Opinion & Community

Duterte eyes total ban on deployment to Kuwait over Pinays’ deaths

he flag of Kuwait flies over a man. (Reuters)
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to oil-rich Kuwait following what he called the “unacceptable” deaths of four Filipinas there.

“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 in Manila Thursday.

Duterte said he discussed the issue with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who he instructed to talk to the Kuwaiti government, “state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore. Either we impose a total ban or you can have the correction.”

“I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about this,” he stressed.

Sought for comment, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they need to first investigate the real causes of death of the four women. But, he added, “if the death is a result of maltreatment of their employers, that’s another thing. I will not hesitate to impose a total ban.”


Fariñas protests ‘railroading’ raps on con-ass resolution

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (Reuters File)
MANILA, Philippines — “False, unfounded and unfair.”

This was how Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas described accusations by colleagues from the Makabayan bloc that the pro-administration “supermajority” in the House of Representatives had “railroaded” the adoption of the resolution calling for a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.

“Nothing at all had been railroaded,” Fariñas said, insisting in a statement that House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 was the “product of democratic and exhaustive debates not just in the plenary hall … but in nationwide public consultations.”

The resolution calls on the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene into a constituent assembly to revise or amend the Charter. other modes of amending the Constitution are through a constitutional convention and through a people’s initiative.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc claim the resolution was hastily approved on Tuesday, January 16, even while several House members were still interpellating.

But Fariñas maintained that lawmakers were given enough time to study the proposal, from the time the committee report was filed in February 2017, calendared in the House Order of Business in March 2017, and sponsored on the floor in December 2017.

He reminded his colleagues that the move to amend the Constitution was not new as it has been discussed in the previous congresses.

“The clamor for Charter change has long been there. It is time we seriously consider it for the benefit of our country and our people,” he said.


BLACK FRIDAY | Bloggers for Freedom’ blast ‘moves to silence, scare’ media as Palace vows maximum tolerance

MANILA, Philippines — Some of the Philippines’ most prominent bloggers came out Friday, January 19, to support the first of a series of “Black Friday” protests against the threatened closure of news site Rappler and other threats to freedom of the press and expression as Malacañang vowed to observe maximum tolerance.

The “Bloggers for Freedom” simultaneously issued a statement late Friday morning, saying they were standing “for the rights to free expression and to free speech” and that their “first responsibility is to protect these rights.”

“We thus stand with Rappler, its right to exist, the rights of its working journalists and contributors, and the rights of its community of readers,” they said as they denounced “moves to silence and scare journalists, bloggers and media practitioners just because the President and his ardent supporters dislike their news and views.”

Some 60 bloggers, including past winners of the Philippine Blog Awards as well as veterans of past campaigns in defense of lumad rights, disaster relief and environmental protection, signed the statement:

Loi Landicho of The Professional Heckler, Pinoy Ako Blog’s Jover Laurio, Helga Weber, lawyer Jesus Falcis, Jane Uymatiao, Dale Bacar, Rod Magaru, Ely Valendez, Marcelle Fabie, Global Voices’ Karlo Mongaya, former congressman Raymond Palatino, thought-leader Stefan Punongbayan; Technology blogger Jam Ancheta, journalists Julius Mariveles and Inday Espina Varona, finance guru Fitz Villafuerte, professional photographer Fritz Tentativa, UP professor Mykel Andrada, tour guide Carlos Celdran, travel bloggers Estan Cabigas, Enrico Dee, Melo Villareal, Acee Vitangcol and Czarina Maye Noche;

Eugene Alvin Villar, Julius Rocas, Jon Limjap, Markku Seguerra, Hancel Reyes, JM Mariano, JM Tuazon, Brian Ong, Flow Galindez, Jane Uymatiao, Johnn Mendoza, Reginald Agsalon, John Clifford Sibayan, Ramon Nocon, Mc Richard Viana Paglicawan, Saul de Jesus,;Rhadem Camlian Morados, Yusuf Ledesma, Myk Mykapalaran Cruz, Tina Antonio, Renz Daniel de Vera, Alex Lapa, Tess Termulo, Zena Bernardo, James Romer V. Velina, Ricky Rivera, Mark Will Mayo Magallanes, Eyriche Cortez, RJ Barrete, Peachy Tan,, Christian Melanie, Jann Medina, Carlo Arvisu, Reynaldo Pagsolingan Jr., and Dino Manrique.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque claimed the Black Friday protest “is a testament that freedom is alive and democracy is alive in the Philippines.”

“The Palace position on the matter remains clear and consistent: We allow public displays of constructive criticism as part of full exercise of the protesters’ rights to express their grievances.”

“Authorities, as a matter of standard operating procedure, will observe maximum tolerance and respect the protesters’ right to peaceful assembly,” he added.

Aside from the Metro Manila rally at the Scout Circle on Timog and Tomas Morato, protests will also be held in several major cities in the provinces.

Among the groups that are joining or voiced support for Black Friday are the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, which was “formed during martial law to defend and uphold press freedom.”

“Today we stand firm and encourage our members to wear black and support the protest this evening,” it said.

Among the groups that organized Black Friday are the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the media and artists alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity, the alternative media consortium Altermidya and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.


Legazpi City decamps 11,000 Mayon evacuees

Lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Over 9,000 people have evacuated the area around the Philippines’ most active volcano as lava flowed down its crater Monday in a gentle eruption that scientists warned could turn explosive. (AP Photo/Dan Amaranto)
LEGAZPI CITY—At least 2,610 families or 11,522 persons from the 8 to 8.5 kilometer radius of Mount Mayon were decamped in Legazpi City on Thursday night.

Evacuees were from the barangays (villages) of Padang, Buyuan, Mabinit, Matanag and Bonga.

Miladee Azur, head of City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the decision was made after Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum reiterated that the most threatened in the recent activities of Mayon Volcano are residents inside the 6 to 7 kilometer radius.

“As per advisory by [Phivolcs] Director Solidum in a bulletin, with alert level 3, the areas within the Southeastern part inside the 7 kilometer radius are affected. It means, there’s actually no reason for them to evacuate but they were fearful when they saw (the activities of) Mayon Volcano,” she said.
Azur said though the evacuation on Monday was voluntary, most of the evacuees wanted to go back to their houses when they knew that the most affected are within the 7-kilometer radius.
“That was voluntary evacuation. It was not a mandatory evacuation. We just accommodated their willingness to evacuate because they couldn’t sleep at night,” she added.
Based on the latest data of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, 6,973 families or 26,971 persons were still in evacuation centers in the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Tabaco City, and Ligao City. Ma. April Mier, @MaAprilMierINQ, Inquirer Southern Luzon



Int’l journos slam SEC ruling vs Rappler; asks UN, Asean to make a stand

A rappler employee exits its office at the Capitol Commons in Pasig on Monday, January 15, 2018 after Maria Reesa and Chay Hofilena gave a press briefing to media as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) orders the revocation of its license to operate. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE
An international group of journalists has called on the United Nations (UN), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make a stand against the Philippine government’s decision to revoke the license of online news site, Rappler, as it is a “flagrant violation of media freedom.”

On Friday, French-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders or RSF) condemned the ruling of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking Rappler’s articles of incorporation “on trumped-up legal grounds.”

“The decision to close Rappler is fraught with danger, hence the urgency of referring it to these international bodies,” RSF deputy director-general Antoine Bernard said in a statement.

“We are very concerned about the safety of its journalists and the protection of their sources, especially as Rappler is well known for the quality of its investigative reporting,” Bernard added.
In an order dated January 11, the SEC alleged that Rappler violated the restriction on foreign ownership of local media, the anti-dummy law, the corporation code, and the Securities Regulation Code.
The body pointed out that Rappler’s Philippine depositary receipts (PDR) issued to one of its foreign investors, Omidyar Network, requires the news company to seek the investor’s approval on corporate matters.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has denied the allegations, saying the order to shut down the news outfit was a political pressure over their stories critical of the government.
The order drew wide criticism from media groups, saying the move was an attack to press freedom. Centerlaw, the former law firm of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, said that the SEC decision was unconstitutional for denying Rappler due process as it was a form of prior restraint.
Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said that the Duterte administration’s “troll army” has been spreading the rumor online that Rappler is foreign-owned.
“The president is clearly trying to exploit nationalist sentiment in order to silence a media outlet that annoys his clique. But the legal grounds offered for this decision are contradicted by the hard facts,” Bastard said.

RSF maintained that Rappler is 100 percent Filipino-owned, based on its media ownership monitoring study conducted in partnership with VERA Files.
“Rappler Holding Corp. is an example of financial transparency. It has received some foreign investment, including from Omidyar Network and North Base Media, but this has been in the form of PDR that do not imply any form of ownership,” the statement read.
“RSF supports Rappler’s decision to appeal against this iniquitous decision, one based entirely on false information,” it added.
The SEC order, apparently, was only the first of the series of moves against Rappler. In a subpoena released on Thursday, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) summoned Ressa and former Rappler reporter, Reynaldo Santos Jr., to answer a complaint for cybercrime.
The subpoena stemmed from a cybercrime complaint filed by Chinese-Filipino businessman Wilfredo Keng, one of the subjects of an investigative report by Rappler in 2012.
READ: Rappler’s Maria Ressa , ex-reporter summoned to NBI for cybercrime raps
The Rappler report indicated that Keng’s sports utility vehicle was used by the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The NBI required Ressa and Santos to appear at their headquarters in Manila and submit their testimonies on January 22. /kga



Bato: PNP raising bail fund for cops in mistaken identity shooting

The body of a slain worker is seen next to the bullet-riddled AUV on Shaw Boulevard in Barangay Old Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong City. STAR/Joven Cagande, File
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s top cop on Friday said the Philippine National Police is raising funds to help the relieved police officers, who mistakenly shot at a vehicle and killed two of its passengers in Mandaluyong, to post bail.

Two people were killed and two others were wounded last month in a shooting incident along Shaw Boulevard, where law enforces mistakenly opened fire at a vehicle bringing a gunshot victim to the hospital.

The police were deployed to assist barangay watchmen who were pursuing a white van they thought was carrying the shooter in an earlier incident.

According to PNP chief Director-General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, the policemen and village officials involved in the fatal shooting were already charged with double homicide and double frustrated homicide.

A warrant of arrest, which set the recommended bail bond, has also been issued, Dela Rosa added.

“We’re putting up bail fund for them. So that’s our moral responsibility because those cops are our men,” Dela Rosa told CNN Philippines.

“They were performing their duties during the time although they made a mistake. But still deep inside them there was no ill motive in that operation,” he added.

Malacañang earlier assured the public that there will be no whitewash in the investigation of the shooting incident in Mandaluyong City.

The PNP is already facing unprecedented scrutiny due to concerns about their conduct during anti-narcotics operations.

Thousands of suspected drug traffickers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed his lethal drug war, with human rights group saying most of the fatalities in the crackdown were extrajudicial killings committed by cops.

But the police force, which continues to enjoy Duterte’s trust despite previously calling them “corrupt to the core,” had denied executing suspects in cold blood, saying they only killed in self defense.

In the same live television interview with CNN Philippines, Dela Rosa said the mistaken identity shooting was completely unacceptable, but “shit happens.”

"So they have to face the consequences of their actions," he said.


Senate to probe P15.5-B PH warships project

PROBE. The Senate is set to investigate the controversy hounding the P15.5-billion warships project of the Philippine Navy, amid accusations Special Assistant to the President Bong Go intervened in the deal.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Senate is set to investigate the P15.5-billion Philippine warships deal, amid allegations that Special Assistant to the President Bong Go intervened in the project.

The minority bloc filed Senate Resolution 584 on January 16, directing the Senate committee on national defense and security and the congressional oversight committee on the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act to conduct an inquiry on the status of its implementation, including the acquisition of the two Philippine Navy frigates.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Leila de Lima signed the resolution.

In calling for an investigation, the Senate opposition said the committees should “determine whether or not such acquisition promotes the goals of the modernization program and complies with pertinent laws.”

When asked, the office of Senator Gregorio Honasan – chair of the Senate committee – said it would push through with the probe and was fixing the schedule.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III also said they would investigate the deal. “Yes, [the] resolution is referred already to the committee,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, however, is against it.

“Waste of time. We are so busy….Wala naman 'yun eh (It's nothing). They are making a mountain out of a molehill,” Sotto said.

It remains unclear as of posting if Go would be invited to the hearing.

The Department of National Defense welcomed the investigation.

"The Department of National Defense welcomes the plan of the Senate to conduct an investigation on the Frigate Acquisition Project. In fact, we have long been waiting for the opportunity to shed light on this issue so that the truth will finally be known," DND Spokesperson Director Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Malacañang's role?

Go, President Rodrigo Duterte’s closest aide, is alleged to have intervened in the selection of the supplier for the Combat Management Systems (CMS), likened to a brain of a ship, of the two Navy frigates.

The contract was awarded to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The parts and systems of the ship, including the critical CMS however, are to be provided by a secondary supplier that is supposed to be chosen based on the technical specifications of the contract.

The project is in an early stage – the Critical Design Review (CDR) – which is expected to list down, among others, the secondary suppliers.

The CDR needs to be approved by the Navy before the actual work to build the ship begins.

That is where they stalled. The Department of National Defense (DND), HHI, and Navy had been debating the CMS.

The Navy has not yet approved the CDR, meaning construction of the ships cannot start.

Go allegedly intervened by sending a white paper to the DND expressing preference for Hanwha Thales, a South Korean company, as the supplier for the CMS.

In January last year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana gave the white paper to then Navy Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado, who insisted on the Navy’s position that they choose Tacticos Thales of the Netherlands because of its "proven technology." (READ: Ousted PH Navy fhied wanted 'proven technology' for warships)

Barely a week after the white paper was sent to Mercado, Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, then with the Presidential Management Staff under Go, arranged a meeting with the Navy team in charge of the project to discuss the selection of the CMS supplier. (READ: [EXCLUSIVE] Undersecretary in Bong Go's office confirms letter on frigate deal)

Mercado was relieved from his post mid-December 2017.

Go issued a blanket denial of the allegations, saying he never directly or indirectly intervened in the project.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, said Go's office does relay papers of reference and other documents to line agencies concerned, as a matter of procedure. (READ: Malacañang claims no chance Bong Go intervened in frigate deal)

Malacañang also denounced the report, saying the bidding of the project happened under the Aquino administration.

The Palace, however, disregarded the fact that the alleged intervention happened during the impasse in the project’s implementation – which was already under the Duterte administration. – Rappler.com


Cha-cha train will get derailed, Drilon warns

The House of Representatives’ Charter change (Cha-cha) train would get derailed even before it leaves the station, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned on Friday.
Drilon’s statement came after House leaders insisted that nothing would stop the “Cha-cha express train” even without senators onboard.

Last Tuesday, the House adopted Concurrent Resolution No. 9, which seeks to convene Congress into a Constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the Charter.

The lower chamber is also pushing for a joint voting of the Congress, which the Senate is strongly opposing.
“The House Cha-cha train will get derailed even before it leaves the station—the Filipino people will see the real plan in federalism: suspend elections, extend the terms of members of Congress, and do away with the check and balance system by abolishing the Senate,” Drilon said in a statement.
When asked about House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ statement urging the public not to vote for senators who do not support federalism, the Minority Leader said: “The issue at this point is the brazen move of the House to impose and railroad Cha-cha without public debate and participation.”
“But having said that, the senators are willing to face the people on their stand on federalism,” he added.
Lawmakers have yet to decide on whether the proposed Constitutional amendment should be through a Constitutional convention (Con-con), where changes would be proposed by representatives elected by the people, or through a Con-ass to be composed of sitting legislators.
After agreeing on the mode of Cha-cha and consequently proposing amendments, a referendum by the Filipino people would be held to approve these changes. /jpv



Polk Co. egg farm accused of animal abuse after undercover video released

LAKE WALES (FOX 13) - An egg farm in Polk County is under fire from an animal rights organization that released video Tuesday, saying it shows chickens suffering serious abuse.

The Animal Recovery Mission, or ARM, said it conducted an investigation that lasted about three weeks during which an undercover worker was hired by Cal-Maine Foods' Lake Wales egg farm.

The ARM activist claims to have witnessed and recorded deplorable conditions, including chickens crammed into cages and, in some cases, living with dead birds, as well as quarters that were infested with cockroaches.

During a news conference, Richard Couto, ARM's founder, told reporters his organization had a suspicion it would find unlivable conditions inside the chickens' housing systems, known as battery cages, and he believes that's what was recorded on video.

"What we basically wanted to do was to see what was going on behind closed doors at the Cal-Maine corporation and more in general, battery cage systems in the state of Florida," Couto said. "We found horrific conditions, some of the dirtiest, filthiest of battery cage farms every investigated in our country."

Couto said some of Cal-Maine's workers are guilty of serious abuse, sometimes hitting escaped chickens with sticks or even killing them with their bare hands.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office charged Matthew Faulkner, a former Cal-Maine worker, with animal cruelty based on the video recorded by ARM.

"They were being trampled to death by workers, they were being thrown against walls, they were being stomped on, they were being actually drowned in their own feces in the gallows," Couto said. "They were dying very long deaths of starvation."

Cal-Maine acknowledged one of its now-former workers was caught on video abusing a hen and told FOX 13 that worker was immediately fired.

In a statement, Cal-Maine said it is an "industry leader in implementing animal welfare measures" and called the video "staged."

The company put the blame on the ARM undercover worker, who had been hired as a hen caregiver. Cal-Maine said that man, "chose to disregard required farm procedures as part of his intent to misrepresent our efforts to provide proper care for our hens."

An inspection earlier this month by the Florida Department of Agriculture found no violations.

ARM, however, stands by its report and said this is one step in its long-term goal to "break open the door of these operations [and] show the public where their food is coming from."

Cal-Maine is a major egg supplier for Walmart and Publix. ARM is hoping the two major chain stores will sever ties with Cal-Maine until it addresses the alleged abuse. In a statement, a Walmart spokesperson said:

"We do not tolerate the mistreatment of animals and we’re working with our suppliers to quickly and thoroughly investigate the actions shown in the video...and to take the appropriate steps to help ensure this unacceptable behavior cannot continue. We take animal rights seriously and have strict policies in place to hold our suppliers accountable.”

A Publix spokesperson said they became aware of the undercover video Tuesday, and have not received any eggs from the particular Cal-Main Foods Inc. farm in Lake Wales.

"In addition, our own associates have visited the Cal-Maine farms that provide eggs to Publix to conduct animal well-being assessments. These farms are also audited annually by third party animal welfare experts. Based on all the information we have at this time, we have made the decision to continue doing business with Cal-Maine. We will continue to monitor the animal welfare programs of Cal-Maine and our other suppliers."

Couto has spent years fighting animal abuse in Florida.

In 2012, his undercover video exposed farms in Citrus Park slaughtering horses for meat. He uncovered the same in 2015 at Rancho Garcia in Loxahatchee, with a video showing horses tortured and slaughtered for meat, and being skinned while still alive.

"Horses were being bought from the show horse community throughout Wellington, from thoroughbred racetracks, from auctions, from Craigslist," Couto said.

And, in November, video from Larson Dairy Farms in Okeechobee showed a cow herder beating, kicking and slapping cows to produce more milk.

"They will do whatever means necessary to get as much milk out of these cows as fast as possible," Couto said after the video came out.

Publix, which, at the time, sold Larson Dairy products, suspended raw milk deliveries from that farm. The owner of the farm fired at least one employee and suspended two others, saying the video goes against everything he stands for.

"Break open the door of these operations, show the public where their food is coming from," Couto said on Tuesday.

His mission is not just to push for awareness, but action. He wants companies to end the use of battery cage systems seen in his video from Lake Wales.

"The alternative is free-range chickens. They live in a pasture. You can buy those eggs at your local grocery store," Couto said.


Watch the video: https://w3.cdn.anvato.net/player/prod/v3/anvload.html?key=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%3D

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