NZ launches ‘buy-back’ scheme for weapons banned after Christchurch mosque attacks
by Robie de Guzman | Posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019
New Zealand’s government on Thursday (June 20) launched a multi-million-dollar, six-month “buy-back” scheme to compensate owners of powerful but newly banned semi-automatic weapons prohibited in the wake of deadly attacks on two mosques in the Southern city of Christchurch.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister of Police Stuart Nash said in a joint statement that NZ$208 million ($135.97 million) had been set aside to compensate owners of the banned semi-automatic firearms up to 95% of the original cost, adding in a news conference that they had no idea how many of the firearms were in the community.
“Compensation is necessary because of a new law agreed to by almost the entire parliament in response to the events of the 15th of March. The buy-back and amnesty has one objective – to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation,” Nash said.
“This compensation scheme recognises licensed firearm owners are now in the possession of prohibited items through no fault of their own, but because of a law change. The approach to prices balances fair compensation for people’s firearms and a fair cost for the taxpayer,” he added.
“We have made a commitment that we want these weapons out of circulation and we believe that this buy-back process is a very important part of that. The costs are uncertain and, you can imagine, for a Minister of Finance that’s not a position I ever want to be in but it is just the reality of the situation we have,” Robertson said.
“We will keep monitoring it, as I say, we’ve put a new piece into the puzzle today but there are further pieces to be put in,” he added.
Owners would have until Dec. 20 to hand in their weapons.
Parliament passed the gun reform law – the first substantial changes to the country’s gun laws in decades – by a vote of 119 to 1 in April. (REUTERS)
by Robie de Guzman | Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo will face no charges in Las Vegas in connection with a sexual assault allegation because the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors said on Monday.
Ronaldo, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time and plays for the Italian club Juventus, has maintained he is innocent of rape.
The allegation made headlines last year after Las Vegas police said they were investigating it.
The case stems from a June 13, 2009 call from a woman to Las Vegas police. She reported that she had been sexually assaulted and police took her to the hospital for an examination, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Monday (July 22).
But she declined to identify the person who she said assaulted her.
The woman and Ronaldo reached a civil settlement in 2010 and law enforcement did not hear again from her until August 28, 2018, when she asked police to reopen the investigation. She said Ronaldo was the person who sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.
“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter Christiansen, and a representative for his sports agents could not immediately be reached for comment. (REUTERS)
by Marje Pelayo | Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
No surprises, no fiascos. President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth state of the nation address (SONA) has been smooth despite the more than one hour delay due to sudden rains.
Nevertheless, the annual event pushed through with the President starting his speech at 5:14 p.m. and ending it at 6:47 p.m., an almost expletive-free 93-minute talk.
President Duterte opened his fourth SONA with the usual pleasantries and his expression of gratitude “to all who kept faith with me in our most trying times.”
He noted that the landslide victory of administration candidates in the May 2019 polls as well as recent survey results just proved the Filipino people’s support to his presidency as compared to the only 3% disapproval rating, which he joked about with the members of Congress.
“I hope that the members of Congress – sana hindi kayo included sa 3%,” he said earning laughter from the audience.
This amount of support, the President said, inspires him with determination to pursue relentlessly what the government has started even at the beginning of his term as the highest leader of the country.
No matter how controversial, the President said his policies on the fight against illegal drugs and corruption will remain “whatever be the opposition.”
“For it is not the eagle in the fight but the fight in the eagle that matters,” he said.
“Believe me, I will end my term fighting,” the President said strongly to start his SONA.
For those who did not have the time to sit and watch the President’s SONA, here are some of the highlights.
Illegal Drugs, Corruption, Death Penalty
The President acknowledged that the government still has a long way to go to fight the social menace that is illegal drugs, which he believes is a by-product of corruption.
“The drugs will not be crushed unless we continue to eliminate corruption that allows this social monster to survive,” he noted.
This is the reason, he said, why he advocates on the reinstatement of death penalty.
“I respectfully request Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, as well as plunder,” the President said.
Ease of Doing Business
The President, likewise, emphasized the necessity to ensure a responsive government to the needs of the people.
Even after signing the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, he said, much has yet to be done.
Thus, he ordered specific government agencies to simplify their transactions and impose the law “to improve service delivery and fight corruption.”
The agencies mentioned were the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Social Security System (SSS), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA), and the Pag-IBIG Fund.
He also called the attention of local government units (LGU) to do the same.
“My directive to the government and instrumentalities, including the LGUs and the government corporations: simplify,” he said warning those concerned to suffer sanctions if they again fail.
“Simplify and make your services responsive to — client-friendly. Your client is the Filipino, our employer — from where the money in our pockets come from, from our salaries,” he stressed.
Aside from the revival of death penalty, the President directed Congress to pass the creation of new agencies vital to the accomplishments of the administration’s programs for development.
Noting natural disasters as ‘poverty creators,’ the President asked Congress to fast track the establishment of a Department of Disaster Resilience that would focus on programs that would mitigate the impact of natural hazards and climate change.
Recognizing the damaging effect of El Niño to the country’s agriculture sector and the inconveniences it caused brought about by water crisis, he urged lawmakers to pass a bill creating the Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission.
Similar to his appeal last year, the President called Congress to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers to ensure Filipino workers abroad access to government services as well as protection from abuse in foreign lands.
The Chief Executive also urged lawmakers to enact the Magna Carta for Barangays and to postpone the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2022 to provide sitting barangay officials ample time to finish their programs and projects.
To encourage the country’s MSME sector, the President urged Congress to immediately pass Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program also known as Trabaho bill which he said would create more jobs for Filipinos.
In addition to these priority bills, President Duterte also asked Congress to pass a new Salary Standardization Law to increase salary for government workers, including public school teachers and public hospital nurses.
He also asked Congress to approve the National Defense Act, Uniformed Separation and Retirement Pension Bill, and the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
“Very important,” the President said referring to military training to re-instill the spirit of patriotism among Filipino students.
“Kapag mag giyera, 10 out of 10 hindi marunong maghawak ng baril (If war breaks out, 10 out of 10 do not even know how to hold a gun) to defend even his father and mother and brothers and sisters. Itong mga bata ngayon (youth nowadays,) they are bereft of the patriotism and the love of country. Balik sila dito (Let’s encourage them on this),” he said.
President Duterte specifically directed Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to suspend mayors or governors who refuse to heed his order to “reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends.”
With the help of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the President wants immediate action “to ensure speedy and smooth flow of vehicular traffic” in Metro Manila.
True to his promise, the President did ‘educate’ the Filipinos regarding the West Philippine Sea issue, how it started and why his administration cannot drive away China from Philippine waters.
Again, he reiterated that war is not an option as it leaves “widows and orphans in its wake.”
“More and better results can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in public. That is why I will do in the peaceful way,” he said.
Amid criticisms, the President still promised that he would assert the country’s sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea “in due time.”
A better Philippines ahead
Through the end of his SONA, the President assured the Filipino people that his government will continue to propel towards a better Philippines.
“Our goal for the next three years is clear: a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos,” he promised.
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