PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEKEND

AQUINO: IT'S BEEN ALL GOOD NEWS AFTER KOREA VISIT 

DEC 14---PHOTO: Philippines President Benigno Aquino III attends the formal session of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. AP MANILA, PHILIPPINES, -- From the moment he touched down on Philippine soil after a two-day trip to South Korea, it has been nothing but “good news” for President Benigno Aquino III. JUMPED TO END OF REPORT----------- Yet another piece of good news was the favorable verdict for the Philippines in the arbitration case over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 filed against the government by Fraport, the German partner of the Filipino group, the Philippine International Air Transport Corp. (Piatco), that built the facility. The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the arbitration arm of the World Bank based in Washington, D.C., ordered Fraport to pay the Philippine government $5 million in damages for violating the Anti-Dummy Law. Mr. Aquino also took note of the Supreme Court decision to grant the government’s motion for partial entry of judgment of its ruling on the coco levy funds, which paves the way for the President to issue an executive order that would create a trust fund for the coconut farmers. “It’s good news for Christmas for our coconut farmers,” Mr. Aquino said. The President also dwelt on the gains of his trip to South Korea—a new $500 million loan and $25 million in grants from Seoul. “These are concessional loans with a favorable interest rate given to us which would indeed help us in our development projects,” Aquino said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Climate summit OKs watered-down pact; Rich, poor states wrangle over responsibilities 

DEC 15 ---PHOTO: Activists perform as heads of state, from left, President Barack Obama, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, China’s President Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the Climate Change Conference COP20 in Lima Peru, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. The boat’s sign reads in Spanish “Leave behind emissions. Climatic agreement.” AP PHOTO/MARTIN MEJIA  LIMA, Peru—Climate negotiators salvaged a compromise deal in Lima early Sunday that sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but rejected a rigorous review of the greenhouse gas emissions limits. More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact. They argued all day Saturday over the wording of the decision, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do. The final draft alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming. “As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations. READ FULL REPORT...

PNoy to use survey gains for successor; Liberals hoping ‘kingmaker’ role will benefit Mar  

DEC 14 ---PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will likely be a “kingmaker” in 2016 as his endorsement for his successor will be a game changer due to his high trust rating, leaders of the ruling Liberal Party said Sunday. The LP officials expressed hope and confidence that while the LP’s presumptive standard bearer Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was trailing in the surveys, the President’s endorsement would carry him to victory. Roxas, LP president-on-leave, only garnered 6 percent against his arch rival Vice President Jejomar Binay in the November Pulse Asia survey of top presidential contenders. Binay, who suffered a five-point decline from September, remains the leading presidential contender, while Roxas a seven-point decline to fall from 13 percent in September. Binay is the founding chairman of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, which he registered as a political party to carry him as standard bearer in the 2016 polls. LP secretary general and Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said President Aquino’s high trust ratings was a reflection of his endorsement power in the 2016 presidential elections. “The Pulse Asia survey showing President Aquino as the most trusted government official is proof that he is doing the right thing for our country and our people. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Grace Poe for president is still anybody’s guess   

Despite her high voter prefegrace poerence ratings in the latest Pulse Asia survey, Senator Grace Poe is not yet considering any “particular commitment” to run for President in 2016. “Right now, I am not considering any particular commitment except that I think that whatever the President has started, whoever will be the candidate should continue that,” Poe said at the sidelines of the commemoration of her father’s 10th death anniversary at the Manila North Cemetery. The senator was ranked second in the latest Pulse Asia survey among the preferred presidential candidates in the 2016 elections. “This means that the people recognized and liked my work,” the neophyte senator said. READ FULL REPORT...

Gov’t did all it could to save OFW beheaded in Saudi – Palace 

Malacañang maintained yesterday that the government exhausted all efforts to save Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Carlito Lana from execution in Saudi Arabia, in response to criticisms that the government had failed to support Lana in defending his case. “Ang atin pong pamahalaan ay nagbigay ng lahat ng kinakailangan at kinauukulang pagtulong kay Ginoong Lana at tiniyak po na ang kanyang mga karapatang legal ay iginalang at sinuportahan sa buong prosesong panghukuman o judicial process (Our government exhausted all necessary and appropriate assistance and ensured that his legal rights were observed throughout the whole judicial process),” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview over government radio dzRB. Migrant workers’ welfare group Migrante International alleged that insufficient legal assistance led to the beheading of Lana. Coloma reiterated the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement that Lana was given a fair trial and the Philippine Embassy engaged the services of the Al Quwaizani law office and legal consultants to represent him in court. He said the government facilitated the two visits of Lana’s mother to the prison in Riyadh where he was confined. Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Saturday confirmed the beheading of Lana in Saudi Arabia last Friday. The Vice President said that according to reports from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Lana was taken from his cell at around 9:30 a.m. executed around 3 in the afternoon. The Vice President who is the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns said the Saudi government does not give advance notice to prisoners and their foreign embassies of execution dates. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: No more import fees on balikbayan boxes 

DEC 15 ---PHOTO: The favorite box of Filipinos, a balikbayan box or a “repatriate box", is a corrugated box containing items sent by OFWs which are commonly shipped to the country by air. ---Good news for Filipinos who receive balikbayan boxes from abroad: The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will no longer collect the import processing fee of P250 for packages arriving in the country’s ports. BOC has waived the import processing fee for packages sent by sea freight through Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 08-2014 which will take effect today, Dec 15. “No amount shall be collected as import processing fee on any importation filed through informal entry,” Commissioner John P. Sevilla said in the recent order. “The BOC shall cease to collect the import processing fee,” he added. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: The sweet life: Vendor puts new spin on cotton candy 

DEC 14 --PHOTO: COTTON CANDY MAN Arnold Castro weaves his magic to make cotton candies of different animal shapes that he sells for P5 to P10 in neighborhoods in Makati and Sta. Ana, Manila. KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ  This guy has put a new spin on cotton candy. Arnold Castro, who didn’t get the chance to enjoy the sweet confection as a child, now spends his days spinning sugar into the melt-in-the-mouth cotton candy—and from the simple formless delight to animal art. But before he hit the sweet spot, Castro, who grew up in Pangasinan, was a simple printing press employee after graduating from high school. In 1999, he moved to Manila and landed a job as a security guard, first at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and later on, in banks. When he got married in 2000, he realized that his salary wasn’t enough to sustain his growing family. In 2005, he decided to start selling cotton candy. “Sa cotton candy kasi wala kang masyadong kalaban, kakaunti lang kami (There is not much competition in the cotton candy business. There are just a few of us),” Castro said. He was no stranger to the business as his sister’s husband was a cotton candy vendor himself. So whenever Castro was off duty, he would join his brother-in-law as the latter made rounds with his cart in Guadalupe. READ FULL REPORT..


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Aquino: It’s been all good news after Korea


Philippines President Benigno Aquino III attends the formal session of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. AP

MANILA, PHILIPPINES, DECEMBER 15, 2014 (INQUIRER) Nikko Dizon, Niña P. Calleja - From the moment he touched down on Philippine soil after a two-day trip to South Korea, it has been nothing but “good news” for President Benigno Aquino III.

“Upon our arrival from Korea, we received one good news after another. All our efforts for our countrymen are all worth it,” said Mr. Aquino who returned late Friday after attending with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders the 25th Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan, South Korea.

“The challenge for us is to respond to these with diligence in implementing progress and projects aimed at making the transformation in society permanent,” he said.

First, he said, there was the Moody’s Investor Service upgrading of the Philippines’ sovereign credit rating.

Moody’s raised the Philippines’ credit rating by one notch as it recognized the government’s falling debt levels and the strength of the domestic economy.

“This just proves that the businesses have the confidence to invest in the Philippines,” Mr. Aquino said.

And then, he said, the Philippines for the second time became eligible for a new grant from the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) that could be used for the government’s continued fight against poverty.

“(T)he Millennium Challenge Corp. again chose the Philippines for another compact (also known as a grant). This is a vote of confidence for the reforms under the ‘straight path’ and it will lead to more initiatives against poverty,” Mr. Aquino said.

The MCC, an independent US aid agency created by the US Congress in 2004 to support the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, announced on Dec. 11 that the Philippines had been found eligible for another compact.

Soon after Mr. Aquino took office in 2010, the MCC first awarded the Philippine government a $434-million grant that funded three major poverty reduction projects.

Discussions for the second compact for the Philippines will soon begin, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. said in a statement from Washington, D.C.

-------Yet another piece of good news was the favorable verdict for the Philippines in the arbitration case over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 filed against the government by Fraport, the German partner of the Filipino group, the Philippine International Air Transport Corp. (Piatco), that built the facility.

The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the arbitration arm of the World Bank based in Washington, D.C., ordered Fraport to pay the Philippine government $5 million in damages for violating the Anti-Dummy Law.

Mr. Aquino also took note of the Supreme Court decision to grant the government’s motion for partial entry of judgment of its ruling on the coco levy funds, which paves the way for the President to issue an executive order that would create a trust fund for the coconut farmers.

“It’s good news for Christmas for our coconut farmers,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President also dwelt on the gains of his trip to South Korea—a new $500 million loan and $25 million in grants from Seoul.

“These are concessional loans with a favorable interest rate given to us which would indeed help us in our development projects,” Aquino said.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Climate summit OKs watered-down pact; Rich, poor states wrangle over responsibilities Associated Press 1:31 AM | Monday, December 15th, 2014


Activists perform as heads of state, from left, President Barack Obama, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, China’s President Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the Climate Change Conference COP20 in Lima Peru, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. The boat’s sign reads in Spanish “Leave behind emissions. Climatic agreement.” AP PHOTO/MARTIN MEJIA

LIMA, Peru—Climate negotiators salvaged a compromise deal in Lima early Sunday that sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but rejected a rigorous review of the greenhouse gas emissions limits.

More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.

They argued all day Saturday over the wording of the decision, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

The final draft alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations.

The momentum from last month’s joint US-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly in Lima as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The goal of the talks is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru’s environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference center on the grounds of Peru’s army headquarters.

It also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a “loss and damage” mechanism agreed upon in last year’s talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.

“We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world,” Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they “may” instead of “shall” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.

Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead of Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

“I think it’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”

Chief US negotiator Todd Stern acknowledged that negotiations had been contentious but said the outcome was “quite good in the end.” He had warned Saturday that failing to leave Lima with an accord would be “seen as a serious breakdown” that could put the Paris agreement and the entire UN process at risk.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the UN talks reflect a wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries led by China and India as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem is “everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share.”

According to the UN’s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming—defined in the UN talks as exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 19th-century averages.

It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.

Scientific reports say climate impacts are already happening and include rising sea levels, intensifying heat waves and shifts in weather patterns causing floods in some areas and droughts in others.

The UN weather agency said last week that 2014 could become the hottest year on record.–Karl Ritter with Frank Bajak and Nestor Ikeda


FROM THE MANNILA STANDARD

PNoy to use survey gains for successor; Liberals hoping ‘kingmaker’ role will benefit Mar  By Christine F. Herrera | Dec. 15, 2014 at 12:01am

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will likely be a “kingmaker” in 2016 as his endorsement for his successor will be a game changer due to his high trust rating, leaders of the ruling Liberal Party said Sunday.

The LP officials expressed hope and confidence that while the LP’s presumptive standard bearer Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was trailing in the surveys, the President’s endorsement would carry him to victory.

Roxas, LP president-on-leave, only garnered 6 percent against his arch rival Vice President Jejomar Binay in the November Pulse Asia survey of top presidential contenders.

Binay, who suffered a five-point decline from September, remains the leading presidential contender, while Roxas a seven-point decline to fall from 13 percent in September.

Binay is the founding chairman of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, which he registered as a political party to carry him as standard bearer in the 2016 polls.

LP secretary general and Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said President Aquino’s high trust ratings was a reflection of his endorsement power in the 2016 presidential elections.

“The Pulse Asia survey showing President Aquino as the most trusted government official is proof that he is doing the right thing for our country and our people. This also shows that the President’s endorsement will be the ultimate game-changer in 2016 and all could shatter whatever are the results of the present voters’ preference surveys,” Sarmiento said.

LP vice chairman for the Visayas and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas agreed, and noted that the present voters’ preference surveys conducted by the country’s top polling agencies have not factored in the endorsement power of President Aquino and the LP’s highly organized and far-reaching political machinery.

Trenas said the people’s support on President Aquino was definitely “transferable” to his anointed candidates because the people would certainly want continuity in the reforms and programs that were set in place by his administration.

“With his great success in managing our economy and his fight against graft and corruption, Pnoy’s endorsement can have a huge impact on the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections,” Trenas said.

Pulse Asia Research’s November 2014 Ulat ng Bayan Survey showed that President Aquino was the most trusted government official with a 59 percent approval rating and a 56 percent trust rating.

Sarmiento said that while the LP was not closing its doors on adopting non-LP candidates, they were still “very confident that Secretary Manuel Mar Roxas II will carry the LP banner in 2016.”

The LP officials attributed Roxas’ continued poor showing in the surveys to the “relentless political mudslinging” against him.

“Secretary Roxas is a victim of this relentless political mudslinging but despite all these nasty and below-the-belt attacks against him, he remains very focused in helping President Aquino in carrying out all the reforms needed to bring our nation forward. I think that with President Aquino’s endorsement, people would soon realize that Secretary Roxas played a very important role in ensuring the success of his administration,” Sarmiento added.

Marinduque Rep. Regina Reyes said the President would be a credible kingmaker in the 2016 elections not only because he was a good and effective leader but also “because he has consistently demonstrated that his words are true and his intentions are pure.”

“We’ve never had such a true and honest leader like President Aquino. People trust him so much as shown by the latest Pulse Asia survey because of his honesty and dedication as the father of our nation. This kind of trust will make our people support whoever will be endorsed by the President in 2016,” said Reyes, vice-chairman of the House committee on national defense.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Grace Poe for president is still anybody’s guess Nestor Corrales @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net 1:36 PM | Sunday, December 14th, 2014


POE

Despite her high voter prefegrace poerence ratings in the latest Pulse Asia survey, Senator Grace Poe is not yet considering any “particular commitment” to run for President in 2016.

“Right now, I am not considering any particular commitment except that I think that whatever the President has started, whoever will be the candidate should continue that,” Poe said at the sidelines of the commemoration of her father’s 10th death anniversary at the Manila North Cemetery.

The senator was ranked second in the latest Pulse Asia survey among the preferred presidential candidates in the 2016 elections.

“This means that the people recognized and liked my work,” the neophyte senator said.

Asked if President Benigno Aquino III had delivered his tuwid na daan (right path) brand of governance, she said “I believe that we are getting there. When it comes to fighting corruption and upholding transparency in government, it is a process. You don’t achieve this overnight.”

According to her, Aquino is setting the “best example” saying that trusting the President is a big factor in discouraging corruption.

“So I think yes, the President is true to his promise to keep leading us towards that path,” she said.


REMEMBERING ‘THE KING’ December 14, 2014 11:26 pm --Sen. Grace Poe (kneeling), Susan Roces (second, left) and Vice President Jejomar Binay (third from right) light candles and offer prayers to mark the 10th death anniversary of Fernando Poe Jr. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN Sen. Grace Poe (kneeling), Susan Roces (second, left) and Vice President Jejomar Binay (third from right) light candles and offer prayers to mark the 10th death anniversary of Fernando Poe Jr. FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN --PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Asked if she sees herself being the next President to continue Aquino’s right path, she said, “In my case, I don’t have to be in the top position. Wherever I am, all of us, wherever we are, we can help in this straight and narrow path. It doesn’t have to be just in one particular position,” she said.

“I think I am not the only one being considered. I am sure there are a lot of others who may have the desire to do it or even the capability,” she added.

Although the Philippines hasn’t achieved the 100 percent good governance yet, the senator said that “we need to continue the right path.”

“I think that we should continue to fight corruption and that we should be able to incorporate in all our programs a policy that will truly encourage inclusive growth. Helping our poor citizens is the most important,” she added.


SCREENGRAB OF ABS-CBN VIDEO NEWS: ---MANILA, Philippines – Family, friends, and supporters visited the grave of Fernando Poe Jr. at the Manila North Cemetery to commemorate his 10th death anniversary. The group, led by Poe's wife, actress Susan Roces, his daughter, Senator Grace Poe, and Vice President Jejomar Binay, offered short prayers on Sunday morning. Senator Poe also thanked her father's supporters for their continued support to her family. Fernando Poe Jr. ran and lost in the 2004 presidential elections. He died after a stroke 10 years ago. -- News Now, ANC, December 14, 2014.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

No more import fees on balikbayan boxes by Raymund F. Antonio December 15, 2014 Share this:

Good news for Filipinos who receive balikbayan boxes from abroad: The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will no longer collect the import processing fee of P250 for packages arriving in the country’s ports.

BOC has waived the import processing fee for packages sent by sea freight through Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 08-2014 which will take effect today, Dec 15.

“No amount shall be collected as import processing fee on any importation filed through informal entry,” Commissioner John P. Sevilla said in the recent order.

“The BOC shall cease to collect the import processing fee,” he added.

In the same order, he reduced the “amount of Documentary Stamp Tax for Informal Entry” from P265 to P15. “An amount of P15 shall be collected from each importation filed through the informal entry,” Sevilla said.

Around 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are shipped to the country every year and the bulk enters the ports from September until yearend.

More than half of those packages enter the Manila International Container Port (MICP), while the rest arrive at the Port of Manila, Cebu, Davao and Subic.

The BOC has launched an online tracking system that will enable the recipients to check the status of their packages from abroad.

With the tracker, Sevilla said, “the public will not be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”

Sevilla issued the CAO, approved by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, in pursuant to Section 608 and Sections 3301 and 3304 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), in relation to Section 36 of the Administrative Code of 1987.


FROM THE MANILA BULELTIN

Gov’t did all it could to save OFW beheaded in Saudi – Palace by Jc Bello Ruiz December 15, 2014 Share this:


Carlito Lana, 37, was executed in Riyadh on Friday for shooting a Saudi national before running him over with a car, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

 Malacañang maintained yesterday that the government exhausted all efforts to save Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Carlito Lana from execution in Saudi Arabia, in response to criticisms that the government had failed to support Lana in defending his case.

“Ang atin pong pamahalaan ay nagbigay ng lahat ng kinakailangan at kinauukulang pagtulong kay Ginoong Lana at tiniyak po na ang kanyang mga karapatang legal ay iginalang at sinuportahan sa buong prosesong panghukuman o judicial process (Our government exhausted all necessary and appropriate assistance and ensured that his legal rights were observed throughout the whole judicial process),” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview over government radio dzRB.

Migrant workers’ welfare group Migrante International alleged that insufficient legal assistance led to the beheading of Lana.

Coloma reiterated the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement that Lana was given a fair trial and the Philippine Embassy engaged the services of the Al Quwaizani law office and legal consultants to represent him in court. He said the government facilitated the two visits of Lana’s mother to the prison in Riyadh where he was confined.

Coloma said the government is also attending to other cases of Filipinos facing death sentences abroad. At the same time, Coloma appealed to Philippines nationals overseas “to observe the local laws of their host countries, and to avoid involvement in criminal activities.”

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Saturday confirmed the beheading of Lana in Saudi Arabia last Friday. The Vice President said that according to reports from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Lana was taken from his cell at around 9:30 a.m. executed around 3 in the afternoon.

The Vice President who is the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns said the Saudi government does not give advance notice to prisoners and their foreign embassies of execution dates.

According to the Vice President, Lana was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by beheading. The family of the victim, a 65-year-old Saudi national, did not issue an affidavit of forgiveness, which is needed under Saudi law to prevent an execution.

Binay said that according to the DFA report, Lana’s lawyer tried several times but failed to convince the victim’s son to meet Lana’s mother and receive her letter asking for forgiveness. Binay said President Aquino also wrote a letter to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz requesting the Saudi king’s intercession to convince the heirs of the victim to enter into an amicable settlement.

MIGRANTE CALL

A migrant advocate group has called for a review of the government’s protocol for saving overseas Filipino workers (OFW), who are facing the death penalty abroad, following the execution of a Filipino in Saudi Arabia last week.

Migrante International Chairman Garry Martinez said the beheading of Carlito Lana, 37, is a grim reminder on the government’s failure to address the concerns of Filipino expatriates. “This is a dark day for migrant Filipinos, especially for those on death row abroad. We call for an investigation on why there have been the biggest number of executions that pushed through under President Benigno Aquino III’s term,” Martinez said.

Lana was sentenced to death after he admitted killing a Saudi national in 2010 out of self-defense. Martinez claimed Lana was the sixth OFW to be executed during the Aquino administration, which gives it the distinction of having ”the biggest number of executions under one regime” since 1970.

Migrante said it is alarmed by this trend since it alleged there are currently 123 more OFWs, who are now on death row worldwide and another 7,000 more, who are languishing in jails in other countries.

“The common occurrence is they get arrested and undergo investigation without any representation or legal counsel,” Martinez lamented. ”At the rate the Aquino government is going, we can expect more executions in the next few years. The government has not shown transparency or accountability for failing to save the lives of our OFWs on death row.” (Samuel Medenilla)

SIXTH EXECUTION

Lana was the sixth OFW on death row executed under Aquino’s administration, the biggest number of executions under one administration since the Philippine labor export policy was implemented in the 1970s.

Martrinez said Lana’s family sought help when he was arrested after the OFW admitted killing his employer out of self-defense. “He was suffering abuses at the hands of his employer. When the crime happened, he even rushed his employer to the hospital, but they met a vehicular accident on their way. That was when the Saudi police arrested him. From the start, we have questioned the Philippine government if he was given legal assistance given the nature of his case,” Martinez said.

The group also demanded that the government explain on why funds for legal assistance for OFWs in distress have been slashed since 2010 and P52 million in legal funds for OFWs have no been used since 2011.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) attributed this to a clause in the Migrant Workers Act stipulating a “ceiling” on the amount of assistance that is allowed per OFW in distress. ”We find this justification unacceptable and extremely irrational. On top of OFWs on death row, there are at least 7,000 OFWs in jails abroad, some awaiting death row sentences. The common occurrence is they get arrested and undergo investigation without any representation or legal counsel. Because of this, they are deprived of due process and go straight to jail without any legal assistance from the PH government,” Martinez added.

Lana’s execution came five days before December 18 which is the International Migrants’ Day.

The plight of OFWs on death row will be one of the major issues that Migrante International will bring forth on December 18. Members of Migrante International worldwide will march to Mendiola to reiterate their call for Aquino to step down from office. (With a report from Chito A. Chavez)


FROM THE INQUIRER

The sweet life: Vendor puts new spin on cotton candy Pam Pastor @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:15 AM | Sunday, December 14th, 2014


COTTON CANDY MAN Arnold Castro weaves his magic to make cotton candies of different animal shapes that he sells for P5 to P10 in neighborhoods in Makati and Sta. Ana, Manila. KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ

This guy has put a new spin on cotton candy.

Arnold Castro, who didn’t get the chance to enjoy the sweet confection as a child, now spends his days spinning sugar into the melt-in-the-mouth cotton candy—and from the simple formless delight to animal art.

But before he hit the sweet spot, Castro, who grew up in Pangasinan, was a simple printing press employee after graduating from high school. In 1999, he moved to Manila and landed a job as a security guard, first at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and later on, in banks.

When he got married in 2000, he realized that his salary wasn’t enough to sustain his growing family. In 2005, he decided to start selling cotton candy.

“Sa cotton candy kasi wala kang masyadong kalaban, kakaunti lang kami (There is not much competition in the cotton candy business. There are just a few of us),” Castro said.

He was no stranger to the business as his sister’s husband was a cotton candy vendor himself. So whenever Castro was off duty, he would join his brother-in-law as the latter made rounds with his cart in Guadalupe.

But as he made his way around Makati with his own cart in tow, Castro discovered that people didn’t always want to buy the classic carnival fare. That was when it occurred to him that if he wished to earn more, he should do something to make his product more attractive. He then decided to make cotton candy animals.

Eye candy

It took a lot of originality (“Imbe-imbento lang”) for Castro to improvise on the craft. He started with a teddy bear, using a ball of cotton candy as the base before adding the head, ears, arms and legs—all made out of the same sugary treat that looked like a fluffy mass of cotton. Soon, customers started asking Castro to make other animals. The hardest one to make was the dragon, he said, but not anymore.

It was fascinating to watch Castro work, his stick-wielding hands deftly moving to catch threads of cotton candy before shaping them into animals in mere seconds.

Today, he has a whole menagerie—he can make cotton candy elephants, dogs, pigs, dinosaurs, koalas and even a tarsier clinging to a tree. He also makes mermaids, angels and pop culture characters like the Minions from the animated comedy “Despicable Me” and Elsa from the musical fantasy “Frozen.” But the most fun for him to make is Patrick Star, Spongebob Squarepants’ starfish best friend.

He charges P5 to P10 for each work of art, depending on the size and the design.

Castro has turned street food into art and his skill is quite unique, considering that there are no other cotton candy artists (based on our Internet search), except for the men in China who make cotton candy flowers. None of them makes cotton candy animals.

Castro usually starts his day at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., often stopping by Nicanor C. Garcia Sr. Elementary School in Olympia, Makati, before moving his cart to Sta. Ana Elementary School. He spends the rest of the day going around Makati.

More lucrative


ARNOLD Castro with a cotton candy dinosaur

His route is limited to the area—the location of the garage where he parks his cotton candy machine at night. At around 6 p.m., he heads home to his family in Taguig.

In his neighborhood, kids wait excitedly for his arrival because he brings them leftover cotton candy.

It’s a venture that has proven to be more lucrative than his old day job, although on some days, Castro just makes enough to cover his costs. He spends on sugar, sticks, plastic bags and alcohol for his cart.

There are days when he just gets back the money he has put in (“balik-puhunan lang”) but he makes no losses. On good days, he earns more than P1,000.

On weekends, Castro is booked for parties by the logistics firm Blue Food Bar, which provides transportation for him and his machine. He does four or five parties a month.

He is a big hit at those events—just as he was at the Inquirer’s Christmas party for street kids on Nov. 29. His creations aren’t just popular with children; his cotton candy animals make even adults squeal in delight.

His earnings are enough to support his wife, who used to be a “promodiser,” and his three children: Ria, a high school sophomore; Harold, a sixth grader; and Arnold Jr., 3 years old.

Sometimes, when school is out, his kids accompany him to work. When asked if he wants to teach his kids how to make cotton candy, he said, “Ang gusto ko mag-aral sila (I want them to go to school).”

Ria wants to become a teacher and her father, the cotton candy man, is determined to earn enough to make that dream come true.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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