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Duterte wishes for ‘truly independent’ Philippines

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

As the country marks its 121st Independence Day, President Rodrigo Duterte called on Filipinos to honor the sacrifices of the nation’s heroes by realizing their dream of a truly independent Philippines.

“A hundred and twenty-one years has passed since our forefathers bound their fates, their lives and their fortunes to proclaim the independence of the Filipino people,” Duterte said in his message on Wednesday, June 12.

He said the proclamation marking the Philippines’ liberation from the Spanish Colonial rule was the “most significant event in our country’s history.”

“Not only did we put an end to more than three centuries of subservience but we also resolved to determine the course of our own destiny as a nation,” he said.

The President reminded Filipinos that the country’s freedom was achieved “not without cost.”

“The tree of liberty blossomed on these lands because it was nourished by the sweat and blood of our patriots, heroes and martyrs,” he said.

“Let us commit ourselves to ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain and that their dream of a truly independent Philippines – whose people live freely in a secure, stable and prosperous society – will be achieved within our lifetimes,” the chief executive added.

Duterte is set to attend the Independence Day celebration at the 6th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Lanao del Sur later Wednesday.

When asked why Duterte chose this venue to commemorate the Independence Day, Malacañang said, the president has his own special reason in leading the rites in Lanao del Sur.

In 2018, Duterte led the Independence Day rites in Kawit, Cavite where a small group of anti-Duterte slipped into the crowd and caused a momentary distraction during his speech at the balcony of the house of former President Emilio Aguinaldo. (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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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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Duterte wants OFW department up by December

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

One-stop service for Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs in side the POEA biulding in Ortigas.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the establishment of a separate Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) by December this year to address the persistent woes with illegal recruiters and other concerns.

Duterte said the proposed department’s power will include strict regulation of Philippine-based recruitment agencies.

“Kaya apurahin ko ‘yang Department of OFW. Bawal na ang recruitment sa abroad — sa labas. Kung gusto nila, diyan sila maglagay ng mesa. So, under the supervision of government at walang horrendous charges. Hindi ako papayag ng ganun ‘pag natayo ‘yan,” the president said in a speech during the Araw ng Pasasalamat for OFWs ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo last Friday (July 12).

Duterte said he wants the framework for this proposal be completed by the second week of August.

He also warned illegal and abusive recruiters to shape up as they will no longer operate without direct government supervision once the proposed department is created.

“Kaya kayong mga recruitment, bilang talaga ang araw ninyo… ‘Pag hindi ko kayo nadala sa usapan na maganda, brasohan tayo. ‘Pag nag-brasohan tayo, kayo ang matatalo. Sigurado ‘yan,” he said.

In line with this, former special assistant to the president and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed the Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.

Go’s proposal seeks the creation of the said department to serve as the umbrella agency to address all concerns of Filipinos working overseas.

The measure will also create an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund to provide financial aid to Filipino migrants in distress and provide livelihood loans for OFWs returning to the Philippines for good.

Once approved into law, the department will absorb the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, the International Labor Affairs Bureau and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Currently, Filipinos wanting to work abroad need to go to different departments to secure necessary documents and present other concerns such as employment and technical education.

The neophyte lawmaker believes the president will certify the measure as urgent to swiftly hurdle the Congress before the year ends.

“I think it’s possible and doable naman po by December. Maybe the president will certify it as urgent. At ang gusto na mangyari ng presidente [ay] maiwasan ang illegal recruitment or maging biktima ng illegal recruitment,” he said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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