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NOY'S CORNER THIS PAST WEEK...
(MINI-READS followed by FULL REPORTS below)

LUISITA FARMERS YET TO BE PAID P1.3 BILLION BY NOY's FAMILY


NOVEMBER 4 -AQUINO The peasant group insists for the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita reminding Delos Reyes that President Aquino’s family still owe the farmworkers P1.3 billion and has eluded payment for the Central Bank-guaranteed loan in their acquisition of the hacienda from Tabacalera. Not a single centavo has been paid to more than 6,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in the estate formerly owned by the family of President Aquino in Tarlac province, five years after the Supreme Court ordered Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to pay them P1.3 billion from the sale of 580.51 hectares there. The Inquirer confirmed the delay in payments from parties involved in the transaction: HLI, farm worker leader Noel Mallari, supervisor Windsor Andaya, and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala). The amounts will come from assets acquired by HLI and its subsidiary, Centenary Holdings Inc., from the sale of estate land. But these will be released only at the conclusion of a special audit of these assets that the Supreme Court requires. Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said the high court was resolving a motion for clarification pertaining to the procedures of the audit. The petition was filed by Navarro Amper & Co., a partner of Deloitte, one of the three auditing firms the Supreme Court appointed in January 2014. Ambala has blamed the delay on HLI, which supposedly appealed to replace Deloitte. But lawyer Antonio Ligon, HLI spokesperson, said the company did not file any motion excluding Deloitte. “The choice of Deloitte [was made] through the court. Per record, it was Deloitte that filed a clarification. As to the content of the motion, we are not privy [to the details] because HLI has no control over the choice of auditor,” Ligon said. A notice issued by the Supreme Court about the special audit panel showed that HLI had recommended 10 auditing firms, including Deloitte, through its local partner, Navarro Amper & Co. The auditors were given 90 days to complete their task. The high court ordered the special audit in a resolution dated Nov. 22, 2011. It also restated its July 5, 2011, decision to uphold the cancellation of the stock distribution option (SDO) began in 1989, as ordered in 2005 by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC). Instead of the SDO, the PARC had directed the distribution of lands to the more than 6,000 stockholders among farm workers. Asked if the court had received any audit findings, lawyer Theodore Te, assistant court administrator and chief of the Supreme Court’s public information office, said in a text message: “The case is pending so it’s not information that is immediately accessible.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace vows no 'laglag-bala' on APEC delegates


NOVEMBER 4 -A passenger had his luggage wrapped with plastic as a countermeasure to the alleged "laglag-bala" extortion scheme of airport authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV
Malacañang assured on Wednesday that the delegates for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings will not fall victim to the alleged bullet-planting scam.
In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said courtesy immigration lanes will be opened for the visiting APEC delegates this month. Valte said the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Manila International Airport Authority, the Office for Transportation Security and the Philippine National Police are also coming up with measures to end the alleged extortion scheme in the country's airports. She said the government is addressing the problem not just because the country will be having visitors from 20 other APEC member states. "The government action on the bullet situation or the incidents regarding loose ammunition in the airport is a reaction not because we're having visitors but because we have citizens who have complained of being victims of alleged extortionists," Valte said. "The concern is not because they are APEC delegates but for every person who passes through that airport. So those procedures should be tweaked, fixed, improved so a single person will not have to be subjected to extortion or to an unfair accusation," she added. READ MORE...

ALSO By Babe Romualdez APEC Summit: A nightmare for Metro Manila residents


NOVEMBER 3 -Babe Romualdez  Over 350 flights – both domestic and international – have been cancelled from Nov. 15 to 20 due to the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit with up to 21 global leaders expected to attend. Much earlier, the Department of Transportation and Communications had already “advised” the Philippine flag carriers about periodic runway restrictions that would be imposed for the duration of the summit as part of the tight security. The flight cancellations are attempts to prevent “Airmageddon” considering the congestion that is already being experienced at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, exacerbated by unpredictable weather conditions that also cause flight delays – much to the chagrin of passengers like the ones who found themselves stranded for 10 hours when their Etihad plane had to be diverted to Clark International Airport because the aircraft was running out of fuel as it hovered in the air waiting for its turn to land at NAIA. Traffic rerouting schemes will also be implemented along major roads, with express/VIP lanes to be accessible to APEC participants alone. To avoid the occurrence of “Carmageddon,” Malacañang is encouraging Metro Manila residents to go out of town or just take a “staycation.” Many who have booked flights as early as July when the president announced that Nov. 18 and 19 would be non-working holidays were dismayed to find the earlier announcement had been revoked – because it means those days will be taken out of their leave credits. Worse, the flight cancellations have wreaked havoc on the holiday plans of many obviously because planes won’t be flying to their destinations. So just how Malacañang expects people to fly out of Metro Manila is the big question. No private planes or helicopters will be allowed to fly within Metro Manila. Political candidates will have to take a break or travel by car but the ensuing traffic hassle because of all the re-routings could prove to be nightmarish with truck drivers also traversing the alternate routes taken by private vehicles. People already had a taste of what it could be like last Friday when a dry-run was conducted to test the security preparations for the summit. According to reports, thousands will be deployed to ensure the security of the delegates, and the MMDA alone is deploying 2,500 emergency and traffic personnel for the duration of the APEC. One other option, however, is for people to have a “staycation” in hotels in the Metro, but all the good ones are now mostly fully booked by APEC delegates estimated at 7,000 – excluding the security personnel, the assistants and media teams from the participating countries. Besides, people will not want to be closeted inside their hotel rooms the whole time so they will still go out to “gimmick” places, which means they would still have to brave the traffic. READ MORE...

ALSO: UN Advises all its Personnel who have to use NAIA to Secure Their Luggage
[Philippine Labor secretary said she was disappointed over the numerous incidents in which overseas workers were victimized by the racket. “Don’t leave your luggage. Don’t keep them away from your view. Better still, inventory the contents of your luggage before you leave for the airport and keep this inventory with you. Show them to the authorities if necessary before they check or screen your luggage,” Baldoz said.]


NOVEMBER 8 -Controversial airport. A traveler retrieves her luggage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where workers of the Office of Transportation Security face investigation as a result of a bullet scam that has victimized many travelers and given the country a bad press abroad. Eric Apolonio
THE United Nations has advised all its personnel who have to use airports in the Philippines to secure their luggage amid fears of a scam in which bullets are planted in travelers’ bags as part of an extortion racket.
The advisory was first reported by Floyd Whaley, a senior correspondent of The New York Times, in his Twitter account. “United Nations advises staff using Manila airport to ‘keep your luggage with you, lock your luggage, and consider wrapping your luggage,’” Whaley said in his tweet. Whaley eventually posted a copy of the internal memo from the UN Department of Safety and Security (undss.radioroom@undp.org) with the subject “SECURITY ADVISORY: Naia-Bullets in luggage.”  “Officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport [Naia] are allegedly slipping bullets into passengers’ bags and then trying to extort money from them when bullets are ‘found’ by security. Surveillance at the airport has been stepped up since the complaints began and an investigation has been launched into the personnel accused of involvement. Staff members are advised to keep your luggage with you, lock your luggage, and consider wrapping your luggage in plastic as an extra security measure,” the memo reads. Teresa Debuque, national information officer of the UN Information Center Manila, confirmed receiving an internal note from the UNDSS Tuesday morning. “There is an internal note, but the details are meant only for UN staff and are not meant to be circulated to the public,” Debuque said. President Benigno Aquino III has ordered an investigation into the scam, which has been picked up by international media organizations such as the BBC and Time magazine. Data from the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group showed the number of passengers apprehended with bullets in their luggage has shot up 775 percent this year, from only 12 incidents in 2014 to 105 cases from January to November this year. Supt. Jeanne Panisan of the PNP Aviation Security Group attributed the spike not to an extortion racket at the airport but to “tighter security screening.” This year’s figure is the highest recorded in four years, with only 20 passengers apprehended in 2012 and 21 passengers in 2013. Panisan said the arrests this year yielded 514 bullets, 24 magazines, 20 firearms, 139 accessories or parts of firearms, and 20 replicas. On Tuesday, the Department of Labor and Employment cautioned departing overseas Filipino workers to guard their personal belongings from unscrupulous airport personnel. The Labor secretary said the best way to avoid being victimized is for passengers to be always watchful of their luggage, and not allowing anyone to touch it. “I urge airline passengers, OFWs particularly, to be alert, careful, and vigilant with regards their luggage,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement. READ MORE...

ALSO: Youth group labeled Aquino, ‘Disaster President’ 
[PNOY draws flat over neglect of ‘YOLANDA’ SURVIVORS. “The continuing neglect for the welfare of victims of Yolanda shows the heartlessness of the Aquino ‘tuwid na daan [straight path]’ government,” he said, noting that the government allowed aid donations to sit idle in trust accounts while disaster victims begged for assistance. The Commission on Audit discovered at least P382 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims kept idle and locked in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s bank accounts while P923 million were kept idle in the bank accounts of the Office of Civil Defense.]


NOVEMBER 6 -SCORING the government’s “criminal neglect, corruption and exploitation of typhoon victims,” a youth group labeled the Aquino administration a “disaster government” as the nation marked the second anniversary of one of the biggest disasters to strike the country.“It has been two years now after Yolanda, but the people are suffering from the bigger disaster that is the Aquino government,” Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said as he and other activists lit candles to remember the estimated 7,000 people killed by the typhoon that hit Luzon on Nov. 8, 2013.
“Instead of helping the victims, the government pocketed the funds allotted for the victims and paved the way for private contractors and big businesses to profit from the misery of our kababayan,” Crisostomo said, noting that the official death toll 6,340 with 1,061 others still missing. “The continuing neglect for the welfare of victims of Yolanda shows the heartlessness of the Aquino ‘tuwid na daan [straight path]’ government,” he said, noting that the government allowed aid donations to sit idle in trust accounts while disaster victims begged for assistance. The Commission on Audit discovered at least P382 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims kept idle and locked in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s bank accounts while P923 million were kept idle in the bank accounts of the Office of Civil Defense. Recently, the government admitted that funds for Yolanda victims have been kept idle in bank accounts and have yet to be released like the P18-billion “emergency shelter assistance” funds. “The failed Yolanda rehabilitation, aimed to benefit big business and corrupt bureaucrats, is proof of the failure of the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation]-type model of ‘disaster management’ and ‘disaster resiliency.’ Is this what they are set to adopt for the region?” he asked. “Biktima na nga, binibiktima pa ulit. Hindi na nga tinulungan, ginagamit pa [Victims are being victimized again. They got no help and yet they are being used],” Crisostomo said, stressing that Aquino and [then Interior Secretary Mar] Roxas “should be jailed for their crimes.” Senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, whose district includes the regional center of Tacloban City which was flattened by Yolanda, urged that the Aquino administration immediately release more than P1 billion in disaster funds that have not been released. He said the unused disaster fund amounted to P1.308 billion as of December 2014 and it can still go a long way to ease the suffering of people who had already been victimized by Yolanda. It is unacceptable that the OCD, a calamity agency of the Department of National Defense, could give the “lousy excuse” that it could not release funds for victims because they cannot comply with requirements. “Common sense dictates that people are in dire need of these calamity funds, therefore the OCD should do away with its stringent requirements,” Romualdez said. “I propose to overhaul the present system to address the inefficiencies by making the process keep it short and simple as malasakit [compassion] to the calamity victims,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, added. Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc, had earlier lamented the CoA finding that OCD had a “very low” utilization of calamity funds which include P384.95 million in foreign and local donations and P923 million in quick relief funds, or a total of P1.308 billion, as of December 2014. “By its nature and character, calamity funds need not stay long in bank accounts to earn interest because these are for emergency purposes. We should remove the obstacles so that genuine help will reach the victims of calamity as soon as possible,” Romualdez said. Even government projects that managed to get off the ground are being questioned by the very people the projects are supposed to help. READ MORE...RELATED, 6 more Bodies dug up 2 years later -MAYOR  ROMUALDEZ SAID

ALSO Palace: Aquino fully aware of slow-rebuild in ‘Yolanda’-hit areas


NOVEMBER 7 -Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO
While the government admits the challenges hampering its rehabilitation efforts two years after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) devastated parts of the Visayas region, a Palace spokesperson assured that President Benigno Aquino III remains on top of the situation. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the statement after Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Aquino might be misinformed of the real situation in Yolanda-stricken communities. “Nakakarating po sa Pangulo. Kaya nga po tuwing nagpapatawag ang Pangulo ng ‘Yolanda’ rehabilitation-related meeting, ipinapakita po lahat ng datos at hindi naman po tumitigil lang ang Pangulong Aquino sa datos, at hindi po ‘yan basta-basta tatanggap ng numero kung nakikita niyang mayroong pagkakamali or mayroong pagkukulang,” Valte said in an interview over state-run DZRB radio. (The President is aware of the situation. That’s why whenever he calls for Yolanda rehabilitation-related meetings, and whenever he is presented with the data, he does not immediately accept them if he notices that there are errors or shortcomings.) Valte, however, admitted that the government problems on land acquisition, among others, to help the victims of the supertyphoon regarded as the strongest ever to hit land. READ: Painfully slow rebuild after ‘Yolanda’ | Aquino gov’t ‘bigger disaster’ 2 years after ‘Yolanda’—Anakbayan She said tracts of land that were initially identified by the government for permanent housing of the victims had faced issues on their procurement. READ MORE...

ALSO Binay: Slow rehab a ‘management disaster’
[VP SAYS 51% ACHIEVEMENT IN 2 YEARS NOT ENOUGH; Binay admitted that while President Aquino was not remiss in following up on the funds during Cabinet meetings, the problem with implementation was with those under Aquino. “Why withhold the release of the funds? If you are a decision-maker, you should have priorities. Apparently there was none. The problem was underspending,” Binay said. ]


NOVEMBER 8 -The failure of the Aquino administration to make progress in rebuilding the typhoon “Yolanda”-devastated regions two years after the disaster hit was a “management disaster.” The snail-paced rehabilitation program of the government had brought added miseries to the victims of the typhoon, Binay said in a visit to Tolosa, Leyte on the eve of the second anniversary of the catastrophe that hit the province severely. He said in a speech that efforts to reconstruct the Yolanda-hit areas were “slow and disorganized.”  “They even trumpeted that 51 percent of the rehabilitation efforts were completed. This is a disaster in terms of management,” Binay said. Two years after the catastrophe that killed up to 10,000 individuals in contrast to the government claim of 6,000 who perished only less than 10% of permanent houses have been constructed in Tacloban City, Binay noted. Binay also chided Budget Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) strategist Florencio Abad for using as an excuse for the slow rehabilitation effort the 10 years it took for the United States to recover from Hurricane Katrina. “Should we need to make an excuse the pace of work in other countries? We should show that we can do things faster,” he said. “(Cabinet) Secretary (Jose Rene) Almendras told me that a shouting match ensued on what should be done after the typhoon hit. Nobody stood as a leader at the time it was needed most,” Binay said.
Binay said about the laggard pace in setting up houses for the victims, the National Housing Authority (NHA) which he headed could not immediately address the problem because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) withheld funds. “The explanation is a multiple choice: a) maybe we don’t have money; b) there was money but it was diverted to other agencies like the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government); or c) underspending is really the policy of the administration,” Binay said.
Binay admitted that while President Aquino was not remiss in following up on the funds during Cabinet meetings, the problem with implementation was with those under Aquino. “Why withhold the release of the funds? If you are a decision-maker, you should have priorities. Apparently there was none. The problem was underspending,” Binay said. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Luisita farmers yet to be paid P1.3B by Aquino family


AQUINO The peasant group insists for the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita reminding Delos Reyes that President Aquino’s family still owe the farmworkers P1.3 billion and has eluded payment for the Central Bank-guaranteed loan in their acquisition of the hacienda from Tabacalera.

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, NOVEMBER 9, 2015 (INQUIRER) By: Tonette Orejas @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Central Luzon 01:05 AM November 4th, 2015 —Not a single centavo has been paid to more than 6,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in the estate formerly owned by the family of President Aquino in Tarlac province, five years after the Supreme Court ordered Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to pay them P1.3 billion from the sale of 580.51 hectares there.

The Inquirer confirmed the delay in payments from parties involved in the transaction: HLI, farm worker leader Noel Mallari, supervisor Windsor Andaya, and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).

The amounts will come from assets acquired by HLI and its subsidiary, Centenary Holdings Inc., from the sale of estate land. But these will be released only at the conclusion of a special audit of these assets that the Supreme Court requires.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said the high court was resolving a motion for clarification pertaining to the procedures of the audit. The petition was filed by Navarro Amper & Co., a partner of Deloitte, one of the three auditing firms the Supreme Court appointed in January 2014.

Ambala has blamed the delay on HLI, which supposedly appealed to replace Deloitte. But lawyer Antonio Ligon, HLI spokesperson, said the company did not file any motion excluding Deloitte.

“The choice of Deloitte [was made] through the court. Per record, it was Deloitte that filed a clarification. As to the content of the motion, we are not privy [to the details] because HLI has no control over the choice of auditor,” Ligon said.

A notice issued by the Supreme Court about the special audit panel showed that HLI had recommended 10 auditing firms, including Deloitte, through its local partner, Navarro Amper & Co. The auditors were given 90 days to complete their task.


HACIENDA LUISITA FARMERS

The high court ordered the special audit in a resolution dated Nov. 22, 2011. It also restated its July 5, 2011, decision to uphold the cancellation of the stock distribution option (SDO) began in 1989, as ordered in 2005 by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC).

Instead of the SDO, the PARC had directed the distribution of lands to the more than 6,000 stockholders among farm workers.

Asked if the court had received any audit findings, lawyer Theodore Te, assistant court administrator and chief of the Supreme Court’s public information office, said in a text message: “The case is pending so it’s not information that is immediately accessible.”

READ MORE...

In a report to the high court on April 14, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan for legal affairs said the agency had no further role with respect to the special audit.

Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, which is assisting Ambala, said the sale of Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) by the Cojuangco family to the Lorenzo family in late 2014 could jeopardize the payment of P1.3 billion to farm workers. CAT is not an asset of HLI, Ligon said.

Mallari, president of the Original 1989 Farmworkers Beneficiaries, said the P1.3 billion was a “matter of life and death” to farm workers as they could use the money to plant cash crops other than sugarcane.

“The Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Agriculture have not helped us go into productive farming so many of us are forced to sell the parcels, lease these out, or take out loans. This agrarian reform program is not working,” he said.

Several members of FARM Luisita, another group of tillers in the hacienda, have applied for loans and borrowed equipment from churches, proving that planting corn, vegetables and rice has brought more income than sugarcane growing or leasing out plots.


PHILSTAR COLUMN BY BABE ROMUALDEZ

APEC Summit: A nightmare for Metro Manila residents SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 3, 2015 - 12:00am 4 36 googleplus6 1


By Babe G. Romualdez

 Over 350 flights – both domestic and international – have been cancelled from Nov. 15 to 20 due to the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit with up to 21 global leaders expected to attend. Much earlier, the Department of Transportation and Communications had already “advised” the Philippine flag carriers about periodic runway restrictions that would be imposed for the duration of the summit as part of the tight security.

The flight cancellations are attempts to prevent “Airmageddon” considering the congestion that is already being experienced at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, exacerbated by unpredictable weather conditions that also cause flight delays – much to the chagrin of passengers like the ones who found themselves stranded for 10 hours when their Etihad plane had to be diverted to Clark International Airport because the aircraft was running out of fuel as it hovered in the air waiting for its turn to land at NAIA.

Traffic rerouting schemes will also be implemented along major roads, with express/VIP lanes to be accessible to APEC participants alone. To avoid the occurrence of “Carmageddon,” Malacañang is encouraging Metro Manila residents to go out of town or just take a “staycation.”

Many who have booked flights as early as July when the president announced that Nov. 18 and 19 would be non-working holidays were dismayed to find the earlier announcement had been revoked – because it means those days will be taken out of their leave credits. Worse, the flight cancellations have wreaked havoc on the holiday plans of many obviously because planes won’t be flying to their destinations. So just how Malacañang expects people to fly out of Metro Manila is the big question.

No private planes or helicopters will be allowed to fly within Metro Manila. Political candidates will have to take a break or travel by car but the ensuing traffic hassle because of all the re-routings could prove to be nightmarish with truck drivers also traversing the alternate routes taken by private vehicles. People already had a taste of what it could be like last Friday when a dry-run was conducted to test the security preparations for the summit. According to reports, thousands will be deployed to ensure the security of the delegates, and the MMDA alone is deploying 2,500 emergency and traffic personnel for the duration of the APEC.

One other option, however, is for people to have a “staycation” in hotels in the Metro, but all the good ones are now mostly fully booked by APEC delegates estimated at 7,000 – excluding the security personnel, the assistants and media teams from the participating countries. Besides, people will not want to be closeted inside their hotel rooms the whole time so they will still go out to “gimmick” places, which means they would still have to brave the traffic.

READ MORE...

The APEC will also most likely become one big “jam session” – what with heads of state from countries like the US, Russia, China (although there is no clear indication yet if Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend) that have their own signal jammers as part of their security measures. It can be recalled that during the visit of Pope Francis last January, telcos interrupted their services at certain times as an added security measure because cellphones can be used as detonation devices for bombs and other explosives.

Metro Manila residents: be ready for a six-day nightmare.

El Presidente de Colombia arriving Our friend Jorge “Nene” Araneta, who happens to be the Honorary Consul of Colombia (his wife Stella Marquez is the honorary Chargé d’Affaires), informed us Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has accepted the invitation of President Aquino to be an observer during the APEC Summit, and will be here for three days. It will be the first time a Colombian president visits the Philippines since diplomatic relations were established in 1946.

Both countries have many things in common, among them a shared Spanish heritage. Just like the Philippines, Colombia – which is the third most populous country in Latin America – is the oldest democracy in the region and has been showing steady economic growth. However, one of the major problems the Colombian government has had to face was the illegal drug trade involving powerful drug cartels. But in recent years, the Colombian government has been making a lot of progress as far as the war on drugs is concerned, particularly with the restoration of an extradition agreement with the United States.

In the last several years, over 1,300 drug lords have been sent to the US to face trafficking charges – creating leadership vacuums in these drug cartels and disrupting their operations. In fact, Colombia’s unrelenting efforts to whittle down the drug problem has been getting a lot of notice, prompting Marine Corps General and commander of the US Southern Command General John Kelly to describe the Latin American nation as a “bright shining example” for its unrelenting efforts to curb violence and continue the war on drug trafficking. Certainly, the Philippines can learn a lot from Colombia when it comes to fighting the drug menace.

Tesoros launches Great Women Brand Leading Philippine handicraft store Tesoros celebrates its 70th year by marking another milestone as it partners with the Echosi Foundation to launch the Great Women Brand of fashion accessories and apparel made by urban Filipina artisans in collaboration with women from indigenous/minority groups such as the T’boli and the Bagobo.

Tesoros has been a great supporter of Filipino artisans especially the young ones – a strong advocate of traditional art forms that showcase our proud culture and heritage, seen in such pieces as accent art pillow sets of T’boli t’nalak textiles mixed with digitally printed lithograph, or the Bagobo kinatkat fused into canvas tote bags or fabric bands made by the GWB female designers and collaborators.


PHILSTAR

Palace vows no 'laglag-bala' on APEC delegates By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 4:59pm 0 0 googleplus0 0


A passenger had his luggage wrapped with plastic as a countermeasure to the alleged "laglag-bala" extortion scheme of airport authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang assured on Wednesday that the delegates for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings will not fall victim to the alleged bullet-planting scam.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said courtesy immigration lanes will be opened for the visiting APEC delegates this month.

Valte said the Department of Transportation and Communication, the Manila International Airport Authority, the Office for Transportation Security and the Philippine National Police are also coming up with measures to end the alleged extortion scheme in the country's airports.

She said the government is addressing the problem not just because the country will be having visitors from 20 other APEC member states.

"The government action on the bullet situation or the incidents regarding loose ammunition in the airport is a reaction not because we're having visitors but because we have citizens who have complained of being victims of alleged extortionists," Valte said.

"The concern is not because they are APEC delegates but for every person who passes through that airport. So those procedures should be tweaked, fixed, improved so a single person will not have to be subjected to extortion or to an unfair accusation," she added.

READ MORE...

The Philippines is this year's host of the various APEC meetings that started in Clark, Pampanga in late January. Starting next week, the final meetings will be held in Metro Manila.

The highlight will be the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on November 18 and 19 which is expected to be attended by President Benigno Aquino III and 20 other heads of state.

While claiming that the country is prepared for the upcoming APEC events, Valte said that public cooperation is needed to ensure Manila's successful hosting.

"Humihingi po kami talaga ng pasensya at ng inyong kooperasyon. Tingin ko lahat naman po tayo gugustuhing maidaos nang maayos ng pamahalaan ang darating na APEC Summit at umaasa po tayo sa inyong kooperasyon," she said.

Metro Manila is hosting APEC's biggest event amid increasing reports that authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are extorting money from passengers who are supposedly carrying bullets in their luggage.

The bullets extracted from the passengers' bullets are allegedly planted by the airport authorities themselves, who would intimidate the victims to force them to pay up.


MANILA STANDARD

UN Advises all its Personnel who have to use NAIA to Secure Their Luggage
posted November 04, 2015 at 12:01 am by Joyce Pangco Panares, Vito Barcelo and Rio N. Araja


Controversial airport. A traveler retrieves her luggage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where workers of the Office of Transportation Security face investigation as a result of a bullet scam that has victimized many travelers and given the country a bad press abroad. Eric Apolonio

THE United Nations has advised all its personnel who have to use airports in the Philippines to secure their luggage amid fears of a scam in which bullets are planted in travelers’ bags as part of an extortion racket.

The advisory was first reported by Floyd Whaley, a senior correspondent of The New York Times, in his Twitter account.

“United Nations advises staff using Manila airport to ‘keep your luggage with you, lock your luggage, and consider wrapping your luggage,’” Whaley said in his tweet.

Whaley eventually posted a copy of the internal memo from the UN Department of Safety and Security (undss.radioroom@undp.org) with the subject “SECURITY ADVISORY: Naia-Bullets in luggage.”

“Officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport [Naia] are allegedly slipping bullets into passengers’ bags and then trying to extort money from them when bullets are ‘found’ by security. Surveillance at the airport has been stepped up since the complaints began and an investigation has been launched into the personnel accused of involvement. Staff members are advised to keep your luggage with you, lock your luggage, and consider wrapping your luggage in plastic as an extra security measure,” the memo reads.

Teresa Debuque, national information officer of the UN Information Center Manila, confirmed receiving an internal note from the UNDSS Tuesday morning.

“There is an internal note, but the details are meant only for UN staff and are not meant to be circulated to the public,” Debuque said.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered an investigation into the scam, which has been picked up by international media organizations such as the BBC and Time magazine.

Data from the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group showed the number of passengers apprehended with bullets in their luggage has shot up 775 percent this year, from only 12 incidents in 2014 to 105 cases from January to November this year.

Supt. Jeanne Panisan of the PNP Aviation Security Group attributed the spike not to an extortion racket at the airport but to “tighter security screening.”

This year’s figure is the highest recorded in four years, with only 20 passengers apprehended in 2012 and 21 passengers in 2013.

Panisan said the arrests this year yielded 514 bullets, 24 magazines, 20 firearms, 139 accessories or parts of firearms, and 20 replicas.

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor and Employment cautioned departing overseas Filipino workers to guard their personal belongings from unscrupulous airport personnel.

The Labor secretary said the best way to avoid being victimized is for passengers to be always watchful of their luggage, and not allowing anyone to touch it.

“I urge airline passengers, OFWs particularly, to be alert, careful, and vigilant with regards their luggage,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement.

READ MORE...

“OFWs should hold on to their luggage, or be very close, never away from these, while these are being checked, and report any suspicious activity or movement of airport personnel handling their luggage,” she said.

“Don’t leave your luggage. Don’t keep them away from your view. Better still, inventory the contents of your luggage before you leave for the airport and keep this inventory with you. Show them to the authorities if necessary before they check or screen your luggage,” Baldoz said.

The Labor secretary said she was disappointed over the numerous incidents in which overseas workers were victimized by the racket.

On Tuesday, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption and the Network of Independent Travel Agents filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya Jr., Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado, Office for Transportation Security administrator Roland Recomono and Philippine National Police’s Aviation Security Group director Pablo Francisco Balagtas, over the failure to do anything about the bullet-planting syndicate.

At a news conference in Quezon City, Cayetano, a candidate for vice president, hit the government’s inaction and failure to stop the extortion racket.

“Seven years ago, a journalist had been telling that the laglag-bala extortion was already happening then at the airport,” he said.

He said they filed the complaint against Abaya, Honrado, Recomono and Balagtas for violation of Executive Order 226 of 1995, or neglect of duty under the doctrine of command responsibility, and presumption of knowledge.

“The controversy has become an international issue. The laglag-bala scheme has already come to the knowledge of concerned officials, but they have not done any preventive or corrective measures,” he added.

“The tanim-bala scheme was made public in September, but the government only acted on it and had a meeting just last Monday, or 44 days later. At first, Malacañang said it was just an isolated case,” he said.

He also asked Honrado to explain why his agency was constantly getting a failed bid for the airport’s closed-circuit TV system.

“Public office is a public trust,” he said.

Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chairperson, said they have been receiving numerous complaints of not only the tanim-bala extortion scheme, but also of other bogus arrests.

“Let me emphasize that there is a syndicate out there destroying the reputation of not only our airports but also of our seaports. Most often, victims would just keep silent,” he told the conference.

Jimenez also took a shot at President Benigno Aquino III for his failure to act on the problem sooner.

“We call on President Benigno Aquino III to resign and turn over the power to Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno so that he could concentrate on the 2016 elections. He is a lame duck president,” Jimenez said.


MANILA STANDARD

‘Disaster President’
PNOY draws flat over neglect of ‘YOLANDA’ SURVIVORS
posted November 08, 2015 at 12:01 am by Mel Caspe

SCORING the government’s “criminal neglect, corruption and exploitation of typhoon victims,” a youth group labeled the Aquino administration a “disaster government” as the nation marked the second anniversary of one of the biggest disasters to strike the country.

“It has been two years now after Yolanda, but the people are suffering from the bigger disaster that is the Aquino government,” Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said as he and other activists lit candles to remember the estimated 7,000 people killed by the typhoon that hit Luzon on Nov. 8, 2013.

“Instead of helping the victims, the government pocketed the funds allotted for the victims and paved the way for private contractors and big businesses to profit from the misery of our kababayan,” Crisostomo said, noting that the official death toll 6,340 with 1,061 others still missing.

“The continuing neglect for the welfare of victims of Yolanda shows the heartlessness of the Aquino ‘tuwid na daan [straight path]’ government,” he said, noting that the government allowed aid donations to sit idle in trust accounts while disaster victims begged for assistance.

The Commission on Audit discovered at least P382 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims kept idle and locked in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s bank accounts while P923 million were kept idle in the bank accounts of the Office of Civil Defense.

Recently, the government admitted that funds for Yolanda victims have been kept idle in bank accounts and have yet to be released like the P18-billion “emergency shelter assistance” funds.

“The failed Yolanda rehabilitation, aimed to benefit big business and corrupt bureaucrats, is proof of the failure of the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation]-type model of ‘disaster management’ and ‘disaster resiliency.’ Is this what they are set to adopt for the region?” he asked.

“Biktima na nga, binibiktima pa ulit. Hindi na nga tinulungan, ginagamit pa [Victims are being victimized again. They got no help and yet they are being used],” Crisostomo said, stressing that Aquino and [then Interior Secretary Mar] Roxas “should be jailed for their crimes.”

Senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, whose district includes the regional center of Tacloban City which was flattened by Yolanda, urged that the Aquino administration immediately release more than P1 billion in disaster funds that have not been released.

He said the unused disaster fund amounted to P1.308 billion as of December 2014 and it can still go a long way to ease the suffering of people who had already been victimized by Yolanda.

It is unacceptable that the OCD, a calamity agency of the Department of National Defense, could give the “lousy excuse” that it could not release funds for victims because they cannot comply with requirements.

“Common sense dictates that people are in dire need of these calamity funds, therefore the OCD should do away with its stringent requirements,” Romualdez said.

“I propose to overhaul the present system to address the inefficiencies by making the process keep it short and simple as malasakit [compassion] to the calamity victims,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, added.

Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc, had earlier lamented the CoA finding that OCD had a “very low” utilization of calamity funds which include P384.95 million in foreign and local donations and P923 million in quick relief funds, or a total of P1.308 billion, as of December 2014.

“By its nature and character, calamity funds need not stay long in bank accounts to earn interest because these are for emergency purposes. We should remove the obstacles so that genuine help will reach the victims of calamity as soon as possible,” Romualdez said.

Even government projects that managed to get off the ground are being questioned by the very people the projects are supposed to help.

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More than 1,000 Yolanda survivors held a prayer rally at the Deparment of Public Works and Highways in Tacloban City on Friday to question the P7.9-billion tide embankment project in the city because it will again displace more than 14,000 families.

“We joined the prayer rally to voice our concern on the tide embankment. We were not consulted about the project, we were just told that our houses will be affected by the tide embankment which means we have to go,” said Nestor Deveyra, 57-year-old vendor of local rice cakes.

“But DPWH representatives cannot even tell us where we should transfer. We have been asking our mayor to provide in-city resettlement. Our jobs are here and my children, two in college and one in high school, are all studying in Tacloban.

“If they move us away from Tacloban, it will be impossible for me to find job and I fear that my children will stop schooling. I don’t want that to happen,” Deveyra said.

Some 30 poor people together with Urban Poor Associates and Catholic priest Robert Reyes met with DPWH Eastern Visayas regional director Rolando Asis to discuss the tide embankment.

Denis Murphy, UPA executive director, said, “the government must listen to the people and must ensure that the people are part of the decision making that concerns their welfare.”

“Technology has limits. We do not solve problems through quick-fix technologies. We have to befriend, respect and defend nature. The government is rushing programs that may be short-sighted,” said Reyes, the UPA spiritual adviser.

“We will be needing more time, than building embankments, because people now are on a defensive mode to protect us from nature. That is why we need scientists, who are not corporate in nature. Scientists who are genuinely pro-nature and pro-people,” Reyes added.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

6 more Bodies dug up 2 years later posted November 08, 2015 at 12:01 am by Christine F. Herrera and Ronald O. Reyes


DISAPPEARED FOUND. Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (left) and his cousin Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez inspect three of the six cadavers that were found at the San Jose Central School in Tacloban City on the second anniversary of Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ which killed 6,340 people and caused the disappearance of 1,061 others. SONNY ESPRITU

TACLOBAN CITY—Six remains have been recovered under the debris two years after Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ devastated the province of Leyte.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said firewood gatherers found the bodies behind the San Jose National High School in Barangay 87 in this city’s San Jose district.

Only three of the remains have their skulls intact and one of them is believed to be a child because of the size of its skull.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez went straight from the airport to join his mayor-cousin where the remains were found.

“Running priest’ Robert Reyes and another priest blessed the bodies that could no longer be identified because only the skull and skeletons had remained of the victims who were believed to have been washed away by the storm surge during the Yolanda onslaught.

“Every now and then, we find bodies in the swampy areas,” the mayor said.

The congressman said bodies will continue to be found two years after the calamity.

Barangay Chairman Leo Bahin of Barangay 87 San Jose confirmed that the remains were indeed recovered at the back of San Jose National High School.

“Yung lima kanina (Saturday) lang nakita, yung isa two days ago pa nakita ng mga mangangahoy,” Bahin said.

According to Bahin, since 2013, there are incidents were firewood gatherers recovered bones and other body parts but this is the first time that they saw skulls.

Two of them were suspected to be woman because they still had their underwear and bra.

The remains were laid at the barangay hall awaiting for representatives of Bureau of Fire, who were tasked to make proper identification of the victims.

“Sa ngayon wala pang mag claim, mahirap naman ito ma identify kasi dalawang taon na silang nakabaon sa debris at buto na lang. Turn-over na lang namin, bahala na ang Bureau of Fire na mag identify,” Bahin said.

It was in San Jose where there were several casualties of Typhoon Yolanda were recorded.

“We still feel the pain. Nararamdaman pa rin namin ang lungkot na dulot ng Typhoon Yolanda,” Rep. Romualdez said.

The senatorial candidate of Lakas-CMD said the local government here continues to provide assistance to the survivors.

“We will see how we can help in identifying them, para maibigay sa kanilang pamilya at mabigyan ng disenteng libing,” the congressman added.

Meanwhile, a typhoon survivor-turned-author said that the victims still could not contain the surge of emotion two years after Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) hit the province.

“We are still healing and it will take a long time to process that but let that not waste away what we have worked so hard in rebuilding back our lives,” said Albert Mulles, a storm survivor from Tacloban City.

Out of his struggles to survive and immortalize the terrible experience he and his family had experienced, Mulles published a book entitled ‘‘Haiyan: Untold Story: A Story of Hope and Survival”.

The book’s launching came about as the province remembered the second anniversary of Yolanda, the world’s worst storm to hit land, survivors and their supporters around the country trooped to the city to pay tribute to the dead, whose numbers have reached over 7,500 mostly in Tacloban and nearby towns, according to government’s estimate.

“For us, it is important to remember—not only the most disastrous and fiercest supertyphoon in the world—but the courage and determination of people at the ground zero rising up forming the broadest survivor network and holding our government and world leaders accountable,” said Efleda Bautista, convenor of People Surge, a broad coalition of storm survivors in central Philippines.

“The stronger the rain poured the louder were the people’s chant. People Surge pushed through the march despite strong rain…Everyone was soaked in the rain but hearts filled with warmth and determination,” she added, as they welcomed thousands of fellow survivors from various parts of Leyte, Samar, and outside Eastern Visayas who marched to the city on Saturday.

Aside from holding a vigil to remember those who died, the group also led a protest marched dubbed as “Global Day of Rage against Neglect and Impunity” to what they said as government’s “criminal negligence” and “snail-paced rehabilitation” in Yolanda-hit communities, nothing that thousands of families are still in bunkhouses and temporary shelters two years after the storm.

They also assailed the government for its lack of transparency in spending the billions of donations and funds for the survivors.

“Watching the news on TV about how the government still does not reveal the real Yolanda casualty count even after two years, brings back painful memories... And confirms a lot about those in power. Well, for one, they still want to be in control of all those donations, and second, it will only prove how poor our disaster preparedness and handling are,” said Aaron Almadro, 32, a survivor in Palo, Leyte, expressing his frustration on the social media.

“We lost more than 20,000 loved ones, twenty thousand people, including both my parents and a lot of friends! Why can’t they say the numbers? They’re all busy campaigning for next year’s elections but they aren’t even finished with the rehabilitation and assistance. Yolanda happened, government. We will never forget. So, government, whatever you say, whatever you try to do, is already two years late,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fr. Amadeo Alvero of the Palo Archdiocese in Leyte, said that there are also enough reasons to thank for during this year’s commemorative event.

“Looking back two years ago when Yolanda destroyed almost everything that we had I was amazed and very grateful of the many and different kinds of assistance extended to us. I would never forget the love in action of the many organizations, both national and international who helped us,” Alvero told The Standard.

“Without them it would have been difficult for us to bring our life back to where we are now. But with them our life after Yolanda is getting better. Thanks to all who have helped us and brought us hope. Their sacrifices and love will always be remembered. I thank God for all of them,” he added.

“We in the Church gratefully recognize the role played by private charities, of international and national non-government organizations for the people’s recovery and healing. These organizations have been a vital source of relief and comfort,” also said Msgr. Ramon B. Aguilos of Palo Archdiocese.

Reflecting on the Yolanda tragedy, Aguilos wrote that: “Among the ‘blessings in the disguise’ that transpired is the opening of new links, partnership and relationships with development institutions.”

On January 17 this year, no less than Pope Francis visited Tacloban and Palo to bring comfort to pray for the victims and comfort to the survivors.

While many humanitarian organizations also came to revive the city immediately after the storm.

“To date, PRC’s Haiyan Recovery program has built 66,011 homes out of the target 80,203 or 86 percent of the target number of houses to be built, amounting to around 2.2 billion pesos. The Red Cross Haiyan shelter program is spread across nine Haiyan-affected provinces: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Leyte, Palawan, and Western Samar,” said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

In a statement, PRC said that “as of end of October, 884,228 people have benefitted from PRC’s Haiyan Recovery Program which includes services ranging from shelter, livelihood, cash relief assistance, water and sanitation, hygiene promotion, and rehabilitation of classrooms.”

“To the people of Tacloban, I am humbled to be called your mayor and honored to have been given a chance to serve a people who have shown to the entire Philippines and the entire world their admirable strength and resistance in the face of individual tragedies, their quiet courage to carry on despite their losses; their firm determination to make Tacloban a better City after the deluge.

“It is our vision to make Tacloban a livable city where every Taclobanon can sleep soundly in the safety and comfort of a humane shelter and live a decent quality life to live up to its potential of infinite possibilities for progress and growth.

“In the silence of our hearts, may that day be marked for posterity--never to be forgotten―never to be erased.

“May all who come this way remember―that on this piece of earth―the whole world converged to make Tacloban the template of a people’s firm resolve to rise above their sorrow and create the new landscape of their future. May God forever bless our bellowed city,” Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said in his commemorative message this year.

This followed as the local government has lined up various commemorative activities on Saturday, starting from the a holy mass in the coastal district of Anibong in the city, followed by the reading of dedication and unveiling of a memorial marker, a “Concert of Hope” by Philippine Madrigal Singer and Power Dance from Manila, and premier showing of documentary film “Fields of Hope.”

On Sunday, November 8, locals joined a commemorative walk around the city, followed by the holy Mass by Palo Archbishop John Du, ringing of church bells, siren blast and the sounding of the storm, and unveiling of another marker located in the Tacloban Astrodome Center.


INQUIRER

Palace: Aquino fully aware of situation in ‘Yolanda’-hit areas

SHARES: 225 VIEW COMMENTS By: Nestor Corrales @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net 05:54 PM November 7th, 2015


Aquino-1028 Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO

While the government admits the challenges hampering its rehabilitation efforts two years after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) devastated parts of the Visayas region, a Palace spokesperson assured that President Benigno Aquino III remains on top of the situation.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the statement after Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Aquino might be misinformed of the real situation in Yolanda-stricken communities.

“Nakakarating po sa Pangulo. Kaya nga po tuwing nagpapatawag ang Pangulo ng ‘Yolanda’ rehabilitation-related meeting, ipinapakita po lahat ng datos at hindi naman po tumitigil lang ang Pangulong Aquino sa datos, at hindi po ‘yan basta-basta tatanggap ng numero kung nakikita niyang mayroong pagkakamali or mayroong pagkukulang,” Valte said in an interview over state-run DZRB radio.

(The President is aware of the situation. That’s why whenever he calls for Yolanda rehabilitation-related meetings, and whenever he is presented with the data, he does not immediately accept them if he notices that there are errors or shortcomings.)

Valte, however, admitted that the government problems on land acquisition, among others, to help the victims of the supertyphoon regarded as the strongest ever to hit land.

READ: Painfully slow rebuild after ‘Yolanda’

READ: Aquino gov’t ‘bigger disaster’ 2 years after ‘Yolanda’—Anakbayan

She said tracts of land that were initially identified by the government for permanent housing of the victims had faced issues on their procurement.

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“Malaki po talagang challenge ang land acquisition pagdating doon sa pagtatayo po natin ng mga permanenteng pabahay para po doon sa mga biktima,” she said.

(Acquiring land is proving to be a challenge as far as building permanent housing for the victims is concerned.)

Romualdez has said that only 572 of the targeted 14,162 permanent houses have been built by the Aquino government two years after Yolanda flattened houses in Visayas.

Valte, however, disputed this claim, saying that the National Housing Authority has completed building 17,641 units while the construction of 41,566 units are still ongoing.

She said 929 units have been turned over to families in Tanuan and Tacloban City, Leyte while a total of 92,544 housing units are to be completed by December 2016.

She added that 1,500 families have been relocated to permanent housing sites in safer communities with their own source of potable water through a water supply support system.

Sunday, November 8, marks the second year after Yolanda claimed the lives of at least 6,000 people and left hundreds and thousands more homeless or without a livelihood. IDL


TRIBUNE

Binay: Slow rehab a ‘mgm’t disaster’ Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 08 November 2015 00:00

VP SAYS 51% ACHIEVEMENT IN 2 YEARS NOT ENOUGH

The failure of the Aquino administration to make progress in rebuilding the typhoon “Yolanda”-devastated regions two years after the disaster hit was a “management disaster.”

The snail-paced rehabilitation program of the government had brought added miseries to the victims of the typhoon, Binay said in a visit to Tolosa, Leyte on the eve of the second anniversary of the catastrophe that hit the province severely.

He said in a speech that efforts to reconstruct the Yolanda-hit areas were “slow and disorganized.”

“They even trumpeted that 51 percent of the rehabilitation efforts were completed. This is a disaster in terms of management,” Binay said.

Two years after the catastrophe that killed up to 10,000 individuals in contrast to the government claim of 6,000 who perished only less than 10% of permanent houses have been constructed in Tacloban City, Binay noted.

Binay also chided Budget Secretary and Liberal Party (LP) strategist Florencio Abad for using as an excuse for the slow rehabilitation effort the 10 years it took for the United States to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

“Should we need to make an excuse the pace of work in other countries? We should show that we can do things faster,” he said.

“(Cabinet) Secretary (Jose Rene) Almendras told me that a shouting match ensued on what should be done after the typhoon hit. Nobody stood as a leader at the time it was needed most,” Binay said.

Binay said about the laggard pace in setting up houses for the victims, the National Housing Authority (NHA) which he headed could not immediately address the problem because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) withheld funds.

“The explanation is a multiple choice: a) maybe we don’t have money; b) there was money but it was diverted to other agencies like the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government); or c) underspending is really the policy of the administration,” Binay said.

Binay admitted that while President Aquino was not remiss in following up on the funds during Cabinet meetings, the problem with implementation was with those under Aquino.

“Why withhold the release of the funds? If you are a decision-maker, you should have priorities. Apparently there was none. The problem was underspending,” Binay said.

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US APEC exec hits slow rehab

The United States’ coordinator for the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) World Leaders’ summit in Manila slammed slow government Yolanda rehabilitation efforts.

Timothy Cipullo, US coordinator for APEC 2015, said in a radio interview that there actually were materials distributed particularly in the worst hit area Tacloban City in Leyte that are unfit for consumption of individuals.

“In Tacloban, after Yolanda there are relief goods that are really not suitable for survivors,” Cipullo said in an interview over radio station dzRH.

Reports previously bared how expired food and medicine supplies were stored in a stock house within the compound of the local unit of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Tacloban City.

Cipullo lamented the possibility that perhaps there were goods that came from international donors who were immediately responsive, in terms of delivering actual rehabilitation support, to the needs of Yolanda survivors but these were not effectively distributed.

Official government figures put the death toll of Yolanda at 6,033 but estimates put the actual number of fatalities a lot higher. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves.

The P167.9 billion funding requirement under the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) was approved by President Aquino in October 2014, two weeks before the tragedy’s first anniversary.

However, only P84 billion have been released over a period of two years, according to former rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) also admitted that the budget included appropriations for areas affected by other disasters before Yolanda.

Several local government units, particularly Tacloban, also claimed that aside from the delayed release, there is also no clear breakdown of how the released funds were spent.

Meanwhile, Social Works Secretary Dinky Soliman, in a separate weekly media forum, bragged about the government’s so-called “achievements” in “recovery management that helped Yolanda survivors a lot” as she cited DSWD’s disbursement of a total of P1,536,212,123.98 to 443,194 affected families in regions 4-A, 6, 7 and 8.

Her numbers, however, clearly contradict DSWD’s previous promises of shelter assistance supposedly amounting to P30,000 per family or individual whose house was destroyed, or P10,000 per family or individual whose dwelling was damaged because if her P1,5 billion claim is divided by the number of family beneficiaries, then only P3,466,22 were only given to beneficiaries.

Also, DSWD’s number of affected (particularly displaced) families is inconsistent with the count of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) that is 892,493.

Soliman admitted that “there are really delays in disbursing funds and completing our targets” yet boasts of constructed bunkhouses in affected areas that, as she said, “isn’t covered well by the media” who instead “report loopholes”.

But Lacson said certain government agencies that “does not have the absorptive capacity to implement (those being proposed)”.

Lacson, who sat beside Soliman in the same forum, said that the national government “could have been flexible to the conditions of the local government as, when you’re in the ground, the plans and theories laid are way different”.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon also slammed the Aquino administration for seemingly aiming to leave a “legacy of neglect,” as manifested by the protracted rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-stricken provinces.

“Despite the release of billions in public funds and the outpour of international support, rehabilitation and reconstruction in affected areas have remained at a very slow pace. Two years have passed, and yet our affected countrymen remain largely in destitution,” Ridon said during the candle-lighting ceremony for Yolanda victims held at Liwasang Bonifacio on Saturday evening.

“The victims of Typhoon Yolanda remain restless to the point of indignation due to the slow pace of the implementation of the government’s rehabilitation and reconstruction program. Testament to this is the 20,000-strong protest participated in by Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban City just yesterday,” the lawmaker said.

Ridon also reiterated the latest audit report of the Commission on Audit (CoA) on the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) failure to immediately distribute cash donations and family food packs for victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda, which he said only confirms the longstanding criticism with regard to the government’s response to the said disaster.

“The Aquino administration has been repeatedly criticized for mismanagement of goods that led to prolonged storage and eventual expiration of consumables. The latest CoA report only reaffirms such observations,” Ridon said.

In its 2014 audit report for DSWD released recently, CoA said that P382 million in local and foreign cash donations for victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda, representing 33 percent of the P1.15 billion that DSWD received for such, remained in DSWD’s bank accounts.

Meanwhile, CoA also noted that DSWD failed to distribute P141 million worth of family food packs for typhoon victims, as the agency did not consider the “absorptive capacity and condition of the warehousing facilities and personnel” leading to the spoilage of the perishable goods.

“Any reasonable person will be enraged by the fact that our countrymen in Eastern Visayas suffered hunger in the aftermath of Yolanda, while millions worth of relief goods just spoil in DSWD’s storehouses. While many typhoon victims have yet to recover from the disaster, now we find out that DSWD is withholding even the release of cash donations both from domestic and international sources,” Ridon said.

The legislator said that those responsible for the relief fiasco should be held accountable.

“The only legacy that the Aquino administration is bound to leave to Yolanda victims is the legacy of longstanding neglect. This is the legacy that will continue to haunt Aquino and his chosen presidentiable Mar Roxas in the months to come,” Ridon said.

Ridon’s colleagues at the Makabayan bloc, Bayan Muna Rep.s Neri colmenares and Carlos Zarate also lashed at the Aquino government’s “criminal negligence” saying Yolanda survivors still reeling from the slow, inefficient, and corruption-riddled rehabilitation program.

Colmenares called on the House leadership to fast track the hearing of House Resolution 587 that will probe the dismal rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-hit areas, which was filed last year.

Colmenares said the Aquino government must be held answerable for the slow pace of rehabilitation, especially after CoA reported that billions poured for rehabilitation remain unused.

“The Aquino administration must explain why it did not use the funds meant for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-devastated areas. There is so much to do in building houses, creating livelihoods, rehabilitation of agricultural lands, and providing utilities and social services for the survivors,” Colmenares said.

“The Aquino administration is pulling the purse strings tight for Yolanda survivors; there is money but they refuse to use it where it is so sorely needed,” Colmenares added.

For his part, Zarate said the Aquino government is criminally liable for poor preparedness, response, and rehabilitation.

“The Aquino government must be held accountable for its criminal negligence. From disaster preparations until today, two years after the supertyphoon, it has failed the people of Eastern and Central Visayas of prompt, adequate, and effective disaster response and rehabilitation program,” Zarate said.

Death toll in supertyphoon Yolanda is pegged as high as 15,000 people. Today, the National Housing Administration (NHA) has built less than one-tenth of the 200,000 houses targeted to be built in communities devastated by the super typhoon.

“Even more infuriating is that the government has privatized even the rehabilitation program. Businesses, seeing the profits that will be earned when Yolanda leveled these places, have fenced off large tracts of land. How could the Aquino government put their private profits first over the welfare of survivors?” Zarate said.

Palace nitpicks on Romualdez

The Palace, however, continued to take potshots at Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, who is a member of the political opposition, for the problems hounding the province which bore the brunt of Yolanda.

Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte on Saturday lashed out at Romualdez who called the Aquino administration as insensitive in connection to the plight that Yolanda survivors continue to suffer, two years since the storm wreaked havoc in Tacloban City, Leyte.

Valte said that Rep. Romualdez is hitting at the government since the elections are drawing near.

She also claimed that the lawmaker was “seen in malls” at the time Leyte felt the impact of Yolanda.

The solon initially criticized the administration for being late in addressing the concerns of the people whose lives were affected by Yolanda. He said Malacanang appears to be “onion-skinned” whenever Yolanda is brought up since it has been a failure in addressing the issue.

“First it’s almost elections so we see these statements. For us, we do not see it as being onion-skinned, because when we are being asked we are only answering what the government does for our people who are in the low-ground of our society,” Valte said.

“All one has to do is look at the national budget and those projects that have been approved by Congress to see the biggest projects are specifically for the down-trodden. If being insensitive is what we are talking about, it is not us seen at malls after Yolanda devastated in many provinces,” she added.

The representative was the same confronted by former interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is now administration bet for the presidency in 2016, with the “We have to understand that you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino” following the lawmaker’s questions over relief ops.

Another Romualdez, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez also took a jab at the administration, saying President Aquino seems to have a different data on mind with regarding Yolanda’s devastation, noting that he may be misinformed by people in his Cabinet over the developments.

But, Valte likewise rejected the claim, saying the President has always been aware and thoroughly informed of data with regards to rehabilitation efforts.

“The President has been informed. That’s why every time the President calls for Yolanda rehabilitation-related meetings, all data presented and the President doesn’t only stop with data, and he will not accept data abruptly if he sees an error or lack,” she said.

The mayor has revealed that only 572 of the targeted 14,162 permanent houses have been built by the government since it started rebuilding efforts in the city in 2013, but the Palace official said one of the reasons behind the slow construction of permanent houses for the displaced Yolanda victims is the issue in the procurement of land.

“The land purchase was not continued because there’s a problem in the land being identified for the national government,” she said. “The challenge is really big on land acquisition to be used for building permanent housing for the victims.”

On another note, Valte said that the National Housing Authority has completed 17,641 units while the construction of 41,566 units are ongoing, where 929 housing units have already been turned over to families in Tanuan and Tacloban City, Leyte.

More than 6,000 people were killed in Eastern Visayas and hundreds of thousands were left homeless after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, with the strongest winds ever recorded on land.

Ted Tuvera, Charlie V. Manalo, Joshua L. Labonera

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ANOTHER NEWS REPORT FROM TRIBUNE

RP an impunity haven under Aquino — IFJ Written by Tribune Wires Tuesday, 03 November 2015 00:00

Under President Aquino’s reign, the Philippines has been one of the world’s worst impunity havens due to the consistent string of unresolved killings mainly of journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said yesterday.

IFJ said its Asia-Pacific bureau in coordination with its affiliates is observing a three-week End Impunity Campaign for attacks against media workers centering on the Philippines, Pakistan and India.

“In the Asia-Pacific in 2014, 39 journalists lost their lives in the line of duty – accounting for nearly a third of all journalists killed around the world,” IFJ said.

It added for the current year, 26 journalists and media workers have been killed, including seven in the Philippines.

Just the other day, a radio reporter had been shot dead to solidify the impunity haven status of the country.

Jose Bernardo, 44, was shot repeatedly by one of two suspects aboard a motorcycle outside a Manila restaurant late Saturday and died later in hospital, police said.

He had told his family he was meeting an unnamed person, according to authorities.

No suspects have been arrested in the attack, which also wounded a restaurant worker, and authorities said they were checking whether it was linked to Bernardo’s work as a reporter.

“We denounce this killing regardless of the motive. It shows that there is still a culture of impunity at work,” National Press Club (NPC) president Joel Sy Egco said.

Bernardo was a reporter and broadcaster for Manila’s DWBL radio station, as well as a reporter for DWIZ, another station in the capital, Egco added.

Staff at both stations did not have any immediate comment on the attack.

“It’s possible the attack was work-related or due to a personal quarrel,” chief inspector Rodelio Marcelo told DZMM radio.

“We expect to collect CCTV footage in the area and for witnesses to come forward to testify,” he said.

Four journalists were murdered in the country in August and September, according to media rights monitors.

Since 1992, 77 journalists and two media support workers have been killed in the Philippines for their work, according to New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists.

It said 52 other journalists were murdered in the country for unclear reasons.

One of the world’s deadliest attacks against journalists took place in the Philippines in 2009, when 32 journalists were among 58 people killed by the Ampatuan warlord clan intent on stopping a rival’s election challenge.

More than one hundred people are on trial for the massacre, with the verdicts expected next year.

No action vs impunity

The IFJ said government authorities in the Philippines are among those who have consistently failed to display a genuine commitment to end impunity and bring perpetrators and masterminds to justice.

READ MORE...

The third week of the campaign will be devoted to the Philippines which remains one of the world’s worst impunity havens for attacks against media workers, following the 2009 Ampatuan massacre and an ongoing, high levels of targeted killings annually.

The IFJ campaign will also call on the governments of Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand to respond to the UNESCO Director-General’s report The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, which they have so far failed to do.

The campaign concludes on November 23, the 6th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre in the Philippines, when 32 journalists were among 58 people brutally killed while travelling in a political convoy in Maguindanao in Southern Philippines.

The massacre remains the single deadliest attack on journalists in history, and to date not one conviction has been secured.

“Impunity not only denies justice to victims and their families, but also emboldens tyrants who quash dissenting voices without fear of reprisal. Bringing an end to impunity is possible and would deliver long-awaited justice to victims and their families and protect the media as a whole,” IFJ said.

The IFJ and its affiliate National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also demanded an immediate action from Aquino on the death of Bernardo.

Bernardo was shot twice in the head and died at the scene.

As well as being a broadcaster and columnist, Bernardo was the public information officer of the Northern Police District Tri-Media Organization (NPD-TMO), a group of media workers covering the northern Metro Manila police beat. According to witnesses, the assailant appeared to be waiting for Bernardo when he pulled out a handgun and shot him. The gunman boarded a waiting motorcycle and fled.

“Under this administration, a large part of the blame should fall on Aquino, who has displayed a penchant for blaming practically everything wrong with his governance, or lack thereof, on the media, which can only embolden those who would impose the ultimate censorship – death – coupled with an utterly uncaring attitude toward the murders of journalists and human rights violations in general,” NUJP secretary general JB Deveza said.

“We call on all our colleagues to remain steadfast to our calling and on the people we serve to stand with us in demanding justice for Jose Bernardo and all other fallen journalists,” he added.

“Today there can be no more devastating reminder of the dangers of journalism in our region than the senseless killing of Jose Bernardo. Today, November 2 is UNESCO’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and yet here we are mourning the loss of yet another of our fallen colleagues,” the IFJ said in a statement.

“Governments like the Philippines can no longer hide behind excuses – the world demands action.

Bernardo is the 8th journalist killed this year in the Philippines and the country remains on top of global impunity indexes,” it added.

“This is a national shame that has also taken place under the watch of Aquino,” the statement read.

The IFJ has called again on President Aquino to respond to its 2015 report on the Ampatuan Massacre in the lead-up to November 23 – the 6th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao, the Philippines.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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