat, 25 cops faint while waiting for Duterte

IN FORMATION. Philippine police salute at Camp Crame in Quezon City. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP 

MANILA, Philippines – Some 25 cops dropped one by one while waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte during the 116th Philippine National Police (PNP) Service Anniversary on a hot Wednesday afternoon, August 9. 

The cops were part of the parading team, standing in linear formation at the field of the Camp Crame Grandstand.

"Majority of them [fainted] because of dehydration and exhaustion – from so much heat. They were there at least more than an hour before the program," PNP Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos told reporters on Thursday, August 10.

The program was supposed to start at 2 pm, but they were already stationed by 12 noon, while the President arrived a few minutes before 3 pm. The program lasted until 5:30 pm, when they were allowed to break formation.

Carlos added that they were already awake "early in the morning" preparing for the grand day. (READ: LIST: 116th PNP Service Awardees)

He said the President's late arrival is not a reason for the cops losing consciousness.

Because he was the guest of honor, they had to wait for him. "We’re prepared for that, we stick to the schedule while waiting," Carlos said.

They were even given the chance to move around and rest, but they chose to stand ground.

For this, Carlos said they deserve the salute of all the PNP.

"At the end of the day, mahirap talaga yung role nila (the role they played was difficult). We salute them. That’s their contribution to their celebration," he said. –



Anti-graft court orders arrest of Senator Honasan over PDAF scam

ARREST ORDER. Gringo Honasan is the 4th Senator charged over pork barrel scam. File photo by Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Thursday, August 10, ordered Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan II arrested for two counts of graft over the alleged misuse of his pork barrel in 2012.

The senator is expected to post his P60,000 bail – P30,000 per count – within the day. 

In a statement, Honasan said: "I am completely innocent of the charges against me. All my life I have fought everything I am accused of, and I will continue to do so."

Also ordered arrested are Honasan's co-accused: Michael Benjamin, Mehol Kiram Sadain, Fedelina Dimalanta Aldenese, Olga Sajise Galido, Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan, Salvador Gaerlan, Galay Mokamad Makalinggan, and Aurora Ocular Aragon-Mabang.

Aragon-Mabang, Galido, Sadain, and Aldanese have posted bail, according to the court.

Honasan was charged on August 1. The charges were raffled to the 2nd division of Sandiganbayan on August 4.

Honasan is accused of skirting procurement rules when he allotted P30 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund for livelihood projects for Muslim communities.

The project in 2012 was coursed through implementing agency National Council of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and non-govermental organization (NGO) Focus Development Goals Foundation.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that disbursement vouchers and checks were already prepared for Focus Development even though the NGO had not been informed of the project at the time.

Checks were also signed before the memorandum of agreement between Honasan, NCMF, and Focus Development was signed.

The Commission on Audit (COA) first flagged Honasan's transaction with Focus Development in a special report for 2014, and even recommended that the NGO be blacklisted from government transactions.

Honasan is the 4th senator to be charged in court over the pork barrel scam, although the 3 others involved in the pork barrel scam are facing plunder charges.

Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee of justice and human rights, clarified that "when you’re issued an arrest warrant, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty, but that there is a probable cause. The court just wants you to be there to answer."

In a phone interview on Thursday, he said: "I know Senator Gringo is upright.... I’m sure he will answer which charges in court. I think he will do that…. I don’t think he will just blow or fly the hoof...knowing him." –

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