BY Prince Golez, Manila Reporter MANILA – Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1134 seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterteemergency powers to...
BY PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA – More discussions on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law are needed. Questions on the sharing of national wealth have yet to be thoroughly discussed, said Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The Senate committees on local government and peace, unification and reconciliation held on Sept. 23 a joint briefing on the proposed Bangsamoro law. “It has to be further explained why the Bangsamoro government has a different sharing scheme with the national government when it comes to taxes, national wealth, mineral deposits, and even fishing rights,” said Marcos, chair of the local government committee. He shared that other local government units (LGUs) were asking why wealth-sharing arrangement between the Bangsamoro and the national government is different from theirs. “The sharing of national wealth and even taxes is very much in favor of the Bangsamoro,” said Marcos. His committee will conduct out-of-town hearings “twice or thrice a month” to clarify other issues. “Other senators like to ask other questions, but others need to attend their budget hearings, and others needed time to examine the law. There will be another continuation of (the briefing) or perhaps those questions can be brought up when we come back to Manila after hearings in the south,” said Marcos. Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said the passage of the measure will “end the long-standing conflict” in Mindanao. Also, it will help boost the country’s overall economic activity, said Iqbal. “The Bangsamoro will spur (our) development, as it will become an economic hub in an area adjacent to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. With peace that the Bangsamoro will bring, there will be more investments, more jobs, more education and more opportunities not just for the Bangsamoro but for the whole country as well,” said Iqbal./PN
By SAMMY JULIAN Manila News Bureau Chief MANILA – The Philippines urged the United States to approve its request to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to undocumented Filipinos in America. A TPS designation for the Philippines will allow more than 200,000 undocumented Filipinos to stay and work legally in the US for at least 18 months. This will help the country rebuild much faster from the devastation of super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name” Haiyan), said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario. He wrote separate letters to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson about the request. Its approval would not only alleviate the plight of eligible Filipinos in the US but also ease the strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources, said del Rosario. “Many of my countrymen in the US were affected by Haiyan,| said del Rosario. “This humanitarian assistance would provide temporary relief for them from the natural disaster.” In a little over six weeks, the world will observe the first year anniversary of “Yolanda.” “While the memory of the devastation still lingers in the psyches of the Filipino people, we have not forgotten the unprecedented outpouring of international support for the Philippines,” said del Rosario. However, almost one year after the calamity, there is still much to be done, he stressed. “Massive investments and necessary expertise are still necessary to continue the reconstruction work,” he said. Manila formally filed for TPS designation in December last year, a few weeks after parts of Central Visayas were hit by “Yolanda”, considered one of the most powerful storms in history. The storm killed more than 6,000 people and severely affected more than 1.4 million others in 17 provinces./PN
By SAMMY JULIAN Manila News Bureau Chief MANILA — Reports that young Filipinos were training with the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iran were a “bad mistake” and “an error in referral of the name of the country,” a top Iranian diplomat in the Philippines said. “We categorically deny the false accusation,” Iranian Ambassador to Manila Ali Asghar Mohammadi said in a statement. Mohammadi also stressed that the firm position of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the conflicts in Iraq and Syria was “based on strong condemnation of the terrorist activities in the region.” “The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its principled foreign policy and established practices, would stand to support peace and stability in the region and will continue to challenge terrorism in all its forms,” he said. Former president Fidel Ramos said in a television interview recently that about 100 young Filipinos were training with the terrorist group. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City also claimed that some residents of the city were recruited by ISIS and have left the country either for Iraq or Syria in July. ON CLOSE WATCH Meanwhile, the United States said it is watching Mindanao “very closely” as one of the possible ISIS recruitment areas in Southeast Asia, along with Indonesia and Malaysia. “We’ve taken note of the public announcements that have been made by some of the groups in southern Philippines about ISIS,” US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg told reporters. “But I don’t want to say that we have no information to indicate that there have been fighters going to the Middle East.” “What I’m saying, we and the Philippine government are watching it very closely and it concerns us wherever it may be taking place,” Goldberg said. However, he stressed that the US is not focused solely on the Philippines as having such a “scenario.” “It’s everywhere including in the West,” said Goldberg. “We’re concerned about the idea of ISIS trying to recruit foreign fighters all around the world.” “We know that there are foreign fighters who have gone to the Middle East from the United States from the United Kingdom,” he said, “from all over Europe, Australia, and other places and so we’re concerned about it wherever it may happen.” He said the possibility that there are fighters from other parts of the world that will go to the Middle East in support of ISIS and then return to their home countries is a global concern. “It’s something that we all need to be concerned about, and the United States is leading an international coalition to deal with the issue of ISIS,” Goldberg said. Several organizations of Muslim Filipinos have publicly proclaimed their allegiance to ISIS and its founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A group of Muslims, Ansar Dawlah Fi Filibbin, posted a video showing several men performing a Bay-ah or pledge of allegiance to Baghdadi. Muslim detainees allegedly at the Special Intensive Care Area of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, were also seen in a video performing the same Bay-ah./PN
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — Solving traffic congestion will be Sen. Miriam Defensor–Santiago’s top priority if ever she gets elected as President in 2016. “As President, immediately, I will attack the Metro Manila traffic problem,” Santiago said on Twitter. “Since there are more (people) in the commuting class than in the elite class, the welfare of commuters should be paramount,” she said. Santiago criticized the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for suspending operations against colorum buses and out-of-line operations, and modifying routes of public utility buses. The suspension would only “spur the proliferation of unauthorized vehicles,” said the resigned International Criminal Court judge. Santiago said the government loses about P155 billion every year due to traffic congestion. Now undergoing treatment for stage 4 lung cancer, the lady senator said she may run in the 2016 presidential election if she fully recovers by December. “I am not going to be a coy,” she had said. “Society leaders have urged me to seek the presidency.” Santiago said she wants either Sen. Grace Poe, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City or former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro as running mate. She revealed that she also considers joining an international advisory council of a nongovernment organization or fly to Washington, United States for a writing grant./PN
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — An intensified information campaign is needed to spread the importance of a mandatory health insurance coverage for all senior citizens, said Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City. The Senate and the House of Representatives have separately approved measures seeking to automatically enroll in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) all Filipinos aged 60 years and above. “Ginapangayuan na nila ako conformity sa mga differences sa Senado para go na,” said Treñas, one of the authors of the consolidated House Bill (HB) 4593. Senate Bill 712 and HB 4593 are now ready to be tackled at the bicameral conference. “Information (about the measure) should be disseminated to inform all senior (citizens),” Treñas told Panay News. If information about the measure is poorly disseminated, the measure becomes “an exercise in futility,” the congressman said. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, author of the Senate counterpart bill, said the national government can afford to make all senior citizens — indigent or not — members of PhilHealth. “Insuring our elderly should not be viewed as revenue loss,” said Recto. “It should rather be viewed as a productive expenditure and debt paid to those who gave the best years of their lives so ours will be better.” There are more than six million senior citizens in the country, but only close to four million are PhilHealth members, government data showed. According to Recto, PhilHealth has P116 billion in reserves and P62 billion in income as of December 2013. Senate President Franklin Drilon said the PhilHealth coverage measure will provide senior citizens “accessible” and “sufficient” health care services. “(It) will advance the health of millions of Filipinos and will uphold their right toward effective and easily attainable medical services,” he said./PN
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III has reservations on the proposed reimposition of death penalty in the country. Aquino has concerns with regards the judicial system, according to Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. Death penalty may be reimposed “if maganda ang judicial system natin,” Lacierda yesterday said. “Minsan nape-prejudice ang mahinang legal presentation.” Convictions cannot be reversed once a capital punishment is imposed, he said. “What happens (kapag) may judgment, ’yun pala nagkamali? There is no reversal.” The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) recently raised the issue on death penalty. Police officer involved in heinous crimes should be penalized by death, the VACC said. “They have the firearms. They have the authority. They use that against the people,” the group said, referring to the EDSA “hulidap” policemen. Aquino said in January this year that death penalty is not a deterrent to crimes. “Palagay ko, kailangang pag-aralan ng husto iyan,” said the President. “Siguro, at the most, at this point in time, ’pag may death sentence, iyong na-convict at tunay na criminal, iyon lang ang natanggal natin.” Senate President Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, said the Senate can debate on the reimposition of death penalty. “Dapat tingnan kung ang pagtaas ng krimen ay dahil ba sa pagkawala ng death penalty o sa hindi maayos na pagpapatakbo ng peace and order situation ng ating kapulisan,” Drilon said in a radio interview yesterday./PN
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid has proposed to grant free college education to children of public elementary and secondary school teachers. Under Lapid’s Senate Bill 2416, the said teachers will be exempted from paying the tuition and other miscellaneous fees of one of their children enrolled in a state college or university. Under the bill’s Section 3, however, two children can avail themselves of free college education if both parents are public school teachers. Currently, the average college tuition is P60,000, Lapid said, citing a report. A public school teacher, however, gets a minimum monthly salary of only P18,500, the senator lamented. “It is important to provide non-wage benefit to public elementary and high school teachers to ensure that they will still be able to send their children to college (even with) the rising cost of tertiary education,” he said./PN
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV wanted to investigate the apparent shortage of nurses in government hospitals despite the growing number...
By PRINCE GOLEZ Manila Reporter MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe is pushing for initiatives that will help fight malnutrition in the country. Poe said the government will...