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1 killed, 2 hurt in Benguet collision; driver flees

By: Kimberlie Quitasol - Correspondent / @kquitasolINQInquirer Northern Luzon 

Buguias and Kabayan towns in Benguet (Wikipedia maps)

BAGUIO CITY — A man died while two others were injured when their motorcycle collided with a Tamaraw FX early Wednesday (July 5) along the Buguias-Kabayan road in Benguet province.

David Cunay was declared dead on arrival at the Lutheran Hospital in Abatan town. His companions Allan Dagines and Franklin Bulosan are being treated at the same hospital.

The FX driver fled following the accident at Sitio (subvillage) Magmagaling, Baculongan Norte village in Buguias town at at 2:45 a.m. The Cordillera police have not yet identified the driver, but have been able to trace the owner of the vehicle. SFM



P5k assistance earmarked for displaced residents returning to Marawi

By Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star)

Photo: According to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the government decided to give P5,000, apart from the P1,000 given at the end of Ramadan, to each displaced family so they can start their lives anew. File

MANILA, Philippines - At least 19,000 families in evacuation centers in Northern Mindanao and those seeking shelter elsewhere will each receive P5,000 once they return to Marawi City when the armed conflict ends.

According to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the government decided to give P5,000, apart from the P1,000 given at the end of Ramadan, to each displaced family so they can start their lives anew.

Unregistered evacuees staying in the houses of their relatives or hotels are given until today to register in their respective barangays so they can avail themselves of relief goods and other services from government agencies.

Volunteers from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will help encode and revalidate the basic information of all evacuees to prevent duplication of entries, which will be the basis for the Disaster Assistance Family Access Card (DAFAC).

The DAFAC will be used to keep track of services provided to evacuees by different government agencies.

Based on latest figures, more than 350,000 people are still displaced because of the clashes between the military and members of the Maute terrorist group.

Some 17,300 people are staying in evacuation centers, while more than 333,000 are with their relatives and friends.

Taguiwalo said relief distribution is ongoing both for those who are home-based and those in evacuation centers.

“The concerned field offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are continuously validating and updating the inside and outside evacuation centers data. Further changes are expected with the continuous validation and movement of the affected population,” she said.

More than P123 million worth of assistance has already been provided by the DSWD to the evacuees.

Officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) also flew to Iligan City on Monday to distribute relief packs for thousands of evacuees.

Pagcor chairman and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo spearheaded the relief operations for 5,000 evacuees temporarily sheltered at the gymnasiums of Barangays Maria Cristina and Sta. Elena.

The state gaming firm initially allocated P3.7 million in relief packs containing assorted food items, toiletries and a malong, a native Muslim blanket.

‘Don’t hoard food packs’
The DSWD warned all stakeholders not to hoard the food packs that were supposed to be given to evacuees.

It cited Republic Act 10121 or the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management law, which prohibits hoarding and removal or replacement of content of food packs from the DSWD.

“We ask the help of local government units to ensure that all DSWD assistance during calamities reach people in need as soon as possible,” the agency said.

Taguiwalo earlier called on the public to report problems in the distribution of the relief for the evacuees.

Sen. Sonny Angara called on concerned government agencies to also focus on the evacuees’ mental health and wellbeing following a news report that 2,500 of them have demonstrated early symptoms of schizophrenia.

Angara said the displaced residents of Marawi require sufficient medical aid, including mental health services, to help them cope with their present situation.

“The shattered dignity of the Maranaos is more difficult to relieve. It takes more than food or water or even shelter. It needs much more than that to be restored,” Angara said.

Forced to leave their homes because of the armed conflict between the Maute group and state forces, Marawi residents have to cope with living in temporary evacuation centers and limited resources.

Being in this type of situation could lead to mental health problems and according to Marawi Crisis Management Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong, there are not enough psychiatrists in evacuation centers.

The DSWD said it will also implement a “cash for work” program for evacuees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City. – With Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Lino de la Cruz, Marvin Sy, Ben Serrano


SAF commandos want out of Bilibid

By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star)

Photo:Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he would not deny the existence of illegal drugs in the NBP despite the deployment of the elite police force. EDD GUMBAN, File

MANILA, Philippines - Even before the exposé of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on the resurgence of illegal drug operations at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, the leadership of the Special Action Force wanted the SAF commandos pulled out from the NBP.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he would not deny the existence of illegal drugs in the NBP despite the deployment of the elite police force.

Dela Rosa said SAF commandos at the NBP do not have full control of the prison premises, spread over a 104-hectare land area.

He said the SAF only guards the maximum security area at Building 14. If the drug lords in Building 14 are transferred to the minimum security area, the SAF no longer has control.

He said the problem is when contraband like gadgets, cellphones and laptop computers are smuggled in through other areas of the prison, the SAF cannot prevent it.

“How I wish the drug lords would be returned to Building 14 so the SAF can guard them,” he added.

With this setup, Dela Rosa admitted he could not deny the existence of illegal drug operations at the NBP.

Since they do not have complete control of the NBP, the SAF requested the pullout to avoid the possibility of their being mistakenly implicated in the illegal drug trade inside the prison.

Aguirre said the resurgence of the illegal activity at the NBP involves at least five to 10 percent of the original operation, which was successfully dismantled under the Duterte administration.

Dela Rosa said some drug lords have found legal intervention and managed to be transferred from the maximum to the medium or minimum security compounds.

He said he would talk to SAF director Chief Superintendent Benjamin Lusad to assess the best possible setup to prevent proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP and to isolate the SAF from the controversies on illegal drugs.

Dela Rosa added the elite police unit is “overstretched,” since they are also involved in the Marawi City operations as well as problems in the Zamboanga peninsula and Central Mindanao.

Transfer Bilibid
As this developed, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon – under whose district the NBP is located – yesterday told the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider a new site for the state penitentiary.

“The DOJ should seriously consider pursuing a previous plan to transfer the NBP if it wishes to stop the drug trade proliferating within the national penitentiary,” Biazon suggested.

Plans for the NBP’s transfer started during the term of former president and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and were carried over to her successor Benigno Aquino III.

“Under the new administration, it seemed to have been lost completely,” Biazon lamented.

“The basis and justification for the transfer is right there in front of us. Simply assigning soldiers to guard prison facilities will not solve the problem in the long term. It’s time for the DOJ to pursue the transfer to new facilities in a new location,” he insisted, citing subhuman living conditions of the facilities and its location in an urban center as causing the problems at the NBP today.

“There is a lot of motivation for inmates to pay for comfort and drugs is a high-paying business for them. And with money, they can easily tempt the underpaid prison guards. As proven now, even the assignment of SAF troops is not a guarantee of immunity to corruption.”

Illegal drugs, contraband surrendered
Meanwhile, inmates have started surrendering illegal drugs and other contraband inside the NBP following the renewed crackdown on illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes yesterday revealed that members of the Sigue-Sigue Sputnik gang surrendered at least 35 small plastic sachets of shabu, six big plastic sachets of shabu, two icepicks and a cellular phone last Monday.

Balmes said the inmates did so following dialogue and negotiations over the weekend.

Aguirre earlier confirmed the resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the NBP and bared plans to replace the contingent of PNP-SAF guarding the national penitentiary, citing the possibility that some SAF members have been tempted by the huge amount of money involved.

P134-M drugs destroyed
In Malabon, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) yesterday destroyed P134 million worth of dangerous drugs at Clean International Corp. in Barangay Maysilo.

Destroyed through thermal decomposition were 44,669.95 grams of shabu, 10.58 grams of marijuana and 28,410 grams of activated carbon with a total value of P134,009,108.70.

Key PDEA officials and other law enforcement agencies, representatives from the DOJ, Dangerous Drugs Board, Public Attorney’s Office and non-governmental organizations were present.

PDEA director general Isidro Lapeña said the destruction is in compliance with the requirements of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and DDB regulations.

Yakap Bayan
The government will soon roll out a rehabilitation program that aims to transform thousands of drug surrenderers into community leaders capable of responding to disasters and emergency situations.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said Yakap Bayan would provide drug dependents an opportunity to become productive members of society by equipping them with skills useful to their communities.

The program involves six months of rehabilitation and 18 months of reintegration programs that include capacity building activities on disaster response.

“We embrace drug surrenderers with the goal of transforming them into volunteers, then advocates and eventually leaders in the community able to implement disaster resiliency and response programs,” DSWD assistant secretary Jose Antonio Hernandez said.

“As we equip them with different disaster-response skills, the surrenderers will be the primary responders during calamities. If before, they are the ‘headaches’ of society, now they will become active and useful members of the community.”

Successful drug war
Hundreds of former drug dependents from 27 towns and five cities in Nueva Ecija yesterday proclaimed the success of President Duterte’s drug war, as 480 surrenderers joined a friendly basketball conference held simultaneously by district in the province.

“Mark,” a surrenderer from Bongabon town, said he regained his self-esteem and “correct frame of mind” when he entered Bahay Pagbabago in his town a couple of months ago.

Bahay Pagbabago is the localized rehabilitation center established in every municipality and city through the initiative of police offices. The center is equipped with sports facilities and offers livelihood training supported by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or Provincial Manpower Training Center. – With Delon Porcalla, Edu Punay, Emmanuel Tupas, Janvic Mateo, Ric Sapnu



Women’s group raises funds for Leni counter-protest

By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star)

Photo:Lawyer Purificacion Bernabe, one of the proponents of “Piso para sa Laban ni Leni” initiative, said this would serve as an avenue for ordinary Filipinos “to stand together and protect their votes” for the vice presidency in last year’s elections. File

MANILA, Philippines - A group of Filipino women launched yesterday an online fundraising campaign to help Vice President Leni Robredo finance her counter-protest against former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Lawyer Purificacion Bernabe, one of the proponents of “Piso para sa Laban ni Leni” initiative, said this would serve as an avenue for ordinary Filipinos “to stand together and protect their votes” for the vice presidency in last year’s elections.

“Our objective is not just to give Vice President Leni our money, but also to protect our votes,” Bernabe said in a press conference at the Museo Pambata in Manila.

Bernabe, along with former awardees of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS), filed last week a petition before the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to allow them to contribute to Robredo’s counter-protest.

The petitioners included Museo Pambata founder Nina Lim-Yuson, former Commission on Human Rights commissioner Paulynn Paredes-Sicam, singer Celeste Legaspi-Gallardo, former Bases Conversion and Development Authority board director Zorayda Alonzo, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman and Ateneo de Manila University press director Karina Bolasco.

Bolasco noted that this was the first time such petition was filed before the PET.

Under Republic Act 6713 or the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees, “public officials and employees are barred from soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift from non-relatives even during Christmas or family celebrations, or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by, the functions of their office, if the value of the gift is neither nominal nor insignificant.”

RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, also prohibits public officials and employees from accepting gifts.

Bernabe, however, said their petition is consistent with their constitutional right of suffrage.

“The petitioners exercised their right of suffrage in the 2016 national and local elections. This exercise of sovereign authority deserves affirmation, even protection, if not from the state, then by the voters themselves. This includes protection of the outcome of the election,” the petition, which was filed on June 27, stated.

As of yesterday, the “Piso para sa Laban ni Leni” campaign has raised P408,878.50, which Bernabe said would be paid directly to PET, should it rule in favor of the petition.

Sicam said instead of questioning the capacity of Marcos to pay his deposit, the group decided to focus on helping the Vice President.

Robredo is trying to raise around P7 million for the second tranche of payment required by the PET for her counter-protest, which is due on July 14.

The high court has ordered Robredo and Marcos to shell out a total of P81.46 million for their separate election protests.

Of this amount, P66.02 million would be used for the retrieval of poll materials for the protest of Marcos while P15.44 million would be used to retrieve election materials for Robredo’s petition.

In case the PET junks their appeal, Bolasco said the money would be donated to Robredo’s Angat Buhay program.

“There’s a chance that the high tribunal will not accept this petition. This is a test case. If that happens, the money will go to her projects under the Angat Buhay program,” she said.


Rody, Leni briefly meet at PAF’s 70th anniversary

By Helen Flores and Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)

Photo: President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo attend the 70th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base in Pampanga yesterday. The two exchanged handshakes. KRIZJOHN ROSALES

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo briefly met yesterday, days after they marked their first year in office.

The country’s top two officials were guests at the 70th founding anniversary of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Duterte and Robredo were seated beside each other in their first encounter in over three months.

Before he began his speech, Duterte acknowledged Robredo.

“The Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, Ma’am, may I look at you for the third time?” the President told Robredo, who simply smiled.

According to Robredo’s close aide, the two officials did not talk and just shook hands.

Last March, Duterte invited Robredo and her children to dinner but has not yet followed up on his invitation.

The Vice President has said she looks forward to their dinner, saying she would like to take the opportunity to discuss her position on various issues affecting the country.

Robredo resigned from the Duterte Cabinet last December after she was barred from attending Cabinet meetings.

Air Force modernization
Duterte vowed to continue supporting the Air Force’s capability upgrade program as he cited the military’s role in fighting terrorism and defending the country’s territory.

The Chief Executive said the government would acquire more air assets as the country faces challenges posed by terrorism and external threats.

“I assure you that we will build on our past gains to further strengthen the Philippine Air Force. We will continue the ongoing modernization program by procuring additional attack and combat utility vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs to complement our already existing air assets,” he said.

“I call upon the men and women of the Philippine Air Force to live up to your oath with the highest degree of professionalism and competence. Together let us create an environment where our people can live in peace and prosperity.”

Duterte said the PAF plays a “crucial” role in the military’s efforts to retake Marawi City from Islamic State-inspired terrorists. He reported that more than 40 air assets and more than 400 Air Force officers and personnel have been deployed to the strife-torn city.

“As we wrap up our campaign to liberate Marawi, I am confident that the Philippine Air Force will once again take an active role in the rebuilding of the city and uplifting the spirit of those affected by the conflict,” the President said.

“We will rely on your valuable experience in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, especially in surveying war-torn areas and air lifting relief goods and rescuing victims and people stranded,” he added.

Duterte said the PAF plays a key role in preserving the Philippines’ national integrity through its reconnaissance missions and maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise.

He said the PAF also augments internal security operations by providing air support to ground forces and assisting law enforcement agencies in surveillance and intelligence gathering operations.

The PAF has joined almost 2,000 counterinsurgency and law enforcement operations, five of which were related to Duterte’s war against illegal drugs and loose firearms.

Short prepared speech
Duterte usually delivers lengthy, freewheeling and extemporaneous speeches but decided to stick to his prepared lines yesterday because of the rain.

His speech lasted only about seven minutes, way shorter than the nearly hour-long speeches he is known to deliver.

“I will just read this so our ceremony will be short. It’s raining. I find it very unsettling sitting there and looking at you all wet,” the President said.


NCRPO readies security for Duterte’s SONA

By Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star)

Photo: Members of the Manila Police District undergo civil disturbance management training at the Quirino Grandstand yesterday ahead of President Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24. MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

MANILA, Philippines - The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will start this week its security preparations for President Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, an official said yesterday.

NCRPO chief Director Oscar Albayalde said they would hold an anti-crowd disturbance management (CDM) competition in Manila’s Rizal Park on Saturday.

Albayalde said security measures during the SONA would be stricter because of some issues such as the martial law in Mindanao and the Marawi crisis.

The NCRPO will implement security adjustments for this year’s SONA upon orders from Malacañang, he said.

Last year, protesters were allowed to conduct rallies during Duterte’s first SONA.

Albayalde said officials of the Commission on Human Rights would meet with anti-riot policemen days before the SONA.

He said the NCRPO’s regional police safety battalion and public safety battalions of the five police districts would take part in the CDM competition.

Albayalde said the winners would receive cash gifts and “bragging rights.”

The NCRPO officials would discuss security deployment for the SONA with Quezon City Police District chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar, who is the overall commander of the police forces to be deployed to the Batasan Pambansa complex.


Taguig precinct chief nabbed for extortion

By Cecille Suerte Felipe and Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - A precinct commander of the Taguig City police was arrested for allegedly extorting P30,000 from a truck driver whom he apprehended for supposed drug possession over the weekend.

Senior Inspector Cesar Espejo, head of the Police Community Precinct (PCP) 1, was collared along with six members of the security force of Barangay West Bicutan. They were Reggie Adrales, Bobby Tejero, Rolly Barcelo, Antonio Bontia, Antonio Bag-ao and Stephanie Villanueva.

The suspects were nabbed by operatives of the Counter Intelligence Task Force (CITF) in an entrapment operation on Saturday.

They were presented to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa after flag-raising rites at Camp Crame yesterday.

Espejo was charged with kidnapping and extortion before the Department of Justice, according to CITF director Chief Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo.

Malayo said they conducted an operation against Espejo and the other suspects in Bicutan after a truck driver complained that he and his helper were arrested on trumped-up drug charges.

The victims said the suspects demanded P30,000 in exchange for their release.

According to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde, Espejo admitted taking P5,000 from the P30,000 they demanded from the victims.

Espejo claimed that the remaining P25,000 was given to an alias Big Boy “as for the boys.”

The truck driver’s partner said he was released after paying Espejo P30,000 at the Sto. Nino Hospital in Taguig.

“The victim was rescued in the multi-purpose center of Barangay West Bicutan,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP chief said the barangay tanods yielded 9mm pistols and .45-caliber revolvers.

They will be charged with kidnapping, usurpation of authority and illegal possession of firearms, Dela Rosa said.

Albayalde said Espejo would be temporarily assigned with the Regional Police Holding and Administrative Unit of the NCRPO prior to his reassignment to war-torn Marawi City.

Albayalde relieved all personnel of PCP 1 from their posts yesterday.

“I believe that they have been doing this illegal activities for a long time. They will undergo retraining in Bicutan,” he said.

He ordered Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario, director of the Southern Police District, to look for the replacement of Espejo and his men so as not to disrupt police operations in Barangay Western Bicutan.

Albayalde warned other precinct commanders in Metro Manila not to get involved in illegal drugs, kidnapping and extortion or they would suffer Espejo’s fate.


DND chief: Mindanao martial law legal, will get SC nod

By Maricel Halili, News5 | InterAksyon

Photo: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is seen in a Reuters interview at Camp Aquinaldo, February 9, 2017. The martial law administrator said he is confident the Supreme Court will uphold the legality of President Duterte's proclamation of ML in Mindanao. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the legality of the 60-day martial law declaration in Mindanao, which marked its halfway point last week, as government troops continue pitched battles with extremists led by the Maute Group.

According to Lorenzana, he was there when Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo M. Año discussed the security aspects of the threat posed by the terrorists, and he is confident the Supreme Court appreciated this well.

The high court, he said, is focused on ascertaining if there is factual basis for President Duterte’s Proclamation 216. Duterte issued this on the evening of May 23, or hours after the Maute-led group, allied with Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, laid siege to Marawi City.

Hapilon has been tagged the Islamic State’s emir in Southeast Asia, as it seeks to establish new footholds after being driven out of its sanctuaries in Iraq and Syria.

Lorenzana said at a briefing Monday he thinks the government has clearly laid out such basis in the hearings conducted by the SC.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue Tuesday (July 4) its promulgation on the martial law declaration, which was the subject of five petitions.

“And I believe we have sufficiently or competently answered all the questions on the basis of martial law. And, yes, tomorrow is the day that they are going to promulgate the ruling. I look forward to seeing that they will say that this is legal for the President to declare martial law in the first place,” Lorenzana said.

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