Wednesday, 29 December 2010

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Palace happy over survey showing Pinoys hopeful in 2011

Malacañang on Wednesday expressed elation over a recent survey result showing that 93 percent of Filipinos are facing the new year with hope, near the record high levels set in 2002.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda thanked the Filipino people for the show of trust and confidence in the Aquino administration.

“We thank the Filipino people for their trust… they view our government as an engine of hope. What we promised during the campaign, the eradication of graft and corruption will bear fruit, so that is something that we are going to fulfill. Again we are very elated with the survey results”, Lacierda said.

The Social Weather Station (SWS) poll conducted Nov. 27 to 30 revealed that nine out of 10 or 93 percent of Filipinos are facing the coming year 2011 with hope, just two points off the 95 percent peak registered in December 2002. It was also higher than the 89 percent of 2009.

Those who said they would start the year “with fear" was only seven percent, down from last year’s 11 percent.

The SWS said optimism was widespread across all areas and shared by all socioeconomic classes.

It improved to 96 percent from 87 percent in Metro Manila; to 94 percent from 90 percent in Balance Luzon [Luzon minus Metro Manila]; to 97 percent from 88 percent in Visayas; and to 89 percent from 87 percent in Mindanao.

By socioeconomic classes, the number of those expressing hopefulness rose to 97 percent from 91 percent among the class ABC; 95 percent from 89 percent among the class D or masa; and 89 percent from 87 percent among the class E.

Considering the latest welcome development, Lacierda noted that the people, especially the poor could expect more from the government.

He said that the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs of the government will move forward more aggressively targeting to benefit at least 2.5 million households in 2011.

“We need to address the concerns of the poor and poverty reduction is only one of them”, Lacierda said. “The budget that we had envisioned and which had been approved is something which we had in mind and we intend to implement all the programs and policies of President Aquino”, he added. (PCOO)


Debt cap not needed at this time – Lacierda

The national debt cap veto was meant to take advantage of the bullish market conditions and effectively manage the positive outlook of both domestic and foreign investors, according to Presidential Spokesman Atty. Edwin Lacierda.

“We would like to take advantage of the favorable market conditions in the country right now. We got a strong peso, we could pay our debt services right now and we could issue bonds in peso,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Lacierda dismissed the claim of Senator Joker Arroyo that the P1.6-trillion first financial blueprint of President Benigno S. Aquino III was copied from the previous administration.

He pointed out that President Benigno S. Aquino III vetoed the debt cap because the bullish performance of the stock market and the outpouring investment pledges from foreign investors.

“That’s why (this administration) believes that debt cap is not proper at this point. We believe that we would better serve and manage the economy if we have no debt cap at this time,” he said.

Lacierda recalled that when Senator Arroyo was the executive secretary of then President Corazon Aquino, debt cap was also an issue. The good senator he said is practically raising the same ghost (question) against himself.

According to Lacierda, the debt cap was also a hot issue since the term of former President Elpidio Quirino in the 50’s and former President Ferdinand Marcos who scrapped the debt cap law through an executive order he issued during martial law. (PCOO)


Aquino to lead Rizal Day rites

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the nation in commemorating the 114th death anniversary of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, who was martyred on Dec. 30, 1896, precipitating the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonial rule.

The President will raise the flag and offer wreath in ceremonies at the Rizal Park in Manila Thursday morning.

On hand to assist the President are Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Ambeth Ocampo.

Simultaneous flag-raising and wreath offering rites will also be held at Rizal monuments nationwide including his birthplace in Calamba, Laguna and in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte where he was exiled in July 1892.

This year’s observance will focus on the theme “Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan.” It will be highlighted by the unveiling of the logo of the 114th anniversary of Rizal’s martyrdom signaling the kick-off celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of the national hero.

Born on June 19, 1861, Rizal became one of the country’s leading reformists and inspiration of the revolution particularly through his writings and novels such as Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. His works are now being taught in public and private schools to educate students about the concept of nationalism.

Imprisoned in Fort Santiago and tried by a military court, Rizal was convicted of rebellion and shot at Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) at around 7:03 a.m. of Dec. 30, 1896.

Two years after his execution, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo issued on Dec. 20, 1898 a decree designating Dec. 30 as the death anniversary of Rizal’s death and also a national day of mourning for other victims of the oppressive Spanish rule.

The directive emphasized that all national flags shall be hoisted at half-mast from 12 noon on Dec. 29 and all offices of the government shall be closed the whole day on December 30 as a sign of mourning.

On Dec. 30, 1898, Filipinos celebrated Rizal Day for the first time and chose Club Filipino in Manila as venue. (PCOO)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aquino vetoes several provisions in 2011 GAA

Anchored on his pledge of transparency and accountability in the affairs of government towards the straight and righteous path to meaningful reform, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has vetoed some of the general and special provisions in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of the fiscal year 2011.

After signing into law Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10147 on Monday, President Aquino reassured the Filipino people his commitment in fulfilling his promise to improve their lives, especially the poor and marginalized sector of society who urgently need a helping hand through quality education, public health, social protection, and social justice as he vetoed several provisions in the 2011 GAA for contravening the provisions of the Constitution and those of applicable laws, rules and regulations.

The 2011 GAA provisions vetoed by the President include: General Provisions, Section 14, “Government Indebtedness and Guaranty,” page 1223 for preventing the government from taking advantage of favorable market conditions; General Provisions, Section 71, “Release of Lump-sum Appropriations,” page 1233, which requires legislative consultation in the release and implementation of all lump-sum appropriations in the GAA; Special Provision No. 3, “Implementation of Farm-to-Market Road Projects,” page 31 under Department of Agriculture (DA)-Office of the Secretary (OSEC) to give the Department of Agriculture (DA) enough latitude and discretion in the execution of Farm-to-Market Road projects, to which it is ultimately accountable for; Special Provision No. 3, “Conditional Cash Transfer Program,” page 789 under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-OSEC; the second paragraph of Department of Education (Deped)-OSEC, Special Provision No. 16, “Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education”, page 65; DSWD-OSEC, Special Provision No. 2, “The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” page 788; to give fair priority to the poorest households in the municipalities no matter where they are situated pursuant to the program’s core mandate;

President Aquino also placed serious attention to a number of inappropriate provisions and provisos included in this general appropriations law noting that said provisions and provisos should not have found their way in the GAA, and should have been covered by separate substantive laws.

Such provisions were Item (e) of General Provisions, Section 43, “Authorized Deductions,” page 1228; two provisos under DSWD-OSEC, Special Provision No. 1, “Proceeds from Sale of the Welfareville Property,” page 788; Other Executive Offices (OEOs)–Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Special Provision No. 2, “Hazard Duty Pay”, page 899; Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (BSGC), Special Provision No. 7, “DAP Training Program,” page 974; Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Special Provision No. 1, “Use of Fund”, page 1011; Unprogrammed Fund, Special Provision No. 5, “Share of the City of Baguio in the Gross Income Taxes Paid by All Locators Doing Business at the Loakan Economic Zone,” page 1015; The last provision under Budgets of Department of Energy-Attached Corporations–National Power Corporation (NPC), Special Provision No. 1, “Budget Flexibility,” page 1217; and the Unprogrammed Fund, Special Provision No 8, “Payment of Total Administrative Disability Pension,” page 1015.

The Chief Executive expressed optimism that the Reformed Budget for FY 2011 will truly usher in a bright new beginning in the governance of the nation.

“This is but a fitting start for our Platform of Change, our Social Contract with the People that became our Administration’s commitment with the People on June 30, 2010,” the President stressed.

“We also ensure a space for honest investors and businessmen to enter into fair, mutually beneficial and productive partnerships with government to build infrastructures and undertake other economic activities that generate more employment,” he said.

President Aquino also expressed gratitude to the members of the 15th Congress for their conscientious choice to adopt a national budget that enshrines transparency and accountability establishing a spending program that is unabashedly biased for the poor.

“I offer my profound thanks to the men and women of the 15th Congress, especially the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance, for responding to my call for genuine governance reform and urgency in responding to the needs of our poor countrymen.” the President said. (PCOO)


Talks with MILF to resume next month—Leonen

Hoping that the Malaysian government would act to address the facilitator dispute, government negotiators on Tuesday expressed optimism that peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resume next month.

Atty. Marvic Leonen, chair of the government panel for the peace talks with the MILF, said the third-party facilitator issue needs to be resolved first and they are confident that Malaysia would address the concerns of both sides.

"We still remain optimistic that talks with the MILF will resume in January. We hope that the MILF can share that optimism," Leonen said in a statement.

The government had asked the Malaysian government to replace Datuk Othman bin Abd’ Razak as third-party facilitator because of his alleged pro-MILF bias.

“A politically negotiated settlement is needed at the soonest possible time so that the energies of all can be channeled to addressing justice, lasting peace, sustainable development and prosperity for all peoples in Mindanao,’ he continued.

He noted that administrative and security concerns are ongoing and they are prepared to discuss these with MILF counterparts and vow to continue the series of consultations with relevant sectors particularly the issues raised by the Moro rebels.

“We think that this is what negotiating in good faith means. It is also the better part of prudence since issues taken out of context do contribute to environments which can only foster more violence. We invite all concerned to help us address the problems in the spirit of finding lasting solutions to a complex problem,” he added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita “Ging” Quintos-Deles said the early signing of the 2011 national budget by President Benigno S. Aquino III will definitely fuel the administration’s reforms and expedite promotion of the peace agenda.

In a statement, Deles said the approved budget of P235 million for the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will be used for peace negotiations and parallel efforts, such as humanitarian, rehabilitation and development programs.

Part of the budget, she said, will be used to implement PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan), the government’s flagship program to help empower internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other families living in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. (PCOO)

Monday, 27 December 2010

PIA Dispatch - Monday, December 27, 2010

Aquino signs 2011 national budget into law

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday signed into law Republic Act 10147, the P1.645-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2011 which is actually his first financial blueprint that will enable the national government to address the urgent needs of the marginalized sector of society.

In a speech after the signing at Malacanang’s Rizal Hall, the Chief Executive said this is the first time in 11 years that the national budget was signed on time.

Of the total budget, the social services sector got the lion's share at 34.1 percent, a 16.8 percent hike from its 2010 budget, the highest increase among all sectors. It includes a P21-billion allocation for the conditional cash transfer program and P1.2 billion in unaudited intelligence funds.

"Congress has ratified the General Appropriations Act for 2011. By so doing, it has made possible my signing the national budget today. This will be the first time in 11 years that the budget will be signed into law on the same year that it was submitted," the President said.

The President noted that the House of Representatives and the Senate “have proven that both chambers of Congress are indeed serious about the primary duty of the legislature.”

"The budget is the most important act of any Congress. Its early passage means that the much-needed programs for poverty alleviation and development can be implemented earlier," he stressed.

The President pointed out that the early signing of the budget "will enable us to address the urgent needs of our people in a timely manner. Such needs include building more rural health units and providing immunization for children. This also allows us to construct new classrooms and hire new teachers, as promised to the Filipino people."

Present during the budget signing ceremony were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Congress committee leaders and members of the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said the signing of the GAA for 2011 is the first budget with transparency and accountability provisions integrated under the zero-based budgeting (ZBB) approach.

Under the ZBB approach, the government, according to Abad should reduce or terminate funding for projects or programs which are ineffective, inefficient or fraught with leakages, and to expand funding for those which are well performing and are critical for development.

“These general and special provisions require us to disclose key information on budgetary appropriations and releases using new information technology. This administration has nothing to hide from the people,” he said.

Aside from social services, the sectors that got an increase in the 2011 budget were the following:

- P110 million for the maintenance and operating expenses of 80 state universities and colleges (SUC);

- P8 million in the budget of the Office of the Vice President;

- P200 million in subsidies for local government units;

- P590 million in the budget of the House of Representatives; and

- P345 million in the budget of the Senate. (PCOO)


Ceasefire clash won't deter gov't from pushing peace with reds -- Aquino

Although disappointed over a recent ceasefire violation incident, President Benigno S. Aquino III said today his administration remains committed to achieving lasting peace with the communist rebels through dialogue.

“At the very least, the government will demonstrate its sincerity in trying to achieve peace through dialogue rather than violence. We will do what we have to do,” the President said in reaction to the reported clash between the New Peoples Army, the armed wing of the National Democratic Front (NDF), and government soldiers facilitating the surrender of rebel Christian Corpuz Bascos, at Barangay Bayotbot in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

In an ambush interview right after he signed into law the 2011 national budget at Malacanang this morning, the President admitted that he was disappointed over the incident.

He noted that he already ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to remain vigilant in maintaining peace and order in their areas of responsibilities.

The Occidental Mindoro incident was the first ceasefire violation since the truce began last Dec. 16. Another violation was recorded in Samar two-days before the implementation of the 19-day suspension of military operations. (PCOO)


Investor confidence improves employment figures -- Aquino

Renewed confidence in the Philippine business climate has improved employment and reduced unemployment and underemployment figures in 2010.

In a media interview after signing the 2011 national budget in Malacanang, President Benigno S. Aquino III considers jobs creation and unemployment reduction as the biggest achievement in the first six months of his administration.

When he assumed the presidency, the President said he met local and foreign investors who have renewed their enthusiasm and optimism in the Philippines particularly in the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

“Our slogan that the Philippines is now open again for business seems to have taken hold. Business processing outsourcing companies have already started and they have been actually doing recruitment that has made some impact on both the employment and underemployment figures,” the President said.

“Everybody that I talked to both local and foreign talked to me about the renewed and enthusiastic and optimistic way they look at the Philippines, he added.

For the full-year 2010, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has reported that employment figures generally improved as job creation reached 983,000; unemployment rate was lower at 7.3 percent compared to 7.5 percent in 2009; and underemployment rate improved to 18.7 percent from the 19.1 percent of last year.

NEDA Secretary General Cayetano Paderanga said that the continued improvement in the level of confidence for the Philippines and the implementation of necessary reforms would greatly contribute to the creation of more decent and quality employment for Filipinos for the years to come.

Given the strong turnout in the first three quarters of the year, Paderanga said NEDA expects the full year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth to likely surpass the 5-6 percent target for 2010 to 7-8 percent this year.

For 2011, Paderanga said the country expects a more modest growth with the absence of election spending and the still quite fragile global economic recovery.

However, Paderanga said the right policies and continued confidence are expected to help achieve the government interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee’s real GDP growth target of 7 to 8 percent and a real GNP growth target of 9 to 10 percent.

“With the Aquino Administration focusing on improving the lives of Filipinos, we are aiming for high sustained growth. The targets that have been set will sharply reduce poverty incidence and increase per capita income,” Paderanga said. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Sunday, December 26, 2010

Malacanang happy over success of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program

Malacanang expressed elation over the success of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the government which aims to provide financial assistance to the underprivileged Filipinos, especially in the far-flung areas of the country, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In an interview over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the DSWD has been successful in meeting its target to help at least one million Filipino people through its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

“We are very glad that the DSWD has achieved its goal of reaching out to one million beneficiaries for 2010 under their 4Ps program also known as the conditional cash transfer program”, Valte said.

Valte noted that Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman has been conducting sorties in several areas of the country to achieve the CCT coverage of 2.3 million Filipinos next year.

The CCT is part of the government’s efforts to meet the targets set forth in the Millennium Development Goals before the year 2015.

The 4Ps is a social assistance and social development program of the government aimed at breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty by providing families with cash grants to improve their health and education needs. (PCOO)


Aquino to sign 2011 budget on Monday

Aside from the spirit of sharing, Filipinos have another reason to celebrate this yuletide season as President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is set to sign the P1.645-trillion national budget for the next fiscal year, 2011.

In an interview over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan Sunday, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said government projects, that are in line for the coming year, are already assured of their respective budget allotments after President Aquino’s signing of the national budget at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang on Monday.

Valte said that it is the first time in over a decade that the budget will be signed before the start of the actual fiscal year.

“We are very happy that the national budget will be signed earlier than before. This will be very beneficial for our people. As early as January, funds will already be available for the projects in line next year,” Valte stressed.

“With the early signing of the budget, our infrastructure projects like repair of roads and bridges can be done in January when the weather is more conducive for construction”, she said.

According to Valte, the early signing of the budget shows the full trust and confidence of Congress on the leadership of the President and his administration.

She also said that as part of the President’s efforts to upgrade the government’s basic services to the people, he has allocated the necessary funding for key agencies that will directly implement developmental projects of government.

These agencies include the Department of Justice (DoJ) for the speedy resolution of cases and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for a more efficient collection of taxes, among others.

The P1.645-trillion budget for next year is 6.8 per cent higher from the P1.54-trillion national budget for 2010.

The budget was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives on December 13 and 14, respectively.

The budget includes an additional allocation of P300 to P400 million to the Senate and another P50 million to the House, restoring their respective budgets in the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA). These were earlier slashed by the President as part of belt-tightening measures. It likewise includes P200-million priority additional funds for the Office of the Vice President (OVP), which was earlier cut from P195-million to P177 million.

The education sector had the biggest budget increase of P750 million to enable the hiring of 5,000 new teachers. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Eyed Peas artist calls on Aquino

Filipino-American rap artist Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., more popularly known as apl.de ap of the famous American group “Black Eyed Peas” paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III Thursday morning at the Premier Guest House of Malacañang and discussed several charitable projects which he intends to initiate.

One of these projects, he said, is the “Second Room Program” wherein additional classrooms will be built through his APL Foundation in cooperation with private entities for the Filipino school children particularly in Pampanga where he was born and raised.

Apart from the school buildings, the project will also provide reading materials to the students as well as other components in a formal library.

Lindo said he has allotted one hundred thousand US dollars (US$100,000) as initial funding for the project. Efforts, according to him will be exerted to find more sponsors to ensure its sustainability and success.

The US-based rap artist said he will be home anew on the 25th of February next year to take part in the celebration of the Edsa Revolution. Lindo expressed willingness to compose a song for the country’s historical celebration.

As a token of gratitude, Lindo gave a copy of his latest album entitled “It’s the Beginning” to President Aquino, who himself is a music lover.

At present, Lindo is conducting a series of benefit shows around the country in preparation for the said projects.

Apl.de.ap was born in Sapang Bato, Angeles City in Pampanga, to a Filipino mother and an African American father.

At age 14 he was adopted by an American family and moved to Los Angeles. Soon after, he met 13-year-old William Adams (will.i.am), and the two struck up a musical friendship that later became the foundation of the hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas.

The Black Eyed Peas eventually became internationally famous, winning Grammys in 2005, 2006, and 2007, making apl.de.ap the first Filipino to receive this honor. (PCOO)


Aquino to sign 2011 budget on Dec. 27

President Benigno S. Aquino III is signing on Monday, Dec. 27, the P1.64 trillion budget for 2011 in Malacanang. The President will deliver a statement after the signing in the presence of congressmen and senators.

This was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a media briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

The Senate and House of Representatives approved the budget on Dec. 13 and 14, respectively.

The early approval of the budget will enable the government to embark on its infrastructure and social projects as early as the first quarter of 2011.

The budget includes an additional allocation of P300 to P400 million to the Senate and another P50 million to the House, restoring their respective budgets in the 2010 General Appropriations Act (GAA). These were earlier slashed by the President as part of belt tightening measures.

It also includes P200 million additional funds for the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay, which was earlier cut from P195 to P177 million.

The amount for maintenance and other operating expenditure of the state colleges and universities (SUCs) were restored to their 2010 levels—between P110 and P140 million. However the approved budget does not have allocation for capital outlay.

Called the Reform Budget, the 2011 GAA is said to mirror the President’s commitment to lift the nation from poverty through honest and effective governance, according to Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad earlier.

The education sector had the biggest increase of P750 million to enable it to hire 5,000 new teachers. The P83 million appropriation for the Truth Commission, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, was retained pending the appeal of the executive branch.

The allocation for the Department of Health’s program to purchase contraceptives was slashed from P932 million to less than half of its original amount. The budget for the health secretary was reduced by P200 million along with the budget of the Philippine National Police, which was slashed by P60 million.

The conditional cash transfer program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development amounting to P21.9 billion passed through the bicameral committee without cuts.

The President earlier said that the spending plan was crafted after a thorough review of the government’s programs and projects, and after he and the Cabinet have arrived at priorities to address critical gaps in social services for the poorest of the poor.

“The 2011 National Budget focuses on funds where they are most needed and where these will yield the most benefits. We have redesigned the budget to ensure that every centavo will be put to good use,” he said, noting that the budgetary increase from 2010 is only 6.8 percent.

The President earlier stressed that the 2011 budget is anchored on these basic governance principles: transparency and accountability to make government productive; bias in allocating resources for the poor and the vulnerable; fiscal responsibility to reduce debt; public-private partnerships to spur growth despite lack of funds; and zero-based budgeting to prioritize activities with impact. (PCOO)


Cabinet men submit reports to PMS

In keeping with tradition, members of the Cabinet of President Benigno S. Aquino III were required to submit their respective “accomplishment reports” for the year 2010 by the Presidential Management Staff.

In a briefing on Thursday at Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said many members of the Cabinet have complied with the requirement of PMS.

Lacierda told reporters that the Presidential Communications Group will come out with a yearend report and the President’s message for the New Year.

The President met with his communications group on Friday to discuss the various reports to be presented to the people, the New Year’s message and some sort of Ulat sa Bayan in January. The Ulat will detail what the Aquino administration will do for the entire 2011, Lacierda stressed.

He said there is no planned Cabinet meeting before the end of 2010 “because we already met during the Christmas party.”

The President prefers to divide the Cabinet into clusters instead of as an entire body “so as not to waste the time of other Cabinet members who are not involved in a particular cluster.”

The accomplishment report that Cabinet members are submitting to the PMS “will be a benchmark for what we did from the past six months.”

“It’s important for us to know where we came from, what we are doing now and what we are doing in the future because we need to also mesh the 16-point social contract of the President during the campaign with the medium-term priority development plan. That’s what we are working on,” Lacierda said.

Foremost among the rewarding experiences of the administration is the ability to help people directly which emphasizes on the eradication of graft and corruption and poverty alleviation. “We have an example in the person of the President, who really epitomizes honesty and integrity and that’s why we are inspired to serve in government.”

Lacierda also noted that the high rating of the President is due to the impact of his poverty alleviation projects such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

“Our campaign platform of eradication of graft and corruption and poverty reduction have gained the respect of the public for the Aquino administration,” Lacierda said.

He added that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has identified the poorest of the poor where the CCT will be pushed. “In some areas, we are already delivering the CCT and it’s working. That could account for the rise also of the confidence of the D and E sectors to the administration,” Lacierda said. (PCOO)


Palace asks Supreme Court to reconsider decision on Truth Commission

Malacañang on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its December 7 decision declaring the Truth Commission unconstitutional, arguing that its creation does not violate the equal protection clause.

In the motion for reconsideration (MR) filed by Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, he said Executive Order No. 1 is not in violation of the equal protection clause because (1) the language of executive order shows that there is no intent to unfairly discriminate against the previous administration, (2) the Truth Commission does not single out specific individuals but refers to questionable transactions in the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and (3) there is no invidious classification of the transactions during the previous administration since this is based on substantial distinctions that make for real differences.

The MR likewise argues that since the Supreme Court has already ruled that the President has the power to investigate to ensure that laws are faithfully executed, the high tribunal cannot prescribe the subject, purpose, and manner of such investigation.

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said Malacañang filed the MR because it wants to exhaust all legal remedies available before considering the other options raised by members of the Palace legal team.

“We will attempt to make our case before the High Court before we look at other options with regard to investigating the alleged acts of corruption mentioned in the said E.O.,” Ochoa said. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Aquino proclamation returns holidays to original dates

Compared to the 11 long weekends enjoyed by the public this year, only three long weekends will be in store for the coming year.

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday signed Proclamation No. 84 returning the celebration of holidays back to their original dates.

The President said the celebration of events on their original dates seek to give proper commemoration and respect to the events that took place in the country’s history.

Such move, according to the Chief Executive will also give a chance for the daily wage earners to earn more for their families.

Under Proclamation No. 84, Republic Act No. 9492 moves holidays to the nearest Monday except those that are religious in nature.

Proclamation No. 84 also states that "Proclamations declaring national holidays for the observance of Eid’l Fitr and Eidul AdhaHijra, or the lunar calendar, or upon Islamic astronomical calculations, whichever is possible or convenient, will be issued after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined in accordance with the Islamic calendar".

Proclamation No. 84 states that the following regular holidays and special days for the year 2011 shall be observed in the country:

A. Regular Holidays -- New Year’s Day – (Jan. 1 Saturday); Araw ng Kagitingan (Apr. 9 Saturday); Maundy Thursday – (Apr. 21); Good Friday – (Apr. 22); Labor Day – (May 1 Sunday); Independence Day – (June 12 Sunday); National Heroes Day – (Aug. 29 Last Monday of August); Bonifacio Day – Nov. 30 (Wednesday); Christmas Day – Dec. 25 (Sunday); Rizal Day – Dec. 30 (Friday)

B. Special (Non-Working) Days -- Ninoy Aquino Day – Aug. 21 (Sunday); All Saints Day – Nov. 1 (Tuesday); Last Day of the Year – Dec. 31 (Saturday)

C. Special Holiday (for all schools) -- EDSA Revolution Anniversary – Feb. 25 (Friday). (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

‘We fought for the release of Senator Trillanes’– Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III said the release of Senator Antonio Trillanes by the Makati Regional Trial Court on Monday night was “something that we fought for.”

In an ambush interview after distributing cash gifts to the wounded soldiers confined at the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City , the Chief Executive said the release of Trillanes’ will allow him to fulfill his duties as senator with the mandate given him by the people who voted for him.

The President expressed hope that Trillanes would use his freedom to catch up on his responsibilities and the opportunities to improve society, through legislation, which he missed for the past three years while in detention.

Shortly after his releases Trillanes, immediately thanked President Aquino for issuing Proclamation No. 75 last Nov. 24, 2010 granting him amnesty, which was readily approved by the Senate.

Trillanes was elected senator in May 2007 while in detention in Camp Crame . A Philippine Navy lieutenant, Trillanes served as the spokesman of the Magdalo group that seized the Oakwood Premiere Hotel (now Ascott) in Makati City on July 27, 2003 along with more than 300 soldiers who demanded the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for alleged corruption.

During the hearing in November 2003 on the Oakwood Mutiny, Trillanes walked out of the court along with some Magdalo group members and triggered a standoff at the Peninsula Manila Hotel also in Makati. (PCOO)


Aquino increases combat pay of of soldiers

In recognition of their sacrifices, President Benigno S. Aquino III has increased the combat pay of soldiers who, most of the times, willingly offer their lives for the peace and security of the country.

The Chief Executive announced this good news during the 75th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The President told the soldiers present that he already signed an Executive Order on Monday amending Executive Order 658 increasing the combat pay of soldiers to P500 from the current P240.

The President said the soldiers in the field will start receiving the new rate effective January next year.

“Pagdating po ng Enero, hindi lamang po Bagong Taon ang ipagdiriwang ng mga sundalong rumeresponde sa mga lugar na balot pa rin ng tensyon. Sasalubong din po sa kanila ang karagdagang combat allowance na nagkakahalaga ng 260 pesos,” the President stressed.

Since the establishment of the AFP under Commonwealth Act No. 1, or the National Defense Act of 1935, the President said the soldiers have been at the forefront in protecting the country’s sovereignty in times of peace, war and calamities.

Under his administration, the President said reforms continue to upgrade the capability of the AFP which, he said, include reforms in the procurement process under the AFP Modernization Program (AFPMP) resulting to the acquisition of additional requirements for the AFP.

“In just a few months, we were able to provide an additional eight Basic Trainer Aircrafts to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), aside from the four watercraft units for the Philippine Army,” the President said.

To date, the President noted that the AFP is closely coordinating with the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and Department of National Defense (DND), to provide more requirements and benefits for soldiers.

During the event, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr. presented the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) which the President said will start a new paradigm shift in managing peace and security towards achieving peace and prosperity using the “bayanihan spirit.”

According to the President the primary focus of the IPSP is winning peace from a predominantly militaristic solution to one that is founded on broad-based consultations and cooperation among the key stakeholders that include the soldiers, policemen and the community.

“Sa ating kasundaluhan, sampu ng bawat mamamayang Pilipino, sama-sama nating buhayin ang diwa ng bayanihan. Sama-sama nating tahakin ang landas tungo sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran. Maaasahan ninyong ako mismo ang mamumuno sa adhikaing ito. Kapit-kamay nating buhayin ang diwa ng bayanihan; sama-sama nating ihatid ang ating bayan sa liwanag na matagal nating hindi nasilayan,” the President said.

The anniversary rites was highlighted by the President’s distribution of awards and recognition to the following:

Rear Admiral Alexander Pama (Distinguished Service Star); cpat Marlou Parugrug, Sgt. Celso Llena and Sgt. Louie Lagrama (Gold Cross Medal); Maj. Jeffrey Alan Pizarro (Outstanding Achievement Medal); Sgt. Delfin Olotio (AFP Enlisted Personnel of the Year); Cadet Col. Neil Brian casem (ROTC Cadet of the Year); Lydia Cabajar (Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year); and Barangay Balayangon Chairman Francisco Llagao of Pinukpuk, Kalinga for his support to the AFP internal security operations in Kalinga. (PCOO)


Aquino leads giftgiving at AFP Medical Center

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III led the distribution of cash grants and gift packs as part of the “Pamaskong Handog ng PAGCOR – 12 Days of Christmas” in efforts to boost the morale and speedy recovery of patients at the AFP Medical Center in Quezon City.

Some 300 soldiers from different units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), some were victims of gun battles against rebel armed groups in Mindanao, benefited from the gift-giving program spearheaded by the Commander-In-Chief, President Aquino.

Thirty patients confined at the Heroes Ward of the hospital received one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) as part of the special financial assistance from the Chief Executive.

Also turned over was eight hundred sixty four thousand pesos (P864,000) in donation or thirty six thousand pesos (P36,000) each to 24 children with hydrocephalus that will cover the pre and post-operation treatments. Jojo Mitra, president of the Hydrocephalus Foundation received the cash grant from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

One of the first to benefit from the donation is Ma. Prinze Cid, a one-year-old baby from Cagayan de Oro, who will soon undergo free operation at the AFP Medical Center. Ma. Prinze is also suffering from meningocele, a condition characterized by the protrusion of the spinal cord due to meningococal infection that occurred during infancy.

Private First Class Rodelito Daasco, 47, one of the 300 Pamaskong Handog beneficiaries at AFP Medical Center said soldiers like him are happy to know that institutions like PAGCOR remember them, especially in this season of sharing.

As a soldier, Daasco spent most of his life at the battlefields and army camps in Catbalogan, Samar. After several years in service, he now suffers from heart ailment and may undergo coronary angioplasty, a procedure used to open blocked heart arteries. He has been confined at the AFP Medical Center since October.

Hospital equipment amounting to one million pesos, which include 20 nebulizers, automatic hospital beds, operating tables, ultraviolet sterilizers, laryngoscopes and heavy duty suction machines were also donated to the AFP Medical Center on top of the one million pesos cash donation to the hospital. (PCOO)


Prudent spending helped PH meet deficit target for 2010 – Aquino

Prudent spending and belt tightening measures helped the Aquino administration meet its deficit target for 2010.

In an interview after giving cash awards to the wounded soldiers confined at the V. Luna Hospital, President Benigno S. Aquino III said the country will experience a budget surplus, “the third and probably the best this year.”

The President disclosed that the National Economic Development Authority board met Monday to review projects proposed for implementation in the coming months.

“I asked for the specifics of two or three projects to determine if some have to be changed,” he said.

The President proposed programs under the Department of Agriculture headed by Secretary Proceso Alcala are evaluated on the basis of cost-benefit analyses and whether they meet the economic targets. If they do not match the goals and expected outcomes, then Alcala does not push through with them,” he said.

According to the President, the right way of using public funds enabled the government to fix the fiscal position of the country.

The President said he was told that the 2010 deficit will actually be below what has been projected and this is because of the savings obtained from belt tightening and prudent spending.

“I always question the need for undertaking any foreign trip. I always ask what would be the return on investment of the trips to the Filipino people. If we can’t fully justify the cost of a certain travel abroad, I forgo it,” he said.

His training in the private sector, according to the President scrutinize investments versus returns. “Kung walang return sa taumbayan, hindi okay,” he said. (PCOO)


Aquino appeals to media: Focus on good news, too

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday called on media practitioners to allot more space to “good news,” focusing on people who have done so much to effect change in society.

The President made the call during the annual Christmas party of the Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel media forum at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.

In his speech, the President acknowledged the importance of critical and hard-nosed reporting to expose flaws and fallacies in the system but underscored the importance of talking also about the good especially if it would help uplift the Filipinos’ spirit.

“I hope sometimes, maybe we can focus our attention to help those who have done so much for the country by showing others how they helped in changing society,” he said in the vernacular.

The President lauded members of the Bulung Pulungan for their “journalistic ethics” which he said had made them become “agents of change.”

He said that with their help, he would be able to withstand the rigors of the Presidency.

“While there remains the difficulties, I can say with certainty that the prospects of our future is getting brighter,” the President said. (PCOO)

Monday, 20 December 2010

PIA Dispatch - Monday, December 20, 2010

No ceasefire violation on rebel arrest - Palace

The arrest last Friday of suspected Communist rebel Pedro Codaste, wanted for murder and frustrated murder, did not violate the ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist rebels, according to Malacanang.

In a media briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda emphasized that the arrest was an act of law enforcement based on a standing warrant issued by the Malaybalay City regional trial court. Codaste was accosted while passing through a military checkpoint in Agusan del Sur.

Lacierda said Codaste is not listed as a consultant in the peace panel in the ongoing talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“There is no violation on the ceasefire agreement, neither is he covered under the JASIG, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee,” he said.

The arrest of Codaste took place a day after the effectivity of the 18-day cessation of hostilities between government troops and the NPAs from Dec. 16 until Jan. 3 next year.

President Benigno S. Aquino III earlier directed the government peace panel headed by Alex Padilla to hold informal talks and work to forge a final peace agreement with the CPP-NPA-NDF within three years to finally put an end to the 41-year-old armed struggle of the Communist rebels.

Both parties have also agreed to conduct another round of informal talks next month and restart formal peace negotiations in February next year. (PCOO)


Aquino plays Santa to 3 lucky OFWs 

President Benigno S. Aquino III played Santa Claus to three lucky overseas Filipino workers by awarding each of them P450,000 worth of cash and gift certificates upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport this afternoon.

Forty-one year old Gilbert Acebedo, Evangeline Escano, 33 and Myrna Pagkaliwagan, 39 were picked over other passengers onboard Qatar Airways flight QR-646 to win top prizes under the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s program “Pamaskong Handog para sa OFWs.”

The annual program, which honors the country’s new heroes has as its highlight the “Presidential Pasalubong 2010” which allows the President to welcome groups of OFWs arriving from Asia, Middle East, Europe or America to spend time with their respective families this Christmas season.

This year’s theme, “Pamilyang OFW, Masayang Sama-Sama Ngayong Pasko,” hopes to inculcate in the OFW communities the positive values of family orientation and social consciousness in recognizing the contributions of OFWs to national development and extending a helping hand to those who have less in life.

Acebedo, who hails from Tatalon in Quezon City has been working as a salesman for three years while Escano, a native of Tayug, Pangasinan has been employed as a nurse for six years.

Pagkalinawan, who lives in Bucal, Batangas City has been working as a teacher for six years.

The three winners all work in Doha, Qatar. (PCOO)

 

Aquino orders probe of Tuguegarao blaze

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday ordered the Departments of Interior and Local Government and Justice to get to the bottom of the Tuguegarao hotel blaze that claimed the lives of 16 people.

In an interview at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Aquino said he issued his directives to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima with explicit instructions to expedite the probe and bring to justice those found guilty for the tragedy.

“Bottomline, may mga hindi gumawa ng dapat nilang gawin (there are those who did not perform their duties) that would have prevented this tragedy so kahapon pa lang, inutusan na natin na mag-imbestiga ang Secretary ng Interior and Local Government (I have directed the Secretary of Interior and Local Government to investigate the tragedy),” the President said.

“Pinakiusap ko na mag-coordinate ang DILG at ang Department of Justice at pagkatapos ng imbestigasyon, yung mga nagkulang ay dapat panagutin sa lalong madaling panahon (I asked that the DILG coordinate their investigative efforts with the Department of Justice and to bring those responsible for this tragedy to justice),” he added. (PCOO)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

PIA Dispatch - Sunday, December 19, 2010

Malacanang condoles with families of Tuguegarao fire victims

Malacanang expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the big fire that gutted down a hotel in Tuguegarao City as it called on concerned officials to ensure that safety standards are being followed by building administrators and owners of other establishments.

In an interview on Sunday over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte called on the city engineers, safety inspectors and local government units to conduct regular inspections in buildings and other business establishments to avert the occurrence of such untoward incidents.

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families of victims of the big fire that happened in Tuguegarao, Valte said.

The government’s call came after a four-hour blaze engulfed the bed and breakfast Hotel before dawn Sunday in Tuguegarao City where fifteen persons were reported missing and feared dead.

Local police said the fire started at around 1 a.m. Sunday on the ground floor of the five-story hotel and raged for five hours before being put out by the firefighters.

Search operations are still being conducted for the remains of the missing fatalities.

Authorities also said that 12 injured people were taken to the hospital and all were in stable condition. They did not release the identities of the missing and the injured.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be established.

Local fire officials earlier said that the hotel guests included graduates of a nursing school in nearby Santiago City, Isabela, who had checked in ahead of their scheduled nursing licensure exams. (PCOO)


Aquino to welcome returning OFWs

President Benigno S. Aquino III takes time out from his busy schedule to personally welcome back returning overseas Filipino workers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City on Monday, December 20.

The Chief Executive’s meet and greet of the country’s new heroes dubbed the “Presidential Pasalubong 2010,” is the highlight of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) annual program “Pamaskong Handog para sa OFWs” which allows the President to welcome groups of OFWs arriving from Asia, Middle East, Europe or America to spend time with their respective families this Christmas season.

This year’s theme, “Pamilyang OFW, Masayang Sama-Sama Ngayong Pasko,” hopes to inculcate in the OFW communities the positive values of family orientation and social consciousness in recognizing the contributions of OFWs to national development and extending a helping hand to those who have less in life.

Among the activities of the President upon his arrival will be to award major prizes worth P1-million in cash and gift certificates to three lucky OFWs and their families.

Joining the President will be Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon and Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado. (PCOO)