Thursday, 3 January 2013

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

President Aquino declares January 15 as special non-working day in San Pablo, Laguna in celebration of 18th coconut festival

 President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared January 15, which falls on a Tuesday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of San Pablo in the province of Laguna in celebration of its 18th Coconut Festival and Street Dancing Competition (Mardi Gras).

 The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 527 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on December 14 to give the people of the city of San Pablo the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

 San Pablo celebrates the Coconut Festival every January 15 in honor of the city's patron Saint Paul the Hermit. The festival, which consists of street dancing, float parade and street concerts, boosts the culture and traditions of San Pablenos. PND (js)

Malacanang says Aquino government remains committed to recover ill-gotten wealth of Marcoses and cronies
 The Aquino administration remains committed to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the family and cronies of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and pursue pending cases of graft and corruption in the event Congress decides to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), a Palace official said on Wednesday.

 Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday that the PCGG will turn-over the pending cases to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the event that the commission is abolished.

 "So tuloy pa po ang mandato—kung hindi sa PCGG, tuloy pa rin po ‘yung pagtugis doon sa mga ill-gotten wealth cases na pending ngayon. If the office is abolished by Congress, it does not mean the ill-gotten wealth cases will die," Lacierda said.

 PCGG Chair Andres Bautista had proposed to Malacañang in late December 2010 the abolition of the PCGG and its transformation into an Institute for Good Governance.

 "There has been no discussion yet on that—on the final decision of the President—but it will be discussed with the President. Principally, this report would show as early as 2011 that they intended (or) at least Chairman Andres Bautista intended PCGG to be eventually functus officio, to cease to be an office, and so they outlined the process of transition," Lacierda said.

 "Yung winding down of operations nila is one of their recommendations and this is just a recommendation which we have not discussed yet. And the assets—to show that they have substantial number of assets that they were able to recover—were going to be turned over to the Department of Finance," Lacierda said.

 Under the Aquino administration, the PCGG performed strongly in its pursuit to return to the public treasury the ill-gotten wealth accumulated during the time of former President Marcos. The PCGG also proposed safeguards to prevent the occurrence of corruption.

 "Marami rin silang na-recover na ill-gotten wealth. That’s why we would like to invite you to look at the report itself (posted in the PCGG official website). It shows the achievements, accomplishments (of PCGG) up to until 2011," he said.

 "In fact, we have seen the recent case in New York where the former secretary of the former First Lady was prevented from selling some very expensive paintings and which now, I think, PCGG was made a witness to that particular case," he said.

 The PCGG was created by the late President Corazon C. Aquino in 1986 to recover ill-gotten wealth said to have been accumulated during the Marcos regime. PND (js)

Palace says it remains committed to negotiating peace with communist rebels
 Malacanang said the government remains committed to seeking peace with the communist rebels despite their decision to cut short the ceasefire declared for the Christmas and New Year.

 “We remain committed to pursuing peace in all fronts. We have seen that. We have proven our sincerity with the MILF. We are prepared to seek peace with CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

 The rebel group cut short its declared ceasefire with the government. Instead of January 15, ceasefire ended effectively Wednesday. The communist insurgents declared their traditional Yuletide truce starting from December 20, 2012 to January 15, 2013.

 The CPP-NPA-NDF said it had shortened the duration of the ceasefire because President Benigno S. Aquino III failed to issue a reciprocal declaration indicating said ceasefire would end on January 15.

 But Lacierda said it wasn’t the case. He noted that in the joint statement where Secretary Ronald Llamas represented the government in Norway it clearly showed that the government had intended to respect the ceasefire.

 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was informed of the ceasefire so there was no reason for the CPP-NPA-NDF to allege that the government wasn’t sincere in observing the ceasefire, Lacierda said.

 The non-issuance of a presidential directive did not mean that the government wouldn’t honor the ceasefire Lacierda said adding that the government was committed to the ceasefire and that was the reason why Secretary Teresita Deles, the President’s peace adviser, was very optimistic in her statement about peace with the rebels.

 “The one proof that we were cognizant of that ceasefire is that we published it on the, our official website. When we learned about the ceasefire, we immediately relayed it to the AFP, we relayed it to media and we relayed it to the public. That is the extent of our sincerity. We had no reason not to honor the ceasefire,” he said.

 “We knew that the ceasefire would be good for the rebels because it would be an opportunity for the CPP-NPA-NDF rebels to come down from the mountains to be with their families. By ending the ceasefire earlier, they have cut short the time the rebels can spend with their families. It is unfortunate,” he added. PND (as)

Aquino government joins nation in mourning the death of 7-year-old girl hit by stray bullet on New Year's Eve
 The Aquino administration joined the nation in grieving for the death of a seven-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet on New Year's Eve, a Palace official said.

 "Today, our nation comes together in grief. Stephanie Nicole Ella has passed away. She was only seven years old when she suffered a fatal head injury after being hit by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

 "Together with the Filipino people, we extend our deepest sympathies to Stephanie’s family. No one should experience the overwhelming heartbreak that her family is now enduring, especially during a season of celebration and hope," Lacierda said.

 Ella died at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City on Wednesday afternoon.

 The girl was watching a fireworks display outside her home in Malaria district, Caloocan City when she was hit by a stray bullet in her head. She was immediately rushed to the hospital by her family.

 "This tragedy is a sobering reminder of how a reprehensible act from a thoughtless individual can rob our people, particularly our children, of their futures. For such a promising life to be lost in such a senseless way puts the burden on all of us to make certain that this tragedy is not repeated," Lacierda stressed.

 The Aquino government continues to call on all Filipinos to consider the welfare of fellow countrymen by engaging in celebrations in a responsible and safe manner. PND (js)