Sunday, 16 February 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, February 13, 2014

President Aquino declares February 18 as a special non-working day in the City of Bayawan, Negros Oriental in celebration of 'Tawo-Tawo Festival'

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared February 18, which falls on a Tuesday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of Bayawan in the province of Negros Oriental in celebration of the "Tawo-Tawo Festival."

The Chief Executive issued the declaration through Proclamation No. 716 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on February 7 to give the people of Bayawan City the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion.

"Tawo-Tawo Festival" reflects the culture of the city being a rice granary of the southern part of the province of Negros Oriental.

The farmers in Bayawan are using the scarecrow or “tawo-tawo'' to drive away the little native birds called “maya” that feed on the ripening golden rice grains. This agricultural method gives birth to “Tawo-Tawo Festival.” PND (js)

United States President Barack Obama to visit Philippines in April, Palace says

United States (US) President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a historic visit to the Philippines in late April upon the invitation of President Benigno S. Aquino III, a Palace official said on Thursday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. announced during the regular briefing in Malacanang the visit of the US Head of State.

"According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, President Obama will meet with President Aquino to discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of security, economic and people-to-people ties," the Communications Secretary said.

President Obama’s visit will provide a new momentum to Philippines-US relations that will strengthen the partnership of the two nations in many areas, Coloma said.

The Philippines and the United States have an enduring alliance that is based on deep historical and cultural ties. The Philippines gained its independence from the United States on July 4, 1946, and diplomatic relations were formally established on the same day.

The Philippines’ relationship with the United States has been robust, dynamic and strategic. This relationship is nurtured by a shared history and adherence to common values, especially a commitment to freedom, democracy and a market economy. From combating war against terrorism to war against poverty, the partnership between the Philippines and the US is broad-based, opening fresh avenues for greater cooperation.

The official visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Washington, D.C., capped by his meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on June 8, 2012 further strengthened Philippine-U.S. relations. PND (js)

Palace: Government to intensify efforts to safeguard journalists, freedom of expression

The government will intensify its efforts to safeguard journalists and freedom of expression, MalacaƱang said Thursday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. stressed this following the reported decline of the Philippines in an international watchdog group's press freedom index.

"We acknowledge the decline in the ranking, and we will intensify our efforts to safeguard our journalists, and uphold the freedom of expression. We remain committed to the regime of freedom of the press and freedom of expresion where there are no prior restraints and no censorship," Coloma said at a media briefing.

He said the government will continue its efforts to solve the killings of journalists.

The Philippines slipped in this year’s World Press Freedom Index by international media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, placing 149th from 147th in 2013 and 140th in 2011-2012.

Coloma pointed out that freedom of expression is one of the commitments of the Philippine government since the EDSA-1 People Power revolt that catapulted President Benigno Aquino III's late mother Corazon Aquino to the presidency.

"Mataas ang ating commitment sa pangangalaga sa kalayaan ng mamamahayag. Sa buwang ito pinagdiriwang natin ang ika-28 na anibersaryo ng EDSA People Power revolution. Isa ito sa mahalagang kalayaang pinagwagi ng EDSA People Power (We have a major commitment to safeguarding freedom of expression. This month we are marking the 28th anniversary of the EDSA People Power 1 revolution. Freedom of expression was one of the liberties we earned in 1986)," he said. PND (jl)

President Aquino names nine-member Human Rights Victims' Claims Board, Palace official says

President Benigno S. Aquino III has named the nine-members of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board that is tasked to process, evaluate and approve application for claims of reparation and recognition, a Palace official said on Thursday.

"President Aquino has signed the appointments of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. announced during the regular briefing in Malacanang .

Coloma said the Chief Executive named Lina Castillo Sarmiento as chairperson of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

The President, likewise, appointed Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballaho, Byron D. Bocar, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Glenda T. Litong, Jacqueline B. Veloria Mejia, Aurora Corazon A. Parong and Erlinda N. Senturias as members of the Board.

The Board was created pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

President Aquino signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 into a law in February, 2013, in time for the 27th anniversary of EDSA People Power I Uprising.

The President said the new law recognizes the heroism and sacrifices of Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. PND (js)

Palace satisfied with PCGG efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth

MalacaƱang on Thursday said it is satisfied with the Presidential Commission on Good Government's efforts to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the PCGG has been focused and transparent under the watch of Dean Andres Bautista.

"Sa ating pananaw ginaganap nila ang kanilang tungkulin sa epektibong pamaraan (We believe the PCGG is doing its work in an effective manner)," Coloma said at a media briefing.

The PCGG on Wednesday said the government had recovered $29 million or P1.3 billion from Swiss accounts of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family.

Bautista was quoted in earlier reports as saying the amount has been remitted to the National Treasury.

"Under the watch of Dean Andy Bautista, focused ang approach ng PCGG. They are also very transparent (Under Dean Bautista's watch, the PCGG has been focused and very transparent)," he said. PND (jl)

Palace expects truth to prevail in the ongoing Senate inquiry on pork barrel scam

The Palace said it hopes Ruby Tuason’s testimony in the Senate hearing Thursday will shed light to the country’s quest for justice in connection with the multibillion pork barrel scam involving several lawmakers.

“In today’s Senate hearing, Justice Secretary (Leila) de Lima affirmed the DOJ’s position regarding the provisional admission of Ms. Ruby Tuason to the Witness Protection Program,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a statement Thursday.

“This is based on the affidavit that she submitted upon her arrival from the United States last week. We note that her testimony amplified the information stated in her affidavit. We hope that this development will shed more light in the people’s quest for truth and justice.”

Tuason is a co-accused in a plunder case filed at the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged anomalous disbursement of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund also known as “pork barrel” funds.

The 10-billion peso pork barrel scam was allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles using bogus NGOs to access the PDAF allocations of lawmakers.

Tuason left the country when her name cropped up in the investigation and returned only last Feb. 7 after executing an affidavit about the anomaly at the Philippine consulate in San Francisco, California.

In the affidavit she submitted to the committee, Tuason said she personally delivered commissions to Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in the Senate and his residence in San Juan.

She also claimed she picked up the commissions intended for Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile and passed it on to the senator’s former chief of staff, lawyer Lucilla Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

Estrada, Enrile and Reyes are all co-accused in the plunder case at the Office of the Ombudsman. PND (as)