Items filtered by date: Sunday, 03 September 2017

Duterte says Sereno 'sitting on' decision on RH 'medicines'

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte again slammed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for supposedly "sitting on" decisions on contraceptives, leading to a delay in the full implementation of the Reproductive Health law.
"We already bought the medicines, expecting that it would, you know, be needed by government so we can already start it and until now, it’s two years ago, the medicines have expired, Sereno is sitting on it," said Duterte on Tuesday, August 29, in a mix of English and Filipino.
"What’s the problem, ma’am? We spent for it, we bought the medicines only for them to expire," he added.
If the Supreme Court had only been decisive from the start, he claimed, the government would not have purchased the "medicines" and would have thus avoided wasting taxpayer's money.
"A simple presentence would say if you are going to deny it, 'We denied it because it is an abortive substance.' Until now, nothing," said Duterte.
It was a repeat of his remarks at his second State of the Nation Address when he blamed the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the SC for compromising the effectivity of the RH law.
The TRO, issued by the SC in 2015, temporarily stopped the health department's distribution and sale of implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.
The High Court also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."
This has led many to believe the TRO applies, not just to implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, but to contraceptive pills.

Blame game
Sereno, in response to Duterte's SONA remarks, said that the ball is in the FDA's court, not the SC's.
She said that the TRO will be lifted when the FDA rules that the two implant brands are not abortifacient. This could happen sooner if only the Department of Health would conduct summary hearings.
But the FDA reacted saying that the TRO ordered it to revise all its procedures on reviewing all contraceptives and to decide on all applications based on the new procedure.
This has the "net effect of burdening and restraining the FDA from performing its mandate and regulatory functions in a timely and efficient manner," said the FDA, according to a PhilStar article.
The agency also refuted the SC's clarification that the TRO only covers the two implant brands.
To the FDA, the TRO's "language" orders it to suspend certification and re-certification of all contraceptives.

What's at stake
If the TRO is not lifted soon, almost 90% of contraceptive brands will no longer be available by 2018, making the RH law "ineffective." according to the Commission on Population (PopCom)
With the expiration of the FDA certificates, PopCom said couples will have limited brands of contraceptives to choose from.
"Filipino women will be left with a limited number of expensive products by then as the more affordable products will lose their certificates in 2017," the commission said.
Meanwhile, the subdermal implants bought by government and are now on stock in the health department's warehouses "will all go to waste" because these will expire by 2018. –

  • Published in Health

Veteran journalist Joel Palacios among those killed in Pasay condo stabbing

MANILA – Veteran journalist Joel Palacios was among those killed in a stabbing incident in a Pasay City condominium on Tuesday night, August 29.
He was 70.
Palacios was part of the editorial desks of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin, Today, and Manila Standard; and was a Philippine correspondent of the South China Morning Post and Reuters.
Palacios headed the press office of the US Embassy in Manila from 1992 to 1996, and served as Social Security System spokesman and assistant vice president for media affairs for 15 years, or until his retirement in 2012.
He taught journalism at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, and was an associate dean of the College of Mass Communication of the Universidad de Manila. –

Marcoses offer to return part of loot

MANILA – The Marcos family has offered to return “part” of their estimated $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
So said President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
According to the chief executive, a spokesman for the family of the late dictator had told him that they were willing to return a portion of their unexplained wealth, including a few gold bars.
Mr. Duterte said the gold bars would not be as massive as the US deposits in Fort Knox.
In a statement to media on Wednesday, Aug.30, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that a confirmatory statement must come from the Marcos family. "There is need for a categorical statement from the Marcos heirs confirming President Duterte's report that the Marcoses are willing to surrender a part of the Marcos' ill-gotten hoard,” said Lagman.
Lagman said the statement must include specifications as to the denominations of the amounts and identification of items to be returned.
Mr. Duterte said he wants a retired chief justice and two other government representatives to handle the negotiations with the Marcos family.
The Marcoses had stated that the gold in their possession was only for safekeeping for and in behalf of the Philippine government. In the event that then President Ferdinand Marcos was removed from office, he had ordered the removal of the country’s gold reserves so that it would not fall into the wrong hands.
“I will accept the explanation, whether or not it was true,” Mr. Duterte said.
According to the president, the spokesman for the Marcos family said the return of the unexplained wealth was to help the administration handle its expected deficit spending for the next few years.
Maybe the amount to be surrendered would help, according to the unnamed spokesman.
“I’m happy na we come with a clean... Make something that is really worthwhile for the Filipinos,” the president said.
During his two-decade rule that started in 1965, former President Marcos illegally amassed an estimated $10 billion taken from government coffers. He stashed them away in secret local and offshore accounts, or hid them through dummy foundations as well as cronies.

Following the strongman's ouster in 1986, the government - through the Presidential Commission on Good Government created the same year - went to great lengths to recover these stolen wealth, even engaging in arduous and court battles here and abroad that dragged on for years.
Three decades later, the PCGG got back a considerable chunk of the illegally acquired assets and properties, and even managed to earn revenue for the government.
The Marcos family spokesman did not state what part of the ill-gotten wealth they were willing to return to the government. – With reports from GMA


Discrimination a hurdle for job-seeking Mindanao youth

MANILA – Usman Mohammad, 23, just graduated from Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City this year. His aim of starting his professional life was interrupted by war as the government neutralizes terrorist groups linked to the extremist Islamic State.
Like him, other youth displaced from Marawi City would like to find a job to support their families, espcially that their properties have either been looted or bombed. But being a Muslim jobseeker is difficult because of the stereotypes in the workplace, he said.
“Based from what I observed from my friends who are also graduates of MSU, when they apply for companies in Manila, when they are identified as Muslim, there’s already discrimination, thinking they are terrorists,” he said in Filipino.
Since there’s little large-scale economic activity in their area, their only choice is to go to Manila where majority of career opportunities are available. But because of the discrimination they are facing, they can’t help but think of just going abroad for work.
All he could ask for now is make opportunities equal for Muslims.
“Magkaroon lang ng opportunity na kumbaga ay i-welcome ang youth na galing sa Marawi na nadisplace, mabigyan ng opportunity,” he said.
(Hopefully, there could be opportunities to welcome the youth from Marawi City who were displaced, be given an opportunity.)
Another problem people from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) experience when it comes to employment is the lack of information and government support in those areas.
Abdul-Ajidz Abdurahman, 24, from Tipo-Tipo in Basilan, said jobseekers in their area do not know when and where there are job vacancies.
“Hindi nila alam saan sila pupunta, sino ang lalapitan, ano iyong mga opportunity kasi 'di kami accessible sa internet connection, sa mga publication,” he said.
(They don’t know where they would go, who to go to, what are the opportunities because we don’t have access to the internet, to publications.)
“Walang mga job fair. Ang mga job fair lang kasi diyan ay sa mga cities pero walang nangyayari doon sa mga municipalities,” he added.
(There are no job fairs because job fairs are only conducted in cities but none for municipalities.)

Equal opportunities
For Francisco Lara Jr, country manager of conflict monitoring group International Alert, limiting workplace discrimination for Muslims is a way of promoting peace in the region.
Lara said “unfairness” is the root of the rebellion in Mindanao
“Injustice is a very big issue but oftentimes, its unfairness. Injustice is like you are not able to get an education after the madrassah and you don’t go up – that’s injustice. But when you have an education, when you’ve done everything that is needed but still can’t find a job, that is unfairness,” he said.
“Oftentimes, that triggers extremism, not poverty,” he added, stressing that the crisis in Marawi City should be solved through creating social and business spaces in the region more than relying on the military.
Working in this framework, International Alert launched on Tuesday, August 29, guidelines for companies to include equality and diversity in their hiring and management policies.
The Red Flag project, done in partnership with the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC), provides a set of practical guidelines against the discrimination of employees on the basis of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.
Some 40 firms from the banking, finance, service and extractive industries have joined the commitment to uphold the guidelines set by the project.
Nikki dela Rosa, deputy country manager of International Alert, said they will look into giving incentives to companies that will adhere to the standards.
“We are going to develop a tool kit, along with some professors of the Asian Institute of Management, in creating accessible tools for employers in terms of operationalizing the principles,” she said.
But beyond this intervention, the groups urge the government to promote investments in Mindanao, which will ultimately solve the unemployment problem in the region.
“This is just a segment of most of the problems we have on the ground. A lot of the graduates coming in Muslim areas have difficulty [finding] jobs there. They experience discrimination from companies operating outside the ARMM. We believe this is [just a] stop gap,” she said.
“The best way is to pressure government [to come out with the ] proper package to encourage investors there,” she added. –


Malacañang fails to invite Robredo to 2nd Ledac meeting

MANILA – Malacañang failed to invite Vice President Leni Robredo to the second Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting held on Tuesday, August 29.
Robredo was not in the list of officials who attended the meeting held on Tuesday night.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief, confirmed to Rappler that Robredo was not invited.
NEDA, which is the principal Ledac secretariat, is in charge of setting the agenda for the meetings but Malacañang sends out the invitations to Ledac members and other guests.
Pernia said Malacañang staff had informed him that the Office of the Vice President had been following up with them if Robredo would attend the meeting.
Since his office has no powers to decide on who gets invited, Pernia said he "left it at that" and waited for news from Malacañang if they made a final decision on the matter.
But Monday, August 28, was a busy day for President Rodrigo Duterte who, Pernia said, ultimately decides on who attends the Ledac. He said it was likely that Duterte or his staff simply forgot to invite the Vice President.
"Siguro hindi na (Maybe no more), they were not able to attend to it. I don't know the reason. I don't want to impute anything," the NEDA chief said.
A source from the Robredo camp said they did follow up with Malacañang in the days leading up to the Ledac meeting.
Instead of an invitation, Robredo's office was asked to just submit a "position paper," said the source.
The Vice President is a member of the Ledac. Robredo was invited to the first Ledac meeting last January 30.
Previously, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go had said she was invited to the first meeting as "mandated" by Republic Act 7640, the law that created the Ledac. Under the law, the Vice President is a member of the council.
The Ledac advises the President on programs, policies, and laws necessary to achieving the goals of the administration.
Established during the Ramos administration, the Ledac is a venue for executive and legislative branches to discuss the laws needed for priority programs and targets of the government.
The Ledac is chaired by the President and its members include the Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, 7 Cabinet members, 3 senators, 3 House members, and one representative each from local government, youth, and the private sector. – With a report from Mara Cepeda/


Opposition lawmakers: Why 'rush' budget debate in the House?

MANILA– Don’t let go of the power over appropriations.
Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday, August 29, questioned the lower House's attempt to rush the passage of the proposed 2018 national budget, supposedly cutting short scheduled plenary debates.
“We are afraid that the General Appropriations Bill or Act will even be a replica of the National Expenditure Program…. Look at what’s going happen this coming week. The plenary debates have been reduced to 5 days,” said Albay 2nd District Representative Edcel Lagman, a Liberal Party member who belongs to the opposition bloc.
The National Expenditure Program is prepared by the budget department, and is submitted to the House for scrutiny. The budget measure emanates from the lower chamber, and passed on to the Senate, before it is approved in the bicameral conference committee.
For 2018, the national government is proposing a budget of P3.767 trillion – an amount 12.4% higher than the 2017 national budget and 21.6% of the gross domestic product.
The House appropriations committee last week wrapped up committee briefings on the budgets of various departments and agencies. The budget is currently being tackled during pre-plenary hearings. It will be discussed before the plenary – or the House as a whole – by September 4.
Lagman said that, “based on the calendar,” the House plenary should have until September 8 to discuss the budget.
“We don’t understand the rush,” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin.
“The power of the House over the appropriations measure [over] what we call the supremacy of the House, I think, has been lost, it’s a lost prerogative. It’s a challenge to the present leadership of the House, or the committee on appropriations, to capture the plenary power of the House on appropriations,” added Lagman.
He noted that the House “supermajority” typically “accedes to the demands of the executive.”
Committee chairman and Davao 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles brushed off Lagman and Villarin’s allegations. He said the “3 layers of budget discussions” in itself was a good exercise of the power of the purse.
Still, Nograles expected plenary debates to last shorter than in 2016, the first time the Duterte administration proposed a budget.
“Last year, we were able to complete plenary debates in 7 days, considering that it was the new President's maiden budget. This year, this being President Duterte's second budget, perhaps we can finish this in 5 days,” he said.
Lagman chided the apparent rush, quipping: “The objective is, again, to set a record.”
Pre-plenary budget conferences are scheduled from August 29 to September 8. The committee has yet to release a schedule for the plenary debates. –


Duterte defends son-in-law, distances self from Paolo's ex-wife

Photo: IN DEFENSE. There is nothing suspicious about his son-in-law Manases Carpio's visits to government offices, says President Rodrigo Duterte. Malacañang file photo

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, August 29, defended his son-in-law Manases "Mans" Carpio from claims that he is involved in smuggling.
The President also distanced himself from his son Paolo's ex-wife, Lovelie Sumera, who was supposedly spotted visiting government offices and was referred to as "Lovelie Duterte."
"As for this issue with Mans, I do not apologize for him because he's a lawyer. And every lawyer knows that. That's our job," said Duterte, addressing new government appointees.
He said he found nothing wrong with Carpio being seen in government offices. Earlier that day, in a Senate hearing, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and a Bureau of Customs (BOC) official claimed Carpio visited the office of outgoing Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon several times.
"If he's just going to the [BOC] in connection with the case of [his] client... that was my work before. We have to protect the interest of our client, that's our oath of office as lawyers," said Duterte.
Carpio himself denied Trillanes' claims, calling him a "desperate rumormonger."
However, the President said he promised to resign only if there is proof that his children are involved in corruption. The promise does not cover sons- or daughters-in-law.
"Sabi ko, ni-limit ko doon sa mga anak ko kasi wala akong kontrol sa ibang tao (I limited it to my kids because I have no control over other people). Like for example, just like my son-in-law who is a lawyer and it is perfectly all right for him to see anybody," said Duterte.
The President added that he had read in newspaper reports that a certain Lovelie, allegedly his daughter-in-law, was seen visiting government offices.
Reports supposedly stated that she was referred to as Lovelie Duterte.
The President emphasized that there is no Lovelie Duterte. The Lovelie he knows is the former wife of Paolo who is now known as Lovelie Sumera after she married a man with that last name. Her maiden name was Sangkola.
"Hindi ko manugang 'yan. Diyan nga ako nagkaroon ng sugat sa puso noon. Imagine, your 18-year-old son eloping with a 24, tapos – nahirapan talaga, hindi nakatapos," he said.
(She is not my daughter-in-law. I experienced a heartache with her. Imagine, your 18-year-old son eloping with a 24, then – we had a hard time, he wasn't able to finish school.)
Lovelie and Paolo, said Duterte, separated 10 years ago. The President hasn't seen her "for the longest time."
Paolo, the vice mayor of Davao City, is now married to January, a councilor. –


Duterte: Revolutionary gov't good for PH 'but I'm not into it'

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said it would take a revolutionary government for the Philippines to "really go up," but while he liked the idea, the Chief Executive claimed it won't happen under his watch.

"For the Philippines to really go up, sabi ko, ang kailangan ng mga tao is not martial law. Go for ginawa ni Cory – revolutionary government. Pero huwag kayong magtingin sa akin. Hindi ako puwede diyan," he said in a speech before new appointees in government on Tuesday, August 29.

(For the Philippines to really go up, I said, the people don't need martial law. Go for what Cory did – revolutionary government. But don't look at me. I can't be part of that.)

Speaking to his new appointees, Duterte also said, "I was not joking but I am not into it."

Then President Corazon Aquino established a revolutionary government following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. She abolished the 1973 Constitution and promulgated the provisional Freedom Constitution pending the ratification of the 1987 Constitution.

A revolutionary government allowed Aquino to declare all positions vacant and overhaul the bureaucracy.

Duterte said it would have been the "golden opportunity" for the Philippines, but Aquino's "mistake" was that "she returned it (government) to the politicians."

If he had any advice to give to another Philippine President, it would be to put up a revolutionary government.

"Me, my advice to a President who wants to change, do not go for martial law, people will make an issue out of it. Go for a revolutionary government, to finish everything," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

If Aquino can do it, so can this future president, Duterte added.

He had expressed support for a revolutionary government even before he declared his intention to run for the presidency.

In an interview with Rappler's Maria Ressa, Duterte even said he would be the one to establish a revolutionary government.

In December 2015, he said he would close down Congress and declare a revolutionary government if senators and congressmen decide not to approve his proposed budget unless he brings back the controversial pork barrel system.

In April, his supporters echoed his vision and urged him to declare a revolutionary government to fight illegal drugs. –


Atienza says Imelda told him they have 7,000 tons of gold bars

A party-list lawmaker on Wednesday said that former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos personally told him that her family possesses an estimated 7,000 tons' worth of gold bars.
Former Manila mayor and now BUHAY party-list Representative Lito Atienza disclosed the information following President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that the family of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos expressed willingness to return part of the ill-gotten wealth they had amassed.
"When I was mayor, sinabi niya [Imelda] gusto kong ibalik 'yung gold dito, ibigay sa gobyerno para mapawi na lahat ng utang natin," he told reporters at a press conference.
"Sabi ko, why don't you do it? Sabi niya humahadlang ang isang superpower, hindi naman maigalaw ang gold. Nakadeposito sa maraming lugar sa buong mundo," he added.
Atienza said Marcos told him that the gold bars weighed 7,000 tons.
"Ilan ba ang estimate niyo sa gold na 'yan? Sabi niya ay 7,000 tons," he said.
"Seven thousand tons? Sana this time, makuha niya yung inaalok ni Mrs. Marcos nun. Kapag inaalok ngayon, ay mapakinabangan naman ng bansa ito," he added.
Atienza suggested the country not dwell on the issue anymore and just focus on retrieving the ill-gotten wealth.
"Kunin na lang natin 'yung ginto at magamit ng Pilipinas dahil you can even imagine the value of those gold bars which they claim they have," he said.
"I announced it in light of all these developments, and we wish President Duterte all the best. Sayang naman ang perang 'yan. Thirty-one years have passed and wala man lang na-prosecute," he added.
On Tuesday, Duterte said the Marcoses are willing to "open everything" and "probably return" the wealth that can be found.
“Sabi nila, isauli nila para walang ano—and the only reason, sabi nila, was the father was just protecting the economy for the [eventuality] na umalis siya. He thought of regaining the Malacañang, that is why ganito ang lumabas na parang naitago,” he added.
During his two-decade rule that started in 1965, former President Marcos managed to illegally amass an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion from government coffers. His family stashed them away in secret local and offshore accounts, or hid them through dummy foundations as well as cronies. –GMA


Trillanes urges colleagues: Join calls to set De Lima free

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday urged his colleagues to “right the wrong” committed by the Duterte administration against Senator Leila de Lima by calling for her release from detention.
In a privilege speech, Trillanes said De Lima’s continued detention over drug-related charges is a “clear case of political persecution.”
“Gaya nating lahat, hindi perpekto si Sen. De Lima pero alam natin, deep in our hearts, na hindi siya involved sa illegal drugs at lalo nang hindi siya drug queen. Hindi po siya criminal para tratuhin na parang isang criminal,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said the Senate should express the same outrage it did in the case of Superintendent Marvin Marcos, who was able to walk out of detention after the criminal charges against him and the other policemen were downgraded. He also called on the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson to conduct an inquiry on the allegations of drug lords against De Lima.
Trillanes said summoning drug personalities to a Senate probe is necessary to prove that the Duterte administration coerced them to concoct stories against a political opponent.
The European Union, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and International Commission Jurists, have separately called for De Lima’s release. The groups include the International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD), United Kingdom; Asia Catalyst, New York, USA; the Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS, Thailand; Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ANPUD), Thailand; and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), United Kingdom. —GMA News

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