Disaster officials facing fund depletion for Mayon evacuees

Legazpi City, Albay — Disaster management officials here have already sent a notice of fund depletion to the national government in anticipation of a prolonged stay of displaced families in evacuation centers after Mayon Volcano again showed increased activity like lava flow.

Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said they have already forwarded the letter to the national government in order to expedite the downloading of funds from the national to the local government units.

Not enough – Army soldiers prepare relief goods at Guinobatan City for distribution to people in areas in Albay who were displaced by the continuous activity of Mount Mayon. Some officials are concerned that the relief funds may run out soon. (Ali Vicoy|Manila Bulletin)
“We have already sent the letter and we were told that the Office of Civil Defense has already made an advance notice about our financial situation to the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council),” Daep told The Manila Bulletin yesterday.

But Daep said they also made an advanced notice even that what the local government units (LGUs) could shoulder is only the 10-day period of the evacuation.

The evacuation started the night of January 13 and the LGUs have started funding the relief items the following day.

Based on the data, the Provincial Government of Albay has been spending P200 a day for every family. There are currently more than 7,000 families still staying in more than 30 evacuation centers in Ligao City, Tabaco City, Guinobatan, Daraga, Sto. Domingo, Camalig, and Malilipot.

“We are actually spending more than P1.4 million a day just for the food of the evacuees. If the Mayon activities continue for weeks or even months, imagine the fund that we need just for the food,” said Daep.

The 10-day fund of the local government units comes from the savings from the Internal Revenue Allotments last year.

Once the notice of depletion is made, it is the time that the national government must come in to take over the funding on the needs of the evacuees.

Leni calls for aid

Meanwhile, Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo made a call yesterday for donations for relief efforts intended for her fellow Bicolanos forced to evacuate because of Mayon Volcano.

Robredo, who was born and raised in Bicol, appealed for help from Filipinos listening to her weekly radio program, “BISErbisyong Leni,” on RMN-dzXL 558.

“Dapat alalahanin din natin ‘yung hirap na pinagdadaanan ng apektado ngayon. Araw-araw dumadagdag ‘yung evacuees. Kasi tumitindi ‘yung danger zones, kaya talagang my forced evacuation (Let us remember the hardships of the affected individuals have been going through. Everyday there are more evacuees. Because of the worsening activity in danger zones so there is forced evacuation),” she said.

Alert Level 3 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano as it continues to be in a high level of unrest.

Almost 40,000 individuals had been displaced since January 18. The number had been reduced to 27,643 evacuees, who are temporarily staying in classrooms that served as evacuation sites in Albay.

Aside from the food items, other basic needs include medicine, repairs of toilets and other basic items for shelter.

“This is also the time that other non-government agencies such as Red Cross would come in to help,” said Daep.

Foreign assistance

Compared with past eruptions when foreign aid poured in for the evacuees, there has not been that kind of help coming in yet.

The reason, according to Daep, is that they have not formally asked for assistance from their usual donors.

“We told them that we can still shoulder the expenses,” said Daep.

But he said they expect that the assistance would come in the coming days, especially that they have already sent a notice of fund depletion.

As of yesterday, he said at least two foreign aid groups have already coordinated with them to check on the needs of the evacuees.

“We have not formally asked for their help because we told them that we have funds for 10 days. But once we made the request, I am sure that they will be there to help,” said Daep.

Right now, he said the regional office of the Department of Social Works and Development has already prepositioned food items for the evacuees. (With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)


Fil-Am novelist and UST alumnus calls award to Mocha Uson ‘an insult’ to alumni

A University of Santo Tomas (UST) alumnus and Filipino-American novelist-poet called the awarding of the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson "an insult" to all alumni of the university.

"The recent Thomasian Alumni Award recognition of Mocha Uson, a known propagandist and “purveyor of fake news” at a time when Freedom of the Press is under attack in the Philippines is an insult to all UST Alumni who believe in upholding one of the pillars of strong democracies—VERITAS," US-based Bino A. Realuyo, author of the novel "The Umbrella Country", said in a statement.

Uson was given the award by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc. (USTAAI) on Sunday during the grand alumni homecoming.

Realuyo is a UST alumnus and was one of 75 UST High School alumni who received the 75th Founding Anniversary Award in 2003. He was cited for his outstanding achievements in literature.

Uson's efforts to evoke her idea of change, which she said UST recognized in giving her the award, "resulted in the death of many Filipinos" and ignored other alumnae and alumnus worthy of the award, Realuyo said.

"I am sure there are many unsung and worthy alumni of UST whom you can honor and recognize. Mocha Uson is certainly not one of them," Realuyo said.

The recognition of Uson, whom Realuyo branded a political propagandist, ran opposite to the respect of the truth that UST teachers and staff instilled in him.

The move was demoralizing enough for Realuyo, a former contributor to GMA News Online, to return the award he received from the university.

"I am demoralized by your recognition of Mocha Uson. As a protest of your decision to support a political propagandist who thrives in attacking the highest ideals of Philippine democracy, I am returning the award given to me," he said.

Within two hours of Realuyo's post, Uson on her wall shared a picture of her Gawad Thomasian Alumni in Government Service certificate and medal with the caption "PAALALA: Ang amplaya ay kinakain hindi inuugali."

Prior to this, the assistant secretary reposted a video of herself receiving the award with a paragraph commending the USTAAI for their supposed impartiality on the political affiliation of UST alumni.

Uson, an avid social media user prior to being appointed to her government post, also addressed her bashers on Twitter and called their continued tweets a proof of the continued "freedom of expression" in the country.

"Ako po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa UST Alumni Association. At tulad nga ng sinabi nila tayo po ay patuloy na magsusumikap pagsilbihan pa ang mamayang Pilipino," she said.

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) on Sunday also condemned the awarding of Uson for her role in spreading "politically-motivated propaganda against known members of the government's opposition."

"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.

The USTAAI defended its bestowing the award on Uson, saying the sole criteria for the award is "to be a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and in government service." 

It added that the award "is envisioned to inspire and challenge the recipients to lead the Thomasian core values of Compassion, Competence, and Commitment." —Rie Takumi/KG, GMA News


PH authorities nab overstaying Hamas-linked Iraqi ‘bomb expert’ in Pampanga

PNP Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa talks to Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri, a suspected Iraqi bomb expert connected to the Palestine Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Authorities have arrested Al-Jabouri for overstaying in the country. Dela Rosa presented the suspect to the media during the press briefing at the PNP headquarters on January 22, 2018. (Photo by Noy Morcoso/INQUIRER.net)
An Iraqi national, who was believed to be a bomb expert connected to the Palestine Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), has been arrested by Philippine authorities.

Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri reportedly arrived in Manila from Istanbul, Turkey in August 27, 2017.

It was found out from his travel documents that Al-Jabouri’s 90-day visa was only valid from August 10, 2017 to November 9, 2017.

“The PNP-IG (intelligence group) is coordinating closely with the Bureau of Immigration and the Iraqi embassy for further disposition of Mr. Al-Jabouri,” said Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who presented the suspect in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Monday.
The suspect was described by the Iraq Embassy as “a chemist with knowledge on explosives and is known to have close ties with militant extremist movements in the Middle East.”
The police received reports on January 20 that a suspicious-looking person with Middle Eastern features, resembling the description and photographs provided by the Iraq Embassy in Brgy. Malabanias in Angeles City, Pampanga.
“A few hours later upon receipt of the report, operatives of the PNP Intelligence Group under Police Chief Supt. Norberto D. Solomon, conducted follow-up operations at 3 a.m. on Sunday, January 21, to verify the information from the BIN and found Mr. Al Jabouri in the area toting a large black luggage,” Dela Rosa said.
During interrogation, the suspect revealed that he served as a consultant for the Hamas in Damascus, Syria before he moved to Istanbul, Turkey in 2012.
He said he was in Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant. /kga



Darkness shrouds PH — Robredo

Vice President Leni Robredo speaking at the University of Santo Tomas on Jan. 20. —PHOTO FROM OVP
Vice President Leni Robredo rallied the remaining members of the Liberal Party to remain true to what is right and not lose heart in the face of the “darkness” shrouding the nation.

Wearing black during the party’s 72nd anniversary celebration, Robredo lauded members who remained with the once-powerful party despite its waning influence under the Duterte administration.

“Many ask us if there is still hope, where we are headed. Darkness envelops us. But we should not lose hope. Our party history is about fighting,” Robredo told members of the LP, which she chairs.

Courage, shame
Robredo also lauded new party members for having “the courage to join up. At a time when many people are ashamed of having been members of the party, you are still here, standing, fighting for your beliefs.”
Robredo noted that LP’s membership also dwindled during the dictatorship of the late tyrant Ferdinand Marcos.
“It seems history is repeating itself. But it wasn’t the numbers that mattered then. What mattered was the strength of our conviction. What mattered was how strongly we fought,” she said.
“In the end, what is right always wins. But what is right will only prevail if we don’t stop fighting for it,” the Vice President added.
As with all Filipino political parties, the LP lost most of its members since President Duterte assumed office with many of LP members, including some of its highest ranking leaders, jumping ship to the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which replaced the LP as the ruling party.
But LP has since changed its strategy from recruiting politicians to signing up people from the grassroots.

“While some of our members are leaving the party, it is not true that the party will disappear. Our party will grow stronger because you are joining us,” said LP president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who welcomed new members in Cebu City.
‘Do not go quietly into the night’
“We in the Liberal Party, have been through hell and back. And we in the Liberal Party, to borrow and paraphrase the words from the poet Dylan Thomas: ‘We will not go quietly into this dark night’,” he said.
“The future of the party does not rest on politicians, but on the people. It’s time to be a party of the people. A party composed of the people,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, one of the party’s four incumbent senators.



Rappler CEO Ressa appears before NBI for cybercrime probe

Maria Ressa (C), the CEO and editor of online portal Rappler, speaks during a protest on press freedom along with fellow journalists in Manila on January 19, 2018. Philippine journalists took to the streets on January 19 in support of a news website facing state-enforced closure, accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of trampling on press freedom. AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe
MANILA, Philippines — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Monday went to the National Bureau of Investigation after being summoned over an alleged violation of the cybercrime law in a 2012 article.

The NBI summoned Ressa, former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. and businessman Benjamin Bintanga as it probes a complaint filed by Wilfredo Keng.

The article that the complaint is based on was posted on May 2012.

Manuel Eduarte, NBI Cybercrime Division head agent, earlier said that the subpoenas were sent to give Ressa a chance to explain Rappler's side.

Ressa told reporters that she had yet to receive a copy of the complaint and what NBI agents will ask. She however said that Rappler "has nothing to hide."

The NBI summonses were the latest in Rappler's woes.

On January 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered the cancellation of Rappler's corporate registration after the commission found violations of the constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership of local media.

Rappler has denied its foreign investors have ownership or control of the company and has vowed to fight the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

Eduarte, however, clarified that the cybercrime case is separate from the NBI-led investigation on other criminal liabilities of Rappler. He said has no hold over the "timing" of the subpoena issuance revealed—made public days after the SEC ruling was released—as the investigation on the complaint started in 2017.
President Rodrigo Duterte has insisted he had nothing to do with the SEC ruling, which was based on an investigation requested by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Duterte has continued to criticize Rappler and other media organizations for their supposed "unfair" coverage of his administration.


Airport baggage handlers to wear body cameras

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued a new set of guidelines for baggage handlers at the airports, such as wearing body cameras and doing away with pockets in their uniforms, to avoid any incidents of baggage theft which resulted in the recent termination of MIASCOR Groundhandling Corporation’s contract.

The guidelines also prohibit the baggage handlers from wearing loose boots or shoes, where small pilfered items from luggage could be kept.

Likewise, the use of cellular phones and the wearing of jewelry are prohibited as personnel handle the luggage of travelers.

But the most critical among the rules imposed as an offshoot of the involvement of six ground handling employees of MIASCOR in luggage theft at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga is the imposition of the wearing of body cameras during working hours.

No second chance

The government is standing firmly behind the contract termination of MIASCOR Groundhandling Corporation for the protection of the traveling public from baggage theft.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque explained that the aviation services provider has nothing to appeal for reconsideration since the contract has already expired.

Roque also assured there will be uninterrupted aviation ground services amid plans to recruit new personnel or retain qualified MIASCOR workers.

“The contract of MIASCOR is expired,” Roque said in text message, amid reports the company plans to ask President Duterte to reconsider his position.

“The position of MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) following the order of the President is not to renew because of many pilferage cases of MIASCOR both in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) and Clark to protect the OFW. So nothing to appeal as there is no existing contract,” he added.

The cases involving MIASCO include include the theft committed to the wife of a Turkish diplomat and the alleged involvement of a MIASCOR supervisor with illegal drugs, according to Roque.

Roque stressed the need to look at the “bigger picture” in which the “national interest is of paramount importance.”

“In particular, we need to protect airport travelers from baggage theft, especially overseas Filipino workers who work so hard to earn a living, and to make sure that potential tourists and investors are not turned off by such incidents at the airport,” he said.

Roque also said the Palace is concerned about the MIASCOR workers “but we cannot give their employer a concession on that basis alone, considering all the theft incidents by MIASCOR.”

Displaced workers

He assured though that qualified MIASCOR personnel will be absorbed by other existing ground handlers.

“Fact is the jobs are there so these will be filled up either by new hires or qualified staff from Miascor,” he said.

Earlier, the firm appealed to the President “to kindly reconsider his position on behalf of our almost 4,000 regular employees and their families who will be affected.”

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal already announced that they have issued a non-renewal of the Lease and Concession Agreement between MIAA and MIASCOR Groundhandling Corporation last Friday.

Monreal wrote a letter to MIASCOR President Fidel Reyes asking them “to vacate and return all premises occupied by MIASCOR inside the Airport Complex and its terminals within sixty (60) days from date.”


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


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.

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