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BY BOBIT AVILA: IN HINDSIGHT, THE YEAR 2016 WAS A BLESSING!


DECEMBER 29 -By Bobit S. Avila This is my final column for the Year 2016 and before all else, allow me to greet my former girlfriend, my wife and life-long partner Jessica Rosello Avila on her 64th birthday today. She was only 18 years old when we went “steady” (that’s the term we used when we started a relationship) and come Jan. 5, we would be married for 40 years already. This means, I’ve been married longer than my single years. Take it from me marriage doesn’t guarantee an easy life, but for as long as both of you complement each other rather than compete with one another your marriage would last. But the secret to a long marriage is selfless love and sharing, something that our Lord Jesus Christ have always taught us. Above all, the key ingredient to a long lasting marriage is learning to forgive one’s mistakes because I guarantee you, you will be committing lots of mistakes. Without forgiveness then Love cannot shine through. On top of all this traits, one must have a strong faith in God for without God, we can do nothing! READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ana Marie Pamintuan - Positives


DECEMBER 30 -By Ana Marie Pamintuan
As surveys consistently show, Pinoys like ringing in the Ne
w Year on a hopeful note. So after a year of carping about what’s wrong with our country, let’s focus for a change on the positives in the year about to pass: We had another peaceful transfer of power, with the new president having an unassailable mandate after relatively orderly elections in May. The election results are less clear in the vice presidential race, and we hope the issue will be settled with credibility by 2017. The country won big before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, not only having Philippine maritime entitlements and sovereign rights defined in the South China Sea, but also seeing the court invalidating Beijing’s entire nine-dash-line territorial claim over nearly all of the disputed waters. Newly installed President Duterte immediately revived the peace process not only with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (with the Moro National Liberation Front brought into the process) but also the communist National Democratic Front. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Marichu Villanueva - No more ‘cold’ cases


DECEMBER 30 -By Marichu A. Villanueva
The newly organized Presidential Task Force on Violence Against Media Workers started the investigation on the murder of Larry Que, publisher of Catanduanes News. The slaying of Que is considered the first media killing case under the six-month old administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.  Que was shot by gunmen in Catanduanes last Dec. 19 and died the next day. He wrote critical columns on Catanduanes local officials in the province for alleged negligence on an illegal drugs factory operating in the province before he was killed. For now, Que’s murder is considered as a work-related incident. “Our position is that as a matter of policy, Task Force on Media Security will treat such case as work-related until final determination,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea declared. READ MORE...READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A year of ‘real change’


DECEMBER 31 -In just six months, a knock on the door has become a source of terror for many Filipinos. For thousands of people, the knock has been followed by gunshots, and then the silence of the grave. The year 2016 will go down in history for the mass killings in the name of a ruthless war against illegal drugs, launched upon the ascent to power of Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao City, a reluctant presidential candidate, has brought his profanity-laced tough talk and disdain for the formalities of power not only to Malacańang but also to the international stage. He has threatened to sever a century-old alliance and tossed aside another major event of the year, the nation’s victory before a UN-backed arbitration court on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. Is this the change the people wanted? Duterte the candidate had promised to kill criminals and allow the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To the dismay of human rights advocates, the President is proving true to his word. READ MORE...


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In hindsight: The year 2016 was a blessing!


By Bobit S. Avila

MANILA, JANUARY 2, 2017 (PHILSTAR) SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 29, 2016 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0 This is my final column for the Year 2016 and before all else, allow me to greet my former girlfriend, my wife and life-long partner Jessica Rosello Avila on her 64th birthday today.

She was only 18 years old when we went “steady” (that’s the term we used when we started a relationship) and come Jan. 5, we would be married for 40 years already.

This means, I’ve been married longer than my single years. Take it from me marriage doesn’t guarantee an easy life, but for as long as both of you complement each other rather than compete with one another your marriage would last.

But the secret to a long marriage is selfless love and sharing, something that our Lord Jesus Christ have always taught us.

Above all, the key ingredient to a long lasting marriage is learning to forgive one’s mistakes because I guarantee you, you will be committing lots of mistakes. Without forgiveness then Love cannot shine through. On top of all this traits, one must have a strong faith in God for without God, we can do nothing!

READ MORE...

* * *

How time flies indeed, this is the last week of the Year 2016 and next week, the New Year 2017 ushers into our lives.

As for the Year 2016, perhaps it wasn’t really the best year of my life in all my 65 years. While it started with a happy note having a grand family reunion in Tokyo, Japan for the 25th wedding anniversary celebration of my sister Adela A. Kono to Yuki Kono at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel last January.

Then we topped it with a side trip to the City of Akita via Shinkansen train to pray before the wooden statue that shed tears in the mid-’70s where it was snowing all over northern Japan. Hence we started off the year 2016 with a bang!

Then by first week of March 2016, I got hospitalized for the first time in my life (yes I wasn’t even born in a hospital) when my doctors noticed that I had jaundice.

I was scheduled to fly the historic Cebu to Los Angeles flight with Philippine Airlines (PAL) on March 15 and my being in the hospital was preventing me from joining this flight.

Thanks to my doctors, they agreed that I wasn’t in a life threatening condition and allowed me to leave for Los Angeles, anyway that trip only took six days.

Upon my return, I went on a series of medical tests and by April, my nephew Dr. Jose Avila in Philadelphia broke the news that I would need a kidney transplant soon… even though he did not physically see me. It was for me too drastic a move. But then my creatinine was starting to rise up.

My second daughter, Katrina, a non-practicing registered nurse who was once assigned in a renal center and warned me never to undergo dialysis as it was too cumbersome, time consuming and tedious and I wouldn’t even want to see the huge needle they would poke into your veins.

Add the fact that my compadre, the late Jesus “Dodong” Tequillo was a dialysis patient for three-years before he passed away, I decided to go on a pre-emptive kidney transplant with the team of Dr. Alvin Roxas and Dr. Juliet Chiong Noel.

After a brief discussion on whether I should have my procedure at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), I decided that the Don Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) was more than sufficient because of its new surgical facilities donated from Japan and that PhilHealth offered their “Z-package” which shoulders a lot of the costs. Most of them time in between medical check ups, we had to look for and eventually found a donor for my kidneys.

Then last Nov.8th; while American voters lined up at the polling stations, I had my kidney transplant in a very successful operation at the VSMCC).

My doctors woke me up with the good news of my successful operation and bigger news… that in the US Presidential elections, Donald Trump whom I supported had won the Presidency. While still recuperating in the hospital, I also got the best news of all that my son, Capt. Jesus Valeriano “JV” Avila was accepted as a pilot trainee with Philippine Airlines (PAL).

So in hindsight, when I look back at the Year 2016 all I can say is it was a year of blessings! Lest I forget, during the Presidential elections last May, my Presidential candidate, Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte won against all odds. That brought jubilation with our group supporting him and if you looked at what he has done in the last six-months, despite the negatives that the foreign press shoved into him… the nation is doing very well!

As far as my medical issues (a month before my operation, I also underwent a Laparoscopic operation with our cousin, Dr. Edward Rosello to remove my gallbladder) are concerned, I still look at my kidney transplant as a blessing by God… that he did not give me something worst or incurable.

In my first month in isolation in my house, it also afforded me a great deal of time to ponder what life should be after 65-years. In short, I look forward to the rest of my life with a new ray of hope that we still have a lot of work to do for God, for Country and for the Filipino people. HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Positives SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 30, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

As surveys consistently show, Pinoys like ringing in the New Year on a hopeful note. So after a year of carping about what’s wrong with our country, let’s focus for a change on the positives in the year about to pass:

We had another peaceful transfer of power, with the new president having an unassailable mandate after relatively orderly elections in May. The election results are less clear in the vice presidential race, and we hope the issue will be settled with credibility by 2017.

The country won big before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, not only having Philippine maritime entitlements and sovereign rights defined in the South China Sea, but also seeing the court invalidating Beijing’s entire nine-dash-line territorial claim over nearly all of the disputed waters.

Newly installed President Duterte immediately revived the peace process not only with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (with the Moro National Liberation Front brought into the process) but also the communist National Democratic Front.

READ MORE...

The peace process has created goodwill for the new administration that has helped mute criticism of the ruthless war on drugs – at least for now – by governments known to put a premium on human rights. This could change in the coming year, affecting development aid, anti-poverty programs, foreign direct investment and tourism, but we’re looking on the bright side as 2016 draws to a close.

* * *

With the start of a new administration that promised “real change,” we quickly saw some tangible changes:

Tanim-bala or bullet planting at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport ended.

A one-stop shop was set up for Filipinos preparing to leave for employment overseas. PhilHealth coverage was expanded.

Heeding Duterte’s order for all executive agencies to cut to no more than three working days the processing of government documents, we’ve seen the impact on passports, clearances and similar items. I renewed my driver’s license in a record eight minutes, although I probably have to wait eight months for my license card. But the government has finally started releasing license cards.

Duterte has acknowledged the strength of the nation’s macroeconomic fundamentals and his team is working to build on the gains. He has made the right noises about making the country an easier place to do business. And he has declared an intensified war in the coming year against his next major target: corruption.

Following the Philippine victory before the arbitral court, Duterte managed to achieve the opposite effect on Beijing, improving bilateral relations, although in the process straining the country’s alliance with the United States.

With the thaw in relations with China, authorities are hoping to achieve tourist arrival targets this year and in 2017.

Du30 has sustained his folksy, simple style, and so far many of his Cabinet members seem to be taking the cue from their boss and doing the same.

* * *

There will be debates on whether the issue that makes 2016 particularly remarkable is a positive development. Do Filipinos feel safer after six months of Operation Plans Tokhang and Double Barrel?

If we go by the surveys, the drug war still enjoys majority support. But the surveys also show a high percentage of Filipinos fearing for their personal safety in terms of getting entangled in the deadly violence.

Police say the crime rate is down for most offenses particularly crimes against property, but the homicide rate is up by a hefty 18 percent. If people fear being killed but not of being mugged, do they feel safer?

Over the past months I did ask many people from low-income households – mass transport drivers, street sweepers, sidewalk vendors – whose communities have been the main targets of Tokhang if they were concerned about the killings. The answers have been astonishingly similar and consistent: they don’t mind seeing troublemakers in their neighborhoods disappear for good.

As I have written, Filipinos have been frustrated for ages over the weakness of the criminal justice system. Tokhang and Double Barrel are the closest thing to swift justice that we can get.

A number of the people I talked to were also glad that abusive barangay officials and cops assigned to their neighborhoods had been neutralized. Du30’s pullout of bodyguards from certain political warlords has also been welcome news. If several of the warlords could also be neutralized, I doubt if there would be any public outcry.

The bishops and human rights advocates will argue that having nearly 6,000 people killed (including several children) in a brutal war is not a case of seeing a glass half-full or half-empty, and that there is never an excuse for mass murder.

President Duterte, as he made patently clear in a series of interviews yesterday, thinks otherwise, and definitely sees progress in his promised war on the drug menace and criminality.

Duterte is the big winner in 2016, and if the surveys are accurate, it looks like he continues to embody the hopes of many Filipinos for a better life in 2017.

The events of the past months should remind us of the admonition to be careful what we wish for.

A better, prosperous New Year to all!


No more ‘cold’ cases COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 30, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Marichu A. Villanueva

The newly organized Presidential Task Force on Violence Against Media Workers started the investigation on the murder of Larry Que, publisher of Catanduanes News. The slaying of Que is considered the first media killing case under the six-month old administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Que was shot by gunmen in Catanduanes last Dec. 19 and died the next day. He wrote critical columns on Catanduanes local officials in the province for alleged negligence on an illegal drugs factory operating in the province before he was killed.

For now, Que’s murder is considered as a work-related incident. “Our position is that as a matter of policy, Task Force on Media Security will treat such case as work-related until final determination,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea declared.

READ MORE...

If there is one thing that looks promising in this latest media killing case – hopefully there would be new incidents – it will be solved with greater certainty because no less than a former working journalist is on top of the job. The executive director of the newly created Task Force is Joel Egco. Himself a working journalist, Egco was once elected as president of the National Press Club of the Philippines.

President Duterte first appointed Egco as assistant secretary at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). But the Chief Executive subsequently named Egco to become the executive director of his Task Force on Media Security. This Task Force, as created under Administrative Order (AO) No. 1 was signed by President Duterte on Oct. 11. AO 1 gave the executive director the rank of undersecretary. Thus, Egco got a speedy promotion.

Egco is actually the workhorse for the Duterte Task Force. It is nine-man body co-chaired by Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar. It is composed of the Secretaries of DILG, Departments of National Defense; the Solicitor General; the executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee; the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); the Director-General of the Philippine National Police (PNP); and the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The Duterte Task Force is being assisted to investigate the case of Que slay by PNP’s existing Task Force Usig. The Task Force Usig, which is under the supervision of the PNP, was first created by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on May 19, 2006.

If there is no apparent motive in a journalist’s killing, Task Force Usig automatically considered it to be “work-related.”

Having served the longest – being in office at Malacanang for nine years – Mrs. Arroyo posted the highest number of media killings during her term. Per record, 101 members of the media were killed at the end of the Arroyo administration in June 2010. The PNP included cases of journalists murdered since day one at Malacanang of Mrs. Arroyo when she started her first term in office following the so-called EDSA-2 in January 2001.

The Task Force did not include in its jurisdiction the 32 journalists killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in its tally of Filipino journalists killed in the line of duty.

However, many of the cases that happened during the Arroyo administration were later purged by the Task Force Usig from their master list. They were removed from the PNP master list because supposedly they involved either false reports; non-existent persons as certified by barangays and local civil registrars; alleged victims who turned out to be alive; killed in legitimate armed encounters; agrarian or labor disputes; personal motives or suicides.

Other cases were similarly excluded from the Task Force Usig list because they involved civilians killed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, by the lost command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or by vigilante groups; or were triggered by private motives connected with illegal drugs, gambling, squatting, illegal logging, mistaken identity, robbery with homicide, rape with homicide, tribal war and business rivalry.

The others ended up as “cold” cases, or cases that have had no development or progress on the investigation for more than a year. Cold cases are endorsed to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for lateral investigation.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) claimed having recorded at least 28 journalists were killed during the administration of former President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. But this number only covered the period as of August 2014. The 28th victim was local radio broadcaster Nilo Baculo who was shot dead near his house in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro on June 9. Baculo’s slay ended up as another “cold” case.

Incidentally, the president of the NUJP is among the media organizations that the Duterte Task Force will invite as “observers” and “resource persons,” along with the respective heads of the NPC; the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP); the Publishers Association of the Philippines (PAPI); and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI).

While AO 1 was still being drafted by the Palace, Andanar was actively involved and made sure inputs from the members of the working media were secured. Andanar himself is a former broadcaster before he joined the Duterte Cabinet. I was one of those invited by the PCOO as resource persons. So we made it a point to make this new Task Force as pro-active rather than reactive, or the body acts only when there is already a journalist killed.

As one popular idiom goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is better to keep a bad thing from happening than to act on the bad thing once it has happened already.

One of the provisions of AO 1, the Duterte Task Force shall receive and act upon complaints of abuse and other acts of violence filed by media workers in coordination with the DOJ and in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations.

A test case of how pro-active the Duterte Task Force is when it acted swiftly on the complaint of harassment by STAR reporter Eva Visperas against a certain local politician in Pangasinan. Without going into details, the active investigation of the Duterte Task Force on her complaint should put on notice this politician.

For now, we hold on to the promising start of the Duterte Task Force that there would be no more “cold” cases on media killings.


EDITORIAL - A year of ‘real change’ (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 31, 2016 - 12:00am 1 8 googleplus0 0

In just six months, a knock on the door has become a source of terror for many Filipinos. For thousands of people, the knock has been followed by gunshots, and then the silence of the grave.

The year 2016 will go down in history for the mass killings in the name of a ruthless war against illegal drugs, launched upon the ascent to power of Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao City, a reluctant presidential candidate, has brought his profanity-laced tough talk and disdain for the formalities of power not only to Malacańang but also to the international stage. He has threatened to sever a century-old alliance and tossed aside another major event of the year, the nation’s victory before a UN-backed arbitration court on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

Is this the change the people wanted? Duterte the candidate had promised to kill criminals and allow the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To the dismay of human rights advocates, the President is proving true to his word.

READ MORE...

There were indisputable bright spots during the year. The nation went through a relatively peaceful and orderly transfer of power in May, giving a landslide victory to a man who promised “real change” and then warned of a “rough ride” with him in the driver’s seat.

The warning was not exaggerated, and he has promised more in the coming year, with the campaign against lawbreakers to be expanded to corrupt public officials.

One encouraging development under the new administration was the quick revival of peace initiatives with Islamic separatists and communist rebels, with Duterte at one point proffering an olive branch even to the Abu Sayyaf. Other welcome developments were the efforts to cut red tape as well as the passage before yearend of next year’s General Appropriations Act.

Still, Oplan Tokhang and its expanded version called Double Barrel have so dominated national life under the new administration that other urgent matters threaten to be overlooked. The changing of the year should allow officials to take stock of the state of the nation, list concrete objectives and clear out a path for getting there. The blood of thousands of Filipinos can only make the path slippery and difficult to tread.


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