HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEKEND ...

AQUINO'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: INCLUDE 'RUBY' VICTIMS IN PRAYERS 

DEC 24 -- "The past year brought another seemingly insurmountable challenge: While Visayas continues on the track of recovery from Yolanda, Ruby threatened to dismantle what we had already started to rebuild. But we have soldiered on. Through our solidarity and His benevolence, we gained the strength and wisdom to lead our people away from peril," President Benigno Aquino III said on his Christmas message. YouTube screenshot/RTV Malacanang MANILA, Philippines - In his Christmas message, President Benigno Aquino III reminded Filipinos to include victims of typhoon Ruby in their prayers. "'Wag sana natin kalimutan isama sa ating panalangin ang mga kapwa nating napilitang lumikas. 'Wag din sana nating kalimutang magpasalamat sa Panginoon dahil bagaman nagdulot ng pinsala si Ruby di hamak na mas marami ang nailigtas at ngayon ay makapagdiriwang ng pasko kasama ang kanilang mahal sa buhay," Aquino said on Tuesday RAD FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Stepping down in February, Lacson lays out plans

Presidential Assistant on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Panfilo M. Lacson is to step down from office on February 10, 2015. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Robert Viñas MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Panfilo "Ping" Lacson will step down as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery on February 10, 2015. "We agreed in principle to wind up my duties as PARR until February 10 when I shall have completed the transition to NDRRMC, where the four phase cycle of addressing disasters rightfully belongs," Lacson said in a statement Tuesday. Lacson's duties as rehabilitation czar will be transferred to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) once he steps down. The former senator had a discussion with President Benigno Aquino III on the strengthening of the agency. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Funds all accounted for; Soliman: COA report didn’t have DSWD side 

NO ANOMALIES’ Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman disputes Commission on Audit findings of her department’s failure in carrying out its conditional cash transfer and core shelter programs. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman on Friday declared that no anomalies were committed in the Department of Social Welfare and Development after the Inquirer ran two stories about the adverse findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on DSWD finances. In a press conference, Soliman said the audit report on the DSWD did not include the replies the department submitted to the COA last month. “The reports on the COA website did not have our answers, the management response to the audit findings, which we submitted to the COA in November,” she said. The COA submitted its report to Soliman’s office on Dec. 15. It found that 364,000 families not listed on the database of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program got P1.08 billion in 2013, that 21,117 “nonpoor” beneficiaries like government employees, barangay officials and overseas Filipinos received P168.12 million from the program, and that P46.50 million in “double payments” were given to 4,320 beneficiaries. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: DSWD failed storm victims, says COA 30,438 SHELTERS NOT BUILT DESPITE P2.57-B FUNDING 

STAR OF HOPEA motorized tricycle passes by a Christmas lantern in typhoon-devastated Tacloban City. Thousands of residents marked their second Christmas in the ruins following two storms. AFP  Where’s the roof? Tens of thousands of storm victims spent the past three Christmases without permanent shelters due to the failure of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to build homes for them despite receiving P2.57 billion for such purpose, a report of state auditors showed. The Commission on Audit (COA) said a portion of the cash assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in Mindanao in 2011 was used “for other purposes not directly related” to helping them recover from the disaster. The COA also discovered that more than P1.8 billion in Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds allocated to the department in 2013 had remained unliquidated. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Noy calls pork-filled 2015 budget product of reforms 

President Aquino called the 2015 budget he signed yesterday as the product of his administration’s reform agenda, saying that it is the People’s Budget but which watchdog groups tagged as being filled with lumpsums and discretionary funds for Aquino. In a speech after the signing of the P2.6-trillion budget, Aquino said “while we have taken the course towards helping each other and we celebrate the victories we achieve, I am sure that those who are used to abusing public money are grieving.” “As a result of our policy on just use of public money, those who are used to the corrupt ways using money that are not theirs. We will continue to instill fear and give them sorrow, we will not stop in running after the corrupt and make them accountable,” Aquino said. Contrary to Aquino’s claims, however, the budget included a redefinition of savings that critics said was meant to undermine the Supreme Court’s decision last July declaring Palace acts creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. Republic Act 10651, also known as the 2015 national spending plan, has also been approved by Aquino during the signing of the 2015 GAA at Malacañang. The statute allows the executive branch to declare certain portions or balances in the 2015 budget that have not been obligated as savings, following conditions set by Congress. READ FULL REPORT

ALSO: PNoy watches Bimby's movie 'Praybeyt Benjamin 2'

President Benigno Aquino III made sure to watch the movie of his nephew, Bimby Aquino-Yap, during the opening day of the Metro Manila Film Festival on Thursday. Along with Kris Aquino, his three other sisters, nieces and nephews, the President watched “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin” at SM Megamall on Christmas Day to show his support for his youngest sister's son. Also present during the block screening were Vice Ganda, Richard Yap and his wife, comedian’s Pooh and Pokwang, Coco Martin, Erich Gonzales and news anchor Anthony Taberna. The block screening was also graced by Bimby’s father James Yap, who had to change his flight to Escalante, Negros Occidental just to catch his son’s movie on its opening day. Yap was with his girlfriend Michella Cazzola. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Ping’s master stroke 

One of the exceptional traits of Ping Lacson is knowing when is the best time to change course which is when trouble is brewing. The role he had taken as Rehabilitation czar was filled with controversy as several personalities, primarily those within the close circle of Noynoy, had sought to squeeze the publicity juice out of the misery from the situation in the several Visayas provinces struck by typhoon “Yolanda” last year. Of course, Ping collected political brownies from the stint as secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) but as he said the post had already served its purpose. Criticisms are mounting on the slow pace of the rehabilitation process and on the first year that marked the tragedy, victims of Yolanda held protests both in Manila and in Tacloban City due to the absence of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for the victims of the typhoon.
Farmers and fishermen protested in Tacloban City calling on the government to provide more homes and jobs while protesters accused the administration of Noynoy of diverting aid and reconstruction funds.The Commission on Audit (CoA) released a report last September saying at least P700 million in donations was unused. READ FULL EDITORIAL...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Aquino's Chrismas message: Include 'Ruby' victims in prayers


 "The past year brought another seemingly insurmountable challenge: While Visayas continues on the track of recovery from Yolanda, Ruby threatened to dismantle what we had already started to rebuild. But we have soldiered on. Through our solidarity and His benevolence, we gained the strength and wisdom to lead our people away from peril," President Benigno Aquino III said on his Christmas message. YouTube screenshot/RTV

MALACAÑANG, MANILA, DECEMBER 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Patricia Lourdes Viray -, Philippines - In his Christmas message, President Benigno Aquino III reminded Filipinos to include victims of typhoon Ruby in their prayers.

"'Wag sana natin kalimutan isama sa ating panalangin ang mga kapwa nating napilitang lumikas. 'Wag din sana nating kalimutang magpasalamat sa Panginoon dahil bagaman nagdulot ng pinsala si Ruby di hamak na mas marami ang nailigtas at ngayon ay makapagdiriwang ng pasko kasama ang kanilang mahal sa buhay," Aquino said on Tuesday.

The president added that the typhoon may have threatened the whole country but also encouraged communities to prepare for the upcoming disaster.

Aquino is confident that the Filipinos' hope and faith will intensify upon Pope Francis' arrival next year.

"Sa nalalapit naman pong pagbisita ng Santo Papa sa bansa tiyak na lalong aalab ang pag-asa at lalalim ang pananalig, hindi lamang sa mga nangangailangan nating kababayan kundi maging ng lahat nating kapatid na Kristiyano," Aquino said.

The chief executive noted that Jesus Christ's leadership has been his example in running the country.

"Bilang Mesiyas, binigyan niya ng pag-asa ang naliligaw ng landas, pinangunahan ang kanyang mga disipulo sa matibay na pananampalataya at nagsilbing bukal ng malasakit at paglilingkod sa kapwa. Ang mga dakilang aral na ito ang ating gabay sa mabuting pamamahala sa bansa," Aquino explained.

Aquino added that the administration has been seeking to correct what is wrong in the system for the past four years.

"Narito ang inyong gobyerno hindi para unahin ang sarili, hindi para maghari-harian, kundi para magsilbi sa kanyang mga boss, ang sambayanan. Patuloy nating itinatama ang mali sa sistema," Aquino said.

The President highlighted the current administration's efforts to resolve the challenges and problems, such as providing relief for communities that faced natural calamities.

"Maging bukal tayo ng lakas, malasakit at pagmamahal sa kapwa habang ginagawa nating permanente ang tinatamasang makabuluhang pagbabago ito ang magiging handog natin sa susunod na henerasyon," Aquino concluded.

Watch the President's Christmas message here:

 
VIDEO URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt4WAQ0pe-E


FROM PHILSTAR

To step down February, Lacson lays out plans By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 6:11pm 0 0 googleplus0 0


Presidential Assistant on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Panfilo M. Lacson is to step down from office on February 10, 2015. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Robert Viñas

MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Panfilo "Ping" Lacson will step down as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery on February 10, 2015.

"We agreed in principle to wind up my duties as PARR until February 10 when I shall have completed the transition to NDRRMC, where the four phase cycle of addressing disasters rightfully belongs," Lacson said in a statement Tuesday.

Lacson's duties as rehabilitation czar will be transferred to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) once he steps down.

The former senator had a discussion with President Benigno Aquino III on the strengthening of the agency.

During his meeting with the president, Lacson mentioned areas for improvement in prevention and mitigation handled by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Lacson also cited the response and relief headed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as the rehabilitation and recovery handled by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

He suggested that the Office of Civil Defense administrator and executive director of the NDRRMC be elevated as co-vice chair with the NEDA in handling the rehabilitation program.

Lacson told Aquino that the transition would be timely as the Congress is set review the NDRRMC law on or before May 27, 2015.

The Department of Budget and Management should automatically release the P80 billion to the NDRRMC for the recovery of Eastern Visayas, Lacson added.

The former senator said that he wanted to step down as rehabilitation czar because he already did his job.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Funds all accounted for; Soliman: COA report didn’t have DSWD side Julie M. Aurelio @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:09 AM | Saturday, December 27th, 2014


NO ANOMALIES’ Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman disputes Commission on Audit findings of her department’s failure in carrying out its conditional cash transfer and core shelter programs. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman on Friday declared that no anomalies were committed in the Department of Social Welfare and Development after the Inquirer ran two stories about the adverse findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on DSWD finances.

In a press conference, Soliman said the audit report on the DSWD did not include the replies the department submitted to the COA last month.

“The reports on the COA website did not have our answers, the management response to the audit findings, which we submitted to the COA in November,” she said.

The COA submitted its report to Soliman’s office on Dec. 15.

It found that 364,000 families not listed on the database of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program got P1.08 billion in 2013, that 21,117 “nonpoor” beneficiaries like government employees, barangay officials and overseas Filipinos received P168.12 million from the program, and that P46.50 million in “double payments” were given to 4,320 beneficiaries.

The CCT, or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is an antipoverty program of the Aquino administration.

Among other things, the COA also found that tens of thousands of storm victims spent the past three Christmases without permanent shelters because of the DSWD’s failure to build homes despite getting a budget of P2.57 billion for housing them.

Soliman maintained that the COA merely sought documentation of the DSWD’s program implementation and did not indicate any suspicion of misuse or misappropriation of funds. She said she did not tolerate any anomalies in the department.

“We are confident that there is nothing to doubt about the DSWD’s integrity, especially with the funds that the COA cited as unliquidated in their 2013 annual audit report. The funds went to the rightful beneficiaries,” she said

She urged concerned citizens to provide the DSWD with evidence of anomalies, if any.

In a presentation, the social welfare secretary answered the COA’s findings on its implementation of the CCT program, the funds it received from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and the building of housing projects for typhoon victims.

The COA audit reported that out of the P10.626 billion in funds transferred by the DSWD to Land Bank of the Philippines for the payment of CCT beneficiaries for 2013, only P10.295 billion was used or disbursed as of Dec. 31, 2013.

This means a balance of P330.347 million or the unpaid amount for beneficiaries in eight regions, with P91.929 million in unclaimed grants of beneficiaries in the Calabarzon (Regions 4A), Western Visayas (Region 6), Central Visayas (Region 7), Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) and Caraga (Region 13).

Soliman said the DSWD was working on the liquidation of the whole amount and that it had already liquidated 94 percent of the 2013 funds for cash grants.

“The DSWD is processing the return of cash grants intended for families tagged by our system as delisted, with reflected status as missing, no eligible member for monitoring, or moved to areas not covered by the program,” she added.

She said the department had released P189.93 billion for the CCT program, including implementing costs, over the past six years.

As of this year, the program covers 4.4 million households in 17 regions.

Soliman said the 364,036 families that the COA said were supposedly not on the database of the CCT program in 2013 had been all accounted for.

The DSWD authenticated the numbers and learned that 107,373 were covered under the regular CCT program and were both in the 4Ps and the National Household Targeting System (NHTS) databases.

The other 256,663 were under the modified CCT program, which covered street dwellers and indigenous peoples, and were considered “poor and part of the vulnerable sector.”

Soliman said households under the modified CCT households were not under the NHTS database and that the information about these beneficiaries was stored in a separate database open for COA audit.

Authenticated

As to the COA finding of 4,032 double entries of beneficiaries, the DSWD said 1,752 shared similar names, and had been authenticated and retained.

A total of 609 families were confirmed to be actual duplicates and had been delisted, while 1,636 remaining entries were still being validated.

Soliman assured the public that the DSWD was regularly validating the beneficiaries of the CCT program, with monthly compliance monitoring, family development sessions with the beneficiaries and spot checks.

“We do not give out cash grants to double entry beneficiaries until we finish validating them in our data base,” she said.

Since 2009, the DSWD, through its Grievance Redress System, has delisted 52,657 households.

A total of 232,747 households have been deactivated or are pending for validation. These are households whose accounts have been frozen because of reports of ineligibility or double entry, while awaiting results of investigation.

As to the COA finding that the DSWD failed to construct core shelters for typhoon victims, Soliman said the P2.57 billion for the project covered eight regions ravaged by five typhoons.

For victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong” (international name: Washi), 12,361 out of 16,790 core shelter units have been completed, mostly in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.

For victims of Typhoon “Pablo” (international name: Bopha), 13,236 units have been completed, while 20,942 are being constructed mostly in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

She said the DSWD was not handling the funds for the construction of the core shelter units. It just turns over the funds to the local government units (LGUs) concerned.

“But we do our part by following up and monitoring the implementation of the projects by the LGUs,” she said.

Building delayed

Soliman acknowledged that construction of core shelter units had been delayed because of difficulties in looking for relocation sites, the occurrence of weather disturbances, and the 2013 elections, which meant a stoppage of construction activities.

She added that the LGUs could not use the money for the core shelter units to buy land as resettlement sites and that the funding went only to construction.

“If they are unable to implement and finish construction by the end of 2015, we will ask the LGUs to return the funds to us so we can turn it over to the treasury,” Soliman said.

For victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Hagupit),” the DSWD has allocated P4.2 billion for 211,748 shelters, with the funding to be released in January next year.

The DSWD has reported a total of 104,328 destroyed houses and 107,420 damaged houses as a result of Yolanda in 2013.

As to the P1.8 billion in funds from the DAP that the COA said was unaccounted for, Soliman said only P400 million that went to the Commission on Higher Education for student grants remained unliquidated.

She said the P1.31 billion transferred by the DSWD to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for cash-for-training programs had been liquidated.

The secretary also mentioned that her department transferred P1.8 billion in DAP funds to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in core shelter assistance projects for displaced families, of which P1.417 billion has been liquidated.

The remaining funds are with the DSWD since the DAP has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in July.

Not quitting

Amid the COA findings, Soliman maintained that she would not quit her post and that she would continue serving in government unless President Aquino told her to go.

She said it would not be difficult for her to resign, referring to her resignation in 2005 from the DSWD as part of the “Hyatt 10” at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal during the term of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I will continue to serve. Not unless the President says it’s time for me to exit. If he says that, then I will go,” Soliman said.


FROM THE INQUIRER

DSWD failed storm victims, says COA 30,438 SHELTERS NOT BUILT DESPITE P2.57-B FUNDING Marlon Ramos @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:32 AM | Friday, December 26th, 2014


STAR OF HOPEA motorized tricycle passes by a Christmas lantern in typhoon-devastated Tacloban City. Thousands of residents marked their second Christmas in the ruins following two storms. AFP

Where’s the roof?

Tens of thousands of storm victims spent the past three Christmases without permanent shelters due to the failure of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to build homes for them despite receiving

P2.57 billion for such purpose, a report of state auditors showed.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said a portion of the cash assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in Mindanao in 2011 was used “for other purposes not directly related” to helping them recover from the disaster.

The COA also discovered that more than P1.8 billion in Disbursement

Acceleration Program (DAP) funds allocated to the department in 2013 had remained unliquidated.

These were among the findings of the agency’s audit team that conducted a review of the DSWD’s financial transactions. The 135-page COA report was received by the office of Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman on Dec. 15.

“We request a status report on the actions taken on the audit recommendations within 60 days from date of receipt thereof,” read the letter to Soliman signed by COA director Cora Lea de la Cruz.

In a text message to the Inquirer on Thursday, the social welfare secretary said she would answer the issues regarding the COA report at a news briefing at the DSWD headquarters on Friday.

No construction

The construction of 30,438 housing units with an approved budget of P2.131 billion has yet to be “started and/or [the] funds [remained] unutilized due to varying constraints and problems,” the COA said.

The report said the DSWD was supposed to build a total of 36,399 units worth P2.571 billion in areas ravaged by violent weather disturbances since 2011. (On Dec. 4, 2012, Typhoon “Pablo” made landfall in Mindanao, leaving 1,607 dead, 834 missing and P37 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and property. The year before, more than 1,400 people died from Sendong.)

State auditors said the failure of the DSWD to promptly start the shelter program was “denying the disaster victims/beneficiaries of the immediate access to decent shelters.”

The auditors said it might also lead to “construction materials/resources to possible misuse, losses and wastage.”

“[The delay in the] completion of the core shelter units is tantamount to failure to address the immediate needs of family-victims of disaster, thus, defeating the very purpose of the program,” the COA said.

Cash grants

Under its Core Shelter Assistance Project, the DSWD provides P70,000 in cash grants to every family whose house was destroyed by natural calamities.

The houses, however, should be environment-friendly and can withstand winds of up to 220 kilometers per hour and Intensity IV earthquakes.

The permanent shelters must be built in relocation sites identified by the national government or local government units “using locally available materials to revitalize local economy,” the COA said.

The DSWD also distributes cash aid amounting to up to P7,000 to each resident whose house was partially damaged by storms and P10,000 each to owners of destroyed houses.

It may also provide P30,000 in cash assistance “to augment resources of families in constructing houses in relocation sites provided for the purposes and using locally available materials.”

Lack of support, feuds

Problems regarding the titles of relocation sites, bad weather, lack of support from local government units, feuding local politicians and the failure to closely monitor the status of the project were among the reasons cited by the COA auditors for the DSWD’s failure to complete its shelter program.

For instance, the mayor of Boac town, Marinduque province, was not interested in implementing the government’s housing program for typhoon survivors.

There were also cases of beneficiaries failing to build their houses after they received financial assistance. In some areas, survivors opted to move in to their partially finished houses without windows and doors, exposing them to the elements.

“Some construction materials were abandoned, destroyed [or] deteriorating. [W]ork delays in some areas are due to scarcity of materials,” the COA said.

Regular inspection

To avoid these problems, the COA urged the DSWD to carry out “regular ocular inspection to determine whether project funds are utilized according to the objectives of the program.”

It asked DSWD officials to submit reports “duly supported with actual accomplishments as well as the status of unoccupied shelters.”

The audit team asked Soliman to order her field officers not to release the cash assistance until the relocation sites were already available.

“Supervise and monitor the proper implementation of the [housing] program to enable the completion and proper utilization of core shelter units,” the COA said.

“In the case of unfinished/unconstructed units reported in current/prior years, demand from [local government units] concerned [that they] comply with their obligations as agreed upon in the MOA (memorandum of agreement) with the DSWD,” it added.

In its scrutiny of the P449.4 million in trust funds for Sendong victims, the audit agency found out that P3 million was used for the construction of the Disaster Relief Operation building, also called the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) building.

“The construction of [the] CIU building was not one of the prioritized items identified in the notice of transfer of funds,” the COA said.

It reminded the DSWD that the financial aid for the victims was intended “purely and solely for the welfare of the immediate victims.”

“[U]sing such fund for the construction of the CIU building, which generally caters not only to the direct victims but to anybody under crisis situation, is contrary to the purpose of the creation of trust funds,” it added.

While it noted the CIU building’s importance in providing psychosocial help to residents in times of crisis, the COA said the construction of the building may be done using other funds.

Unreleased funds

As of Dec. 31, 2013, or more than two years after Sendong ravaged several provinces in Mindanao, the COA said only P346.895 million, or 77 percent of the budget, had been released.

In its report, the COA called the attention of the DSWD to its failure to properly report the use of P1.815 billion in DAP funds released to the department.

In July, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the savings-impounding mechanism introduced by the Aquino administration to bankroll several big-ticket projects, such as road construction in the provinces.

State auditors said P1.315 billion of the DSWD’s DAP funds went to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for its government internship program, while P500 million was transferred to the Commission on Higher Education for its cash assistance program for students of state universities and colleges.

“To date, the amounts remained unliquidated without any recorded liquidation to document disbursements of the funds transferred,” the COA said.

It said more than P110 million of the department’s DAP allocation was used for 108 daycare centers built by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and for the “cash-for-work” program for the construction of 100 housing units.


FROM ABS-CBN

PNoy watches 'Praybeyt Benjamin 2' ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 12/25/2014 3:54 PM

MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III made sure to watch the movie of his nephew, Bimby Aquino-Yap, during the opening day of the Metro Manila Film Festival on Thursday.

Along with Kris Aquino, his three other sisters, nieces and nephews, the President watched “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin” at SM Megamall on Christmas Day to show his support for his youngest sister's son.

Also present during the block screening were Vice Ganda, Richard Yap and his wife, comedian’s Pooh and Pokwang, Coco Martin, Erich Gonzales and news anchor Anthony Taberna.

The block screening was also graced by Bimby’s father James Yap, who had to change his flight to Escalante, Negros Occidental just to catch his son’s movie on its opening day.

Yap was with his girlfriend Michella Cazzola.

Aside from “The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin,” the President is also set to watch Kris’ movie “Feng Shui 2.” Both movies are Star Cinema’s official entries to this year’s MMFF.

Below are some of the photos from the "The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin 2" block screening.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Night at the movies December 27, 2014 Share this:


President Aquino chills out with sister Kris and nephews Joshua and Bimby while waiting for the start of ‘Feng Shui 2,’ which is one of the entries in the Metro Manila Film Festival, at a Manila mall theater on Christmas Day. (Malacanang Photo Bureau)


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Noy calls pork-filled 2015 budget product of reforms Written by Joshua L. Labonera Wednesday, 24 December 2014 00:00


NOY

President Aquino called the 2015 budget he signed yesterday as the product of his administration’s reform agenda, saying that it is the People’s Budget but which watchdog groups tagged as being filled with lumpsums and discretionary funds for Aquino.

In a speech after the signing of the P2.6-trillion budget, Aquino said “while we have taken the course towards helping each other and we celebrate the victories we achieve, I am sure that those who are used to abusing public money are grieving.”

“As a result of our policy on just use of public money, those who are used to the corrupt ways using money that are not theirs. We will continue to instill fear and give them sorrow, we will not stop in running after the corrupt and make them accountable,” Aquino said.

Contrary to Aquino’s claims, however, the budget included a redefinition of savings that critics said was meant to undermine the Supreme Court’s decision last July declaring Palace acts creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

Republic Act 10651, also known as the 2015 national spending plan, has also been approved by Aquino during the signing of the 2015 GAA at Malacañang. The statute allows the executive branch to declare certain portions or balances in the 2015 budget that have not been obligated as savings, following conditions set by Congress.

In his speech, Aquino defended the budget, claiming it is free of pork, claiming safeguards were set up to ensure that public funds will not end up in the pockets of government officials.
In the SC’s ruling on the DAP, the Aquino expressed disdain over the SC decision that declared the schemes that led to its creation as unconstitutional such as the processes in declaring unreleased and unobligated funds as savings, since funds pooled under the DAP are for projects that have not yet been completed or were discontinued.

GAAs from 2011 to 2013, when the DAP was implemented, defined savings as funds that are “still available after the completion, or final discontinuance, or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the appropriation is authorized.”

The Chief Executive said that the 2015 budget requires government agencies to submit reports to Congress on how they spent their respective allocations, warning of sanctions for those who will not be able to follow the process.

Aquino added the removal of the special allotment release orders (SAROs) for the disbursement of funds had sped up the provision of public money to government projects.
“We hastened the process of budgeting. The need for SARO had been reduced. In signing, it is as good as released to the agency. We will clean up and clarify the process so as to narrow the space for corruption,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, Aquino boasted of having passed the budget on time for five consecutive years under his helm, with Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, the mastermind behind the creation of the unconstitutional DAP, backing the President’s claims.

The President geared his statements on the notion that using reenacted budgets only results in the exploitation of public funds for corrupt practiceds.

“For the fifth year in a row, we have passed the budget on the right time. It means that every year of our service, we did our responsibility,” Aquino said.

In a statement issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Abad said the approval of the 2015 budget was “historical.”

“This GAA signing is likewise of historical note. Not since democracy was restored in 1986 has the government enacted the National Budget on time for five years straight. When the administration began, our aim was to establish a tradition of promptness in the signing of the GAA, so that our agencies can also ensure the swift delivery of public goods and services,” Abad said.
“Now that we’ve entered our fifth year of enacting the budget on time, I can confidently say that we’ve succeeded in putting such a tradition in place,” he continued.

The budget secretary said that the immediacy of the GAA’s signing for 2015 will pave the way for inclusive growth.

“We are at the doorstep of the administration’s penultimate year, and the GAA duly reflects President Aquino’s development priorities for 2015. We’re pouring even more investments into the administration’s anti-poverty and economic growth programs, as well as strengthening governance reforms we’ve helmed so far,” Abad added.

Aquino has also signed the P22-billion supplemental budget for 2014, which critics claimed to have also been infested with funds from the DAP and the PDAF. The President said the supplemental budget will cover projects that had no more funding due to adverse SC rulings against the PDAF.

“When we fell in line with the call of the people to remove the PDAF from our budget, we have removed the whole that abuses the system. Together with it, there are projects delayed, services cut, and liabilities unpaid,” Aquino said.

It was not the initiative of Aquino that removed the PDAF, however, since it took an SC decision that branded it unconstitutional that led to the removal of the legislative pork barrel.

Aquino in fact contested the SC decision saying that PDAF is not itself bad but only the abuse of its use.

“Of course, we cannot let our countrymen suffer that we have already given attention to,” he added.

The supplemental budget also contained P10 billion for rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated last year by typhoon Yolanda.


TRIBUNE Editorial

Editorial: Ping’s master stroke
Written by Tribune Editorial Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print 4 comments

One of the exceptional traits of Ping Lacson is knowing when is the best time to change course which is when trouble is brewing.

The role he had taken as Rehabilitation czar was filled with controversy as several personalities, primarily those within the close circle of Noynoy, had sought to squeeze the publicity juice out of the misery from the situation in the several Visayas provinces struck by typhoon “Yolanda” last year.

Of course, Ping collected political brownies from the stint as secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) but as he said the post had already served its purpose.

Criticisms are mounting on the slow pace of the rehabilitation process and on the first year that marked the tragedy, victims of Yolanda held protests both in Manila and in Tacloban City due to the absence of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for the victims of the typhoon.

Farmers and fishermen protested in Tacloban City calling on the government to provide more homes and jobs while protesters accused the administration of Noynoy of diverting aid and reconstruction funds.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) released a report last September saying at least P700 million in donations was unused.

In a Special Audit Report, the CoA noted that the government had received about P70 million from local sources, and $15 million, or P669 million, from foreign donors as of Dec. 31, 2013.
Of the P740 million, only P3.8 million has been used, leaving P736 million unused, it noted.

The money has been under the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

DSWD head Dinky Soliman tossed the blame to local government units where she claimed to have transferred the funds but remained unused.

The CoA report, however, clearly showed the money still with the DSWD.

These are donations which are separate from the government allocations for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Yolanda devastated areas which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said had reached a total of P52 billion thus far.

The reconstruction work started with the construction of costly bunk houses that mostly flew with the strong winds of typhoon “Ruby” which hit the country a year after.

The focus on the plight of the Yolanda victims will again be expected to be on the world’s focus when Pope Francis visits Tacloban City and other Visayas provinces next month.

Even if Ping’s irrevocable resignation takes effect in February, he would have safely insulated himself from much of the criticisms since most of his functions would have been transferred to another agency, mainly the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) during the Pope’s visit.

With an election coming in 2016, where Ping may also throw in his hat, the political wranglings involving the state of the reconstruction efforts are also expected to heighten.

It was also a credit to the political acumen of Ping to have mostly deflected the blame for the slow pace of development in the Yolanda rehabilitation process despite his being considered to be on top of the government-led eFROM PRESIDENTIAL WEBSITE


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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