Opinion & Community

DOTr to pursue unsolicited proposal for MRT-3 maintenance, operation

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is pursuing an unsolicited proposal for the 30-year operation and maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit-3 to end the blame game associated with the repeated breakdowns of the MRT-3’s rolling stocks.

“Many of MRT-3’s problems in recent years resulted from successive short-term and fragmented maintenance contracts, and from finger-pointing due to having different entities maintaining and operating MRT-3,” the DOTr said in a statement over the weekend.

“DOTr is addressing this by pursuing an unsolicited proposal for the 30-year operation and maintenance of MRT-3. Original proponent status has been given to the proponent, Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., and the proposal will be soon endorsed to NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority],” it added.

The DOTr also said it has formalized an arrangement with Japan for assistance in rehabilitating and maintaining the MRT-3, with the government of Japan nominating a service provider that “must be highly qualified and with a proven track record.”

The agency also apologized for the a smoke emitted from one of the seats of an MRT-3 train on Friday afternoon, causing the unloading of 600 passengers who had to walk along the sides of the railway to the nearest stations. The incident happened between the Cubao and Kamuning stations.

“The DOTr expresses [its]sincere apologies to those who were affected and inconvenienced by the recent smoke incident,” the DOTr said.

“Fault analysis is ongoing and in the interest of accuracy and transparency, DOTr has directed MRT-3 management to release to the public their technical findings at the soonest possible time,” it added.

The former maintenance provider for the MRT-3, Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), said DOTr must stop blaming other parties and take full responsibility over the recent problems experienced by the MRT-3.

“DOTr fails to recall the fact that when they hurriedly took over the maintenance of the MRT3, it was an operational and safe MRT3. They failed to organize a transition team, composed of experienced rail engineers, to ensure the continuing safety and efficient maintenance of the MRT3,” BURI said.

“Is it not obvious that under BURI’s watch, such incidents like the uncoupling of trains on the mainline never happened?” the company added.

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Ex-PCSO execs told: Return P14-M bonuses


The Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered former board members of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to return P13.75 million in unauthorized benefits and bonuses they received from September 2010 to December 2011.

In a recently released decision dated Dec. 13, the COA denied the appeal of former PCSO Chair Margarita Juico and former General Manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II to set aside the six notices of disallowance dated Jan. 10, 2013.

Suspended

 

The COA said the grant of P11.8 million in allowances and incentives violated Executive Order Nos. 7 and 19, which in 2010 suspended such benefits for board members of government corporations.

The PCSO argued that the benefits had presidential approval purportedly under the “continuing authority” contained in the Jan. 13, 1998, letter of former President Joseph Estrada.

But the COA pointed out that Estrada’s letter only pertained to allowances for the years 1997 and 1998 and not for the subsequent years.

 

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Solon: Crackdown on leftist groups will lead to more abuses

DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat that he will go after groups he accused of being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spells “open season” for individuals who are fighting for the poor, a party-list lawmaker said on Sunday.

“The President’s statement is clearly declaring an open season to further justify atrocities against activists and legal mass organizations in the country,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao told the Inquirer.

Upon his return from India on Saturday, Mr. Duterte said he would “go after the legal fronts,” referring to groups with alleged ties to the CPP.

The President said these groups were involved in illegal activities like collecting taxes for rebels.

He said he was just waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on his proclamation branding the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups.

Mr. Duterte said the “enemies of the state” could expect the full force of the government because “my orders are really to destroy, to destroy the apparatus.”

More rights abuses seen

Casilao, a townmate of the President, said these pronouncements would worsen human rights violations under the Duterte administration.

He said 126 cases of extrajudicial killings, of which 110 targeted farmers and indigenous people, had taken place since Mr. Duterte became President in 2016.

Tyrannical rule

“By ordering such crackdown, he virtually gives the military, the police and state-sanctioned paramilitary groups the green light to run after members of mass organizations from the city and mostly in poor rural areas,” said the Anakpawis lawmaker.

 

Casilao said the President was endorsing the commission of human rights violation against the people. “It’s a one step closer move to an open fascist-tyrannical rule.”

He noted that this was not the first time that Mr. Duterte had urged the military to commit human rights violations.

“He wanted to bomb lumad schools accusing it as rebel institution,” Casilao said.

Instead of blaming progressive groups for the insurgency, Casilao said the President could have simply looked at the roots of the social unrest, such as widespread poverty and income inequality in the country.

He said poverty was being worsened by antipoor government programs like the new tax law.

Revive peace talks

Casilao suggested that Mr. Duterte revive peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the CPP.

“It is not too late to reconsider the resumption of the peace talks as it will resolve the root causes of the decadeslong armed conflict,” he added.

The President suspended peace talks with the NDFP in May last year, accusing communist rebels of attacking government forces while holding negotiations.

Last Nov. 23, Mr. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that formally terminated the talks.

Eleven days later, he issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations.

The suspension of the talks dashed hopes of ending the almost five decades of communist rebellion in the country. —Allan Nawal

 

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CBCP to PNP: Please, no more ‘Tokhang’ kills

PROTEST VS KILLINGS Relatives of slain drug suspects light candles to remember their loved ones at a Church-sponsored gathering in Manila. —RICHARD A. REYES

Catholic bishops have appealed to the authorities to ensure that a fresh crackdown on narcotics will not lead to a further “waste” of human life as the Philippine National Police relaunches “Oplan Tokhang” on Monday for a more active role in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs.

In the old “Oplan Tokhang,” police visited homes of drug users and suspected drug dealers anytime and sought their surrender.

This time, however, the visitations will be carried out only during daytime and under new guidelines aimed at preventing the killing of suspects, such as the carnage that characterized the first 18 months of the war on drugs.

 

In a statement issued in Cebu during the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Sunday, Archbishop Romulo Valles, the new CBCP president, urged the police to always follow the law in dealing with drug suspects.

“We pray that the police follow the prescribed steps in implementing the law … steps that should be done in exercising their responsibility as policemen,” Valles said.

“Let us inspire them to follow the necessary steps when they need to apprehend and as much as possible, we make sure that we do not waste any lives,” he added.

‘Reign of terror’

The CBCP has sharply criticized Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, calling it “reign of terror” in poor communities.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the drug war has taken the lives of more than 12,000 people since the launch of the campaign in June 2016.

The PNP disputes the HRW figure, saying only 3,987 people have been killed in antinarcotics operations, while 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation are drug-related.

The bishops appealed for an end to the killings while calling for the country to “start healing.”

 

The killings abated after Mr. Duterte demoted the PNP from the lead role in the drug war last October after the execution of three minors in Caloocan City sparked widespread public anger that pulled down his ratings.

The President also disbanded the PNP antinarcotics force after several officers from the unit were involved in the kidnapping and killing of a South Korean businessman in an operation disguised as a Tokhang visit.

Mr. Duterte gave the pursuit of the drug war to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), a small force that PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa had openly doubted could effectively handle the country’s drug problem.

The President allowed the PNP to back up the PDEA. It’s unclear, however, why he has allowed the relaunch of Tokhang.

Killings never stopped

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David earlier expressed concern that the daily killings might happen again with the relaunch of the police campaign.

“Tokhang was suspended but the killing of alleged drug suspects never really stopped. What to expect with [this] relaunching? Your guess is as good as mine,” David said in a post on Facebook.

David demanded an update on the cases of thousands of killings during the first two editions of Tokhang.

He said the lack of credible findings on those cases would only make the third iteration of Tokhang a cause for concern.

Police, however, are promising changes in the pursuit of the campaign.

Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, on Sunday said police officers would no longer conduct “One-Time, Big-Time” (OTBT) operations this time.

Thirty-two people were killed in 24 hours when the PNP launched the first OTBT operation in Bulacan province last Aug. 15.

In Metro Manila, 25 people were killed in similar operations two days later.

‘Oplan Galugad’

This time, however, “[t]hat ‘One-Time, Big-Time’ operation term is no more,” Albayalde said in a radio interview. “What we have is ‘Oplan Galugad.’”

“Galugad” means “search.” In police operations, it refers to the search for contraband or illegal drugs, Albayalde said.

He also said the list of suspected drug users used in Tokhang should not be considered an “order of battle.”

Lists of suspected addicts come from barangay antidrug abuse councils and are validated by the police and the PDEA every three months, Albayalde said.

“It does not mean that if you are [on] the list, it is like you are in the order of battle. It’s just a watch list. You are not guilty if you are included in the list,” he added.

Oplan Tokhang, he said, is different from the actual undercover antidrug operations like buy-busts.

“Oplan Tokhang now is when you go to the houses with drug dependents who are [on] the watch list. This is unlike before when you go anywhere and you knock on all the houses,” he said.

Only officers designated as “Tokhangers” may conduct Tokhang operations, Albayalde said.

“They should be in uniform and they are accompanied by barangay officials. If possible [reporters] and sometimes [members of human rights groups] or our churches [should also join],” he said. —With a report from the wires

 

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Passengers reminded not to put cash, expensive items in check-in luggage

(Manila Bulletin)

 

Airport officials urged all passengers not to put any money and expensive items inside their check-in luggage because the airlines will not responsible for any lost item unless it was declared and additional fees have been paid as insurance cover.

Airport general manager Ed Monreal said they are going to put 100 security personnel under MIAA who will be equipped with high-definition body cameras to secure and record all activities of all personnel involved in transporting luggage from the aircraft to the terminals and vice versa.

Monreal also said all airlines under contract with their choice service providers who handle the cargoes will also be equipped with cameras upon entering the tarmac of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals provided by the airlines or the service providers 24/7 during operations.

All employees working at the tarmac should wear pocket-less suits. No wearing of any kind of jewelry, no cellular phones, and no extra-size boots for workers will also be allowed

Hopefully, with those cameras and additional intelligence officers, we will unmask and arrest all those people who are involved in the pilferage that victimized incoming and outgoing passengers’ luggage, he said.

Monreal advised the public to report immediately anything strange they have noticed with their luggage to their airline first–and not in social media–so airline personnel can immediately act and investigate the matter.

He also said pilferage happens in all airports in the world. Pilferage also happens at the point of origin not only in Philippine airports.

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Siblings nabbed with P7.2-M shabu from Malaysia —PDEA

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has arrested two men peddling suspected shabu from Malaysia.

In a 24 Oras report on Saturday, the suspects were identified as siblings Absurasid and Abdul Aziz Jaman Asaali.

The siblings were arrested in a buy-bust operation in Fairview, Quezon City.

Seized from the two suspects were more or less one kilogram of shabu with a street value of P7.2 million.

A PDEA agent said in the 24 Oras report that the shabu seized from the siblings came from Malaysia, smuggled to the country through the Zambasulta area (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) in Mindanao.

The PDEA said the from Zambasulta, the brothers rented a private vehicle and traveled to various various ports until they reached Metro Manila.

The agency said that it is now coordinating with port authorities after the discovery of this new way of smuggling drugs into Metro Manila and other parts of the country. —report from Jamie Santos/ALG, GMA News

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Expect a rainy week due to easterlies, cold front – PAGASA

The state weather bureau said Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy and will experience isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms. Daniel Go/CC BY-NC, File photo
MANILA, Philippines — Several provinces, including Metro Manila, will experience cloudy skies and light to heavy rains for the entire week as north-easterlies and the tail-end of a cold front continue to prevail over the country, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration said.

In its weekly weather forecast, the PAGASA said that for Sunday and Monday (January 28 and 29) cloudy skies with rainshowers and thunderstorms are expected along the coastal areas of Surigao, Davao Oriental, Dinagat Islands and Siargao Island due to the north-easterlies.

The state weather bureau said Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy and will experience isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms.

For Tuesday and Wednesday, the PAGASA said the diffused tail-end of a cold front will bring partly cloudy to cloudy skies with rainshowers and thunderstorms in Samar provinces, Southern Leyte, Surigao provinces, Davao Oriental and Dinagat Islands and Siargao Island.

The PAGASA said north-easterlies will also bring passing light rains over Rizal, parts of Quezon province and Camarines provinces.

The rest of the country, including Metro Manila, will be partly cloudy with isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms, PAGASA said.

By Thursday, Samar provinces, Leyte provinces, Bohol, Surigao, Davao Oriental and Dinagat and Siargao Islands will experience partly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms, while Metro Manila and the rest of the country can also expect isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms.

On Friday, the north-easterlies is forecasted to bring partly cloudy to cloudy skies and passing light rains over Batanes and Babuyan group of islands, Northern Cagayan, upper part of Ilocos Norte, Isabela and Aurora.

The diffused tail-end of a cold front, meanwhile, will bring partly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms over Rizal, some parts of Quezon, Northern Samar, Northern Leyte, Oriental Mindoro, Northern Panay, Romblon and Masbate, as well as over Davao Region, Surigao provinces, South Cotabato, Dinagat and Siargao Islands.

“Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms,” the PAGASA said.

As of Saturday, the PAGASA said no tropical cyclone is expected to form or enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility or PAR.

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Duterte denies any hand in filing of raps vs Aquino on Mamasapano incident

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte–PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DAVAO CITY – President Duterte on Saturday publicly denied any hand in the filing of charges against his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, in connection with the deaths three years ago of 44 members of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The charges for graft and usurpation of authorities against Aquino were filed by the Ombudsman at the Sandiganbayan on November 8 last year.

The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) – whose officials were known to be close allies of Duterte’s – had also filed a complaint but the Ombudsman dismissed it in July after finding “no probable cause” to charge Aquino with reckless imprudence.

 

Speaking to reporters here after his arrival from a state visit to India, Duterte said he had no hand in the filing of the charges against his predecessor.

“It is not my style. It is not in my system,” he said, adding that he was also not behind the filing of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombdusman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Duterte said he had also decided not to form the Mamasapano Commission to investigate the botched anti-terror operation that also killed 25 Moro gunmen and civilians.

“Not anymore because I realized that once again…anyway, it (the case) had been filed already. What more do you want?” Duterte asked.

“It’s already there, Pnoy (Aquino) had been sued,” he said.

It was on January 23 last year when Duterte – in a speech delivered before the anniversary of the now infamous Mamasapano incident – announced he was creating the commission “which would be like the Agrava Commission.”

“I will create a commission of seven. I will appoint men of integrity and honor. If they will accept it, I will choose mostly justices of the Supreme Court and few of the civilian sector, maybe a lawyer. I would not recommend someone I know,” he added.

“We will bestow to the commission the powers exactly given to the Agrava commission, during the time of Aquino’s death. Let us see,” he was, in reference to the Marcos-created board that investigated the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

 

But on Saturday, Duterte said even without the commission, “we can only presume that they (Aquino and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima) did it in the wrong way.”

“Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Mamasapano, I can’t (understand). There’s only one regret,” he said.

Duterte said the Aquino government could have used all the resources at hand to save lives during the clashes.

“My sentiment is, because the place has many (Tactical Operations Group), of the Air Force,” he said.

Duterte said help did not come for the embattled policemen.

“Now, they were pinned down, started in the 11, maybe 10 o’ clock in the morning. They were already pinned down. Sunset came (and no help arrived),” he added.

Duterte spared the military from blame saying “(t)he Army was not authorized to do anything because this was an exclusive affair.”

“Now we will know. I’m not prepared to accuse personally. My only question was why did you allow the (poliemen) to be pinned down and die?” he asked, obviously addressing Aquino./asu

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Sereno camp: Gadon ‘ignorant’ of legal process

(L-R) Atty. Justine Mendoza, Atty. Anzen Dy, counsel of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and spokesperson Atty. Josa Deinla arrive at the committee on justice in congress to file a rejoinder to the complaint of Atty. Larry Gadon. INQUIRER file photo / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is confident that the criminal case filed by principal impeachment complainant Atty. Larry Gadon will never prosper.

Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said Gadon was “ignorant” of the law and the processes when he filed a graft complaint against the top magistrate with the “wrong office.”
Gadon on Friday, January 26, filed a complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees against Sereno before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“By filing a complaint with the Department of Justice against a government official immune from suit and filing it with the wrong office only reinforces and further exposes Atty. Gadon’s ignorance of the law and the processes,” Deinla said in a statement on Saturday.

 

“This is yet another desperate and laughable attempt by Atty. Gadon to push his sinister plot to remove the Chief Justice from office, fully aware that his impeachment complaint has no basis at all,” the spokeswoman stressed.

The lawyer said this was for her alleged failure to submit her statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) for more than 15 years when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).

However, Deinla said Sereno has been “accurately and properly” filing her SALNs since she was appointed to the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012 and when she became Chief Justice in 2012.

“Her earnings from private law practice before she became an Associate Justice are reflected in her ITR (income tax return) filings and only the assets remaining from these earnings are reflected in her current SALNs,” Deinla said.

Moreover, lawyer Carlo Cruz, another spokesperson for Sereno, said in a text message that the Chief Justice was given a Certificate of Clearance dated Sept. 19, 2011 by the UP’s Human Resources Development Office.

The clearance, Cruz said, affirmed that Sereno “has been cleared of all academic/administrative responsibilities.”

“This would of course, include the SALN requirements,” he added.

Deinla then skewered Gadon’s act as “just another publicity stunt to attract the attention of the public whose interest in the ongoing impeachment proceedings is waning.”

“They know that all the allegations against the Chief Justice are mere concoctions to unjustly oust her,” she said. /jpv

 

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