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)