DILG backs bid to amend Human Security Act to fight terrorism

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019   •   236

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has expressed support for proposals to amend the Human Security Act of 2007, particularly the longer wiretapping and detention period in a bid to improve the government’s capacity to fight terrorism.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said terrorism is a coordinated crime mounted over time and can be countered through calculated strategies and intelligence efforts. He believes an extended wiretapping and detention period will advance the government’s anti-terrorism campaign.

“We are facing new and old terrorism challenges. To meet this challenge, our laws must adapt as well to the changing security environment,” he said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Año, a former intelligence chief and chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that based on experience, countering terrorism is “massively different” from battling other crimes.

“Investigating terror groups or individuals can be tedious, hence, requires time and the proposed extension of wiretapping and detention period can definitely boost the government’s counterterrorism efforts,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier recommended broadening the permissible wiretapping and detention period at a joint public hearing of the Senate committees on national defense and security and on finance.

The Human Security Act’s current provisions stipulate a 30-day approved wiretapping period that can be extended or renewed by the authorizing Court of Appeals and shall not exceed 30 days from the expiration of the original period.

Lorenzana is looking to extend this period to 90 days, as well as increase the detention period of suspected terrorists under a warrantless arrest from 36 hours to up to 60 days.

Año said there are already safeguards in the law that address the concern that it may be abused by law enforcers. 

“The HSA is in place to ensure that no abuse will take place. At natitiyak ko na kung mangyayari ang pagbabago sa nasabing batas, mas paiigtingin pa ang pagsiguro na hindi ito maaabuso,” he said.

The DILG chief added that according to Section 7 of the Human Security, only upon a written order from the Court of Appeals can law enforcers perform wiretapping operations.

Section 18 of the same law also states that any police or law enforcer authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council and has taken custody of a suspected terrorist must deliver the said person to the proper judicial authority within three days since his arrest.

“The current administration will not allow abuse in the HSA to happen. Sa kasalukuyang porma ng HSA, may mga safety nets na pinaiiral. With the proposed amendments, respect for human rights is ensured,”Año said.

The DILG is part of the Security, Justice and Peace Cluster of the Duterte administration spearheading the modification of the Human Security Law.

DILG, LGUs urged to revoke business permits of POGOs evading tax fees

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGU) to support the Finance department’s move to shut down Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) that are not complying with the country’s tax laws.

In a statement, Villanueva said the DILG should help in this measure by ordering LGUs to revoke business permits of POGOs that are evading their tax liabilities.

The DOF over the weekend ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to close down and file charges against POGOS including their service providers that fail or refuse to settle the tax liabilities of their foreign workers.

READ: PH gov’t to close down tax-evading POGOs

The order was issued following reports of slow collection of withholding income taxes from select POGOs with tax liabilities amounting to P21.62 billion despite the issuance of 130 letter-notices to these firms.

“We do not owe anything to these errant POGOs who have the gall to refuse the correct payment of taxes of their workers. We expect nothing less than the immediate shut down of these firms,” Villanueva said.

“It is high time that our government acts with dispatch to make these firms comply with our country’s laws. We call on the interior department to support the Department of Finance by asking all local government units to revoke business permits of POGOs who do not comply with our tax laws,” he added.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier assured support for the Finance department’s move to close down errant POGOs.

“We follow the law. BIR has the legal authority to close down establishments who evade taxes. Pagcor supports this move. We are issuing a letter to all POGO operators and service providers to this effect,” Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo said in a statement.

Villanueva also urged the DILG to assist the BIR in implementing the order by asking the police to shutter tax-evading online gaming operators the way it closed down operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) last month.

It can be recalled that police closed down PCSO outlets in July after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the immediate suspension of all its gaming operations over the supposed corruption in the agency.

The president later lifted the suspension on lotto and small-town lottery operations but with certain conditions.

Villanueva also pointed out that POGOs only provide “minimal benefits” to the country compared to its effects to Filipino locals and businesses, including the increase of rental rates for residential or office spaces near POGO hubs.

“Hindi biro ang pagsulpot ng sektor na ito at ang mga kaakibat na problemang dala dala nito tulad ng paglikha ng tinatawag na real estate bubble at pagtaas ng krimen sangkot ang mga dayuhan,” Villanueva said.

“Sa ating pananaw, hindi po sapat ang kanilang binabayaran na buwis para payagan itong mamayagpag,” he added.

He also raised concern over the spiking number of crimes involving foreign nationals, citing a recent raid in Pasig City where 277 Chinese nationals were apprehended.

READ: BI arrests close to 300 Chinese nationals in Pasig City

“Dumadayo na rin po sa ating bayan ang mga kriminal na tumatakas sa kanilang pananagutan sa batas ng China, tulad na lamang ng nakaraang raid sa isang opisina sa Pasig noong nakalipas na lingo,” he said.

“Maging ang gobyerno ng China po ay hinihiling na ipagbawal na ang pagpapatakbo ng mga POGO mula sa ating pamahalaan. Maliit lang po ang benepisyo natin sa sektor na ito, at mas malaki pa ang dulot na abala sa atin nito,” he added.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, said a public inquiry into POGOs will be conducted where they will discuss all the facts and effects it has brought to the country.

DILG orders creation of special police probe team for ex-Pangasinan Gov. Espino ambush

Robie de Guzman   •   September 13, 2019

The vehicle that former governor and congressman of Pangasinan Amado Espino, Jr. was riding in when he was ambushed on September 11, 2019 | 📷 Senator Richard Gordon Twitter

MANILA, Philippines – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday ordered for the creation of a special police team investigation for the ambush on former Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr.

In a statement, Año strongly condemned the “villainous act,” which he says “undermines the resolute efforts of our law enforcers to ensure peace and order.”

“I have already given specific instructions to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately create a team to probe the incident and track down the culprits responsible for this crime,” he said.

Based on initial reports, Espino and his companions were on board two vehicles when they were peppered with bullets by still unidentified gunmen while they were traversing Barangay Magtaking in San Carlos City on Tuesday (Sept. 11).

Espino and four of his aides, namely Agapito Cuizon, Kevin Marfori, their driver and police security escort Staff Sergeant Jayson Malsi and retired policeman Anthony Columbino survived the ambush but another police escort, Staff Sergeant Richard Esguerra, died in the incident.

Año said police operatives are now scouring several areas in the province to track and arrest the gunmen. Investigators are also following possible leads on the motive behind the attack.

Police earlier reported its has recovered the getaway vehicles used by the suspects. A red Hyundai Elantra and a grey Ford Everest were found abandoned in Barangay Cobol and Barangay Pasima, respectively.

Several long firearms were also found inside the vehicles.

“We will give you updates on the results of the investigation by the police. We want to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can,” Año said.

The DILG Chief has expressed his condolences to the family of Staff Sergeant Esguerra and assured the government will provide them with special financial assistance package as well as other types of assistance for killed-in-action, wounded-in-action police officers under the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program.

Malacañang earlier condemned the ambush on Espino and vowed that the government will spare no effort in finding and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Roxas, De Lima on GCTA controversy: Why blame the IRR?

UNTV News   •   September 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and detained Senator Leila de Lima have broken their silence amid reports linking them to the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

Roxas and De Lima were among those who drafted the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The Office of the Ombudsman has requested Roxas and De Lima to explain why the provisions concerning convicts of heinous crimes in relation to the GCTA privilege was not clarified in the IRR.

But the former Interior chief maintained that the IRR shouldn’t be blamed just because the law wasn’t properly implemented.

In a tweet, Roxas stressed that those who approved the convicts’ release order should face the questioning, not those who drafted the IRR.

He accused his critics of passing the buck because of the controversial law.

Nevertheless, Roxas vowed to appear and cooperate in the Ombudsman’s probe.

“Apparently iimbestigahan ng Ombudsman itong (The Ombudsman will probe this) GCTA issue. Well and good, at masasagot ko kung ano man ang mga tanong nila (I will have the chance to answer their questions),” Roxas tweeted.

Meanwhile, De Lima expressed doubts over the intention behind the linking of her name to the GCTA issue when she has nothing to do with the controversy.

“I find this development highly irregular,” the lady senator said in a statement.

De Lima emphasized that the focus of the probe should be on whether or not the officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) followed the rules and reviewed the cases using the proper guidelines of releasing a convict under GCTA.

Roxas and De Lima were given three days to respond to the request of the Ombudsman.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has launched a fact-finding investigation to determine the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the GCTA law. — MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

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