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Duterte orders probe on corruption claims vs Cabinet officials

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over the 34th Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañan Palace on February 6, 2019. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to probe the current and former members of his Cabinet, especially those who are accused of corruption.

Duterte’s move follows a complaint filed against Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Director Sandra Cam last week urging the Ombudsman to investigate Cam’s alleged undeclared wealth and properties.

The complaint against Cam came two weeks after Alexander Balutan resigned as PCSO general manager due to corruption allegations.

The President said he himself would file the charges against his Cabinet officials if they are found to have committed illegal acts.

“Unya tinuod pud (Totoo naman). Naa gyuy corruption (na may corruption talaga). And these are all — ako mismo nag-ingon sa Ombudsman, (ako mismo ang nagsabi sa Ombudsman) “Imbestigahan na unya file the charges.” (Imbestigahan and file charges) Sa tanang Cabinet members na akong ma-filean nako’g kaso (sa lahat ng cabinet members na aking masampahan ng kaso),” Duterte said on Sunday night in Cagayan de Oro City where he campaigned for the senatorial candidates of PDP-Laban.

(It’s true, there’s corruption. And these are all — I have told the Ombudsman “Investigate and file charges against my Cabinet members.” I will file the cases myself.)

Duterte made the statement after opposition Senator Leila de Lima urged him to fire Cam for allegedly amassing P500 million in unexplained wealth in 2017 and 2018.

Cam, who was appointed to the PCSO in 2017, is facing raps for supposedly concealing her ownership of a resort and a convention center and parcels of land in Masbate province.

A certain Lino Espinosa Lim Jr. filed the complaint before the Ombudsman last March 21.

The detained lawmaker also called on the President to order an investigation into the accusation against Cam, who she said was involved in pushing prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison to testify in the congressional probe into the drug trading charges against her.

But according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Malacañang will leave it the Ombudsman to delve into the issue and would not duplicate the investigation.

“Somebody has already filed a case in the Ombudsman so that’s the Ombudsman’s call now. Since it’s already with the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman has the power to suspend, I think we will let it do the process,” Panelo said.

Cam, for her part, confirmed in a radio interview on Monday that she was one of the owners of the mentioned properties but belied claims they were worth P500 million.

She explained she did not declare the property in her 2018 financial disclosure because it was not operational at the time. Cam assured to declare it in her 2019 disclosure. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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PH to deploy social welfare attachés for OFWs under new law

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law establishing the Office for Social Welfare Attaché to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFW), especially those who have fallen prey to illegal recruiters.

Duterte signed the Republic Act 11299 on April 17, a copy of which was made public on Monday (July 15).

The newly-signed law amended the Republic Act 8402 or the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 to include the said office.

It mandates the Office for Social Welfare Attaché (SWA) to deploy personnel to countries with large concentration of Filipino workers, as determined in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the measure, a social welfare attaché’s duty includes management of cases of Filipino workers in distress, such as victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of physical or mental abuse, and case of abandoned or neglected children;

SWAs are also mandated to undertake survey and prepare social welfare situationer on the OFWs in their areas of assignment; establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies or individuals which may be mobilized to assist in the provision of appropriate services.

They should also respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of Filipino workers and their families; establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families to provide effective social welfare services; submit regular reports on plans and activities undertaken, recommendations and updates on the situation of OFWs.

The law states that the budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development while the DFA, DOLE, the Department of Health and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are tasked to craft the measure’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days after the effectivity of this act.

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Duterte signs law on student fare discount on all modes of transportation

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the bill imposing a 20 percent fare discount for students on all modes of public transportation.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11314 or the Student Fare Discount Act on April 17 but was only made public on Monday (July 15).

Under the law, a 20 percent discount for domestic regular fares of all kinds of public transportation shall be provided to students during the entire time they are enrolled in elementary, secondary, technical-vocational or higher education institution.

The law covers public utility buses, jeepneys, taxis and similar vehicles-for-hire, tricycles, passenger trains, aircrafts and marine vessels.

Student fare discount was only previously available for land transportation.

To avail the discount, the student should present his duly-issued school identification card or current validated enrollment form supported by the prescribed government-issued identification document.

The measure, however, does not apply to school service, shuttle service, tourist and any similar service covered by contract agreement and with valid franchise or permit from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The law also does not cover individuals enrolled in dancing, swimming or driving schools and other informal short courses of seminar type and post-graduate studies.

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PH mulls severing ties with Iceland, 17 other nations – Malacañang

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is mulling over the possibility of cutting ties with Iceland and 17 other nations that voted in favor of a resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct a comprehensive review on the human rights situation in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Monday (July 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said they will take a serious look into the country’s diplomatic relationship with other nations, adding that Iceland and other nations’ move can be considered as interference in the Philippines’ domestic affairs.

On July 11 (Thursday), 18 of the 47-member of the UNHRC voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland, tasking the UN Human Rights Office to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines’ human rights situation amid its ongoing anti-drug campaign.

Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

“’Pag ang isang bansa ay nagpapahayag ng mga posisyon na makakasira sa ating kasarinlan o sovereignty ay kailangang talagang putulin natin ang relasyon natin sa kanila kung wala silang gagawin kundi siraan tayo ng siraan sa mga kalakaran na di naman batay sa tunay na pangyayari dito sa ating bayan,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

(If a country is making declarations that are affront to our independence or sovereignty, if they continue to do or say negative things that are not based on facts or occurrences in our country, then we need to sever our ties with them.)

However, Panelo said that Duterte will have the final say on the matter, as well as on calls for the Philippines to withdraw its membership from the UNHRC.

READ: Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

“In the ultimate analysis, he is the chief architect of foreign policy. Then, it’s the call of the President,” he said.

The palace official assured that they will also factor in every aspect, including the welfare of Filipinos living and working in the mentioned 18 countries, and circumstances that could lead to the cutting of ties.

The UN resolution asked the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, including preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation of retaliations on human rights defenders.

The resolution also urged the Philippine government to take up measures against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations and hold those involved accountable.

With the adoption of the Iceland-led resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was tasked to prepare a report on the Philippines human rights situation by June 2020.

Although the Duterte administration does not consider the resolution a legally-binding document, Panelo said the government is willing to respond to the UN council’s formal questions or communication about Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“They have to believe what this government tells them, because this government does not lie,” Panelo said.

However, he stressed that the government will not oblige if the questions are designed to “embarrass” the Duterte administration. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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