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Gov’t bent on implementing PUV modernization program

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella FILE PHOTO / MALACANANG

Malacañang on Monday said that it would proceed with the government’s plan to modernize public utility vehicles (PUVs) despite the nationwide transport strike against the project.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said transport strikes would not deter the government from implementing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVVMP), which he called long overdue.

The program intends to phase out old PUVs, including 200,000 jeepneys, but its critics claim that it was “antipoor.”


Abella said various transport groups had expressed support for the project, except for Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide).

“The government, through the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), will continue with the discussions, consultations and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector,” Abella said.

At a press conference in Quezon City, groups supporting the jeepney drivers and operators said the PUVVMP was a “holdup” and “antipoor” scheme.

“Our small-time jeepney operators and drivers could not afford the very expensive electronic jeepneys,” said Ferdinand Gaite of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).

The proposed modernization plan worth P417 billion is expected to affect around 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila and 270,000 jeepneys nationwide, and around 650,000 drivers, according to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center.

Higher fare
Gaite said the plan to phase out jeepneys would result in a higher fare of P12 to P20 from the current P8 for a shorter distance. It would also mean shorter route and more drivers turning into contractual workers.

For Ron Villegas of the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center, the modernization program was like robbing the jeepney drivers and commuters.

Under the government’s plan, drivers would have to buy new e-jeeps worth P1.5 to P1.8 million subsidy, which he said was very expensive.


“Even with a promised subsidy, our small and independent operators would not be able to bear this,” he added.

‘Not the solution’

Jen Pajel of the All Workers Unity said the group was in favor of modernization, but pointed out that Mr. Duterte’s jeepney phaseout program was not the solution.

“If the government can allot P900 million for the anti-illegal drugs program (Oplan ‘Tokhang’) , they can also allot funds for the rehabilitation of jeepneys,” Pajel said.

Based on the modernization scheme, an operator should have 10 jeepneys. That means one operator should have P16 million to P20 million for the jeepneys and P4 million for registration, she said.

Among the proposed alternatives to the phaseout of old jeepneys are the rehabilitation of the vehicles, increased government subsidy for jeepney drivers and not big operators, and lower tariff for imported jeepneys.

But the long-term solution is to allow the country to have its own car manufacturing industry, said Cleng Holbe of Agham.

In the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said the transport strike was a wake-up call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to listen to the concerns of jeepney drivers and operators.

During floor deliberations on the DOTr budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto asked why the agency was embarking on a nationwide jeepney modernization program when it had yet to resolve traffic woes in Metro Manila.

Recto also pointed out that the DOTr was embarking on a new program when it was slow in the rollout and distribution of plastic drivers’ licenses and license plates. –Reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Jocelyn R. Uy


'Allah answered my prayers’

MARAWI CITY—“Allah answered my prayers,” Nairah Ampaso, 28, a mother of five, said on Monday after learning that government troops had killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, the last two leaders of the pro-Islamic State (IS) terrorists who seized this city nearly four months ago.

“We prayed that these leaders would be killed. I am happy that they are dead,” Ampaso told the Inquirer.

“I hope their deaths mean the end of the war and we can return to our homes,” she said.

Victory over terrorism
In Manila, Malacañang hailed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute as a “clear victory against terrorism.”

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines for killing the two terrorist leaders and said the government looked forward to rebuilding Marawi.

“This clear victory against terrorism proves the Duterte administration’s resoluteness in delivering on its promise of peace and prosperity to the people of Mindanao,” Andanar said.

Lawmakers also lauded the military for killing Hapilon and Maute, who had pledged allegiance to IS and seized large parts of Marawi on May 23 to establish an IS enclave in Southeast Asia.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, a former military officer, said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute were a “positive development” but he emphasized that first there must be an efficient delivery of basic services to the people to fully combat terrorism and other forms of violence.

“The battle [for] the hearts and minds of our people is not won by body count,” said Honasan, chair of the Senate special committee formed to assess and review the rehabilitation of Marawi.

End of hostilities
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, also a former military officer, said he hoped the deaths of the two terrorist leaders signified the end of hostilities.

“This decisive victory is a fitting honor to our soldiers, both fallen and living, who bravely fought in this campaign,” he said.


Sen. Miguel Zubiri, who is from Mindanao, said he supported keeping martial law in Marawi up to the end of the year to allow full use of human, material and financial resources and ensure the rehabilitation of the city would be achieved in a shorter time.

Sen. Sonny Angara said rebuilding Marawi was the government’s urgent task.

“We must do whatever it takes for the people of Marawi to safely return to their city the soonest possible time and for vital infrastructure to be restored,” he said.

Sen. JV Ejercito called on the government to learn from the lessons of Marawi “by strengthening our intelligence and counterterrorism initiatives.”

The terrorists surprised the military by easily seizing Marawi on May 23, laying siege to it, and lasting nearly four months in battling government forces for control of the city.

Beginning of the end
Catholic bishops said they believed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute would lead to the end of the crisis.

“Crumbling leadership signals the beginning of the end,” Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said.

Ozamiz Bishop Martin Jumoad said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders meant “the victory of peace and order in our society.”

“Praise God. This serves as a lesson that evil must be conquered so that goodness may reign,” he said.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee, said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders indicated that the war was coming to an end.

“We are very happy. This is what we are waiting for. This is an indication that the war is over,” he said.

For Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the deaths of Hapilon and Maute meant “the end of the siege of Marawi.”

But “it also marks the beginning of a long but necessary process of healing and recovery among our people,” he added. –Reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Richel Umel, Allan Nawal, Julie S. Alipala. Philip C. Tubeza, Jocelyn R. Uy and Tina G. Santos


Piston claims 90% success in strike

DIE-IN Jeepney drivers and their supporters stage a die-in along a busy Manila road to signal the start of a two-day nationwide strike to protest the government’s phaseout of old jeepneys. —BULLIT MARQUEZ / AP

A group of jeepney drivers and operators declared its strike on Monday a success, claiming it crippled by noon 90 percent of jeepney transportation in key urban centers.

But a government agency said the mass action was barely felt in most parts of the country.

A call, supported by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, to charge Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) with economic sabotage suggested that the strike had somehow hurt the economy.


“They [are] selfish and small-minded. We want the Filipino public to be safe and have a better transport system,” Tugade said in a text message to Vivian Locsin of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), who recommended that Piston “be charged [with] economic sabotage.”

Piston and allied groups are protesting the government program to phase out public utility vehicles (PUVs), including jeepneys, at least 15 years old.

The strike was the third to be spearheaded by Piston and the sixth to be staged by those opposing the PUV modernization program.

Work at all branches of government and on the PSE and classes in schools at all levels were suspended on Monday.

Classes resume
Malacañang said work in the government and classes would resume on Tuesday, the second day of the Piston-led transport strike.

Piston chair George San Mateo said that as of 9 a.m. the mass action had paralyzed 80 to 100 percent of transport routes in various parts in Manila, Makati, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Quezon City and Marikina, and in Rizal province and other areas.

By noon, San Mateo said about 90 percent of jeepney transportation nationwide had been paralyzed. “Our strike is successful,” the Piston leader said at a rally on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) contradicted San Mateo’s claims, saying the strike was barely felt in most parts of the country.


An LTFRB board member, Aileen Lizada, said the agency received reports that jeepney drivers and operators who did not join the strike were forced not to ply their routes. “They should spare those who don’t want to join [the strike],” she said.

Tricycles had a field day ferrying passengers in many areas in Metro Manila where jeepneys stopped plying their routes.

Most LTFRB regional offices reported no disruption in transport services.

In Pampanga province, around 98 percent of public transport was paralyzed, a Piston leader said.

Allan Bonifacio, Piston coordinator in Central Luzon, said the strike was peaceful and successful in the province, except in Angeles City where a transport group did not join the mass action.

Few passengers were stranded as local governments fielded barangay service vehicles or buses.

In Bulacan province, the strike affected all major routes, Roman Polintan, Central Luzon chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said, adding that even jeepney drivers serving secondary routes joined the strike.

Supt. Marlon Santos, Bulacan police director, disputed Polintan’s claim, saying jeepneys did not stop ferrying commuters in different towns.

Southern Tagalog
Piston claimed paralyzing 98 percent of public transport in Southern Tagalog.

Rafael Arante, Piston regional spokesperson, said the strike was felt particularly at San Pablo City in Laguna province and affected the routes between Calamba City, also in Laguna, and Tanauan City and Lipa City, both in Batangas province.

The Laguna provincial government said the strike affected areas of Cabuyao City and the towns of Calauan and Victoria where there was “totally no jeepney [running]” on Monday morning.

In Quezon, police said no driver joined the strike in the province.

The police did not report any transport strike in the Bicol region and in the Mindoro provinces.

In Cebu and Tacloban cities, the strike failed to cripple public transportation, as only a few jeepney drivers joined the strike.

Only 30 percent of the 1,000 members of Piston in Tacloban did not ply their routes.

Only about 150 Piston members joined the rally at P. Del Rosario and Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City on Monday morning.

“The remaining 80 percent were plying [their routes] during that time,” said Cebu City Transportation Office operations chief Francisco Ouano.

Public transport remained normal on Panay Island, as transport groups did not join the strike.

Transport organizations led by Piston held a caravan to show support for the strike. The caravan, joined by 30 vehicles, assembled at a terminal in Iloilo City before proceeding to Mandurriao and Jaro districts.

In Cagayan de Oro City, about 90 percent of the public transport joined the strike, according to Ringo Lago, Starex-Piston secretary general.

Chief Insp. Mardy Hortillosa, however, said about 75 percent of public transport was paralyzed.

In Davao City, militant transport groups claimed crippling 90 percent of public land transport.

Carl Anthony Olalo, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao, said the strike succeeded in keeping most PUVs, particularly jeepneys, off the streets of Davao City.



Abu, Maute leaders are dead – AFP

The top leaders behind the months-long war in Marawi Isnilon Hapilon (left) and Omar Maute. AP, INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

The battle for Marawi may finally be ending with the killing of the last two leaders of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in the city early on Monday.

Killed in fighting with government troops that started at 2 a.m. and ended at 6 a.m. were Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute terror group leader Omarkhayam Maute.

Both had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, whose self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria is crumbling under attack by US-backed Syrian and Iraqi forces.

Hapilon, who is listed among the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted criminals, was said to be the “emir” of IS in Southeast Asia.

Hard push
The deaths of the two terrorist leaders came during a hard push by the military to end the nearly four-month siege that had killed more than 1,000 people, displaced more than 400,000 others, and reduced much of Marawi to rubble.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute.

“Yes, they are confirmed dead,” Lorenzana said, adding the bodies had been recovered by troops and DNA tests would be done on the remains to clear the way for the payment of huge US and Philippine bounties offered for the two terrorist leaders.

The US State Department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for Hapilon, whom Washington blames for the kidnappings of several Americans, one of whom was beheaded in 2001 in Basilan.

Hapilon had been indicted in the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against Americans and other foreigners.

The Philippine government has offered a P17.4-million reward for the capture of Hapilon and P5 million for Maute.

Rescued hostage
The military’s informer was a hostage rescued on Sunday.

“Yesterday, we were able to get a testimony from a hostage. She was able to confirm the presence of [Hapilon] and Maute in that particular building. That’s the building that we assaulted early this morning,” Lorenzana said.

He said other Maute group members were also killed in the fighting. Seven bodies had been recovered, including those of the two terrorist leaders, he said.

The troops also rescued 17 hostages, he said.

The deaths of Hapilon and Maute will be a major victory for the military, which has been criticized for its slow progress in retaking Marawi and the ease at which the terrorists laid siege to the city on May 23.

Other terrorist leaders, Maute’s brothers Abdullah and Madi, had been reported killed, though no body had been found to prove their deaths.

Those leaders had been central to the terrorists regrouping, rearming and recruiting after previous clashes over the past two years in Mindanao.

The terrorists had surprised the military by their ability to endure more than 130 days of airstrikes, compounding fears in the Philippines and the region that the radical IS ideology and its advanced recruitment methods were more prevalent than was previously imagined.

As of Monday, clashes between the military and the terrorists have killed 822 terrorists, 163 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians.

More than 1,700 troops have been wounded in the fighting.

A top Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin Ahmad, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Handzalah and is a close associate of Hapilon, has not been found and is among the remaining terrorists being hunted by the military, Lorenzana said.

With the deaths of Hapilon and Maute, Lorenzana said the end to the Marawi crisis was imminent.

“The indication here is that the Marawi incident is close to the end. We may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple days,” he said.

The government forces were prepared for any “diversion” or “retaliation” by the terrorists, he said.

Lifting martial law
Lorenzana said the lifting of martial law in Mindanao was up to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We will assess the entire Mindanao if there is a need to recommend to the President the lifting of martial law,” he said.

The military missed an Oct. 15 “target” for the end of the conflict. It had missed a number of previous deadlines, all attributed to caution to avoid harm to the hostages.

Army Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the military’s Task Force Ranao, said on Sunday that about 40 terrorists were still fighting in a small hilly residential area by Lanao Lake, including 100 relatives of the gunmen and civilian hostages.

On Saturday, troops attempted to rescue several hostages but only snatched a 16-year-old girl because of intense terrorist fire, which wounded an Army battalion commander and 20 other soldiers, Brawner said.

It was that girl who provided the crucial information that allowed troops to locate Hapilon and Maute in one building, Lorenzana said.

Escape attempt
Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Hapilon and Maute attempted to escape but were cornered by government troops.

“They were attempting to go out to the street to escape. In fact, there were four boats ready on the lake. They had it built by the hostages so they really planned to get out,” Año said.

He said the military had wanted to get the two men alive, but they fought it out with the troops and were killed. —With reports from the wires


FPIC exec jumps to death

MANILA, Philippines — A businessman died when he reportedly jumped from the 10th floor of a building in Pasig City yesterday.

A witness saw Ferdinand Edwin CoSeteng, 54, step on a chair then jump, said Senior Inspector Roberto Garcia, Pasig police investigation chief.

CoSeteng was the executive vice president and director of First Philippine Holdings Corp. He was also a director of Rockwell Land Corp. and president of First Philippie Industrial Park Inc. and First Philippine Electric Corp, all FPH subsidiaries.

In a statement, FPH officials and employees said they will remember CoSeteng as a “valuable colleague, a wonderful boss, and a loyal friend.”

Garcia said CoSeteng fell from the Banco de Oro Tower 3 just before 8 a.m.

Security guard Mari Joseph Colis said he found CoSeteng’s body on the ground floor’s landscaped area after hearing a loud thud on the pavement.

CoSeteng was unconscious when he was taken to a nearby hospital. He did not make it, police said.

Garcia said investigators are still interviewing CoSeteng’s family and friends to shed light on the incident.


Voters’ registration set Nov. 4 to 6

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said yesterday the registration period is intended especially for those who will turn 15 years old by May 14, 2018 so they could participate in the SK elections. Edd Gumban/File
MANILA, Philippines — With the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will resume voters’ registration from Nov. 4 to 6.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said yesterday the registration period is intended especially for those who will turn 15 years old by May 14, 2018 so they could participate in the SK elections.

Filipino citizens who are at least 15 years old but not more than 30 years old on or before election day and residing in the barangay for at least six months can register to participate in the SK elections.

Qualified to vote in regular elections are Filipino citizens at least 18 years old on or before election day, a resident of the Philippines for at least one year, and residents in the place where they plan to vote for at least six months immediately preceding the elections.

President Duterte signed Republic Act 10952 postponing the barangay and SK elections from Oct. 23 this year to May 2018.

Bautista said they decided to shelve the voters’ registration from December 2017 to September 2018 for the midterm elections in May 2019.

“We have to conduct the 2018 elections first. The 2019 voters’ registration will happen after the 2018 barangay and SK elections,” Bautista said.

Almost P1 B spent

Bautista said the Comelec spent almost P1 billion preparing for the barangay and SK polls.

“Our total budget is around P7.6 billion, but we have spent more or less P900 million,” he said.

Bautista said the money was spent for printing 59.5 million ballots for Luzon and the Visayas. Ballots for Mindanao were not printed as the Comelec had earlier cancelled the elections due to the implementation of martial law.

He said P350 million went to other expenses such as salaries of election personnel.

Bautista said only P550 million could be used for the elections next year.


Ex-CDO mayor acquitted of Civil Service Commission defiance rap

The Comelec resolution was in connection with the May 2013 elections. File photo
MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Cagayan De Oro City mayor Vicente Emano of a criminal case in connection with his alleged refusal to implement a Civil Service Commission order to reinstate a municipal employee who he supposedly demoted in 2009.

In a 13-page decision promulgated on October 13, the court's First Division said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Emano for violation of Section 121 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) in relation to the Administrative Code of 1987.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last year, the case stemmed from Emano's alleged willful refusal to implement a CSC decision issued on Sept. 18, 2012 ordering the reinstatement of Leonor Esparcia to her original position as administrative assistant III (senior book keeper ) at J.R. Borja General Hospital.

Esparcia was transferred by Emano to the City Library as watchman in October 2009.

In his testimony during the trial of the case, Emano said he ordered Esparcia's transfer as she was then being investigated for a complaint of anomalous conduct. Emano said the city government even filed an administrative case against Esparcia in 2011 following the investigation.

In its ruling, the First Division said that while it was established that Emano failed to implement the CSC decision until the end of his term, the prosecution failed to prove his “willful” intent to defy the CSC order.

“Upon an assiduous review of the evidence presented by the prosecution, the Court finds and so holds that the prosecution has failed to establish that the accused should be held criminally liable,” the decision penned by division chairman Associate Justice Efren De La Cruz read.

Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona concurred with the ruling.

Court records show that Esparcia was reinstated to her original post only on July 2, 2013 during the term of incumbent mayor Oscar Moreno.

Nonetheless, the First Division gave weight on Emano's argument that he did not order the immediate reinstatement of Esparcia as there was no writ of execution from the CSC accompanying its decision and because of an existing election ban by the Commission on Elections.

Emano pointed out that when the CSC, on Feb. 5, 2013, denied the city government's appeal on its September 2012 order for Esparcia's reinstatement, the Comelec's resolution, prohibiting the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service from January 13 to June 12, 2013, was already in effect.

The Comelec resolution was in connection with the May 2013 elections.

Emano said that as advised by the city government's legal department, he deemed it prudent to put Esparcia's reinstatement on hold as moving her to her original post might constitute as a violation of the Comelec resolution and might cause his disqualification as he was then seeking re-election.

Furthermore, Emano said the city government also has a pending petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals questioning the CSC's September 2012 resolution. Records show that the CA denied the petition only on May 31, 2013.

“The lack of the writ of execution from the CSC and the fact that he has a pending appeal before the CA negate the impression that he willfully refused to implement the said decision,” the court's decision read.

“It is not disputed that when the accused received the CSC Resolution affirming its decision to reinstate Esparcia, it was already within the period of the election ban which prohibits the transfer or movement of government personnel...Thus for the accused to effect a reinstatement during the election ban...may indeed expose him to possible charges of election offenses,” it added.

Following his acquittal, the First Division also ordered the lifting of the hold departure order it earlier issued against Emano.


Duterte expects gov't to lose, rights groups to win after sidelining police

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech during the opening ceremonies of the Buglasan Festival 2017 at the Lamberto Macias Sports and Cultural Center in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental on October 13, 2017, reiterates his vow to beef up the capabilities of the government security forces before his term ends. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines — After stripping the police force of the authority to conduct anti-illegal drug operations, President Rodrigo Duterte said he now expects the government to lose in its war on drugs while human rights groups condemning the crackdown are bound to win.

Early this week, Duterte issued a memorandum designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the “sole agency” in charge of the drug war amid simmering public outrage over alleged police abuse in the deadly campaign. He said he is hoping this move will satisfy the “bleeding hearts” and the media.

In an interview aired over state-run PTV on Friday night, Duterte, when asked how he expects to win the drug war after he inhibited the police from taking part in the crackdown, said: “Ako, frankly? I expect to lose it.”

“Ang human rights ang manalo diyan,” he said, adding that he will no longer “interfere” in the campaign.

“Hindi ako naghugas, ayaw ko na. Pulis, huwag na kayong makialam. Military, huwag na kayong makialam,” he said.

Duterte—who easily won the race to Malacañang last year on a promise to use deadly force to wipe out crime and drugs—has stoked international alarm for activating his fierce anti-drug campaign.

But human rights watchdogs say most of the fatalities are extrajudicial killings committed by cops and unknown assailants—a claim that the government has vehemently denied by insisting that police are only killing in self-defense while gangsters are silencing potential witnesses.

Police data show 3,850 have "died in police operations," suggesting these are drug suspects who engaged arresting officers in shootouts. Meanwhile, there are 2,290 "deaths under investigation," which have already been determined to be "drug-related."

Filipinos have mostly backed Duterte’s drug war even as critics condemned the spate of killings. But the recent deaths of three teenagers in the country’s capital have triggered rare street protests and highlighted concerns about abusive police officers.

In his speech in Dumaguete City also on Friday, Duterte said his move to sideline the police from the drug war was “fraught" with "so many dangers” and “so many grave consequences.”

“But if it works, then okay. But if it fell short of the expectation, malipay man ang pari (the priests will get happy.),” the firebrand leader said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday morning, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he would appeal to Duterte to let the police back in the war on drugs should the crime situation get out of hand.

Dela Rosa also admitted the PNP is to blame for Duterte’s drop in satisfaction ratings, adding that the killing of minors by Caloocan City cops was a setback in the war against drugs.

“It’s our fault because we have members doing something illegal so we pulled the President down,” he said.

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