Tuesday, 1 April 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, March 21, 2014

Government to launch FAiTH Version 2.0 to enhance transparency, accountability

The government will launch the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) Version 2.0 next month to ensure greater transparency and accountability on the handling of donations being extended by foreign donors to devastated communities in the Visayas region.

The FAiTH Task Force unveiled Version 2.0 of the website in a briefing for the diplomatic corps at the Department of Foreign Affairs Thursday, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement. The FAiTH Version 2.0 will be launched on April 25, he said.

In the older version of the FAiTH (Version 1.0), the government recorded foreign aid and assistance given in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, whether in the form of pledges, actual cash and non-cash donations.

Lacierda said that in the Version 2.0 of the FAiTH website, foreign embassies will be given access to input and update assistance attributed to their countries on the online portal.

This includes updating the amount of assistance given, indicating whether this has been converted from a pledge into cash/non-cash assistance, and specifying all recipient organizations, he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will be giving embassies usernames to update their contributions to FAiTH. It will be available April 7, he said.

FAiTH’s Version 2.0 will include the tracking of aid and assistance given to the national government. The Commission on Audit (COA), as an access observer, will audit the aid and assistance coursed through the national government, the Palace official said.

“FAiTH is transitioning from transparency to accountability: accountability that is bolstered by the forthcoming participation of our foreign partners, and the firm commitment of the national government to build-back-better, which necessarily includes accounting for every centavo and peso that goes to helping our countrymen rebuild their lives after Typhoon Yolanda,” Lacierda said.

“Version 2.0 of FAiTH, therefore, reflects the essence of solidarity and camaraderie we witnessed in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, in which the entire world came together to help the Filipino people.”

As the FAiTH website transitions into a new phase, Lacierda called on the private sector and other aid organizations to be transparent and accountable on the aid and assistance they have been receiving.

“The commitment embodied by FAiTH is a partnership: as government holds itself accountable to the public, so too do we encourage the Filipino people to take an active part and remain vigilant in ensuring that the help generously given to our countrymen is maximized,” he said. PND (as)

Malacanang asks for transparency, accountability from private aid organizations

The Palace challenged private organizations and entities working for the rehabilitation of typhoon-devastated communities in the Visayas region to be accountable as the government enhances its online transparency portal.

In a press briefing in Malacanang Friday, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government is launching the second version of Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) this April 25 to ensure transparency and accountability on the handling of aid being extended by foreign donors.

“It is a challenge for them also to be accountable and to be transparent because as far as we are concerned, we only have the persuasion to ask them to be accountable. Insofar as accountability is concerned, we also expect them to be accountable kasi pera rin ng ibang bansa iyon o pera ng ibang tao na ibinigay sa kanila,” Lacierda told reporters.

“Ang tanong sa kanila ngayon, ‘Paano ninyo ginamit?’ In the same manner that you ask the government to be accountable, we also ask and challenge the private organizations to be transparent and accountable as to how they used the aid.”

But the Palace official clarified that it is not the obligation of the government to go after private organization for unaccounted foreign aid, as it is a matter between the donor and the aid recipient.

Lacierda said that as far as the total amount of foreign pledges is concerned, there is around P25 billion posted in the FAiTH website. But he said the government only received so far P600 million.

“The bulk of that is channeled by the foreign government through their own development agencies or, for instance, the Red Cross, which we do not track in the first version of the website,” he said.

Lacierda also reported that the government of Bangladesh is converting its pledge of $1 million into cash and will be delivering the check to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs sometime this month. PND (as)

Palace finalizing Bangsamoro peace pact signing; expects a thousand to attend

Malacanang said it is finalizing the details of the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro this March 27 as it expects a huge number of guests to come.

“We are expecting more than a thousand guests to witness the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro. The venue is—will be in the Malacanang,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Friday.

Among those expected to attend include the members of the diplomatic corps, members of the International Contact Group, the International Monitoring Team, and also individuals who helped inp the process over the years.

The Palace is also inviting congressional leaders to witness the historic signing. The Moro National Liberation Front is also invited.

The government also extended an invitation to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to witness the signing and is still waiting for a confirmation, according to Lacierda.

With regards to the crafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Lacierda said it is still with the Transition Commission.

“We are hoping that they would be able to finalize everything by March or by April but, we need the draft to be submitted to us early so that the process will be… The Bangsamoro Transition Commission will forward it to the Office of the President for further review,” he told reporters.

Once it is approved, it will be submitted to Congress and the President will certify it as urgent, the Palace official said.

The Palace hopes that Congress would tackle it with urgency, Lacierda said, adding they received a word from Senate President Franklin Drilon that hopefully by the end of this year, the Senate could enact the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Asked about the possible hurdles that it may encounter in Congress, Lacierda said they hope legislators realize the importance of the peace agreement for the development in Mindanao.

And if there would be some issues raised, the Executive branch is ready to help legislators clarify their concerns, he said.

“This is a very important bill, it’s not only historic but, it’s also very, very vital to the development in Mindanao,” he added. PND (as)

Palace to wait for final list of nominees from Judicial and Bar Council

Malacanang on Friday said it would wait for the final list of nominees for the position of Associate Justice from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) but it believed that Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza were both qualified for the Supreme Court position.

During a press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the records of Tan and Jardeleza, who are both nominated to fill the position to be vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad, speak for themselves.

“We’ve worked more directly with Solicitor (General) Francis Jardeleza because he’s the lawyer for the Executive branch. He’s very qualified. His years in practice as a private practitioner and also now as Solicitor General, and previously as Deputy Ombudsman, his record speaks for itself,” Lacierda said.

“With respect to Chairman Grace Tan, again, her record also speaks for itself,” he said. “She has shown her competence in both the private and public sector; in the public sector as officials of various agencies with PCGG, with DOF, now with the Commission on Audit.”

The Presidential Spokesperson, however, said that they would wait for the shortlist to be submitted by the JBC, the constitutional body that screens nominees for judicial posts.

“But again, we will wait until the decision of the Judicial and Bar Council because they will still whittle down the list to a certain number,” he said.

Lacierda said that once the JBC submitted its shortlist, President Benigno S. Aquino III will choose from the nominees who will replace Associate Justice Abad, who is scheduled to retire on May 22 this year.

“The President normally keeps a distance until such time that the final list is submitted to him and at which point, as in his practice in judicial appointees to the Supreme Court or judicial nominees to the Supreme Court, he takes time to sit down with the nominees and interviews them, and assess and gauge those in the list,” he said.

The JBC announced that there were 15 applicants, including Tan and Jardeleza, for associate justice of the Supreme Court as of March 18. PND (co)