Latest News

6 inmates escape San Pedro City police lockup

MANILA, Philippines — Six inmates — five facing drug charges, one for illegal possession of firearms — escaped from the police detention cell of San Pedro City, Laguna early Tuesday morning.

Benjo Gayod Lopena, Mark Joseph Varias Alviar, Jordan Mahusap Ibanez, Ed Nino Edwardo Lozada Hernandez, Arvin Lizarda Basilan — the drug suspects — and Rey Erenia Rodrigo fled by sawing off the steel bars of the jail.

At the time of the jailbreak, the detention facility held 59 persons but none joined the escapees.

City police chief Senior Superintendent Harold Depositar has relieved Police Officer 2 Jovencio Piodo Jr., who was on duty at the time of the jailbreak, and ordered his investigation.



Dick Garay, News5


Lawmakers give up bid to lower age of criminal responsibility to 9

MANILA, Philippines — Bowing to stiff opposition, the authors of a bill that would lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old have backed down, opting to strengthen the Juvenile Welfare Act of 2006 instead and retain the current age of 15.

The substitute bill was approved on Tuesday by a sub-committee of the House of Representatives’ justice committee.

Kabayan party-list representative Ron Salo called the substitute bill a more acceptable version, saying it took into consideration all views, including the opposition of various groups to lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

“What we have tried to do is to remove the stigma of being criminal, but all the interventions are there and being strengthened further,” Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano said.

The bill will give the state the right to “take responsibility” of a child in conflict with the law if the parents cannot do so.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate and Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop raised the same concern about funding and capacitating the agencies tasked to implement the measure.

“The weakness of the (Senator Francis) Pangilinan law (author of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act), is the funding. The current bill proposes a number of measures to be undertaken by national agencies, but how much appropriation will be given,” Zarate said.

Kung walang pondosiguradong walang mangyayari diyan (Without funding, nothing will happen),” added Zarate, who abstained during the voting.

Acop said there was nothing in the bill that says how the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would be strengthened given that it bears the burden of rehabilitating children in conflict with the law.

Below are among the pertinent provisions of the proposed “Act expanding the scope of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System and strengthening the social reintegration programs for children in conflict with the law, amending for the purpose Republic Act. No. 9344, as amended, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”:

  • Establishment of Bahay Pag-asa, a 24-hour child-caring institution to be established, funded and managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which will provide short-tern residential care for children in conflict with the law, who are nine years of age to 17 years old who are committed for rehabilitation or awaiting court disposition.
  • If the child taken into custody is 15 years old or below, the child will be turned over to the local social welfare development officer and shall immediately inform the child’s parents or guardian, or the child’s nearest relative that the child has been taken into custody.
  • The local social welfare officer will assess if the child needs to be placed under foster care or in a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-asa.
  • Any person who induces or coerces a child to commit a crime shall be punished by reclusion temporal if the crime committed is punishable by imprisonment of six years or less, and by reclusion perpetua if the crime committed is punishable by imprisonment of more than six years.
  • Parents of children who commit serious crimes or who are repeat offenders shall undergo mandatory intervention programs such as parenting seminars and counseling. Failure to undergo this process shall be a ground for imprisonment for at least 30 days but not more than six months.
  • The court shall impose a penalty two degrees lower than that provided for in law for crimes committed by children in conflict with the law. In cases where the law provides for a fixed period of imprisonment, the period shall be reduced in half. For crimes punishable by life imprisonment, the penalty to be imposed shall be imprisonment of up to 12 years.
  • If the child in conflict with the law reaches 18 years of age while under suspended sentence, the court shall determine whether to discharge the child, to order execution of sentence, or to extend the suspended sentence until the child reaches 25 years.
  • The DSWD shall be responsible for building, funding and operating Bahay Pag-asa in provinces and cities to be identified by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council.
  • All Bahay Pag-asa that are currently operated and maintained by local government units shall continue to be operated, maintained and funded by the respective LGUs.
  • The Bureau of Corrections shall establish at least two agricultural camps each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority shall also establish at least two training centers each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon


Distracted drivers or implementors? ‘OA’ Agencies hit for over-stretching ADDA law, IRR review sought

MANILA – What are deemed ‘manifestly prejudicial to safe driving’? An ambiguous provision worded thus, in a joint order by three transport agencies several years ahgo has worked havoc on the enforcement of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), a law originally designed mainly to prevent road accidents as a result of motorists calling or texting while driving.

Lawmakers have thus called for a review of the implementing rules and regulations of the ADDA as commuter safety advocates warned against “over-stretching” the law with the numerous controversial bans imposed on motorists by transport agencies.

The advocates for commuter safety warned that, even as the transport agencies have already over-interpreted the law and its intent, traffic enforcers on the ground are bound to compound the situation by adding their own interpretations to what the ADDA bans. This, analysts had said earlier, could open up avenues for extortion or corruption, while hardly denting the real enemy: risks to road safety.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III even urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to hold implementation of the ADDA while the Senate Committee on Public Services reviews the IRR, which he said exceeded the intent of the law.

In effect, the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board and the Land Transportation Office are legislating on their own, warned Sotto, who said he was familiar with the deliberations and the intent of the authors of the law passed many years ago. Sotto recalled the deliberations then centered mainly on the flagrant use of mobile phones for calling and texting by motorists, a bad practice blamed for many road accidents.

Sotto was supported in his call for a suspension of the implementation and IRR review by Sen. JV Ejercito, who issued a separate statement.

“Looks like their officials (DOTr) did not understand the essence of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. They have made matters complicated, when it is basically just about banning the use of cellphones while driving,” Ejercito said as Public Services Committee Vice Chairman.

Ejercito said that cellphones when used for navigational purposes should be permitted to aid motorists from steering clear of heavy traffic. 

“It is counter-intuitive when using Waze or other navigation apps since the use of cellphone is less dangerous if it is within the line of sight. Every second that the driver’s eyes are on the road counts. Mas delikado pa yumuko!” he explained.

Ejercito said that the DOTr should reconsider the strict provisions regarding the placement of cellphones within the line of sight of drivers.

“We rarely hear of road accidents that result from the use of navigational apps. Definitely, texting and tinkering with a mobile phone while driving is a no-no. But when it is used as a navigational aid and it is properly placed, it is okay,” he said. 

Joint order also over-interpreted – Inton

Meanwhile, Atty. Ariel Inton, president of the Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection (LCSP), said
“It is clear that the coverage of the law is only for gadgets” that distract drivers. 

In a statement, speaking mostly in Filipino, Inton noted that valid questions have been raised as to the propriety of the implementors’ coverage of what “distractions” are meant by the law, when even rosaries that usually hang from or wrapped around rear view mirrors have been banned, “even though they are not cellphones or headphones and are not covered by law.”

Inton took issue the implementors’ explanation that these items are covered by an Aquino-era Joint Administrative Order (JAO) of LTO, LTFRB and the DOTr’s predecessor, the DOTC. “However, there is nothing in the JAO that says items like the rosary are banned,” he pointed out.

This was just lifted, Inton said, from a provision in the JAO that broadly prohibits any item “manifestly prejudicial to safe driving.” This, Inton said, should not be allowed to be the basis of over-interpretation by over-zealous agencies and, subsequently, by traffic enforcers on the ground who may have their own ideas about what constitutes something “manifestly prejudicial to road safety.” 

In truth, Inton pointed out, “there are so many things that distract a driver but have become ordinary or routine.” This, he said, has thus opened wide the debates on whether these, too shouldn’t be banned: for instance, a jeepney driver stretching his hand backward to receive money and give change to passengers. Already, some people are saying drinking coffee or water are distractions, but public transport drivers complain they need to have coffee for early morning duty, and water to rehydrate or prevent hypertension at midday when the heat in traffic could be unbearable.

“Meanwhile, I believe the first priority is to ensure traffic law enforcers have a clear idea of what the law is about in order to prevent confusion and arguments on the streets,” said Inton, speaking in Filipino.

The LCSP is calling for an all-out dry-run of the ADDA before full-scale implementation, and a review of the ground rules. Any interpretation on the ground by the enforcers should be rooted firmly in the provisions of the law, and not just born out of individual opinions or interpretations, which could vary, said Inton’s group.

‘IRR authors legislated own law’

In seeking a review of the IRR by the Senate committee on public services, Sotto said that panel, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, can use its oversight functions.

One provision that Sotto wants clarified is the description of line of sight, which became the implementors’ basis for saying the rosary is distracting to the driver.

Sotto, who drives his own car, said even he is now confused by the “line of sight” description and prohibitions. For instance, he said, some cars like his has what is called a “heads up display” that reflects on the windshield the RPM and speed.

Does this mean he should have this feature taken out even though it was part of the vehicle when he bought it?

Sotto said the DOTr can motu propio suspend implementation of the ADDA temporarily pending the IRR review, stressing, “we did not intend the law to be that way.” 

The senator said he will push his proposal in plenary. 

The problem, Sotto said, is rooted in the fact that the original authors of the law had a different, specific goal in mind, but the authors of the IRR have tended to legislate their own law.

Sotto said if DOTr refuses to heed the Senate’s suggestion, senators could also play hardball with the DOTr’s budget.


InterAksyon | Mae Ann Los Baños, News5



Bill promoting ‘work from home’ hurdles Senate

The Senate on Monday approved a bill that encourages “work from home” arrangements in a bid to ease traffic in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

Senate Bill No. 1363  or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, was approved on third and final reading with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention.

The proposed law, authored by Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar, defines telecommuting as the partial or total substitution of computers or  telecommunication technologies, or both, for the commute to work by employees.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of SBN 1363, said the measure also seeks to protect the rights of home-based workers by making certain that they had equal pay, leave benefits and promotion as their counterparts in the office.

In a  statement he said while telecommuting had started in the 1980s, especially in the fields of communication and architecture,  only a few companies in the Philippines had adopted telecommuting.

Villanueva explained that in 2014 the US Software company VM Ware Inc. conducted a study involving corporations with more than 500 employees in the Philippines. He said the study showed that 70 percent of their respondents who worked “on the go” claimed they were more productive and creative. Around 93 percent said that they used their Smartphones for work while 73 percent said that working-from-home was an ideal work.

A report from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines showed that there was a growing acceptance of telecommuting in workplaces such as Meralco, SGS Philippines, Inc., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Villanueva added. In 2016, the Department of Labor and Employment also reported that there were 261 companies with employees who were under voluntary flexible arrangements.

In a Gallup study on 1,011 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia showed American companies were more receptible to telecommuting and revealed 37 percent of the employees said had worked remotely at one point in their career in 2015 as compared to 30 percent in 2006 and nine percent in 1995.

The study demonstrated 58 percent believed those who worked remotely were just as productive as those who worked in an office, up from 47 percent who said the same in 1995. Only 20 percent of them thought telecommuters were less effective on a daily basis than their peers who worked in the office each day.

Villanueva said his committee had looked into the “best practices” in telecommuting to ensure that more employers would adopt the program in their workplace. He said the proposed law would not be mandatory and instead give the employers the discretion on whether to offer telecommuting to their workers or not.

However, Villanueva said, the bill would guarantee that telecommuting program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law. He said employers would ensure that its home-based workers be given the same treatment as their peers in the office under the bill.



Ombudsman blocks Napoles' bail appeal at SC

MANILA, Philippines – Prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman submitted their comment to the Supreme Court, seeking to block Janet Lim Napoles' appeal to be granted bail in her plunder case with former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

In their comment to the SC en banc, state prosecutors said Napoles failed to establish a solid case that would merit the reversal of Sandiganbayan's decision to deny her petition for bail. A copy of their comment was furnished the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan and released to reporters on Monday, May 22.

Sandiganbayan Third Division denied Napoles' petition for bail in the Enrile case in October 2015, prompting her to run to the High Court in 2016. It follows the same steps taken by her co-accused Enrile, who successfully petitioned the SC to overrule Sandiganbayan and grant him the right to bail.

In Napoles' 5 plunder cases, she has been granted the right to bail in 2 and denied in 3: her cases connected to the former senators Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. Napoles has to win 5 petitions for bail to be able to gain temporary freedom.

SC granted Enrile's bail appeal on humanitarian grounds.

In her appeal, Napoles raises the same arguments she has repeatedly raised in her numerous motions before the courts, both Sandiganbayan and SC. 

They are that:

  1. There is no strong evidence that petitioner Napoles conspired with any of the accused to commit the crime of plunder.
  2. The people failed to prove the element of "amassing, accumulation or acquisition of ill-gotten wealth" in the amount of at least P50 million, which is the gravamen of the offense of plunder.

According to Ombudsman prosecutors, Napoles' grounds tackle the very meat of her plunder case, which, according to them, is not for SC to act on.

"The Honorable Court is not a trier of facts. Moreover, a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court determines questions of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and never questions of facts. As such, the petition must fail," prosecutors said in their comment.

Prosecutors added: "Other than the sweeping averment that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in denying her application for bail, Napoles miserably failed to establish the same."

The High Court has dismissed 3 earlier petitions filed by Napoles to junk her graft and plunder charges. (READ: Where do PH judicial bodies stand in the Napoles case?)

Napoles is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig after the Sandiganbayan denied her request to be detained instead at the National Bureau of Investigation custodial center.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he is studying the possibility of admitting Napoles into the Witness Protection Program (WPP), after it was pointed out that he doesn't have the authority to turn Napoles into a state witness.

Under the rules of court, it is the Ombudsman who can recommend to the Sandiganbayan to turn Napoles into a state witness. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has said they have no intentions of doing so. –


House opposition backs De Lima's request to join Senate debates

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House opposition bloc are supporting the request of detained Senator Leila de Lima that she be allowed to participate in important legislative deliberations.

The members of the opposition bloc, who dub themselves the "Magnificent 7," visited De Lima at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame on Monday, May 22. The following lawmakers were present:

  • Gary Alejano, Magdalo
  • Teddy Baguilat Jr, Ifugao
  • Emmanuel Billones, Capiz 1st District
  • Raul Daza, Northern Samar 1st District
  • Edgar Erice, Caloocan City 2nd District
  • Edcel Lagman, Albay 1st District 
  • Tom Villarin, Akbayan

Lagman said De Lima, his party mate from the Liberal Party (LP), should be allowed to join Senate debates on "landmark" legislation because it is her constitutional right and duty to vote on significant measures. (READ: De Lima to seek court nod to join Senate debates)

"Under the Bill of Rights, she is presumed innocent pending her detention. She is not a flight risk as she even voluntarily surrendered to police authorities," said Lagman in a statement.

He added that security escorts of De Lima, who is detained due to drug charges, can be maximized to ensure her return to Camp Crame. 

Erice shared the same sentiments in an interview with reporters after the visit.

"Siguro puwede occasionally, 'wag lang 'yung araw-araw na pagdalo sa session. Siguro kung may voting na importante, may mga issues na pag-uusapan, siguro dapat payagan ng korte. Kasi mahalaga din na mai-represent ni Senator De Lima 'yung constituency niya, being a duly elected senator," said Erice.

(Maybe she can be allowed to do that occasionally, but not to attend the session every day. Perhaps when there is important voting that will happen or important issues to discuss, the court should allow her to attend. Because it is important for Senator De Lima to represent her constituency as a duly elected senator.)

"Hindi pa naman siya convicted (She has not been convicted yet). She is still presumed innocent," he added. 

Light mood during visit

There was a light atmosphere during the House opposition bloc's visit to De Lima. Baguilat said the embattled senator was "in high spirits."

"Napansin ko habang kwentuhan (I noticed during our talk), the best way to uplift Senator Leila and others na (who are) persecuted for their beliefs is just to visit. Power of company," tweeted Baguilat. 

"Nothing subversive discussed. Just tips from Gary on how to bear with detention. Hehe," he added.

De Lima herself wrote a letter about the visit, thanking her allies for visiting her in Camp Crame. She said their chat was a happy one and they discussed important issues in the country.

"Sila ang nananatiling matatag sa kanilang prinsipyo na isulong ang kanilang mga adbokasiya, hindi para masunod ang gusto ng Pangulo, kundi para itaguyod ang kapakanan ng Pilipino. Sa kabila ng paniniil sa ating demokrasya, nariyan sila, naninindigan para sa bayan," said De Lima. 

(They remain steadast in their principle to push for their advocacies, not to follow what the President wants, but to uphold the rights of Filipinos. While our democracy is being trampled on, they're still there standing up for the nation.)

"Just like my colleagues in the Senate minority who previously visited me, these lawmakers are the genuine and functioning minority in the House of Representatives. In this time of darkness and flagrant violations of human rights that besiege our nation today, it is really an honor to be fighting with them for truth, justice, and democracy," she added.

The Senate minority bloc, mostly composed of LP members, plans to seek court permission for De Lima to go to the Senate and vote on "critical" measures. –


Journos to Du30 communications team: Does your mandate include ‘peddling falsehoods?’

MANILA, Philippines – Journalists on Monday “questioned” and “protested” the government-run Philippine News Agency (PNA)’s publication of two alleged “fake news,” asking the communications team of the Duterte administration if its mandate included spreading lies. 

“We do understand the need for PNA and other state-affiliated outfits to project as strongly as possible the government’s side on current issues and controversies. But does this include peddling falsehoods?” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) told Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar and the PNA team in a letter. 

“Our concern over the use of PNA to legitimize fake news also stems from the possible implications this poses on the professional reputations and yes, the safety of our many upright colleagues who work for the venerable news agency and continue, despite the challenges they face, to keep it reputable and worthy of people’s trust,” the NUJP added. 

The media organization was pertaining to two similar articles that the PNA uploaded on its website. The first one was titled “95 nations in 3rd UPR convinced no EJKs in PHL,” published on May 15. The second, published on May 20, was titled “PHL’s human rights situation commended at UPR.”

The two articles in question were based on the statements of Department of Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing during a press conference on May 15 in connection with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 members of the UN. 

In the first version of the article, the PNA reported that 95 countries in the UPR were convinced that there were no extra-judicial killings in the country. Meanwhile, the second version said the 95 countries in the UPR instead praised the Philippines for its improved human rights situation.

In the letter, NUJP questioned how Densing’s statements were “reported so uncritically.”

“While we do not question your editorial prerogatives and do understand that you face certain limitations as a government-run news service, we do wonder how Mr. Densing’s comments, which apparently run counter to all other accounts of the positions the participant-countries to the UPR actually registered, could have been reported so uncritically,” the group said.

NUJP also noted the slight rewriting of the second article as an attempt to slightly shift the focus from the first article, which the media group described as “fake.”

“Worse, these were reported not once but twice, with slight rewriting in the second version, as witness below, in an apparent (to our mind) attempt at slightly shifting the focus from that of the first article, which was so obviously – we are sorry but there is no other term applicable – fake from the get-go,” they said.

NUJP then cited the database of UPR recommendations prepared by the non-governmental organization UPR Info in their website, which countered Densing’s statements regarding the positions of the countries as reported by PNA.

The media group also expressed concerns as the first PNA story had already been picked up by fake news sites to smear earlier reports of mainstream media outfits regarding the results of the recent UPR of the Philippines. 

“It has not helped that the first PNA story has already been picked up and exploited by fake news sites, which peddle Densing’s canard to counter the international concern over the current human rights situation in the country and to further smear mainstream media outfits that have reported accurately on the REAL position of the countries that attended the UPR.”

NUJP also said it expected the news agency to answer their inquiries regarding the matter. 

“As a media organization and as citizens of this Republic, we demand and expect an answer from a news agency funded by our taxes and which we, therefore, technically own,” the group said.


Camille Aguinaldo, InterAksyon


Aguirre reiterates De Lima cannot attend Senate sessions

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reiterated on Monday that Senator Leila De Lima is barred from attending Senate sessions due to her incarceration over illegal drug trading charges.

De Lima has formally asked Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to support her bid to be granted furlough by the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court so that she could cast her vote on “crucial landmark legislations."

Asked if the Department of Justice (DOJ) would still file an opposition in the event the Senate backs De Lima’s plea, Aguirre said in a text message: "Of course! Our position is contrary to her request."

Aguirre earlier said some rights and privileges are suspended when one is incarcerated, including the right to attend legislative sessions, citing  the cases of former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

The three former senators are facing plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.

De Lima, however, stressed in her letter to Pimentel that she remains a senator and that she is just a "mere detention prisoner in full possession of political and civil rights."

She said prisoners were allowed to register as voters and vote in recent elections and that the Sandiganbayan had granted the plea of some detained senators to attend birthday celebrations.

"I do not think it is too much for the Senate to ask the court in charge of my detention to grant such consideration, especially since it is not merely to go to a birthday party or for any personal reasons, but to attend to matters of legislation and sovereign representation," De Lima said.

De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame over allegations of complicity in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary in exchange for poll campaign funds.  Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News

Subscribe to this RSS feed


Sign up to keep in touch!

Be the first to hear about special offers and exclusive deals from TechNews and our partners.

Check out our Privacy Policy & Terms of use
You can unsubscribe from email list at any time