Thursday, 21 August 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, August 21, 2014

President Aquino leads commemoration of father Ninoy’s 31st death anniversary

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the commemoration of the 31st death anniversary of his father -- the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. -- on Thursday.

The President, together with his sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris, attended a mass offered for the democracy icon at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City. Other family members, close relatives and friends of the Aquinos were also at the cemetery to remember Ninoy.

Presidential Security Group chaplain Monsignor Daniel Tansip, who officiated the mass, emphasized the importance of commemorating Ninoy’s death, which served as a catalyst for change during the dictatorial regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Tansip said Ninoy’s memories and good deeds remain not only in the hearts of his family but also in the hearts of the people.

“Sa pagnanais na isulong ang pagbabago tungo sa kabutihan ng ating bayan, ibinuwis ng inyong mahal na ama ang kanyang buhay, kaya naman siya ay nabibilang sa mga bayani at martir,” he said.

He said if Ninoy were alive today, he would be very proud of his son -– President Aquino -– for the reforms in government that the latter has instituted.

He then asked for prayers for President Aquino as he continues his duty to lead the country toward the straight path.

“Let us ask the Good Lord for continuous guidance, for the grace and strength, so that we may be able to continue our mission to serve and be always part of the straight path our beloved President is determined to push through,” he said.

While noting that he is just an ordinary priest, Tansip said if he had his way, he would want the President to continue serving the country.

“Kung ako lang po ang masusunod, ako’y isang ordinaryong pari lang, on this personal note: Sana hindi na matapos iyong paglilingkod ng ating mahal na Pangulo, para tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang magandang nasimulan sa pagtutuwid at pagtatama ng daan,” he said.

“I, for one, as priest, believe that right at this very moment, the late Senator, your father, and of course your mother (Corazon Aquino) as well, are very happy with the achievements of their children,” he added.

Also present during the mass were Senate President Franklin Drilon, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.

Ninoy Aquino, a staunch critic of Marcos, was assassinated on August 21, 1983 at the Manila International Airport. It was the day he returned to the Philippines after years of exile in the United States. PND (jb)

Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted to Office of the President

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been submitted to the Office of the President, a Malacañang official has said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles is scheduled to issue a statement on the matter on Friday.

“Draft BBL submitted. Let’s wait for Sec. Ging’s statement,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told Palace reporters in a text message on Thursday, amid online reports that have surfaced regarding the development.

In a separate text message, however, Deles refused to give further details, saying, “The process is on track. Will issue update tomorrow.”

The draft BBL was supposed to have been submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s office last Monday but it did not push through, due to the “need to incorporate all agreements reached into the final draft, as well as fine-tune the entire draft to ensure that all articles will be consistent with each other,” according to Deles.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairman Mohagher Iqbal, in a joint statement issued last August 15, said they “have concluded discussions on the various issues” on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Iqbal’s meeting with Ochoa came after a series of meetings between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels to resolve sticky issues on the draft BBL before it is submitted to Congress.

Deles has assured that the timeline for the submission of the draft BBL to Congress within the month of August remains “on track”.

She also stated that the “passage of the BBL remains on top of the President’s legislative agenda” and “the leadership of both Houses of Congress have indicated that they are prepared to work overtime to ensure the timely passage of the law”. PND (hdc)

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

President Aquino appoints Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as new Supreme Court Associate Justice

After serving the administration for more than two years as its primary counsel, Francis Jardeleza moves up to the Supreme Court after President Benigno S. Aquino III signed his appointment to replace retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad, Malacañang has announced.

“President Aquino has appointed Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The appointment was transmitted to the Supreme Court this morning, 20 August 2014,” read Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr.’s note sent to reporters on Wednesday.

Jardeleza bested four other nominees for the post -- Court of Appeals Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas and Jose Reyes Jr., Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan, and Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Reynaldo Daway, despite not being included in the initial shortlist submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to the Supreme Court.

The JBC, however, eventually included Jardeleza on its list after his third attempt to make it in the selection process, with the Supreme Court granting his petition for certiori and mandamus.

Jardeleza had served as the Aquino administration’s Solicitor General since February 2012, following his stint as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon from July 2011.

He graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1974, placing third in the bar exams the same year, before obtaining his Masters of Law degree in 1977 from the Harvard School of Law.

He is a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Inter-Pacific Bar Association. In 1997, he was admitted to the New York Sate Bar and the US Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. PND (hdc)

President Aquino swears in 39 newly promoted Police Generals

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday inducted into office 39 newly promoted Police Generals in a ceremony held at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace.

Promoted to the equivalent military rank of lieutenant general were Police Deputy Directors General Leonardo Espina and Marcelo Garbo, Jr.

Also promoted were Police Directors Ronaldo Purugganan, Francisco Uyami, Jr., Francisco Don Montenegro, Charles Calima, Jr., Benjamin Magalong, Ricardo Marquez, Jamie Morente, Rodrigo de Gracia, Melito Mabilin, Getulio Napeñas, Jose Jorge Corpuz, Catalino Rodriquez, Jr., Juanito Vaño, Jr., Edgardo Inking, and Danilo Constantino. A Police director has the equivalent military rank of major general.

Also joining them were Police Chief Superintendents Richard Albano, Asher Dalina, Prudencio Tom Bañas, Jose Getiles, Robert Kiunisala, Ferdinand Sevilla, Abelardo Villacorta, Edgar Basbas, Rodel Calungsud, Diodado Valeroso, Edwin Erni, Manolito Labador, Oriel Bragais, Wilfredo Franco, David Ombao, Ferdinand Yuzon, Ronaldo Asuncion, Rene Ong, Antonio Viernes, Reuben Theodore Sindac, Augusto Marquez, Jr., and Danilo Pelisod. The rank of Police chief superintendent is equivalent to the rank of brigadier general in the military.

After the oath-taking ceremony, the newly promoted generals and their respective families had a photo opportunity with the President. With the President during the ceremony was Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. PND (ag)

Palace announces new appointments

President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed new officials of various government agencies, the Palace announced on Wednesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. informed members of the Malacañang Press Corps in an email of the appointment of Jan Co Chua as an PCOO Undersecretary.

New appointees at the National Security Council were Ma. Carmina Acuña as Assistant Director General; Lorenzo Clavejo as Director V; and, Ruperta Salvanera as Acting Director III.

Other new appointees were Christine Antonio as Director IV for the Public-Private Partnership Center of the Philippines under the National Economic Development Authority; Allan Montaño as member of the Board of Trustees of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration representing the Labor Sector; Benjo Santos Benavidez as Acting Director IV of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Also appointed were Ma. Vilma Diez as Acting Director III of the Department of Health; Raul Serrano as member of the Board of Directors of the Development Bank of the Philippines; John Eulalio Nepomuceno Aparis II as regular member of the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Ormoc City, Leyte; and Alberto Escobarte as Acting Director IV of the Department of Education (DepEd).

A total of 17 new School Division Superintendents under DepEd, were also appointed: Ruby Abundabar, Miguel Mac Aposin, Roel Bermejo, Wilfredo Cabral, Reynaldo Guillena, Juliet Jeruta, Evangeline Ladines, Esperanza Laya, Portia Mallorca, Cesar Medina, Ponciano Menguito, Jorge Reinante, Cecille Bernadette Rivera, Carlito Rocafort, Joel San Luis, Josilyn Solana, and Alma Ruby Torio. PND (ag)

Naming of Mount Hamiguitan as UNESCO World Heritage Site is boon to Davao Oriental, Governor says

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) inscription of Mount Hamiguitan range wildlife sanctuary as a World Heritage Site is a boon to Davao Oriental, Governor Corazon Malanyaon has said.

Mount Hamiguitan was recently inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site during a UNESCO Conference in Doha, Qatar, Governor Malanyaon said during a press briefing after she paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday morning.

"It was declared as a World Heritage Site because of its outstanding universal value. It has a huge biodiversity. It was the endemism actually that caught the attention of the UNESCO people," she said.

Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type.

Mount Hamiguitan, home to about 2,000 people, boasts of pygmy or bonsai forests.

According to the UNESCO, Mount Hamiguitan showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found only at the mountain range. These include critically endangered trees, plants and the iconic Philippine eagle and Philippine cockatoo, it said.

The designation of Mount Hamiguitan as a heritage site is good news to Davao Oriental as it will open a lot of opportunities for the province, especially in terms of eco-tourism, she said.

“It is one gift that we would like to share to the world and also a way of showcasing our concern for our environment,” the governor added.

The UNESCO encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

To fulfill this initiative, the international body adopted in 1972 an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. PND (as)

Davao Oriental already in rehabilitation stage after Typhoon Pablo, says Governor

Davao Oriental is making headway in rebuilding communities devastated by Typhoon Pablo in December 2012, Governor Corazon Malanyaon said on Wednesday.

“We are now in the reconstruction and rehabilitation stage. So much is going on there in Davao Oriental now, so parang alive na alive talaga ang tatlong towns. Everybody seems to have work. Everybody seems to be involved in all the activities,” Malanyaon said during a press briefing after paying a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III.

She was referring to the towns of Boston, Cateel, and Baganga, where about a thousand housing units are being turned over every 15 days.

"We hope to turn over at least 60 percent of the total housing requirement for our typhoon victims by the second anniversary of Typhoon Pablo in December," she said, adding that they aim to build a total of 24,000 housing units for the victims.

The governor said they have also begun efforts to give the typhoon victims permanent livelihood in agriculture and fisheries.

“Nakikita ko talaga na everybody talagang nagtatrabaho. Everybody has been given the opportunity to earn income. Construction is a boom there. We are going to construct a lot of housing units, school buildings, barangay halls, ‘yung mga daycare center, and even mga infrastructure like roads, bridges, and all that,” she said.

Typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental on December 4, 2012, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands of families. The typhoon also destroyed billions of pesos worth of infrastructure and properties.

The magnitude of the devastation prompted President Aquino to create a special task force led by Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras to facilitate a smooth disaster response mechanism for all the affected areas.

Last February, the people of Davao Oriental thanked President Aquino for mobilizing the entire national government machinery to address their urgent concerns following the onslaught of the Typhoon Pablo. PND (as)

Ninoy Aquino's martyrdom must inspire young generation of Filipinos, says Palace official

The Palace has encouraged the public to educate future generations of Filipinos about the martyrdom of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., father of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

"Let us pledge to transmit his thoughts and the reasons he took his fateful stand to the generations who were not yet around in 1983, but who continue to enjoy the freedom of choice, thought, and expression that he fought and died for, and which characterizes our country today," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement on Wednesday.

Secretary Lacierda asked the people to pause in prayer and reflection, and revisit Ninoy Aquino’s undelivered arrival statement available in the original English and Filipino translation on the Official Gazette.

Thirty-one years ago, Ninoy Aquino came home to prove that the Filipino is worth dying for, Lacierda said.

With his martyrdom, Ninoy Aquino joined the ranks of other heroes such as Dr. Jose Rizal, Jose Abad Santos, and Aquino’s fellow victims of Martial Law who stood for national freedom and integrity, he added.

Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983 after arriving from several years of living in exile in the US.

Three years after his death, his widow, Corazon Aquino was swept to power following the bloodless 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. PND (as)

Mindanao to boost cacao production

Mindanao will boost the production of cacao in the region to capitalize on the dwindling cacao supply in the global market, Mindanao Development Authority Chairwoman Luwalhati Antonino said.

"We are trying to jump-start the cacao industry in Mindanao because of the diminishing supply of cacao in the world market, and Mindanao has a very big chance to catch up to be a big supplier of cacao," Secretary Antonino said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

She noted that it was only in the 1960s when Mindanao started planting banana trees.

“Now we are one of the major suppliers of banana and we intend to do that with cacao as well,” she said, adding that they are planning to intercrop cacao trees among the region’s two million hectares of coconut trees.

Planting cacao trees in 5 percent of the total hectares of coconut trees will mean 100,000 hectares of cacao and that will have a big share in the market, she said, adding that the initiative will create 1,000 jobs for the people of Mindanao.

Antonino also announced that Mindanao is ready to break India's record in planting the most number of trees in an hour.

India has a record of 1.9 million trees planted in one hour and Mindanao aims to plant 4.6 million trees in an hour on September 26.

One million of these will be cacao trees, she said.

The Aquino administration has said it intends to carry out a targeted approach to improve the lives of the people in the agriculture sector. One of its major thrusts is intercropping to boost the productivity of farmers. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Palace confirms retired General Bautista’s appointment as Executive Director of security cluster

The Palace has confirmed the appointment of retired General Emmanuel Bautista as Executive Director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace.

Bautista will have the rank of Undersecretary and will be reporting directly to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., who leads the security cluster, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Tuesday’s press briefing.

The security cluster is composed of the respective secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense, and Department of Justice, as well as the National Security Adviser and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Based on Executive Order No. 43, Series of 2011, the security cluster is tasked to ensure the preservation of national sovereignty and the rule of law, and focus on the protection and promotion of human rights, and the pursuit of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace.

Bautista was the 54th Commanding General of the Philippine Army before he assumed the post of Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on January 20, 2013.

He is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Dimalupig Class of 1981 and earned his master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines in 1985. PND (ag)

Police, communities work together to fight criminality, says Palace

Malacañang made an assurance on Wednesday that the government continues to work to protect the public against crimes.

A recent spate of crimes, such as robberies, assault and the killing and rape of a 23-year old woman in Bulacan, have raised concerns about the people's security.

In a press briefing at the Palace, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said one of the strategies of the police is to work with communities.

"Patuloy ang pagkilos ng ating pamahalaan para tiyakin ang kaligtasan at kapanatagan ng ating mga mamamayan. Isa sa mga mahahalagang elemento dito ay ang pakikipag-ugnayan ng kapulisan sa mga komunidad," Coloma told reporters.

He said it is a proven strategy that when the police and the people work together, they can prevent crimes.

When the citizens and the police work together, authorities can easily monitor the movement of people, he explained, adding that the people must always be vigilant to catch criminals.

Another government strategy is the systematic registration of firearms to address the proliferation of loose guns that often end up in the hands of criminals, the Communications Secretary said.

"Bahagi din diyan ang pagbibigay ng sapat na kagamitan at modernong equipment sa ating kapulisan na magagamit nila sa investigation, crime detection, at crime prevention," he said.

Fixing the country's criminal justice system is also a major thrust in fighting criminality, Coloma said, adding that a lengthy trial that leads to the acquittal of suspects gives criminals more confidence in violating the law.

"At isa rin ‘yang dahilan kung bakit mayroon tayong security, peace and justice cluster, dahil nga magkakaugnay ang mga suliraning kinakaharap ng iba’t ibang kagawaran," he added.

The national and local governments are also working together to fight crime in the country, Coloma noted. PND (as)

Additional trade routes to decongest traffic in Manila Port Area, Palace says

The opening of additional “trade routes” for cargo trucks aims to decongest traffic in Manila’s seaport, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

“Meron na silang tinatawag ngayon na ‘trade routes’ na dinadaanan ng mga cargo trucks para mapabilis ang paglipat ng mga cargo mula sa pantalan patungo sa iba’t ibang mga sentro ng kalakal,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during the daily press briefing.

Secretary Coloma said the Philippine Ports Authority is anticipating the increase in cargo shipments in view of the “-ber months” leading up to the Christmas season.

“Iyong pong patungong Timog, ‘yung para sa mga establisyimento sa CALABARZON (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon); ‘yung patungo naman sa Hilaga, ‘yung sa Central Luzon. At nagtutulungan lahat ng mga adjoining ports katulad din ‘nung sa Batangas at sa Subic para ma-address itong sitwasyon na ito sa Port of Manila,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coloma said that PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana has confirmed that his assistant general manager David Simon had been replaced by Arman de Guzman.

Simon has reached the mandatory retirement age, he said. PND (ag)

Monday, 18 August 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Sunday, August 18, 2014

Palace pleased with the repatriation of 766 Filipinos from Libya

Malacanang has expressed its satisfaction over the repatriation of 766 Filipinos from Libya.

“Ikinalulugod naming ibahagi ang ulat ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) hinggil sa maayos na pagbabalik ng 766 na Pilipino mula sa Libya,” said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a press briefing over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday.

According to Coloma, the repatriated Filipinos where first brought to Malta via chartered ship, then flew to Manila via Philippine Airlines through the cooperation of the DFA, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
He added that the government is committed in bringing home Filipinos from Libya as the heavy fighting between rival militias continues.

Data from DFA shows that the total of repatriated Filipinos now have reached 2,727.

The government continues to urge Filipinos in Libya as well as their relatives in the country to coordinate with authorities to bring them home safely.

“Nananawagan muli ang pamahalaan sa lahat ng mga Pilipino na nananatili sa Libya na makipag-ugnayan sa embahada sa Tripoli at magparehistro na para matulungang makabalik sa bansa sa lalong madaling panahon,” said Coloma.

Contact details of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya are as follows: (00218) 918-244-208 / (00218) 914-370-399 / (00218) 945-348-481 with email addresses: and PND (ag)

Malacanang: Bangsamoro Basic Law a priority

Malacanang said on Sunday that President Benigno Aquino III will give due priority to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) once it reaches his office.

Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., told reporters in a press briefing over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that Malacanang will submit the draft of Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress the soonest possible time.

“Bibigyan ito ng Pangulo ng prayoridad na atensyon upang maihain sa Kongreso ang draft Bangsamoro Basic Law sa lalong madaling panahon, alinsunod sa timetable,” said Coloma.

The government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) both issued a statement that they will submit the draft to Malacanang on 18 August 2014.

Based on the timetable, there is still ample time for ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress, in time for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly and a plebiscite in 2016.

“Bagama’t may pagkaantala sa pagbubuo ng draft BBL, hindi natitinag ang determinasyon ni Pangulong Aquino hinggil sa pagkumpleto ng prosesong pangkapayapaan na maghahatid ng pangmatagalang estabilidad at kaunlaran sa Bangsamoro,” said Coloma.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed on March 27. The agreement ended the decades-long conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of people in Muslim Mindanao. PND (ag)

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, August 16, 2014

President Aquino to inaugurate Ninoy Aquino bridge in Cagayan next week

President Benigno S. Aquino III will inaugurate on Monday a P600-million bridge connecting the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga and Apayao, which is expected to boost economic activity in the area.

In an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday, Secretary Manuel Mamba of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office said the bridge will be named Ninoy Aquino Bridge.

It is composed of a 360-meter bridge across the Chico River and also connected to two other bridges, the 40-meter Malumi bridge, and the 20-meter Agham bridge, Mamba said.

The project also has a road component, which has already been paved stretching about 22 kilometers, he added.

The project started in 2010 and was completed in 2013, according to Mamba.

The office of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile realigned his P195 million budget so some portions were left incomplete.

Local officials sought the help of the President, who partially funded the project releasing P145 million through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Aside from boosting the local economy and addressing insurgency, Mamba said the Ninoy Aquino Bridge will also permanently connect Cagayan with Kalinga and Apayao.

Even during heavy flooding, towns in these areas will remain connected to other parts of Luzon, he said.

Among the towns in Kalinga and Apayao that are expected to benefit from the project include Conner, Kabugao, Pinukpuk, Tuao, Rizal, and Piat, Mamba said.

There is also an ongoing road network project that will ultimately connect Solsona, Ilocos Norte with Conner and Kabugao, he added. The government is currently completing more than eight kilometers of road to connect the said areas.

"This will be a route connecting Cagayan to Ilocos Norte through the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao, an inter-regional link in the CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), Region I, and Region II," Mamba explained.

"Kaya grabeng pakinabang ang nakukuha ng mga tao dito. At the same time, ina-anticipate ‘yung ekonomiya na talagang lalakas," he added. PND (as)

President Aquino wants safety assessment of Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia, Golan Heights

President Benigno S. Aquino III wants a detailed assessment of how safe Filipino peacekeepers are in Liberia and Golan Heights in the midst of security and health threats in those areas, a Palace official said.

It was reported that the Department of National Defense made a recommendation for the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights and Liberia because of increasing tensions in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola virus in Africa.

"I had a chance to speak to the President about this lately and ang sabi we’re still trying to see what are the available protection for our soldiers who are there," Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

Valte said her impression is that the President has not made a decision yet whether to bring home the peacekeepers or retain them there.

But the Palace official said it is the President's paramount concern to ensure the safety of Filipino soldiers deployed overseas for peacekeeping missions.

Recently, a Filipino peacekeeper was injured while performing his duties in the Golan Heights because of deteriorating security conditions there.

In Africa, there are also concerns on the safety of peacekeepers as the Ebola virus continues to ravage several African countries such and Liberia and Sierra Leone, which already posted many casualties.

"Ang tinatanong din ng Pangulo, syempre, ayaw niyang malagay sa peligro ang ating mga sundalo. Maraming mga reported cases and deaths related to Ebola sa Liberia," Valte said.

"Gustong malaman ng Pangulo what available safeguards are in place."

The Department of Foreign Affairs is the one coordinating with the United Nations when there are certain concerns on the country's peacekeepers, she added. PND (as)

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, August 15, 2014

Palace hopes Congress would deliberate on priority legislation, should there be talks on Charter Change, official says

The Palace hopes Congress would have enough time to deliberate on priority legislation submitted by the Executive branch, should legislators start discussing Charter Change, an official said Friday.

"Umaasa kami na mabibigyan ng sapat na atensiyon iyong mga naisumite ng Pangulo na 26 priority bills sa Mababa at Mataas na Kapulungan," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Pero mahirap muna sumagot ngayon, kasi medyo hypothetical,” she quickly added.

Some quarters have expressed skepticism on the timely passage of such priority legislation as the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Freedom of Information Bill, should legislators start tackling Charter Change.

"Alam kong medyo mataas ang level of interest ngayon, pero hindi pa naman natin alam talaga kung ano ang mga susunod na hakbang. Pero umaasa kami na, whatever happens, sana mabigyan ng sapat na atensiyon ang mga importanteng priority bills na naisumite ng Pangulo," she said.

While there has been no request from the President to work immediately on the priority bills, Valte said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Senate President Frank Drilon, House of Representatives Speaker Sonny Belmonte, and other members of Congress are discussing these bills.

In his State of the Nation Address last month, President Benigno S. Aquino III cited several priority bills, among them the national budget bill, the supplemental budget for 2014, the uniformed personnel pension reform bill, and a joint resolution to clarify certain definitions and concepts in the Supreme Court decision on his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Also on the Palace list are the proposed tax incentives management law, the bill seeking to amend the build-operate-transfer law, the cabotage law, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas charter, Human Security Act, Ombudsman Act, and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act.

The Palace is also seeking amendments to the law facilitating the acquisition of right-of-way, site or location for government infrastructure projects.

It also wants to remove investment restrictions in specific laws cited in the Foreign Investment Negative List. PND (as)

Government, MILF agree on resolutions that will be part of Bangsamoro draft Law

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed on several resolutions that will form part of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to be submitted to President Aquino.

"The parties have agreed that the resolutions arrived at by both parties will be incorporated into the final draft of the Basic Bangsamoro Law that will be prepared and submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino III," Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal said in a joint statement issued on Friday.

In the statement, Ochoa and Iqbal said they have concluded discussions on the various issues involving the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law, which was originally drafted by the BTC and submitted to the President last April.

Aside from the government and MILF peace panels, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, the Office of the Executive Secretary, and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel also participated in the discussions.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law was scheduled to be submitted to Congress last May but the Palace review and other developments have delayed its submission.

Once the draft is approved by Congress, a plebiscite will be held and a transition authority will be created. An election in the Bangsamoro will be held in 2016 so that its people could choose their leaders.

President Aquino vowed to push for the conduct of a fair and democratic election in the region in 2016. PND (as)

Palparan has chance to defend himself in court, Palace official says

Former Army major general Jovito Palparan could now defend himself in court, a Palace official said in reaction to reports that retired generals believe that Palparan is a victim of trial by publicity.

"Now he has the chance to have an actual trial," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Friday.

Asked if the government does not recognize Palparan's success in his anti-communism campaign in the past, Valte said his past efforts are not the issue.

She said that Palparan, who is facing serious illegal detention charges, could argue in court that his actions were part of his duty as a military man.

"Those are matters of defense that are properly taken up in a trial. If he intends to adopt that as a defense, then he is free to do so," she said, adding that the Palace does not want to get mired in the issue by reacting to Palparan's past performance.

On why the President did not entertain Palparan's surrender feelers, Valte said he may not have seen it fit.

The President thought that if Palparan really wanted to surrender, then he could have turned himself over to anyone or to the authorities, she explained.

Palparan, one of the most wanted persons, was arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila before dawn on Tuesday.

Authorities have offered a P2-million bounty for information leading to his capture.

The former congressman is accused of illegally detaining activist Jonas Burgos and University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, as well as executing suspected members of the New People's Army. PND (as)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, August 14, 2014

President Aquino leads ceremonial turnover of assault rifles to Armed Forces

President Benigno S. Aquino lII led the ceremonial distribution of newly acquired assault rifles to selected military personnel at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday.

The acquisition of the rifles is part of the government’s efforts to modernize the Armed Forces by enhancing the firearms capability of its soldiers, especially those on the front line.

In his speech, President Aquino said the military could now depend on their guns -- and not just their guts – in serving and protecting the state.

Illustrating the military’s poor defense capability, he recalled a story shared to him by Marines guarding the Kalayaan Island Group.

He said there was an instance when the soldiers were forced to paint a coconut trunk black to deceive their enemies, who were pointing real cannons at them.

“Sa pagtitipon natin ngayon, pinapatunayan nating tapos na ang panahon kung saan dinadaan na lang sa tibay ng loob at diskarte ang pagtutupad sa tungkulin—tunay ngang kinakalinga ng estado ang mga kawal ng bayan,” he said.

The government has acquired a total of 50,629 assault rifles for the AFP.

The President said the first batch of 27,300 rifles was delivered last July, while the remaining 23,329 units will be delivered in December this year.

The acquisition of new firearms is part of the Joint Philippine Army–Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifle Acquisition Project under the AFP Modernization Program.

Under the project, the AFP will receive a total of 50,629 units of M4 rifles, 44,186 of which will go to the Army and 6,443 to the Navy.

Due to a transparent bidding process, President Aquino said the government was able to generate an estimated P1.2 billion savings from the project.

The approved budget for the contract was about P3.19 billion but the government acquired the rifles for only P1.94 billion.

The President said the savings will be used to procure another 12,657 assault rifles for the Philippine Army, to be delivered also in December.

The budget for the acquisition of rifles was sourced from the AFP Capability Upgrade Program, which was organized in 2012.

President Aquino was joined by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief Gregorio Pio Catapang during the event.

In his opening remarks, Catapang thanked the President for the acquisition of the rifles, saying that soldiers are still using early models of M16 and M16A1 rifles, which were used during the Vietnam war. PND (jb)

Palace: It is up to the Justice Department to assess court’s decision to transfer Palparan to provincial jail

The Palace will leave it to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to assess a court decision to transfer former Army Major General Jovito Palparan to the Bulacan Provincial Jail, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said Thursday.

“Ipauubaya po natin ‘yan sa ating panel of prosecutors o sa DOJ. Sila naman ang gumagawa ng assessment hinggil sa bagay na ‘yan at tiyak naman na gagawa sila ng kinauukulang manipestasyon hinggil sa bagay na ‘yan, kung inaakala nilang hindi mainam ang pasya ng hukuman,” Secretary Coloma said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

He was responding to a question on whether Palparan would be safer at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detention facility than at the Bulacan jail.

Palparan, former commander of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division, was captured early Tuesday morning, nearly three years since the Malolos Regional Trial Court ordered his arrest over the disappearance in 2006 of two students of the University of the Philippines.

He has also been accused of carrying out the extrajudicial killings of suspected communist sympathizers during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Malolos Regional Trial Court’s Branch 14 on Wednesday ordered his transfer to the Bulacan Provincial Jail, prompting Palparan’s lawyer to file a motion to prevent the move due to high security risks. PND (ag)

Government focused on ensuring safety of commuters in light of MRT mishap

The Palace said Thursday that ensuring the safety of commuters is a major goal of the government.

“Ang pagtiyak sa kaligtasan ng mga pasahero at ng mga mamamayan ang pangunahing layunin ng pamahalaan. Ayon kay Secretary (Jun) Abaya, inaalam na ng pamunuan ng MRT kung paano naganap ang aksidente upang tiyaking hindi na ito mauulit, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang.
A Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) train overshot the station in Pasay City on Wednesday, injuring more than 30 passengers.

Asked by reporters about the President's reaction to the accident, Coloma said: "Ang Pangulo ay mayroong mataas na level ng interes at prayoridad na binibigay sa mga bagay na ‘yan, lalong-lalo na ang involved dito ay ang kaligtasan at kapakanan ng libu-libong Pilipino na gumagamit ng mass transport facility natin, o ‘yung MRT, araw-araw.”

"Kaya makatitiyak tayo na napakataas ng prayoridad nito sa kanyang isipan, at gagawin niya ang nararapat—ginagawa niya ang nararapat para tiyakin na ang mga kinauukulan ay ginagawa din ang kanilang tungkulin," he added.

Coloma further said that the Palace would support the proposed creation of a body that will oversee the operations of public transportation to ensure the safety of commuters.

At least 38 passengers were injured when a wayward MRT 3 train overshot the tracks at the Taft Avenue station in Pasay City around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Injured passengers were rushed to the San Juan de Dios General Hospital, the Manila Sanatorium, and the Pasay City General Hospital, according to police officials.

Before the incident, the train experienced technical problems at the Magallanes station and became nonoperational.

It was being pushed by an operational train toward Taft Avenue, the last station on the MRT line, when it disengaged and overshot the tracks, reports said. PND (as)

President Aquino eager to feel the pulse of the people, says Palace official

President Aquino's major concern is to feel the people’s pulse to make sure that the reforms he has spearheaded in recent years would become permanent and would benefit all Filipinos, a Palace official said on Thursday.

"What is essential for the President is to know the sentiments of his bosses, the Filipino people," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

"He will continue to listen to them so he will know their views on how to ensure that the reforms and transformation that he has begun will continue and will become permanent," he added.

Coloma was responding to questions on what made the President change his mind on Charter Change.

Asked how the President would gauge the people wishes, Coloma said many channels of information could serve as relevant sources of information for the President.

In an exclusive interview with TV5 on Wednesday, President Aquino said that the Constitution is not perfect and some of its provisions are already obsolete and may need fine-tuning.

He said amending the Constitution can put limits to the powers given to the Supreme Court, which appears to be frequently using its power to check the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

He has to listen to his "bosses", the Chief Executive said, clarifying however that his statement did not necessarily mean that he would automatically go after a term extension.

He explained that “listening to his bosses” means asking them how the reforms he had begun would remain beyond his term of office.

The President had rejected moves to amend the Constitution in the past, saying the country has done well even without changing the Charter, especially its economic provisions. PND (as)