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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

(THIS IS THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS PAGE. WE CONTINUE TO PRAY WE HAVE LESS OF THIS IN THE NEW YEAR 2016. GOD BLESS US!)

SAUDI ARABIA EXECUTES FILIPINO FOR MURDER


DECEMBER 29 -Joselito Zapanta, the Filipino who was convicted for killing the Sudanese accountant of his landlord in Saudi Arabia on April 13, 2010, has been executed on Tuesday, December 29, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced.
According to the DFA, the 35-year-old Zapanta’s death penalty was carried out after the family of the victim, Imam Ibrahim, refused to execute an affidavit of forgiveness or tanazul. Zapanta is survived by his father, mother, sister, and two children. “We offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones for their loss,” DFA Spokesperson Charles Jose said in a statement. “The Philippine government has undertaken and exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts, and extended consular and legal assistance to preserve the life of Mr. Zapanta.” Jose further said that the government provided Zapanta all necessary assistance and ensured that his legal rights were observed throughout the whole judicial process. The government, likewise, arranged and funded the jail visits of Zapanta’s mother and sister to the Malaz Central Prison on November 28 to December 2, 2015, March 8, 2013 and November 2012, he added. Jose gave the assurance that the DFA shall continue to extend assistance to Zapanta’s family. “We appeal to all our nationals overseas to follow the local laws of their host countries at all times and to avoid involvement in criminal activities,” he stated. Records showed that the order for the execution of Zapanta was signed as early as 2013. However, the implementation of the said order was only held in abeyance pending negotiation. Likewise, Zapanta was given reprieve several times in the past, once in November 2013 and another in March 2013. Sudanese embassy officials in Riyadh, as well as representatives of the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, have interceded on Zapanta’s behalf. READ MORE...RELATED, Gov't didn't abandon case of executed OFW in Saudi - Palace insisted...

ALSO: Auditors bare slow ‘Yolanda’ rehab work


JANUARY 4 -The government, particularly Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), has been remiss in rehabilitating areas that were hit by typhoon “Yolanda,” a report by the Commission on Audit (CoA) showed.
According to state auditors, only 12 of 1,079 rehabilitation projects under the P2.413 billion Bohol Earthquake Assistance (BEA) fund have been completed by the DILG as of Dec. 31, 2014. CoA also said that only 138 out of 323 projects under the first batch of the P1.778-billion Rehabilitation Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) were completed by the end of 2014. “Of the 1,079 projects with BEA fund allocation of P2.413 billion, only 12 with a total cost of P3.139 million were completed as of Dec. 31, 2014,” the CoA said. Aside from the DILG, CoA also blamed the local government of Bohol for the delays in the BEA-funded projects in the province. The Bohol local government was responsible for downloading of funds to affected municipalities. CoA said it was Bohol province that drew up the Post Great Bohol Earthquake Rehabilitation Plan which was used as the guideline for undertaking the projects. The report noted that P2.413 billion was released under special allotment release order (SARO) BMB-D-14-0006009 in May, 2014 directly to DILG Regional Office 7. An additional P72.4 million was released to the DILG Central Office for “administrative expenses” relative to the projects. DILG-Region 7 transferred the entire amount to Bohol provincial government and the identified municipalities of Cebu in August 2014. Based on the breakdown of the allocations, P789.05 million was earmarked for the construction and repair of municipal halls (70 in Bohol and eight in Cebu); P419.39 million for public markets; P380.99 million for barangay facilities; P322.11 million for water supply; P269.19 million for bridges, and P232.61 million for civic centers. But auditors monitoring the project implementation said only P359.504 million have been released to LGUs as of Dec. 31, 2014, 14 months after the earthquake. In the case of Cebu, P20.3 million have already been distributed to the municipalities of Alcoy, Alegria, Argao, Boljoon, Carcar, Dalaguete, Moalboal, Samboan, and Sibonga representing 85 percent of the total allocations of P23.86 million but only two of 13 projects were completed during the year. For Bohol only 10 projects were finished, 73 were still listed as “on-going construction”, 316 are under bidding process, and 667 are posted as “program of work stage (PWS)” or still under planning phase. According to the update provided by the audit team, the finished projects included five barangay facilities, two public markets, two water supply projects, to civic centers, and one municipal hall in the Cebu town of Moalboal. Not one of the planned bridges was completed for the whole of 2014. EAD MORE...


ALSO YEARENDER: Highs and lows for daang matuwid


JANUARY 1 -Photo taken on July 27, 2015 shows President Aquino delivering his sixth and last State of the Nation Address during the joint session of the 16th Congress at the House of Representatives.
The roller coaster ride for President Aquino continued in 2015, but with the highs and lows more pronounced because of their effects on the people and on his leadership.
The highs include the successful hosting of the visit in January of Pope Francis, whom the President met again in December in the Vatican. The country also successfully hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings throughout the year, culminating in the APEC leaders’ summit in November. Before Francis’ visit, the last time the country hosted a pope was 20 years ago. Aquino expressed gratitude to the people for the success of the papal visit and the APEC despite serious global security threats. The APEC summit drew massive public outrage due to the monstrous traffic and business disruptions it caused. The administration said the benefits of the summit in the long term would outweigh the downside of hosting such events. The euphoria over the papal visit quickly diminished following reports of the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by Muslim rebels. The commandos were on a mission to capture two international terrorists when guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front engaged them in a firefight. The botched operation became more controversial after it was found out that police general and Aquino’s friend Alan Purisima was behind it despite being under suspension for irregularities. Pressed for explanation, Aquino broached the idea of an “alternative truth” behind the police operation that went awry. Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay resigned from the Cabinet to lead the opposition. Binay immediately assailed the Aquino administration for the Mamasapano tragedy, calling it insensitive. But Aquino stressed his administration has been true to its commitment and that it has set the stage for more efficient governance for the next administration. “The Aquino government draws strength from the support of its bosses that has been sustained by good governance, transparency and public accountability. The President has endeavored to fulfill and actualize the government’s social contract with the people,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “He has faced all issues squarely and truthfully, and has deployed the resources of government to achieve the goal of inclusive growth where no one gets left behind,” he added. His officials said economic growth can be felt in terms of low interest rates that can benefit members of the middle class, especially those with housing and car loans. The conditional cash transfer program, meanwhile, has helped 1.5 million households or some 7.5 million Filipinos rise above the poverty line. AFP modernization Aquino has also been citing the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as among his achievements. The President, however, was not completely spared from destabilization attempts. After the Mamasapano incident and during the rallies of the Iglesia ni Cristo to protest the filing of charges against its leaders for alleged detention of some of its members, there had been moves to gather people on EDSA. Both flopped because of lack of support from civilians and the uniformed services. READ MORE...

ALSO: World welcomes New Year despite terror fears


JANUARY 1 -PHOTO FROM INQUIRER.NET
PARIS: Europe welcomed in the New Year on high security alert, with Munich stations evacuated over an imminent terror threat and fireworks cancelled in Paris and Brussels, while a huge fire ripped through a Dubai hotel. German police warned people to stay away from two of Munich’s railway stations and avoid large gatherings after “indications that a terror attack” was being planned by Islamists in the southern German city. Authorities said early Friday the threat involved a suspected suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State group. A police spokeswoman told AFP that they had “reliable information” that the plot targeted festivities under way on New Year’s Eve. Elsewhere in Europe terror fears loomed large, with firework displays cancelled in Brussels and Paris just weeks after jihadists killed 130 people on the streets of the French capital. More than 100,000 police were deployed throughout France to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since the November 13 attacks. In his New Year address, President Francois Hollande said France “has not finished with terrorism yet” and that the threat of another attack “remains at its highest level”. Belgian police meanwhile were holding five people over an alleged New Year attack plot in Brussels, as well as arresting a 10th suspect over the Paris attacks. In Dubai, a huge fire ripped through a luxury 63-storey hotel, the Address Downtown, close to the world’s tallest tower where people had gathered to ring in the New Year. But authorities put on a spectacular show, refusing to let the hotel blaze, which injured 16 people, disrupt celebrations. Festivities went ahead as planned and crowds cheered the arrival of 2016 with bursts of light and colour in a massive fireworks show starting at the landmark Burj Khalifa skyscraper, even as smoke billowed from the nearby blaze. Sydney, traditionally the first to host a major New Year’s bash, kicked off the global festivities when it lit up the skies with pyrotechnics at the stroke of midnight (1300 GMT). After Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the chimes of midnight will finally move across the Americas. Jakarta remained on high alert after anti-terror police foiled detailed plans for an alleged New Year suicide attack in the Indonesian capital. READ MORE...

ALSO:
BIFF launches series of attacks in Maguindanao on New Year’s Eve


JANUARY 1 -People drive past an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in Kauran, Ampatuan in the southern Philippines province of Maguindanao on December 24, 2015. Seven Christian farmers were killed on December 24 as Muslim guerrillas launched a series of attacks in the troubled southern Philippines, the military said. The fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) seized the seven and then killed them in a series of raids in the island of Mindanao where Christian-Muslim conflicts have seethed for decades. AFP PHOTO / MARK NAVALES / AFP / MARK NAVALES
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched a series of attacks against the military in Maguindanao on New Year’s Eve. Capt. Jo Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Army 6th Infantry Division (6ID), said there was no casualty reported from the government forces while up to six BIFF gunmen were believed to be killed during the firefights. Petinglay said that at around 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, the group fired a grenade launcher to an Army Mechanized Infantry Company detachment in Datu Piang town. Then at 9:30 p.m., another group of BIFF bandits attacked a military detachment in Barangay Timbangan, Shariff Aguak town. An hour later, the detachment of 40IB located in Barangay Linantangan, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, was also fired at by the lawless group. But instead of being surprised by the BIFF attacks, Petinglay said the soldiers, who have prepared for possible atrocities by the brigand group, engaged their attackers in a firefight until the bandits fled. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope Francis ‘deeply saddened’ by Christmas eve killings in Mindanao


DECEMBER 30 -(Photo Credit: CNN Blogs) Pope Francis sends a telegram to condole with the relatives of recent BIFF victims. The Church leader says he is “deeply saddened” by the “senseless” killing of civilians The pontiff asks everyone to “reject violence in the name of God“ Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the bereaved families of the nine civilians who were killed in a rampage in Mindanao on Christmas eve. In an article written by Leslie Ann Aquino for Manila Bulletin on December 29, it was disclosed that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church sent a telegram through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto. “The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao, and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His Holiness prays that security and safety will be established for all people in the region, so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear,” Parolin told Pinto. The Church official adds, “He asks all believers to reject violence in the name of God who is love, and invokes abundant divine gifts of consolation, mercy and strength upon those affected by this tragedy.“ On December 24, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stormed a number of villages in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato; killing seven farmers and two civilians in a bid to demand the independence of the Muslim region from the rest of the Philippines. On the other hand, operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were able to neutralize at least four BIFF rebels after the AFP have responded to the areas that were attacked. The BIFF is a Muslim extremist group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 after a disagreement that sprung from the government’s peace deal. THE FULL REPORT


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Saudi Arabia executes Filipino for murder


Joselito Zapanta, the Filipino who was convicted for killing the Sudanese accountant of his landlord in Saudi Arabia on April 13, 2010, has been executed on Tuesday, December 29, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced.

MANILA, JANUARY 4, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN)  by Roy Mabasa December 29, 2015 - According to the DFA, the 35-year-old Zapanta’s death penalty was carried out after the family of the victim, Imam Ibrahim, refused to execute an affidavit of forgiveness or tanazul.

Zapanta is survived by his father, mother, sister, and two children.

“We offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones for their loss,” DFA Spokesperson Charles Jose said in a statement. “The Philippine government has undertaken and exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts, and extended consular and legal assistance to preserve the life of Mr. Zapanta.”

Jose further said that the government provided Zapanta all necessary assistance and ensured that his legal rights were observed throughout the whole judicial process.

The government, likewise, arranged and funded the jail visits of Zapanta’s mother and sister to the Malaz Central Prison on November 28 to December 2, 2015, March 8, 2013 and November 2012, he added.

Jose gave the assurance that the DFA shall continue to extend assistance to Zapanta’s family.

“We appeal to all our nationals overseas to follow the local laws of their host countries at all times and to avoid involvement in criminal activities,” he stated.

Records showed that the order for the execution of Zapanta was signed as early as 2013. However, the implementation of the said order was only held in abeyance pending negotiation.

Likewise, Zapanta was given reprieve several times in the past, once in November 2013 and another in March 2013. Sudanese embassy officials in Riyadh, as well as representatives of the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, have interceded on Zapanta’s behalf.

READ MORE...

The family of the victim initially demanded 5 million Saudi Riyal (around P62.9 million) for the execution of a tanazul and prevent the imposition of the death penalty. The amount was later reduced to SAR 4 million.

The payment of the blood money was originally due on November 12, 2012, but was extended to March 12, 2013. A second extension was granted, with the deadline moved to November 3, 2013.

Zapanta, a native of Mexico, Pamapanga, left Manila on October 14, 2008 to work as a tile setter in Saudi Arabia.

Court records showed that on May 26, 2009, Zapanta killed Ibrahim with a hammer.

Zapanta also took the victim’s mobile phone and money worth 3,000 Saudi Riyal (approximately P37,711).

The Filipino later admitted to the crime but said he killed the Sudanese national accidentally after he was beaten up for failing to pay his rent.

-----------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE PHILSTAR

Palace: Gov't didn't abandon case of executed OFW in Saudi (philstar.com) | Updated December 31, 2015 - 5:42pm 0 25 googleplus0 0


Joselito Zapanta, 35, of Mexico, Pampanga, was beheaded after the Riyadh Grand Court convicted him on April 13, 2010 of murder and robbery that happened in June 2009. STAR, file

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Thursday insisted that the government did not abandon the case of the Filipino construction worker who was executed in Saudi Arabia three days ago.

Joselito Zapanta, who was convicted of robbery and murder of his Sudanese landlord in 2010, was executed in Saudi Arabia.

"The accusation that the government did not give Mr. Zapanta enough assistance has no basis and is not true," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview with Radyo ng Bayan.

OFW Party-list Rep. Roy Señeres Sr. earlier blamed President Benigno Aquino for not saving Zapanta from death in Saudi Arabia.

Coloma, however, clarified that the Philippine government exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts to save Zapanta.

The Cabinet official added that the government also assisted Zapanta's mother and sister to visit him at the Malaz Central Prison in Saudia Arabia in November 2012, March 2013 and last November 28 to December 2.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to extend assistance to the Zapanta family.

"We appeal to our countrymen working or living abroad to follow the laws of every country where they work to avoid being involved in any crime," Coloma said. - Patricia Lourdes Viray


TRIBUNE

Auditors bare slow ‘Yolanda’ rehab work Written by Gerry Baldo Monday, 04 January 2016 00:00


The government, particularly Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), has been remiss in rehabilitating areas that were hit by typhoon “Yolanda,” a report by the Commission on Audit (CoA) showed.

According to state auditors, only 12 of 1,079 rehabilitation projects under the P2.413 billion Bohol Earthquake Assistance (BEA) fund have been completed by the DILG as of Dec. 31, 2014.

CoA also said that only 138 out of 323 projects under the first batch of the P1.778-billion Rehabilitation Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) were completed by the end of 2014.

“Of the 1,079 projects with BEA fund allocation of P2.413 billion, only 12 with a total cost of P3.139 million were completed as of Dec. 31, 2014,” the CoA said.

Aside from the DILG, CoA also blamed the local government of Bohol for the delays in the BEA-funded projects in the province.

The Bohol local government was responsible for downloading of funds to affected municipalities.

CoA said it was Bohol province that drew up the Post Great Bohol Earthquake Rehabilitation Plan which was used as the guideline for undertaking the projects.

The report noted that P2.413 billion was released under special allotment release order (SARO) BMB-D-14-0006009 in May, 2014 directly to DILG Regional Office 7.

An additional P72.4 million was released to the DILG Central Office for “administrative expenses” relative to the projects.
DILG-Region 7 transferred the entire amount to Bohol provincial government and the identified municipalities of Cebu in August 2014.

Based on the breakdown of the allocations, P789.05 million was earmarked for the construction and repair of municipal halls (70 in Bohol and eight in Cebu); P419.39 million for public markets; P380.99 million for barangay facilities; P322.11 million for water supply; P269.19 million for bridges, and P232.61 million for civic centers.

But auditors monitoring the project implementation said only P359.504 million have been released to LGUs as of Dec. 31, 2014, 14 months after the earthquake.

In the case of Cebu, P20.3 million have already been distributed to the municipalities of Alcoy, Alegria, Argao, Boljoon, Carcar, Dalaguete, Moalboal, Samboan, and Sibonga representing 85 percent of the total allocations of P23.86 million but only two of 13 projects were completed during the year.

For Bohol only 10 projects were finished, 73 were still listed as “on-going construction”, 316 are under bidding process, and 667 are posted as “program of work stage (PWS)” or still under planning phase.

According to the update provided by the audit team, the finished projects included five barangay facilities, two public markets, two water supply projects, to civic centers, and one municipal hall in the Cebu town of Moalboal. Not one of the planned bridges was completed for the whole of 2014.

READ MORE...

In its comment to the audit findings, the DILG said it has already hired 19 engineers in addition to 15 engineers provided by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to assist LGUs in implementing the BEA-funded projects.

It reported that as of April 10, 2015, there were already 53 completed projects, 211 ongoing-construction, 317 under procurement, and 498 PWS

“Despite the full release of P1.778 billion for Rehabilitation Assistance for Yolanda (RAY)-Batch 1…, only 138 or 42.72 percent out of the 323 targeted projects were completed,” the COA said.

Gov’t claims otherwise


Socio-Economic Planning Secretary at NEDA Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan.

The government, however, claimed steady progress in the Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation efforts for last year.
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the overall weighted physical accomplishment (OWPA) of completed and ongoing Yolanda programs projects and activities (PPAs) now stands at 63.2 percent with 30.3 percent completed and 33.1 percent ongoing.

Balisacan, however, said resettlement of the survivors from the danger zones continues to be the most challenging among the recovery efforts.

He said to date, only a total of 13,335 housing units have been completed, with construction of 79,219 houses ongoing and scheduled for completion by December 2016. Among the issues slowing down the building of resettlement sites are policies on procurement and land acquisition and the many required permits and clearances needed to start certain projects.

Neda is intensively coordinating efforts to address these policy and implementation issues with the concerned agencies, Balisacan said.

Most of the ongoing projects are scheduled for completion by 2016, he added.

“The government is making strides in rebuilding resilient communities in the Yolanda corridors in the Visayas regions, as well as in Mimaropa region, particularly through sustainable infrastructure development and responsive social services.

True to our aim to “Build Back Better,” the reconstructed roads, bridges, ports, telecommunications facilities, as well as health and education facilities, are now subscribing to more stringent structural standards. Many Yolanda survivors now have better prospects with the help of government’s various livelihood assistance programs,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

Balisacan said areas of Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation that were completed or nearing completion of targets based on the agencies’ submissions as of November 15, 2015 were the distribution of 339,745 learning kits to Yolanda-affected schools has been completed; almost all damaged airports (35 out of 37 or 94.6 percent) have been rehabilitated; most municipal facilities (295 out of 309 or 95.5 percent) under the first batch – such as civic centers, municipal halls and public markets — have been rehabilitated; a majority (89.21 percent of the total target of 1,852.53 lineal meters) of damaged bridges have been rehabilitated, and; majority (72.4 percent) damaged national roads (77.9 km out of 107.6 km) have been reconstructed.

As of November 15, 2015, Neda also claimed the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) has benefited 788,747 households or 76.3 percent of the targeted 1,033,827 families whose houses were damaged by the typhoon.

The families with partially damaged houses received P10,000 worth of cash or materials; while families with totally damaged houses received P30,000 worth of cash or materials.

The ESA was intended to help affected families rebuild sturdier houses provided they are away from the danger zones. Distribution of ESA is still ongoing, Balisacan said.

A total of 48,995 Yolanda survivors, or 89.4 percent of the targeted 54,825 beneficiaries, have had their fishing boats repaired or replaced.

Meanwhile, Neda said thousands more families received fishing gears and paraphernalia than originally targeted: 76,598 sets were distributed while the original target was 68,636; distribution of an additional 4,779 sets is ongoing.

The distribution of rice and corn seeds is also nearing completion, with 94,020 or 85.7 percent of 101,708 targeted bags distributed to beneficiaries.

“In addition to restoring the livelihoods of farmers and fishers, the government has also undertaken to provide new livelihood opportunities to survivors; an example of this is the entrepreneurship training – majority (80.22 percent) of the targeted 364 trainings have already been completed,” Balisacan said.

Last April, President Aquino, through memorandum order 79, transferred the coordination, monitoring, and evaluation of all disaster-related PPAs from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery to Neda.


PHILSTAR

YEARENDER: Highs and lows for 'daang matuwid' By Aurea Calica and Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 1, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Photo taken on July 27, 2015 shows President Aquino delivering his sixth and last State of the Nation Address during the joint session of the 16th Congress at the House of Representatives.

MANILA, Philippines - The roller coaster ride for President Aquino continued in 2015, but with the highs and lows more pronounced because of their effects on the people and on his leadership.

The highs include the successful hosting of the visit in January of Pope Francis, whom the President met again in December in the Vatican.

The country also successfully hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings throughout the year, culminating in the APEC leaders’ summit in November.

Before Francis’ visit, the last time the country hosted a pope was 20 years ago.

Aquino expressed gratitude to the people for the success of the papal visit and the APEC despite serious global security threats.

The APEC summit drew massive public outrage due to the monstrous traffic and business disruptions it caused.

The administration said the benefits of the summit in the long term would outweigh the downside of hosting such events.



PHILSTAR PHOTO:
'PNoy given false information on Mamasapano' President Benigno Aquino III was under the impression that military reinforcement were sent for the Special Action Force police commandos the moment he was informed about the Mamasapano incident at 5:45 a.m. on January 25. The Armed Forces of the Philippines reinforcement arrived at 9:20 a.m. on the same day, explaining that they were not informed about the operation. Aquino earlier ordered resigned Police chief Alan Purisima to coordinate with the military for the said operation. AP/Bullit Marquez By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated February 23, 2015 - 1:25pm 0 1256 googleplus0 0

The euphoria over the papal visit quickly diminished following reports of the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by Muslim rebels.

The commandos were on a mission to capture two international terrorists when guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front engaged them in a firefight.

The botched operation became more controversial after it was found out that police general and Aquino’s friend Alan Purisima was behind it despite being under suspension for irregularities.

Pressed for explanation, Aquino broached the idea of an “alternative truth” behind the police operation that went awry.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay resigned from the Cabinet to lead the opposition. Binay immediately assailed the Aquino administration for the Mamasapano tragedy, calling it insensitive.

But Aquino stressed his administration has been true to its commitment and that it has set the stage for more efficient governance for the next administration.


PNoy's MOUTHPIECE, COLOMA

“The Aquino government draws strength from the support of its bosses that has been sustained by good governance, transparency and public accountability. The President has endeavored to fulfill and actualize the government’s social contract with the people,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“He has faced all issues squarely and truthfully, and has deployed the resources of government to achieve the goal of inclusive growth where no one gets left behind,” he added.

His officials said economic growth can be felt in terms of low interest rates that can benefit members of the middle class, especially those with housing and car loans.

The conditional cash transfer program, meanwhile, has helped 1.5 million households or some 7.5 million Filipinos rise above the poverty line.

AFP modernization Aquino has also been citing the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as among his achievements.

The President, however, was not completely spared from destabilization attempts.

After the Mamasapano incident and during the rallies of the Iglesia ni Cristo to protest the filing of charges against its leaders for alleged detention of some of its members, there had been moves to gather people on EDSA. Both flopped because of lack of support from civilians and the uniformed services.

READ MORE...

On the international front, issues had been as complicated as hosting a pope who shunned a bullet-proof vehicle or 20 different world leaders after terrorist attacks in Paris.

Aquino pursued arbitration to press for the country’s maritime entitlements in the South China Sea but set aside the issue as Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the APEC summit in the country.

Beijing has been asking the Philippines to drop the arbitration case in order for bilateral ties to improve but Aquino has not been giving in to any quid pro quo arrangement.

The issue was not on the APEC agenda but it was discussed on the sidelines between leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

On Dec. 30, Aquino approved the recommendation of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima for the Philippines to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The finance chief had said that despite its territorial dispute with China, the Philippines would have to consider the future economic benefits of investing in the AIIB.

Purisima said the bank would help address a backlog of unfunded road, rail, port and other construction projects in Asia, but he expressed hopes Beijing would not use the AIIB to advance its own economic, political or strategic agenda.

Before the year ended, a Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia, Joselito Zapanta, was executed for murder with robbery. Coloma said the government did everything it could to save his life but the family of Zapanta’s victim did not accept the insufficient blood money.

Earlier, the nation prayed and rejoiced when Filipina death convict Mary Jane Veloso was spared from execution by the Indonesian government after appeals from Aquino, his officials and various groups.


PURISIMA, AQUINO

Sharing responsibility Purisima once said in a speech that what he admired about Aquino was his work attitude.

His work style would sometimes make him lose weight and he would often complain about thinning hair.

He traveled with a lean delegation all the time and would report to the people the concrete results of trips abroad, the latest of which was the support for arbitration he received from Italian leaders and for the Philippines’ advocacies related to climate change during a summit in France.

When he bid farewell to other ASEAN leaders, Aquino was warmly applauded, according to Philippine officials present.

One newspaper columnist also described the President as a communicator and could do a lot of explaining even during the most difficult times. While media have been critical at times, he was not the type to shut them out and regularly communicated with the people through them.

In his New Year message, Aquino said the government and the people have acted in tandem under the straight and righteous path.

He said his administration – through its daang matuwid or straight path policy – has transformed damaged public agencies into stronger, more transparent and responsive institutions.

It has also turned a demoralized government workforce into dedicated civil servants, he said.

The fight against corruption, the President admitted, would have to result in conviction if it wanted to show teeth. He said the Office of the Ombudsman has been doing a good job in making errant officials – including allies – pay the price.

Aquino’s efforts to achieve inclusive growth have worked wonders in many areas but have been largely unfelt in others due to some LGUs’ refusal to cooperate in implementing programs and projects.

People involvement

Directly involving people in charting their future and empowering them in the process is a practice that is becoming more prevalent even among international organizations.

In building houses for typhoon victims, for example, one organization hands down the budget to members of the communities and lets them do the job instead of simply relocating them once the structures were finished.

Speaking of typhoons, officials said disasters could reverse gains in some badly hit areas and the government would also have to grapple with a lot of challenges to build back better or relocate victims.

For the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the President said acquiring properties to establish new communities for survivors took longer than expected.

In attracting investments, the President said he had to ask the Supreme Court to intervene and remove legal obstacles to implementing infrastructure projects so that government and public-private partnership projects would proceed smoothly. A priority bill aimed at institutionalizing the PPP program is pending in Congress.

Aquino said next year’s election would be a referendum on his straight path advocacy as he endorsed Manuel Roxas II and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo as presidential and vice presidential candidates of the ruling Liberal Party.

The LP also named 12 senatorial candidates and Aquino said he would actively campaign next year while governing.

Easing traffic

The President also said solutions to traffic congestion were continuously being worked out, as the problem would likely become an election issue.

He also said he would not give false hopes on lower income taxes just to attract support but compromise funds for social services.

The Mamasapano incident, which will be remembered on Jan. 25, pulled down the President’s trust and approval ratings and put the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in peril due to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s involvement in the brutal killing of the 44 SAF commandos.

The crisis put his relationship with Roxas into question as the latter was reportedly kept out of the loop when planning for the SAF operation was being made.


YOLANDA VICTIMS TODAY

But the Aquino administration said it can safely say that it has steered the economy to stability and even growth.

The economy grew six percent in the third quarter with National Economic and Development Authority director general and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan saying education, recreational, cultural, sporting activities, hotels and restaurants propelled other services to grow by eight percent.

“We may already be seeing some of the gains from our hosting of the (APEC) this year,” Balisacan said.

“This is only the beginning. We are only in the first chapter of the great story of the Filipino people. Guided by the Almighty, as we continue to tread the straight path, we will fulfill even greater aspirations. We will open the doors to even greater progress. Our direction is in your hands,” Aquino said.


MANILA BULLETIN

World welcomes New Year despite terror fears January 1, 2016 11:48 am


PHOTO FROM INQUIRER.NET

PARIS: Europe welcomed in the New Year on high security alert, with Munich stations evacuated over an imminent terror threat and fireworks cancelled in Paris and Brussels, while a huge fire ripped through a Dubai hotel.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—A 63-story luxury hotel was engulfed in flames even as a massive New Year’s fireworks display kicked off at the world’s tallest skyscraper nearby, while tens of thousands of people whistled and cheered at early Friday’s pyrotechnics. Plumes of smoke billow from luxury hotel as Dubai fireworks go ahead At least 14 people were slightly injured, and one person suffered a heart attack from the smoke and overcrowding in a blaze that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel and residential building. After the fireworks display, Girlie Omilda, a Filipina who works in the aviation industry in Dubai, said she was glad to have seen the fireworks, even as the tower continued to burn. She too was concerned about threats from extremists like the Islamic State group. She said Dubai’s large expatriate, non-Muslim population made the city a tempting target.. By: Jon Gambrell The Associated Press, Published on Thu Dec 31 2015 DUBAI,

German police warned people to stay away from two of Munich’s railway stations and avoid large gatherings after “indications that a terror attack” was being planned by Islamists in the southern German city.

Authorities said early Friday the threat involved a suspected suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State group.
A police spokeswoman told AFP that they had “reliable information” that the plot targeted festivities under way on New Year’s Eve.

Elsewhere in Europe terror fears loomed large, with firework displays cancelled in Brussels and Paris just weeks after jihadists killed 130 people on the streets of the French capital.


People gather on the Champs-Elysees avenue before celebrating the New Year in Paris to welcome 2016

More than 100,000 police were deployed throughout France to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since the November 13 attacks.

In his New Year address, President Francois Hollande said France “has not finished with terrorism yet” and that the threat of another attack “remains at its highest level”.

Belgian police meanwhile were holding five people over an alleged New Year attack plot in Brussels, as well as arresting a 10th suspect over the Paris attacks.

In Dubai, a huge fire ripped through a luxury 63-storey hotel, the Address Downtown, close to the world’s tallest tower where people had gathered to ring in the New Year.

But authorities put on a spectacular show, refusing to let the hotel blaze, which injured 16 people, disrupt celebrations.


Fireworks go off to mark the beginning of 2016 during New Years Eve celebrations held at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. (Marta Iwanek/Canadian Press)

Festivities went ahead as planned and crowds cheered the arrival of 2016 with bursts of light and colour in a massive fireworks show starting at the landmark Burj Khalifa skyscraper, even as smoke billowed from the nearby blaze.
Sydney, traditionally the first to host a major New Year’s bash, kicked off the global festivities when it lit up the skies with pyrotechnics at the stroke of midnight (1300 GMT).

After Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the chimes of midnight will finally move across the Americas.
Jakarta remained on high alert after anti-terror police foiled detailed plans for an alleged New Year suicide attack in the Indonesian capital.


Happy New Year, Cebu! January 1, 2016 Fireworks light up the Cebu City skyline at midnight as Cebuanos joined the rest of the country in ushering in the New Year. (Juan Carlo de Vela) Fireworks light up the Cebu City skyline at midnight as Cebuanos joined the rest of the country in ushering in the New Year. (Juan Carlo de Vela) MANILA BULLETIN

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Turkish police have detained two Islamic State suspects allegedly planning to stage attacks in the centre of the capital Ankara.

In Moscow, police for the first time closed off Red Square where tens of thousands of revellers traditionally gather.
“It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said ahead of the celebrations.

In Britain, Scotland Yard said around 3,000 officers were deployed across central London in what was reported to be an unprecedented anti-terror security effort.

Fireworks were banned in towns and cities across Italy, in some cases because of a recent spike in air pollution and also because of fears that sudden loud bangs could cause panic.

In Madrid, only 25,000 people were allowed into the Puerta del Sol square due to security concerns.

In the United States, authorities said they had arrested and charged a 25-year-old American Muslim convert over an alleged attempt to launch a New Year’s Eve attack in upstate New York in the name of the Islamic State group.


Fireworks explode past the Times Square Ball (rear) after it dropped to signal the start of the New Year in the Manhattan borough of New York January 1, 2016. © Darren Ornitz / Reuters

In New York City, despite a pledge of tight security, one million people are expected to turn out to see the Times Square ball descend.

Cairo meanwhile was trying desperately to attract tourists to bolster the economy.

The government this year staged celebrations in front of the pyramids near the Egyptian capital, with ambassadors, artists and intellectuals all invited.

Egypt has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising but was further hit by the October 31 bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai peninsula, which killed 224 people.

In stark contrast, Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown is hoping to reclaim its mantle as host of the best beach parties in Africa after Ebola scared people away.

The city of 1.2 million was deserted 12 months ago during the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded.

“This New Year’s Eve I am going to dance and party until the cock crows,” said 35-year-old Franklyn Smith.

In Ivory Coast, 3,100 prisoners held after post-election violence in 2010-11 will also start 2016 on a happy note after President Alassane Ouattara announced in his New Year’s address he would reduce their sentences.


MANILA BULLETIN

BIFF launches series of attacks in Maguindanao on New Year’s Eve by Elena L. Aben January 1, 2016 Share1 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share1


People drive past an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in Kauran, Ampatuan in the southern Philippines province of Maguindanao on December 24, 2015. Seven Christian farmers were killed on December 24 as Muslim guerrillas launched a series of attacks in the troubled southern Philippines, the military said. The fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) seized the seven and then killed them in a series of raids in the island of Mindanao where Christian-Muslim conflicts have seethed for decades. AFP PHOTO / MARK NAVALES / AFP / MARK NAVALES

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched a series of attacks against the military in Maguindanao on New Year’s Eve.

Capt. Jo Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Army 6th Infantry Division (6ID), said there was no casualty reported from the government forces while up to six BIFF gunmen were believed to be killed during the firefights.

Petinglay said that at around 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, the group fired a grenade launcher to an Army Mechanized Infantry Company detachment in Datu Piang town.

Then at 9:30 p.m., another group of BIFF bandits attacked a military detachment in Barangay Timbangan, Shariff Aguak town.

An hour later, the detachment of 40IB located in Barangay Linantangan, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, was also fired at by the lawless group.

But instead of being surprised by the BIFF attacks, Petinglay said the soldiers, who have prepared for possible atrocities by the brigand group, engaged their attackers in a firefight until the bandits fled.

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And while the BIFF failed to inflict casualties on the military forces, Petinglay said the bandits were reportedly seen carrying with them five to six bodies of their slain comrades during their escape.

Petinglay added that several BIFF men were also believed to be wounded during the clashes.

According to the 6ID spokesperson, the soldiers had been vigilantly guarding the entire Central Mindanao since the start of the yuletide season noting that the brigand group has been conducting atrocities during the said time for the past three years.

Last Christmas eve, the BIFF also launched an attack on a military detachment in Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao but failed to inflict any casualty on the government forces.

As they fled from pursuing the troops, the BIFF chanced upon a group of farmers. The bandits mercilessly fired at the civilians leaving nine people dead.

The incident prompted about a thousand villagers to flee from their homes and spend Christmas in evacuation centers.


KICKERDAILY ONLINE

Pope Francis ‘deeply saddened’ by Christmas eve killings in Mindanao Posted on December 30, 2015 by Justin Umali


(Photo Credit: CNN Blogs)

Pope Francis sends a telegram to condole with the relatives of recent BIFF victims.

The Church leader says he is “deeply saddened” by the “senseless” killing of civilians The pontiff asks everyone to “reject violence in the name of God“ Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the bereaved families of the nine civilians who were killed in a rampage in Mindanao on Christmas eve.

In an article written by Leslie Ann Aquino for Manila Bulletin on December 29, it was disclosed that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church sent a telegram through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto.

“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao, and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His Holiness prays that security and safety will be established for all people in the region, so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear,” Parolin told Pinto.


(Photo Credit: mindanaopost.com)

The Church official adds, “He asks all believers to reject violence in the name of God who is love, and invokes abundant divine gifts of consolation, mercy and strength upon those affected by this tragedy.“

On December 24, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stormed a number of villages in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato; killing seven farmers and two civilians in a bid to demand the independence of the Muslim region from the rest of the Philippines.

On the other hand, operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were able to neutralize at least four BIFF rebels after the AFP have responded to the areas that were attacked.

The BIFF is a Muslim extremist group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 after a disagreement that sprung from the government’s peace deal.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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