US-PH cooperation leads to successful anti-trafficking operation

Manila — The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines congratulates the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division for a successful operation resulting in the rescue of nine children and the arrest of Arlene and Emelinda Aringo for offering children for sexual acts in exchange for money.
This operation was undertaken thanks to close coordination between the NBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Manila, and HSI in Portland, Maine.
This operation was supported by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development and the International Justice Mission, a non-governmental organization.
Arlene and Emelinda Aringo were arrested for violation of the Philippine Republic Act (RA) 9208, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 as amended by RA 10364, a non-bailable offense.

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US awards science, technology, and innovation grants to Filipino scholars, universities

Manila – The United States government, through the US Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recognized 10 research scholars and 37 grant recipients in science, technology, and innovation who support the Philippine government’s push for innovation-led and inclusive growth.

The grants and scholarships are awarded by USAID’s Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) project, which boosts science and technology research in the Philippines to stimulate inclusive economic growth.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim personally acknowledged the individual scholars and the research grant recipients. “Our grantees represent the best scientific minds in the Philippines,” said Ambassador Kim. “We look forward to the results of their research projects that will upgrade industries, generate jobs and investments, and build skills and capacities in communities, academic institutions, and companies.”
The awards included 24 P5 million ($100,000), one-year research grants to Philippine universities to undertake collaborative research with US universities on disciplines that contribute to high-growth sectors, including electronics, chemical industries, alternative energy, agri-business, and information technology.

USAID also funded 10 prototype development research grants, valued at P1.15 million ($23,000) each, and three innovation development grants that address human development challenges, valued at about P4 million ($80,000) each.

The universities who received research grants include University of the Philippines Diliman, Western Philippines University, University of Southeastern Philippines, and the Technological Institute of the Philippines.
USAID’s $32 million Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Project is the US government’s largest higher education project in the Philippines. The five-year project strengthens the Philippines’ capacity for innovation-led inclusive growth through strengthening applied research capabilities in Philippine universities and industries, and bolstering human capacity development in science, technology and innovation (STI).

To date, the project has awarded approximately $5.5 million in collaborative science, technology, and innovation research grants to more than 20 universities around the country. It has awarded 56 scholarships to Filipinos to study in US universities, provided advanced technical training to scientists and researchers, and brought 28 U.S. professors to visit the Philippines. STRIDE is also establishing 10 knowledge and technology transfer offices at select universities in the Philippines.

USAID’s STRIDE project is implemented by RTI International, in collaboration with sub-grantees including the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, Florida State University, Rutgers University, and local non-profit Philippine Business for Education.

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Ambassador Kim honors Lorenzana with memorial award

MANILA — US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim awarded the inaugural Major General Albert Jones Memorial Award to Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana for his steadfast commitment and invaluable contributions to the alliance of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines. The ceremony took place during the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group’s (JUSMAG) 70th anniversary celebration hosted at the US Chief of Mission residence.

The Major General Albert Jones Memorial Award recognizes a US or Philippine government official who has made significant contributions to the bilateral defense partnership. General Jones first commanded the 51st Division of the Philippine Army in 1940, and then commanded the 1st Philippine Corps until his capture at Bataan in 1942. Of the 76,000 Philippine and American soldiers, Jones was the only general officer on the infamous death march. He was held as a P.O.W. for over two years, and was among the many who endured torture and starvation. In testament to his grit, tenacity, and courage, Jones returned to the Philippines in 1946 to lead the U.S. military advisory mission in Manila, which evolved into JUSMAG a year later.

JUSMAG’s initial mission was to advise and assist with training and equipping the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Since then, the group has evolved to coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to develop all US-Philippine military training activities.

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Overseas Voter Registration Sets New Record

The Department of Foreign Affairs - Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) announced today 15 March 2017, that the 2016-2018 overseas voter (OV) registration that commenced on 01 December 2016 and will end on 30 September 2018, has set a new record for first quarter performance, garnering a total of 67,497 new OV registrants for purposes of the 2019 elections. It has surpassed the numbers of the first three months of 2014 - 2015 OV registration with a total of 64,074 new OV registrants and the previous record of 64,917 that was set in 2009.
The overseas voter registration in preparation for the 2016 elections netted a cumulative total of 1,376,067 active registered overseas voters. The 826,881 new registrants for the 2016 elections, was more than a 100% increase over the 398,554 new registrants for the 2013 elections. Of the almost 1.4 million registered overseas voters, 590,440 were in the Middle East and Africa, 334,215 in the Asia Pacific, 263,316 in the Americas, 138,757 in Europe, and 49,339 were Seabased. The attainable target for this registration period is 1.1 million OV registrants, which would net a cumulative total of 2,130,000 active registered voters for the coming national elections.
“This new milestone can be mostly attributed to the hard-work and dedication of the men and women of our Foreign Service who are aggressively campaigning to encourage more overseas Filipinos to participate in this on-going electoral exercise. Our media partners and other OV stakeholders are also playing a vital role in disseminating overseas voting awareness among our kababayans abroad,” said Undersecretary Ariel Y. Abadilla, who is concurrently Chairman of DFA-OVS.
“There are still plenty of overseas Filipinos that have yet to register and vote so it’s the duty of DFA -OVS along with the Foreign Service Post’s to encourage them to register and vote because this coming midterm elections is important specially if constitutional amendment bill will be approved by the Philippine Congress,” OVS Chair Abadilla added.
All Filipino citizens who expect to be abroad from 13 April – 13 May 2019 during the overseas voting period for the 2019 Elections, at least 18 years old on 13 May 2019, and not otherwise disqualified by law, may register as an overseas voter, at all Philippine Foreign Service Posts including the three (3) Manila Economic and Cultural Offices (MECO) in Taiwan and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Al-Khobar (for an updated list please go to www.dfa-oavs.gov.ph or www.comelec.gov.ph). REGISTER AND VOTE ! END

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Austrian bishops slam human rights abuses in PH

This is the first non-Filipino Catholic bishops' conference to speak out against human rights abuses in Duterte-led Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The Austrian Catholic Bishops' Conference joined their Filipino counterparts in slamming the human rights abuses in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a declaration on Friday, March 17, the Austrian bishops also condemned the proposals to reinstate the death penalty in the Philippines, and to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 9. (READ: CBCP on death penalty vote: We shall not be silenced)

This is the first non-Filipino Catholic bishops' conference to speak out against human rights abuses in Duterte-led Philippines.

The General Assembly of the Austrian Catholic Bishops' Conference said their group "shares the fundamental concerns" of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and "supports their firm advocacy for justice."

The CBCP earlier issued a statement against the "reign of terror" in poor Filipino communities as Duterte's war on drugs kills at least 7,000 people in the Philippines.

"This is why the bishops of Austria call upon political decision-makers in Austria to commit themselves to the respect of human rights in the Philippines," the Austrian bishops said.

"The Austrian government and European institutions are asked to use all political power and diplomatic channels to bring public attention to these human rights violations and help mitigate them," they added.

Heinz Hödl, a director at the Austrian Catholic Bishops' Conference, relayed this declaration to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, in a letter on Friday. Villegas in turn sent Hödl's letter to Filipino reporters.

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Police chief says all criminals are liars

MANILA – The chief of the Northern Police District (NPD) downplayed complaints filed against Caloocan policemen before the Ombudsman, pointing out that it's "normal" for criminals to deny and lie about their crimes.
"The operation happened a long time ago, in September. It's normal for criminals to deny, all of them deny. They're liars," said Chief Superintendent Robert Fajardo in a phone interview with Rappler on Wednesday, March 15.
On Tuesday, March 14, the family of Luis Bonifacio filed murder and administrative complaints against Superintendent Ali Jose Duterte, chief of the NPD's District Special Operations Unit, and several other cops for supposedly murdering Bonifacio and making it seem like it was a buy-bust operation gone wrong.
They face murder and administrative complaints – gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross oppression, and conduct unbecoming of a public officer.
Fajardo, who has supervision over the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela, dismissed the complaint against his men, telling Rappler that what happened in September was a legitimate operation.
"We won't ask the Ombudsman to dismiss the case outright. We will answer the case then let the Ombudsman dismiss it," he said.

Mistaken identity?
Fajardo, appointed NPD chief in July, said Bonifacio had been on the police's "watchlist" of suspected drug users and pushers. The list is prepared by barangay officials and validated by police.
Police had supposedly mistaken Luis for Luisito, his brother. Luisito was supposedly number 6 on the Caloocan police's drug list.
"The data is complete. He is part of the watchlist. The allegation about the name being wrong, about a mistaken identify… that was really him. It's normal for the family to deny," said Fajardo.
Bonifacio's family insisted that the police's narrative – as documented in the police report – isn't true.
Eyewitnesses, including his family members, claimed that Bonifacio was already on his knees with hands held in the air when police barged into their home in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. Police were searching for illegal drugs.
But he was supposedly shot dead by cops – unarmed and not dangerous – as his family went downstairs on the orders of police. Bonifacio's son, Gabriel Louis, was also killed because he did not leave his father's side. The incident happened at 1:30 am on September 15, 2016.
From July 1, 2016 to January 30, 2017, police tallied 7,080 deaths linked – directly or indirectly – to the bloody war on drugs. Police killed at least 2,555 in anti-drug operations.
Families of victims have accused the police of summarily killing their kin, but most of them have chosen not to file cases. The Bonifacio family's complaint is the first one filed with the Ombudsman in relation to the current war on drugs. – Rappler.com
Police chief says all criminals are liars

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After days of silence, Dela Rosa debunks Lascañas claim

MANILA – In a House hearing, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa broke his silence over one of the many allegations of self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas, in particular former Davao City mayor President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed orders to have a suspect killed.
"I know him as a policeman from Davao. He was a member of the heinous crime division of the Davao City Police Office," said Dela Rosa during a House of Representatives briefing on the police's Project Double Barrel Reloaded, its campaign against illegal drugs, on Tuesday, March 14.
Dela Rosa had previously chosen to stay mum on Lascañas' claims, saying he would only answer the allegations before the Senate. He was invited to the March 6 hearing on Lascañas, but skipped it because of the relaunch of the PNP's campaign against illegal drugs.
Lascañas, a retired Davao policeman, is the latest whistle-blower to claim the existence of the notorious death squad.
In a turnaround of an earlier claim made under oath before the Senate, Lascañas said Duterte had ordered police who were supposed members of the death squad to kill suspects and even his political and personal enemies.

The former Davao cop had claimed that when Dela Rosa was city director of the Davao City Police Office, the group targeted the "most wanted criminal" of Davao del Sur, a certain Felicisimo Cunanan Jr alias "Sergeant Sisi." Lascañas claimed "Sergeant Sisi" was killed during the operation because he was armed and refused to raise his hands.
The suspect supposedly had two companions, one who surrendered and another who was unarmed.
Lascañas said they brought the two men back to the heinous crime office and claimed Duterte and Dela Rosa visited them close to midnight.
"[Duterte] cursed at the two, he got mad at them," recalled Lascañas during his March 6 appearance before the Senate.
The cop claimed that Duterte ordered them to kill the two, then left. He said when Dela Rosa returned after bringing Duterte to his car, the former Davao City police chief ordered them not to kill the two because "kawawa 'yan (they're pitiful)."
Dela Rosa supposedly told Lascañas to file a case against the armed companion and release the unarmed driver.
Dela Rosa denied the claim about Duterte on Tuesday.

What kill orders?
"'Yung sinabi niya do'n sa may gustong ipapapatay si Presidente doon sa opisina nila, nandoon ako sa opisina… sabi ko file-an 'nyo ng kaso iyan. Hindi ko po nakita si Presidente nandoon at nagbigay ng instructions na patayin. Hindi ko nakita si Presidente," said Dela Rosa, who insisted the meeting was only between himself and Lascañas.
(This claim that President Duterte was in their office, I was there. I told him to file a case. But I did not see the President there, giving instructions to kill. I did not see the President.)
Dela Rosa, however, did not give a blanket denial for all of Lascañas' claims, saying he could not comment on things he does not have personal knowledge of.
Lascañas, who is now under the protection of Duterte nemesis Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, earlier claimed the so-called Davao Death Squad was formed the first year Duterte was elected mayor. He said they initially targeted suspected criminals, until they eventually began targeting Duterte's personal and political enemies.
The Palace and Duterte have dismissed Lascañas' claims as lies. – Rappler.com

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Del Rosario pushes for Manalo as permanent DFA chief

MANILA – Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday, March 14, pushed for the "permanent appointment" of seasoned ambassador Enrique Manalo as the Philippines' top diplomat.
In a statement, Del Rosario said of acting Foreign Secretary Manalo, "Having worked with the acting secretary for 5 years, it is my belief that it would be in the best interest of our country if he would be considered for permanent appointment."
Manalo was earlier viewed as a "transition man" because President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly eyed his running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by May.
Duterte, however, said on Monday, March 13, that Cayetano should probably stay in the Senate where he is more needed.
In his statement, Del Rosario pointed out that Manalo "is a professional career diplomat with 38 years of training and experience in foreign affairs."
Del Rosario said that Manalo "commands the respect not only of his peers at DFA but also of his counterparts in the global diplomatic community."

Manalo, after all, was DFA undersecretary for policy during parts of the Arroyo, Aquino, and Duterte administrations. He was also once Philippine ambassador to the UK and Belgium, among other assignments.
Del Rosario also said on Tuesday: "Moreover, while we fully appreciate that our president is our chief architect of our foreign policy, a direct communication protocol between a career secretary of the DFA and the Palace, at all times, would be key and extremely helpful. This would enable our acting secretary to provide the best possible advice on the merits and ramifications of all considered options related to foreign policy."
Del Rosario had earlier criticized Manalo's predecessor, Perfecto Yasay Jr, whom the Commission on Appointments (CA) eventually rejected over citizenship issues.
Del Rosario, who served as DFA chief from February 2011 to March 2016, is best remembered for the historic case filed by the Philippines against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Del Rosario's immediate successor, former foreign secretary Jose Rene Almendras, said he also believes Manalo "is a very good choice" as secretary of foreign affairs (SFA).
"He has the training, experience, and appropriate perspective to be a very good SFA," Almendras said. – Rappler.com

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Advice to Duterte: Don't micromanage PNP

MANILA – Did President Rodrigo Duterte “micromanage” the police when he intervened in the re-appointment of a cop who later led an operation that resulted in the death of a suspected drug lord?
According to a joint senate committee report on the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr., Duterte should “not be micromanaging the affairs of the government and should place his trust in the sound discretion of all his appointee, including [Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa]." The report was released on Monday, March 13, almost 4 months after Espinosa was killed inside his own jail cell.
Espinosa was killed on November 5, 2016, in what operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 claim was an operation to serve a search warrant against the mayor and another inmate.
He allegedly had guns and illegal drugs inside prison. Cops claimed he shot at cops during the operation, which eventually resulted in his death.
But that version of the story has been disputed by PNP officials, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs and on justice and human rights.
Former CIDG 8 chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos, his men, and some personnel of the local Maritime Group allegedly planned the killing of Marcos, mainly to rid all traces of their supposed ties to the illegal drugs network in Eastern Visayas.
Espinosa was among the first chief executives that Duterte accused of having ties to illegal drugs. His son, Kerwin, is an alleged drug lord.

Duterte's hand
But Duterte’s ties to the case became more complicated after it was revealed that Dela Rosa had ordered Marcos relieved prior to the jail incident, based on reports he was linked to drugs. The PNP chief’s plans, however, were thwarted when a “higher up” intervened.
After a few days of refusing to name the “higher up,” Duterte admitted that he stopped the relief of Marcos, supposedly because he was investigating the cop’s ties to illegal drugs.
“The Chief [of the PNP] should be given full authority and control on how he will manage the day-to-day affairs of the organization subject to the limitations set by law. He should be given a free hand to decide on how to run the PNP and his decisions should be recognized and respected and should be countermanded or reversed only by the Chief Executive in case of a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion of the part of the Chief, PNP,” read the Senate report, which was submitted and sponsored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the police force.

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5 labor attachés face recall for inaction on OFW issues

Five labor attachés from Taiwan and the Middle East have been ordered to report back to Manila to explain before Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III how they are addressing the "criticial issues" of OFWs in their areas of assignment.
“I instructed them to report here not later than March 15 because I want them to answer me personally on what they are doing on the critical issues of OFWs,” said Bello in a statement Wednesday.
Those ordered to report back to Manila were:
· Ophelia N. Almenario of POLO-Abu Dhabi
· David Des Dicang of POLO-Qatar
· Rodolfo Gabasan of POLO-Israel

· Nasser Mustafa of POLO-Oman, and
· Nasser Munder of POLO-Taichung
“Kakausapin ko sila at sasabihin ko na aksyunan ang mga isyu ng OFW sa kanilang lugar, lalo na iyong mga distressed at displaced,” Bello said. “Kung hindi pa sila susunod at maka-receive ako ng reklamo, ipapa-recall ko sila.”
Bello issued the instruction after receiving reports that some labor attaches are not mindful of the issues and situation of distressed OFWs in their posts.
He said one of the issues reported to him was the violation of the bilateral agreement between the Philippines and host countries in the Middle East, particularly on the $400 minimum wage of household service workers, by some employers.
“Dapat kapag may nalaman silang violation, i-blacklist na kaagad ang employer. Ang trabaho nila sa POLO ay bigyan ng tama at sapat proteksyon ang ating mga OFW,” said Bello. — GMA News

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