Govt probing suspected bird flu in Nueva Ecija

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Animal Industry will investigate suspected cases of bird flu in two farms in Nueva Ecija province.

Lawyer Alejando Abesamis, the provincial administrator, said the suspected avian flu was detected after laboratory tests on samples from a layer farm in Barangay San Roque in San Isidro town and a farm that breeds quail in Barangay Imbunya in Jaen town.

The samples have been forwarded to the BAI for confirmatory tests.

Nevertheless, Abesamis said they are in talks with the farm owners to convince them to agree to voluntary depopulation.

At the same time, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said they are studying how best to utilize chicken dung, which he admitted was becoming a problem since it cannot be shipped out of Pampanga, the epicenter of the bird flu outbreak.

He said a possibility is to process the waste into fertilizer and use this for vegetable production in lahar-covered areas.

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Robredo tops Mocha’s Twitter poll on possible replacements for Taguiwalo

File photo of Vice President Leni Robredo from Philstar


MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo overwhelmingly topped a survey conducted by Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson on social media platform Twitter on a possible replacement for Judy Taguiwalo, who the Commission on Appointments rejected as Social Welfare secretary.

But presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said it was unlikely President Rodrigo Duterte would base his choice on Uson’s poll.

Uson asked Twitter users who they preferred to replace Taguiwalo from among Robredo, Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Lorraine Badoy, former congresswoman Nikki-Prieto Teodoro, and “others.”

A screen capture as of 11:35 a.m. showed Robredo with 81 percent of the votes, with Badoy taking only 6 percent and Teodoro with 2 percent. “Others” took 11 percent.

Screengrab of the results of Mocha Uson’s Twitter poll as of 11:35 a.m.
Asked to comment on the results, Abella said: “I’m sure the President has other ways of measuring a candidate’s capability aside from surveys.”

Asked why Robredo was not a likely choice for the Social Welfare portfolio, he said, “For the plain and simple reason that, for example she has already resigned, you know, that particular job is a Cabinet level job.”

In July last year, Duterte named Robredo to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, a Cabinet-level post. However, he later instructed her to stop attending Cabinet meetings after which she resigned the position.

Abella said his reply did not mean he was against Robredo. “I’m just saying that it seems to be a difficult choice,” he said.

Many netizens reacting to the survey, meanwhile, mocked Uson, saying the poll results backfired on her alleged motive to “bash” Robredo.

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Pickup in Cavite accident yields dog meat

Slaughtered dogs are seen in a pickup whose driver fled after figuring in a traffic accident in Imus, Cavite. (News5 photo)
IMUS CITY, Cavite — Authorities checking a pickup truck whose driver had fled after colliding with an SUV in Imus Cuty, Cavite Thursday morning found the carcasses of 72 dogs apparently being transported to be sold as food.

Although Republic Act No. 8485, or “The Animal Welfare Act of 1998,” bans the killing of animals other than cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, horse, deer and crocodiles except for cultural, religious, scientific and health reasons, dog meat is still consumed and is considered a delicacy by some.

Although the slaughtered animals were believed being transported to northern Luzon, Imus Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi ordered the inspection of restaurants in the city for the possible sale of the banned meat.

Aside from violating the Animal Welfare Act, the driver of the pickup, identified by police as Terry Baybay, could also be charged for violating the Meat Inspection Act, and be subject to a fine of between P5,000 to P1 million per animal and possible jail time of one to 12 years.

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Customs officials name-dropped Paolo Duterte – broker

MANILA – A Customs broker who is among the key resource persons in ongoing probes into the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday, August 7, said one of President Rodrigo Duterte's sons was being "name-dropped"by individuals he worked with in the bureau.
Testifying during a marathon hearing by the House committee on dangerous drugs, Mark Taguba, a broker who admitted to paying some Customs personnel grease money to make shipments passthrough faster, said several of those whom he worked with name-dropped Paolo Duterte, the President's eldest son.
Paolo "Pulong" Duterte is also the Vice Mayor of Davao City, where his father was mayor for over two decades.
The vice mayor had earlier been linked by former Davao policeman Arthur Lascañas to a shipment of shabu also from China.

Charlie Tan
During a Senate probe into theDavao Death Squad only last March, Lascañas said that the younger Duterte, who was already vice mayor of Davao at the time (early 2010), asked for his help in speeding up the release of a supposed furniture shipment from China.
Lascañas said during the same hearing that a certain Davao-based "Charlie Tan", whom Paolo Dutertehad met in China, asked that he insert "souvenirs" in the container van that the vice mayor was going to ship to Davao City anyway. Paolo Duterte then suspected that drugs – shabu in particular – had been inserted in the container van, Lascañas said.
Tan was supposed to have been arrested on the spot after the van was to be opened, but according to Lascañas, Paolo Duterte instead called him up and said he would take care of Tan himself.
In an October testimony, Lascañas initially denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad and discredited another witness, Edgar Matobato. The former cop later said he was forced to deny everything and apologized to the Senate for the changes in his testimony.

Customs personnel
At the House hearing on Monday, Taguba was unable to give the full names of the Customs personnel whom he allegedly transacted with but only provided the nicknames "Tita Nani", "Jack", and "Small".
The 26-year-old Taguba had earlier been granted legislative immunity and was offered security by the House of Representatives as he testified in a legislative probe into how billions of pesos worth of shabu from China made it past the bureau. The loot was later seized by the BOC and other agencies at a Valenzuela City warehouse.
Taguba clarified that he had never spoken to the younger Duterte himself.
The vice mayor's name was mentioned during the hearing, which ended close to midnight, as legislators discussed the so-called "Davao Group" doing business at the BOC office in Davao City.
On Monday afternoon, Taguba, upon the prodding of legislators, pinpointed Customs officials whose offices had apparently been the beneficiaries of "grease money." He later clarified that he did not transact directly with the chiefs of the offices.
All of the Customs officials accused of corruption denied Taguba's allegations.
Last March, President Duterte said in a speech at the thanksgiving party of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban): "'Pag ang anak ko, anyone of them, ma-involve sa corruption, pera ng gobyerno, I will resign. Wala kayong problema sa akin. Delicadeza."
(If my children, anyone of them, will become involved incorruption, in stealing government funds, I will resign. You won't have any problems with me. Delicadeza.) – Rappler.com

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Senators admit links to 'middleman' in P6.4-B shabu shipment

MANILA – At least 5 senators have links to Kenneth Dong, the alleged middleman in the P6.4-billion shipment of shabu from China.
Dong was a campaign donor of Senator Joel Villanueva in the 2016 elections while Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto as well as senators Risa Hontiveros, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Francis Pangilinan were his wedding sponsors in 2013.
Dong is the supposed link to Richard Tan, the alleged importer of some 604 kilos of illegal drugs from China to Manila.
Villanueva, Zubiri, Hontiveros, and Pangilinan admitted knowing Dong, with Zubiri calling him a"friend." But all denied knowing his involvement in illegal drugs.Recto, however, has yet to respond to queries.
Villanueva said he met Dong at an international agriculture and tourism expo on June 30, 2011, which he attended as then director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). But since then, he said they had no"substantial meeting or interaction."
Villanueva admitted getting campaign contributions from the alleged middleman.
"During the campaign, he was one of the businessmen who contributed when I was doing fundraising activities. I never had a personal interaction with Mr Dong. My campaign manager was the one who received all contributions. My conscience is clear. I barely know Mr Dong," Villanueva said in a text message.
Aside from Villanueva, Hontiveros also received campaign money from Dong. She said she first met Dong in 2012 as a businessman selling industrial weighing scales. In 2013, she said Dong helped in relief operations for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
"Tumulong din siya sa aming electoral na kampanya," Hontiveros said in a text message. (He also helped in our electoral campaign.)
"'Yungcampaign team ko ay may vetting process sa mga magpapakilala at magsasabing gusto nilang tumulong. As far as my campaign team knew then, at sa pagkakaalam ko rin ngayon, siya ay isang lehitimong negosyante,"Hontiveros also said in an interview with ANC on Wednesday, August 9.
(My campaign team had a vetting process for those people introducing themselves and wanting to help. As far as my campaign team knew then, and as far as we know now, he is a legitimate businessman.)

Friend, wedding sponsors
Hontiveros, Zubiri, Recto, and Pangilinan were also wedding sponsors of Dong in 2013.
Zubiri admitted being friends with Dong but said he has not spoken with the latter since December 2016.
"Haven't spoken to him since last Christmas close to 8 months ago and I'm just one of several senators, politicians, and celebrities who were ninong at his wedding. I consider him a friend but I don't know what his dealings are and his business details except for his ownership of Asuki industrial weighing scales," Zubiri said.
Pangilinan said Dong did not contribute to his campaign but confirmed being one of the latter's wedding sponsors.
"No he wasn't a campaign donor. I met Mr Kenneth Dong when I was chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food during my second term as senator. I was the keynote speaker during the international agri tourism summit upon his invitation. InNovember 2013, I became one of the sponsors during his wedding,"Pangilinan said.
Hontiveros said they were all surprised to find out Dong's alleged illegal acts.
"Kaya't pare-parehokaming nagulat nang mabanggit ang kanyang pangalan sa blue ribbon [committee]hearing," Hontiveros said. (That's why we were all shocked when his name was mentioned in the blue ribbon committee hearing.)
Despite their links to the alleged middleman, Villanueva, Zubiri, Pangilinan, and Hontiveros all vowed fairness in investigating Dong.
"No one is above the law,no one should be treated differently in this drug probe. Full force of the law kahit sino pa boss (no matter who your boss is)," Villanueva said.
"We will not condone wrongdoing. We believe those wrongly accused should be absolved and those guilty be held to account regardless of who they are," Pangilinan said.
"If he broke the law then without fear or favor, friend or not, the law must be implemented and those that are guilty should be arrested. There should be zero tolerance for drugs,"Zubiri said. – Rappler.com

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Joma Sison needs professional help for hallucinations – AFP chief Año

Communist Party of thePhilippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison needs professional help inaiding his hallucinations of an alleged assassination plot against him, ArmedForces chief General Eduardo Año said Wednesday.

"I believe Sison needsprofessional psychiatric help to treat his hallucinations," Año said in astatement sent by AFP Public Affairs chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo to the media.

Año made the remark followingthe revelation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines regarding analleged plot by the US Central Intelligence Agency and the AFP to kill Sisonand overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte.

The NDFP, through its nationalexecutive committee, said it received information from several sources in theAFP that military officers who are assets of the CIA and close to Año willexecute the plan.

Military spokesperson BrigadierGeneral Restituto Padilla Jr. earlier denied the allegation, saying thestatement is "once again a propaganda line of the left to gain sympathyand toe the anti-US line."

Año, for his part, said theclaims of the communist rebels where the same in the 1990's when then-PresidentJoseph Estrada and Philippine National Police chief Panfilo Lacson allegedlysent a hit team to The Netherlands.

"If I remember right, 'yandin ang kuwento n'ya nung 1999 during the time of former President Estradawhere he also alleged that a hit team was sent to [Netherlands] by Pres.Estrada and former Chief PNP Dir. Gen. Panfilo Lacson to kill him using former[Alex Buncayao Brigade] and [Rejectionists] Faction operatives," Año said.

"Exactly the same plot asnarrated by Sison. Sison is not only a criminal and master of deception but acongenital liar," he added. — RSJ, GMA News

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Fariñas quizzes Imee Marcos over her pet project with ‘trendy’ name

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Wednesday quizzed Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos on the creation of her pet project "P-Imee," which he alleged to have received a "lump sum" amount of more than P57 million.
During the continuation of theHouse inquiry into Ilocos Norte tobacco excise tax mess, Fariñas asked Marcos about the legal basis for the establishment of her pet project.
Marcos said "P-Imee,"or the Programang Ikauunlad ng Mamamayan, Ekonomiya, at Ekolohiya, was created pursuant to a provincial ordinance signed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in 2010.
"As submitted, there's a provincial ordinance Sept. 30, 2010. It's Ordinance 008-2010 and acted by the[Sangguniang] Panlalawigan. The name was given P-Imee for citizen generated request," she said.

Trendy
Marcos explained that using her name for the project was only to make it "trendy."
"The name given was P-Imee.Siguro nagpapa-uso lang yun. Siyempre inuuso rin natin yung mga pangalan natin," she said.
She even said that Fariñas himself even named one of his projects after him.
"May RUDIF din yan, yung Rural Urban Development Infrastructure Fund," she said.
"Meron pa ngang RIA e.Siyempre pinapauso lang sa atin," she added, referring to the name of Farinas' daughter.
Fariñas said that while the projects were named after him and his daughter, no lump sum funds were involved in them.
"Yes, Ma'am. Pero hindi po sa paggamit ng pera. Yung acronym parang Rudy Fariñas pero wala pong pumupuntang pera doon. Sa P-Imee kasi, daan-daang milyon po ang napunta diyan,"the lawmaker said.
Fariñas read ProvincialAppropriation Ordinance 022-2011, stating that millions of pesos were appropriated for various bodies and purposes, including "P-Imee."
These include:
P62,480,624 from the provinces for the tobacco excise tax, RA 7171
P4,900,000 for the assistance to municipalities
P57,580,624 to be set aside for P-Imee
"For that ordinance, you appropriated so many millions of pesos for P-Imee, edi lump sum na yun,"Farinas said.
Marcos, however, argued that using lump sum funds is not prohibited.
"I think hindi naman po bawal ang lump sum. Pero may prosesong sinusundan," she said.
"It's not random. Hindi po lump sum yan dahil ang paggastos dapat nakabase sa AIP (Annual Investment Program) na kasama sa inapprubahan ng SP (Sangguniang Panlalawigan). Maliban sa AIP, kapag RA 7171 ay hiwalay yan dahil special support fund," she added.— MDM, GMA News

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Leni breezes through House hearing on OVP budget

VP Leni Robredo, seen here in file photo, has a reason to smile: approval of her OVP budget didn't take more than 5 minutes.


MANILA – Adhering to tradition, the House committee on appropriations swiftly approved the proposed 2018 budget of the Office of the Vice President in Tuesday’s budget briefing.

Vice President Leni Robredo had not been seated for more than five minutes when the motion of Albay Representative Edcel Lagman to approve the budget was seconded by the members of the panel.

Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, the appropriations committee chairperson, said the budget proposals of the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President are traditionally given the go-ahead without scrutiny at the committee level. He also said that Robredo was their colleague during the 16th Congress.

After the briefing, guests and House employees took turns in taking their photograph with Robredo.

Robredo said the budget of her office was “just small,” at P443.9 million. For the current year, the OVP was given P428.6 million. CLICK HERE FOR THE DBM-PROPOSED BUDGET.

The main programs of the office are on “enhanced strategic partnership and advocacy on good governance and good governance engagements and social service projects.”

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was among those who sat down at the budget briefing, but left right away after its approval.

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Are Duterte’s son, bizman linked to P6.4-B shabu shipment into fishy deals? Then file cases against them, Palace says

File photos of Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte (from his Facebook account) and businessman Kenneth Dong (from FB account of A-Linx Events International Inc)


MANILA, Philippines – Are Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and businessmen Kenneth Dong engaged in something fishy?

If accusers have the evidence, then they should go to court and file cases against the son of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cebu-based businessman, who is allegedly the middleman in the shipment of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China. Otherwise, allegations against their alleged link will remain baseless and malicious.

This was the response of Malacañang on Monday to insinuations that the younger Duterte and Dong had questionable dealings as the two were seen together in a photo, which is now being spread via social media.

“On the whole, kung talagang (if there’s) anything serious, then whoever is…in this matter then (they) should raise up the issue in the proper venue,” said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella during a press briefing.

“Hindi lang ‘yong paikut-ikot. Kasi, siyempre [Not just go the rounds. Because, of course], at the end of the day, what does it become? It becomes a trial by publicity,” added Abella.

He said documentary evidence and not mere hearsay should be used as basis in hurling allegations against the vice mayor and Dong.

“Ang mahalaga [What is important is the] documented evidence, hindi lang sabi-sabi [not just hearsay]. ‘Yon ay kung kasama siya sa isang listahan o tipong may mga gano’n, ‘yong [Like if he is included in a list, something like that], actual documented evidence,” said Abella.

“Otherwise, these things will just speculation, propaganda which will be used or misused,” he added.

President to step down if there’s proof children are corrupt

Earlier, President Duterte said he would step down if it would be proven that Paolo and his other children are corrupt.

“Sinuman ‘yong [Whoever is the] official who entertained, with the intervention of any of my sons and daughters, that is enough for me. I will fire you and I will press charges against you, my relative, whoever he is and you’ll have the luxury of seeing me go down. Hindi ko na kailangan itong trabaho na ito [I no longer need this job],” said the chief executive.

The President issued the statement days after customs broker Mark Taguba said during an inquiry by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs that the President’s eldest child was allegedly being “name-dropped” by those at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) whom Taguba claimed to have received tara or grease money from him, namely “Tita Nani,” “Jake,” and “Small.”

Paolo dismissed Taguba’s allegation.

“Taguba admitted that his testimony against me was based entirely on rumors. Why would we entertain or believe a hearsay? One does not dignify lies with a response,” the vice mayor said in a statement sent to reporters.

He also challenged his accusers to a file case against him.

It wasn’t the first time that Paolo’s name was dragged into the alleged smuggling activities at the BOC.

In April 2016, Perfecto Tagalog of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers alleged that “Davao City is a smugglers’ haven because it’s (then) Mayor Duterte’s son himself who is the lord of the smugglers.”

According to Tagalog, a 2007 report by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) indicated that Paolo was allegedly involved in smuggling activities.

“Intelligence information…[indicated] that a certain Glen Escandor, son of Col. [Emilio D.] Escandor and owner of Mandaya Hotel, and Paolo Duterte aka Polong, son of Mayor Duterte of Davao City, are business partners in smuggling activities and are responsible in the proliferation of smuggled Sub-Urban Vehicles and high-end cars in the area,” the Dec. 7, 2007 PSG report signed by Rosauro Bautista, PASG team leader 2, stated.

“These activities are being undertaken without any arrest or apprehension by concerned government agencies due to the alleged power and influence of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the father of Paolo,” the report added.

Peter Lavina, then Mayor Duterte’s media bureau chief, dismissed Tagalog’s allegation as black propaganda against the city chief, who joined the presidential race.

“They should have filed cases long ago. Why raise the issue now?” Lavina said.

In September 2016, confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato testified before the Senate Committee on justice and Human Rights also linked Paolo to alleged smuggling operations in Davao City, claiming he had once delivered P3 million in payola for customs officers for the vice mayor at the Sasa Wharf in 2013 – an allegation that was also denied by Paolo.

“[President Duterte] is angry at smugglers but he doesn’t know that his son handles smuggling rice and oil in Davao City,” said Matobato.

In March 2017, during an inquiry by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, retired Davao police officer Arturo Lascañas also claimed that Paolo was allegedly involved in smuggling activities.

Lascañas testified that either in 2012 or 2013, Paolo asked him to help in fast-tracking the shipment of a 40-foot container from China after its transport to Davao was delayed for some months.

Inside the container were supposedly furniture items for Paolo’s residence.

According to Lascañas, a certain Davao-based trader Charlie Tan, whom Paolo allegedly met in China, asked that Paolo’s container be inserted with “souvenirs.” He said Paolo suspected that shabu had been placed in the cargo.

Paolo then allegedly asked Lascañas to escort the container van until it arrives at the covered court in Barangay Catalunan, Davao City.

The supposed plan was to open the van upon arrival and for Lascañas and other authorities to immediately arrest Tan, who according to Lascañas owned a karaoke bar in Ecoland, Davao City and was known in the city to have links to the narcotics trade.

However, when the delivery arrived, Lascañas alleged that Paolo called him up and told him that he would arbor Tan, which meant that he would take responsibility for the businessman.

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AFP pleads for patience in resolving Marawi standoff

Soldiers stand guard along the main street of Mapandi in Marawi City. (photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)


MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) begged for patience from the people in finishing off the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City, reiterating that the military was not facing an ordinary enemy.

“How long? We can’t say. Konting patience lang po (Some patience please). It would be over,” AFP chief of staff Eduardo Año said at the briefing for the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of National Defense at the House of Representatives.

Asked by ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro on the whereabouts of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, Año said, “Based on our monitoring, he’s still in Marawi City. Based on our information, he’s still alive.”

The fighting in Marawi City still rages, close to three months since the Maute group, which is seeking affiliation with the international Islamic State terrorist organization, violently repulsed a law enforcement mission to arrest Hapilon, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23.

From the initial prescribed 60-day cap, Congress extended martial law until December 31, 2017.

Of the estimated 600 Maute members that infiltrated Marawi, Año said over 500 have been killed, but he pointed out that the battle was not easy.

“Madaling magsabi na madali (Easy to say it’s like a walk in the park), but the enemy does not play by the rules, they used humans as shields,” he said.

“If there are no hostages … it’s very easy to finish this fight,” he added.

Año said government troops are being “careful and deliberate” in its movement “to prevent loss of innocent lives.”

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported that the battle has cost the government between P2.5 billion and P3 billion.

On questioning by Castro, Año said every bomb dropped on enemy positions costs P323,000. However, he did not respond when asked about the number of bombs the military has used, so far, in its air strikes, saying divulging the information has security implications.

For 2018, the DND has proposed P144.67 billion in new appropriations.

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