HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEKEND ...

MORE RAGE AGAINST 'INSENSITIVE' PNoy 

NETIZENS were not the only ones dismayed over President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s decision to attend a wedding party while Typhoon Seniang battered the Visayas and Mindanao. Dante Jimenez, chairperson of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), on Friday said Aquino’s showing up at the wedding of actors Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera on December 30 was further proof of the President’s insensitivity. According to Jimenez, the President should be held liable for conduct unbecoming a public official after he chose to party with select people than attend to the needs of thousands of calamity victims. “We have a very insensitive President who relies on the popularity of her actress-sister,” the VACC leader said, referring to Aquino’s sister Kris. Political analyst Professor Roland Simbulan also expressed disappointment over the President’s actions. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Seniang evacuees without water, power, food for days

JAN 3 ---Residents cross a flooded street in front of the Capiz public market yesterday. BUTUAN CITY, Philippines – Over 4,000 people still staying in various evacuation centers in this city due to Tropical Storm Seniang disclosed yesterday that they had no food, water and power supply for three days, prompting them to vent their ire through social media. Evacuees at the Agusan National High School here said they experienced lack of food, water and electricity from Dec. 28 to 31. Jun Ytem, a resident of Barangay Golden Ribbon, slammed Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr., who he said did not even show up at the evacuation center to console the evacuees who lost their homes and properties due to heavy flooding. “In our first three days at the evacuation center when we didn’t have water supply, we used floodwaters to wash our hands and to clean toilets. There were even times that we used it for bathing,” Ytem said. “Worse, we also suffered hunger because relief goods were delivered late, plus there was also no power supply,” he added. He said that unlike Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who inspects the condition of evacuees, local officials were not seen visiting evacuation centers in Butuan City. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: LGUs affected by Seniang adequately warned – Palace 

PHOTO: SENIANG RESCUERS ---Malacañang yesterday defended the government’s preparations and response to Tropical Storm Seniang while assuring it would continue to invest in strengthening frontline agencies to effectively mitigate the impact of disasters and calamities. Reports quoted some local officials and victims in the Visayas as saying they did not get advance warning on Seniang and that the basic needs of the evacuees were not being addressed. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they were aware of such reports and stressed the national government had been ready to help the victims, and in fact monitored the actions of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council from the time Seniang was spotted as a low-pressure area. Valte said the NDRRMC issued a warning on Dec. 26, which was repeated on the subsequent days so that the regional and local disaster and risk management councils could prepare and implement preemptive evacuation first and foremost. She said there was a summary of reports published by the NDRRMC on its website and which were sent to the local governments concerned. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: ‘Seniang’ evacuees start to return home - Palace 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said that a large number of evacuees of tropical storm “Seniang” have started to go home as the weather improved.The DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman thanked social workers and volunteers who managed the evacuation centers even during the New Year celebration.The department said that it already provided more than P17.747 million worth of assistance for the families affected by tropical storm Seniang.According to DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman, the assistance was extended to Regions 4-B, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and Caraga.As of Thursday (Jan. 1, 2015), 268 evacuation centers were still open and temporarily sheltering a total 24,477 affected families or 97,883 persons.These families are being provided with food packs and other non-food items, Soliman said. It may be recalled that total of 648 evacuation centers were opened at the height of Seniang. She said with the improved weather condition, the large number of evacuees have started to go home. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Noy ready to discuss graft fight, uplifting poor with Pope during Papal visit, says Malacañang 

President Aquino is ready to tackle the administration’s efforts to stamp out corruption and uplift the poor when he meets with Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit in the middle of this month, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that while it would be speculative to talk about the issues that Aquino and the pope would discuss, administration officials were aware of the pope’s advocacies, most especially his concern for the poor. He said the pope had spoken out strongly against corruption even in one of the institutions under the Vatican’s supervision. TRAD FULL REPORT...

ALSO: ‘DND misused relief fund’; COA says huge part spent for AFP oil, repairs, etc.

PHOTO: THE DEPARTMENT of National Defense headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. WIKIMAPIA.ORG MANILA, Philippines–A “huge portion” of the P352.5 million in emergency funding of the Department of National Defense in 2013 had been misused by the military, which spent money meant to help victims of natural disasters to pay for its fuel consumption and repairs of its offices, state auditors have discovered. According to the Commission on Audit (COA), P843.5 million in Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the DND had also remained unliquidated since 2012. Answering the findings of the COA, the defense department maintained that the emergency fund was “utilized for the purpose it was released to DND.”  In its periodic audit, the COA found out that a number of projects under the DND’s emergency fund had yet to be completed by its attached units despite the release of the budget. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO After COA audit: DND ready to address 'misused' relief funds

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) is prepared to address questions raised by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the military's supposed misuse of funds earmarked for relief and rescue operations, a Palace official said Saturday.Abigal Valte, a spokesperson of President Benigno Aquino III, said that the agency has explanations for audit findings that it spent much of its Quick Response Fund for fuel expenses and building repairs. READ FULL REPORT...

YOU GUESS: 2 CLOSE FRIENDS DURING THE 1986 EDSA....

YES indeed! Lawyer and activist Jejomar Binay (left) confers with Benigno "Noy-noy" Aquino III, son of martyred Ninoy Aquino, at the height of the People Power Revolution in 1986. OVP
 


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

More rage against ‘insensitive’ PNoy

MANILA, JANUARY 5, 2015 (MANILA TIMES) January 2, 2015 11:26 pm by JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA REPORTER AND JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER

NETIZENS were not the only ones dismayed over President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s decision to attend a wedding party while Typhoon Seniang battered the Visayas and Mindanao.

Dante Jimenez, chairperson of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), on Friday said Aquino’s showing up at the wedding of actors Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera on December 30 was further proof of the President’s insensitivity.

According to Jimenez, the President should be held liable for conduct unbecoming a public official after he chose to party with select people than attend to the needs of thousands of calamity victims.

“We have a very insensitive President who relies on the popularity of her actress-sister,” the VACC leader said, referring to Aquino’s sister Kris.

Political analyst Professor Roland Simbulan also expressed disappointment over the President’s actions.

Seniang left 54 people dead and 40 injured, based on the latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

At least half a million people from seven regions were affected by the storm that also left damage to agriculture estimated at P4.9 billion.
But another political analyst, Ramon Casiple, came to the President’s defense.

Aquino should not be faulted for attending the wedding at the height of the storm since he is not part of the first responders, which is the job of local government units (LGUs), Casiple said.

He added that the President might also be monitoring the situation in the affected areas while he was at the wedding.

But Jimenez insisted that while it is true that Aquino is not part of the first responders, he should be with, if not, in contact with the people in distress.

“To be publicly seen in an extravagant wedding of actors and watch movies of your nephew and sister are signs of hypocrisy and insensitiveness of a leader,” he said.

At the time the typhoon was battering the Visayas and Mindanao, the President went out to watch a movie with his nephews Joshua and Bimby, children of sister Kris, who had joined them.

In a text message to The Manila Times, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the accusations against the President were “illogical.”

Aquino’s top priority was the safety of affected residents in Western, Eastern and Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Eastern Luzon, Coloma said.

“There is no logic to the accusation,” he added.

The Manila Times reported also on Friday that netizens lambasted Aquino for partying with celebrities while Typhoon Seniang destroyed houses and leveled farms.

Memes of Aquino with newly-wed Dantes and Rivera and the people affected by the typhoon were circulated in the Internet, drawing negative comments from netizens.

“So it is more important for the President to attend the royal wedding [really now!] of Dingdong and Marian than attend to what was happening in the Visayas and Mindanao reeling from Seniang.

That’s terrific leadership! That’s the President. Bravo!” said a netizen in his Facebook account.

Another said: “I hope that the President filled himself up at the royal-wedding reception even as people affected by Seniang went hungry.”

In his twitter account, Tonyo Cruz said: “Visited a gun store, a house in Boston, Jollibee Singapore, GGV, a ‘royal wedding’ but did not visit Tacloban.”

Militant youth group Anakbayan also posted memes of Aquino in “happy moments” with the celebrity couple and the typhoon victims.

Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo lambasted the President for being insensitive for partying while some provinces are being pummeled by Seniang.

He said Aquino, being the head of state, should have given priority to monitoring and directing disaster-mitigating efforts instead of merrymaking.


FROM PHILSTAR

Seniang evacuees without water, power, food for days By Ben Serrano (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


Residents cross a flooded street in front of the Capiz public market yesterday.

BUTUAN CITY, Philippines – Over 4,000 people still staying in various evacuation centers in this city due to Tropical Storm Seniang disclosed yesterday that they had no food, water and power supply for three days, prompting them to vent their ire through social media.

Evacuees at the Agusan National High School here said they experienced lack of food, water and electricity from Dec. 28 to 31.

Jun Ytem, a resident of Barangay Golden Ribbon, slammed Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr., who he said did not even show up at the evacuation center to console the evacuees who lost their homes and properties due to heavy flooding.

“In our first three days at the evacuation center when we didn’t have water supply, we used floodwaters to wash our hands and to clean toilets. There were even times that we used it for bathing,” Ytem said.

“Worse, we also suffered hunger because relief goods were delivered late, plus there was also no power supply,” he added.

He said that unlike Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who inspects the condition of evacuees, local officials were not seen visiting evacuation centers in Butuan City.

Another evacuee, Buddy Samonte from Barangay Buhangin, said he had to use rainwater to wash clothes and dishes.

Both Ytem and Samonte said that they had to cook and prepare their own food in the center, so they also had to buy their own firewood.

Meanwhile, Rizell Calabio, another evacuee, complained that insufficient food was given to her and her relatives.

Calabio said they were only given five packs of instant noodles, five small canned sardines and five sachets of coffee.

Calabio’s sentiments were echoed by her fellow evacuees Melly Campos and Maritess Belano.

“We were forced to make rice porridge and divide the small sachet of coffee into three servings that we could no longer taste it,” Calabio said.

Complaints on social media

Evacuees have aired their complaints on social media in an effort to draw attention to their miserable plight.

The evacuees posted their complaints on the Facebook account of Butuan Global Forum Inc.

But the non-government organization Butuan Global Forum Inc. said that the statements posted on its Facebook account were only the opinions of the complainants.

It said the group’s Facebook account is a forum on the situation of Butuanons from around the world.

Official death toll still at 54

The official death toll from Seniang in the Visayas and Mindanao has remained at 54 even as the number of typhoon-related deaths is nearing the 70 mark, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

As of yesterday, reports from the regional offices of the Office of Civil Defense have recorded 39 deaths in Eastern Samar and Leyte, mostly due to landslides.

Nineteen deaths were also recorded in Central Visayas while one was reported to have drowned in Antique at the height of the storm.

The NDRRMC reported that three persons died in Northern Mindanao – two in Bukidnon, and one from Misamis Oriental; two in Davao region – Compostela Valley; two from Caraga; and one each from Butuan City and Agusan del Norte.

When combined, the total death count from Seniang as of yesterday afternoon has risen to 68.

The NDRRMC also reported that seven persons are still missing from widespread flooding, series of landslides and maritime disasters in the storm-affected regions in the Visayas, Mindanao and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) region.

Recording 37 storm-related incidents, the NDRRMC also reported that 105,223 families or 486,894 people were affected by Seniang, which also destroyed some P5 million worth of agricultural crops in Northern Mindanao alone, including Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and Compostela Valley.

The massive storm devastation was largely blamed on the complacency of national and local disaster officials apparently caught unprepared as Seniang was categorized by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration as a mere tropical depression.

Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan of Catbalogan, Eastern, Samar said her city was not even under any storm signal and there were no disaster warnings issued.

For his part, Misamis Oriental Gov. Bambi Emano said casualties could have been avoided had they been advised properly.

But NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator Alexander Pama said information on the possible disastrous effects of Seniang was forwarded to regional and provincial officials and local government units through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“That comes as a surprise to me if that’s her claim. But I haven’t talked to Mayor Uy-Tan so I’d like to get confirmation if indeed they did not receive any warning,” Pama said in a radio interview yesterday.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II also clarified earlier that disaster warnings were issued amid criticisms that the national government was ill-prepared for Seniang. – With Jaime Laude


FROM PHILSTAR

LGUs affected by Seniang adequately warned – Palace By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 4, 2015 - 12:00am 1 1 googleplus1 0


RESCUE: TYPHOON SENIANG

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday defended the government’s preparations and response to Tropical Storm Seniang while assuring it would continue to invest in strengthening frontline agencies to effectively mitigate the impact of disasters and calamities.

Reports quoted some local officials and victims in the Visayas as saying they did not get advance warning on Seniang and that the basic needs of the evacuees were not being addressed.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they were aware of such reports and stressed the national government had been ready to help the victims, and in fact monitored the actions of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council from the time Seniang was spotted as a low-pressure area.

Valte said the NDRRMC issued a warning on Dec. 26, which was repeated on the subsequent days so that the regional and local disaster and risk management councils could prepare and implement preemptive evacuation first and foremost.

She said there was a summary of reports published by the NDRRMC on its website and which were sent to the local governments concerned.

Valte, however, said the government would endeavor to improve further its abilities to deal with disastrous weather disturbances.

According to Valte, this year “also represents the continuation in our journey to become more resilient to climate change.”

“Not only are we continuing to build back better the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda, we have also learned much from the past in preparing for calamities... The whole of government stands with the survivors of these typhoons – from Yolanda to Seniang – and will maximize its efforts to help all those affected,” she said.

Among the government’s major agencies dealing with disasters and forecasting are the NDRRMC, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Valte said among the major thrusts of the government was to increase the yearly budget of these agencies.

In the case of PAGASA, the government has upgraded the agency’s equipment, Valte said.

She said PAGASA received attention from the government, especially on its needs for better weather forecasting.

The DOST, PAGASA’s mother agency, has tried to resolve issues on the allowances of its personnel with the help of the Department of Budget and Management.

Valte said this would show the willingness of the administration to sit down and talk about acceptable solutions to problems involving government personnel.

“We continue to invest in mechanisms that will help them make better tracks or make better predictions,” Valte said.

DOST’s Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH) has been expanded, Valte said, adding that efforts to complete hazard mapping would continue.

The government not only focuses on PAGASA, but is also improving the capability of first responders and rescuers to operate effectively during disasters, Valte said.

The government has also augmented PAGASA’s budget, increasing it from P396.5 million in 2014 to P3.46 billion for 2015, an increase of 526.5 percent.

A large chunk of PAGASA’s 2015 allocation is intended for the purchase of state-of-the-art weather monitoring equipment, Valte pointed out.

The new budget will also go to personnel services of PAGASA.

In 2014, PAGASA had an allocation of P352 million for personnel services; in 2015, the state weather bureau got P434.4 million for personnel services, a 23.4 percent increase.

The country’s weather bureau as well as other government front line agencies once again came under close scrutiny after several major typhoons hit the Philippines in 2014.

Among these weather disturbances were Typhoon Ruby that devastated Eastern Visayas as well as the more recent Seniang that brought massive flooding and landslides in Mindanao and the Visayas regions.

No return

The death toll went up to 55 with Eastern Visayas, particularly Catbalogan City in Samar province, registering the highest casualty count from Seniang.

On Friday, another unidentified dead body was retrieved from the landslide that buried three villages in Barangay Mercedes of Catbalogan.

This brought the total number of fatalities from the area to 21, while another is still missing.

Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan said they might have to relocate the families living there, taking note that the area is prone to landslides during heavy rains.

“They (the evacuees) are no longer allowed to return to their homes as we are relocating them,” Tan said.

She added the roads leading to the villages would be closed.

Tan said all burial expenses of the victims and basic needs of those families relocated to evacuation centers will be shouldered by the local government.

Apart from the 21 dead in Catbalogan City, the Department of Health (DOH) regional office reported 12 fatalities in Tanauan, Mahaplag, Baybay, Palo and Burauen, all in Leyte.

“The storm has also injured at least 22 persons” in Eastern Visayas, said DOH assistant regional director Paula Paz Sydiongco.

In Central Visayas, the death toll rose to 21, with 12 others injured and several missing.

The regional Office of Civil Defense said at least 93 houses were destroyed, displacing some 115 families or 562 individuals in Cebu and Bohol.

Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. pegged the damage in southern Cebu at about P1 billion.

Tribunalo said this figure does not include other towns that have yet submit their assessment reports.

The NDRRMC said 41 people were injured and eight others are still missing from 19 monitored flooding or flashfloods, 16 landslides and three maritime incidents in Southern Tagalog’s Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) region; Bicol Region, Central, Eastern and Western Visayas; Northern Mindanao, Davao and Caraga region, as well as in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM).

However, the figures obtained from regional disaster offices based in Central, Eastern and Western Visayas showed a much higher figure of 68 deaths, with the number of fatalities still expected to rise. – With Ricky Bautista, Jaime Laude


FROM THE TRIBUNE

‘Seniang’ evacuees start to return home - Palace Written by Tribune Wires Saturday, 03 January 2015 00:00

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said that a large number of evacuees of tropical storm “Seniang” have started to go home as the weather improved.

The DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman thanked social workers and volunteers who managed the evacuation centers even during the New Year celebration.

The department said that it already provided more than P17.747 million worth of assistance for the families affected by tropical storm Seniang.

According to DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman, the assistance was extended to Regions 4-B, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and Caraga.

As of Thursday (Jan. 1, 2015), 268 evacuation centers were still open and temporarily sheltering a total 24,477 affected families or 97,883 persons.

These families are being provided with food packs and other non-food items, Soliman said.

It may be recalled that total of 648 evacuation centers were opened at the height of Seniang.

She said with the improved weather condition, the large number of evacuees have started to go home.

Soliman also said that her department will continue to provide the needed relief assistance to Seniang’s survivors through the local government units (LGUs).

In Caraga region, the DSWD-Field Office in the region has already provided 18,475 family food packs worth P7.7 million as augmentation assistance to Agusan del Norte (9,200 food packs), Agusan del Sur (3,375), Surigao del Sur (5,400), and Surigao del Norte with (500).

In Central Visayas, DSWD-Field Office 7 has distributed close to 3,000 family food packs to the towns of Barili (1,917) and Dumanjug (1,000) as of Dec. 30.

DSWD Central Office also sent 1,000 family food packs, some 1,000 pieces of mosquito nets, and 2,000 pieces of malong/blanket to Bohol via C-130 of the Philippine Air Force
yesterday.

The DSWD chief also said that she was thankful for the dedicated social workers and volunteers who managed the evacuation centers even during the new year celebration even that could mean spending new year’s eve away from their respective families in fulfillment of their duties.

These staffs were among those who served for 24/7 to ensure availability of services for the patients, a sacrifice that most social workers or those involve in disaster operations often extend, Soliman said. Meanwhile, the search continues for three missing persons believed to be buried alive by landslide in Mercedes village in Catbalogan City in Samar, the Office of the Civil Defence (OCD) reported.

OCD officials led by assistant regional director Rey Gozon headed to Catbalogan today to assess the needs of the local government unit and rescuers to facilitate rescue efforts.
“We will see what the national government can do to find the three missing persons reportedly buried by landslides on Dec. 30,” Gozon said.

Still missing were Romeo Abarracoso, Jose Cananua, and Amalia Lozada. All are residents of Mercedes village in Samar’s capital city.

As of today, 19 bodies have been retrieved when boulders came down suddenly covering some houses and moving vans loaded with passengers on Dec. 30.

Victims are residents of Mercedes village and van passengers ranging from three to 77 years old. The incident has injured 22 persons.

Heavy rains dumped by Seniang has triggered landslides and flooding in different parts of the region, disrupting New Year festivities.

Death toll has reached over 50. Weather disturbances has badly affected 9,728 families or 49,568 individuals in vulnerable communities.
PNA


FROM PHILSTAR

Noy ready to discuss graft fight, uplifting poor with Pope during Papal visit, says Malacañang  By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 3, 2015 - 12:00am 3 7 googleplus0 0


Workers paint concrete barriers along the route of the papal visit on Roxas Boulevard in Manila yesterday. VAL RODRIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is ready to tackle the administration’s efforts to stamp out corruption and uplift the poor when he meets with Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit in the middle of this month, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that while it would be speculative to talk about the issues that Aquino and the pope would discuss, administration officials were aware of the pope’s advocacies, most especially his concern for the poor.

He said the pope had spoken out strongly against corruption even in one of the institutions under the Vatican’s supervision.

In his message for the New Year, the Pope condemned administrators and criminals in Rome who allegedly pocketed public funds meant to help poor migrants, saying the eternal city needed a “spiritual and moral renewal.”

His defense of the poor has become a trademark of his papacy.

The pope is also strongly against unbridled capitalism as it deprives the less fortunate of opportunities and makes more people poor.

“On the other hand, our government is focusing on the aspect of inclusive growth; how the poor can be included in the flow of prosperity or progress. Those probably are the similar themes,” Coloma said.

As leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Coloma said the pope is expected to exhort the faithful to be in solidarity with the poor.

He said Aquino’s being a product of a Jesuit institution should explain the ease with which the President relates to the advocacies of the pope, who is himself a Jesuit.

“Products of the Jesuit system of education have a strong orientation to serve their fellowmen or being persons for others. That can also be one of the themes of their discussion,” Coloma said.

Coloma said the nation is witness to Aquino’s readiness to discuss pressing social and economic issues even with world leaders.

Coloma also said they are in the thick of preparations for the coming papal visit.

“Even during Christmas and New Year holidays the preparations were continuing,” he said.

He said possible threats and other contingencies were being addressed to ensure the safety of Francis during his five-day visit.

Concrete barriers

Meanwhile, some 23,000 “anti-ober the bakod” concrete barricades would line the route to be taken by the papal convoy around Metro Manila, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said yesterday.

DPWH-National Capital Region (NCR) director Reynaldo Tagudando said the black and white painted concrete barriers would be set up in Rizal Park and along Roxas Boulevard, Kalaw Avenue, Ma. Orosa Street and on EDSA extension all the way to the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Tagudando said that they would also be putting concrete barriers at the back of the Manila Cathedral.

Pope Francis is scheduled to hold an open air mass at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park on Jan. 18 after a meeting with the youth and leaders of other religions at University of Santo Tomas.

He would also celebrate mass for the bishops and the religious community in the morning of Jan. 16 at the Manila Cathedral before proceeding to SM Mall of Asia for the Meeting with the Families.

“In our experience during the papal visit (of then Pope John Paul II) in 1995, there were many people who blocked the papal route. These concrete barriers would be 1.25 meters high since we would put grills on top. This is to make sure that people would not be able to climb over these barriers and obstruct the papal route,” Tagudando said.

Authorities would also be using orange-colored plastic barricades to help maintain order in areas in the papal itinerary.

Not all of the concrete barriers were owned by the DPWH, Tagudando said.

“Some of them were borrowed from our district offices in the NCR as well at the Region 4-A, the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway,” he said. – With Evelyn Macairan


FROM THE INQUIRER

‘DND misused relief fund’ ; COA: Huge part spent for AFP oil, repairs, etc. Marlon Ramos @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:45 AM | Saturday, January 3rd, 2015


THE DEPARTMENT ofNational Defense headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. WIKIMAPIA.ORG

MANILA, Philippines–A “huge portion” of the P352.5 million in emergency funding of the Department of National Defense in 2013 had been misused by the military, which spent money meant to help victims of natural disasters to pay for its fuel consumption and repairs of its offices, state auditors have discovered.

According to the Commission on Audit (COA), P843.5 million in Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the DND had also remained unliquidated since 2012.

Answering the findings of the COA, the defense department maintained that the emergency fund was “utilized for the purpose it was released to DND.”

In its periodic audit, the COA found out that a number of projects under the DND’s emergency fund had yet to be completed by its attached units despite the release of the budget.

It said the DND had spent only P6.65 million, or less than 2 percent of its QRF for 2013, for the purchase of relief items for the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) which left 6,300 people dead and caused unimaginable destruction in the Visayas region that year.

“The year 2013 would have been the opportune time to use the QRF for the purpose it was released due to the various calamities that occurred,” the COA said in a report posted on its website.

“However, the transfer of funds to IAs (implementing agencies) for projects not within the purposes of QRF, the noncompletion of the projects and the minimal liquidation by IAs of the fund transfers, defeat the purpose of the fund,” it added.

As stated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), the COA said the QRF was specifically intended to be used as “a stand-by fund for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs” for residents of communities affected by disasters.

“There are only a few agencies which were appropriated with QRF and these were released to them by virtue of the functions they hold. They are bound by the provisions of the GAA and the elemental purpose of the funds,” it said.

“On the part of DND, (the funds) were released to alleviate the situation and living conditions of calamity victims so that their conditions may be quickly normalized. Though they may use the same for pre-disaster activities, the genuine purpose of the funds should not be disregarded,” the commission stressed.

Among the implementing agencies that received QRF from the DND were the Army, Navy, Air Force, Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), Philippine Military Academy, the Armed Forces Philippines Finance Center and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

“A huge portion of the QRF was transferred to various bureaus under the (DND) for the acquisition of equipment, petroleum, oil and lubricants, training, construction/repairs and improvement which were not all consistent with the purposes of QRF…, thus, defeated the purpose of the fund,” the COA said.

In 2013, it said the DND released nearly P452 million to its attached agencies for the purchase of rescue equipment, but the procurement had not been completed.

The COA said the DND’s agencies spent almost P360.8 million in emergency funding for training programs and for the construction, repairs and renovation of offices.

“(The funds) have not been used for the intended purpose of the QRF,” the COA concluded.

The COA also questioned the transfer of nearly P36 million to the OCD, saying the DND’s action did not appear “to be appropriate since the relief and rehabilitation activities supposed to be funded out of QRF are not included among the functions of OCD.”

“Moreover, (the) OCD was already allocated with QRF under (its annual budget),” the COA said.

In addition, the COA auditors raised doubts if the AFP Finance Center had spent its QRF allocation of P21.1 million on relief and rehabilitation, pointing out that no liquidation documents had been submitted so far.

DND defends program

“The DND embarked on a program that would ensure that the capacity of its bureaus, most especially the AFP, the first responders in disaster response operations, and the OCD, tasked with administering a comprehensive national defense and disaster risk reduction and management program, are enhanced,” the department said.

It argued that the requirement for the use of QRF, like the submission of budget preparation forms and monthly cash programming, was “contradictory” to the purpose of the emergency fund since calamities were “totally unpredictable.”

The DND also claimed that the liquidation of the transferred funds “limits what can be utilized in preparation for, during and after the occurrence of such emergencies” because such situation may happen just days after the other.

“Realistically, the preparation of a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation plan/programs should come after the postdisaster needs assessment conducted by the OCD, in consultation with (local officials) and other stakeholders. This takes time, sometimes too long for communities already in need of immediate assistance,” the DND said.

Despite this, the defense department vowed that it would observe “due diligence in the utilization of the QRF and shall comply with the instructions on the strict monitoring of the projects and liquidation of fund transfers.”

Early planning needed

The COA, however, reiterated that the “preparation of the plans/programs for relief and rehabilitation does not have to be done after the disaster.”

“Activities for the QRF allotted each year should have been planned even before the occurrence of disaster to ensure that the needed assistance can be delivered to calamity victims,” it said.

The COA also urged the DND to come up with a program of expenditures for the QRF, including relief and rehabilitation programs to help victims of natural disasters.

The agency asked the DND to “closely monitor and direct the IAs to expedite the implementation and completion of the projects in order that these projects can be used to alleviate the difficulties of victims and assistance can be readily extended when needed.”


FROM PHILSTAR

DND ready to address 'misused' relief funds (philstar.com) | Updated January 3, 2015 - 3:54pm 4 49 googleplus0 0


Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) is prepared to address questions raised by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the military's supposed misuse of funds earmarked for relief and rescue operations, a Palace official said Saturday.

Abigal Valte, a spokesperson of President Benigno Aquino III, said that the agency has explanations for audit findings that it spent much of its Quick Response Fund for fuel expenses and building repairs.

"Kausap natin kanina ang DND ... at handa po silang sumagot at handa po silang magbigay ng kanilang mga appropriate response doon sa mga audit observations na ni-raise ng COA sa kanilang 2013 report," Valte said in an interview on state-run DZRB Radyo ng Bayan.

"Confident po tayo na the DND would be able to address the observation raised by COA," she added.

A 2013 report released by COA indicated that the DND transferred funds to implementing agencies for projects "not within the purpose" of the emergency funding.

"The year 2013 would have been the opportune time to use the QRF for the purpose it was released due to the various calamities that occurred," state auditors said in the report.

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