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

OCHOA JOKES INTRODUCING PNoy TO CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS IN MALACAÑANG


DECEMBER 22 -COMPOSITE PHOTOS: NOY, MISS UNIVERSE 2015 - It was an odd way of introducing the highest government official of the land, especially in front of congressional leaders during the ceremonial signing of the country's P3-trillion national budget, but President Benigno Aquino III was a good sport about it. “Isang Miss Universe na umaga sa inyong lahat at dahil dyan. Salubungin natin ng palakpakan ang Pangulo ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. said as he introduced the President. Ochoa’s introduction drew laughter from the crowd of congressmen and senators, members of the Cabinet, and various leaders of non-government organizations. It was inevitable for Aquino to be teased about Pia Wurtzbach’s win at the Miss Universe pageant as the two reportedly went out on a group date earlier this year. “Kumpare ko pa na nagmula pa ang ating relasyon sa ating mga magulang, sinira mo ‘tong araw na’to," Aquino shot back at Ochoa, a close personal friend. Aquino has yet to issue his own congratulatory message for Wurtzbach, although his spokespersons have earlier issued a statement, calling her victory a "tremendous source of pride" for the Filipino people. "In bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press statement. —NB, GMA News THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Philippines vs China arbitration case will not solve sea dispute -Analyst


DECEMBER 31 -The Philippines sent a delegation composed of representatives from the executive, legistlative and judicial branches of the government to present its arguments against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands. File photo
The arbitration case between the Philippines and China will not help resolve the dispute over the South China Sea as it would result to more conflicts in the region, a maritime analyst said. Nanyang Technological University Prof. Mingjiang Li said that there is likely to be a "period of greater turbulence" once the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations (UN) releases its decision on the case between the two countries. The Philippines earlier filed an arbitration case against China before the UN tribunal, challenging the latter's nine-dash line claim over the disputed sea. China refused to participate in the proceedings and reiterated its "indisputable sovereignty" in the South China Sea, justifying its massive reclamation activities in the area. FULL TEXT: Transcript of merits hearing on Philippines vs China case Li noted that Beijing is unlikely to change its major policies and positions once the arbitral tribunal issues its decision. "There is a very strong possibility that Beijing will just ignore the arbitration result, as suggested by ongoing deliberations within Chinese policy circles," Li said in an article published on the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. The analyst pointed out possible consequences once the decision comes out in a few months. Li said that the South China Sea disputes may become increasingly legalistic and may become more internationalized. "Other claimant states, and even some non-claimant countries in the region, will be disappointed by Beijing’s rejection of the tribunal’s judgment," Li said. Beijing's possible rejection of the tribunal's decision may also result to a new round of conflicts and tensions in the disputed sea. "Some claimant countries will take actions, such as increasing fishing, exploring for new energy resources, and expanding law enforcement activities, in areas the tribunal deems undisputed to test China’s reactions and resolve," the analyst said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Yolanda rehab almost complete as 2015 ends - NEDA
[Only 13,335 housing units have been completed while the construction of 79,219 houses are ongoing and expected to be completed by December 2016.]


DECEMBER 31 -The National Economic and Development Authority said that most of the Yolanda rehabilitation projects are set to be completed by 2016. Philstar.com/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - As the year ends, recovery and rehabilitation efforts for Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) are almost complete, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Thursday.
The overall weighted physical accomplishment of completed and ongoing Yolanda programs projects and activities is at 63.2 percent, according to NEDA. The completed Yolanda projects and activities stand at 30.3 percent while 33.1 percent are ongoing. The ongoing projects are set to be completed by 2016, the NEDA said in a statement. "The government is making strides in rebuilding resilient communities in the Yolanda corridors in the Visayas regions, as well as in MIMAROPA region, particularly through sustainable infrastructure development and responsive social services," NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan said. Balisacan added that Yolanda survivors now have better prospects with the help of various livelihood assistance programs by the government. NEDA listed the following Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation projects that are completed and ongoing: •Distribution of 339,745 learning kits to Yolanda-affected schools has been completed READ MORE...

ALSO: For New Year 2016, Noy flaunts gains from 'daang matuwid'


DECEMBER 30 -President Aquino proved consistent in gloating at the supposed achievements of his administration, which his critics say were mostly imagined or products of spins, which was also the topic of his year-end speech.
Aquino’s New Year address also played up a Pulse Asia survey which showed a high percentage of Filipinos expressing optimism in the coming year. In his speech, Aquino underlined his administration’s work on social welfare, employment, infrastructure and the modernization of the Armed Forces, attributing the supposed gains on these fields as proof the daang matuwid (straight path) mantra of the regime has benefited Filipinos. “Now, we are able to send the poor for treatment without payment; our police and soldiers have enough capability to fulfill their duties. There are students that are able to continue their studies and their future enhanced... and each Filipino is given decent job and opportunity to succeed,” he said. Aquino said his critics have been playing blind and deaf on the supposed gains of his administration, saying he will just “pray for them.”  He added that as he nears the end of his term, he will remain proud of his achievements despite the criticisms. “It is truly an honor to serve my bosses, the Filipino people, who journeyed with us towards a more peaceful and successful future. A safe and rich New Year to all,” Aquino ended. Gloating over his administration’s claimed successes have been a standard fare of Aquino in his speeches, his critics said. Aquino also has been also observed as being very sensitive to criticisms. Public optimism high — Pulse Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr provided the back up for the President’s remarks by highlighting a Pulse Asia survey which showed 89 percent of Filipinos being more hopeful for the coming year. “We acknowledge the high level of optimism expressed by a great majority of our people in two year-end surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “The Aquino administration will intensify its efforts in implementing vital programs that would broaden the scope of social welfare and protection, generate employment and livelihood opportunities for our countrymen, and sustain the gains of the economy during the past five years,” Coloma added. Coloma dismissed claims of administration critics who said the actual “minimal gains” of the administration were bloated in the remarks of the President. READ MORE...

ALSO YEARENDER: Senate probes hit P-Noy, Binay


JANUARY 1 -As it marked its centennial year, the Philippine Senate made headlines in 2015 with its investigations on controversial cases and deliberations on important measures. STAR/File photo
As it marked its centennial year, the Philippine Senate made headlines in 2015 with its investigations on controversial cases and deliberations on important measures. At the start of 2015, the committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Grace Poe led the inquiry into the Mamasapano incident. Forty-four members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force were killed in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other rebels while the SAF were on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25. The killings happened amid the peace process between the government and MILF, with passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – the measure that would create an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao – being pushed in Congress. The Mamasapano raid was reportedly launched by then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and approved by President Aquino with US assistance to neutralize Marwan and Usman, who were hiding in a part of Mamasapano under MILF control. The Senate panel found that the President was responsible for the Mamasapano fiasco. Poe also pinned the blame on Purisima, who enjoyed the support of the President despite the foul-up. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local government, sought the immediate suspension of public hearings on the BBL, which had provisions that run counter to the Constitution. Marcos also filed a substitute bill for the BBL in a bid to address the many constitutional flaws on the BBL version submitted by Malacañang. In August, the continuing Senate investigation into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. marked its first year. The Vice President, who had bared his presidential bid, was accused of corruption for allegedly being involved in the overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall parking building during his term as mayor. His son was also tagged in other anomalies in Makati. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, head of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating the corruption allegation against the Binays, expanded the probe by pursuing alleged ghost senior citizen beneficiaries in Makati City. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of the Vice President, exposed how Binay and his dummies allegedly benefitted from Makati’s programs for senior citizens. READ MORE...

ALSO BIFF Spokesman: Attacks have nothing to do with delay in BBL passage


JANUARY 2 -The Bangsamoro Basic Law, a product of negotiations between the government and the MILF, seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao. Philstar.com/File photo
  COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The continuing spate of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao has nothing to do with the delayed approval by Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the group’s spokesman said Saturday.
The draft BBL, still pending in Congress, is the enabling measure for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a Bangsamoro political entity based on the final compact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro. “We don’t recognize or support the ongoing peace efforts of the government and the MILF. This is our very own struggle for an independent Islamic state,” said BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama. The BIFF is comprised of rogue Moro rebels led by radical preachers known for their extreme interpretation of the Qur’an and their ruthless enforcement of a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they operate. Local folks want the government and the MILF peace panels to help put an end to the recurring attacks by BIFF which started shortly before Christmas. The two panels are bound by interim security agreements, including the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, to mutually cooperate in addressing security concerns in areas where there are MILF forces. The BIFF on Saturday again warned of more attacks in response to government’s crackdown on local Jihadist factions. Mama said their harassment of peasant enclaves and military detachments in Central Mindanao were also meant to show their continuing opposition to the presence of state forces in Moro-dominated areas in the region, now a hotbed of Islamic militancy. “The BIFF is not a spent force as what the military keeps saying. We’re here and we shall make the government feel our presence for every opportunity that we can,” Mama said. BIFF commanders had said their deadly maneuvers since last week were partly meant to avenge the deaths of jihadists killed in the government’s continuing crackdown on Moro factions sympathetic to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria. Eight young members of a local Islamist group displaying the iconic black ISIS flag in their hideout in Barangay Butril in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat were killed by pursing combatants of the 1st Marine Brigade last month in an operation initiated on the behest of local folks threatened by their presence. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Officials laugh as PNoy teased about Pia Wurtzbach in Malacañang


COMPOSITE PHOTOS: NOY, MISS UNIVERSE 2015

MANILA, JANUARY 4, 2016 (GMA NEWS NETWORK) Published December 22, 2015 6:02pm By KATHRINA CHARMAINE ALVAREZ, GMA News - It was an odd way of introducing the highest government official of the land, especially in front of congressional leaders during the ceremonial signing of the country's P3-trillion national budget, but President Benigno Aquino III was a good sport about it.

“Isang Miss Universe na umaga sa inyong lahat at dahil dyan. Salubungin natin ng palakpakan ang Pangulo ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. said as he introduced the President.

Ochoa’s introduction drew laughter from the crowd of congressmen and senators, members of the Cabinet, and various leaders of non-government organizations.

It was inevitable for Aquino to be teased about Pia Wurtzbach’s win at the Miss Universe pageant as the two reportedly went out on a group date earlier this year.

“Kumpare ko pa na nagmula pa ang ating relasyon sa ating mga magulang, sinira mo ‘tong araw na’to," Aquino shot back at Ochoa, a close personal friend.

Aquino has yet to issue his own congratulatory message for Wurtzbach, although his spokespersons have earlier issued a statement, calling her victory a "tremendous source of pride" for the Filipino people.

"In bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press statement. —NB, GMA News


PHILSTAR

Analyst: Philippines vs China arbitration case will not solve sea dispute By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated December 31, 2015 - 10:14am 2 445 googleplus0 0


The Philippines sent a delegation composed of representatives from the executive, legistlative and judicial branches of the government to present its arguments against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The arbitration case between the Philippines and China will not help resolve the dispute over the South China Sea as it would result to more conflicts in the region, a maritime analyst said.

Nanyang Technological University Prof. Mingjiang Li said that there is likely to be a "period of greater turbulence" once the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations (UN) releases its decision on the case between the two countries.

The Philippines earlier filed an arbitration case against China before the UN tribunal, challenging the latter's nine-dash line claim over the disputed sea. China refused to participate in the proceedings and reiterated its "indisputable sovereignty" in the South China Sea, justifying its massive reclamation activities in the area.

FULL TEXT: Transcript of merits hearing on Philippines vs China case

Li noted that Beijing is unlikely to change its major policies and positions once the arbitral tribunal issues its decision.

"There is a very strong possibility that Beijing will just ignore the arbitration result, as suggested by ongoing deliberations within Chinese policy circles," Li said in an article published on the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The analyst pointed out possible consequences once the decision comes out in a few months.

Li said that the South China Sea disputes may become increasingly legalistic and may become more internationalized.

"Other claimant states, and even some non-claimant countries in the region, will be disappointed by Beijing’s rejection of the tribunal’s judgment," Li said.

Beijing's possible rejection of the tribunal's decision may also result to a new round of conflicts and tensions in the disputed sea.

"Some claimant countries will take actions, such as increasing fishing, exploring for new energy resources, and expanding law enforcement activities, in areas the tribunal deems undisputed to test China’s reactions and resolve," the analyst said.

READ MORE...

Li added that any tension in the disputed sea may prompt a reaction from the United States. He noted that Chinese foreign policy elites believe that Washington is involved in the case between Manila and Beijing.

Other major players such as Australia and Japan may also increase their presence activities in the disputed sea and conduct freedom of navigation operations like the US, the analyst said.

Beijing is likely to face serious diplomatic challenges in the aftermath of the arbitration, Li said.

"If a new round of conflict and tension takes place, regional views will very likely turn further against Beijing. As a result, China’s relations with Southeast Asia may experience new constraints," Li said.

The analyst added that neighboring countries from Southeast Asia may have reservations toward diplomatic proposals from China.

"Many countries will use rhetoric accusing China of not respecting international law in the South China Sea disputes," the analyst said.

Li said that China should fight the legal battle in the disputed sea instead of avoiding legal contestations.

"The major challenge for China will be how to balance its strategic, security, political, and economic interests in the Asia Pacific and beyond with its territorial and maritime interests in the South China Sea," Li said.

RELATED: Phl lead counsel: China to lose influence if it defies tribunal's decision


PHILSTAR

NEDA: Yolanda rehab almost complete as 2015 ends By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated December 31, 2015 - 12:36pm 0 35 googleplus0 0


The National Economic and Development Authority said that most of the Yolanda rehabilitation projects are set to be completed by 2016. Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - As the year ends, recovery and rehabilitation efforts for Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) are almost complete, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Thursday.

The overall weighted physical accomplishment of completed and ongoing Yolanda programs projects and activities is at 63.2 percent, according to NEDA.

The completed Yolanda projects and activities stand at 30.3 percent while 33.1 percent are ongoing. The ongoing projects are set to be completed by 2016, the NEDA said in a statement.

"The government is making strides in rebuilding resilient communities in the Yolanda corridors in the Visayas regions, as well as in MIMAROPA region, particularly through sustainable infrastructure development and responsive social services," NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan said.

Balisacan added that Yolanda survivors now have better prospects with the help of various livelihood assistance programs by the government.

NEDA listed the following Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation projects that are completed and ongoing:

•Distribution of 339,745 learning kits to Yolanda-affected schools has been completed

•Almost all damaged airports (35 out of 37 or 94.6 percent) have been rehabilitated

•Most municipal facilities (295 out of 309 or 95.5 percent) under the first batch – such as civic centers, municipal halls and public markets — have been rehabilitated

•A significant majority (89.21 percent of the total target of 1,852.53 lineal meters) of damaged bridges have been rehabilitated

•Majority (72.4 percent) damaged national roads (77.9 km out of 107.6 km) have been reconstructed

•According to NEDA, 788,747 households or 76.3 percent of the targeted one million families affected by the typhoon have benefited from the Emergency Shelter Assistance. This program sought to assist affected families to rebuild sturdier houses away from the danger zones.

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

Meanwhile, 48,995 Yolanda survivors or 89.4 percent of the targeted 54,825 beneficiaries have had their fishing boats repaired or replaced. Thousands more have received fishing gears and paraphernalia than originally intended, the NEDA said.

The NEDA also noted that the distribution of rice and corn seeds is nearing completion with 85.7 percent of targeted bags distributed to beneficiaries.

Aside from the restoration of livelihoods of farmer and fisherfolks, the government also provided new livelihood opportunities such as an entrepreneurship training.

The resettlement of survivors from the danger zones remains the most challenging among the recovery efforts, Balisacan said.

Only 13,335 housing units have been completed while the construction of 79,219 houses are ongoing and expected to be completed by December 2016.

Last April, President Benigno Aquino III issued Memorandum Order 79 which transferred the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of all disaster-related Yolanda programs from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery to NEDA.

RELATED: Ping: Yolanda rehab agencies not doing their jobs


TRIBUNE

For New Year, Noy flaunts gains from 'daang matuwid'
Written by Joshua L. Labonera Wednesday, 30 December 2015 00:00



President Aquino proved consistent in gloating at the supposed achievements of his administration, which his critics say were mostly imagined or products of spins, which was also the topic of his year-end speech.

Aquino’s New Year address also played up a Pulse Asia survey which showed a high percentage of Filipinos expressing optimism in the coming year.

In his speech, Aquino underlined his administration’s work on social welfare, employment, infrastructure and the modernization of the Armed Forces, attributing the supposed gains on these fields as proof the daang matuwid (straight path) mantra of the regime has benefited Filipinos.

“Now, we are able to send the poor for treatment without payment; our police and soldiers have enough capability to fulfill their duties. There are students that are able to continue their studies and their future enhanced... and each Filipino is given decent job and opportunity to succeed,” he said.

Aquino said his critics have been playing blind and deaf on the supposed gains of his administration, saying he will just “pray for them.”

He added that as he nears the end of his term, he will remain proud of his achievements despite the criticisms.

“It is truly an honor to serve my bosses, the Filipino people, who journeyed with us towards a more peaceful and successful future. A safe and rich New Year to all,” Aquino ended.
Gloating over his administration’s claimed successes have been a standard fare of Aquino in his speeches, his critics said.
Aquino also has been also observed as being very sensitive to criticisms.

Public optimism high — Pulse

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr provided the back up for the President’s remarks by highlighting a Pulse Asia survey which showed 89 percent of Filipinos being more hopeful for the coming year.


COLOMA

“We acknowledge the high level of optimism expressed by a great majority of our people in two year-end surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

“The Aquino administration will intensify its efforts in implementing vital programs that would broaden the scope of social welfare and protection, generate employment and livelihood opportunities for our countrymen, and sustain the gains of the economy during the past five years,” Coloma added.

Coloma dismissed claims of administration critics who said the actual “minimal gains” of the administration were bloated in the remarks of the President.

READ MORE...

Coloma said that the Palace is “hoping that our people will be able to persevere in securing the gains that we have achieved.”

“The President often refers to the importance of a transformation or change in mindset among our people, that whereas before many of our people were resigned to hopelessness or despair, it is now palpable and evident that more of our people are hopeful and optimistic about the future,” he said.

“What was deemed to be impossible is now deemed possible, and there is an overall upbeat mood that would be a good augury for the future of our country,” he said.

According to Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan poll conducted on December 4 to 11, 2015 nine out of 10 Filipinos will face the coming New Year with hope despite challenges, with 89 percent of respondents said they start 2016 “with hope.”

Respondents were asked: “Will you face the coming year with; maybe with or without; or without hope?”

By location, more respondents were hopeful in the National Capital Region with 95 percent expressing optimism.

Respondents in other regions expressed the same levels of optimism with Luzon showing 89 percent of respondents expressing hope for 2016; Visayas, 85 percent; and Mindanao, 88 percent.

Among income classes, those belonging to classes ABC had more hope at 92 percent compared to class D’s 89 percent, and class E’s 86 percent.

The survey had 1,800 respondents who were registered voters aged 18 and above.

The margin of error was placed at positive and negative two percent for the entire country. For the subnational estimates, the margins of error were positive and negative six percent for Metro Manila, positive and negative three percent for the rest of Luzon, and positive and negative five percent for Visayas and Mindanao.


PHILSTAR

YEARENDER: Senate probes hit P-Noy, Binay By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 2, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


As it marked its centennial year, the Philippine Senate made headlines in 2015 with its investigations on controversial cases and deliberations on important measures. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines – As it marked its centennial year, the Philippine Senate made headlines in 2015 with its investigations on controversial cases and deliberations on important measures.

At the start of 2015, the committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Grace Poe led the inquiry into the Mamasapano incident.

Forty-four members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force were killed in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other rebels while the SAF were on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

The killings happened amid the peace process between the government and MILF, with passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – the measure that would create an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao – being pushed in Congress.

The Mamasapano raid was reportedly launched by then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and approved by President Aquino with US assistance to neutralize Marwan and Usman, who were hiding in a part of Mamasapano under MILF control.

The Senate panel found that the President was responsible for the Mamasapano fiasco. Poe also pinned the blame on Purisima, who enjoyed the support of the President despite the foul-up.


HOW MUCH DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW? | Senate elevates Mamasapano probe to level of Aquino By: Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com News5 February 12, 2015 1:32 PM


President Benigno Aquino III speaks at the necrological service for the SAF commandos slain in Mamasapano. (file photo) INTERAKSYON FILE

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local government, sought the immediate suspension of public hearings on the BBL, which had provisions that run counter to the Constitution.

Marcos also filed a substitute bill for the BBL in a bid to address the many constitutional flaws on the BBL version submitted by Malacañang.

In August, the continuing Senate investigation into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. marked its first year.

The Vice President, who had bared his presidential bid, was accused of corruption for allegedly being involved in the overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall parking building during his term as mayor. His son was also tagged in other anomalies in Makati.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, head of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating the corruption allegation against the Binays, expanded the probe by pursuing alleged ghost senior citizen beneficiaries in Makati City.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of the Vice President, exposed how Binay and his dummies allegedly benefitted from Makati’s programs for senior citizens.

READ MORE...

The Office of the Ombudsman then slapped Mayor Binay with a six-month preventive suspension. The Department of the Interior and Local Government, then under the supervision of now Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II – rival of the Vice President in the 2010 elections – replaced Binay Jr. with an LP ally as acting mayor of Makati.

Income tax reform bill While the Senate succeeded in conducting investigations, the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to pass this year the Income Tax Reform bill despite aggressive efforts of its proponents, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara and Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo.


OMBUDSMAN MORALES, THE BINAYS

The failure to pass the Income Tax Reform bill was attributed to the apparent lack of support from President Aquino and his economic advisers, principally from the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Angara initially proposed to lower the tax rates across-the-board and compress tax brackets from seven to five in a bid to adjust tax rates to account for inflation.

Under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, individuals with taxable income of over P500,000 are taxed with a fixed amount of P125,000 plus 32 percent in excess of P500,000.

Taxable income refers to an individual’s gross income less the deductions and/or personal and additional exemptions.

At present, the Philippines has the second highest individual income tax rate at 32 percent in the ASEAN region, next to Thailand and Vietnam with 35 percent each.

Drilon’s report card While the Senate failed to pass the Income Tax Reform bill, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate approved pro-consumer and pro-worker measures, which are among the more than 100 proposed legislation the Senate passed in 2015.

The Senate capped 2015 with 148 bills of local and national application passed on third and final reading, 66 of which were signed into law by President Aquino.

“This year has proven to be a bountiful harvest for the Senate, in terms of new legislation that will improve the life of Juan de la Cruz through expanding the economy, advancing social welfare and strengthening the judicial system,” Drilon said in his year-end report.

In total the 16th Congress, which opened on July 22, 2013, has passed 89 new laws so far.

Drilon said among the 66 new laws is a package of new legislation aimed at increasing the take-home pay of Filipinos. These are the P82,000 tax exemption cap for 13th month pay or Republic Act 10653, and Joint Resolution No. 5 that increases the daily subsistence allowance of all enlisted and uniformed personnel.

The Senate also passed House Bill 5842 which provides the P2,000 across the board increase to the monthly pension received by retirees under the Social Security System. It is now with the President for signature.

The Salary Standardization Law IV, which will increase the salaries of over 1.6 million government employees, will be approved on third reading upon the resumption of session on Jan. 18.

The Senate also passed on third reading the measure that will grant education assistance and benefits to dependents of all members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Corrections.

Also approved was the bill that will provide retirement benefits to barangay officials, including tanods, members of the Lupon ng Tagapamayapa, barangay health workers and daycare workers.

To further bolster the country’s economic development, the Senate was also successful in securing the passage into law of landmark and long-sought economic reform measures.


SENATE PRESIDENT DRILON

These are the Philippine Competition Act, which enforces a national competition policy and prohibits unfair and anti-competitive business practices, and the amended Cabotage Law, which allows foreign-flagged ships to call at multiple ports within the country.

“The passage of the Philippine Competition Act and the amendments to the Cabotage Law, which had languished in the legislative mill for decades, is the defining point of this year’s session. It is a victory for the average Filipino who will benefit the most from improved market policies,” Drilon said.

Congress also enacted RA 10564 to strengthen the campaign against illegal fishing in the country.

Two more pro-economic measures that await approval of the President are the creation of the Department of Information and Technology and the acquisition of road right of way for government infrastructure projects.

The bill that amends the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. Charter is pending in the bicameral conference committee. The bill will protect depositors from financial ruin and maintain confidence in the banking system.

The Senate also concurred in nine treaties aimed at enhancing the country’s trade and investment relations with other countries.

Improving justice system, social services
 Drilon said that the Senate also passed the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Act to further strengthen its functional and structural organization, and the amendments to the Probation Law which expands the benefit of probation.

It has also given its nod to 15 new laws creating municipal and regional trial courts to help improve judicial efficiency.

Drilon said the Senate continues to give priority to expanding the reach of educational services in the country by passing the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act which will harmonize student financial assistance programs for poor but deserving college students, and the law which authorizes the Open High School System for out-of-school youth.

“We have also increased the state’s support for our student athletes by enacting the National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act for greater and more organized provision of state funding and support to our athletes, and the Student Athletes Protection Act to ensure that student athletes receive quality education even while participating in athletic events,” he said.

Drilon added that the Senate acted to pass the PAGASA Modernization Act, which would pour more funds into our state weather bureau and boost the nation’s ability to “effectively manage weather and geological-related risks.”

The measure that will expand the benefits and privileges of persons with disability is waiting for the approval of the President.

Drilon vowed that there would be no let up in the Senate’s legislative efforts. “Even with the elections drawing close, we have much work to do in the Senate. We intend to make good on our promise to the Filipino people at the start of the 16th Congress that we will help the poor, widen the delivery of education and other social services and improve the economy.”

Drilon said that deliberations on the proposed BBL would continue when session resumes. The Senate would also prioritize the passage into law of the SSL IV, the CTMA and the Public-Private Partnership Act.

“The Senate will continue to be a working Senate, and we vow as one chamber that we will maximize our remaining time to continue our mandate and work on relevant, important and much-needed laws for our people,” he added.

Death of esteemed senators The year 2015, however, was also marked by the death of esteemed former senators Agapito ‘Butz’ Aquino, Joker Arroyo and Ernesto Herrera.

In August, the Senate paid tribute to Aquino who served as senator from 1987 to 1995. He was among the principal authors of the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, the Cooperative Code of the Philippines, and the Seed Industry Development Act of 1992.

The senators mourned Arroyo’s passing in October due to complications from heart surgery in the United States.

The Senate passed a resolution in November to express condolences to the family of Herrera, described as a “tireless crusader for the welfare of the Filipino worker.”


BIFF: Attacks have nothing to do with delay in BBL passage By John Unson (philstar.com) | Updated January 2, 2016 - 5:19pm 44 40 googleplus0 0


The Bangsamoro Basic Law, a product of negotiations between the government and the MILF, seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao. Philstar.com/File photo

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The continuing spate of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao has nothing to do with the delayed approval by Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the group’s spokesman said Saturday.

The draft BBL, still pending in Congress, is the enabling measure for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a Bangsamoro political entity based on the final compact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

“We don’t recognize or support the ongoing peace efforts of the government and the MILF. This is our very own struggle for an independent Islamic state,” sad BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama.

The BIFF is comprised of rogue Moro rebels led by radical preachers known for their extreme interpretation of the Qur’an and their ruthless enforcement of a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they operate.

Local folks want the government and the MILF peace panels to help put an end to the recurring attacks by BIFF which started shortly before Christmas.

The two panels are bound by interim security agreements, including the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, to mutually cooperate in addressing security concerns in areas where there are MILF forces.

The BIFF on Saturday again warned of more attacks in response to government’s crackdown on local Jihadist factions.

Mama said their harassment of peasant enclaves and military detachments in Central Mindanao were also meant to show their continuing opposition to the presence of state forces in Moro-dominated areas in the region, now a hotbed of Islamic militancy.

“The BIFF is not a spent force as what the military keeps saying. We’re here and we shall make the government feel our presence for every opportunity that we can,” Mama said.

BIFF commanders had said their deadly maneuvers since last week were partly meant to avenge the deaths of jihadists killed in the government’s continuing crackdown on Moro factions sympathetic to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria.

Eight young members of a local Islamist group displaying the iconic black ISIS flag in their hideout in Barangay Butril in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat were killed by pursing combatants of the 1st Marine Brigade last month in an operation initiated on the behest of local folks threatened by their presence.

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The Al-Qaeda-linked and now confessed ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf also suffered fatalities in a military offensive in Albarka town in Basilan last month, which resulted to the government’s takeover of its enclave in the municipality.

BIFF leaders have overtly been expressing allegiance to ISIS whenever they talk to journalists.

“We have nothing to do with the ongoing GPH-MILF peace initiative. We don’t have any peace endeavour with the government. We are at war with government,” Mama said.

The MILF’s peace panel, chaired by Muhaquer Iqbal, had repeatedly said in the past there seemed no more chance for any reconciliation between them and the BIFF owing to its persistent rejection of the Mindanao peace process.

The BIFF was founded by the Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, who started as chief of the 105th Base Command of the MILF, but got booted out in 2009 due to insubordination and irreconcilable differences with its central committee.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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