Monday, 30 November 2009

PIA Dispatch - Friday, November 27, 2009

PGMA receives German, Austrian journalists

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning received in the Palace 53 German and Austrian writers and editors who come from the lifestyle, travel, and opinion sections of various newspapers and television stations.

The president hoped they had a great time and had great memories of the Philippines to share with their readers and television viewers back home.

The journalists called on the president following two weeks of travel to the different islands of the country as part of their immersion program, a subject they are expected to write about when they return to their respective countries.

This is the second batch of tourism-related communication and travel specialists and agents invited by the Department of Tourism to see and experience first-hand tourist destinations in the country. The first batch, consisting of 250 travel agents and travel writers, came last May and are now helping promote the Philippines to European travelers, said Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque.

The journalists were divided into six groups. Group 1 toured the Visayas Enchanted Islands of Dumaguete (Atmosphere Resort), Sipalay (Artistic Diving Resort) and Bacolod (Planta Centro Hotel); Group 2 for the Aktiv Island Tour in Coron and Busuanga, Palawan (at Club Paradise); Group 3 – Island Hopping in Bohol (Ananyana), Boracay (Boracay Regency); Group 4—Culture and Nature of Vigan/Laoag, Ilocos (Sitio Remedios), El Nido (El Nido Resort-Lagen); Group 5—Spa and Traditional Wellness in Batangas (The Farm at San Benito), Cebu (Shangri-la Mactan) and Boracay (Mandala) and Group 6—South Sea Peals and Paradise Tour of Taytay, Palawan (Flower Island and Terramar Pearl Farms) and El Nido, Palawan (El Nido Resort-Lagen).

RP impresses German TV director

“We are overwhelmed by the Philippines. There is such a variety of different impressions you can have here. We didn’t know that there are so many islands that you will find one (to love).”

Jurgen Drensek, director/author of AIXPRESS, travel-TV-Productions ARD/ZDF, made the remark after his stay in Coron and Busuanga in Palawan Nov. 22-27 at the invitation of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

He was among 11 German and one Austrian media men who took the Aktiv Island Tour that highlighted scuba diving, surfing and other active outdoor activities.

“I loved it so much. The diving is so enormous The Apo Reef is one of the best diving spots in the world,” he said.

He and 52 other travel writers and editors, lifestyle, and opinion writers called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo prior to leaving for their respective countries tonight.

He regrets, however, that the “Philippines is so far away from Europe, and that’s a problem because you have a lot competitors on the way to the Philippines like Thailand which are very well known in Europe,” Drensek said.

He said the key to attracting European tourists is to have a very good connecting flight to the Philippines. He is the president of the German Association of Travel Journalists.

He said the recent Maguindanao massacre will not likely affect European travel to the Philippines as “it is very far but it will directly affect your local tourism.”


Mangudadatu files COC for governor of Maguindanao

Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Ibrahim "Toto" Mangudadatu filed Friday morning his certificate for candidacy (COC) for the gubernatorial post of Maguindanao province, which is currently in the center of a controversy following the infamous Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people.

Mangudadatu was accompanied by ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party standard bearer Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro to the provincial Commission on Election (Comelec) office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, amid heavy guard of some 300 military and police personnel.

Mangudadatu, running under the Lakas-Kampi-CMD banner, is the first local executive to file his COC for the gubernatorial position in the province for the forthcoming 2010 national and local elections.

Earlier, Teodoro expelled from the party Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan; his father, former Maguindanao Governor Ampatuan, Sr.; and brother Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

Ampatuan, Jr. is currently undergoing an inquest proceeding before the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila over his alleged participation in the ambush-slay, composed of two female lawyers, over 30 journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family.

All victims were dug up dead at a mass grave in nearby Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town of same province. On Nov. 3, the victims were on their way to file the COC for Mangudadatu before the Comelec office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, when allegedly stopped by some 100 armed led by Ampatuan, Jr. along the national highway.

Both Ampatuan, Jr. and Mangudadatu have previously expressed interest on vying for the top post in the province.

No need for international investigators to handle the Maguindanao massacre probe -- Fajardo

MANILA, Nov. 27 — Malacanang said on Friday there is no need for international investigators or a foreign fact-finding body to probe the November 23 Maguindanao massacre.

"We have competent investigators handling the Maguindanao massacre (investigation) and there is no need for outside probers," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said.

According to her, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct swift and effective investigation on the Maguindanao massacre to give justice to the 57 victims and charge in court the perpetrators.

Fajardo said that as a result of the President’s order, Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay town, Maguindanao, voluntarily submitted himself to Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza on Thursday morning and was turned over to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed multiple murder charges against Mayor Ampatuan who is now detained at the NBI headquarters in Manila.

The younger Ampatuan insisted that he did not order nor participate in the gruesome Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 57 individuals, including some members of the Mangudadatu family and media men.

The mayor even blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the group behind the multiple killings.

"I have nothing to do with it. I turned myself in and agreed to come here to show everyone that I was not in hiding and that I am innocent,” Ampatuan Jr. told a television interview on Thursday night.

He even tagged MILF commander Ameril Umbrakato as the one behind the gruesome murders.

But MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar branded as "absurd" the claim of Mayor Ampatuan that their group was the one behind the Maguindanao massacre.

Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, political rival of the Ampatuans and whose wife, two sisters, and two lawyers, among others, were killed in the incident, also dismissed Ampatuan's claim, saying witnesses had pointed to the local official as the mastermind.

Undersecretary Fajardo stressed the government also disarmed the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) in Maguindanao and put under the government’s custody some 400 CVO members who are now undergoing questioning and investigation regarding the massacre.

Fajardo added that President Arroyo showed that the government is determined to give justice for the Maguindanao victims and charge in court the perpetrators without fear or favor, even if they are allies of the administration.

On Tuesday, President Arroyo declared the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City  under a state of emergency after the gruesome incident.

The Lakas-Kampi-CMD national executive committee also expelled the Ampatuans -- Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Mayor Ampatuan Jr. -- from the roster of the administration party.

Senator Loren Legarda and former Akbayan Partylist Representative Loreta Rosales had earlier proposed the elevation of the Maguindanao massacre case to the United Nations.

Statement of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde on Maguindanao massacre

The Maguindanao massacre is a painful reminder of how man – and I’m talking about the whole human race – can regress back to a state of savagery.

It is said that the incident has few precedence in brutality, and for this we are condemned by the whole world. But let me assure the nation and the rest of the world that the killing of at least 57 people, including lawyers and media men, is a mere aberration.

I will not repeat what DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno said in a press conference yesterday. It should be sufficient for me to say that the machinery of the government is now working to take the suspects into custody and to secure the witnesses.

That is the least we can do, if we are to redeem our honor in the eyes of the world.

Of course, we must satisfy the cry for justice from the families of the victims. And this we are resolved to do. But the issue has transcended private grief. Our reputation as a civilized people is now at stake.

The government, under the able leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is determined to get to the bottom of this blot on our collective conscience.

To the families and supporters of the victims, we appeal for calm and restraint. Our law enforcement agencies are working overtime to solve the crime.

To the rest of the world, who may now look at us in less than favorable light, do nor doubt our resolve to redeem our honor.

We are a civilized country. We are aware of our duties and responsibilities. We will not rest until we can take our place once again among the ranks of the civilized world.

And we will do that by identifying the culprits, by bringing them before the bar of justice, and by meting out a just and appropriate punishment to the guilty.

BIR Launches SanTAX Claus Project

The Bureau of Internal Revenue on Thursday launched its SanTAX Claus Project at the Center Mall Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan City, Metro Manila, with Department of Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves gracing the event commencing the monitoring of small retail establishments r bazaars during the Christmas shopping season, to check on their compliance with the Tax Code requirements.

The launch was spearheaded by BIR Senior Deputy Commissioner Joel L. Tan-Torres who also held a dialogue later on with invited tiangge or bazaar operators, commercial event organizers, and vendors where the project was discussed especially on tax compliance requirements.

Simultaneous SanTAX Claus launches were also held in Pasay, Taguig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Makati and Quezon City, where revenue officers wearing SanTAX Claus outfits were deployed to check on said privileged stores’ compliance with the requirements of BIR such as registration and issuance of receipts and invoices.

The SanTAX Claus teams distributed flyers to the participating vendors, posted tarpaulins and observed whether vendors are properly issuing receipts or invoices. They also collected certain information on the vendors to make sure they issue registered receipts/invoices.

In the event that the organizers and vendors are found to have committed any violations, the same team will hand out Application for Registration Forms with pre-generated TIN to assist said businesses in registering with BIR. They were also asked to pay the annual registration fee and submit the application form on-the-spot.

The SanTAX Claus Project according to Senior Deputy Commissioner Tan-Torres is not an enforcement activity of BIR, but rather to promote voluntary compliance for taxpayers that will result in the generation of taxes.

Tan-Torres stressed that the primary objective of this Project is to improve tax awareness by encouraging the general public to demand habitually invoices for goods purchased and official receipts for services procured.

He said that the BIR will not impose additional taxes on said bazaars as misunderstood by many.

He added that this Project intends to educate the public on the importance o asking for receipts and voluntary compliance of taxpayers, which records reveal, is the most efficient and effective approach to collecting revenues.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. submits self to authorities

Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. submitted himself to Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dueza for an inquest proceeding in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

At least 57 bodies, composed of two female lawyers, over 30 journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family were dug up at a mass grave at Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town the past several days.

According to reports, the victims were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, when stopped by some 100 armed men allegedly led by the mayor.

The mayor is being pitted by the Ampatuan clan against Mangudadatu for the provincial gubernatorial post in connection with the 2010 polls.

The mayor is the son of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and brother of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan.

The ARMM governor personally handed over his brother to Dureza at the grounds of the Maguindanao Provincial Capitol and was ferried by a helicopter towards the General Santos City Airport for a trip to Camp Crame in Manila.

DOJ files multiple murder raps vs. Mayor Ampatuan

MANILA, Nov. 26 -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday formally filed criminal charges for multiple murder against Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. before the General Santos City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in connection with the gruesome killing of some 57 civilians, including two women lawyers and a dozen journalists in Maguindanao on Monday.

In a teleconference at the Department of Justice (DOJ), DOJ Acting Secretary and concurrent Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said that Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno led the inquest proceedings against Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

Devanadera said that Mayor Ampatuan was charged with multiple murder in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

Likewise, the DOJ on Thursday formed two teams of prosecutors to focus on Maguindanao massacre case.

Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera III will be the over-all head of the team.

The first group of prosecutors will handle the inquest proceedings and preliminary investigation of all the cases related to Maguindanao massacre.

Group 2 will prosecute the case initially filed before the General Santos City RTC.

PNP suspends permit to carry firearms in Maguindanao, Cotabato City  and Sultan Kudarat

MANILA, Nov. 26 -- Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa on Thursday ordered the indefinite suspension of all permits to carry firearms in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City as part of the government’s forceful measures following the massacre of more than 50 civilians, including more than a dozen media practitioners.

”Effective today, all permits to carry firearms outside of residence are hereby suspended indefinitely in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City,” said Verzosa. The move, according to the PNP chief, is being implemented in close coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Verzosa said he is also reiterating his earlier recommendation to limit the assignment of police officers to government officials to only two close-in security aides who should all be in proper uniform when on duty.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the government has quietly taken an array of forceful measures meant to bring to justice all those responsible for the massacre of at least 57 people in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao, among them were members of the Mangudadatu clan and more than a dozen media practitioners.

The group of Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan town Vice Mayor Esmail Mangudadatu, were on their way to the capital town of Shariff Aguak on Monday morning when more or less 100 armed men, allegedly led by Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., stopped them along a checkpoint and brought them to a mountainous area of Barangay Salman,

Ampatuan town where they were massacred.

Aside from Genalyn Mangudadatu, also killed were Esmail’s sisters Farina Mangudadatu and Eden Mangudadatu, also the incumbent vice mayor of Mangudadatu town, and several relatives and supporters. The Mangudadatus were to file the certificate of candidacy of Esmail who is eyeing the governorship of Maguindanao province.

Given that national agencies like the DILG have no jurisdiction over government agencies in autonomous regions, Puno said he will ask permission from the Office of the President for the Department to investigate all local executives who will be implicated in the massacre and to place all of them under preventive suspension pending such a probe.

“Forceful measures have been taken quietly since Monday while not allowing armed groups, including the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) from taking control of the area,” Puno said.

Puno said it was the quick response by the military to secure the site of the crime and pursue these perpetrators actually prevented these assailants from burying all of the dead and their vehicles.

Verzosa also said he is recommending to the National Police Commission (Napolcom) the suspension of the deputation of local chief executives to oversee police functions and control.

“I will recommend to the CMC (Crisis Management Committee) to limit to two close-in security personnel of all personalities and all of them shall be in uniform and only in the performance of their official function.. All persons in civilian clothes and others impersonating legal authorities that are carrying firearms will be accosted and investigated,” said Verzosa.

At the same time, Verzosa said checkpoints and security inspections will be conducted to enforce these directives.

”There will be no let-up in the AFP/PNP operations and the combined PNP-CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) and DOJ (Department of Justice) investigation shall proceed irrespective of whoever will be implicated by witnesses and evidence. Rule of law, rules of court and rules on evidence will be followed in all our law enforcement actions,” said Verzosa.

First DOE E10 Fuel Economy Run slated on Nov 27

By Bradley De Leon

The Department of Energy has been conducting fuel economy runs since 2002 promoting fuel economy consciousness and consumer empowerment by obtaining data on actual fuel consumption of passenger vehicles based on the actual driving conditions employing fuel efficiency measures and techniques.

The DOE will conduct yet another fuel economy run on November 27 but this time it will be called the First DOE E10 Fuel Economy Run because this will have a good comparative study of the fuel economy rating of the latest different gasoline- fed vehicle models fueled byE10 blended 93 % octane gasoline with those of the gasoline- fueled entries of the previous fuel economy runs. The eco run route will be from DOE to Subic and then back to DOE covering a total distance of 312 kilometers.

The objective of this event is to advocate the efficient utilization of fuel in the transport sector by applying fuel efficient driving techniques, demonstrate the important role the driver plays in achieving substantial reduction in fuel consumption and maintenance cost, provide vital information on the fuel economy the fuel economy rating performance of the different brand new vehicles, and make comparative analysis with the data obtained from the previous fuel economy runs.

The participants of the said activity are the existing stocks of different vehicle models of participating car manufacturers. They are divided into three categories. The Passenger Cars ( less than 1.3 L engine displacement, 1.3L-1.5L, 1.6L-1.8L, 2.0L and above), the SUVs and the APVs/ MPVs. All participants will be fueled by Total Premier Unleaded provided by our sponsor Total (Philippines) Corporation.

RP to receive H1N1 vaccines from WHO

The Philippine government will soon receive H1N1 vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO) after the two parties signed an agreement yesterday and presented the document to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier today.

The said agreement  stipulates that the government will ensure its registration and authorize its use; commit to its appropriate and ethical use; handle its importation, customs clearance and distribution; and notify WHO of occurrence of any unexpected adverse events.

The endowment, according to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, is part of WHO’s pledge to make the distribution equitable and fair to developing countries and poor and vulnerable populations once it becomes available.

The WHO made this commitment during the 60th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in September this year where WHO said that its donations coming from more developed countries and pharmaceuticals will be enough to cover 10% of the population of the developing world.

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) disclosed that the first deliveries of the vaccines shall be given to health care providers.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that these medical personnel are at higher risk of getting the disease than ordinary people due to the larger probability of exposure, plus they may also unknowingly transmit the infections to their families and other patients with other illnesses.

Duque said that the next in the priority list are pregnant women because they have 10x the risk of needing intensive care if infected compared to the general population; people aged 6 months to 59 years old with chronic medical conditions; children five years old and below and adults who are beyond 60 years old (healthy or otherwise) because they are considered to be at highest risk of severe infection; and lastly, the remainder of the population.

The health chief stressed that the vaccination is free of charge and will only be given to those who will volunteer to be immunized against the novel virus.

Duque said that the WHO estimates that it will be able to obtain donations and funding for procurement of at least 200 million vaccines in the first year, which will be enough to cover 10% of the population of the developing world.

“But of course, we cannot afford to just sit and wait for it.

Therefore, we are now making our best efforts to procure on our own,” the health chief said, emphasizing that the DOH has already allocated P100 million for it this year.

“We have to understand, however, the reality that because the global manufacturing capacity is limited, supplies may be initially inadequate and not readily be augmented,” Duque explained.

The government also expressed its gratefulness to the WHO for its continuous health assistance to the victims of the three consecutive typhoons and tropical storms that hit the country recently.

WHO also responded to the request of the DOH to send a team of experts from the WHO Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network (GOARN) to assess the leptospirosis outbreak in the country and to help improve the country’s post-disaster surveillance and disease outbreak control and response efforts.

“We laud the WHO for its steady collaborative partnership with the Philippine government in mounting a coordinated and integrated health sector response to many disease challenges in the country especially in times of disasters. Our country is grateful,” President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo said.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PGMA keynotes Tourism Congress

There is need for a stronger partnership between the government and the private sector for the tourism industry to take advantage of the anticipated economic recovery of its traditional international markets.

In her keynote address at the first-ever Tourism Congress at the Marriott Hotel near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the National Tourism Policy Act of 2009 will be the key instrument to strengthening the government-private sector partnership.

“We are gathered here today to cement in accordance with the law, the strong government-private sector partnership,” the President said.

The law requires the Department of Tourism (DOT) to convene the Tourism Congress to allow participants to elect nominees for five seats in the governing board of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority ((TIEZA), Tourism Promotion Board (TPB) and the Duty Free Philippines Corp.

The three agencies, once operational, will implement the government’s tourism programs.

The president noted that tourist arrivals in the first semester of the year reached almost four million. Only half of that number came to visit the country on 2001.

Likewise, she said domestic tourism also increased, along with foreign tourism, due in part to the efforts of the government, in partnership with the private sector, to provide tourism infrastructure and facilities.

From 2004 to August this year, P555 billion worth of investment went to the development of transportation, tourism ecozones, accommodations, and infrastructure.

The president said that through these investments, the Philippines has increased its market share in the South East Asia  tourism industry.

As a result of this tourism infrastructure, tourist arrivals from Asian countries has increased with Koreans and Chinese topping the list.

The tourism infrastructure progress fall under the president’s Super Regions Economic Development Strategy.

The programs called for the construction of road, and bridges, airports and ports.

Also, the president added, the liberalization of the airline industry contributed to the surge in tourist arrivals.

PGMA mourns victims of Maguindanao massacre

PORAC, Pampanga -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday called on the whole nation to mourn the death of at least 46 people in the Maguindanao massacre on Monday.

The president was in town to inaugurate the Porac Access Road, which leads to the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway).

Though happy that the project road had been completed, the president could not shake off the lingering sadness and outrage over the crime that many people described as unprecedented in its brutality.

Speaking in the vernacular, the president promised the perpetrators will not escape the long arm of the law. She said the government is committed to human rights and will not tolerate lawless violence.

“We will arrest them and have them punished,” she added.

In a way, the president explained, the access road “demonstrates our commitment to human rights by victory it easier for people to travel in safety and convenience.”

PGMA declares national day of mourning for the Maguindanao massacre victims

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Wednesday said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared the national day of mourning for the victims of Maguindanao massacre. The declaration was made three days after the violent incident wherein at least 46 individuals, including media men, were brutally killed on Monday at Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

According to Ermita, President Arroyo extended the government’s sympathies and condolences to the families of the massacre victims by declaring a national day of mourning.

Ermita also said that they are expecting Secretary Jesus Dureza, the appointed head of the Maguindanao Crisis Management Committee, would submit within the day an update regarding the initial investigation of the gruesome killings.

Earlier, President Arroyo declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotobato City through Proclamation No. 1946 on Tuesday.

She also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct a swift and precise investigation to give justice to the victims of the massacre.

PNP vows swift justice to victims of Maguindanao massacre

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday vowed swift justice to the victims of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre, which include at least three members of a political clan and more than a dozen media practitioners.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina said government authorities, particularly the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are now in total control of Maguindanao following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of state of emergency in the province and nearby Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City.

”We would like to give justice immediately in this massacre,” said Espina.

”The general idea of state of emergency is to hold the area under PNP and AFP,” added Espina.

Latest update showed that elements of the PNP’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) have already unearthed 26 more bodies from shallow grave in a remote area in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town. This brings to 46 the total people killed during the incident.

Among those killed were members of the Mangudadatu clan – Genalyn Mangudadatu, the wife of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmail Mangudadatu, his elder sister Bai Farina Mangudadatu, and youngest sister Eden Mangudadatu, who is also the incumbent vice mayor of Mangudadatu town.

Esmail Mangudadatu asked his wife to file his certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak.

The group of Mangudadatu, however, were stopped along a checkpoint in Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan town and were brought to the remote area of Barangay Salman where the gruesome slaying was done.

More than a dozen media practitioners, who were invited to cover the event, were also killed.

”We need the cooperation of the witnesses,” said Espina, as he cited ongoing investigation of the case to punish those responsible. “Everything is under process to disarm those involved in this case.”

No less than PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa flew to Maguindanao on Tuesday to supervise ongoing investigation and pursuit operations against the perpetrators of the brutal killing.

Esmail Mangudadatu has tagged the Ampatuan clan, particularly Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., as behind the massacre.

Devanadera assures criminal raps will be filed vs people behind Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Nov. 25 -- Department of Justice (DOJ) Acting Secretary and concurrent Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera assured on Wednesday that criminal charges will be filed against the perpetrators of the massacre of at least 46 people in Maguindanao on Monday.

Denavadera formed a panel of prosecutors to assist the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Task Force Against Media Killings (Task Force 211) to immediately conduct an investigation of the gruesome killing.

The panel is headed by Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo, with the following as members: State Prosecutors Bernardo Parico, Rene Gingoyon, Bunrofil Altares, Aldrin Evangelista and Lamberto Fabros, Maguindanao Provincial Prosecutor Rami Guiling and Shariff Kabunsuan Provincial Prosecutor Akilali Balt.

"I will be getting in touch with the Philippine National Police on whatever evidence they have already gathered," Devanadera said.

However, the DOJ chief clarified that she would not want to interfere in the investigation being conducted by the PNP at present, in the sense that they have not yet talked about the incident.

"I assure you, as far as the department (DOJ) is concerned, if there is a case, charges will be filed against those responsible," Devanadera said.

"The Department of Justice shall expedite the investigation of these cases until the perpetrators thereof have been arrested and prosecuted to its successful conclusion," Devanadera stressed.

Task Force 211 head Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor has joined the DOJ-NBI team and immediately proceeded to Maguindanao to supervise the investigation.

Earlier reports said among the massacre victims were the wife of Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu, two lawyers and at least 12 reporters.

PGMA declares national day of mourning for the Maguindanao massacre victims – Ermita

MANILA, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a national day of mourning on Wednesday for the victims of the gruesome massacre in Maguindanao province.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in his weekly media briefing that the President declared the national day of mourning three days after the violent incident wherein at least 46 individuals, including media men, were brutally killed on Monday at Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

According to Ermita, President Arroyo extended the government’s sympathies and condolences to the families of the massacre victims by declaring a national day of mourning.

In the same briefing, Ermita said they are expecting that Secretary Jesus Dureza, the appointed head of the Maguindanao Crisis Management Committee, would submit within the day an update regarding the initial investigation of the gruesome killings.

Earlier, President Arroyo declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotobato City through Proclamation No. 1946 on Tuesday.

She also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct a swift and precise investigation to give justice to the victims of the massacre. (PNA)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PGMA orders early completion of irrigation projects

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has instructed the Department of Agriculture to rush completion of farmland irrigation projects in anticipation of El Nino next year.

The President issued the instruction during the Joint National Economic Development Authority and National Anti-Poverty Commission Cabinet meeting held at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of Malacanang this morning.

NEDA Deputy Director General Margarita Songco, had earlier reported that, based as scientific studies, a long dry spell would most likely hit the country early next year. She said that data gathered in the past several months showed that the weather phenomenon, characterized by extreme temperature rise with little rainfall, has begun affecting various areas of the country.

She also said that the Visayas and Mindanao regions have been experiencing below-normal rainfall conditions despite the three typhoons hitting Luzon in the past month.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) noted that in Southern Leyte, Agusan Del Norte, and Surigao Del Norte, Bohol, Capiz, and Misamis Oriental had experiencing less-than-average rainfall levels.

PGMA to keynote Tourism Congress

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be the keynote speaker tomorrow (Nov. 25) at the Tourism Congress to be held at the Marriott Hotel in Newport City, Terminal 3, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Parañaque City.

Some 35 organizations representing different sectors of the tourism industry nationwide are expected to attend, as required by Republic Act 9593, otherwise known as the National Tourism Policy Act of 2009.

Under the law, the Department of Tourism (DOT) shall convene the Tourism Congress to allow participants to elect the nominees to fill the five seats for the governing board of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority ((TIEZA), Tourism Promotion Board (TPB), and the Duty Free Philippines Corp.

It is the three agencies that will implement the government’s tourism programs.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said the DOT’s sole responsibility under the law is to convene the Tourism Congress. He said the task of organizing and electing officials rests on the members of the tourism industry.

Durano further explained that members of the tourism industry taking part in the Nov. 25 Tourism Congress will draft the constitution and bylaws of the governing body.

The Tourism Congress is mandated by the law to serve as the private sector consultative body to assist the government in the development, implementation and coordination of the country’s tourism policy.

PGMA orders preparations to cushion El Nino impact

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today the Department of Agriculture (DA) to fast- track all irrigation infrastructure projects as the government intensifies preparations to help the agricultural sector deal with the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The president issued the order during the joint National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet meeting held at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacanang this morning.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo, in a press briefing in Malacanang, said the President also ordered the Pro-Performance Team to work with the private sector to monitor the progress of the president’s State-of-the-Nation commitments projects.

She added that the Department of Agriculture since September has been pushing upland rice production in anticipation of the dry spell that is threatening the agriculture industry.

The DA is also prioritizing farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, extension services, loans, dryers, and certified seeds.

It is widely held that El Niño will “put pressure on the agriculture sector,” even as the country rebounds from the global financial crisis.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration announced that El Niño had already started its course, with the dry spell expected to run until the first quarter of 2010.

PAGASA based its prediction on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation discussion.

The impact of El Niño will be felt, PAGASA said, during November 2009-January 2010, with heavy rains over the central tropical Pacific Ocean and a drier-than-average condition over Indonesia.

El Niño may significantly diminish ocean productivity by changing weather patterns that cause nutrient circulation in the ocean, which could affect fish, birds and marine mammals.

PGMA orders arrest of Maguindanao killers

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to deploy units to conduct immediate pursuit of the perpetrators of the gruesome massacre of the members of Mangudadatu clan and media in Maguindanao.

“I order all units to pursue the perpetrators, to restore order and secure affected areas in Maguindanao,” the President said in a statement at the opening of today’s joint National Economic Development Authority-Cabinet meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacanang.

The Cabinet meeting was originally scheduled in the world-famous Boracay island. It was moved to Malacanang due to the Maguindanao incident.

Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III had earlier said the president and her cabinet will study if there was need to declare a state of emergency in Maguindanao.

The chief executive ordered Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang, acting AFP Chief of Staff, “to personally oversee military action against the perpetrators of these dastardly acts that occurred yesterday.”

She said “no effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims.”
The president also announced the establishment of checkpoints and chokepoints, with elements of Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade already in place to preserve peace and secure the area.

She appointed Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza as the head of the Crisis Committee for Maguindanao.

The bodies of 22 kidnap victims, out of the 44 reported abducted, including the wife and relatives of Buluan town's vice mayor Ismael Mangudadatu, a gubernatorial aspirant in Maguindanao, were recovered by the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade Monday afternoon.

The bodies, recovered in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, reportedly showed "signs of mutilation."

Reports said Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, his sister, some relatives and members of the media were on their way to file his certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao province when a group of about 100 armed men abducted them.

PNP chief sacks five Maguindanao police officers

MANILA, Nov. 24  -– Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa sacked five ranking police officials in Maguindanao province following the massacre of more than 20 civilians, including media practitioners, in Ampatuan town on Monday.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina said Verzosa immediately ordered on Monday night the relief of Chief Insp. Sukarno Dichay, detailed at the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office (PPO), who was reportedly sighted in the scene of the incident along with members of the civilian armed auxiliary (CAAs).

Aside from Dichay, Espina said the PNP chief Tuesday morning ordered the sacking of Maguindanao PPO officer-in-charge Supt. Abusana Maguid and three other Maguindanao police officers.

Espina said the sacked police officers were placed under the custody of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Cotabato City pending ongoing investigation.

Verzosa this morning flew to Maguindanao to personally oversee ongoing investigation and pursuit operations against the armed men who abducted more or less 40 individuals, more than 20 of whom were recovered dead, in a remote area in Ampatuan town.

”Investigation and hot pursuit operations are going on now for Maguindanao massacre. In fact, PNP chief Verzosa has flown to Maguindanao to oversee the investigation,” Espina said.

On Monday morning, more or less 40 people, led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan town Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, and his younger sister and incumbent Vice Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, and some media practitioners, were held by more or less 100 armed men manning a checkpoint along Sitio Crossing in Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan town.

Mangudadatu’s group was on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of Ismael Mangudadatu for the governorship of Maguindanao when stop by the armed men, some of whom were identified as personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and then led to remote village of Salman where they were massacred.

Ismael Mangudadatu immediately accused members of the Ampatuan clan as responsible in the gruesome massacre.

Latest update from the PNP showed 24 bodies were recovered from the site. Clearing operations by combined police and military units are also ongoing.

Monday, 23 November 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, November 23, 2009

PGMA orders Philhealth to expand program for poor

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded today the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) for reaching an expanded membership coverage of 80 million, among other milestones.

In her visit to the Rizal Medical Center (RMC) on Shaw Boulevard, Pasig City this afternoon, the President directed Philhealth president Dr. Rey Aquino to continue expanding its program particularly for the less privileged Filipinos to attain her administration’s goal of achieving universal coverage next year.

One of the Philhealth program beneficiaries, 53-year-old widow Lilia Tunac, one of the 12 patients at the fourth floor of the hospital, thanked the President for the Philhealth medical insurance program.

The President told Tunac and the other patients that the government will shoulder their P100 monthly premium payments for at least a year. She urged them however to shoulder the succeeding year’s premium so that other needy Filipinos can be insured under the Philhealth program.

Tunac, along with eight other patients at the hospital’s non-infectious ward in Room 2 are insured under the Philhealth program.

The President then directed Aquino to include the four other patients, who were not yet insured, under the Philhealth insurance coverage.

Aquino assured the President that it will be immediately implemented. He announced Philhealth’s income in the first three quarters this year reached P20 billion, P3 billion more than last year.

The President was welcomed at the Rizal Medical Center by more than 200 staff and employees led by hospital director Dr. Relito Saguilayan.

Aside from achieving wider insurance coverage, Philhealth’s extension work that saw mobile officers serve the various needs of member overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong will be replicated in other OFW-dense countries such as Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

Aside from its dramatic improvement in benefits, Philhealth has presently provided insurance coverage to some 80 million Filipinos from a membership count of only 37.4 million in 2001.

PGMA fetes Gusi Peace Prize awardees

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today hosted a luncheon for the awardees and representatives of this year’s Gusi Peace Prize at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of Malacañang.

Four Filipinos joined 20 other individuals from different countries as this year’s winners of the prestigious award known as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Filipinos are: boxing champ Manny Pacquiao for sports, Lea Salonga for performing arts, Preciosa Soliven for the academe, and Most Rev. Fr. Joseph Faller for divine healing and assistance to the sick and the needy.

The Gusi Peace Prize awards recognize distinguished individuals who promote peace and respect for human life and dignity.

The awards aim to promote human rights and good governance, democracy, equality, international peace and goodwill. It is also committed to working for people’s amelioration through medical missions, outreach programs and counseling, especially for the benefit of the deprived, the abused, the humiliated, and the sick.

The foreign awardees include US Rep. Bob Filner for legislation, Madam Timi Bakatselos (Greece) for philantrophy on children’s healthcare (cancer advocacy), Her Royal Highness Princess Fuziah Rajah Uda (Malaysia) for cultural heritage, Dr. Alice Chiu (Hong Kong) for social services and philanthropy,

Emil Silvio Cobota (Romania) for performing arts, Massimo Romagnoli (Italy) for international politics and human civil rights, Charalambos Lambrou (Cyprus) for philanthropy on adult cancer patients, Dr. Ho Son Fat (Macau) for medicine and scientific invention in the field of neurology,

Judge Natividad Meza (Paraguay) for social justice and humanitarian law, Alexey Steele (Russia) for visual arts, Dr. Liu Chi Chun (Taiwan) for international humanitarianism, Sylvia Scherer (Switzerland) for biotechnology industry, Dr. Rudiger Losch (Germany) for medicine, Ali Nasuh Mahruki (Turkey) for sports and humanitarianism, Madam Surapee Rojanavongse (Thailand) for economics and cultural heritage and Christine Warnke, Ph.D. (USA) for economics and humanitarianism.

PGMA to confer Order of Lakandula on Peñaflorida

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will confer the Order of Lakandula on Efren Peñaflorida, known for his “pushcart education,” upon his return to the country after he was hailed Hero of the Year by international news network CNN.

The Order of Lakandula is one of the highest honors given by the Philippine government. It is awarded to an individual who displayed leadership, prudence, fortitude, courage and resolve in the service of his people.

"Efren has indeed proven that any individual can help make a difference in the world. He has also shown the world the best in the Filipino. Let each one of us unleash the hero within us by helping the next person as Efren said," the president said in a statement Sunday night.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo, in a press briefing in Malacanang today, said arrangements are now underway for a hero’s welcome for Penaflorida.

Fajardo said Penaflorida is a valued partner of the Arroyo administration in education especially for the poor.

Peñaflorida won over nine other "CNN heroes" seven of whom were American, for his innovative mobile education called “Kariton Klassrum” or “Pushcart Classroom” for the poor.

Peñaflorida conducts weekly visits to poor and underserved areas in Cavite, north of Luzon, to teach young people basic lessons in mathematics, English, and science using only a pushcart.

He was chosen to receive the award during the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. He received his award from American actress Eva Mendes.

The nominees were initially selected by a panel of 14 “Blue Panel” luminaries. The Hero of the Year award was given to the one with the most number of online votes on the CNN Heroes’ website.

Peñaflorida received $100,000, an amount he will use to fund his work in the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC), a volunteer organization that he put up to conduct his “Kariton Klassrum” program.

DOE, PIA to consult stakeholders on Clean Development Mechanism on Nov. 24

MANILA – The Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), will conduct a consultation-forum on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects with stakeholders in Quezon City as represented by its more than 140 barangay and city officials, headed by Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” R. Belmonte, Jr.

The consultation will be held at the Torre Venezia, Timog Avenue, Quezon City  on November 24, 2009 from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.

For developing countries like the Philippines, the CDM concept requires emission projects that assist in creating sustainable development to generate certified emission reductions.  This means that projects and/or investments of industrialized countries in developing nations must conform with CDM, which can help reduce greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. 

Among the sustainable benefits that CDM is pushing for are having cleaner Air and Water; better Waste Management; enhanced Forestation; reduced dependence on imported Fossil Fuels; Rural development; and more Employment & Poverty alleviation.

Mr. Alan S. Silayan, Managing Director of CAFIS, Inc., of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), who is the Philippine's specialist in CDM of ADB's Carbon Market Initiative, will discuss the CDM basics.

In the same event, Mr. Allan G. Bacudo of the Energy Utilization Management Bureau of the DOE will talk on the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) Compact Flourescent Lamp (CFL) distribution.

Statement by Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney

It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as the Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of the Philippines for more than three and a half years.  Working with so many Filipinos, from all walks of life, has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  I have come to deeply appreciate not just the warmth and friendship of Filipinos, but also their determination to make their country, region, and world a better place for their children and grandchildren.  It has been a true pleasure to live in this beautiful country, and to lead the U.S. Embassy in efforts to partner with the government and people of the Philippines for the greater good of Americans and Filipinos alike.

Now, for personal and professional reasons, I need to plan my return to the United States.  So it is with great pleasure that I learned that President Obama has named my successor.  Ambassador-designate Harry Thomas is a personal friend of mine, an exceptional diplomat, and a wonderful person.  His nomination still has to be confirmed by the United States Senate, so I will have the opportunity to continue to collaborate with Filipinos to improve lives and strengthen relations between our two countries over the coming months.

The relevant part of the White House announcement follows:

President Barack Obama on November 19 announced his intent to nominate Harry K. Thomas, Jr., to serve as Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines.

Speaking of Ambassador Thomas and other nominees, President Obama said: “These individuals will represent our nation well and work to fulfill the important goal of strengthening our relationships abroad.  I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

Harry K. Thomas, Jr. is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served most recently as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources.  He previously served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and Executive Secretary of the Department. Thomas, who joined the Foreign Service in 1984, served as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh from 2003 to 2005.  He also served in the White House as the Director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2002.  His other postings include: New Delhi, India; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Lima, Peru.  He has served as Senior Watch Officer, Deputy Director, and Director of the State Department Operations Center; Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; and Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.  Thomas holds a bachelors degree from the College of the Holy Cross.