Items filtered by date: December 2017

Palace: Leni out of touch with reality on ground

During the 72nd anniversary of the opposition Liberal Party last Friday, Vice President Leni Robredo claimed that darkness is enveloping the country and called on members of the once influential group to continue fighting for their beliefs. OVP/Released, File
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday disputed Vice President Leni Robredo’s claim that darkness is enveloping the Philippines, saying only the discredited politicians who want to regain power are facing dark days.

During the 72nd anniversary of the opposition Liberal Party (LP) last Friday, Robredo claimed that darkness is enveloping the country and called on members of the once influential group to continue fighting for their beliefs.

She also claimed that history seems to be repeating itself, noting that the party’s membership also declined during the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Several LP members were reported to have moved to Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan after he won a landslide victory in 2016.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, saying the Vice President’s remarks are “completely out of touch with the existing realities on the ground.”

“The darkness that Vice President Robredo may be referring to perhaps pertains to the future of those discredited politicians who wish to return to power,” Roque said in a statement.

He cited the Gallup International polls that suggests the Philippines is the third happiest country in the world and the fifth highest country in the economic optimism index, aside from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys that showed 96 percent of Filipinos entered the new year with hope and fewer Filipino families consider themselves poor.

“People’s high levels of hope and optimism have been complemented by high satisfaction, approval, trust ratings,” the spokesman said.

Roque added that the results of an SWS survey conducted last quarter indicated that more than eight of 10 Filipinos trust Duterte while a Pulse Asia poll suggested that Duterte is the most approved and most trusted among the country’s top officials.

Satisfaction with the Duterte administration remains excellent based on the SWS poll conducted last quarter, he added.

“Genuine and meaningful change has been felt by our people,” Roque stressed.


Biz groups: Con-con for federalism shift

In a statement yesterday, the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines said they recognized the need to amend certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution to make it more adaptable and responsive to current social and economic realities. File
MANILA, Philippines — Three of the country’s top business groups support the lifting of economic restrictions in the Constitution through a constitue nt assembly, but prefer a “duly elected” constitutional convention if the changes will include a shift in the form of government.

In a statement yesterday, the Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) said they recognized the need to amend certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution to make it more adaptable and responsive to current social and economic realities.

“We believe this is a necessary action in helping us realize the aspiration of a more inclusive and sustainable growth,” the groups said, noting that the proposal to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution is aligned with the Duterte administration’s push to lift the economic restrictions and open more business areas to foreign investors.

Recently, the MAP and the Philippine Business Group also issued statements supporting economic Cha-cha and said a constituent assembly or con-ass would suffice for this purpose, with the two chambers of Congress voting separately and independently.

For a change in the form of government, however, the two groups said a constitutional convention or con-con is needed.

The MBC, MAP and Finex, in their statement, pointed out that increasing the participation of foreigners in the economy will be a welcome development as it will mean a fresh infusion of financial resources into undercapitalized sectors.

They also believe that amending the economic provisions will lead to the introduction of new technologies that will spur greater innovation and efficiency in local industries, as well as the promotion of healthy competition that will drive businesses to produce better quality and more competitively priced products and services.

Easing foreign investment restrictions will be critical in light of the country’s commitments to the ASEAN Economic Community and its intent to form closer trade relationships with other economies.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been urging Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to join the constituent assembly initiated by the House of Representatives.

Last week, Alvarez said the House would convene as a constituent assembly and work on a federal constitution even without the participation of the Senate.

Under the draft federal constitution that Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso – an ally of President Duterte and a former justice of the Court of Appeals – is proposing, the lawmaking powers of the Senate will be removed while its mandate to confirm appointments of Cabinet members and the ratification of treaties will remain.

“Personally, my proposal is the legislation will be basically a responsibility of congressmen. We will call them federal assemblymen. The Senate, we will make it a point to be the training ground for the presidency,” Veloso, vice chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said over dzBB yesterday.

The House will also retain the power of the purse, or the power to approve budgets, to avoid duplication of function.

“Wala na silang pakialam sa budget, wala na silang pakialam sa lawmaking (They have nothing to do with the budget, they have nothing to do with lawmaking),” Veloso said.

Business: Con-con more democratic

But the MBC, MAP and Finex said they believe it is more democratic for the two chambers of Congress to vote separately to recognize the autonomy of the Senate and to avoid diluting the voice of the senators in the critical process.

“We understand this to be the intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and this is also consistent with the legislative process. The proposed amendments shall then be presented and discussed with the public before seeking approval via nationwide plebiscite,” the groups said.

While the MBC, MAP and Finex acknowledged other legal modes of revising the Charter, they believe a constitutional convention will offer a more diverse, independent and prospective approach.

“In connection with the possibility of shifting to another form of government, we believe a duly elected constitutional convention is the appropriate body to amend the Constitution,” the business groups noted.

“Our current elected officials were placed into position by their constituents to tackle numerous priority legislative reforms and have more than enough on their hands. A constitutional convention, on the other hand, will be purposely elected for the specific task of revising the Constitution and, therefore, individuals who wish to be elected for this role can properly present themselves and their views during the campaign period.”

“While such mode would entail greater costs to implement and probably more time, it should be seen as a justifiable investment that will result in significant social returns in the long run,” they added.

House can go it alone

But for Veloso, even if the senators do not want to join the constitutional assembly, the House can do it alone.

“Magsosolo kami. Hindi naman sinasabi sa Constitution na kailangan palaging present ang mga senador eh, palaging present ang mga kongresista (We will do it alone. The Constitution did not say that the senators must always be present, but the congressmen must always be present),” Veloso said.

Veloso also reminded senators that they cannot just expel their colleagues who want to join the House-initiated constituent assembly.

“Sila ang dapat ma-expel (senators who will not participate in constituent assembly are the ones who should be expelled) because that constitutes disorderly behavior,” he said, citing Article 6 Paragraph 3 of the 1987 Charter.

“It’s only by disorderly behavior that you can expel a member of Congress, either Senate or House of Representatives. And intimidation and blackmail are disorderly behaviors. What are they?” he added.

‘Senate should be abolished’

If he had his way, Veloso said the new federal government should have a unicameral Congress wherein the Senate will no longer exist to avoid duplication of functions and save public resources.

“Well at the end of the day, magastos iyun (bicameral Congress is costly). I will suggest na buwagin na talaga ang Senado (that Senate should be abolished). That will no longer be our initiative. Ang mga tao na mismo ang magpo-propose (The people will be the ones to propose),” he added.

Veleso also said that the country has in recent history not yet produced legal luminaries in the mold of the late senators Jose Diokno, Claro Recto and Jovito Salonga, and vice president Arturo Tolentino.

“Well, I am not really the one who said this. This is just the observation of our colleagues. Look at them. Who are the senators who have the stature of Recto, Tolentino – the brilliant ones – Diokno, Salonga?” he said. - Delon Porcalla


UST student body denounces giving of alumni award to Mocha Uson

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) on Sunday condemned the awarding of the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

"The UST-CSC strongly denounces the UST Alumni Association's action of honoring Mocha Uson the Thomasian Award for Government Service," the student body said in a statement.

"Mocha Uson, who is widely known as the main purveyor of politically-motivated propaganda against known members of the government's opposition, an avid spreader and citer of fake news."

"We express dismay over this event as Mocha Uson does not, in any way, embody the ideals of a real Thomasian, and with all due respect, Ms. Esther Margaux "Mocha" Justiniano Uson does not deserve an award that was supposed to be meant solely for outstanding alumni," the UST-CSC added.

Uson was given the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service along with other government officials from the House of Representatives, the Senate, the judiciary branch and the executive branch.

Meanwhile, the UST-CSC also urged Thomasians to fight against fake news and to seek fact-based pieces of evidence amid the denial of truth.

"We encourage everyone to be critical on every information they receive even if it hails from supposedly credible sources," the student body said. — Anna Felicia Bajo/BM, GMA News


US shutdown: Senate fails to agree on new budget

The US government is approaching a federal shutdown after the Senate failed to agree on a new budget.

It was unclear which way the vote would go as the midnight deadline approached, with Republicans and Democrats split on key issues.

Despite last minute bipartisan meetings, the bill to fund the government until 16 February did not receive the required 60 votes.

The last US shutdown happened in 2013 and lasted for 16 days.

The House of Representatives voted 230-197 on Thursday night to extend funding until next month, but the measure failed to pass the Senate.

Many government offices will close unless a compromise is found before the midnight deadline.

If the shutdown goes ahead essential services will still run. That includes national security, post, air traffic control, inpatient medical services, emergency outpatient medicine, disaster assistance, prisons, taxation and electricity production.

National parks and monuments could face closure, which provoked an angry public reaction during the last shutdown.

In the hours before the vote, President Donald Trump sounded pessimistic, tweeting that it was "not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border".

He had invited Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow New Yorker, to the White House for last-ditch talks but they failed to find sufficient common ground.

Emerging about an hour later, Mr Schumer told reporters "some progress" had been made, but a "good number of disagreements" remained, including a difference in opinion regarding the Democrats' desire to extend talks for another five days.

Dreamers protest last nightImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionA sticking point has been the deportation threat hanging over more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children

What's the problem?

The main bone of contention has been Democrats' demands for more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children to be protected from deportation.

These "Dreamers", as they are known, were granted temporary legal status under a programme established by former President Barack Obama.

In September, Mr Trump announced he was ending the programme and allowing Congress until March to come up with a replacement.


'America is the only country I've known'

Media caption"America is the only country I've known" says this Dreamer

The Republican president and congressional conservatives have been using the issue as a bargaining chip in an attempt to wring concessions from Democrats.

Mr Trump wants funding for tough new border controls, including his proposed US-Mexico wall.

Republicans have added to the bill a sweetener in the form of a six-year extension to a health insurance programme for children in lower-income families. 

They are essentially daring Democrats to vote against a measure that has been a longstanding liberal priority.

But Democrats say they want this programme extended permanently.

The legislative negotiations went up in flames last week after Mr Trump allegedly complained the US was letting in immigrants from certain "shithole countries".

Media captionThe missing - consequences of Trump's immigration crackdown

What could be the political fallout?

The blame game is already in full swing with neither party wishing to be held accountable for closing the government as midterm elections loom in November.

This would be the first shutdown while one party is in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, which could be politically embarrassing for Republicans.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll suggests that by a 20-point margin more Americans blame President Trump and his party for the imbroglio, rather than Democrats. 

But a shutdown would also be problematic for 10 Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year in states won by Mr Trump. 

They would face voters this autumn amid a hail of attack ads claiming they closed the US government to help illegal immigrants.

In a late-night speech on the Senate floor, top Republican Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of trying to "hold the entire country hostage".

Mindful of the risks, Democrats have shifted their messaging in recent days to say their opposition is about much more than just immigration. 

Democrats hope to make it instead about the president and Republicans' ability to govern.

Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen tweeted of Mr Trump: "This man doesn't comprehend work ethic, the office of President, or duty to the country. He understands golf, ice cream, and Big Macs!"

What happens in a shutdown?

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said that over 50% of his department would not go to work, and some maintenance, training and intelligence operations would come to a halt.

"We do a lot of intelligence operations around the world and they cost money, these obviously would stop," Mr Mattis said when asked about the impending shutdown, "it's got a huge morale impact."

The Trump administration is reportedly making contingency plans to keep the parks running if no deal is reached.

Visa and passport processing could also be delayed.

  • Published in U.S.

Texas judge interrupts jury, says God told him defendant is not guilty

A state district judge in Comal County said God told him to intervene in jury deliberations to sway jurors to return a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Buda woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex.

Judge Jack Robison apologized to jurors for the interruption, but defended his actions by telling them “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,” according to the Herald-Zeitung in New Braunfels.

The jury went against the judge’s wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of continuous trafficking of a person and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison. They found her not guilty of a separate charge of sale or purchase of a child.

Robison, who also presides in Hays and Caldwell counties, did not respond to a message left with his court coordinator, Steve Thomas, who said the case is still pending. Robison is scheduled to return to the bench in Comal County on Jan. 31.

The Herald-Zeitung reported that Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase and was replaced by Judge Gary Steele. The defendant’s attorney asked for a mistrial, but was denied.

Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has disciplined Robison in the past.

In 2011, the commission slapped Robison with a private reprimand for improperly jailing a Caldwell County grandfather who had called him a fool for a ruling Robison made in a child custody case involving the man’s granddaughter.

The reprimand, the commission’s harshest form of rebuke, said Robison “exceeded the scope of his authority and failed to comply with the law” by jailing the man for contempt of court without a hearing or advance notice of the charge.

The act of intervening in a jury’s deliberations is not addressed in the state’s list of judicial canons, which serves as an ethical code for judges. However, it states judges shall “comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Eric Vinson, executive director for the commission, said he would not be able to confirm or deny if a complaint had been filed against Robison.

Texas judge interrupts jury, says God told him defendant is not guilty.

Watch the video:

  • Published in U.S.

P1.2-M bounty offered for killers of aide of Nueva Ecija gov

Forensic investigators check the vehicle of Mary Ann Hernandez Nito, murdered executive secretary of Nueva Ecija Gov. Czarina Umali. (photo by Cris Sansano, InterAksyon)
TALAVERA, Nueva Ecija — A bounty of P1.2 million has been offered for information leading to the capture of the killers of the chief aide of Nueva Ecija Governor Czarina Umali.

Marry Ann Hernandez Nito, Umali’s executive secretary, was shot dead at a gasoline station in Talavera where she was having her vehicle fueled.

Talavera Mayor Nerevie Santos raised the initial P200,000 for the capture of Nito’s killers, with Umali adding P1 million to the reward money.


McGregor then Lomachenko, so who’s next?

Vasyl Lomachenko, of Ukraine, punches a bag during a workout at a Manhattan boxing gym Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in New York, while preparing for his Saturday WBO super featherweight title fight against Guillermo Rigondeaux. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
This is no longer funny. The morning after it was alleged Manny Pacquiao was in talks to fight Vasyl Lomachenko, the manager of the Ukrainian pound-for-pound star came up with a sweeping denial.

“No, it’s not truth,” cried Egis Klimas.

Lomachenko’s manager didn’t have to elaborate. But after the rumor persisted, Klimas found it his duty to set the record straight.

He said: “This is insane. No we are not fighting Pacquiao. He is an old man and Loma beating him takes us nowhere. They’d say he beat an old guy who was basically retired. We want to fight active champions dominating their weight class.”
There loomed the promise of a great purse, after Pacquiao said on national television he was set and raring to clash with Lomachenko.
The challenge had been readily turned down.
“It can’t be just about money,” Klimas explained. “Pacquiao is legendary and very respectful, but he’s non-active. He’s done and Loma won’t take advantage. We’ve better route fighting active champions in our weight class.”
Anyway, when Pacquiao called out mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor last November—“Stay fit my dear friend”—it could be purely out of fancy.
There’s however honest urgency in the Lomachenko case.
Pacquiao said he wanted to box because it’s his life.
“I miss boxing,” he stated.

As things stand, Pacquiao would most likely get his chance to return to action, possibly in April.
The question is against who.
Two possible foes—Amir Khan and Mike Alvarado—have been mentioned.
Veteran promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao’s next fight would be a unique one.


  • Published in Sports

OEC-holding OFWs not covered by deployment suspension to Kuwait

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Saturday clarified that overseas Filipino workers already holding a plane ticket and an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) can still proceed to Kuwait despite the deployment suspension announced on Friday.

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Bello said only those who do not yet have an OEC will be covered by the deployment suspension prompted by reported cases of maltreatment of OFWs by their Kuwaiti employers.

“Apektado ‘yung mga 'di pa nabibigyan ng OEC…” he said. “‘Yung mga na-isyuhan na, may ticket na, may OEC na, hindi sila covered.”

The deployment suspension temporarily halts the processing and issuance of new OECs pending an investigation into the deaths of seven OFWs in the Middle Eastern country.

Bello said he doubted the claim that some of the deaths were because of suicide, adding that he has given investigators a maximum of 15 days to produce results.

President Rodrigo Duterte is mulling a “total ban” of OFW deployment to Kuwait after receiving reports of abuses against OFWs, many of them household helpers.

"We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It’s always in Kuwait," Duterte said at the launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank, but did not elaborate on the matter.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said two department officials will meet with the Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines on Monday to discuss the issue.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency shows Kuwait was the fifth top destination for newly-hired and rehired OFWs in 2016. —LBG, GMA News


DOJ charges cops for killing teens Arnaiz, De Guzman

RESTING PLACE. Kulot de Guzman is buried on September 13, 2017. Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler 


MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Caloocan City policemen who allegedly murdered 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, whose deaths fueled outrage against President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. 

In a 35-page resolution released to reporters on Friday, January 19, the DOJ indicted Police Officer (PO) 1 Jeffrey Perez and PO1 Ricky Arquilita with two counts of murder after finding probable cause for the slay of the two teenagers.

Perez and Arquilita were also charged with two counts of torture and 3 counts of planting of evidence (marijuana, shabu, .38 caliber pistol) under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and Section 38 of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.


"They planned and committed all the crimes with a common desire to eliminate their subjects. They even portrayed that the death of Carl Angelo was the product of a shoot-out in a legitimate police/hot pursuit in order to cover up the intended killings of Carl Angelo and Reynaldo 'Kulot,'" the DOJ said.

While made public only on Friday, the resolution was dated December 18, 2017.

Meanwhile, the DOJ dismissed murder raps against against taxi driver Tomas Bagcal, who was allegedly "held up" by Arnaiz before the boy went missing.

"We consider all his acts and alleged participation in the crime committed to be involuntary due to uncontrollable fear for his life and that of his family. There is no overt act on his part that would implicate him in the crime against Carl Angelo and Reynaldo," the resolution said.

Arnaiz and De Guzman both went missing in August 2017. They were residents of Barangay San Andres in Cainta, Rizal.

Arnaiz's body was later found in a Caloocan City morgue days later, with a backpack containing shabu and marijuana in his pockets. The Caloocan City police said that they "tried to apprehend" the boy for robbing Bagcal. (READ: Carl Arnaiz: Smart, skilled, every parent's dream)

In November, De Guzman was found dead with 30 stab wounds in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. (READ: Sleepless mother looks for son who was a friend of Carl Arnaiz)

The Public Attorney's Office filed the double murder case against Caloocan policemen in September 2017.

The deaths of Arnaiz and De Guzman, as well as the killing of another teenager, 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, have triggered more intense criticism of Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign. (READ: The Impunity Series–


Active-duty troops to get free ride in LRT-2


Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 2 (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Starting Saturday, all troopers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be able to ride the trains of the Light Rail Transit 2 (LRT-2) free of charge.


This is to honor the heroism and sacrifices made by soldiers in safeguarding the country against all forms of security threats, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said.

Last Dec. 19, the AFP signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) for a partnership, giving due recognition to the sacrifices of men in uniform by offering them a free ride on LRT-2 trains.

Garcia said the MOA stipulates that all active military personnel, even in civilian attire, are entitled to ride the LRT-2 (Santolan-Recto), free of charge, upon showing their AFP identification cards as access pass.

The MOA was signed by then AFP Civil Relations Service head Maj. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista and LRTA administrator Reynaldo Berroya.

Garcia said the MOA was noted by AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero and approved by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“We are very thankful to the LRT Authority for their show of support to our troops in performing their duties. This is a big help to our soldiers. This certainly boosts the morale of our troops and gives us more reason to perform better in our mandate of serving the people and protecting the state,” Guerrero said.

Aside from this partnership, both parties are looking forward to advance coordination to enable the AFP to provide ambulance and medical teams to assist the LRTA in emergency and crisis situations.


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